Lantern-less Lantern Festival

Going to a lantern festival has been a lifelong dream of mine.  I am absolutely enthralled by every picture I’ve ever seen of these events, and was determined to be a participant in one during my time in SouthEast Asia.

Borobudur, an enormous – and very old – temple in Indonesia, is a major seat of Buddhism in the country.  It is situated just outside of Jogjakarta, a city about an hour flight away from where I live.  For Buddha’s birthday every year, they have an enormous festival… complete with lanterns.

My friend Jennifer and I decided to go, both to see the ceremony and to celebrate one of her last few weekends in Indonesia.

I was beyond excited.

Apparently, all of Indonesia was also excited.  There was an unbelievable number of people there!  We waited along with the rest of the crowd in a tightly packed crowd outside of the gates.  Every five minutes or so they would let a small group in, and things got pretty crazy.  Let’s just saying people aren’t great at lining up nicely here.


By the time that we reached the front, we were no longer capable of independent movement!  I was swept through the gates along with the crowd, arms pinned at my sides.


Once we finally got inside we asked around and figured out the next series of checkpoints to go through.  A bit of smiling and friendly banter got us the help of the guards and we were able to get through without too much trouble.


As we started walking at a quick, American pace, several Indonesian girls started running to keep up with us (the normal pace here is similar to how you might walk if you walking the plank into a shark infested ocean).  They were laughing, we were laughing, and we got the change to talk to them a bit.  The were very sweet!  The atmosphere of the entire event was fun and warm.


We continued around the temple to the area where the festivities were scheduled to take place. The whole complex was crowded, but this area was especially populated!


 Here starts the four hours of sitting… in the rain.  It’s amazing that I got out with both of my eyes!  These people were dangerous with their umbrellas!
Some people got more creative 🙂
As the rain continued, the chanting, singing, and events minus lanterns began and continued.  As it kept up, people started clearing out and we ended up with the best seats in the place, front and center.
Albeit the lack of lanterns, there was lots going on.  Mostly, the stage was full of monks, but this guy had America represented on all counts… a cowboy hat and a baseball hat.
Soaked through, we waited and waited for the lanterns.  After lots of fruitless patience invested, we decided to head out.  Unfortunately, being at the very front meant that there were a lot of people to wade through.
Suddenly, a guard was ushering us across the front of the stage, toward what we assumed was an exit.  We followed gratefully.
A few minutes into our walk, we realized that we had become part of a parade around the monument!  We exited as quickly as possible.
Though I’m super bummed they never ended up setting off the lanterns, it was still a great experience to be at such a culturally important festival.  And Borobudur was as beautiful as ever.  God put on a pretty incredible lightening show behind the temple!
I’ll just have to go next year, I guess 🙂

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