Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Day in Borobudur with Monsillage Pays Dogon


Am I the only one that plans what perfumes I will take on a trip, trying to calculate which ones will compliment the location and mood of the place? A perfume that maybe with luck will be a reminder of a great trip every time I catch its scent? My husband and I had planned a trip to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in October of 2010 to see the archeological sites of Borobudur and Prambanan, and to golf at a course near the base of Mt. Merapi, Indonesia's most active volcano. The day we were to leave Merapi exploded, covering the sites in volcanic ash and leaving the golf course decimated by the power of the explosion. Our trip was canceled of course and it has taken us seven years to reschedule .

The first stop was to be the world's largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 9th century. It was abandoned in the 14th century as the Islamic religion began to spread throughout Indonesia. This is the most visited site in Indonesia and still used as a pilgrimage for Buddhists on Vesak Day in May. Borobudur has nine stacked platforms decorated with stone carved relief  panels and decorated with 504 Buddha statues. The Buddhas at the upper levels sit inside perforated stupas, or bell-like stone structures.

I came up blank as to what scent might evoke this place and ended up deciding to take a new sample I had by Monsillage called Pays Dogon. The perfumer Isabelle Michaud was invoking a travel memory from Africa and numerous bloggers have described this place. For my purpose, I saw that it contained some notes indigenous to Indonesia such as Javanese vetiver, patchouli, and ginger so into the suitcase it went.

Vetiver is considered a holy herb and is referenced in the Hindu's sacred book, the Bhagavad Gita, by Lord Krishna. Krishna says, "I am the fragrance of the soil." The vetiver grass can have an aromatic woody smell  with aspects of sweet and earthy character. It is considered a reviving oil in ayurvedic practice and used to calm the mind, in India being referred to as "the oil of tranquility". So, I theorized, at this sacred site perhaps vetiver was as good a choice as any.

The Javanese vetiver used in Monsillage Pays Dogon is particularly aromatic and fragrant. One can sense the greeness of the vetiver grass as well as the earthiness of its dense roots. There is a hint of ginger which gives it a spicy lilt. Black and pink pepper notes add a touch of heat. Cypriol oil amplifies the woody, earthy effect of the vetiver. Cyriol oil is a relative of papyrus and perhaps its use in Pays Dogon adds to the overall arid dryness of the scent. Red hibiscus is also listed as a component of the perfume but I confess that I can't pick the note out. Later the scents of sandalwood, guaiac wood, and patchouli join with the vetiver, adding more elements of wood and earth to the scent. Pays Dogon wears close to the skin and as I sniff my arm it does provide a rather therapeutic zen feeling of well being. This is a scent that could be worn by either sex although it veers more strongly to the masculine side of the scale.


So did I find my perfect perfume for experiencing Borobudur? Not exactly. Here's what I experienced. Walking in the darkness lit only by a pale crescent moon we made our way towards the dark pyramid shape of Borobudur. Suddenly my nose was hit with the freshest, strongest jasmine. We were obviously passing some bushes but the white petals were invisible in the darkness. It was like an olafactory anoitment and blessing for the experience awaiting us and served to build my anticipation. The thin beam of our flashlight guided us up the long straight stairways to the top of the momument where we awaited the dawn's light. Seeing the stupas and Budda's in the gradually dawning blue light was a beautiful experience. Once the sun was up the things I saw that would have contributed to my personal fragrance were the old stones with ribbons of moss in the crevices, verdant green fields surrounding the historic site, and the still active volcano, Mt. Merapi, shrouded in the morning clouds.

None of this takes away from the fact that Monsillage Pays Dogon is a lovely vetiver. If you haven't tried vetiver perfumes this would be a good one to start with. I think you'll like the cooling and reviving aspect that the vetiver aroma gifts you with. Maybe I need to add a trip to Africa's Pays Dogon region (a place I had never heard of!) to my travel bucket list and experience Ms. Michaud's vision there. Meanwhile, I think you would particularly enjoy this scent in the hot summer to give the sense of cool and calm in the face of  the heat of the day.

Photos my own. Sample purchased by me from Twisted Lily.

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