City of big durian, rain, elephants, Switzerland of Java and Paris of Java
14.12.2016 - 01.01.2017
Wednesday [14/12/2016] I landed at Jakarta and met up with Doni, the driver from my previous Java trip. Since it started to drizzle slightly, we decided to head straight to Bogor instead of going around Jakarta. On the way to Bogor, we stopped by at the Australian International School where my ex-colleague is currently working. By the time we found the place, school have ended so Janet showed me around the school. Set in a huge Dutch mansion, the classrooms were different from the schools in Brunei. After catching up with Janet for a while, it was time to leave and head on to Bogor. With 9.6 million people living in Jakarta, traffic jams are horrible. Places where traffic is bad daily, you see peddlers selling food, drinks and cigarettes. By the time we reached to Bogor and looked for The Hayati Inn, it was already evening. We had our dinner at Lippo Plaza, one of the mall in Bogor.
Thursday [15/12/2016] Today we went to Bogor botanical garden. It's a good thing that we could drive the car around the garden or else it would take us the whole day just to see everything. We went to see the Zoology museum first. The bones of a huge blue whale was displayed in the open space of the museum and they exhibit various types of animals found in Indonesia like the komodo dragon and the Javan rhinoceros. Then we went to see the Dutch cemetery which is located near to the Bogor palace. So we parked the car and walked by foot around. Unfortunately, the palace was not open to the public so we only saw it from far.
My next target was to find the Amorphophallus titanum (corpse flower})where there are supposed to 5 of them in this garden. Not knowing much about this flower, other than the seeing the signboard indicating the plants are around that area, we did not managed to find it at all. Finally we stopped and asked the workers the exact location of the corpse flowers. They told us that they haven't bloom yet since it take 3 years for the flower to grow and then bloom but they told us where the spots are. So we headed to the location and finally found it. True enough the label for the plants were there but all we saw was just the soil without anything growing on it. Very disappointing indeed as I was hoping to see and smell the corpse flower for the first time. After seeing everything at the garden, we head off to Cipanas.
To go to Cipanas, we had to pass through Puncak Pass which is located on the ridge to the north of Mt.Gede-Pangrango. Since Cipanas is on the highland, the weather is cool and there are many tea plantations. We could have gone straight to Bandung but I wanted to experience the cold weather. Since Puncak Pass road is very famous among locals and foreigners, traffic was pretty bad. Once again, there were peddlers walking around selling food, drinks and cigarettes as well as a few mascots standing and waving to the cars, hoping that some people would give them money. At Puncak Pass, we stopped by at the view point to see the view of the whole area. Like any touristic places, there were peddlers selling stuffs. I bought a packet of raspberries and Sukabumi mochi to try. We finally found Hotel LTC Villa Lotus, which happens to be in a secured residential area. Since it was not the peak season, we were the only ones staying there.
We then drove to Cimory to look for the Riverside View restaurant because on Google Map, it showed that this restaurant is near to LTC Villa Lotus which was wrong. There are 2 Cimory restaurants where the first one we went to is Cimory Mountain View restaurant. This restaurant has the mountain view but I wanted to enjoy eating by the riverside so we went further down to find Cimory River View restaurant which we finally did. The first thing I did was to see the shop which sells milk products, chocolates, snacks and cow related souvenirs. Then we went to the riverside to take some photos before having our late lunch. Food was not bad but service was very slow as there were a lot of patrons but not enough staff to entertain everyone. After filling our tummy, I went back to the Cimory shop and bought some souvenirs. Since there wasn't much to do around Cipanas, we went back to the hotel to rest and it was already getting cold.
Friday [16/12/2016] After having breakfast, we head to Bandung. On the way, we stop at a souvenir shop. I bought a bottle of asinan, a specialty of Bogor and the famous roti Unyil. Since it was still early, not all of the roti Unyil were out yet but I managed to get a few flavours that just came out fresh from the oven. Further along the way, there were also roadside stalls selling huge rose apple (bigger than my palm) which seemed to be in season so I couldn't resist buying a few just to try as I have never seen them before in Brunei. When we reached to Bandung, we stopped at a Sudanese restaurant and since it was still lunch time, the restaurant was packed with people. We chose the food we wanted and while waiting for our food to be cooked and sent to us, we found a place sit at the balcony area looking at the main road. At least it was not hot and stuffy sitting at the balcony area though the walking space was only limited to 1 person at a time. Food was delicious and the view was interesting. Then we continued with our journey to Tasikmalaya. By the time we reached to Tasikmalaya, it was already evening so we head straight to City Hotel Tasikmalaya to check in before we head out again. Tasikmalaya is a small city with a few malls, so we checked out one of them. For dinner, we went to Liwet Pak Asep Stroberi where the entrance of the restaurant is shaped like a strawberry. We tried the Tutug Oncom, a specialty of Tasikmalaya while enjoying the fresh air since we sat inside an open hut.
Saturday [17/12/2016] Today before heading to Kampong Naga, we went to find kelom geulis, a special product of Tasikmalaya. Kelom geulis is wooden sandals worn by women back in the 1960s for formal functions when Indonesia was still under the Dutch colony. Nowadays, kelom geulis is a dying industry since not many women are interested in wearing it so only a few home industry are still making it. We found one of the home industry where the owner was nice enough to show how kelom geulis is handmade individually. They use mahogany wood and it takes a skilled person to carve the design by hand on each wood. They have a small showroom in the living room but because each kelom design is handmade, they did not have a lot of stock for different sizes except for the ones displayed. There were some nice designs but none of my size so I bought 4 pairs of kelom geulis only.
