My first overseas travel was to Indonesia, in 1977. The most memorable events of the trip was seeing the Borobudur.
I was only 16, and it was also the first time I hadn’t travelled with my family, or to visit other family members. I got to travel on my own, with just a group of school friends and not a parent in sight. We flew from Australia with Garuda Airlines.
The Borobudur is located at Magelang, in Central Java, about 40 km NW of Yogyakarta. It was built in the ninth century as a shrine to Buddha, and abandoned in the fourteenth century after the decline of the Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms in Jave, when the Javanese converted to Islam. It was rediscovered in 1814 by Sir Thomas Raffles, British ruler of Java.
The Borobudur was a sensation to my impressionable young mind. Sure, I had studied the language and culture at school for four years, and had even seen pictures of the Borobudur. But standing there in the jungle, with wild monkeys swinging from the trees, looking at this giant mountain-building, was just too surrealistic to believe.
We climbed to the summit of the Borobudur, a pretty neat feat in itself, we all agreed. It is built entirely on a natural hill. The base is about 118 m (387 ft) on each side. Nine terraced layers rise around the hill to a height of about 46 m (150 ft), covering the entire hill. Although there is a stairway leading directly to the summit, we also explored much of the 4.8 km (3 miles) of original passageways and stairways. It was like stepping back in time 1,000 years, to when the temple was built.
The view from the top of the Borobudur was absolutely awesome. We were high above the jungle, with nothing but jungle for as far as the eye could see. I remember pondering on how an ancient civilisation, with no modern mechanical equipment, could possibly build such a monument. It was incredible.
It was after seeing the Borobudur that I promised myself I would see other great wonders that I had only read about in books. After that trip to Indonesia, I began to travel extensively, first in Australia, and later to other countries.
But I think it was the Borobudur that was the catalyst to send me off on lots more traveling