Today was an exciting day for those interested in the culture of local people. Semarang, located in central Java, was the starting point for our tour to Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. As we got off the ship, we were treated to a cultural dance performance that is unique to the area. On the way to the buses, we each received fragrant flower garlands. Soon we were on our way, crossing the island and passing rice fields and several volcanoes on the way. Located on the southern side of Java, Borobudur takes one’s breath away. The large, square temple has seven levels to explore, and we slowly climbed up and wandered in between over 500 Buddha statues and 1400 reliefs depicting scenes of his life. The temple sits among tropical trees, and we discovered mahogany, teak, and various tropical fruit trees. For lunch, we were treated to Indonesian dishes that are often served on special occasions. To top it off, a gamelan orchestra played for us, and we saw a Wayang puppet show. Both these artforms are on the UNESCO World Heritage list as uniquely Indonesian. After this myriad of new impressions, the bus took us back through the countryside dotted with villages, and we returned to the ship.
National Geographic Orion
The morning began with a mission to see one of the rarest birds on earth. After an early start, we made the short crossing to Bali Barat National Park, the last refuge of the Bali myna. From a population low of thirty-six individuals in 1993, this bird has made a slow recovery with between one and two hundred individuals in the wild today. Thankfully, we knew exactly where to go and soon were spending time with a flock of nearly a dozen of these snowy, brilliant avian wonders. Birds weren’t the only highlight here, as the park had abundant herds of Javan rusa. Among the many long-tailed macaques, we also encountered a few of the shyer Javan lutung, a handsome monkey endemic to the region. After lunch, we turned our attention below the water and went snorkelling on nearby Pulau Menjangan. As we headed into the water from a floating platform, the water was a little choppy at the surface. Just below the waves, we found crystal clear waters and some of the best reef life of the entire trip. The next few hours passed in a blur with ninety feet of visibility and swarms of brilliant marine life. Many of us stayed in the water as long as we possibly could. After an especially extravagant afternoon tea where most of us opted for cold, fresh coconuts, we continued overnight to Denpasar.