The World’s Largest Buddhist Monument and Lodging for Peaceful Souls
For those in search of spiritual secrets, the hour-long clockwise hike to the top of the massive pyramid-shaped Buddhist monument of Borobudur represents the timeless journey of man. Ideally, the journey ends with complete detachment from the here and now – a concept that’s not hard to grasp when you’re suspended in space and hit with the powerful 360-degree panorama of Borobudur’s four surrounding volcanoes.
(Indonesia has more than a hundred active peaks, with sixty on the island of Java alone.) Built around A.D. 800, Borobudur was abandoned only 200 years later, possibly as a result of its being partially buried in ash from the eruption of nearby Mount Merapi in 1006. The well-preserved site was “discovered” by the British in the early 19th century. Over the course of a $25-million, ten-year international collaboration under the direction of UNESCO that was completed in 1983, Borobudur was painstakingly dismantled and reassembled.
More than 3 miles of hand-carved reliefs representing the Buddhist universe of worldly, spiritual, and heavenly spheres wrap around its ten terraces. Gradually decreasing in size, the higher levels are studded with 72 bell-shaped stupas and more than 400 Buddhas, which give Borobudur its prickly-porcupine silhouette. This is the world’s largest Buddhist monument; it’s ironic that it’s located in a predominantly Muslim country.
Five minutes by car from Borobudur, the Amanjiwo resort echoes the circular layout of the monument, which is visible from most of the lushly landscaped grounds. There is no mistaking the Javanese spirit of Amanjiwo: It is as sensitive to the sacred setting as possible, yet it is also innovative and contemporary. Thirty-five freestanding domed suites – all with terraces and sunken tubs, many with private plunge pools – are arranged in half-moon terraces around the central stupalike main building.
Such indigenous materials as teak, coconut wood, and local textiles have been reinterpreted with flair but in a restrained palette that keeps your attention on the setting. One of Amanjiwo’s greatest draws is the chance it offers to visit Borobudur at dawn. Watching the mist rise off the rice fields and densely packed coconut plantations, revealing the silhouettes of distant volcanoes in the distance, is sheer magic.