We left Dieng and took a long drive towards Magelang area in Central Java. To be honest, I was still confused as to which region we were actually in but I knew we were near the Borobudur temple which I had visited many many years ago. At least a good reference point. We were driving around looking for a place to stay for the night. Took us a while to come to a decision but finally we settled for Cempaka Guest House Borobudur. Sara and I had bought some Carica jelly to share and when we brought it out, we realised the boys had also bought the same thing for us. Great minds do think alike, I guess.
We drove out to the town for dinner and Dani drove around to show us the area. We had woken up very early in the morning, so we were all sleepy. I am always very amazed at how much time we have in every of our trip and the number of places we can cover in a single day. Then again, we do wake up exceptionally. It was either midnight or 3am to do a morning hike to catch sunrise and we would easily have 20 waking hours a day, simply amazing. Our kind of holiday. 😉
Another early morning. This time to catch sunrise over Borobudur. We drove pretty much all the way and hiked a little to reach the view point. Ok, it wasn’t much of a hike, just a short walk.
It was a cloudy morning and we could only see a little of the temple. It was a matter of luck and the clouds just decided to settle in today. While we could make out the shape of the stupa from up there, it was not easy to get any clear photo.
But still we waited patiently. We were hoping we might get lucky.
I guessed we lucked out this time. But something else caught my eye. They guys had mentioned an interesting place the night before and I just could not get it out of my mind. And from here, I spotted the crown. Getting excited but first, I needed to see my favourite ‘egg yolk’. 🙂 And what would be the best thing to do while waiting? A nice warm cup of coffee.
Perseverance paid off. Though we had a blurry view of the temple, it was still a beautiful sunrise. Everyone on the hill all stopped and started taking photos. We joined in the fun and Daniel had us pose around till we got that perfect shot.
And it was time to move on again. We had to look for my chicken church!!! We had a very rough idea of where it should be located. And that was another spot to catch sunrise over Borobudur but apparently not as popular. I just find the building very very interesting. It was really in the shape of a bird. Talking about birds, we saw these along the way. At first I thought they were goose but they had really short legs. Ducks? but the beaks looked a bit different. I didn’t really catch what they were called.. I thought it sounded like ‘murdock’… haha but I could be wrong. I got the english name from a web search and it was not easy. I literally typed in neither goose nor duck bird. :p
But I had a more interesting ‘bird’ to look for. Finally we arrived at the a parking area and they had these signboards. When it was first built, it was an all white building and the word ‘merpati’ means dove. So it was not a chicken after all. It’s a dove.
After checking out the directions with guys at the parking area, we walked towards the building we had been searching for. After a short walk, I spotted the building.
It was no longer in that pristine white state and it seem a little dilapidated. It looked abandoned and I felt a tinge of sadness looking at it. In this little village, I wondered how they had the means to create such an interesting building. The form was unthinkable and I could not believe that someone would create a building in the shape of a dove.
The details of the building were intricate and from the exterior, I could tell that there seem to be a basement of sort. Not sure how it actually would be liked on the inside.
We entered from a side gate and once in, it was clear that the building was only half built. There was a sole worker working on plastering the inside walls. There was also a donation box at the corner. I was definitely getting more curious about the place but unfortunately, the worker was mute so there was no way we could find out more from him. I read the little leaflets at the donation box and it seems that a church had taken over the building and were trying to finish it up.
In my mind, this was originally built as a church, so I started picturing where the pulpit would ideally be and where the congregation would sit. There were some free standing columns around so my guess was there might had been plans for several levels within the building.
Dani and I headed to what I termed the pulpit end of of the church. Interestingly, there seemed to be a little hidden dungeon and in contrast to the concrete walls in the front, this was very organic with thick heavy rocks that were carved to form steps leading to a little basement area.
On closer observation, there was a stone door with a little view panel but the heavy door was not openable at all. I peeped through and there was a lit bulb on the inside. It looked like a prison cell to me. Really spooky and scary. There seem to be the occasional breeze coming through too and we wondered where that came from.
As usual, when there were no answers, my imagination started running wild. Maybe the place was haunted and like all horror movies, this was the sealed cell and if manage to open up the door, we might unleash some evil forces into our world. Dani’s jaw must have dropped several times at my ridiculous tale. I was eager to share my findings with Sara and Daniel who finally walked over. I kept telling them to look right in and with Sara’s torchlight, Daniel spotted what looked like a bathroom. That was it!! This must be a prison cell. My personal conclusion. 🙂
At this point of time, I couldn’t figure why the works were stopped. Looking at some of the architectural elements, it was obvious whoever had commissioned the building initially were very particular about the details. From the way it was built, the morning rays came in at a beautiful angle. The staircase and the different levels looked very newly constructed. The building material was wood and was vastly different from the rest of the building. The original structure was concrete and I found the interweave of the old and new materials very interesting.
