Note: It’s the Eid/Hari Raya holidays in Malaysia.. but it seems like the Internet connection has gone on a holiday as well. Rushing to type this before it gets disconnected again for the umpteenth time in the past two days. This happened last year as well;  calls to the center went unanswered so we were left without Internet for four days. When you’re freelancing and have to rely on a good net connection at all times, this is fkin infuriating. Granted, I’m not ‘working’ today, but still… I wish Malaysian ISPs would buck up. What ‘vision 2020’ are we talking about when we have one of the slowest connections in the region (just slightly above the Philippines?)

But I digress.

Here’s my first trip to a volcano! 🙂

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Bandung on the Indonesian island of West Java is surrounded by mountains, and is home to quite a number of volcanoes. The one we visited, Tangkuban Perahu (translated to ‘upturned boat’) , is active – but because it is a ‘stratovolcano’, it doesn’t look like the volcanoes we see on TV (ie with a big hole spewing lava out of it). Instead, it’s sort of grey and ashy, from layers of hardened ash/lava built over hundreds of millenia. The danger with stratovolcanoes is that because the ‘signs and symptoms’ cannot be seen on the surface, it might explode with sudden eruptive force.

Er.. good to know all this after I’m safely home typing this post. O-O

As we made our way up to the place, we were greeted by tall, pine forests on either side. Because of its high elevation, the landscape in Bandung is quite similar to European countries: unlike the dense, humid tropical jungles of Malaysia.

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Parked the car and got off. Loads of stalls selling souvenirs, and a couple of ponies for riding. And then there was the crater….

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BOOM. 

Nearly floored. We were standing at the precipe of Kawah Ratu, or the Queen’s Crater – the largest crater in the area. And it looked majestic indeed.

The crater was massive, encircled by steep cliffs of black and dark grey. The earth around it looked like broken asphalt. Smoke rose slowly from multiple openings, disappearing into the chilly air.  The high altitude, coupled with a clash of temperatures, created a dense fog around the area. It was haunting and beautiful at the same time. You can almost feel like you’re suspended in time; that mortal lives did not matter. The volcano was here, perhaps even before mankind.

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Of course, with such places, there is always a local legend. Through the ages, men have often weaved stories so that they can understand and make sense of things beyond their control.

In the case of Tangkuban Perahu, it tells the legend of Dayang Sumbi, a beautiful woman who lived in West Java. She disowned her son Sangkuriang for disobedience, and the Gods, pitying her sadness, granted her the power of eternal youth. After years in exile, Sangkuriang returned home and the two, not recognizing each other, fell in love. Sangkuriang intended to marry Dayang Sumbi, but before he left for a hunting trip, she spotted his birthmark and recognised him as her long lost sun. To stop the marriage, Dayang Sumbi asked Sangkuriang to build a dam on the river Citarum and a large boat, before sunrise. When she saw that the tasks were almost completed, she called on her workers to spread red silk cloths east of the city to imitate sunrise. Fooled, the disappointed Sangkuriang kicked the dam and upturned the boat, which caused severe flooding and created Tangkuban Perahu.

No offense, but why Dayang Sumbi didn’t just tell Sangkuriang that he was her son instead of going to all that trouble, is beyond me. 

 

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There is a strong stench of rotten eggs, thanks to high sulfur content. Which is why you won’t find any trees or animals in the immediate area surrounding the crater.

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We ventured to the ‘village’ area, where there were loads of souvenir shops housed in simple attap roofed structures.

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Volcanic rocks, ground up stones and mud are used for home remedies.

I have a bottle of volcanic mud mask at home.. it’s actually really good ! I’ve just been lazy to use it too often… -_-

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Bead bracelets, bangles and charms.

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Another viewing area.

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Shops. Most were not open because it was the fasting month for Muslims.

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Be very careful when buying stuff from the shops! You can haggle, but make sure you’ve found the best price. Mum took a fancy to a mounted wall clock and got it after negotiating for a cheaper price.. but when we got to another shop, the same thing was selling for 40% cheaper. Oof.

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These pretty animal carvings are made from a single piece of wood. The patterns on the tigers naturally occur that way. Amazing.

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In case all that walking and admiring made you hungry, there are some snack stalls selling local favourites like fried tofu (above).

Tangkuban Perahu is an hour and a half from Bandung City. The entrance fee is quite hefty, but it’s worth the price.

Entrance Fee: 200,000 rupiah  on weekdays and 300,000 (RM90 wut .___. or about USD22+)on weekends.

Getting There:  Public transport stops at the gate, so you’ll have to hike 2km (!!) up steep and windy roads. For that reason alone, it is advisable to hire a private driver. You can also hire a cab but make sure the driver waits for you or you won’t be able to find taxis back to town.

Opening hours: 8am – 6pm