Bandung in Indonesia is widely known as a shopping destination thanks to its many factory outlet stores. But little do travellers know that the surrounding area of Bandung is home to lush hills of tea plantations, paddy fields and some volcanic action. Aishah Azali flew down to see what mother nature gifted the capital of West Java.

The largest archipelagic country in the world, Indonesia is home to more than 13,000 islands with the main ones being Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and New Guinea. Jakarta on the island of Java is the capital of the country with the largest population. The big population size is followed closely by Surabaya and then Bandung which is located 150km from Jakarta in West Java.

Cooler temperatures are felt in the city of Bandung due to its proximity to the volcanic mountains with the temperature dropping even more when you travel further out and up from the main town. If you ask any ‘Auntie’ this side of Malaysia, they will mention that Bandung is a treasure trove when it comes to shopping due to the many factory outlets selling everything from clothes to accessories at a bargain.

That held true when I stepped foot in Bandung but I strapped on my hiking shoes to discover its greener side. First, I have to explain that greater Bandung offers a lot when it comes to nature attractions and they do take time to reach there so proper planning is key. In this article, I am going to share the natural wonders located in the South-Western part of Bandung which is Ciwidey that is located in the municipality of Soreang. The trip to Ciwidey took approximately 3 hours from my hotel in Bandung town.

 

The Lady and the Lake

I visited two lakes in Ciwidey, one being your typical green pool of gorgeousness and the other being a sulphur lake with eerie smoke emitting from it. The sulphur lake is called White Crater or ‘Kawah Putih’ in Indonesian and is a body of water that looks as white as milk when I visited.

The White Crater is one of the two craters of Mount Patuha, a stratovolcano. Due to its elevation, walking around the smoky sulphur lake is colder than being in town with temperatures ranging from 8°-22° Celsius. The milky lake can turn into various shades of blue depending on the amount of sunlight with the colour turquoise being a unique colour that pops up and looks great in pictures.

Visiting the White Crater is interesting because when are you ever going to come across a milky lake of sulphur in your lifetime? Lifeless branches of once flourishing trees surround the lake with many photographers, equipped with impressive DSLR cameras on standby to take shots of you for a fee.

A true lake of emerald green against a backdrop of lush hills and soaring trees can be found at Patenggang Lake, a mere 5km away from the White Crater. Patenggang Lake is part of the gigantic tourist park which consist of rolling hills, tea plantations and of course the lake. There is a local myth that the lake was formed from the tears of two lovers, a king’s nephew and a mountain goddess who could not be together.

Take a boat ride across the lake, have a picnic by the many gazebos dotting the lakeside or just walk around to admire the heavenly natural wonders surrounding it. Shops selling fruits, fried food, hats and knitted sweaters are present along the pathway that leads to the lake if you ever fall hungry or cold.

New glamping accommodations have mushroomed by the lake as seen by the white canopies on the hills called the Glamping Lakeside Rancabali. Also nearby the glamping site is a restaurant called Pinisi Resto that is in the shape of a ship overlooking the lake, great for a midday snack of Sundanese fare.

Tea Plantation For Miles

Ciwidey is home to the largest tea plantation in Indonesia measuring a total of 300,000 hectares of tea bushes to satisfy any tea lover. The hilly landscape and cool weather make it a prime location for growing this beloved tea plant. It is a sight to behold as you pass the winding roads to see miles and miles of sloping hills filled with rows of tea bushes, an endless stretch of calming green scenery.

Rancabali Plantation stretches all the way till Patenggang Lake where you can ask your driver to stop at the roadside for you to bask in the beauty. You can find small stalls by the roadside selling boxes of tea from the plantation and believe me when I say, the tea from Bandung is top notch.

 

The Picking at Strawberry Fields

To my surprise, the cool climate of Ciwidey is also optimum for the growth of strawberries. Heading towards The White Crater, you can see many of the locals owning small plots of land to grow strawberries where tourist can pick them to be weighed and sold. But if you want to skip the picking, many roadside stalls sell pre-packed strawberries starting from IDR5000 a pack.

My strawberry picking adventure was done at the restaurant that I was visiting to eat. Saung Gawir is a restaurant by the hill offering authentic Sundanese food in a traditional setting of bamboo gazebos overlooking the fields. I sat on one of the hillside gazebos that looked down to the strawberry fields and up onto a mountainous backdrop.

Lunch was followed by a stroll on the strawberry fields where the workers handed me a small basket for picking fruit. I scanned to find the biggest and juiciest strawberries on the farm which was surprisingly not hard to find. The cooling weather made for an enjoyable experience plus that kind of scenery of rolling hills surrounding a valley is something I could never fully describe in words.

So, if you are ever out in Bandung and need a break from the bustling city, (Indonesia is known for its massive traffic congestion and Bandung is no different) going outside of town is something one should explore. Besides Soerang, there is another option to drive up north to Lembang to visit other volcanoes and more tea fields for a countryside holiday to remember.

Trip Expenses

Entry Fee to White Crater: IDR50,000 per person (non-local)

Parking at White Crater: IDR150,000

Entry Fee to Patenggang Lake: IDR25,000

Entry Fee to the strawberry fields (varies between places): IDR5,000

Full Day Tour to Ciwidey (varies between companies): IDR600,000 – IDR800,000

 

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