Western Java is the western third of the island of Java, Indonesia. It covers from west to east the province of Banten, the Jakarta Special Capital Region (DKI Jakarta), and the province of West Java (Jawa Barat). Western Java is one of the most densely populated regions on earth, but still there are extensive natural areas of impassable rainforest, as well as many active volcanoes and secluded beaches
One of the most populous urban areas in the world, with the capital Jakarta and its suburbs. The region also includes the Thousand Islands in the Jakarta Bay.
Once the centre of the powerful Banten sultanate, the region includes various beach resorts along the west coast, and Ujung Kulon National Park with many rare flora and fauna species.
The city of Bogor with its famous botanical garden, and a volcanic mountain range with two national parks and extensive tea plantations.
The heartland of the Sundanese culture, with the Paris of Java Bandung, volcanoes, crater lakes, and hot springs.
More volcanoes, including Mount Ciremai National Park with Western Java's highest mountain, and well-known beaches along Java's south coast.
The oldest temples of Java, vast rice fields, the 'city of shrimps' Cirebon, and the Java Sea coast.
- Jakarta — the chaotic, congested yet oddly fascinating Indonesian capital.
- Bandung — the Paris of Java of Dutch colonial days, now a university city known for shopping and food.
- Bogor — the former summer capital, known for the world-class botanical gardens.
- Ciamis — once the capital of the powerful Galuh Kingdom.
- Cirebon — nicknamed the 'city of shrimps' at the Java Sea coast, with four sultan palaces.
- Garut — mountain town with a cooler climate and many volcanic hot springs.
- Pangandaran — Indian Ocean beach town with a nature reserve and a busy fish market.
- Sukabumi — city on the foot of the Mount Gede volcano, surrounded by tea, coffee, and rubber plantations.
- Banten — now a small village, but once the centre of the mighty Banten Sultanate.
- Batujaya — archaeological site with (possibly) the oldest remaining temples of Java.
- Ciwidey — the blue-water sulphur-smell Kawah Putih crater lake.
- Mount Gede Pangrango National Park — most-visited national park of Indonesia, centred around two volcanoes.
- Puncak — very popular weekend getaway among rice fields, tea plantations, rivers, and volcanoes.
- Thousand Islands National Park — just off the coast of Jakarta, small islands with white sand beaches.
- Ujung Genteng — fishing village on the Indian Ocean, with a turtle sanctuary.
- Ujung Kulon National Park — the last holdout of the Javan rhinoceros and a World Heritage Site.
Western Java is very densely populated, with 73 million people living on an area of about 45,000 m2 (a similar area to the country of Estonia or the US state of Pennsylvania), or a population density of on average more than 1,600 people per square km. However, the population density is very unevenly divided, with especially many people living in the Greater Jakarta area and a few other urban areas, while much of the remainder of the region consists of rainforest and volcanoes where only few people live.
For almost 1000 years, from the 7th century to the 16th century, Western Java was under control of the Hindu kingdoms of Sunda (centred in Bogor Raya) and Galuh (centred in East Parahyangan). In turn, for many centures these kingdoms were under domination of the Buddhist Srivijaya Kingdom from Sumatra. In the 16th century, the kingdoms lost their territory quickly to the newly established Islamic sultanates of Banten and Cirebon, and Islam spread among most of the population. This is the case until today, although Islam in the region is still influenced by Hindu, Buddhist, and animist beliefs.
Soon after, also the European colonists (mainly the Portuguese and the Dutch) came to the Indonesian archipelago and to Western Java. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) established a trading post near the port of Sunda Kelapa (in present-day North Jakarta) in 1611, and by 1619 a fort was built, named Batavia. For two centuries, the Dutch administration in Batavia coexisted with the sultanates of Banten and Cirebon, but the power of the colonial power steadily increased. By the early 18th century the entire Parahyangan mountain region was under control of the Dutch, and by the early 19th century the sultanates were no more than protectorates under Dutch rule.
In 1798 the VOC was dissolved, and the colony was taken over by the Dutch state to become the Dutch East Indies. Soon after, the Great Post Road was constructed across Java to be able to quickly move troops in case of an attack by the British. The road did not stop the British from invading, and Java was under British rule from 1811 to 1814. Dutch rule was restored thereafter, and the Great Post Road remained important not for military purposes, but for trade, and communication. It became for example much easier to reach the tea, coffee, and rubber plantations of Bogor Raya and Parahyangan.
During the Second World War the region was invaded by the Japanese, and immediately after the surrender of Japan, Indonesian independence was declared in Central Jakarta in 1945. Then, it took four years of war before the Dutch acknowledged Indonesian independence. Nowadays, Western Java is among the most prosperous parts of the country, although the crowdedness makes that the infrastructure has difficulty to cope, and there are huge economic inequalities.
The traditional culture of most of Western Java is that of the Sundanese people. In the North Coast region around the city of Cirebon, the Cirebonese culture is dominant, which is a mixture of the Sundanese culture with the Javanese culture of Central Java. Over the centuries, however, the culture of Western Java has been heavily influenced by ethnic groups from other Indonesian islands, and from abroad. The 'native' culture of Jakarta, the Betawi culture, is in itself an amalgamation of cultures of various ethnic groups that lived in Batavia (the old town of Jakarta) in the 17th and 18th centuries, including Sundanese and Javanese but also for example Minangkabau, Makassarese, Balinese, Chinese, Indian, and Dutch. Nowadays, Greater Jakarta is a melting pot of cultures from across the Indonesian archipelago.
