The Lake in the Mountains – Situ Patenggang, Bandung

With Mother Nature, nothing’s impossible.

You have places like the ‘Door to Hell’, a natural gas crater in Turkmenistan which  looks like a cavern into a fiery abyss; and The Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, where the natural rock formations are so geometric they seem to be carved out of machinery.

So it’s not that surprising to find a lake in the mountains of Indonesia, at 1,600m above sea level! Welcome to Situ Patenggang, or the Lake of Love.

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Located at the foot of Mount Patuha, the lake and its surroundings offer breathtaking views of its exotic landscape. The still lake, broken only by ripples from the wind, looked like a giant mirror of deep sapphire blue.

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Visitors can rent motorized or paddle boats for a spin around the lake. There is a small island in the middle called Pulau Asmara or Passion Island. Legend has it that two lovers, Raden Indrajaya and Dewi Rengganis,  got separated for a long time. Their tears of grief became the waters of the lake, and they finally met again at a rock called Batu Cinta, or Love Stone. The story goes that lovers who visit the stone will have everlasting love. Aw…

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Paddling wasn’t our thing, so we took a stroll around the area. Tall, shady pine trees provided shade, while low shrubs and soft grass gave the place an almost European countryside look. It didn’t feel like we were in tropical Asia at all !

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There were many bamboo gazebos with leaf roofing scattered around the area, where visitors can just chill and soak in the sights. Some of the pathways are not paved and can be rocky, so kids and the elderly should watch their steps.

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A smaller lake next to the main lake. The gentle, sloping hills reminded me of the Lord of the Rings Hobbiton movie set !

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If you love nature, Situ Patenggang is a must visit while in Bandung. It’s a two-hour drive from the city, but worth the time especially if you’re coming back from Kawah Putih Volcano. It is best accessed by car, since public transport is a little unreliable in Bandung.

The entrance fees for foreigners is high, like 180,000IDR or something. Our driver was a lifesaver – he told us to ‘pretend to sleep’ while the car rolled up to the counter, and he told them we were from Jakarta (lol? coz many Indonesian Chinese Jakartans come here over the weekend). So we got the local rate !

Felt a little bad, but hey, whatever it takes to save money…

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Also not to be missed in the Ciwidey district around the lake are the beautiful tea plantations, which stretch on for miles as far as the eyes can see. Our guide explained that there were no ‘private tea companies’, so all these estates are owned and run by the government. Members of the public are free to walk down among the plants and take some amazing pictures.

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More of Bandung to come! 🙂

 

White Crater Volcano – Kawah Putih, Bandung

When talking about volcanoes, the mental image that comes to mind is that of a yawning crevasse; spewing ash, lava and smoke into the air. But my recent visit to Bandung proved me wrong!

Earlier, we visited Tangkuban Perahu, an active stratvolcano – which means that lava runs underneath instead of on the  surface. There, we found a huge crater with hot springs, wisps of steam and bubbling mud. The sides were a dark ash grey, like scorched earth. There are no volcanoes in Malaysia, so this was an eye-opening sight.

The next day, we drove South to visit another volcano – Kawah Putih, or ‘White Crater’. The two couldn’t have been more different.

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Kawah Putih is a two hour drive from Bandung city, so we set off early in the morning. The trip didn’t feel like it took a long time, because the scenery going up the mountains was beautiful. When we  arrived, I was surprised at how chilly it was. At 2,400m above sea level, temperatures hover around 10-15C. On some days, the place can get foggy but luck and the weather was on our side. Just remember to bring a thick jacket! 🙂

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There was a forest of trees near the entrance, leading to an observation deck. The trees were gnarly and twisted, with sparse branches and dark, rough-looking bark. Reminded me of the trees in Disney’s Snow White, or from the Japanese Suicide Forest. Beautiful, but haunting.

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Named after its milky blue waters and greyish white sand, Kawah Putih looks more like a beach than a volcano. Don’t be fooled though – the water is highly sulphurous and toxic. Unlike Tangkuban Perahu, which had nothing growing from its cliffs, Kawah Putih has more vegetation, with small shrubs and plants forming a ring around the lake.

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There was a characteristic smell of rotten eggs in the air, and wisps of steam and smoke curled on the surface of the lake.

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The sky was a vivid blue, creating a beautiful layer of color against the mountain’s earth tones, the white-blue waters and white sand.

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There’s only a simple fence separating the lake, so parents, if you’re bringing the kids along, keep an eye on them at all times. The waters looked inviting enough for an adult, let alone a small child.

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And more short, gnarly trees.

