Volcanic Ash Blankets Tourist Sites

In Asia, News Headlines, Volcanoes

Jakarta. The road to one of the country’s best-known icons, the ninth-century Borobudur temple, is covered in ash, and the trees and buildings lining it are now completely gray.

The hawkers who usually compete for customers are nowhere to be seen and the stores selling cheap souvenirs are all closed.

Thousands of tourists would normally crowd the temple, but only a few souls were spotted here on Sunday.

Puji Santoso, deputy head of the Borobudur Tourism Park, said the temple was closed on Friday because of the continuous volcanic activity from nearby Mount Merapi.

“We will re-open on Tuesday, but the visitors can only go to the outer areas,” he said on Sunday. “The temple itself will still be closed to the public.”

He estimated the closure would cost the park about Rp 50 million ($5,600) a day.

Yogyakarta is famous for its cultural sites, and thousands of local residents rely on the city’s tourism industry for their livelihoods.

But the ongoing eruptions — the worst in more than a century — have left many tourist attractions empty.

At Taman Sari, the historic recreation place of the sultanate’s former rulers, the number of visitors has dropped by 90 percent since Merapi began erupting on Oct. 26, according to Parjio, a ticket vendor who has been working at the site for 36 years.

“I really hope this will end soon,” he said.

Yvonne and Eric, Dutch tourists who were visiting the site, said they only proceeded with their Yogyakarta travel plans because they had booked months ago.

“We are worried, but we have booked it. But we will only be here for two days, and then we go to Bali,” Yvonne said.

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