We then head to Kampong Naga, a traditional village of the Sanaga people which is located along the Ciwulan river in the area of Neglasari Village. To reach this village, we had to walk down 439 steps from the parking area. There are altogether 113 identical houses arranged in an orderly manner, facing towards the river. Each house is made of wood on short stilts and the roof is made of black sago palm fibre material. There is no electricity or modern items like fridge, tv or even rice cooker. The women spend most of their time weaving handicrafts which are sold as souvenirs to tourists. On the way up to the car park, we stopped to see one of the village man painting pictures of Kampong Naga with his finger only. I bought 2 small pictures from him as a remembrance of this village. Since it was raining, we decided to rest for a while at the stall at the car park area. Doni had bakso while I did not to eat anything from the bakso push cart due to hygienic reasons as I did not want to have diarrhea since we still have a long drive ahead of us. I also bought a small packet of the local red rice grown in Kampong Naga to try back home later.
From Kampong Naga, we headed to Pangandaran which took more than 4 hours to reach. Halfway through the journey, we stopped for late lunch at a restaurant which is next to the paddy field. By the time we arrived to Pangandaran, it was night time and fortunately, our homestay is near to the junction. After checking in at Panorama A La Plage homestay, we headed to the beach area to find a place for dinner. Since it was the weekend, there were a lot of people at the beach. We decided to have dinner at one of the cafe on the beach facing the sea so that we could enjoy the cool sea breeze and the sound of the waves. The food was not bad and there was a live band to entertain the patrons.
Sunday [18/12/2016] Today we head to the Green canyon (Cukang Taneuh) which is famous for its clear green water and the abundant green moss on the cliff. We took the 30 minute swimming package at Batu Payung and used a “ketinting”, the wooden motor boats with roof to go to that location. There were a lot of tourists, mostly locals but they did not go swimming. When we reached to the spot where we have to get off the boat, we had to ready to be wet and swim against the strong current. Since I am not a strong swimmer yet, it took me a while to go against the current but we managed to go from one rock to another until we were at Batu Payung. It was difficult to avoid knocking our legs on the rocks so I got a few bruises here and there but nothing major. Then I decided to extend our trip up to Pemandian Puteri where the current was even more stronger than at Batu Payung with water falling from the rocks above us. While making our way there, we saw a group of guys doing body rafting where they floated from upstream to Pemandian Puteri, then to Batu Payung before using a boat to take them back to the ticket area. After having enough of the cold water, we flowed with the current downstream until we reached Batu Payung where we then got up into our boat and headed back to the ticketing area. It was a good experience that anyone should try once in their lifetime. With all the swimming in the cold water, we were dead hungry so we stopped by at a restaurant on the way to Batu Hiu beach. Since it was not the peak season, we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. So we chose to sit at the back of the building where they have tables on the open space and you just sit on the floor. We had prawns, fish, ferns and fried fritters which was very delicious or probably because we were too hungry.
After lunch, we headed to Batu Hiu beach which is named after the rocks that resembled a shark fin. However, after years of the waves hitting the rocks, the shark fin shaped rocks were not noticeable anymore. The amusing thing about the beach is that you can see Teletubbies and Masha mascots waiting for people to take photos with them. There were also mats for rent so that people can sit and have picnic and you can buy hermit crabs and their houses which surprisingly, some people bought to keep as pets! Since it was still early in the afternoon and we had no other plans, we decided to spend head to Pangandaran beach and see sunset there.
The sight on the beach was totally different from the ones in Brunei. There were "Jukungs", traditional fishing boats lining along the shore, guys playing football, people swimming in the sea, peddlers selling ice cream and people watching other people (just like me). You can even rent a horse to ride on the beach! I don't normally like to go to the beach due to the hot weather but since there was nothing much to do in Pangandaran and the sun was setting in 2 hours time, I don't mind people watching. While doing so, I noticed a group of people gathering together at a spot and just looking out at the sea. As a boat came to the shore and then the fishermen were pulling something ashore, all those people rushed towards the fishermen and it so happened that a pickup truck with lifeguards were driving by slowly. I thought someone must have drowned but then again, the lifeguards were just relaxing while they were looking at the crowd and just drove by. After making their round, the lifeguards saw me taking photo of them and it was pretty funny because it reminded me of Baywatch. Being curious myself, I then head towards the crowd to see what the commotion was about. When I reached there, everyone were just watching the fishermen sorting out their catch of the day. As the sun was setting, what was even more surprising was that 2 deer walked by along the beach even though there were people around. I guess the deer at this area are so used to people that they don't even run away when we approach them. For dinner, we just had a simple meal near to our homestay as we could not find any other place which looked hygienic to eat before heading back to rest.
Monday [19/12/2016] After we checked out from the homestay, we started out journey to Garut. By the time we reached there, it was early afternoon so we stopped at Sentra Industri Kulit Sukaregang where you can see all the small shops along that road selling leather jackets, shoes, bags, etc. In order to know whether a leather is genuine or not, I asked the saleslady to prove it before I buy it which she did by using a lighter to burn the leather which did not burn at all. The was the same test used to check for genuine leather in China. After that, we stopped by for a quick Sundanese lunch before we continue on to Papandayan.
It was a relaxing drive to Cisurupan but I noticed that we were going higher and higher along the way. Even though it was only about 4pm, the weather was cool like as if the whole town was blown by a huge natural air con. After finding Asep Homestay, we had to wait for Pak Asep to return home from work to discuss about the guide who will bring me up to Mount Papandayan and while waiting for him, his wife cooked us dinner. When Pak Asep finally showed up, I was so surprised that he was wearing a thick jacket while we were only wearing normal clothes. Since he was working at Mount Papandayan park office, he was not able to guide me but he contacted Rangga who will be my guide. I had the choice to see sunrise before heading to Goeber Hut, Pondok Saladah, Hutan Mati (Dead Forest) and the lake or just see the Goeber Hut, Pondok Saladah and Hutan Mati. I chose the sunrise so the hike will start at 4.30am which is still ok considering that in the past, I have hiked starting at midnight just to see the sunrise at Semeru.
