We recently visited Borobudur Temple,Indonesia’s most famous tourist attraction and the largest Buddhist structure in the world. While we were in Yogyakarta, we participated in a yoga and meditation retreat, and we stayed at the Amanjiwo, one of the top luxury resorts in Asia.
HOW TO GET TO BOROBUDUR
It takes about 90 minutes from Yogyakarta Airport to Borobudur, where the largest Buddhist temple in the world has stood since the 9th century. It’s a complete bible of Mahayana Buddhism that has drawn Buddhist pilgrims from all over for hundreds of years.
Yogyakarta is also home to the Amanjiwo, a luxury resort nestled at the foot of the Menoreh Hills. The Amanjiwo has a clear view of the Borobudur Temple and Mount Merapi. These were my intended destinations, and the latter was where I was headed first.
HOW TO GET TO AMANJIWO IN YOGYAKARTA
Navi, a member of the Amanjiwo team, was waiting at the airport. “We have a regular way to Amanjiwo and also a scenic back road. Ibu, which do you prefer?” Ibu, by the way, is the honorific used for women. It has a soft and warm ring to it, and I soon learned to take pleasure in this courteous address from everyone.
Of course, I chose the back road. And soon we were meandering past rice terraces the color of spring green and villages full of interesting carvings and brightly colored houses. Then Amanjiwo came into view, its main building rising above a low rainforest like a graceful Buddhist stupa.
BEAUTY IN DESIGN
At first glance, the resort is a maze of heavyset contemporary structures. It’s a 21st century tribute to Borobudur Temple but with a traditional twist. The lobby and the main restaurant are housed in a massive minimalist building created from blocks of local limestone the colors of cream, butter, and brown.
This felt like a modern temple itself with a circular center inspired by the Pantheon in Rome and hints of Frank Lloyd Wright on its walls of uneven bricks. Meanwhile, Greek-style colonnades supported the covered terrace on one side that opened up to an unencumbered view of Borobudur Temple and the Kedu plains of central Java. And everywhere, I found designs and accents inspired by the famous temples.
WELCOME TO THE FAMILY
The Amanjiwo offers a seamless experience of culture and relaxation amidst luxury. It’s the perfect partner to the experience of learning about Buddhism in the course of visiting the temples of Borobudur. The service at Amanjiwo, where the team is trained to regard guests as valued members of the family, is flawless and friendly.
EXAMPLE OF MINIMALIST LUXURY
The Amanjiwo is definitely not your typical tropical resort. For one thing, a minimalist theme based on monotone limestone is not exactly what you expect in these parts. However, by the end of the day, the wisdom of the architect and the thought that went into the design became apparent.
The stone structures are reflective of the massive Borobudur temple itself. In fact, they are actually a welcome refuge amidst densely lush vegetation and rice paddies constantly hammered either by searing sunshine or thundering rains.
There is nothing ambiguous about the environment in these parts, you see. And the Amanjiwo has simply matched its surroundings, creating a pleasant visual break in the jungle and a most appropriate refuge in any weather.
THINGS TO DO IN BOROBUDUR
After you’ve climbed up Borobodur Temple at sunrise and relished enough R&R time by the Amanjiwo swimming pool, you might try the following:
• Hiking up Menoreh Hills
• Visiting art galleries and meeting local artists
• Taking a horse-drawn buggy around the villages
• Trying your hand at pottery making, Javanese-style
Borobudur is particularly known for its artists, and a painting makes a wonderful souvenir to take back home. Most galleries will roll your choice for you into a long cylindrical box that can be checked in at the airport.
HOME SWEET HOME
My 243-square meter Borobudur suite was perched on a mound high enough to make Borobudur Temple visible from the lounging pavilion on the terrace. It was similarly a haven of wood and stone in a contemporary Asian style. From the moment I entered, it spoke to me of calm and serenity. This is precisely what most guests staying at Amanjiwo seek.
Incidentally, climbing the nine tiers of the famous temple at sunrise, each one filled with stories from the life of Buddha carved on its tiles, was bliss indeed. Pilgrims believe that walking around the temple and reaching the top of Borobudur Temple is symbolic of life’s journey.
It also signifies the final attainment of enlightenment and happiness. But bliss also came in the form of sitting on the lounge chair on my terrace with a book, soaking in the outdoor stone bathtub and relaxing by the Amanjiwo swimming pool every afternoon, once the sun began to set.
OUTDOOR PRIVATE DINING
On my last night, I dined in my lounging pavilion instead of at the main restaurant as usual. I ordered the elaborate Royal Javanese menu via room service. As I sat cross-legged in the pavilion observing the calm all around me, the restaurant staff set up a round table.
On this, they placed a tray filled with covered porcelain bowls containing an assortment of specialty dishes from Java. Enjoying crispy duck and fish curry al fresco with cool winds blowing as I gazed at the stars above was simply nirvana itself.