The art and culture of Sundanese people reflect the influcence of prehistoric native animism as well as the Hindu-Buddhist history, and the current Islamic culture. The story-telling through poetic verses, called Pantun Sunda, focuses mainly on the history of the Sunda Kingdom, and includes legends such as that of Sangkuriang and the creation of the Tangkuban Perahu volcano near Lembang.
A notable example of traditional Sundanese music is angklung bamboo music, which is a UNESCO Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. A well-known angklung orchestra is Saung Angklung Udjo, with an own theater in the city of Bandung. Pencak silat is a collection of Indonesian martial art forms. In Western Java, silat Sunda (also called silat Bandung) and silat Betawi (Jakarta) are specific varities.
Western Java has a tropical monsoon climate, with distinct wet and dry seasons. The wettest months are from November to March (with a peak in January and February), while the driest months are from June to September. Rain happens throughout the year, however, and also during the dry season short but heavy downpours (mostly around sunset hours) are common. On the other hand, even during the peak of the rainy season it is not common to rain throughout the day. There are some regional differences, with especially Bogor (nicknamed 'city of rain') experiencing a lot of rain, and almost daily thunderstorms. Also in Bogor however it is often dry in the morning, with rain usually developing in the afternoon.
The average daytime temperatures in the lowland areas (including Greater Jakarta) are about 29 to 32 °C throughout the year, with nighttime temperatures usually not below 22 °C. The mountain city of Bandung (750 m above sea level) has traditionally been popular because of the slightly cooler temperatures (daytime averages of 26 to 29 °C). However, in recent years also there hot temperatures are experienced throughout the year (perhaps because of a combination of climate change and the urban heat island effect). Obviously, the higher you get into the mountains, the cooler the termperatures. Mountain villages such as Ciater and Puncak see nighttime temperatures of about 15 °C, and on top of the volcanoes even 5 °C.
The Indonesian language, being official, is widely spoken and understood, and is the main language used in big cities and the Jakarta metropolitan area. The local language in most of Western Java is Sundanese, which is related to Indonesian but not mutually intelligible. Along the northern coast, Javanese is widely spoken. In Jakarta, the Betawi language is used, a creole of Indonesian with more use of loanwords from among others Hokkien Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, and Dutch.
Although English is universally taught in schools, most people are not conversant and many feel uncomfortable to speak. Staff at better hotels and airline staff generally speak an acceptable level of English, and so do people working in the tourism sector in the largest cities (mainly Jakarta and Bandung) and most touristic areas (e.g. Pangandaran).
The busiest airport of the region by far, and also the busiest airport of the country, is Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (IATA: CGK) in Tangerang, about 20 km northwest of Central Jakarta. The airport has highly frequent flights from virtually all Indonesian provinces, as well as major cities in Southeast Asia. There are also direct flights from various destinations in Australia, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The second airport of Jakarta, Halim Perdanakusuma Airport (IATA: HLP) in East Jakarta, has connections from most of the larger cities in Indonesia, but no international flights. Husein Sastranegara International Airport (IATA: BDO) in Bandung is a good point of entry for the central and eastern parts of West Java, with international flights from Malaysia and Singapore, and domestic connections from most larger cities in Indonesia.
Western Java can be reached by train from the other parts of Java, with the key connections being from Surabaya (East Java) or Yogyakarta via Semarang (Central Java) to Cirebon and Jakarta, and from Yogyakarta to Bandung. Trains are operated by PT. Kereta Api Indonesia.
There are many interprovincial bus connections (named AKAP for Antar Kota Antar Provinsi, intercity/interprovince) to the key cities in Western Java, mainly Jakarta and Bandung. There are frequent bus services from the main cities of Central and East Java (e.g. Semarang, Yogyakarta, and Surabaya), but also long-distance bus services from Sumatra, Bali, and Lombok. Keep in mind that these bus trips may take several days, and flying is often a much more comfortable option.
The infrastructure struggles to cope with the very high population density of Western Java. Especially in Greater Jakarta, but also in other urban areas such as Bandung and Cirebon, traffic is very crowded and chaotic. Most of the roads in these areas are heavily congested during rush hours, but also outside peak hours traffic jams are common. During weekends and holidays, also the roads to and from tourist attractions see long traffic jams (for example the toll roads from Jakarta towards Bandung, the Puncak mountain pass, and Anyer beach). During the annual holiday exodus at the end of the Ramadan fasting month, traffic jams between Greater Jakarta and Central Java often last for days.
By car or motorbike
The road network of Western Java is extensive, with tolled motorways connecting the major cities, and major trunk roads throughout the region. However, as indicated above this is insufficient to cope with the number of vehicles, so the roads are severely congested. Especially off the main roads, road quality is sometimes poor. During the rainy season, landslides may hamper traffic in the mountainous areas, while flooding of roads is widespread, even in Jakarta.