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Because the water/sand is white, the glare can get overwhelming, especially on a sunny day. Bring a pair of polarized sunglasses for extra protection 🙂

Kawah Putih is one of those must-visit places while in Bandung, and it’s definitely worth the two-hour drive.

KAWAH PUTIH 

Jl. Raya Soreang Ciwidey, Ciwidey, Bandung, Jawa Barat, Indonesia

Opening hours: 8am – 5pm

Entrance fees: 50000IDR (foreigners), 18000IDR (locals)

 

Things to Do at The Lembang Floating Market, Bandung

Indonesia is one of the world’s most populous Muslim countries: so I expected restaurants to be closed throughout the day during fasting month. Surprisingly, in the city of Bandung, many places remained open and people were cool about eating…as long as it wasn’t in ‘public’. The wooden roadside stalls had ‘curtains’ where people could eat away from prying eyes.

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We were running a little late, so by the time we left Lembang Begonia Flower Garden, the roads were clogged with people getting food to break fast. We inched slowly through traffic, and I took in the sights. There was smoke rising from meats being grilled in the open, accompanied by colorful displays of dessert and loads of yummy snacks. Pretty reminiscent of the Ramadan bazaars we have in Malaysia.

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The sun was setting by the time we got to Lembang Floating Market. Unlike some of the authentic floating markets of Thailand, this was built as a tourist attraction, with a spacious park and various entertainment outlets within. We wasted no time in exploring the place, which had a big lake in the middle where visitors can rent boats.

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Souvenir shops selling all manner of handicrafts, balloons, toys and snacks.

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Lake cruise. Great for families or dates !

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Geese roaming around a pond. They were scary af and acted like guard dogs: fiercely territorial, and prone to chasing you around until they take a good chunk out out of your butt.

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Park was well maintained and clean, with spots like this wooden bridge where visitors can take pretty pictures.

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A miniature train museum, complete with a train coach-shaped souvenir shop, tiny railroad crossing and shelves full of model trains.

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The kids will love the bunny park! Too bad they were closing for the evening. We saw some fat and fluffy specimens bouncing around.

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A cultural village, where there were traditional wooden huts and gazebos, as well as a paddy field.

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After a long walk, we finally got to the ‘Floating Market’. What it is, essentially, is a row of ‘boats’ on water where peddlers sell snacks, food and drinks. You have to buy ‘coins’ in order to purchase anything, kind of like at an arcade.

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There were a lot of interesting snacks, but we were going to have dinner soon so we didn’t get any.

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The Lembang Floating Market and Park is a nice place for a relaxing getaway from the city, so hop on over if you’re ever in the Lembang district near Bandung.

LEMBANG FLOATING MARKET

Jl. Grand Hotel No.33, Lembang, Kabupaten Bandung Barat, Jawa Barat, Indonesia

Open daily: 9am – 5pm (Mon-Fri), weekends til 8pm

Entrance: 15,000 IDR (inclusive of welcome drink)

Lembang Begonia Flower Garden, Indonesia

 

The sun sets early in Bandung, so we didn’t have much daylight left by the time our car rolled into Lembang Begonia Flower Garden.Thankfully, it wasn’t a huge place so we could take a quick tour to look at the pretty flowers and garden decorations 🙂

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Immediately upon entering,we were greeted by what else – loads of begonias! Most were in a velvety shade of dark pink and red.

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The garden was tastefully decorated, with statues, shrubs, small gazebos and flower archways.

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Loved the sunflower section! The stalks were really tall, and the sunflowers were in full bloom, their yellow petaled faces gazing towards the sun and bobbing slightly in the wind.

We had some sunflowers in our garden once. They didn’t grow this tall/were this pretty. It must be the fresh mountain air and water here.

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It was quite sunny – wish they had more shade, because the gazebos were angled at such a way that the sunlight would hit them anyway.

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There was a nice wooden house on stilts outside the garden; not sure if museum or souvenir shop (?).We had to leave though coz the sky was getting dark.

Visitors have to pay a small entrance fee to get into the Lembang Begonia Garden. Overall, a great place to take your s/o out for a date, or if you just love flowers in general. 🙂

KEBUN BUNGA BEGONIA LEMBANG 

Jalan Maribaya No. 120A, Lembang, Bandung Barat, Jawa Barat, Indonesia

Open daily: 8am – 5pm

Gubug Makan Mang Engking @ Lembang, Indonesia

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So after exploring the majestic Tangkuban Perahu volcano, dipping our feet in Sari Ater’s hot springs and taking in the sights at Ciater’s tea plantations, our tummies were well and rumbling – high time for lunch! 🙂 Tucked into the mountainside is a scenic resto called Gubug Makan Mang Engking, which serves traditional Indonesian cuisine.