Tuesday [20/12/2016] I woke up at 3.30am just to get ready for the hike. By 4am, after having something light to eat just to fill the stomach since it was way too early for breakfast, we headed off to Mount Papandayan. It took us half an hour to reach Mount Papandayan through curvy roads that goes upwards all the way. When we reached Camp David which is at the parking area, I did not see anyone else except us. The wind was howling and very cold but I was only wearing 3/4 leggings with just short sleeve shirt with a thin jacket since it was not this windy at the previous volcanoes that I've climbed before in December. It was not so bad when we were moving as I felt hot even though I was wearing a thin jacket so I opt not to wear the jacket at all whereas Rangga who was wearing jeans and a thick jacket. It was only when we stop to rest, then the wind was freezing and it was so strong that my cap was blown away. Oh well, at least it was not an expensive cap. We reached to the sunrise view point which is said to have the best sunrise view in Garut 20 minutes later and the sun was still hiding behind the clouds. So we waited and slowly, we saw the sun rising.
On the way to Goeber Hut, we passed by numerous steam vents that produce hissing sounds as they released droplets of water and small streams before walking up a long winding road. At Goeber Hut (2275m high), there were a few tents and the campers were just beginning to cook their breakfast since it was still very early in the morning. We continued walking towards Tegal Alun and then stopped at Tegal Bungbrung where we saw numerous Edelweiss shrubs. We did not go all the way to Tegal Alun which was also heading to the summit as I did not have enough time since we were going to continue our journey to Bandung after this hike. Instead, we continued to Hutan Mati by passing through Pondok Saladah. Hutan mati is a vast area of dead Suagi trees killed by the 2002 volcanic eruption which up to today, no plants have grown back in that area. Then we slowly walked down towards the sulfur lake where we saw 4 large craters from a distance. In order to go to the sulfur lake, we had to climb up a rocky river where the water was pretty warm but very smoky and the sulfur smell was very strong. So half way after climbing up already, I told Rangga that it is ok that we didn't go all the way to the lake since we could see it from a distance since I wasn't prepared for the sulfur smell. So we slowly headed back to the parking area and on the way down, we saw more Indonesians (only wearing sandals or slippers) coming up with children and their picnic food which was an unusual sight to see since most of the volcanoes that I have been up to are for serious climbing to the summit and not the picnicking type of scenario. This is the difference between hiking volcanoes in east and west Java.
After going back to Asep's house, I took a quick shower and we had lunch before heading to Bandung. We reached Bandung in late afternoon, so we drive around Bandung city first just to see what is interesting before checking into Flores Gallery hotel. We then head to one of the shopping mall and since there is an Eiger store, of course I did not miss out the chance to check out their hiking shoes. The treads of the soles really had good grip for volcano climbing but unfortunately, their smallest size is a 6 whereas I wear a size 3.5 to 4. Oh well, so much for hoping to own a pair of Eiger hiking shoes. Since shopping was not really on my agenda, I ordered takeaway for dinner and went back to the hotel to rest.
Wednesday [21/12/2016] After breakfast, from Bandung we headed to Tangkuban Perahu, one of the most touristic volcanoes in west Java since it does not require any intensive hiking and there are rows of souvenir shops. By the time we arrived there, there were already a lot of tourists at the site and taking selfies. We were told that previously people can walk all the way around the volcano through the forests on the slopes but after a Singaporean tourist fell to his death while taking selfie too near to the edge of the crater, now tourists could only walk half of the crater for their own safety. Tangkuban perahu means upturned boat but I still don't understand why they called it that because there is no resemblance of an upturned boat. There are 3 craters on this volcano which is the Kawah Ratu, Kawah Domas and Kawah Upas. In order to see Kawah Upas, we had to walk at least about 1km where there were no one except for us and a couple. It took us about 20 minutes to reach there, only to find that it is not accessible to public for safety reasons. So we decided to check out Air Keramat (sacred water) Cikahuripan which was another 250m through the forest. When we reached there, there is a guardian who collect money for going into a small cave which goes out to the back of the hill and assist those who took a bath with the sacred water. The lady of the couple took a bath with the sacred water and I was told by Doni that people who bathed with this sacred water usually have a motif and she would be brought into the cave by the guardian to do some sort of prayer and offering. We tried to walk further passing the back entrance of the cave but there was a barricade with a sign warning people about the poisonous gas. On the way back to the parking area, I checked out each the souvenir stalls and bought some souvenirs. The most unique thing they sold there were scarfs and caps made of rabbit furs.
From Tangkuban Perahu, we headed towards Grafika Cikole and on the way, we stopped at a Sundanese restaurant just next to the main road for lunch. Once again, we opt to sit on the floor on the first floor rather than on the typical chair and table so that we can see what is happening around. After lunch, we headed on to Grafika Cikole and the reason why I chose to stay in this place is that not only is the weather cool since it is located at the foot of the mountain but it also has many facilities for outbound activities. What attracted me the most are the chalets, huts and camping tents which people can stay in. Initially I wanted to try staying in one of the chalet but since it was expensive and it is for 6 person while there's only 2 of us, in the end we stayed in the hotel building which is not bad since it was near to the parking area whereas the other accommodation were further away from the road. We were given free welcome drink at Pendopo Hutan, the restaurant in the middle of the pine forest. After enjoying the scenery for the while and watching people settling to their chalets, we walked around to check out each of the site. The chalets and huts were fully occupied with families and some government organisations have booked to stay in a few tents. Since it was getting dark, we headed to Sindang Reret Cikole for dinner. This restaurant is actually part of Sindang Reret Hotel and when we first arrived there, the restaurant looks pretty high class since it is attached to the hotel lobby. There are 2 seating areas where you can choose to sit inside the lobby area or at the hut outside the lobby area. Since the 4 boats inside the lobby area were fully occupied, we decided to sit in the hut on the floor which was comfortable as we could stretch out our legs and enjoy the cool wind blowing. The place has a very nice ambiance and the food was not bad either which was reasonably priced for a hotel standard. After dinner, we went back to Grafika cikole and checked out what the people we doing at night. At the Pendopo Hutan, there is a dangdut entertainment for the guests. At the family hut camping ground, the teenagers were having BBQ while those in the chalets just stayed indoors since the wind was getting cold.
