After spending a day in Jakarta, we headed to Bogor for the next leg of our trip.

Getting There

It takes about an hour to reach Bogor from Jakarta. But, you can add an extra hour and a half when the traffic builds up. We left Jakarta at noon and missed its infamous rush hour traffic by a couple of hours. I was happy to leave Jakarta and looked forward to sleepy (that’s what I thought back then) idyllic Bogor. I sipped Mama Roz’s carrot and orange extract and listened to Demi Lavato (& Clean Bandit) blare on the taxi radio. Towering urbanscapes slowly transformed into dense, green foliage. I felt optimistic.

Around Botani Square

Botani Square is at the heart of the city centre. It’s got a nice mall, IPB Convention Centre (the venue for Basil’s conference), a choice of luxury hotels, and Bogor’s biggest tourist draw: the Botanic Gardens. We spent the next 3 days in Bogor and decided to take each day as it comes. In hindsight, there couldn’t be a more terrible plan. Most tourist attractions require a day trip outside the city and guided tours are the best way to explore. Stay away from the city centre to escape the manic traffic it draws during rush hour. There’s a dimly lit underpass and a pedestrian bridge (inconveniently located), but most locals prefer crossing with buzzing cars around them. We tried it, but it can get scary during peak hours.

Our hotel (Amaroossa Royal) was located on the opposite side of Botani Square. At first, I was happy with its location. After a day in the hot sun, zipping traffic, and inconvenient crossings; I had change of heart.

Basil and I explored Botanic Gardens on the first day and on the next two days, I spent most of my time at the mall or reading Orhan Pamuk’s book. Sadly, during one of my pedestrian bridge crossing adventures, I was nearly robbed by Mr. QuickHands, and I couldn’t be more thankful to a stranger who saw it happen and had the presence of mind to shout, “Bag!”. I was too stunned to scream when I faced the man, who pretended as if nothing had happened. Now, this can happen anywhere, and I wouldn’t want to hold it against the place, and I tried to concentrate on the ‘good’ people I had met so far. But, it was never the same whenever I crossed the bridge or was alone. I felt more at ease in the mall and even had my first solo movie (Loving Pablo) outing.

Getting Around

The heat makes distances seem longer and I struggled to walk in the morning sun. Taxis are the most comfortable mode of transport. Most locals prefer angots (green minivans), ojeks (motorcycle rides), or buses. On our way to Botanic Gardens, we gave in to the heat, and stopped an angot. The driver was very friendly and spoke broken English. Inside, after Basil sat down, there wasn’t much space. It was round 7000 IDR (for 2 people) from Botani Square to the main entrance of Botanic Gardens.

Bogor’s Chinatown 

Indonesian bloggers are pretty active on the blogging circuit and I found their tips to be quite helpful. I read about Chinatown (bang opposite the main entrance of the gardens) on a blog. We didn’t explore much and just saw the outer gates of the town.

Botanic Gardens

There’s an entrance (Gate 4) next to Botani Square, but this entrance is open only on the weekends and public holidays.

So, we had to enter from the main entrance (Gate 1) of Botanic Gardens. There’s a visitor centre and I picked up an information brochure & map. The security is pretty strict because of the Presidential Palace inside.

Bogor Botanic Gardens was established during Dutch colonial rule, in 1817, by German Botanist, Casper Georg Carl Reinwardt. Back then, the gardens were known as  ‘s Lands Plantentuin the Buitenzorg and were developed for studying and introducing economically viable plants to Indonesia. 

Bogor Presidential Palace

We took a roundabout route to reach the Presidential Palace. In the morning, gardeners were busy mowing lawns and watering plants. They were kind enough to shut the sprinklers as we passed by. Water lilies glistened in the morning sun and added a pop of colour to the pond.

Bogor Presidential Palace was built for the governor general during Dutch colonial rule. Visitors aren’t allowed to enter the Palace (one of the six Presidential Palaces in Indonesia) and we had to make do with the scenic views on the outside.

Bogor’s King Tree

The King Tree, a member of the legumunosae family, is the tallest tree in Southeast Asia. We fell in love with the towering bark (disappearing way above us) and ginormous roots of the tree. The sun felt miles away under the shade of the towering tree.

The roots of the tree grow over the surface of the soil for easy absorption of nutrients. This tree was planted in 1914 and it must have seen history change dramatically around it.

We came across an ancient stone plaque and idols of Hindu gods.

Walking Around

We followed the inner trail of the gardens and discovered a secluded pond with a ginormous banyan tree. The shade kept us cool and it was a beautiful place to explore. It was hard to imagine the bustling city that lay outside this natural gem.

En route we spotted stunning flowers and picturesque themed gardens. We followed the trail — wherever our feet lead us.

Meksiko Garden

The Meksiko Garden has a fantastic collection of cactii, a greenhouse, and flowering plants. This garden is adjacent to the busy street — on the other of the wall. I smiled at one of the gardeners and he said, “Madam beautiful”. I wondered if he was talking about the garden or me.

Without towering trees for protection, we had to face our nemesis: the sun. I like graffiti/street art, but I’m not a fan of vandals who write on garden plants (or heritage structures). Love is ephemeral and we’re only there until our bodies return to the earth, so what’s the point of writing down your name when it’s going to fade away someday? Who’s going to remember who you were or what you did?

Read before you sit!

We took a break in the shade and Basil checked his email while I flicked ants off the bench. Bogor is also known as the Rain City of Indonesia and I hoped for rain.

