For as frequently as I travel to Java, it rarely ends end up in blog, so I’m changing that now and am going to combine months of visits to the island of Java into one post.
Situated in Bandar Lampung, I’m pretty close to Java. The bus/ferry option takes about 12 hours, but by flight, I am only 30 minutes to Jakarta.
This is awesome because I have some family who live there and the night life in Jakarta is amazing. Unfortunately the city itself is famously congested and spread out. Jakarta is largest city in Southeast Asia and the entire metropolitan area makes it the second largest metropolitan area in the world. Getting anywhere means sitting in a cab for roughly an hour – often times more – which can be infuriating if you don’t possess the virtue patience. Macet, the Indonesian word for traffic jam, is one you learn instantly on arrival, and there are three types: Macet Normal, Macet Besar (big traffic jam) and Macet Total. It varies on time of day and destination. One Friday, I spent two hours getting from the airport to a hotel in central Jakarta, but then on Monday morning, it only took me 30 minutes to get back to the airport. Who knew.
view of Jakarta from a hotel room in the city center
Not quite the charm of colonial plazas in Latin America, but I love the tandem bikes with matching hats!
Shanghai Blue, a 1920s Cantonese restaurant. Very cool. Very yummy. One of my favorite restaurants in the world.
Fortunately, escaping the city is fairly easy. One hour (and 90 cents) will land you in Bogor. Bogor, while the city itself isn’t too much to look at, has a stunning botanical garden. Besides being tropical and beautiful, this is really special because local parks, green spaces, and plazas didn’t really catch on here like they did in Europe, the USA, and Latin America, so once we found this place, it was very easy to spend all day leisurely strolling about and leaving was very difficult.
Lots of Indonesians head to West Java to relax for the weekend and it’s very easy to see why. That being said, without a car getting around can be challenging. Wanting to completely escape the city for a few days, a friend and I took off for Situ Gunung National Park to take refuge by a lake and hike to a waterfall. It looks very close on the map
In Cisaat, West Java trying to get to Situ Gunung. We didn’t want to be separated because it was night, we were in a strange place, and only one of us spoke Bahasa, so the police looked the other way as both of us got on one motorbike (illegal). The sign in the background reads “Do you want to die?”
Getting there was an adventure that we did not anticipate and no one seemed to be able to give us reliable information on how to get there or how long it would take. From Jakarta, someone said the total journey would take four hours. When we were on a small local bus, almost at the drop off city to transfer to a motor bike, we were told that it would be an additional four hours and that we would be lucky to arrive before the early morning. Fortunately, that person was wrong and, while it was dark when we arrived, it wasn’t early morning, or even late at night.
The second we settled into our little cabin by the lake, though, we knew the journey was worth it even just for a night and leisurely morning and afternoon. Besides the birds, frogs, and insects, it was dead silent and while walking around, our only light was from the moon. We found a group of campers on a company camping trip, which was very fortunate because they had food and we had none and we got to enjoy a proper camp fire jam session.
We slept through the sunrise, which was unfortunate because that’s when the lake is supposed to be at most beautiful and set off to find the waterfall. It was beautiful, refreshing, worth the trouble, and very difficult to leave.
The journey back wasn’t nearly as stressful – until we got to Bogor and no one wanted to tell us how to get back to the train station. One daring taxi driver even tried to tell us that the station was closed – liar – and that he would be happy to drive us back to Jakarta. I’m sure he would have been happy, because that would have cost us a fortune. Arriving in Jakarta a two hours later, by train, was very satisfying since we had just done what at least five people told us would be impossible. We were tempted to go back and find the taxi driver who said that the train station was closed and say “see!”, but we chose cocktails instead.
Java is a really intriguing island, home to the Borobudur archaeological zone, lava rivers, the highest concentration of Indonesian people, and most of the Dutch leftovers from the colonial period. I haven’t been able to explore the island enough and I probably won’t, which is a frustrating reality of living and working in such a large and fascinating country and mostly only having the weekends to travel. It’s been an important island in my experience here thus far though and I’m sure that I will continue to get to know Java better in the coming months.