Thursday [22/12/2016] We woke up early to have buffet breakfast at Pendopo Hutan. It was nice to have breakfast among the pine tree forest with fresh air and good food. After breakfast, we went around the whole place again as the sun was bright and it was good for taking photos. I picked 3 pine cones for souvenir though I should have taken more since they were just lying everywhere on the ground. After seeing some groups doing team building activities, playing paintball, ziplining, trying out the Elvis bridge and walking on a rope, we finally decided to move on to Farmhouse Lembang which is another famous tourist spot. Even by 10am, the parking area inside Farmhouse Lembang was already full but fortunately, there were parking areas across the road. Each Farmhouse ticket comes with a free milk voucher which we decided to claim after we have finish touring around. It was pretty packed with tourists especially local Indonesians who were busy snapping away photos wherever they could find a spot. There were sheep and calves for people to pat and give milk to, few European buildings which has shops inside selling souvenirs, restaurant and food. You can even rent a Dutch costume to walk around in. The best thing I love about this place is the freshly baked danish pastries which could be smelt from a distance. Who could resist them so I bought each flavour and boy, are they really crispy and delicious like their smell! After having done a bit of souvenir shopping and taking photos, we finally queue for our free milk and headed off to our next destination.
From Lembang, we headed to Ciwidey where we have booked accommodation near to Kawah Putih. As we reached near to Ciwidiey, the road was continuously going higher and higher and there were a lot of strawberries planted near to the road where you pay a certain amount and you can pick as many strawberries as you can. Since Doni was not familiar with the place, we went to find the homestay first which was only a few minutes away from Kawah Putih. After putting our stuff at the homestay, we headed back down from where we came from to grab something to eat. By the time we finished our late lunch, it was raining heavily and it was already cold so night time, it would be even colder! Fortunately there is instant water heater but very unfortunately, there was blackout for about an hour so I had to boil hot water in order to bath. Since there wasn't much to do at night, we just relax and rested early. It was cold in the middle of the night even when the whole house was closed up and the beds felt damp.
Friday [23/12/2016] Before the sun was up, I was woken up by the sound of the call for the morning prayer since our homestay is just next to the surau. However, staying in Brunei throughout my whole life where there are mosques and surau every few kilometer, you just get used to it so I just went back to sleep after that. By 7.30am, I was awake and had a quick shower. The clouds were still very low after the rain but at least it was not raining anymore. After a simple breakfast of buns, we headed to Kawah Putih where there were already a lot of cars headed towards the same direction as us. By the time we reached to the car park, the visibility was limited as the clouds came down and it was pretty cold, so everyone had their jacket on. One advantage of this type of weather is that it is very cool to be out in the open but the disadvantage is that you can't see the view clearly as the lake was surrounded by thick fog. We could see the light blue water near to the bank but nothing more than that unless the fog happened to be blown away by the wind for a while. We waited quite a while hoping that the fog will lift up which they did a few times for a while before coming down again. Even though the view of the whole lake could not be seen clearly, the scenery is still lovely with all the dead tree branches standing as the foreground decoration with the blue lake and white clouds behind. Before leaving Kawah Putih entrance, there were peddlers selling food, mochi and strawberries. Since I did not get the chance to hand pick the strawberries myself, I bought a packet of strawberries from a lady which I thought was cheap since it looked like there was 2 layers of strawberries. Instead, they had used few pieces of cardboard to put at the bottom of the packet so people would think that there are a lot of strawberries but in fact, it is only a layer of strawberries. What a ripoff!
We then headed to Pinisi Resto Dan Glamping Lakeside for lunch since there were good reviews about it. It wasn't really hard to find this place but you have to drive all the way inside the stony winding road. However, the view of the restaurant was unique. From afar, you could see a big wooden ship stranded on an island which is in fact the restaurant itself. Around this restaurant, there are a number of tent resorts (chalet with tent style roof) built on the slope of the hill looking towards the lake. The restaurant itself has 2 entrances; one from below and the other one is on top where you have to walk through a hanging bridge. Since we were from the bottom of the boat, we used the entrance from below. Inside the boat, there were two levels. The best spot to sit on this boat is actually at the front deck of the boat but all the tables were fully occupied so we were lucky enough to secure a table at the right side of the boat overlooking the lake as well as the tent resorts. Food was good and reasonable priced though it is considered expensive for Indonesian standard. After taking some photos at the front deck, we headed to our car and this time, we used the main entrance just to have the feel of walking on a hanging bridge.
Our next destination was quite a long drive away as we only arrive at Cikaso at night after more than 5 hours of driving through numerous oil palm plantation and small villages. We did not book any accommodation for this area since we couldn't get hold of Yasa Hotel which was the only accommodation that I could find on the internet but I was not sure where exactly is the location since it is not shown on google map and no one picked up the phone when Doni tried to make reservations earlier on. So we were just trying our luck by checking out which accommodation is available and true enough, there is a Yasa Hotel which can be seen near the main road. It is not actually a hotel building but consist of 2 rows of single storey building with rooms and we were the only ones staying there. With accommodation settled, we went to look for place to eat and seeing that this is a sleepy town with not a lot of visitors, we ate at a warung where once again, we were the only ones there. After having our stomach filled, we headed back to the hotel where I could repack my luggage with all the stuffs that I have bought so far and only take out the ones that I need to use daily so that the luggage can be left in the car throughout the rest of the trip. The room of the so called "hotel" was pretty basic but good enough to just sleep for a night.
Saturday[24/12/2016] Breakfast was served in our room which was nasi goreng. After checking out from the hotel, we headed to Curug Cikaso which goes through a narrow road in one of the village. Since it had rained the night before, the place was pretty muddy and there were local men who were pestering us to hire them as guide to go to the waterfall either by foot or by boat. Doni insisted that we could walk by foot ourselves through the paddy field which we did which but the trail was very muddy. Other people used boat to go directly to the waterfall because they didn't want to do a lot of walking. What is so unique about this waterfall is that there are 3 waterfalls of 80m high in one location with a bluish green water pool at the bottom. The left waterfall is called Asepan waterfall, middle is the Meong waterfall and right is called Aki waterfall. The blast of the waterfalls were very strong because you would still get wet from the splashes of water even from a distance. I did not go all the way down as the rocks were very slippery but close enough to wash the mud off my sandals. After taking photos of the waterfalls, we headed back to the parking area, this time by boat since the boatman was offering us a cheaper rate rather than the normal rate as they could earn extra income while waiting for their previous guests to come back to them. It was a short but nice ride and at least we didn't have to get our sandals and feet muddy again walking through the muddy trails.
