Selamat and greetings to all our readers. Today we arrived in the heart of Java: Semarang.

It was an early start for us all, and we arrived at Semarang port just after 7:00 a.m. Upon departing National Geographic Orion, we were greeted by a group performing a traditional Indonesian dance known as the Reog Ponorogo from east Java. Two dancers wore incredibly large masks, said to weigh between 30 to 40 kilograms and spanning over 2.5 meters. They were beautifully decorated, made to look like the head of a lion and embellished with peacock feathers. After the performance, we learned that the dancers hold the masks up by biting down on a wooden handle behind the mask, relying solely on the strength of their jaw, neck, and shoulders!

After the performance, we left with feelings of complete awe and headed to the buses. We had a long drive ahead of us to reach the day’s main attraction, Borobudur Temple. With the help of an escort and some insightful interpretation from local guides, the time passed quickly.

We gasped in unison as we caught our first glimpses of the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It was hard to believe that the incredible World Heritage Site that had taken over 75 years to build was abandoned and lost to the jungle for centuries.

Upon entering, we followed our guides as they shared stories and learnings from the detailed stone carvings found around the walls of the temples. After climbing many steps to the central dome, we had worked up a great appetite. Luckily, an incredible spread of local Indonesian food awaited us at a nearby restaurant adjacent to the temple. Following lunch, we were treated to a traditional form of puppet theatre known as Wayang.

Guests had another opportunity to shop for local crafts and souvenirs before it was time to head back to the buses and enjoy the scenery back to the ship.