Thursday, 18 July 2013 | 30 comments

Borobudor & Prambanan

I’ve been in Indonesia the past two weeks for work. I wasn’t going to write anything about it because I’ve resented it. I’m not sure what kind of jaded, callous homebody I’ve turned into that I get an expenses-paid trip to Southeast Asia and am annoyed about it, but there you have it. Work is work, my friends, and there is some summer living to be done at home. (Nightly, I interrogate Ben on the phone: “Are the tomatoes ready? You’re eating one right now. AREN’T YOU?! I knew it. You’re eating tomatoes. I knew I would miss them.” Missed-tomato paranoia of Hitchcockian proportions, I’m telling you.)

Anyway, last Saturday I decided to get over myself and go find something beautiful.
Borobudor is an immense, 9th century Buddhist temple that was lost to the world for a long time. Abandoned by pilgrims, covered in volcanic ash from nearby Mount Merapi, and victim to history’s bizarre colonial fixation on ancient Egypt over ancient anything else, the jungle slowly took over until the mid-1800s, when one man singlehandedly cleared it and tried to restore it. There’s no written record of who built it—the largest Buddhist structure in the world—or why.

A few kilometers away is Prambanan, a Hindu temple complex of the same era. Totally different, but similarly lost to history and rediscovered. Covered in the most remarkable bas relief depicting the entire ramayana.

Obvious metaphors.

See you back at the homestead.

§ 30 responses to Borobudor & Prambanan

  • Lovely photos, Sarah. Now that I have a garden, I feel the same way about leaving during the summer. (I’m tempted by a pun about putting down roots.) I’m sure that there will be plenty of tomatoes waiting at home for you.

  • jill


  • Beautiful, Sarah. Another world. Looking forward to more from you, soon. Meanwhile, welcome (almost?) home!

  • Those photos are wonderful Sarah. Thanks for sharing. You’ve given me a great moment here to end my day contemplating lost and found and beautiful. …

  • Beautiful photos and I hope you are having a great trip! I’m the same way about taking trips during the summer, it’s just so hard to do with the garden in full harvest!

  • An amazing place and story to go with it. It’s very typical of the colonial experience to be always recreating or yearning for a place where you are not. Love how all those people are sitting cross legged on hard stone with such poise and elegance.

  • Hahahaha! “Missed-tomato paranoia of Hitchcockian proportions.” Brilliant.

    I am feeling the same way. Who gets to travel to the horn of Africa and hate it? (Never thought it would be me.) Time for a perspective readjustment…..

  • Stunning pictures, thank you for sharing and definitely a lesson for me. I’m been moaning about how I’m going to have to spend most of Sept/Oct in Mexico for work and whilst I know I’ll miss home, this is definitely the wake up call that I needed to enjoy rather than endure it.

  • Beautiful. Thank you for these.

  • How great — “go find something beautiful” and just pop over to Borobudor! The grass is always greener and all that. But I do get that irritation though – I was once more of a world traveler ready for the next adventure, now I’m loathe to leave my little corner (and rarely do) – even though I have some bastard woodchuck that eats almost everything I plant. Still, I feel I had my first cherry tomato yesterday and there’s nothing like watching the fireflies from the porch. Yes, home is sweet and how lovely to have that feeling. Safe travel.

  • Hi Sarah. I have read your blog since your wonderful grapefruit cake. Just wanted to pass on my commiserations re your tomatoes. I remember telling ( nagging) my young adult kids to pick ours as we sailed our boat back down the east coast of Australia last year.
    Eventually they sent me a photo and it was the closest feeling to home I had had for such a long time, nothing like seeing your own produce in the hand of your child xx

  • this is SO incredible! i’ve always dreamed of visiting locales like that but it’s not in our budget. how lucky that you can experience this!

  • It is funny what a garden can do to someone.

    I have just a tiny one, but after a few years of attempts, my balcony is green and lush. In a week I go to Korea for six weeks and as excited as I am to eat kimchi and bbq, visit temples, and hike mountains, I keep thinking about how hot the summer sun is and how much water my plants will need.

    That said, plants are resourceful and, with someone watering them, they’re always there when you get back. Lovely, lovely photos!

  • Oh I can relate to your homebody state. We recently went away for one week and missed out on harvesting our broccoli. Gardens have that kind of pull. Your photos are brilliant and I’m glad you were able to find beauty in your adventures.

  • Oh, how I know that feeling of dreading getting onto a plane. Beautiful photos despite everything, but still no place like home!

  • Hi Sarah,

    I doubt you are a jaded, callous homebody. My husband has all-expense paid trips to Europe, NY, San Francisco, etc., He traveled for seven years. Then, stopped. Even though he stayed in the same career, (attorney), he left a big practice and we moved to a small town so that he could be home more.

    Enjoy your tomatoes and garden upon your return:) !

  • Elle

    A beautiful place but the photo’s still made me laugh – as dark and dank as you described your mood, lol. Very exotic however. But, mmm, garden ripe tomatoes – since having dry farmed tomatoes, I can’t enjoy any others – am waiting for them to be in season here as well.

  • Just spent 3 weeks in Europe for work and vacation. Couldn’t enjoy it fully for all the reasons you describe. Since it was earlier, I was dreaming about the peas, rather than the tomatoes. The garden is a mysterious, magical beast.

    Now that we’re back, I’ll impart my own experienced wisdom: once you’re back, you’ll miss the travel. There is something about being away from home that allows you to behave differently — a break from patterns. You don’t notice it while traveling, when you’re all busy with the homesickness. But once you’re back, it hits you like a ton of bricks. Your mind was bringing up new ideas, remembering old dreams. There was space there, an openness. Travel is a mixed, mixed bag; some good, some bad. Like everything in life, I suppose.

  • I needed these photos today. I’m smiling now. Thank you.

  • Oh wow, these photographs are stunning. Absolutely adore your blog, stumbled across you on twitter and am so glad I did! Just gorgeous.

  • Kai

    Thank you for the photos. I have been planning to go to Jakarta, but thought of shelving it because there seems to be nothing interesting in the city. Now maybe I’ll go to these temples. Were you in Jakarta and traveled here? Or were you based in Central Java? And where did you eat?

  • Lovely photos and being away from home is always difficult, especially being away from loved ones and a garden full of home grown tomatoes! Have a safe trip home.

  • Sarah b

    Sarah. I can’t even explain how much I love your writing. All I can say is thank you for this. Beautiful pictures, beautiful words as usual.

  • I completely get it, the anger at work travel. I travel a bit with my work – three or four times per year – and while the sites are usually great (San Diego, New Orleans, Chicago), I’m sad my time is not my own. I often get frustrated and hole up in my hotel room. It seems wrong to have fun on a work trip, like maybe I should just, you know, work.

    I’m glad you found something beautiful on this trip. Your photos certainly show beauty.

    And hopefully, if you were lucky, there were some tomatoes waiting for you when you returned.

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