Indonesian driving habits are daunting and chaotic, and traffic rules are often ignored. Trucks and buses generally follow their rule "the bigger vehicle has right of way." On the other hand, in the case of an accident, motorcycle riders never accept any blame. Especially if it is your first time in Indonesia, it is advisable to rent a car with a driver, rather than to drive by yourself. The additional cost of hiring a driver is usually about Rp100,000 to 150,000 per day, and some car rental companies are even reluctant to rent cars without a driver to foreigners.
Most of the cities and larger towns in Western Java are connected to the railway network. Trains are generally reliable, but not very fast. The most frequent trains run in the Greater Jakarta area. The KA Commuter Jabodetabek network has six colour-coded train routes interconnecting the many stations in the capital, as well as the suburbs and satellite cities (including also Bogor). All commuter trains are economy class, but since 2013 all carriages have air conditioning. The two main stations for intercity trains, Gambir and Pasar Senen stations in Central Jakarta, are not served by the commuter trains, making a transit cumbersome.
Intercity trains are divided in economy class, business class, and executive class. The main difference between the classes is the comfort of the seats, and the personal space available. Executive class carriages have tv displays for entertainment and food service. Older economy and business class carriages may not have air conditioning. The main intercity train routes are from Jakarta to the port of Merak, to Cirebon (and further to Central Java), and to Bandung, as well as from Bandung to Tasikmalaya and Banjar (and further to Central Java). There are also a few (economy class) trains per day from Bogor to Sukabumi, and Sukabumi to Cianjur. Many longer-distance trains are business and/or economy class trains and stop only at major stations. Many smaller stations only see a few trains per day.
Intercity bus connections are much more frequent than train connections. However, the speed very much depends on the road conditions and traffic congestion. Generally, buses follow fixed routes between two or more bus terminals. Most buses will stop almost anywhere along the route to pick up and drop off passengers. Between the largest cities, such as between Jakarta and Cirebon, there are many buses per hour, also at night. There are also frequent buses from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport to bus terminals throughout Greater Jakarta, as well as to Serang, Bogor, Karawang, and Bandung. To get to small towns, you may need to ask for a bus schedule in advance, or transfer in another town.
In addition to the standard bus (coach) routes, there are a variety of other types of buses. On the busiest routes (especially Jakarta-Bandung) there are many so-called travel (luxury minibuses for about 12 to 20 passengers) that provide direct shuttle connections between many locations in both cities. On routes between smaller towns, a common bus type is elf or L300 (similar in size to the travel, but not as luxurious, and stopping everywhere along the road), named after the Isuzu Elf and Mitsubishi L300 equipment used, respectively.
Within cities and their suburbs, as well as between villages, public transport consists of angkot (public minivans). Angkots follow a fixed route, but there is no fixed schedule and there are no fixed stops. To get on, simply raise your hand. To get off, shout "Kiri!" to the driver, so he will pull over on the left (Indonesian: kiri) side of the road. The price of an angkot ride within a city is usually about Rp2,000 to 5,000. It is best to ask a local which angkot route to take, and how to recognise the location you want to get off. In the Greater Jakarta area, there are many additional types of buses, including a bus rapid transit system called Transjakarta. See the article on Jakarta for more information.
Taxicabs are abundant in the larger cities, especially in the Greater Jakarta area, Bogor, and Bandung. The most well-known taxi company of Indonesia, Blue Bird Group, is available in these cities as well as in Serang. Other taxi companies that are known to be reliable include Express in the Greater Jakarta area, and AA Taksi in Bandung. These taxis of reputable companies always use the taxi meter (argo in Indonesian), and taxis can be hailed on the street, or ordered by phone or smartphone app. Large numbers of taxis are available near major hotels, shopping centres, tourist attractions, and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Taxis of some other companies, and most taxis in smaller cities, do not always use the taxi meter, and you will need to negotiate a price with the driver. In large cities such as Jakarta, this is best avoided by refusing to get in before the taxi driver has agreed on using the meter. In smaller cities, you may have no option.
In addition to regular taxis, there are various other types of vehicles for hire. The most common is the ojek (motorcycle taxi). Ojek riders can be found everywhere in the region, from the business districts of Central Jakarta to remote mountain villages. Ojek are usually in groups on major street corners. The price will need to be negotiated, but Rp5,000-10,000 is common for a short ride of a few km. Prices may be higher in remote areas, or in case of heavy traffic congestion. Most ojek riders will have a spare helmet for you to wear. Ojek can nowadays also be hired through an app on your phone: popular on-demand ojek services include Go-Jek and GrabBike.
In Jakarta, another type of vehicle for hire is the bajaj, Jakarta's version of the tuk-tuk. This is less comfortable than a regular taxi, but quicker in case of traffic congestion. In case of rain a bajaj is better than an ojek because it has a roof. In places throughout the region, you can hire a becak (cycle rickshaw). In busy places, such as Jakarta and parts of Bandung, becak are not allowed because they impede the traffic flow. A becak is especially useful for short distances in smaller towns and villages. In some places you may also hire a delman (horse carriage).
Getting around within the region by plane is not really an option. The only scheduled flight connection within Western Java is between Halim Airport in East Jakarta and Nusawiru Airport between Pangandaran and Batu Karas. To fly within the region to one of the other airports, you will need to charter a plane.
