Borobudur Beauty


To be perfectly honest, my husband and I had never heard of Borobudur before our friend Paras suggested a group of us go there for a weekend to celebrate his fortieth birthday. We went online and soon learned Borobudur was a gorgeous Buddhist monument in Magelang, Central Java, set amidst tropical jungles, smoldering volcanoes and hills carpeted in emerald green rice paddies. Nearly as spectacular was the hotel Paras suggested, Aman Resorts’ Amanjiwo.

Built on farm land at the foot of the Menorah Hills, Amanjiwo’s main building is a limestone temple-like rotunda with two crescents of 36 suites just below it. You can see Borobudur poking up through the jungle a few kilometers away. Though more expensive than we usually spend on a hotel, the setting was too gorgeous to resist and so was the opportunity for a fun weekend with friends.

We bit the bullet and booked a room.

Our Garden Suite was spacious and serene, with soft lighting, stone walls, Sungkai wood screens and a four-pillar bed on a raised terrazzo platform—thick twin mattresses were set up in the corner for our 9-year-old sons and still the room felt cavernous. We appreciated the separate toilet and large shower, pair of vanities, outdoor bathtub and huge patio.

Amanjiwo is more than beautiful, it’s got a cerebral side too. They offer guided excursions to ancient temples and natural sights all over the area and a resident archeologist gives lectures on Borobudur’s history and related topics in the hotel’s chic library. Periodically Amanjiwo organizes special themed activities like meditation retreats and art exhibits. They also promote local culture happening as well, such as the Borobudur Writer’s Festival.

To refresh the body and soul, yoga sessions are held by Amanjiwo’s green-tiled 130-foot-long pool that practically overflows into the surrounding countryside. There’s also a spa, gym and tennis court. Unlike other posh properties, Amanjiwo caters to kids as well, with arts and crafts sessions, dance lessons, pony rides and chocolate cooking classes.

Two open-air restaurants serve traditional Indonesian dishes, from nasi goreng to sate and lotek, plus western fare and children’s favorites. Our friend Paras generously hosted several meals for the group at the poolside dining venue, where we wined, dined and toasted our good fortune, basking in the ambient beauty of Central Java’s countryside and ancient monuments.

Active Pursuits

Borobudur deserves a visit at dawn to watch rays of early morning sunlight break through the mist and cast moody shadows on the sacred stone. Against a sky streaked pink and orange, wisps of smoke escape from distant smoldering volcanoes. We joined other sleepy camera-toting tourists sitting and standing on the monument in the matching batik sarongs required for entry, soaking up the mystical scene around us.

Another worthwhile excursion is a half day visit to Selogriyo, a tiny 8th-century Hindu temple at the top of Mount Sumbing. After a scenic hour-long drive through farmland, adults and kids alike enjoyed the lazy walk up a gently sloping footpath that weaved along terraced rice paddies reflecting the blue sky and clouds.

Another afternoon, sans kids, we spent a sweaty two hours trekking up the steep slopes of the Menoreh Hills just behind the hotel, walking past rural homesteads and plots of red chilies. At the peak we were rewarded with panoramic views that went on for miles.

Buddhist Beauty

Ninth-century Borobudur is one of the most striking Buddhist temples in the world, with its huge square tiers, circular domes and hundreds of Buddha statues. It was built several centuries before Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Europe’s grandest cathedrals. But Borobudur was in ruins and covered by foliage and volcanic ash by the time Sir Stamford Raffles got wind of it from locals in 1814, when he was the British ruler in Java. Since then Borobudur has undergone several restorations, was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is once again a vision of beauty and mystery.

– October 2012