Wednesday, December 28, 2011

#TSDayOut: Broga Hills

"Find what brings you joy and go there" - Jan Philips

That explains why I have been to Broga Hills three times.
And that also explains why I answered yes when I got invited for #TSDayOut to Broga Hills from Tourism Selangor.

It is simply because climbing brings me joy and Broga Hills is the best resort to feed my hunger for outdoor activity (read climbing). The more serious climbing (to mountain) has to wait until I could find a group to join in.  
The best thing about my Broga Hills climbing experiences, all were associated with celebration. 

My first one being on new year eve of 2011 was to watch partial lunar eclipse. Me and few friends took an effort to climb in the dark to Broga Hills top, camp there for a night and gaze at the amazing eclipse. The best new year celebration for me!

Mind the morning faces

Then the following month, I once again climbed Broga Hills. This time to celebrate the newly engaged Hana. That was one unconventional way of celebrating it :)

The most recent climb was previous weekend with a group of new friends who join #TSDayOut organized by Tourism Selangor. What was the celebration?

Birthday of our group members, Hafiz and Ryan!

By the look of these cupcakes, you know it was not an easy climb for the carrier and also the cupcakes itself. Regardless, we still enjoyed eating them.

But you must not necessary have any celebration to make to climb the Broga Hills. With its relatively easy climb, Broga Hills can be a weekly (or monthly) activity for you.

You can start the climb at your preferred time and it will take 1 hour the most to reach the top. However there are no tree up there to shade you if you reach at noon and at that time a cap/hat will come handy.

All together Broga Hills have four hills.

Going up to the first hill is the most toughest part of this climb. Without any tree root to support the land from erosion, the track proved to be slippery either on wet or dry day. With the frequent visit received every weekend, the track is worsen each day. If you are worry, there is a rope provided that could aid your climbing. I found it helpful when descending.

Track to the 1st hill

Among all the four hills, the first hill top has the biggest ground area. And also the most crowded of all.

The first hill

Once you reached the first hill, the climb to the second one will not be as tough. In fact, it does not feel like climbing at all. The track is sided with tall green grass, the identity of Broga Hills that attracts many people up here. Dreamy.

 To the third and fourth hill, I let you decide yourself.  For me, it is so worth it!

The third and fourth hill

So, how to get to Broga Hills?
The easiest way would be using Cheras-Kajang Highway until the end then Kajang-Seremban Highway (LEKAS) and exit at Semenyih. Follow the Semenyih Road and turn left at the traffic light when you see Petronas on your right.

Go further straight until you pass Nottingham University on your left. You know you are there when you see Rabbit Farm on your right (and lot of cars park at the road side). The entry point of Broga Hills is opposite the Rabbit Farm.

Now you know you have a beautiful place to go in Selangor if you need a little climbing. Thanks to Tourism Selangor for organizing such a great Sunday day out. Till next time!

p/s: can you spot Broga Hills here?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Weekly Travel Quote

"The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home -- and the slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries" - Rolf Potts

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Central-East Java: Borobudur Temple and Post Mt Merapi Eruption

Have you ever been to China without walking the Great Wall?
Have you ever been to Paris and left without having a single photo taken with  Eiffel Tower as a background?

Well, in Jogja, don't leave just yet when you haven't been to Borobudur! It'll be the biggest regret you bring back home when you haven't go to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

In fact when I was making plan to Dieng Plateau, the return journey was carefully timed so I could spend many hours in Borobodur itself. So, at noon the journey back to Jogja began and I reached Borobodur at about 3pm. Phew, just enough time till the temple park close at 5.30pm

The advantage about us (Malay) when visiting Indonesia is we don't really look much different from Indonesian don't we and with a little practice, we can converse in Bahasa Indonesia in no time too. So, Pak Mur (our driver to Dieng) advised us to get an admission ticket at local counter instead of at international counter as the prices between these two counters differ greatly. Local got to pay only IDR 15,000 while international visitor got to pay USD 15! That's a huge different isn't it?!

Saving whenever possible is of course something that I am practicing when on the road and it of course made me happy. After queuing at the local counter and saying only one word - "dua" which means two, yeah I managed to get an admission tickets for two at local price. That was quite easy! And that was quite a lot of saving too and I had already thinking of buying more souvenirs with that money saved.

Then, handing the ticket to my sister and letting her walk ahead of me towards the entrance was a huge mistake. HUGE MISTAKE! I shouldn't let her do any talking next time! We were denied from entering using the tickets I just purchased as easy as how I got the ticket at local price when my dear sister 'brilliantly' answered 'Malaysia' when the officers at the entrance asking where we are from.

Could she just answered Acheh or Kalimantan since people from these place speak Malay too or could she just say we are from other part of Indonesia since Indonesia has large population and many of them I believe still haven't been to Borobudur.