There are five national parks in Western Java. Ujung Kulon National Park, on the western tip of the island in Banten, was the first national park of the country, and is since 1992 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The national park includes the largest remaining lowland rain forest of Java, and in addition to the part on the mainland it also includes Panaitan island, as well as the natural reserve of the Krakatoa volcano. It the only remaining home of the critically endangered Javan Rhinoceros, the rarest large animal on earth, with an estimated remaining population of about 50 to 60.
Another national park in the region is the Thousand Islands National Park, just off the coast of Jakarta. Its name is slightly exaggerated, as the marine park consists of 'only' 110 islands. 13 of the islands have been fully developed for tourism, while most of the others are either uninhabited or have a small fishing village. In the national park, there are big coral reefs as well as many types of seaweed. It is the home of the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle and the endangered green sea turtle.
The other three national parks of Western Java are centred around volcanoes. Mount Halimun Salak National Park and Mount Gede Pangrango National Park are both in the Bogor Raya region, west and east of the city of Bogor, respectively. Some of the animal species in the parks include silvery gibbons and Javan lutung monkeys, and dozens or rare bird species. Mount Ciremai National Park, in the East Parahyangan region near the border with Central Java is centred around the highest mountain of Western Java (3,078 m). In the national park, you can find leopards, barking deer, and several types of pythons, as well as the endangered Javan surili monkey and Javan hawk-eagle.
Pre-colonial historic sights
European colonists started to come to Southeast Asia, including Western Java, in the 16th century. There are various sights in the region from before this period. The oldest sight is the Gunung Padang Megalithic Site near Cianjur, which is the largest megalithic site of Southeast Asia. It is thought that this site was completed by 5000 BC or earlier, which would make it even older than the Egyption pyramids. Some scientists doubt whether the structures are really man-made, and presume it might be the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Nevertheless, the site can be visited. Archaeological research is ongoing.
Possibly the oldest temples of Java can be found in Batujaya near the north coast. Not much is known about these temple ruins, but it is assumed that they were built in the 5th or 6th, during the time of the Tarumanagara Kingdom. The temples may be Buddhist. The Hindu kingdoms of Sunda and Galuh that thereafter ruled over Western Java for almost 1000 years have left little archaeological remains. The only remaining Hindu temple from this period in Western Java is the small 8th century Cangkuang temple, near Garut. In Kawali (near Ciamis), believed to be the capital of the Galuh Kingdom, there are 14th century inscriptions honouring the king of Galuh.
Much more cultural heritage is remaining from the first Islamic powers of Western Java, the sultanates of Banten and Cirebon (starting in the 15th century). The sultanate of Banten was powerful and prosperous starting in the 16th century, which led to the construction of impressive buildings in its capital town of Banten. The key (partly) remaining sights are the sultan palace and the Great Mosque of Banten, and the town has a museum on the town's and sultanate's history. The sultanate of Cirebon, centred in Cirebon about 300 km east of Banten, has four sultan palaces. In the city also the grave of Sunan Gunungjati, who established both sultanates, can be visited.
From the establishment of the first Dutch trading post in 1611, to the end of the Indonesian War of Independence in 1949, the Dutch colonists have left a huge cultural heritage in Western Java. The cities of Batavia (Jakarta), Buitenzorg (Bogor) and Bandoeng (Bandung) were among the most important cities of the Dutch East Indies, but almost every town or village has some historic buildings in colonial architecture. Especially government buildings, post offices, and railway stations are often in a Indo-European hybrid style, and in the last 50 years of the colonial time the New Indies Style was often used.
Buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries were mostly in typical Dutch architecture as was used in the Netherlands in the same period, without many adaptations to the tropical climate. A key example includes the city hall of Batavia (West Jakarta) built in 1707-1710, that was modelled after the town hall of Amsterdam (now the royal palace). The old town hall of Batavia is now the Jakarta History Museum. In the same area, the old town (Kota Tua) in West and North Jakarta, many relics of this period can be found. The presidential palace in the mountains at Cipanas (Puncak), built in 1740, is in a similar style.
After the Dutch state took over from the VOC by 1800, towns developed more and more beyond the walled forts. Batavia's satellite town of Weltevreden was developed, which later became the city centre and is now in Central Jakarta. One of the buildings from that period is the so-called White House (now the Ministry of Finance building), which was inspired by the palace of Versailles. The palace in Bogor (now one of the presidential palaces) was built in a similar Indies Empire style. During the 19th century, Neo Gothic and Neo Renaissance styles, often mixed with local elements, became common. A key example is the Neo-Gothic Jakarta Cathedral (built 1891-1901).
In the 20th century, many colonial buildings were built in Rationalist and Modernist styles. Examples of well-known buildings from this time include the campus of the Bandung Institute of Technology (mixing traditional Indonesian and modern European elements), the art deco Savoy Homann hotel also in Bandung (1939), the modernist Metropole cinema in Central Jakarta, and the rationalist Kejaksan railway station building in Cirebon (1912). Most of the cities and towns of Western Java that were important during the colonial time are along the Great Post Road, the trans-Java road constructed in 1808. The road's western terminus is in Anyer, where also one of the many colonial lighthouses can be visited.
