Our eyes were drawn to this bright orange complex amidst a vast field of agricultural land. For a nonsecular destination like Tomohon in North Sulawesi, whose majority of population flocks to their Cristian Churches, seeing a pagoda, a stupa and a distinct Buddhist temple in this area was almost an oddity in itself. The Vihara Buddhayana Tomohon is one of the rare place of worship for the Buddhist minority in North Sulawesi that has become an attraction by the roadside in Desa Kakaskasen III in Tomohon.
North Sulawesi, found at the tip of the K-shaped island of Sulawesi, may not be as popular to the “eat-pray-love” crowd of Bali or the enlightenment-seekers meditating on the multi-tiered levels of Borobudur in Yogyakarta, but explorers and adventurers seeking a refreshing side of Indonesia will find something to like in this region. There’s an interesting mix of culture, islets teeming with diverse marine life, imposing volcanoes, enchanting lakes and a slew of activities that can keep people under the sun longer than intended.
I felt a tap on my right shoulder. It was the bus driver signaling me we’re near the last stop. I didn’t know I already dozed off in front of this mini-bus on my way back to Yogyakarta. I had an early start that day visiting Candi Borobudur before sunrise and now I head back that afternoon to Yogyakarta this time for Candi Prambanan. One of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in Central Java, often times shadowed by the nearby Candi Borobudur.
It’s a 9km ride to out next destination coming from Sukuh Temple and Jumog Falls. We go higher up the slopes of the sacred Gunung Lawu and the views just keeps getting better. The afternoon light illuminates the vast tea plantation hills and we pass by a few tea harvesters going up and down the slopes. We are now 1400 meters above sea level and I see the gates to the Cetho Temple (Candi Cetho) bathed in warm light with stone guardians to welcome us.
“Who are you again? Where did we first meet?” asked my driver, Wazit, who seemed to have his senses knocked out of him. He has been asking me this question for the nth time after our motorbike accident in the highway midway to our destination – the slopes of Gunung Lawu for the Sukuh Temple. Suddenly my bruises on my left arms, waist and knees seems so minor. Do I continue with my trip to Gunung Lawu?
“You can take a picture on this spot. You’ll get a better view of the stupa here” a voice told me in somewhat a better Burmese-English while I was taking a photograph inside one of the pavilions in Shwedagon Paya. I looked back to see a young monk with glasses. He introduced himself as Xanther. He volunteered to take my photo. Thinking about it, I don’t have a personal photo here yet so I obliged. He seemed like a friendly guy and offered to take me around the paya if I wanted. I wasn’t sure at first but he might be one of those young monks trying to practice their English so I let myself be entertained.
There was still time when I got down from Sagaing Hill. I asked my motorbike driver Tubo, if we got time to visit this one temple I was eyeing. He insists it wasn’t included on what Olsen advised him so he cannot. Insisting further that it’s just a few minutes away, he stood his ground. I wasn’t in the mood to argue so I just asked his suggestion on where we could kill time before going to our sunset spot. He told me we could visit Tupayon Paya just a few yards from Ava Bridge. So off we went.