After another day and night or so of getting refreshed in our fine Hotel you can head the other direction, down the hill from Novus Puncak to Cianjur (where you will be deliriously happy if you like polished stones, as the city has stores with semiprecious stores from all around Indonesia); head out to Bandung, the capital city, known as the 'Paris of Java', situated on a plateau 768 meters above sea level, with a cool climate throughout the year. Although it has a population of over two million, the pace of city life is markedly slower than that of Jakarta.
Several institutes of higher education are located here, including the country's prestigious Bandung Institute of Technology. A modern city, it still boasts lovely tree-lined boulevards and buildings with deco and other strong artistic influences.
The city gained international fame in 1955 as the venue for the first Afro-Asian Conference, which brought together the leaders of 29 Asian and African Nations with the aim of promoting economic and cultural relations and taking a common stand against colonialism.
Bandung is around 120 kilometres from the Novus Puncak in Cipanas, situated on a plateau 768 meters above sea level with a cool climate throughout the year. The rainy season starts a bit earlier here than in the rest of Indonesia. In the morning the sun is shining every day, but in the afternoon it frequently gets cloudy and rainy – for sunbathing you have to wake up early, as from 6.30 the sun has already risen! After sunset the temperature drops quickly. The average temperature in Bandung is 22 degrees Celsius, the weather pleasant all year round.
It is another pleasant experience to take the train from Gambir station in Jakarta to Bandung, as it winds through mountains, paddy fields, tea plantations and offers a beautiful panorama. From Halim Airport in Jakarta there are several daily flights to Bandung – only about 30 minutes.
From Bandung itself there are short drives up to the mountain resorts of Lembang and to the Bosscha Observatory, and higher onwards to the volcanic crater of Tangkuban Perahu, the only crater in Java accessible by car as far as its rim. It is an awe-inspiring sight of emanating sulfur fumes. Descent into any of the volcano's 12 craters is only recommended when led by an experienced guide, because of the presence of suffocating gases.
Just a 15 minutes drive from Tangkuban Perahu is Ciater, a hot springs resort, where you can swim in warm mineral water pools, for healing skin problems.
The resort has a bar, restaurants, tennis courts and cottage-style hotels overlooking a beautiful mountainscape.
While in Bandung, try to see the "Wayang Golek" wooden puppet show and hear a rattly concert by an "Angklung" bamboo orchestra; visitors also enjoy the classical Sundanese gamelan and dances.
There is also a zoo in the centre of Bandung, near ITB Bandung. It is a nice place to visit, as it sports a variety of animals and birds, from various parts of Indonesia. Some species which can be seen include the komodo, tigers from Java and Sumatra, monkeys and orangutan, with a rich variety of birds.
Since long known for its hot water springs, Maribaya lies north of Bandung and can be reached within 30 minutes. You will pass through a picturesque road dotted with flowery hills and lovely villas all the way. The mountain air is cool and the sulfur-laden water just comfortably hot for swimming as well as for soaking in. Part of the scenery is a 25 m high waterfall set against a steep mountain cliff.
Juanda Forest Park
There is a 590-hectares (2,475-acres) forest, reserved for research and recreation, with native plant species as well as from other parts of the world. You can also see where Japanese occupation forces left a number of caves and tunnels which they dug out of these cliffs during World War II for the defense of the area. This highland forest park is minutes away from Bandung.
Situated just about halfway between Jakarta and Bandung, this dam was originally built with French technical assistance back in the Fifties, mainly for the purpose of generating electrical power for the region. Since then the dam developed into a multi-purpose designated area as it now serves irrigation to the surrounding arable land and fishery as well. Somewhat later, tourism saw a potential area for development as it now provides convenient facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, a camping ground, and speedboats for water skiing and cottages. The water surface is vast, the scenery tropical, the air crisp and cool.
The Prince Sumedang Foundation Museum
Located in the Pavilion of the Sumedang Regency building, there are relics of Sumedang's ancestors, such as a gamelan, spears, a crown and royal clothes on display.
A typical Sundanese town in the highlands, Garut is surrounded by volcanic mountains and vast tea plantations. Around this area are a few lovely lakes and hot springs, one of which is at Cipanas, where comfortable accommodation can be found. People visit these sulfur springs which have medicating effects to purify their skin. Mount Papandayan's seething volcanic crater is one of the most spectacular mountain scenes on Java.