There are also many interesting buildings and monuments from the post-colonial time in Western Java. In Central Jakarta, the impressive Istiqlal Mosque can be found immediately opposite the cathedral from the colonial era. The mosque, completed in 1978, is with a capacity for 200,000 worshippers the largest of Southeast Asia and the national mosque of Indonesia. Another mosque that is also of interest to non-Muslim visitors is the Grand Mosque of Bandung. Although parts of the mosque are older, most of the building has been built during several expansions and renovations. The mosque has two minarets of 81 metres high, and one of them can be accessed during weekends, to have a great view over the city.
In Central Jakarta, also the National Monument (known as Monas) can be found, a 137 m tall obelisk to celebrate Indonesia's independence. Nearby, also the Selamat Datang Monument ('Welcome Monument') can be found, that was built for the Asian Games of 1962 that were held in Jakarta. The town of Rengasdengklok, about 70 km from Central Jakarta, also has a monument that commemorates the 'Rengasdengklok Affair' that took place in the night before the proclamation of Indonesian independence.
There is a wide variety of museums in the region, with of course especially many of them in the capital Jakarta. The National Museum is a archeological, historical, ethnological, and geographical museum in Central Jakarta, including a treasure room filled with gold items. When it comes specifically to colonial history, the Jakarta History Museum in West Jakarta has a larger collection. Other history museums in Jakarta include the Bank Indonesia Museum on monetary and economic history (also in West Jakarta), the Proclamation Museum and Museum Sumpah Pemuda on the struggle for independence (both in Central Jakarta), and Museum Bahari on the history of maritime life and trade in Indonesia as well as the navy (in old Dutch East India Company warehouses in North Jakarta).
Some of the well-known cultural and art museums in Jakarta include Museum Wayang dedicated to Javanese puppetry and the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramic (both in West Jakarta), and the Basoeki Abdullah Museum dedicated to the work of the famous Indonesian painter in South Jakarta.
Another famous museum is the Geological Museum in Bandung, with a collection of 250,000 rocks, minerals, and 60,000 fossils. The famous Gedung Merdeka in the same city is a museum displaying collections and photographs of the Asian–African Conference, the first Non-Aligned Movement that was held there in 1955.
Museums outside these main cities are more limited, but some notable ones include the Linggadjati Conference Museum on the conference during the independence war (in Linggajati), the Old Banten Archaeological Museum on the sultanate (in Banten), the Benteng Heritage Museum on the history of Chinese immigrants in the country (in Tangerang), and the Prabu Geusan Ulun Museum on traditional weaponry (in Sumedang). Some other towns have a local history museum.
With coasts on the Java Sea, the Sunda Strait, and the Indian Ocean, there are many beaches in Western Java. A well-known developed beach town, with many hotels and resorts, is Anyer along the western coast. As this is one of the nearest beaches to Jakarta, is gets very crowded during holidays. However, all of the other towns and villages along the west coast (including Carita and Panimbang) also have beaches, and the further you go to the south, the quieter it gets. With Greater Jakarta being on the Java Sea coast itself, there are also various beaches. Ancol Beach in North Jakarta is the most popular of those, albeit more for its theme parks and seaside restaurants. Other beaches on the north coast are near Pamanukan and Indramayu, and of course the offshore islands of the Thousand Islands National Park.
The most popular beaches of Western Java are along the south coast, on the Indian Ocean. In Ujung Genteng there is a turtle sanctuary at the beach. However, the main draw of the beaches on the south coast are the waves for surfing. The surfing village nearest to Jakarta is Cimaja. In the eastern part of the region, and popular as weekend getaway from Bandung, are the beach town of Pangandaran (also known for its fish market) and the village of Batu Karas. Surfing is also well possible on the beaches of Ujung Kulon National Park and its offshore island of Panaitan, but these can only be reached by boat.
Hiking is a popular activity in the natural areas of Western Java. Many of the (active) volcanoes can be climbed, with the most popular being the two highest mountains of the region: Mount Ciremai in the east, and the twin peaks of Mount Gede Pangrango National Park near Bogor. The Parahyangan region has several volcanoes with excellent hiking trails, such as Mount Guntur and Mount Papandayan near Garut and Mount Tangkuban Perahu near Lembang. The latter can also be accessed by car.
Other options for hiking, that are not centred around volcanoes, can be found in the Ujung Kulon National Park, both on the Java mainland and on Panaitan Island, and in the area where the Baduy people live. This almost impenetrable jungle area can be reached from the town of Rangkasbitung in Banten. Obviously, for shorter hikes there are good possibilities throughout the region, such as along the south coast, through the rice fields of the North Coast region, or along the strawberry fields of Ciwidey.
The best conditions for surfing in Western Java are during the dry season, roughly from April to October. All of the well-known surf breaks are along the south coast on the Indian Ocean, although surfing is also possible at the west coast on the Sunda Strait (such as at Tanjung Lesung near Panimbang). The most popular surfing towns and villages can be found in the vicinity of Pelabuhan Ratu south of Jakarta (including the surfing villages of Sawarna, Cimaja, and Ujung Genteng), and at Pangandaran in the southeast of the region (including the village of Batu Karas). All of these towns and villages have a surfing atmosphere and related facilities, such as board rental and surf schools. Some of the surf breaks may get crowded during weekends and holidays, but in general the waves are relatively uncrowded, especially when compared to Bali.
