Up in the hills north of Bandung is a five-kilometre forest walk that's well worth checking out if you have a spare day in town or even if you have time after visiting Tangkuban Parahu.
The easier version of the walk commences in the village of Maribaya just outside of Lembang and ends in Dago which has good angkot connections into the centre of town. The more difficult version starts in Dago and heads uphill all the way to Maribaya.
From the Maribaya end of the trail, there are a number of entrances. For ease of locating the correct entrance, we recommend entering the first entrance when heading from Lembang. This entrance is best referred to as pintu masuk satu when speaking with your angkot driver. One of the other entrances has a hot spring that we do not recommend visiting as it isn't worth the 3,500 rupiah fee for a look.
The trail from the first entrance hugs a conifer-lined river valley containing a number of serene waterfalls, some old caves from the days of the Dutch and Japanese occupations and a troupe of monkeys. On the weekend, Bandung locals and the masses from Jakarta descend on the area for picnics and games, but during the week it is relatively quiet. The drop in visitor numbers during the week is a blessing as the added visitor numbers on weekends also increases the use of ojeks along the path. These ojeks are noisy and it's this noise that spoils the serenity of the forest. The ojeks also force pedestrians to move off the path as they pass by which is okay the first few times, but after the 50th you may just feel like stabbing yourself in the eye. The upside is that if you are tired, you can flag a driver down to take you to your destination for about 15,000 rupiah.
There are two man-made cave complexes along the trail for visitors to explore. Both are similar in design and are called Gua Japang (Japanese Cave) and Gua Belanda (Dutch Cave). Before entering you will be offered to hire a torch for 3,000 rupiah, but torches on mobile phones and headlamps throw out ample light if you have these handy. The caves were once used as part of hydroelectricity generation that continues to this day in the area and as such they're not particularly spectacular inside -- more like old tunnels than caves.
Most people choose to take a short cut through Gua Belanda to the other side, but it is worth backtracking out of the cave and continuing along the main path as monkeys reside in the area. With patience and eagle-eyes, one can spot this playful bunch in the trees above.
The trail continues onto another picnic area near a large carpark where it concludes. From here, it is possible to walk downhill to an intersecting main road where angkots ferry passengers into the middle of town. It is a good idea to know the name of the street your hotel is located on so you can ask the angkot driver where you need to get off. The fare from Dago to the centre of town is 4,000 rupiah, although those needing to change ankots will need to cough up extra money when catching the second angkot.
How to get there
To reach Maribaya from central Bandung, catch a white Lembang angkot from the Stasiun Hall angkot terminal at the train station for 7,000 rupiah. In Lembang, the angkot will continue on through the central market. Immediately upon exiting the market, you should disembark and look for a yellow angkot heading to Maribaya. Better still, tell the driver before you reach the market that you want to go to Maribaya and he will stop the angkot in the correct location and point out the connecting angkots.
Angkots to the Maribaya forest walk entrance normally need to be chartered, but the cost should be no more than 10,000 rupiah per person, though can be as cheap as 5,000 rupiah depending on your negotiation skills.
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