The Silhouette of Borobudur and Beyond

Thought to have been built at some point in the late 8th Century, Borobudur’s rediscovery in 1814 by Sir Stamford Raffles caused a sensation among the world’s scholars. Bear in mind that this pre-dated Henri Mouhot’s discovery of Angkor Wat in Cambodia by 47 years. The big question: How did the Buddhist faith spread to Java from India, a distance of some 5,000 kilometres?

This extraordinary monument, the largest Buddhist sanctuary on earth, was constructed using over a million blocks of stone, quarried and brought up from a local riverbed over a period of some 70 years, and completed in AD 830. With each stone weighing around a 100 kgs, it is estimated that each workman with one cart would have been able to bring up one stone each day. Thus it is thought that it would have taken at least 30 years to bring up sufficient stones to complete the project.

Today, the temple can be visited by using the stunning Amanjiwo resort as a base. Positioned within a natural amphitheatre, the Menoreh Hills rise up behind and no less than four volcanoes grace the horizon. The forward perspective overlooks the Kedu plain and  temple complex itself, generating a sustained feeling of peace and spirituality. From an architectural standpoint, there is no other hotel like it anywhere in the world. The heart of Amanjiwo is a sweeping circular monolith crafted of paras yogya, a type of limestone found in the local area. The major design motif of circles, squares and crescents pays homage to Borobudur. This is the place to go when one is in need of a restorative, get-away-from-it-all hideaway…..and it restores like the Light Brigade charged….at a magnificent pace. But above all, it is the level of service that is unmatched – a more delightful team of staff would be hard to find anywhere.

And a stay at Amanjiwo is not just about culture. For the energetic, excellent mountain bikes await – in all sizes – to discover the local kampung (village) life. The floodlit tennis court enhances the game massively by offering ball boys who are not only adept at collecting badly hit shots, but also provide cold towels and iced geranium tea. Riders can mount a hardy Java pony and canter through the sawahs and those inclined to remain on their feet can trek through the mystical Menorah Hills. The legend of the hills has it that Dewi Nawang Wulan’s (the Goddess of the Moon) clothes were stolen whilst she was bathing. On Javanese New Year, pilgrims gather to seek the help of the naked Goddess…..definitely an interesting start to the New Year!

For those who seek salvation through food, a morning picnic breakfast on the banks of the Progo River to watch the sun climbing majestically over Mt. Sumbing is a must. Better still, the Chocolate Cooking Class awaits those who wish to be guided by the pastry chef to produce the perfect soufflé, the creamiest ice cream or the naughtiest brownies. Work it all off again with a round of golf on Mt. Merapi, possibly one of the world’s most stunning courses.

To spend time at the Amanjiwo, Borobudur is undoubtedly one of life’s great privileges. In a world that is changing fast, this is a place where the magic of real travel still exists, in the most beautiful surroundings imaginable.

George Morgan-Grenville is CEO at Red Savannah.

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