In addition to the surfing towns, there are various off-the-beaten-track surfing spots. Famous surf breaks are in the Ujung Kulon National Park. However, as there are no roads in the national park, these can only be reached by boat, or on foot. The offshore island of Panaitan, part of the national park, has a few spectacular breaks, including so-called Apocalypse and One Palm Point.
The large cities, especially Greater Jakarta and Bandung, have a wide range of modern shopping malls. Some of the largest shopping malls, that offer many famous Indonesian and international shops and cafés, include Pondok Indah Mall in South Jakarta, Mal Taman Anggrek in West Jakarta, Grand Indonesia Shopping Town in Central Jakarta, Summarecon Mall Bekasi in Bekasi, and Trans Studio Mall and Paris Van Java in Bandung. Most upper-class malls can be found in the business districts of Central and South Jakarta.
Some other shopping centres, and also most shopping malls in smaller cities and towns, have less international shop brands, and wider selections of bargain clothing, fake designer wear, etc. The epitome of this type of shopping centre can be found in the Mangga Dua area of North Jakarta, where four interlinked malls offer a huge range of cheap clothes, electronics, and more. Similarly-priced usually fake branded clothes can be found in the Factory Outlet stores, which can be found in abundance not only in Greater Jakarta, but also in Bandung and the Puncak area.
In general, shops in the cities are open from about 10:00 to 22:00. In smaller towns and residential neighbourhoods, most shops open earlier and close earlier as well.
In the cities, and especially in the Greater Jakarta area and Bandung, a huge range of food is available at thousands of eating venues, from hawkers and modest streetside warung foodstalls to high-end fine dining restaurants. Because of immigration from across the Indonesian archipelago to the cities of Western Java, many traditional types of food from all regions of Indonesia can be easily found. In addition to the regional food from Western Java (see below), traditional Padang restaurants from West Sumatra can be found in most towns, and also Javanese food (from Central and East Java) is ubiquitous, including low-budget Warteg (Warung Tegal) foodstalls.
In the urban areas, also foreign food is widely available. The Chinese Indonesian minority operates Chinese restaurants throughout the region, and Western fast food chains are present in most of the cities and in Jakarta's vast suburbs. In the city centres and shopping malls of Greater Jakarta, Bandung, Bogor and other larger cities, Japanese, Korean, and Italian restaurants can be easily found, as well as steak houses.
With the majority of the population being Muslim, most eating venues follow Islamic dietary requirements. Therefore, pork is generally not eaten, and also Western fast food chains such as McDonald's and Pizza Hut do not serve pork. However, various Chinese and Western-style restaurants mainly in Jakarta and Bandung do serve pork, as well as some eating venues operated by people from non-Muslim ethnic groups (for example Balinese, Batak, and Minahasa).
West Java is best known for Sundanese food, which unusually for Indonesia places a special emphasis on fresh or even raw ingredients. The quintessential Sundanese dish is nasi timbel, which consists of rice wrapped up in a banana leaf, an assortment of raw vegetables known as lalapan (a term that covers cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, coriander leaves, cabbage and more), a freshly pounded chili sauce known as sambal dadak, some tofu or tempeh and maybe a chicken leg, catfish (ikan lele) or some salted fish. This is commonly served with sayur asam, a sour vegetable soup flavored with tamarind. A textural specialty of Sunda (West Java) is karedok, a fresh salad made with long beans, bean sprouts, and cucumber with a spicy sauce. Other Sundanese dishes include mie kocok which is a beef and egg noodle soup, and soto Bandung, a beef and vegetable soup with daikon and lemon grass. A hawker favourite is kupat tahu (pressed rice, bean sprouts, and tofu with soy and peanut sauce). Colenak (roasted cassava with sweet coconut sauce) and ulen (roasted brick of sticky rice with peanut sauce) are dishes usually eaten warm.
The cuisine of the Betawi people of Jakarta has over the centuries been influenced by the regional immigrants from all over the Indonesian archipelago, as well as Chinese, Indian, Arab, and European traders, visitors and immigrants. Examples of popular Betawi dishes include soto betawi (beef offals in milky broth), ketoprak (tofu, vegetables and rice cake served with peanut sauce) and kerak telor (spiced coconut omelette). Many Sundanese dishes are also part of the Betawi cuisine, sometimes with just minor differences.
Apart from the general regional cuisines as explained above, many towns and cities are well known for a specific type of produce, snack, or dish. Various towns are known for their fruit production. In the mountian region of Ciater and Subang, pineapples are produced and widely sold in roadside stalls. In the mountains on the other side of Bandung, in the Ciwidey region, strawberries are popular. The lowland region of Indramayu on the north coast is known for its mangoes, and the Jakarta suburb of Depok is known as the 'city of starfruit'. The mountain town of Lembang has been known as a centre of cow milk production since colonial times.