There is the Cangkuang temple, situated by Cangkuang Lake, a major discovery of archaeological value and the first of its kind found in West Java, dating back to the 8th century. Situated 17 km from Garut, and 50 km from Bandung.
Another resort town some time ago influenced by the Dutch is Lembang and the Bosscha Observatory. Situated just 16 km north of Bandung, Lembang features magnificence natural beauty, amidst tea plantations.
West Java provides visitors with other fascinating and wonderful things to see and do; venture to the reminders of the explosive and awesome power of Krakatau; explore the undisturbed wildlife reserve of Ujung Kulon on the south- western tip of Java; admire the Pulau Dua Bird Sanctuary off the coast of Banten and visit the isolated communities of the mysterious Baduy in the remote Halimun Mountain Reserve; discover unspoiled beaches at Pangandaran; treasure the royal palaces of Cirebon and the world renowned botanical gardens of Bogor.
The village of Pelabuhan Ratu is some 150-km directly south of Jakarta and takes around six hours to reach by car from the capital – but it is worth the drive. From the Novus Puncak you should be able to get there in about four hours, depending on the traffic (as always!)
The Pelabuhan Ratu (meaning 'Queen of the Bay') has a broad swell window facing the Indian Ocean. The people perform ceremonies in respect of the Goddess of the South Seas, known to the Sundanese as Nyai Loro Kidul.
Fishermen throughout Indonesia celebrate the queen's birthday every New Years Day - 1 Suro in the Javanese calendar. These celebrations include sacrifices (korban) which are taken out to the sea and blessed by the local religious leader. Superstition has it that if the sacrifice sinks quickly, the queen is happy with the gift and the seas will be safe and plentiful for the year to come.
West of here there are largely unknown areas, as road access has only been possible for some 4 years. Previously only stone tracks gave access to fishing villages, coconut and rubber plantations, (kebon kelapa and kebon karet). Still within the range of a day trip is Batu Murob, near the fishing village of Ciboreno. This bay is almost blocked of at the sea, by a big rock outcrop (Batu Murob) with a reef ledge extending from the right side.
Passing through the small town of Cisolok, which is relatively busy, the road to Pelabuhan Ratu runs parallel to the coastline and one can quickly see the strength of the surf as the Indian Ocean crashes onto this part of Java's southern coast. When in Cisolok ask about the hot springs, as bathing is reputedly quite fine there.
The strong surf on area beaches has given Cisolok something of a reputation as a surfers' destination, as well.
The "amphibious troops" crawling slowly, appeared from the sea wave's roll, one by one, hundreds in number, in full moon light. Suddenly, one by one, they disappeared in the sandy beach. Was it an alien invasion? Not at all. It was a flock of turtles that would lay eggs in Ujung Genteng and Pangumbahan beaches. This coastal area is indeed a place for turtles living in southwest Java beaches to lay eggs. Digging down, numbers lay eggs in the sand. Then they heaped sand, until the holes were level again and the trace of digging was invisible. Those turtles expected the hot sandy beach would hatch their eggs and bear the next turtle generation.
For a turtle egg-hunter fisherman, it is not difficult to find the hole where the eggs hidden. He only follows the turtle's foot print from the beach, and it is certain that the end of the foot print is the hole where the turtles lay their eggs. The turtles elastic skinned eggs are indeed tasty, so that its price is also expensive when sold, and it is historically one of the fisherman's sources in earning their livelihood around Ujung Genteng and Pangumbahan.
To preserve the turtles whose numbers began to decrease, the local government arranged times when to harvest and when to let the eggs hatch. For tourists, it is a tense moment, as you may not disturb them with noisy voices that would disturb them and force them back to the sea. At 144 km distance in direction of West Sukabumi city, the trip to Ujung Genteng is not so smooth, but still worth the effort for 'safari tourism'! At Pengumbahan, 7 km from Ujung Genteng Game Reserve, you can easily observe giant sea turtles laying their eggs in the sane – the really adventurous can even take a ride on their back.
Be cautious about entering the water anywhere along the South Coast, however: its peculiar underwater formation means strong undertows and treacherous currents.
Among the more famous victims was His Excellency the Ambassador of Bulgaria, who drowned in the vicinity some years back.
Lido Water Recreational Center
This resort lies 21 km south of Bogor, or 81 km from Jakarta. The lake is conveniently located along the route from Bogor to Sukabumi and Pelabuhan Ratu surrounded by scenic panoramas. Water sport facilities, a restaurant and accommodation are available.