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Is a tour guide needed for Prambanan/Borobudur?

Is a tour guide needed for Prambanan/Borobudur?

Feb 25th, 2010, 03:16 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2006
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Is a tour guide needed for Prambanan/Borobudur?

We'll be staying near Borobudur (just off the temple grounds) for 2 nights very soon. We plan to tour Borobudur just after sunrise on the 2nd day we're there.

Our hotel has graciously offered (since we arrive so early our first day there) to have us stop at Prambanan on the way to the hotel from the airport. Probably makes sense as a morning tour will allow us to arrive at the hotel much closer to check-in time.

But I digress...I'm wondering if we should be asking for a guide for Prambanan instead of just a driver?

Seems like we'll definitely want a guide for Borobudur (and plan to get one through our hotel) but I wonder if one is also suggested for Prambanan.

Personally, I get a bit easily distracted by endless yammering on about the minutia of so-and-so's royal baths, but I also do like learning the essential history of what we're looking at. It's always a fine line with temple tours in that regard. I just would hate to walk around and have no context of anything,

filmwill is offline  
Feb 25th, 2010, 03:52 PM
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IMO, I don't think you need a guide for Prambanamn in the same way one is helpful at Borobudor. Do a bit of reading ahead of time, and I think you'll probably have enought to appreciate what you are seeing.
Kathie is offline  
Feb 25th, 2010, 03:58 PM
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You're not thinking of having a guide at sunrise are you? That would have totally ruined the experience for me. If you want a guide at Borobodur, go back during the day with a guide.
JohnH is offline  
Feb 25th, 2010, 04:23 PM
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I’ve never used a guide at Prambanan. The site is big, but not overwhelming and the architecture is straightforward. Usually there are local people mulling around the individual sanctuaries who will act as impromptu guides for tips. I think it’s a good idea to stop enroute from the airport. If you feel you need more depth you can go back while you’re in Yogya.

I’ve used guides before at Borobudur but found them distracting from the serenity of the monument. I like to make the whole pilgrimage tier by tier starting at ground level, always clockwise. Of course you must go directly to the top if you’re there for sunrise, and in that case, you just have to return to the base and start again. This somewhat dilutes the pilgrimage to enlightenment impact as you know what’s coming but it’s worth it to make the effort.

I usually take along a photocopy of “Tales of the Golden Buddhas” by John Miksic (excellent for background too). Not the whole thing, just the section on the reliefs. That way you can match the actual carvings to the photographs in the book and read about the story while you’re face to face. The sheer number of reliefs is overwhelming and you rapidly get sculpture fatigue. You have to pick your spots. The section on the early life of Buddha is especially charming.

After what seems like miles of claustrophobic passages, double corners and steep stairs you reach the “relief” of the open sky. That’s the point, I guess; after absorbing the teachings of Buddha you reach a personal enlightenment.

What amazes me about Borobordur is that there can be hundreds of people on the monument at any given time but from the ground looking up the you can’t see them. The monument remains as serene as Buddha.

Hordes of Indonesian teenagers will ask you to have your picture taken with them. My advise is Just Say No. Otherwise you will spend the entire morning smiling for these strangers’ photo albums. Same goes for the English practicers. They are charming at first, then downright annoying. The vendor gauntlet from the monument to the parking area is a national disgrace. Avoid it if you can. The museum is worth a visit, though, especially for the before and after photos of the restoration.

I think it’s best to try to visit Borobudur twice. Once either with a guide or a guidebook to get the lay of the land. Once just for the spiritual experience.
marmot is offline  
Feb 25th, 2010, 05:06 PM
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Oh, I totally agree about not using a guide for your sunrise visit. Just go and experience!
Kathie is offline  
Feb 25th, 2010, 05:41 PM
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Oh yes, no worries there--we won't have a guide with us for sunrise. I would never tarnish such a spiritual experience with someone sitting over our shoulder.

Thanks for the advice, guys!
filmwill is offline  

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