From Curug Cikaso, we headed to another waterfall called Curug Cikanteh which was 2 hours away. We went through winding roads of mountains and passing through villages. It was not easy to find this waterfall since the label only showed Curung Sodong which is the lower waterfall while Curung Cikanteh is the waterfall on the upper level that could only be accessed by foot. By the time we reached to the parking area, it had started to drizzle but before it started to rain heavy, I was able to get some shots of the Sodong waterfall which was not that nice because of the muddy water but the splashes were strong enough to make you wet even though you are standing at the viewing platform. When it rained heavy, everyone had take shelter in the small warungs and the hut. It would be nice to trek all the way up to see Curung Cikanteh but everyone was advised not to go up as it would be very slippery after the rain. Since there wasn't much to do, we left and headed towards Sukabumi to find Hotel Lagusa.
The drive to Pelabuhan Ratu was not far so we stopped at one of the open air restaurant by the beach for our late lunch. While waiting for our food to come, we enjoyed the view of the waves and what people were doing at the beach. There were also fishing huts built on a platform made of bamboo which help them to float in the sea. After finishing all the food, we went to find Hotel Lagusa which is located on a hill overlooking paddy field, coconut plantation and the sea. The place is quite nice as there are villa cottage, rooms in bungalow buildings with balcony and 3 small swimming pools. Our room was one of the bungalow building with balcony overlooking the sea. The room and the bathroom was very spacious! Since it is so peaceful there, I just stayed in the room and packed the things needed to go to Pulau Sebesi tomorrow before sleeping early.
Sunday[25/12/2016] It's Christmas day today but you can't feel it here since the people in this part of Java are mainly Muslim and there are not many western tourists so it is just another day in Indonesia. For breakfast, we had to go down to the dining area which is a cool place as they have a snooker table. There were a number of local tourists just relaxing and probably bringing their family here to relax. Breakfast was an option of Indonesian nasi goreng or the simple western breakfast. I ordered nasi goreng because we have a long journey ahead but somehow today, I was not able to finish even half of the plate and I felt like I wanted to vomit if I keep on eating and suddenly, I felt like I had to go to the toilet. Little did I know this was the start of my diarrhea as I never experienced diarrhea in my past 2 trips around central and east Java as well as in Bali. After checking out, we head to Karang Taraje beach which was "supposed" to have water falling from rocks which was higher than the ground. After finding Karang Taraje beach based on the signboard which was visible from the road, it was such a disappointment to find out that there were nothing to see except for sharp rocks and the strong waves. By then, I couldn't stand too long or else my diaphragm started to hurt so I was stooping around the rocks which help to ease the discomfort a bit. Fortunately, there is a small surau at this beach and toilets so that people transiting onward could stop for toilet and do their prayer.
The drive to Cilegon was supposed to be 4.5 hours only but since Doni always overshoot the shortest routes shown on Google Map and refused to turn back, the 4.5 hours drive ended up to be 6 hours. By then I was not feeling very comfortable because we have not stopped to rest and stretch our body but luckily, I didn't feel the need to go to the toilet at all nor did I feel really hungry. By the time we reached to Hotel Feri Merak, it was already night time and I was glad that we were not still on the road after the long drive. The hotel was the closest to Merak port which was only 6 minutes' drive away. It was a good thing that this hotel have their own restaurant but since the cook went to the mosque to pray, we ordered room service which was delivered later. Since there wasn't much choice on the menu, I ordered nasi goreng again but not knowing what was wrong, although I do feel hungry, I just couldn't eat much. The tap water in the toilet tasted funny which I shouldn't have used for brushing my teeth as this could have also further contributed to my diarrhea later on.
Monday[26/12/2016] Today after breakfast, we started our journey to Merak port to catch for our 3 hour ferry ride across the Sunda strait to Lampung. Our target was to reach Canti Port before 1pm to catch the local boat to Pulau Sebesi so that we only pay the local rate rather than paying a few million rupiah to charter the boat to go there. The ferry that we were on were quite good because you can choose to seat on the chairs on the open air deck or stay inside the air conditioned area on top and bottom deck of the ship. We arrived at Canti Port by noon time but ended up waiting 2.5 hours as the boat to Pulai Sebesi was waiting for the food supplies to arrive. I was not feeling well so I just rested in the car and it's a good thing that there is an Alfamart across the road where I could use the toilet whenever I need to. While waiting, Doni asked around for the price to go to Krakatau from Pulau Sebesi since he said it would be cheaper to go through Pulau Sebesi than from Anyer beach or Carita Beach in West Java. However, he only assumed that it would be cheaper but didn't bother to find out the price in advance even though I had reminded him to do so before our trip a few times. In the end, the price was no different than from West Java as the boat to go from Pulau Sebesi to Krakatau cost more than 2 million rupiah and it so happened to be both of us only. So I was not pretty happy about it as I already told Doni before I went to Java that would be cheaper to join the Open trip where each person only need to pay less than 1 million for accommodation, food and the boat ride to Krakatau. But since we are already there, we just proceeded to Pulau Sebesi first. After having ice cream just to fill my tummy and cool off in the hot weather, I waited in the warung with the others who were also waiting to go to Pulau Sebesi until the van with the food supplies came.
