I’m sitting on the porch outside my hotelporch at 3 am. 3 am! Why on earth did I decide to wake up on 3 am on a holiday? Because The Borubudur Sunrise tour will show all the temple’s beauty to me in the early hours, when other tourists are still lining up at the gates. This story explains why waking up 3AM is worth it and how I saw the Borubudur temple before the tour busses came rolling in.

To get a Borubudur Sunrise tour ticket I had to get to the Manohara hotel by 4AM. So I booked a driver the day before at the Via Via Café and found a German couple to split the bill with. After a one hour drive from Yogjakarta I arrived at the Manohara hotel which is the only hotel where Sunrise tickets can be bought. The 380.000 Rp ticket is a bit expensive but I got a torch, a sarong and more importantly access to the temple before all other tourists.

In the pitch dark, with only the little torch lights guiding me, I walked towards the biggest buddhist temple in the world. I passed by the guards and started climbing the stone steps.
When I reached the upper levels I saw that all the other tourists were sitting on the same spot waiting for the sun to rise. It was the perfect moment to explore and discover the 9th century UNESCO world heritage temple by myself. 

Borbudur by Night

I learned that the temple is actually a buddhist school. A buddhist would start by reading the reliefs on the 6 square base levels. Slowly he would make his way up to the upper 3 circular platforms where 72 buddha statues are seated in stupas. The goal would be to finally reach Nirvana. 
I found it sad that there used to be more than 500 buddha statues of which more than 300 have now been damaged. Most of them have been beheaded and sold to or stolen by Western museums. 

Borubudur morning

Yes I look fucking tired when I have to get up at 3am.

couple at borubudur temple

Borubudur temple relief

Borubudur Buddha Beheaded statue

After a while I headed back to the sunrise point, only to see how the fog in the valley crept up the temple and destroyed everyone’s hope for a beautiful sunrise. Slighty disappointed I left for the Manohara hotel where I was offered coffee, tea, biscuits and a souvenir scarf. But when the fog suddenly disappeared and the sun broke through, I raced up the steps again.

Dripping with sweat I explored the temple a second time. Lesson: reaching Nirvana isn’t made easy in Buddhist life. 
But who needs Nirvana when you can spend time looking at the beautiful reliefs? I found out that few people actually took the effort to see these!
By the time I got down around 6 AM, the gates had opened for all tourists. Tour busses and schools were brought in and the temple got swarmed in no time. 

Borubudur Sunrise

Borubudur Sunrise

Borubudur Buddha Statue

Borubudur Sunrise kiss buddha

Borubudur Temple
And I left smiling because I had already had all the time to explore the temple and I was looking forward to a few hours of extra sleep.
That’s why waking up 3 AM is worth it!

So would you wake up at 3am for this?

Do It Yourself

Borubudur Sunrise Ticket: 380.000 rp
Taxi price from Yogjakarta to Borubudur: 207.500 rp