The city of Bogor has a few famous local dishes, including asinan Bogor (a pickled fruit dish with a hot and sour vinegar and chili sauce, sprinkled with peanuts) and soto mie Bogor (Bogor-style noodle soup). The southern region of Cianjur and Sukabumi is known for specific styles of bubur ayam (chicken rice congee). Several cities in the region have their own specific type of satay (sate), such as sate maranggi (motton or beef satay marinated with soy sauce, ginger, and coriander) in Purwakarta. The city of Cirebon is nicknamed 'city of shrimps', and indeed well known for its seafood. However, also other local dishes are popular, such as nasi jamblang: a buffet with dishes such as tofu vegetables, liver or meat stews, potatoes, fried eggs, cooked chili, stewed fish, etc. The city of Tasikmalaya's most famous dish is nasi tutug oncom (rice mixed with fermened soy bean tailings).
Local snacks that can usually be bought both in roadside stalls and in city centre (souvenir) shops include the dodol snack in Garut (a sticky sweet made of coconut milk, jaggery, and rice flour), the galendo snack (made of coconut milk) in Ciamis, and tahu Sumedang (a style of deepfried tofu) in Sumedang. The town of Rengasdengklok is known for a special green-coloured pancake snack, serabi hijau.
Obviously, in all of the coastal regions, fish and seafood is popular. Apart from the main port cities North Jakarta, Cilegon/Merak and Cirebon, there are busy fishing ports, markets and auctions among others in Labuan, Pelabuhan Ratu, and Pangandaran.
Tap water is not potable in Western Java, just as in the rest of Indonesia. Water or ice served in restaurants and roadside stalls is usually purified or boiled, or bottled mineral water (known as Aqua after the best-known brand). Quite a few Indonesians believe that cold drinks are unhealthy, so specify dingin when ordering if you prefer your water, bottled tea or beer cold, rather than at room temperature.
Coffee and tea
Both kopi (coffee) and teh (tea) are popular in Western Java. Coffee is usually in the form of kopi tubruk, ground coffee with sugar and boiling water. You will need to let the grounds settle to the bottom of the cup before you drink it. Coffee with milk is also common, and so are instant coffee mixes (usually already mixed with sugar and milk powder). Coffee without sugar is very uncommon. Ask for kopi pahit (bitter coffee) or kopi tanpa gula (coffee without sugar), or even better use both phrases to make sure, as vendors are not used to it and may be reluctant to serve coffee without sugar because it is deemed odd. In the larger cities and shopping malls, coffeehouses such as Starbucks and local chain J.CO are plenty. Es kopi (iIce coffee) is available in most venues.
While the Javanese and many other ethnic groups in Indonesia like their tea very sweet, the Sundanese population of Western Java is used to drinking tea without sugar. Order teh manis to get sweet tea, and teh tawar (plain tea) for tea without sugar. Es teh manis (sweet iced tea) is also common, also in the form of many branded flavoured iced teas. In the mountains of West Java (mainly the Parahyangan region), many food stalls offer teh tawar for free when ordering a meal.
With the influx of people from all over Indonesia to Western Java, and especially to the Greater Jakarta area, traditional drinks from all regions can easily be found. However, there are a few traditional beverages that originate from the Western Java area, mostly as part of the Sundanese kitchen.
Bandrek is a hot, sweet and spicy beverage with ginger, palm sugar, and cinnamon, with sweetened condensed milk or coconut milk. It is commonly consumed in the mountanins of Western Java, to warm up during nights or cold weather. As such, it is for example a popular drink in the mountain resort area of Puncak. In the city of Bandung it is common to add pieces of young coconut to the drink. A somewhat similar drink is bajigur, of which the main ingredients are palm sugar and coconut milk, and often vanilla. The drink is often accompanied by a fried banana snack.
Considering the tropical temperatures, cool and iced beverages are very popular as well. In Jakarta, es selendang mayang is a drink with jackfruit, pandan leaves, palm sugar, coconut milk, and ice cubes. Es bir ("ice-cold beer") is a drink from Bogor with water, clove, cinnamon, sugar and ginger, that looks like beer (yellow with white foam) but does not contain alcohol. Es doger is a drink from Bandung, consisting of sweet coconut milk-based ice in pink syrup, with tapioca pearls, avocado, and jackfruit. Fresh fruit juices are common throughout the region, but with some regions especially well-known for specific fruit plantations, also juices of those fruits are more popular there. For example, mango juice is very popular in Indramayu, and strawberry juice is common in Ciwidey. A relatively uncommon type of fruit juice is starfruit juice, that is most popular in Depok.
In most of the villages and neighbourhoods of the region, nightlife is limited to streetside warung foodstalls and coffee shops that open late or even 24 hours, or that open only in the night. Alcohol is usually not served in such places, except in touristic areas such as the warung in the beach towns on the south coast, such as Pangandaran.
In the large cities, especially Jakarta and Bandung, there are many upscale bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, as well as various nightclubs. Bintang beer is the most popular drink. Many bars also serve imported beers and spirits, but prices are high. The most popular nightlife areas among expats and tourists include Kemang and Blok M in South Jakarta, and the Dago area in North Bandung. The Mangga Besar and Glodok areas of West Jakarta, among others, have a seedier type of nightlife with a fairly high number of prostitutes. Beachside cafés in the main tourist towns on Western Java's south and west coasts. Along the north coast, tourism and nightlife is more limited, with the exception of Ancol Beach in North Jakarta.
