Virtual Passport Arrives in Indonesia: Visit to Tangkutan Pratu from Jakarta

Two years ago, my familiarity with Indonesia consisted of seeing the name on various clothing tags when I examined them, looking for laundering instructions. But all this changed in January 2009 when my eldest child Justin took a job as a foreign legal advisor in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. I quickly learned that Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world coming in after China, India, and the United States. It’s a vital and important country, one we should be familiar with, possessing a number of natural resources along with a large and rapidly increasing workforce. The city of Jakarta with almost 10 million residents is the 2lst largest city in the world, however if you add the residents of the nearby cities of Boga, Depak, Tangerana, and Bekasi, the population swells to 25 million producing lots and lots of crowded roadways. There is no mass transit. Everyone uses either a car or a motorcycle to get from point A to point B and the roads and during the weekend everyone is trying to go somewhere.
So on my second full day of our visit, I learned an important lesson in traveling around Jarkarta…patience. On Sunday July 4th when many Americans were busy making their plans for picnics and watching firework displays, I was in a car with Justin, my husband Peter and daughter Alex on our way to visit Tangkuban Pratu which literally means “Overturned Boat”, a scenic and active volcano located 30 Kilometers from Bandung and 147 kilometers from Jakarta. Justin had hired both a driver and guide with the intention that after we visited the volcano peering down at its large circular shaped crater and hiked down its rim to view the small craters and hot springs, we would proceed to lunch and a dance performance in the city of Bandung. Due to the multiple languages and dialects spoken throughout the many islands of Indonesia in addition to the official Indonesian language used in the schools, it is a good idea to sightsee accompanied by a guide who speaks English. (If English is not your native language, there are guides who know some of the other more frequently used world languages such as Mandarin Chinese, because being a tour guide is a lucrative profession.) We started out mid morning and stopped off at a Farmer’s Market where we sampled the local fruit: small sweet bananas , snake fruit, thorny fruit, and several other local delicies. We thought we had plenty of time to arrive at the volcano viewing area by late morning.
But then, as we approached Bandung, the traffic started to build. While being stuck in gridlock I listened to our guide tell us the story of how the volcano, a long flat elongated plateau with a huge cauldron of lava within, got its name.
The Legend of Tangkuban Pratu
Once long ago, an estranged prince returned to his kingdom and fell in love with the Queen, not realizing she was his own mother. When the Queen realized who her lover was, she attempted to extricate herself from the relationship by challenging her sweetheart to build a dam and a huge boat in a single night before she would agree to marry him. To her surprise, he was about to complete was she thought was an impossible task. Horrified that she would have to follow through with her promise to be his wife, she asked the gods to intervene and hasten the rising of the sun. The prince was so enraged, he turned over the nearly completed boat in fury and it became a volcano.
I listened to the story about the volcano , read all about Bandung in the guidebook Justin lent me, but we never got to the city itself. We got stuck in traffic just trying to drive up the mountain to look down on the volcano. After a while, we voted to get out of the car and start walking. The guide thought we were being foolish, yes the path was steep, but it certainly beat sitting in the car. Besides it was interesting looking at all the other tourists and marveling at how they could undertake to walk up a mountain in long dresses and scarves, and in some cases flimsy plastic sandals. As this was a weekend, entire families were out for an excursion, and they varied in ages from seventy to seven. Being Caucasian in appearance, we were an oddity, and by the time we reached the top of the mountain 20 minutes later, with its scenic locations for picture taking, many families were asking for us to join them in a photo!
As you can see by the posted photographs, it is a lovely spot, despite the crowds but then it decided to rain just as we had walked down to the area where you can drop an egg attached to a string into the small hot springs and get a hardboiled egg for a snack. Many visitors collect the healing waters in bottles and there are plenty of souvenir stands selling everything from mass produced wood carvings and batik sarongs to straw hats, scarves, and purses. That hardboiled egg ended up being the majority of my lunch. The rain was so hard; we took shelter at a “snack bar/restaurant” as we waited for our local guide to come back with some rain ponchos. When you travel at tourists sites in Indonesia you are often asked to hire a local guide in addition to the tourist guide and translator you might be traveling with. While this might seem like overkill to have two guides, I was happy to have the local guide because he knew the way well and we had to navigate down about a half a mile of very steep muddy steps that were both treacherous and slippery and then back up the same distance to get back to the parking lot and our car.
By the time we left the mountain ,we realized there was no possible way, with the grid lock we would make it to the dance performance so we started our journey home. After hours of driving in the car all of us needed to visit a rest room but there were no restrooms in sight. And then when we stopped at a gas station. While it was easier for the males to use the facilities, for the privilege of 10 cents, Alex and I both decided we really didn’t want to use the restroom after standing in line with about twenty desperate, shoving women who were holding a handkerchief to their nose as they neared the stall of the bathroom door.
Forty five minutes later we reached the turnpike stop with several fast food restaurant and restroom facilities . Looking back on that day, we had to laugh at our excitement on getting a table inside an A& W Root Beer Restaurant. We were so hungry, the greasy burgers and fries tasted pretty good although we were generally grossed out by the massive crowds and less than stellar cleanliness of the tables and chairs we were sitting on as we waited for our meal. Justin valiantly braved the crowded lines as he pushed ahead to place our order. And for the next several weeks during our travels, whenever Peter wanted to illicit a laugh he’d say, “But the meal was nothing like the one at A & W Rootbeer!”.
What did I learn? Well if you are planning to visit Tangkuban Pratu, plan on spending the night in Bandung and starting out in the morning. Do not attempt to travel there in one day from Jakarta. But hey, I still had a wonderful Fourth of July with my family. While we did miss our middle child, son Chris, who visited Justin in Indonesia over the Christmas break, the rest of the nuclear family had a memorable time together. And this was only one day in 25! More adventures to follow.

Published by Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Her short stories and essays have been published in several small online journals including Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, Scarlet Leaf Review and Defunkt Magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

3 thoughts on “Virtual Passport Arrives in Indonesia: Visit to Tangkutan Pratu from Jakarta

  1. Can hardly wait to read your next journal story about your trip!
    I’ll smile whenever buying A&W root beer from now on.


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