The city of Bogor borders Jakarta to the south, laying at the foothills of the spinal mountain range of Java. Embracing a steep valley, Bogor's scenery is plentiful. My voyage there was a day trip to Bogor's primary attraction -- it's famous botanical gardens just outside Bogor Palace in the entrance to the city. But it also gave me my first glance of western Java outside the capital city.
Jakarta and Bogor are connected by a major toll highway that also passes through the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah. The highway is a commuter artery, and modern suburbia lined the road most of the sixty-kilometer stretch. Thankfully, we traveled against the flow and had no major slowdowns going south in the morning. The botanical garden was only a half-mile off the exit, and it was an enjoyable way to spend a couple hours, particular as one unfamiliar with tropical flora.
The Bogor Botanical Garden is a good couple square miles big, most of it open forest. It has a couple green houses, several artificial ponds, and a large field where special events such as concerts can be held. A restaurant was available near the entrance. The entrance fee was nominal -- a dollar for the car and little more than 50 cents a head to enter. There were both roads and walking paths, so we drove a full circle around the garden to survey the places we wanted to walk to afterwards.
Our venture there started at the only greenhouse on the lot, the Orchid House. This was close to the entrance and required an additional fee of Rp 1000 (about 12 US cents). The exterior of the House had a small pool, artificial waterfall and numerous tropical plants in a rock garden. The interior was divided into two sections -- a steamy room of white and purple orchids (shown in the second photograph) and a nursery of non-flowering plants. The former had an extra observation deck.
After leaving the House, we followed the path we had driven earlier to an outdoor garden and pool marked by the Indonesian national symbol, the Garuda eagle (see first photograph). From there, we went across a brilliant red walking bridge over the river to the main path. The waters of the river were very low, it was dry season after all, but the ten-meter tall artificial concrete banks suggested that a lot of water flowed there during the rainy season of late fall through early spring.
The jungle flora was unlike anything I had seen in person, especially the huge trees and the way they were shaped. The third photograph shows me standing next to one of these trees, in the middle of these huge folds that reached down into its roots. Other very interesting plants included some sort of jungle sunflower with the densest array of thorns I'd ever seen on a plant and lily pads in one of the pools that were about three yards in diameter each.
The fenced grounds of Bogor Castle were adjacent to the Garden, but unfortunately the gates were closed (the Castle grounds are sometimes open to the public but at irregular times). This did not stop a few of the vast herd of domesticated deer living on the Castle grounds from sneaking through the fence and wandering through the Garden to graze. We encountered a family of such deer who were trusting enough to let us get very close before they scampered off.
The far side of the garden was open and contained several pools, canals, and gazebos arranged in patterns, such as the one shown in the fourth photograph. This pool had a stylish two-hump island in it marked with a single odd-shaped palm tree.
After leaving the Garden, we drove around to the front of Bogor Castle where we were able to see its brilliant white facade from a distance. The herd of domestic deer I mentioned before must have numbered in the hundreds, and all of them were huddled in the shade of a few palm trees in the front lawn.
We did a brief driving tour of the city on our way elsewhere. The center of the city was unremarkable to me, mostly consisting of square concrete building that appeared run-down. However, the outskirts of the city (particularly in the direction of Jakarta) was rebuilding and modernizing at a rapid pace. As we reached the southern boundary and entered the mountains, the streets became lined with tourist traps -- mostly souvenir stands and kitschy restaurants -- looking for weekend travelers from the capital.
Bogor was a good half-day excursion, certainly worth visiting for the garden and the castle if you can get in.
Trip taken 22 August 2003 -- Page last updated 28 October 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin