The rain started to fall as we drove away to visit an old bunker which is no longer used. Two people were found dead inside this bunker during the 2006 eruption of Merapi. The bunker was covered with 6 feet of debris and hot (572 degrees F.) lava. The distance from the bunker to Merapi summit is about 6 miles. It was disappointing not to see it. We could barely make out the large lava ravine and only imagine how impressive the volcano must appear from here. As we were leaving, the skies parted and poured buckets of rain upon us, so we had to forfeit the rest of the tour (splashing through rivers etc.) But you can get a feel for our experience on the trails by watching our short video.
After some debate about the weather conditions, we decided to proceed with the 45-minute drive to Candi (Temple) Borobudur. During our drive to the temple the rain cleared, skies became blue and we enjoyed seeing the countryside, farms, small temples, and even a mountainside cemetery along the way.
The famous Buddhist Temple, Borobudur, was build during the 8th-9th centuries, and it's restoration began with the help of UNESCO in 1970. This unique temple is located in a very picturesque valley surrounded by gorgeous lush green mountains. The temple grounds are beautifully manicured and very well kept. It was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five square terraces. These are topped with three circular platforms and, at the center top, is an enormous bell-shaped stupa. It is the largest and most impressive Buddhist Temple in the world. It is covered 29th 2,672 intricately carved relief panels and 504 Buddhist statues. Around the circular platforms are 72 open lattice designed stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha. We were actually quite lucky to visit this amazing temple at a time that so few visitors had arrived. An appreciated silver-lining to our rainy morning!
It was hard to leave our dramatic and calm surroundings, but we wanted to have our driver take us to Ketep Pass. The island of Java is almost entirely of volcanic origin, and about 45 volcanoes are considered active. I was excited about the idea of being so close to one of them. Ketep Pass is located inside the Merapi National Park between Mount Merapi and Mount Merbabu. From the viewing area we were able to see the meticulously terraced rice fields on the slopes of the mountains and sleepy little villages dotting the hillsides. Although clouds still hovered around Merapi, we were able to see the jagged edges of it's cone and marvel at this wonder of nature.
My wish list for Java was now complete and I could return to Korea feeling quite satisfied with our experiences in Java. But just to finish off the trip in style, we went back to our hotel and feasted on the sweet and tasty traditional dish of the Special Region of Yogyakarta - Gudeg! After a good night's sleep and a lazy morning, we flew back to Seoul the afternoon of Thursday September 21.