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April 29, 2004

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Want to build a monument for the ages? It takes two million blocks of stone to match Borobudur Temple. The name means 'Buddhist Monastery on the Hill.' The temple itself looms large enough to be a hill. The Sailendra Dynasty erected it between 750 to 850 AD. When Buddhism went into decline, the temple lay abandoned for centuries, eventually covered by volcanic ash, until Sir Thomas Raffles cleared the site in 1815.
Borobudur claims to be Indonesia's most popular tourist destination. Numbers have dropped by 90% since the terrorist bombings. We saw few foreigners. The most prominent out-of-towner is the lightning rod shipped from New York City that stands at the top and keeps the temple from being too electrifying.
School children seek lessons. They ask foreign tourists to write their name, country of origin, and signature. It's like an autograph session.
Around the bas reliefs that cover the temple, through narrow corridors, the pilgrim's walk covers 5 kilometers past nearly 3000 panels of sculpted panels that showcase Javanese life and Buddhist doctrine over 1000 years old.
Seventy two Buddhas sit under bell shaped lattice work. Reaching inside and touching them brings good luck. We watched a few people go to each one during their pilgrim march.
Buddhist temples may bring images of serenity, but be prepared to get mobbed by Indonesian visitors curious to meet foreign tourists.