All passengers and motorbikes had to sit on the roof of the boat since the food supplies were all packed inside the boat. It was a nice feeling having the cool breeze blowing at us even though the sun was still shining. We passed by several islands for more than 2 hours. When we reached to the jetty, people were loading bananas into a boat to be taken to Canti Port. We waited at the small warung for the boat driver to discuss about the accommodation and the plan to Krakatau. After some discussion, the boat driver who was also the owner of warung told us that we could stay at his house for free but the boat ride to Krakatau would be 3 million rupiah. Fortunately, there were 3 more people who in the end decided to go to Krakatau also so the price was lower now but I still had to pay 1.2 million rupiah for both of us. In the end, all of us agreed so the boat driver took us to his house by foot which is a common Indonesian house with no ceiling except for zinc roof with 2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, toilet and a bathroom with a fish reared inside the bak (water tank) where we also used the water for bathing. They could only spare us a bedroom so I will be sleeping in that room with another lady who will be going to Krakatau also while the men will be sleeping on the floor in the living room. The community in Pulau Sebesi is small with houses lined up neatly in rows facing each other. For evening dinner, we walked back to the warung. Since my tummy was still not feeling well and I was only half hungry, I decided to have mi goreng hoping that my stomach would not get worse since it is cooked in hot water instead of rice and other dishes like the others. If my tummy was not acting up, I would have enjoyed the food like they did. After dinner, we headed back to the house and slept early since we had to be ready by 5am tomorrow to go to Krakatau.
Tuesday[27/12/2016] I woke up in the middle of the night while everyone was sleeping with a bad tummy ache and had to do my business. It was only this time that I finally realized that I was having diarrhea though it was not the serious type where I have to visit the toilet every few minutes. However, I managed to go back to sleep without having the need to use the toilet again but when I woke up at 4am to get ready for the trip, once again, my stomachache came. I was worried that I would need to go to the toilet on the way during the 2 hours boat ride as well as on Krakatau but fortunately, I didn't have any stomachache after that even though I had the feeling like I need to go. By 5am, light breakfast was given to us which I didn't eat much because I didn't feel hungry at all. We had to wait because the boat driver told us that the waves were quite rough but by 6am when the waves showed no signs of calming down, we had no choice but to proceed. At first we didn't feel anything except the boat rocking left and right lightly. However, after 1 hour in the middle of the sea, the boat was rocking more stronger now with water splashing into the boat so the windows under deck had to be closed and each one of us started to feel seasick. I have never been seasick before in my whole life before this but I'm glad that I was not the only one because Doni and the younger guy puked and since i didn't eat much, there wasn't much to puke. Even our guide who will be taking us to the top of Krakatau got seasick even though he was used to all these boat rides. The only thing we could do was close our eyes to prevent ourselves from becoming more seasick and pray that the rough ride would be over soon. Eventually the waves calmed down as we approached Krakatau. I guess everyone was so relieved that we were finally landed on the ground again after the rough ride and everyone was laughing at each other for being seasick. Doni still looked pale even though the rest of us felt better already.
Yayy!! We are standing on Krakatau or in fact anak Karakatau (child of Krakatau), the most famous volcano which is responsible for blowing itself up completely, resulting in the formation of 40m high tsunamis which killed at least 36,000 people and changed the weather around the entire world for over five years. Anak Karakatau is still very much active with smoke constantly coming out from the crater. The soil on this island is black and sandy so it was not that slippery to go up and down this volcano like the other volcanoes I have been up to before though when you go up, it's like climbing a beach so that takes a bit more effort to go up than usual but since anak Karakatau is only 813m, it took only less than half an hour to reach to the level where we were not allowed to go any higher for our own safety. Although Krakatau was not high, the view was still very lovely from the top as you could see 2 of islands which are the remains of the pre-historic Krakatau. After staying up there for half hour, it was time to come down and head straight back to Canti port which is another 2 hours boat ride.
Somehow, after the climbing, I felt much better and I did not have anymore stomachache so when we arrived at Canti port, I started to feel hungry. Since Doni was still not feeling well after being seasick, he didn't want to eat so we headed straight to Lampung city plus most of the eateries at the roadside didn't look hygienic with sand from the road flying everywhere. I don't know much about Lampung nor do I know what to expect since not many foreign tourists have been there. There was nothing much to see along the Trans-Sumatra highway until we reached to the main city. We checked into Inna 8 Hotel, a nice hotel located in Chinatown area, the old town of Lampung. Since Doni was not feeling well and I was not sure how clean the restaurants in Lampung is, I ordered room service for dinner.
Wednesday[28/12/2016] Since none of us have been to Lampung before, it is time for us to explore and get lost along the way in order to get our orientation right. For breakfast, we headed to McDonald where I had porridge since I haven't had a proper meal for days. After that, we headed to Museum Lampung first to learn about Lampung. There is entrance fee to go into this museum but because people just keep on going in and out of the museum, the staff were not able to keep track who has paid and who has not. The museum is a pretty old and outdated building with a mural wall painting at the parking area depicting the traditional lifestyle of people in Lampung. In the museum, there are artifacts from the Dutch colonial era, potteries and antics from the olden days, wedding traditions as well as Lampung's numbers.
Then we head to the National Museum of Transmigration where we were the only visitors there as it is located far away from town and no one was interested in knowing where Lampung people came from. Once again, the museum is small with limited exhibitions which according to the head of the museum, was bought from the Lampung people. In the middle of the hall, there are two statues of oxen pulling "luku" (traditional plowing tool) and a wooden wagon side symbolising that people in Lampung used to do farming in the past. There is a small room for a set of gamelan and collection of puppets from different parts of Indonesia. On the second floor, there are some antique objects such as the old fashioned bicycle called "Sepeda Ontel", kitchen appliances, household furniture, lighting equipment and money used in the olden days. Then we headed to the back area of the museum where there is a giant iron ball which was used in the past to do land clearing before reaching to the 11 different models of the houses found in different parts of Indonesia. My aim is to see the model of the west Nusa Tenggara traditional house but unfortunately the only thing left on that house model was the brick wall structure as it was burnt and they did not have the money to repair it. After going around the short tour, I went to the museum office and made a donation of 500,000 rupiah. When I told Doni how much I gave for donation, he said that it was too much but I knew it was for a good cause because he also told me that while waiting for me, a museum staff told him that they have not received their salary for few months already. It was bad enough that the government did not give them any budget for maintenance but not paid salary for few months is too much. So while it only costed me B$50+ for donation, it is a big amount to the Indonesians already and I hope that at least that money can help the museum staffs in some ways.
