Borobudur: A World Wonder

It’s not every day that you get to visit one of the UNESCO wonders of the world! We were very lucky to have been able to visit the spectacular Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, on our stop in Semarang. Semarang is on the Indonesian island of Java, on the southern edge of the Java sea. We took the tour to Borobudur because it was quite the trek to get there from Semarang. Not only was it a three-hour bus ride, but the traffic gets so bad there that we had police escort cars the ENTIRE way there and back, with their sirens on and everything. They would stop traffic and lead us on the wrong side of the road when need be, so we were really grateful to have that. If we didn’t, then I’m afraid we’d still be sitting in Java traffic a week later!

As I mentioned before, Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and it’s quite amazing. Not only is it huge, but the amount of stone carvings on different tiers in the temple complex is staggering. The temple was built around 800 AD and was estimated to have taken some 80 years to complete. It measures 403 feet square and 100 feet high! I had seen photos of Borobudur before, and it was definitely on my list of places to visit and photograph. I love all the Buddha statues build into the walls and inside the bell-shaped structures on the top tiers of the temple. I spent every minute I could shooting there before we had to leave for lunch.

Lunch was at the neighboring hotel and we were treated to a beautiful buffet under a tent with a stage in the middle, on which traditional musicians and dancers entertained the diners. Before heading to the ship, we made one stop to see a shadow puppet show, which was much more elaborate than the kind I’ve seen before!

I hope you’ll enjoy the following images from this amazing place, and do put it on your “to see” list, because it is worth it!

Next stop: Makassar. More to come! …

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Street Photography in Surabaya

After leaving Bali, we sailed west to the Indonesian island of Java and docked in the city of Surabaya. Instead of doing a tour here, we decided to head out and explore on our own. When traveling to different and exotic places, you never really know how people will react to Americans with giant cameras and gear. We realized quickly that the locals weren’t used to seeing Americans walking around, especially the kind toting around cameras that must have looked crazy to them. Before shooting a lot, we try to politely test the waters, getting a feel for people’s reactions and gesturing to our cameras in a way that’s asking if it’s ok to take their photo. To our relief, the locals were not only ok with us taking their photos, they LOVED it. Many of them would even say thank you after we took their picture! We could also tell that many of them were excited to be able to test out some of the English they knew with us. People would slow down in their cars or bikes and say “hello mister!,” and things like that.

As far as the city goes, it was very hot and stuffier than what we’re used to. Many of the streets and buildings were rugged, either from time, weather, people or all of the above. We liked all the weathered textures and vibrant colors, but most of all, the smiling people. We walked around for hours, up until we felt like we would melt, and then returned to the ship to review our images.

From Surabaya, we would travel the short distance to Semarang and visit the spectacular Borobudur. More to come!

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Komodo: Island of Dragons

We were very lucky to visit this port of call, as not many people get to come here and say they’ve seen Komodo Dragons in the wild. There are such rigid restrictions here that you can’t even go ashore unless you are on a tour with one of the local park guides. The entirety of Komodo Island is a national park, and there’s really not much there at all as far as cars and buildings go. In fact I didn’t see either of these when we were there. When you arrive on shore, there is just a covered tent where the guides meet you to take you on a hike through their dragon-filled forest. The other crazy thing is that you’re not allowed on the island if you have any open wounds or if you’re a woman who has her period because the dragons have that keen of a sense of smell. Yikes!

The ship anchored off shore and we took tender boats in to meet our guides. They organized us into smaller groups and led is into the jungle in search of some dragons. During our hike, we saw several Komodo Dragons, and they sure are huge. They can measure up to 11 feel long and weigh up to 300 pounds, making them the largest lizard in the world. They can also run as fast as a dog and have the ability to bite a goat in half. As you can imagine, we stayed behind the guides during this trip!

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After our hike, we had to head right back to the ship, which wasn’t bad because we could enjoy the stunning view of the island from out on the water. After leaving Komodo, we headed toward the Indonesian island of Lombok, which is Bali’s next door neighbor. More to come!