So, as you guess the saving I was calculating before cannot go to the souvenirs but to pay the remaining ticket fare for international visitors. Hmmm...there went my effort. We were escorted to the international counter and got to settle the remaining payment :(

So, as an international visitor, the special treatments you received are no other that having a free drink (coffee/tea), bottle of mineral water, air conditioned waiting area and there's lovely lady helping you to put on batik sarong. The batik sarong is compulsory for every visitor when visiting the temple compound to increase appreciation of Borobudur Temple as cultural heritage.

Place to wear batik sarong for local visitors

Although I was pretty mad at my sister for being proud Malaysian at times when we could gain some saving from the admission ticket, I didn't feel regret paying the USD 15 ticket fare as that was the least I could contribute in helping UNESCO preserving the heritage site. I do hope they use the collection from ticket admission wisely and appropriately. 


So, here are some fact loaded info about Borobudur Temple.

Contrary to Prambanan Temple, Borobudur Temple is a Buddha temple. It was built between AD 750 and 842, making it 300 years older than Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It was listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding cultural universal value.

Borobudur was used both as shrine and also for a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. It was built in 3 tiers; being 6 square platforms as the foundation, 3 circular platforms and topped with one large monument stupa. Each platform has relief panels and Buddha statues. The narratives reliefs on the wall read from right to left and for pilgrims, their ritual journey following this direction (right to left-clockwise) circumambulating the monument ascending to the most top stupa.   

However today, Borobudur is seen to be used once again as a place of worship and pilgrimage only during full moon in May or June, where Buddhist celebrate Wesak. On other day, it receives many visits from tourists like me wanting to admire the build of the ancient monument with intricate architecture that full of history.

Unfortunately for me, I didn't use a tour guide service that can explain more on the history and meaning of relief on the wall of Borobudur. It was only after I visited the Borobudur museum within the temple park I understand about all those creatures crafted on the wall. Each wall illustrated a soul's progressing phases towards redemption and episode from the life of Buddha.

The first tier named Kamadhatu describes the phenomenal world, the world inhibited by common people. So the base of the platform consists of reliefs depicted on law of cause and effect or law of Karma. It depicts the direct and indirect result of immoral acts such as theft, rape, murder etc to be torturous afterlife.  Besides the immoral acts, the reliefs also depicts about good acts like working together, planned parenthood etc. So I belief every religion teaches its devotee to be a good person, never to be the otherwise.

The second tier is the transitional sphere, in which human are release from worldly matters and named as Rapadhatu. At this platforms, the walls contain about 328 Buddha statues depicted the birth of Buddha etc.

And the final tier, Arupadhatu, being the highest sphere, the abode of gods. This tier contains 3 circular platforms surrounded one large stupa (the bell shape object) representing the rising above the world. The 3 platforms contain perforated stupas that have Buddha statues in it. In total, there are 72 of these stupas.

However during my visit, the 3 top platforms were not accessible to any visitor as it was under cleaning process from the recent Mount Merapi eruption's volcanic ash.

The furthest platform I could go

Cleaning in progress

The volcanic ash collected from the temple

My tour in Borobudur complex ended with a visit to Borobudur museum just outside of the temple compound. A very detail information about Borobudur was provided with accompanied old photograph. A remaining stones of Borobudur are also placed outside the museum, still waiting to be restored I guess.

Yay! Another tick to my UNESCO World Heritage Site
Since Borobudur is located about 42km from Jogja, Pak Mur was constantly reminding me that we need to leave early possibly before working hours ends to beat the traffic jam or local called it 'macet' and also because I hired him for only 12hours that his service should end at 5pm in Jogja. But since I couldn't stop being me who always takes long time at this kind of place, at 5pm I was still inside the Borobudur complex. And that was also means I didn't have time to visit Mbah Marijan's house, the spiritual gatekeeper of Mount Merapi on my way back to Jogja. Ok, I have to admit going to Dieng Plateau and Borobudur on the same day is doable but pretty hectic and like me, there is a chance you'll miss some of your planned itinerary due to time constraint.


On my way back to Jogja from Magelang (Borobudur area), as expected we had to go through the 'macet', not only because it was past working hours where everyone was rushing to go back home but also because one of the bridge on the main road was ruined by the recent cold volcanic ash flood and was closed.

Although I missed going to Mbah Marijan's house but with His will, I was able to witness the post eruption effect of Mount Merapi during the 'macet' and it was the most heart breaking scene in my life. The river flowed nothing but volcanic ash, houses were ruined and the area was deserted with volcanic ash, THICK VOLCANIC ASH. Everywhere I saw the volcanic ash.

I can't say much if those doesn't move you.

For me, I never thought that I could witness all this in front of my eyes and at so close distance. It made me somehow grateful for all the life pleasure that I had and for not having to experience such disaster in my life. Alhamdulillah.

From this trip, all He wanted me to see was His mightiness as a Creator that He can take anything from us in a split second whether we like it or not, so we as His servant need to always be humble and grateful.

So all in all, it was an amazing and meaningful day for me, starting from very early morning journey to Dieng Plateau to visiting the grandeur monument in Jogja. How I spent the day are here, here and here.