Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Exploring Java

Posted by Monica Johansen on November 3, 2009

It is Tuesday evening, and I have been in Jakarta for the last eight days. I have been here so many times before, but never had any time to look around, so this weekend I decided to explore Jakarta and the surrounding areas for once. There are a few sightseeing options that you can book with the tour guides, and the one I was most interested in was the trip to the highlands and the country side.

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Orchids in Bogor Botanical Garden

So early Saturday morning I was picked up at the hotel by my guide. We started the trip by driving out to Bogor, which is commonly referred to as Rainy City because it is surrounded by mountains and hence, the clouds tend to drop water in that particular area. In Bogor they have a very nice botanical garden with both local and imported species of plants, and we walked through the park and had a look at all the lovely orchids growing there. I quite enjoy visiting botanical gardens, because in addition to beautiful surroundings they tend to have a range of insect and bird species. I have never been particularly interested in plants, but I am fascinated by all kinds of animals.

After the botanical garden we went up to the highlands to visit Taman Safari Park. Frankly, I didn’t have too high expectations – after all, I live in Singapore which has one of the best zoos in the world – but the park was in fact a very positive surprise. It was organized as a typical safari where you drive through the area and watch the wild animals roaming around free. It was a rather interesting experience to roll down the window of the car and look into the eyes of a huge tiger without any fences or protection other than the car. Of course, nothing beats the real thing, and I can only imagine how amazing a safari in Africa would be, but Taman Safari Park was definitely a good substitute. The only advice I would give is that Saturday is not the best day to visit the park. It is very crowded on the weekend, so if possible visitors should aim at one of the weekdays instead.

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Tiger in Taman Safari Park

After the safari we went to the baby zoo, where we could interact more closely with youngster of different species. In the baby zoo I had the opportunity to play with a lion cub and meet a young orangutan that was very friendly. Generally, I love all animals, but the baby ones are simply irresistible, and especially the fluffy furry ones.

Our last stop was at the Puncak mountain resort where we grabbed a bit to eat while overlooking the valley covered in tea plantations. The resort is located on an altitude of about 1700 meters, and it was surprisingly cool outside. I actually had to put on a jacket while we were eating since the windows were open and a cool breeze continuously streamed through the premises. It was nice to feel the fresh mountain air for a little while before we headed back to the contaminated air in Jakarta.

The next day I had originally planned to go out to Pulau Seribu, or the Thousand Islands in the Java Sea north of Jakarta. The islands are popular destinations for bathing and snorkeling, and there are a few nice resorts where you can relax and enjoy the good life on the weekend. Unfortunately, the boats to the islands will not leave unless there are a minimum number of participants, and the tour agency was unable to gather enough people for the trip to happen. Instead, I decided to go on a city heritage tour in the old parts of Jakarta, also called Batavia.

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The market

Our first destination was the Dharma Bhakti temple in the old Chinatown (or Glodok). This is Jakarta’s oldest temple, and it was built in the mid-17th century. On Saturday morning the temple was already packed with people lighting candles and burning incense, and it was so filled with smoke that my eyes were running and I could hardly breathe. By the gate outside a bunch of beggars were queuing up and hoping to get a few coins from the tourists or devout Buddhists visiting the temple.

We continued the trip by walking through the old market area. The market basically consists of a network of narrow streets where people are selling food, clothes, jewelry and electrical articles amongst other things. You can find a variety of exotic fruits and vegetables in these markets, and the fish and seafood they sell is fresh from the ocean. In addition, several places you can buy live turtles, and one of the merchants was trying to convince me to buy one. I tried to explain to him that I will not be able to take it with me on the plane back to Singapore, but then he showed me a small box I could keep the animal in while smuggling it across the border. However, I am not a big supporter of illegal animal import, so I politely declined.

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Sunda Kelapa Harbor

The next stop was the Fatahillah Museum, originally built by the Dutch in 1710 as the Jakarta City Hall. The museum is a popular destination for students in Jakarta, and sometimes they come to interview tourists as a school assignment in order to learn English. I was actually approached by a few young people who asked me if I had time for a discussion. At first I didn’t understand what they meant, but my guide informed me that they would like to interview me for a school project, and since I wasn’t in a hurry I said yes. So while a girl was asking me questions on stuttering English carefully read from a piece of paper, a boy was filming us with a small compact camera. One of the questions was what I thought about Jakarta, and my reply was that it is a very chaotic city but the people are lovely.

We ended the trip with a short visit to the old harbor, Sunda Kelapa, which is located in the head of Batavia at the mouth of the Ciliwung River. Frankly, it wasn’t really much to see there, except a number of large sail boats loading their cargo, but it is interesting to note that Sunda Kelapa – which has been in use for centuries – today is one of the world’s last remaining commercial sailing fleet.

The conclusion is that it was a great weekend and absolutely worth staying in Jakarta for. The next time I will probably try to get further out of the city and maybe visit the more remote areas.

By the way, photos can be found in my Gallery.

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One Response to “Exploring Java”

  1. Nina said

    Bogor høres ut som Bergen 🙂

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