On the way back to the city, we stopped at Bumi Kedaton Mall to have our late lunch. The we head toward Chinatown near to our hotel because I want to find Toko Manisan Yen Yen which is famous for local snack souvenirs. Along the same road there is the Vihara Thay Hin Bio, the oldest Buddhist temple in Lampung. We went Toko Manisan Yen Yen first and while waiting for me, I asked Doni to find out the price of the durian that was selling in front of both shops. When I came out of the shop, Doni told me the price of the durian which was not expensive considering that it cost less than $10 each so I told Doni that if we try 1 of the durian, we would not need to eat dinner anymore since it is filling which he agreed. So there we were sitting in front of the shop, eating durian while watching people either going into Toko Manisan Yen Yen to buy their souvenirs or sitting down to eat the durian also. The durian was not bad but still no durian can beat Brunei's otak galah durians. After finishing the durian, we went across the road where I went to check out more snacks sold in the other shop which were different from the ones sold in Toko Manisan Yen Yen. After getting all the food stuff I wanted, we stopped further ahead in a souvenir shop where I bought keychains and magnets of a lady wearing the iconic Lampung siger headgear and a few Krakatau t-shirts before heading back to our hotel.
Thursday[29/12/2016] Today, we aim to check out a few places away from the city area. After breakfast, we went to find the Krakatau Monument which is said to be near our hotel. Without proper location, it took us a while to find it, only to realize that we have been passing by it for the past 2 days since the place where it was put is just a garden covered by trees and plants just next to the police station so it was not noticeable from the road. So we went to see what was so famous about this monument and it was just a metal buoy from a lighthouse in a nearby island that was thrown almost sixty kilometers ashore and landed about two kilometers north of Telukbetung coast during the Krakatau massive eruption. Ironically, the policemen who were stationed at the park everyday did not even know anything about it.
Then we head to find Citra Garden's Little Europe which is located in the premier residential area in Teluk Betung. Little Europe is very popular among the youths as the place has rows of shops in European style and there are European icons like the Danish windmill, miniature Eiffel tour and the huge klompen. Nice place for photo taking but unfortunately, not all of the buildings are occupied yet and those that are already occupied do not start business until late afternoon. So we decided to have lunch in one of the simple restaurant before heading off to the next destination.
Next, I wanted to see Mutun beach, one of the popular beach in Lampung but since we overshot it, we decided to drive on and found another beach called pantai Sari Ringgung. It is probably a trend in Indonesia that wherever there is a beach, you will see lots of Indonesians spending their day there. It was packed with people, cars, vans and tour buses! There were huts (all fully occupied), mats, rubber tubes and kayak boats for rent. You see big and small kids playing in the water and the elderly people just sitting around watching people. There were also people selling ice creams and stalls selling souvenirs made of seashells, pop mee, drinks, beach clothes, etc. You could even go for boat rides to see the floating mosque further away from the beach as well as smaller islands which initially I was interested in to check it out but it wasn't that cheap either so I decided it wasn't worth it.
From the beach, we went to find Muncak, a new tourist attraction site where one can see Lampung bay from the viewpoint which is located on a hill. There were a lot of local tourists taking selfies and I would have to say that the village people are very smart because in order for a person to stand on each wooden bridge to take photos, there is a 2,000 rupiah charge. We only went up to the big tower as that is the highest spot where you can see the bay. In order to do so, we had to queue for our turn to take photos as what can I say, Indonesians just love to take selfies.
After having enough of the view, we went to find The Summit Bistro, a pretty swanky bar and restaurant located on a hilltop. It's a 2 storey building where the ground floor is the restaurant area and the top floor is actually a bar with a balcony area where you can sit outside and enjoy the view. We were lucky that we came early so there were still empty seats outside on the balcony to enjoy the night view of Lampung. The menu was pretty much western and the price is way too expensive for Indonesians but considered standard if you have been to places like this in whichever country you have been to. While waiting for our food to arrive, we enjoyed the night view of the sea and the hills around the city of Lampung and I realised that this place is very isolated because there were no other houses or buildings around. There is however a mansion looking at The Summit Bistro but it looked like it has been unoccupied for years.
Friday[30/12/2016] Today after breakfast, we stopped at Holland bakery to get some buns to eat on the way back to Jakarta just in case we get hungry on the road. I was impressed with how Holland bakery packed the buns I bought because instead of putting them in a plastic bag, they put all the buns into a box with the word Merry Christmas and Happy New Year printed on it. So off we go on a 2 hour drive from Lampung city towards Bakauheni port. Of course, one would not be considered to have been to Lampung if you have not stopped by the Siger Tower, the symbol of Lampung province gate which could be clearly seen from the sea near to Bakauheni port. Siger is the name of the traditional customary hat for bride in Lampung culture and the reason why it is given this name is because the Siger tower is shaped in the form of a crown-shaped building, consisting of nine series which symbolizes the nine kinds of languages in Lampung. The tower is colored yellow and red, representing the golden color of the bride's traditional hat and decorated with Tapis, the traditional cloth of Lampung. The building is actually in a sorry state which has seen its heydays and there used to be a radio station on the top part of the tower which is now left abandoned. Still, there are people who stop by to take photos. From the 6th floor, we could see Bakauheni port, the Sunda strait and the ongoing construction of the Trans Sumatra Toll Road.
