December 19, 2009

Tangkuban Parahu near Bandung, West Java

Yesterday I was on business trip in Lembang, a popular retreat area in North Bandung. Taking advantage of this, I went just a few kilometers further to Mt. Tangkuban Parahu, an active volcano made into a national park thus open to the public.

Tangkuban Parahu in Sundanese (the ethnic language of people from West Java) means upturned boat (tangkuban = upturned, parahu = boat) referring to the mountain's shape which also has a popular legend attached to it. Unlike most volcanoes which have a "pointy" top, the top of Mt. Tangkuban Parahu looks flat when viewed from afar. This is because it has several craters located near each other.

After getting ripped off by the angkot driver (long story, but the moral is: even when you're a local tourist, you might get ripped off, so always be alert and HAGGLE!), I reached the most popular crater: Kawah Ratu (kawah = crater). It is most popular because it is the most accessible one; you can park your car near the crater. However, I must say, it was not too spectacular. Yes, I was standing on the edge of a volcanic mountain...but the view was underwhelming.

What made the trip worthwhile is Kawah Domas. To reach it, I had to hike 1,2 km down hill from Kawah Ratu. This crater has a beautiful rocky landscape with steam coming from several hot sulphuric springs and small pools of bubbling water here and there. Some of the springs are so hot you can boil an egg (there is a shop which sell the eggs for you to boil on spot). Others are just warm enough you can soak your feet in it and smear the volcanic mud on to your feet to have your own "spa" treatment.

Unfortunately, it was already late in the afternoon when I reached Kawah Domas so I didn't have time to pamper myself in the hotsprings otherwise it would be dark going back. Before going, I read in a blog that the sulphuric gas smells awful, but I didn't have this problem. My guide showed me some spots where the sulphur formed yellow "flowers"/crystals on the rocks. Just amazing!

Btw, I'm not sure whether it is a must to take a guide but I do recommend it especially when you're travelling alone. My guide proved handy on the way up where he was practically taking me by the hand and dragging me up the stairs (I read in a blog that the hike was easy, but I found it extremely tiring!). Before the hike, I agreed to pay him only Rp. 20.000 for his service (opening price was Rp. 100, HAVE to Haggle!), but after he dragged me through the hike, I eventually paid him Rp. 50,000.

Kawah Ratu

The path to Kawah Domas: scenic path but going back up was quite a challenge

Left: View of Kawah Domas from above; Right: Soaking in mud

Kawah Domas' Rocky Landscape

Left: Hot boiling springs; Right: Sulphuric yellow flowers

Tips to make your trip to Tangkuban Parahu more pleasant:
- Bring your own transportation
Transportation is difficult inside the park area.
- Haggle!
There are many peddlers preying on tourists. Although I had no trouble with them but I've read in several blogs that they were quite annoying. Unless you're going to buy something, don't even glance at them. Even for the guide, you should haggle and state clearly whether the cost is an hourly rate or flat rate.

December 14, 2009

Indonesian Jewels

Last week I went to a jewelry exhibition held by Mutumanikam Nusantara, a non-profit organization which aims to develop Indonesia's jewelry sector.

I was a bit surprised by the collection, I never knew that Indonesia had such an abundance of precious metals and gemstones. Unfortunately, I had a limited budget to spend :) At the end, I decided to buy these :

- Fossil Coral pendant from Sarolangun, Jambi province
I bought this because of the beautiful flower design. Turns out, they are natural patterns formed by fossilized coral structure!

- Druzy Agate pendant from Pacitan, East Java province
These tiny crystals in the centre are called "druzy". I like how they sparkle in the light.

The ones I bought here are quite inexpensive (under Rp. 80.000), so they would be great as souvenirs...
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