Places to Visit Beyond Bandung in West Java


Most travelers would have been to Bandung and its immediate surrounding, but is there more to do around this popular shopping city in Indonesia? Well, let me just share with you that there is so much more to explore out of Bandung, and during a recent trip here in December 2015, I was introduced to a number of very interesting places to visit beyond Bandung in West Java and from what I experienced, I can easily say that there is more to Bandung that just shopping, eating or going to Tangkuban Parahu for a day trip.

In this article for places to visit beyond Bandung in West Java, I have simplified it for anyone who wants to venture beyond the shopping capital of Indonesia and to explore these new tourism places in West Java. However, you should take note that getting to these places requires overland travels either via car, van, bus, train or even domestic flights and the average land travel time from one place to another is around one to three hours. There are three main districts covered here which are Garut, Tasikmalaya and Pangandaran, which are in the West Java districts. 

Garut

Garut's Kampung Sumber Alam Hot Spring Resort
Garut is located about one and a half hours from Bandung and is also known as the Swiss van Java due to the place being located on higher grounds. Averagely, the altitude of Garut is anywhere from 600 meters to 1000 meters above sea level making this place ideal for those wanting a cool getaway. A former Dutch hill station, this is also the closest tourism destination to Bandung which is only a 90 minute drive from Bandung. Apart from the cooling weather here, you have the opportunity to experience the true West Javanese lifestyle which is lesser visited by the common tourist.  

Where to go in Garut
There are a number of interesting places found in Garut but in general, this city is also well known as the city of Dodol, a type of sweet toffee like confection which is very popular among Indonesians and also Southeast Asians. In Garut, the Dodol is called Dodol Garut as they have been producing this over the last 60 years making Garut the capital of this sweet dessert. To experience this, you can take a Dodol factory visit to Picnic, the pioneer company that mastered the art in Dodol making (Jl. Pasundan, Garut Kota, Garut; http://www.picnicdodolgarut.com/ ).

What to do in Garut
Outdoor activities in Garut are huge as there is trekking and hiking available at places like Papandayan Mountain, Haruman Mountain or Guntur Mountain. There is also a historical place of worship called Candi Cangkuang which is an interesting Hindu temple, and also the Kawah Darajat (Darajat Crater), similar to other volcanic craters in the region.

Batik Garut being made at the Rasya Batik Garutan workshop
What to buy in Garut
Home industries are the main produce of Garut and therefore, you are in for a treat as Garut is well known for the West Java Batik, Leather Goods and Bamboo Craft. Those who love traditional Batik fabrics can visit Rasya Batik Garutan (Gallery Jl. Otto Iskandar Dinata, Komplek PLN No. 1, Tarogong, Garut) as this is one of the best batik shops which offer a tour of how the Garut Batik is made step-by-step in their workshop. Garut Leather - In Garut main town (along Jalan Ahmad Yani, Sukaregang), there are quite a number of leather shops that sell jackets, bags and anything related to leather goods. Prices are very cheap, considering the leather is mostly made from Domba Garut or the local Garut Sheep. For "Olah Oleh" or food souvenirs, Dodol Garut is the top item to buy here too. 

Where to stay in Garut
Nasi Liwet Garut
Garut is also well known for their hot springs and there is one very impressive resort that caters to this wellness experience called Kampung Sumer Alam Hot Spring Resort which is a Sundanese village styled resort, complete with timber villas and beautiful landscaping.

They have a massive swimming pool which is using the hot spring water and a hot pool for those wanting the full experience. The overall resort is built with wooden walkways over hot spring ponds and the hot water is pumped directly into these ponds from the highlands of Cipanas. In general, this place is great for a getaway due to the cooling atmosphere from the highlands. Kampung Sumber Alam Garut (http://www.resort-kampungsumberalam.com/en/index.html_) is highly recommended for couples or families who want to try something different out of Bandung. 

What to eat in Garut
Javanese or Sundanese food will always be on top of the list here and for local food, Garut offers a wide variety of food which is more authentic compared to Bandung. You can find most of the local food in the main town area of Garut but a must-try dish is the Nasi Liwet which is a very popular dish around Garut.

More information on Garut - http://westjavatourismboard.info/destination/garut/

Tasikmalaya

The stunning Kampung Naga at Tasikmalaya
Kampung Naga
Neighbouring the district of Garut is Tasikmalaya and it is here that you will find one of the most fascinating places to visit called Kampung Naga or Dragon Village. This place reminded me of Shirakawa-Go Village, a UNESCO world heritage site in Japan and the similarities were almost the same. This unique village is about 25 kilometers from Garut and is located in a valley. To get here, you need to walk down over 400 steps into the valley, passing beautiful landscapes, rivers and hill paddy fields. The best part - This entire village totalling 1.5 hectares, runs without electricity, maintaining the old ways of living and is not influenced by modernisation. A total of 300 people live in this village and is truly an amazing place to visit. They also offer homestay experiences for anyone interested.

Kelom Geulis Sagitria Tasikmalaya
Another unique place to visit here is Kelom Geulis Sagitria Tasikmalaya, one of the traditional clogs and wooden sandal maker, which are an important cultural heritage of Indonesia. The shop operates from a house which also doubles as a workshop and gallery showcasing their amazing creations of ladies wooden sandals and shoes. It is truly fascinating to see that every step of the process is handmade but skilled workers and the thing that amazed me was the freehand design carving that was done. Some of the Kelom were also hand painted with traditional motifs and visitors can give it a try when you visit the workshop here.