Then we headed off to the port which is just a few minutes away from Siger tower. This time, we did not have the same ship as when we arrived to Lampung. This ship was more commercialised where you have to pay in order to stay in the air con room which is considered as VIP room. I stayed at the top deck which is pretty hot because both sides of the ship was covered with windows so the air couldn't move freely. Then they have dangdut singers which makes you wonder how they could keep on singing for 3 hours straight without stopping at all just to get money from the passengers especially the men who wanted to dance with them. We reached Merak port by early afternoon and head straight towards Jakarta. It was a boring drive from Cilegon all the way to Jakarta. By the time we reached to Jakarta city, it was after office hours so the roads were packed with cars heading everywhere. Doni kept on complaining about the slow traffic which to Indonesian standard is already so bad but I told him that he hasn't experienced the traffic jams in Shanghai and Bangkok which could only move a few inches bit by bit and you get stuck in traffic for at least 2 - 3 hours just to get to your destination. Since we want to avoid the crowd, after dropping off our laundry, we head for Hotel Zia Shiro I Shika, a pretty new hotel with Japanese concept. For dinner, we decided to go to Blok M Plaza which is near to Pasaraya Blok M since traffic on the road was packed with cars and people. After dinner, we walked over to Pasaraya Blok M which has a lot of small shops but they closed very early so there was nothing to see. Then we decided to find the Pasar Kue Subuh Blok-M but since Doni didn't know where it is and it is also difficult to find the exact location even with Google Map, in the end I gave up. So we headed back to the hotel to rest instead.
Saturday[31/12/2016] Today my target is to see Jakarta old town. After breakfast, we head to the old town area and we were lucky to find parking nearby as it was still early. Even though it was just about 9.30am, there were already some foreign and local tourists at the Fatahillah Square (formerly known as Batavia City Square), riding the bicycles or just taking photos. As time goes by, more and more people started coming to the square. There were quite a number of things to do and see just to keep people entertained. There are street artists dressed up and posing for whoever is interested in taking photos with them just as long as they pay for it. We went to check out the Museum Wayang and saw all sorts of puppets from different part of Java, made from wood and animal skin. After the interesting tour around the museum, we walked to Glodok, the Chinatown in Jakarta. I wanted to see Gereja Santa Maria de Fatima because it look like a Chinese temple externally but it is actually a catholic church. We passed by the market area where people were selling fresh seafood and vegetables along both sides of a single lane road and people walking by foot to see things so only motorcycles can pass through. We stopped by to see Vihara Dharma Bhakti, the oldest Chinese temple in Jakarta before walking further to Gereja Santa Maria. We finally found the church and went into the compound which externally does look like a Chinese temple with Chinese writings but unfortunately, it was closed so we were unable to go inside and see.
On the way back to Fatahillah Square, we went to see Jakartakota station which was packed with people. The queue just to buy the train tickets were horrible and people were just sitting on the floor waiting to board the train. When we reached back to Fatahillah square. it was already packed with people. To cool ourselves down from the walking, we went to see the Jakarta History Museum where the building used to be the Stadhuis (city hall) of Batavia. The building itself is pretty impressive with big rooms, wooden floors and wooden ceilings, typical Dutch architecture. There were a lot of antique furniture and archaeological objects from the prehistoric era. From the window on the first floor, I watched a man making kerak telor. I love to try kerak telor but it is not advised for foreign tourists to avoid diarrhea since we are not used to the hygiene of push carts and utensils which have been used over and over again without being washed in Indonesia. On the way out, we checked out the prisons which were behind the building. I would have to say the women's prison which was located under the basement of the building looked very interesting to check out but then everyone just peep through the staircase which goes down the entrance but no one walked down and go into the prison itself. The floor was wet and it looks creepy though.
After all the sightseeing, it was time to relax and enjoy the atmosphere of Cafe Batavia, a famous colonial landmark at Fatahillah Square. The building itself is the second oldest building in the square other than the Jakarta History Museum. It's amazing how they were able to preserve this 2 storey 19th-century building which was completed in 1837. On the ground floor, there is a bar, a performance stage and a lounge area whereas the main dining hall is on the second floor. The interior was refurbished in a 1930s theme and so was the uniform of the waiters and waitresses. I just love the ambiance where it takes you back in time during the colonial era. They serve western, Asian and Indonesian food so I ordered soto Betawi and bir pletok (0% non-alcoholic herbal drink) which are specialty of Jakarta as well as desserts such as surabi (Indonesian pancake) and poffertjes (Dutch pancakes) which was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a cherry on top of it.
The square was pretty crowded by the time we left Cafe Batavia and there were uniformed personnel (police, army, red cross,etc) getting ready to monitor the place as everyone are already waiting to celebrate the new year here. Since there was nothing else for us to do here, we head off to Monas. Even though it was before 6pm, people were already heading towards Monas. The parking area inside Monas was full so we had to park at the Gambir train station which was also quite full already. We were hoping to go up to Monas but unfortunately, this year, they had closed the Monas early because they did not want people to throw litter everywhere inside. We found a place to sit near to the Monas for a while but since we had to wait for another 6 hours until midnight, we went to Gambir train station to find something to eat. This train station is much more better than Jakartakota station with few eateries. There is a small McDonald but it was also packed. Since we had a lot of time to waste, we didn't mind waiting for empty seats and just sat there, eating our simple dinner for 2 hours before heading back to Monas. This time, Monas was fully packed with people sitting on the grass and walkway just waiting for the fireworks. When it was finally midnight, fireworks started but very disappointingly, none of it was played inside Monas area. We saw fireworks playing around outside of Monas and it was very simple compared to the ones I usually see. Such disappointment after waiting for 6 hours whereas I could have spent the time relaxing in the hotel and sleeping early since I will be flying back to Brunei tomorrow. When the fireworks ended, people started going back so traffic was horrible in terms of human and car jam. We only reached back to the hotel after 1am.
Sunday[1/1/2017] Today marks the end of my 16 day trip around west Java and Lampung. There wasn't much traffic on the road which is an unusual sight to see since Jakarta is well known for it's heavy traffic on the roads. I can proudly say that I have already covered the whole of Java whi ch took me 3 trips to do so. However, I would have to say that west Java has less to offer than central and east Java. Time to move on to the next Indonesian island.