Many people travelling to Indonesia enter through the capital, Jakarta, which immediately challenges visitors to move on find the next location check out. Of course different people choose different destinations based on the type of journey they are on, but the difficulty of where to head next remains the same. Some jump on the first train out of Jakarta and head to Yogyakarta before flying to Bali. Some go straight to Bandung to start their volcano-searching expedition across Java. And many others head straight to Bogor where they can get some much needed respite from the heat, smog and traffic which for many puts a dampener on their Jakarta experience. This last option is a great choice.
Bogor is located 90 kilometres and 1.5 hours north of Jakarta at an elevation of between 200 and 300 metres above sea level. It’s a much more relaxed place than Jakarta and it’s primarily due to the way the city was constructed with an enormous botanical garden at its core. This garden is the largest tourist attraction in town, but there are other things to do while you’re Bogor. Here’s a wrap on the key highlights.
Bogor Botanical Gardens
The Bogor Botanical Gardens are massive. Measuring roughly a kilometre by a kilometre and covering an area of 80 hectares, the gardens can be an all-day adventure if you love gardens or simply a two-hour brisk walk if you’re just out to get some fresh air and have a brief look. The gardens are filled with a massive variety of plants from all over Indonesia, plenty of fountains, a nifty zoology museum and a great cafe which overlooks the stunning grounds. The gardens are a fantastic contrast to the hustle and bustle of Jakarta and reason alone to visit Bogor.
About a kilometre southwest of the botanical gardens past the Bogor Trade Centre on Jalan Pancasan is a little gong factory, which has been making gongs in this very spot for the past two centuries. Wiry men pound gongs into shape next to an open fire pit in conditions that would be illegal in many Western countries. The men earn little for their daily toil and graciously accept small donations from the trickle of tourists who come to observe this old tradition. The shop next door has a small selection of items for sale. While this is an interesting activity, it doesn’t require much of your time. Allow an hour including the walk to and from the gardens.
Wayang Golek Workshop
Wayang golek are traditional Sundanese puppets made from balsa wood and are decorated to represent characters from old Hindu stories such as the Ramayana and Mahabhrata and in more modern times, political figures. Pak Dase has a wayang golek workshop in his house in the riverside village of Lebak Kartini, just north of the botanical gardens. In the workshop he displays his collection which of course he is happy to sell to visitors for prices starting from 560,000 rupiah. Finding the workshop is half of the fun. The best way to get there is by following the eastern side of the river at the northern end of the botanical gardens until you reach a red footbridge. Cross the footbridge and ask for “wayang golek” and a local will take you to Pak Dase’s house.
These are the three most popular things to do in Bogor, but with a little help from the tourist information office near the train station, it’s possible to visit nearby Gunung Salak on a tour — this is an impressive place for trekking and it’s also the site of a series of plane crashes over the past number of years.
Bogor is a great place to settle into life in Indonesia and prepare for the incredible journey ahead. Questions, comments, opinions? Hit us up in the comments below.
By Adam Poskitt
Last updated on 28th November, 2014.