Instead of a typical restaurant, the place cleverly incorporates its surroundings, so that diners can enjoy the beauty of nature while tucking in to their food. There was a pond in the middle, with walkways and dozens of smaller attap roofed gazebos. In the middle was the main hall for large functions, with a couple of decorative boats. Loads of greenery everywhere.

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Everything was very nature-themed: structures were built out of bamboo, wood and leaves.

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There was even a small natural stream cutting across the area 🙂

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Kids feeding the fat koi fish swimming in the pond.

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We settled ourselves down in one of the gazebos. They have a space underneath the table for guests to place their legs, with a bamboo leg rest at the bottom. The place was cooling enough so we didn’t need fans or air conditioning. Nothing like dining close to nature – the air was refreshing, and we could hear the sounds of birds chirping and insects buzzing in the trees.

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Having little to no knowledge of Indonesian cuisine, we didn’t know what to order – but lucky for us, we had our guide Mr Yoga with us! We got fried cumi (squid), honey fried chicken, stir-fried vegetables and soy-sauce fish. The meal was served with a basket of rice.

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The chickens that they serve at restos in Bandung are tiny. They use ‘kampung’ or village/spring chickens rather than farm fattened ones pumped full with steroids. Although healthier and tastier, those with big appetites might find that one chicken is not enough. It really is more the size of a pigeon lol.

The one we ordered was quite tasty. The honey-basted meat was firm, juicy and sweet.

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My other favourite was the fried squid rings. They were light, airy and crunchy, almost like eating snacks.

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If you throw bits of rice in, the fish will flock to your feet.

Our guide said: “You can throw any food into the pond. They even eat fish.”

Cannibalism??

We tried throwing some fish in. #evil 

 

Prices at Gubug Makan Mang Engking can be slightly pricier than your usual resto, but considering the settings, I’d say it’s worth the price.

Mang Engking Kopo Bandung

Jalan Raya Tangkuban Perahu

Km. 1 No. 68, Lembang,

Jawa Barat, Indonesia

Phone; +62 22 2784978

Opening hours: 10am – 9pm

Tea Plantations @ Ciater, Indonesia

 

 

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While driving down from Tangkuban Perahu, you’ll pass by the Ciater district, which is famed for its vast tea plantations. Seas of green roll through the landscape, amidst a backdrop of deep blue mountains. 

According to our guide, there are no ‘private’ tea plantations in the area, only government ones. They are usually open to visitors, so you can stop by the road and just hop on down to walk among the plants!

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The cool weather, coupled with the mild scenery? Really didn’t seem like I was in Asia at all lol.

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A mosque was sounding prayers through a loudspeaker nearby.

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For those who want to buy the produce, there are numerous tea houses in the area that you can stop by at. Else, it’s a nice place to get some beautiful postcard-esque photos !

 

Sari Ater Hot Springs, Lembang, Indonesia

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Nothing beats a nice soak in a hot spring, especially after you’ve been walking around a lot! After our visit to Tangkuban Perahu Volcano, our guide drove us downhill to Sari Ater Hot Springs Resort in Ciater district.  Sitting in the middle of a tea estate, the spacious retreat has dozens of natural mineral springs fed by heat from surrounding volcanoes. The water contains iodium and sulfur, which is good for people with skin problems and rheumatism.

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Since we came on a Friday, we almost had the whole place to ourselves. The park was well maintained and clean, while the railings had just had a fresh coat of paint. There were facilities like camping grounds, swimming pools, restaurants and tennis courts

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One of the main springs in the area is built around a small waterfall called Curug Jodo. The water was crystal clear  and looked so inviting! Too bad we didn’t bring a change of clothes because the trip here was kinda impromptu ;__;

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There are massage therapists stationed all around the park. They’ll be in the water massaging your feet, for a small fee.

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Seems to just wash your aches away… 🙂

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A parent was trying to get his kid in the water, but he was adamant about not touching any. His screams were as if he was being led to slaughter, lol.

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Pops and the Moomikins.

That sounds like a cool name for a band.

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There were creepy statues of frogs, Komodo dragons and scaly rhinos all around the park, for some reason.

Entrance fees depend on which pools you plan on visiting, but I think we paid 20,000 IDR.

Again, since it might be hard to get public transport here, I suggest hiring a private driver or a cab. 🙂 The charges are about 500,000 IDR (Rm150 – USD35+) a day.

 

The Upturned Boat Volcano – Tangkuban Perahu, Bandung

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