Some of the beautiful traditional Kelom Geulis wooden shoes in Tasikmalaya
What to buy in Tasikmalaya
It is straight forward that you should buy the traditional West Java Kelom or wooden sandals in Tasikmalaya as they are all hand made and of high quality finishing. Thinking they would be expensive, I was shocked to know that they are really cheap too, and pricing starts anywhere from Rp150,000 per pair. The red wooden sandals in the photo above costs Rp175.000 only. I think they would make a great souvenir for any woman. A tip here is to buy one size larger.

What to do in Tasikmalaya
Generally, Tasikmalaya is a place for a day trip to see the clog maker and visit Kampung Naga, but for those wanting a real unique experience, you can choose to do a homestay at Kampung Naga for a night or two and experience how the locals have been living without electricity for generations.

What to eat in Tasikmalaya
Javanese food is always on top of the menu in West Java therefore, it is highly recommended you try the Nasi Liwet (Liwet Rice) which is of Sunda origins and popular in this region. Most large restaurants (some in the shape of strawberries) serve this traditional dish, and one of the popular places to try this is at Rumah Makan Liwet Pak Asep Stroberi or Nasi Liwet Pak Asep Stroberi along the main road to Garut. (Jalan R Ikik Wiradikarta). This Sundanese style dish is best eaten with the Liwet rice, fried chicken, fried tempeh, salted fish and raw vegetables. While you are at it, ask them if they have the Kopi Luwak or Civet Cat Coffee, if you want to further experience something different.

More information on Tasikmalaya - http://westjavatourismboard.info/destination/tasikmalaya/

Pangandaran

Santirah River Tubing in Pangandaran
Located in the south most part of West Java is the area known as Pangandaran and it is here where you will find the beach and some amazing ecotourism activities and destinations. Lesser known to mainstream travelers, Pangadaran is actually a very interesting and impressive destination, especially for the outdoor lovers. A must-try adventure here is the River Tubing which can be done at nine locations. The most famous being Green Canyon followed by Green Valley or Citumang which is highly popular with river tubing, nature walks and hiking as it is located in the national park here.

However, for my group, we had the opportunity to experience a new river tubing area at the Santirah River in Pangandaran. This 1.5 kilometer course is quite amazing where you pass a total of four waterfalls and participate in a lot of rock or cliff jumping areas. Truly one with nature, the Santirah River Tubing is one of my best experiences to date with nature. Highly recommended and suitable for all ages. Prices are Rp.175,000 per person and you need a guide to bring you there. The area is about 15 kilometers from Pangandaran in Desa Selasari, Kecamatan Parigi.

What to do in Pangandaran
I will be very honest for the general traveler as the best activity here is the outdoor activities. Apart from that, the beach is quite unique as Pangandaran is surrounded by beaches on both sides of the peninsular, so you have options to choose which beach you want to explore. And for the adventurous traveler, you can also head further west towards Batu Karas area where there is another beautiful beach with restaurants and cafes.

Mobil Gowes VW in Pangandaran, a great way to see this place
What else to do in Pangandaran
Biking around Pangandaran - Yes, riding a bicycle around the village area is one of the fun things I did here as it has been a real long time since I did some cycling, therefore I highly recommending the Pangandaran bike tour that takes you through fishing villages, plantations and local villages. Alternatively, for a very interesting time in the evenings around here, you can rent a Mobil Gowes VW, a Volkswagen shaped family bicycle that can seat 4-6 persons for Rp.100,000 an hour. To add on, Surfing in Pangandaran is also a popular activity and you can actually take surfing lessons here, based on season too. Most of the hotels by the sea offer surfing lessons too. For sunset lovers, catch this at Pangandaran Sunset, a dedicated spot for people to see the beautiful sunsets. One of the guides told me that Pangandaran is very magical and special because in one place, you can catch the sunrise in the morning and then sunset in the evening.

What to eat in Pangandaran
Seafood! There are lot of restaurants or eating houses called Rumah Makan or RM around Pangandaran, and one of the recommended areas is Komplek Pasar Ikan Pantai Timur Pangandaran, along Jalan Pantai Timur Road, where you will find over 10 seafood restaurants in one area. The restaurant which I ate at was called Rumah Makan Karya Bahari, and they served a great selection of fresh seafood where you pick what you want and they cook it to your style. You can also order white rice, fried rice and other non seafood dishes here.

Arwana Hotel and Resort in Pangandaran
Where to stay in Pangandaran
There are quite a number of guesthouses, hotels and resorts around Pangandaran, most of them located near the beaches too. My recommendation is to try Menara Laut Hotel, which is one of the new resorts and The Arnawa Hotel and Resort (http://www.thearnawahotel.com/), which is where I stayed during my visit here. These hotels are very modern and up to standards with the big cities, but don't expect luxury service as they are still within the 2-3 star range. I would say that the service level of the staff was very good.

More information on Pangandaran - http://westjavatourismboard.info/destination/pangandaran/

The writer, during the river tubing in Santirah
Article compiled and written by David Hogan Jr of MalaysiaAsia.
Main photo by Lakone.

Transport Information for West Java
A very good and important tip - For those wanting their own leisure time, most travel agencies rent minibuses or vans with drivers for about 500,000 Rupiah per day including driver and petrol. Therefore from Bandung, you can rent a 'supir' or driver for a few days to explore West Java and not get lost. Also best to get someone who knows the area too.

I spent about five full days moving around West Java to these beautiful locations, and I know that there are many more interesting places worth exploring here therefore, I hope that in the near future, I will have the opportunity to visit these many other places and in return, share them with my readers.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the many exciting new places in West Java and this entire experience was made possible with the collaboration of West Java Tourism Board which opened my eyes and also introduced some of the stunning places to visit beyond Bandung in West Java. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below in the comment form.



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