Indonesia

Closer Magazine Winter 2013-14

INDONESIA Sitting astride the Equator, between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, is Indonesia. An archipelago of over 17,000 stunning islands it is bursting with bounteous natural attractions, fascinating culture and exotic flora and fauna. Balmoral visits three ports of call in this beautiful country on her epic 2015 Grand Voyage to the Far East, awarding guests with three totally different, but equally inspiring experiences. The bustling city of Semarang, capital of central Java, is home to around 1.5 million people and boasts a diverse mix of cultural influences, ranging from Chinese to European. Authentic Chinatown (Pecinan) rubs shoulders with both modern and Dutch-colonial buildings, while Buddhist and Hindu temples, Islamic mosques and Christian churches reflect the area’s ethnic mix. One of the most beautiful structures is the Sam Po Kong Temple. It was built to honour the Chinese commander Cheng Ho and was renovated in 2006 on the 600th anniversary of his voyage to Semarang. In the Outstadt (Old City), is the Gereja Blenduk, the ‘Doomed Church’, which is the oldest church in central Java. The overall style is neo-classical, but various local influences give it a rather idiosyncratic feel. Also worth seeing is the splendid Stasiun Tawang, the oldest railway station in the country. Dating from 1870, the massive ticket hall and the adjacent wrought-iron railway buildings are still in 24 www.fredolsencruises.com use today. Exploring the city by Becak (Rickshaw) is an exhilarating way to see the highlights. Be sure to stop and try out the local eateries, where you can taste delicacies including Lumpia Semarang (pastries similar to spring rolls) and Wingko Babat, a pancake-like snack made with coconut. Semarang is also a great starting point for tours to Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple. It’s considered to be one of the wonders of South East Asia. Borobudur was built in the 9th century but was abandoned for hundreds of years, lying hidden underneath volcanic ash and jungle growth. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles is credited with the temple’s rediscovery in 1814, having alerted the world to its existence. In the 1970s, UNESCO and the Indonesian Government worked together to restore Borobudur to its former glory, resulting in its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main temple is built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces; the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms; and a monumental stupa at the top. Situated around the circular platforms are 72 stupas, each containing a statue of Buddha. In total the temple is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues, covering an area of 123 square metres, with a height of 35 metres from ground level; a truly remarkable structure. To this day the temple is still used for Buddhist rituals and ceremonies.


Closer Magazine Winter 2013-14
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