We went upstairs on the newly build timber staircase. It was sad to see the graffiti all over the walls. But my thoughts were more on how amazing the place would look should they finally have it finished up.
The beak level was fenced up and I believed it was more for safety reason. Towards the opposite end, it was again partially blocked up. That was the dove’s tail. In between, there was a stained glass design in the shape of a cross.
There was a ladder at the uppermost floor that opened up to the crown level. This was the viewing gallery and from here I could see where we were earlier this morning. This was definitely another choice location to watch sunrise.
By now we all knew what Daniel had in mind every time he announced that we were taking a wefie. To avoid the shadows, we all had to face the sun and try super-duper hard to open our eyes. I was squinting bad but it was all for that perfect shot where our faces were all well lit. Good job, guys!
It was getting hot up there so it was time to head back down.
I didn’t know if I should call this a restoration process. I felt it was more of an attempt to finish construction of the building. There were some columns laying outside too. Not sure if they had fallen or they were waiting to be installed.
One mind boggling thing was the origin of this place. I knew that the building was not really that old, probably around 10years plus. By now, Sara and I had built up our story of the place, from a haunted place to some romantic love story. I was super curious and couldn’t wait for a chance to go online to research on the place.
We went back out and circled round the building and we found the dungeon side of the building. there were apparently rooms and they actually lead to the outside. But the gate on this side was locked so we could not go in for a walk-around. This kind of made the building even more interesting. One side of the building was higher than the other and they made use of this to the fullest. Quite a clever idea.
Sadly, graffiti was everywhere. We also found a back door that was now sealed up. The surroundings were unfortunately all filled with overgrown weeds. I was sure if it was properly spruced up, it would have been a beautiful place.
We headed back to our homestay for our breakfast. Once I got onto the homestay’s wifi, I started searching for any related stories to our ‘chicken’ church. It was not actually a known place of interest but the unique building form and the layers of stories surrounding it intrigued me. I guessed it was the fact that there was no one who was able to verify the stories that made the place all the more mysterious.
Finally, I found a English website that had a short story on the history of the place. It was not a church after all. The structure was built by Mr Daniel Alamsjah from Jakarta in the 1990s. He had dreamt of a holy vision and chanced upon this village. The surroundings and the views were an exact match of what he saw in his dream. Hence it was built in the form of a dove.
The building was opened to the public in 2000 and served as a prayer house for all religions. The ground level was the service level and the basement served as a rehabilitation centre for delinquents, explaining the needs for dormitory rooms. However, due to the lack of funds, construction came to a stop and the building was left in its current state. A church organization now took over the running of the building and were raising funds to have it rebuilt, hence the donation box at the entrance. Hopefully, it would return to its days of glory as an all white dove building.
Having satisfied my curiosity, I was eager to share my stories with the rest. Sara and I were teasing Daniel, insisting he was the person who built the prayer house and he was in some form of disguise. Ridiculous and lame but it spiced up our morning. The boys must be feeling frustrated as Sara and I had always been interested in the most unexpected places that were not even in the itinerary initially.
After breakfast, we were debating if we should head to Borobudur. All except Sara had been there and she did not want us to make the trip just for her. But I felt that it was a must-go destination since we were already there. And so, my first noon trip to Borobudur.
It was a hot day and the building and the grounds seem to radiate heat. Just this morning we were all feeling chilly. Now I was just wearing my singlet, definitely an excellent day to get a good tan.
I had almost forgotten how massive and majestic the temple was. The building was believed to be surrounded with a water feature all round but all that was now gone. Much of the building was restored and in places where the pieces could not be found, they were replaced with blank stones. There were also the occasional pieces that were mismatched. But restoration was a tough process and with the heavy structures, it made all the work even harder.
Unfortunately before the declaration of the place as Unesco Heritage site, there had been illegal trades where the buddha heads were stolen and sold off, hence many of the stupas were now empty.
Under the blazing sun, we could clearly see the structure in its full glory. But the place was crowded with both local and foreigner tourists. I had to get the right angle before I could leave out unwanted humans in my photos.
We walked to another part of the temple which was still largely uncompleted. It seems that it would take a long time more before we could see the whole temple in its complete form.
We had a simple lunch and Es campur that was much needed. Ice had never felt so good. After lunch, we had a long journey to our next destination area, Gunung Kidul. I had thought it was a mountain but it seems that it was the name of an area. I’ll leave the rest of the day’s journey to part 3 of the story.