Karaoke (KTV) venues are ubiquitous in Greater Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, and Cirebon, and can also be found in most of the other cities. Note that some karaoke bars are in fact brothels, and regular KTV venues can be recognised by being branded 'family karaoke', the most well-known chains including NAV, Inul Vizta, and Happy Puppy.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Budget||Less than Rp500,000|
|Splurge||More than Rp1,000,000|
The large cities of Western Java, including Greater Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, and Cirebon, all have a wide range of accommodations, ranging from cheap and simple losmen to luxurious five-star hotels. Many of the large Indonesian and international hotel chains can be found in these cities. Also the touristic areas (e.g. Anyer on the west coast, the Puncak mountain pass, the volcano and hot spring towns of Lembang, Ciater, and Garut, and the south coast beach of Pangandaran) offer a wide variety of options, such as hotels and bungalows. In smaller towns off the tourist trail, accommodation is usually limited to a few mid-range hotels aimed at domestic business travellers, and budget guesthouses.
- Budget: Losmen or penginapan are accommodations with basic facilities. This type of accommodation can be found throughout the region. In Central Jakarta, a street well-known to backpackers is Jalan Jaksa, with prices from as low as Rp30,000. While some losmen have dormitory rooms, most have private rooms. Shared bathrooms are often with squat toilets and without hot water. Losmen are usually fan-cooled and have no air conditioning. In addition to losmen, the cities and most towns also have cheap hotels, of varying quality. In the largest cities, many budget chain hotels are being developed, of brands including favehotel, amaris, and ibis Budget. Note that many mid-range hotels offer large discounts outside peak seasons, so they may be an equally cheap and more comfortable alternative to losmen or budget hotels.
- Mid-range hotels are easily found in all parts of Greater Jakarta as well as all other larger cities and along major roads. Many hotels are independent, but in the large cities and increasingly also in smaller cities, chain hotels are being developed. Hotels of various well-known international brands, such as ibis and Novotel, are plenty in Greater Jakarta, Bogor, and Bandung. In tourist areas along the west and south coasts, as well as in the mountains of Puncak and Lembang, in addition to mid-range hotels also similarly-priced bungalows and villas are available.
- Splurge: Five-star hotels can mainly be found in Central Jakarta, but also South Jakarta, Bogor, and Bandung have their fair shares. Anyer on the west coast has several luxurious beach resort hotels, and Puncak has mountain resort hotels.
Weather and natural disasters
There are active volcanoes throughout Western Java. The most recent explosive eruption was in 2002, when Mount Papandayan near Garut erupted. However, many volcanoes show various levels of activity and may erupt at any time. The National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) monitors volcanic activity and issues warnings in case of heightened activity. Follow instructions, evacuation orders, and volcano access road closures issued by local authorities at all time.
In the event of earthquakes, hide under sturdy objects if indoors or run outside if near the door, and stay away from tall objects if outdoors. Any earthquake bigger than a 6.5 magnitude that lasts a long time usually triggers a tsunami warning (usually by siren or loudspeaker). Even if you don't hear a warning, if you feel a persistent and violent shaking, get away from the coast and seek higher land immediately. Western Java's west and south coast are most prone to tsunamis, and evacuation routes and shelters are clearly marked (usually in both Indonesian and English).
Western Java is prone to heavy rain with thunderstorms and (sometimes swirling) winds, especially during the rainy season, which is at its height from December to February. Landslides occur in mountain slopes or cliffs, and flooding can be serious, also in Jakarta. While there are rarely weather reports in any form of media, it's a good idea to pack an umbrella if it is said to rain or be vigilant for any signs of incoming storm, such as dark, towering and puffy clouds. In heavy rain when there is an accumulation of volcanic ash in recently erupted volcanoes, it can result in lahar dingin (a very dangerous of slurry with stones and boulders).
Traffic is highly congested and very chaotic in most of Western Java, especially in the Greater Jakarta area, in Bandung, and along major thoroughfares. Traffic discipline is poor. It is not adviseable to drive your own vehicle when you have no experience with driving in Indonesia's urban areas. When involved in an accident, other involved persons or bystanders (or even police officers, see Corruption below) may ask for compensation, irrespective whether this is justified or not.
Road conditions in remote areas may be poor. The main highways as well as roads in urban areas are generally of acceptable quality, but potholes are common especially during or just after the rainy season. Major flooding and landslides may make roads impassible.
While robbery, theft and pickpocketing are common especially in crowded places, such as on public transport and in markets (and especially in Jakarta), travellers are not very likely to become involved in violent crime. Avoid flashing large sums of money or expensive items. Beware of thieves on public transport, and keep your doors locked at all times when travelling by car. For taxis, make sure to book or hail a taxi from a reputable company (as mentioned above in the Get around section), especially at night. Unlicensed taxis are often in poor conditions, and drivers are known to extort or rob passengers.
Western Java is, just as the rest of Indonesia, notorious for corruption. Officials, including police officers, may ask for bribes. In case of minor traffic violations, police officers often demand a 'fine' (bribe) to be paid on the spot. Generally, being polite, smiling, asking for an official receipt, and/or pretending that you don't understand the request, may avoid more problems.