The Bridge Crossing

There’s a short bridge crossing that connects the Mexican Garden to the other side. I was a bit nervous to cross the suspension bridge and tried hard not to look below — until I reached safely to the other side.

Climbing Plants Collection

The ‘Creeping Forest’ had towering trees with creepers winding around them. We spotted a yellow oriole fly, but Basil wasn’t quick enough to capture it on camera.

Hidden Birds 

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The shade was a relief from the sun and we spotted another interesting bird. I don’t know its name, but it does a wonderful job of camouflaging itself with green leaves.

Searching for Rafflesia Patma

We followed the signboard that pointed towards Rafflesia Patma. We came across an interesting set of creepers and flowers along our way. We couldn’t find it and decided to turn back. This time, we followed another route that passed a settlement for forest officers. I only heard the (strong) rustling of leaves and Basil (he thinks) spotted a monitor lizard. Honestly, I was happy the lizard was scared and ran away — before I froze in fright. Basil was disappointed we couldn’t include Komodo National Park in our trip, but he was happy with this chance sighting, even if it was a smaller lizard.

Aquatic Garden

It was too early for us to have lunch, but we couldn’t stand much longer in the heat. We walked around the green lawns of the Aquatic Garden.

The water lilies looked absolutely stunning.

Grand Garden Cafe

Grand Garden Cafe lies on the top of the hill and offers splendid views of the lawns below. Photographs of presidents, heads of state, and dignitaries adorn the walls of the restaurant. We were happy to get a place under the fan and eat another delectable meal.

Basil ordered Ayam Bakar Tali Wang & I ordered Nasi Goreng Ayam.

Local Market

We had to retrace our path (back to main entrance) to exit the gardens because Gate 4 was shut and we missed Gate 3. En route, we saw a black squirrel on a tree and passed some houses. The local market, outside the Botanic Gardens, has a couple of souvenir and Batik shops.

Sunset Views

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Surprisingly, the sun sets very early (around 6 p.m.) in the month of July. We saw gorgeous sunsets almost every single evening.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

21 replies on “Bogor’s Zipping Ojeks & Invisible Monitor Lizards

  1. The scenery is truly breathtaking and that sunset left me speechless! Bogor has so much to offer. Is a day trip to there enough to see all the highlights?

    1. Thanks, Lydia. 🙂 If you want to explore tourist places around Bogor, you may need 2 or 3 days. The Botanic Gardens can be explored in half a day. So, it really depends on what you like to see. The island of Java is so incredible that it’s hard to decide between natural and cultural wonders.
      Hope this helps! 🙂

  2. Grand garden cafe looks like an interesting place to sit, eat and chat. I guess you guys love nature and find such places everywhere you visit. I was just wondering whether your “better” half also clicks your picture, Cheryl? 😉

    1. Yep! We love nature, Arvind. 🙂 Can’t get enough of it around us. My better half used to click pictures of me before we started our blog. Our early posts had barely any pictures of Basil. Gradually, I started clicking pictures too and Basil came in the frame un/intentionally. 🙂

      1. Your​ pictures are pretty good, Cheryl. I’m sure you will have something to cherish a few years down the lane with Basil making an appearance in these pictures. 😁

  3. It sounded like you did so much on your trip to Bogor! The town does have quite a city that looks similar to Jakarta, but perhaps not so manic even though you said it’s manic… (I remember when I visited Jakarta you could be stuck in traffic jams for up to an hour). That experience at the Botanic Gardens was scary – almost got robbed and anyone could have been harmed :O That stranger was very nice to alert you. When I traveled through Indonesia I was always advised not to bring out a bag with me and keep things in my pockets, and to be honest like you I felt more at ease in the malls.

    All the gardens do look very peaceful, quite a world away from the rush-hour metropolis. I think the gardener was saying you look beautiful XD

    1. Haha…actually, we barely did anything in Bogor. There’s so much more to see! Bogor seemed smaller than Jakarta (in scale). Many people travel from Bogor to Jakarta for work and that’s why the traffic builds up. I nearly got robbed at the overhead bridge (not the botanic gardens) actually. I should have held my bagpack in front of me. 🙂 Hadn’t read about such incidents online.
      Where all did you travel in Indonesia? It’s such a fantastic country and its diversity so appealing for an outsider.
      You read that bit about the gardener! lol. Always good to hear from you, Mabel!

      1. It already seemed like you did quite a bit in Bogor, going to the gardens and all 🙂 I’ve been to Jakarta a few times and Central Java. It really is a very diverse country and one where you have to be patient and cover quite a bit of ground getting to the sights 🙂

      2. Really? I never knew you visited Indonesia. 🙂 Have you written a post? I like countries with diversity. It gives us more to think about. 🙂

      3. Now that you mention it, no, I’ve never written about visiting Indonesia. In fact, I prefer to keep most of my travels private 🙂 Diversity is such a great thing and so much to learn from it 🙂

  4. Even though your title had the word “invisible” in it, I was afraid you might have slipped a photo of a monitor lizard in here! There is NOTHING that freaks me out more than those creatures (or a Komodo dragon). The outdoor scenes were my favorites here (no surprise), with the water lilies and the bridge and the trees (those roots!) all softening the fact that you were in a busy place. Indonesia seems so inaccessible for me – so far, so foreign, and kind of intimidating. Glad to enjoy it a bit through your posts!

    1. Basil was excited and I was so scared. It did sound like a large animal. The human settlement had chickens and it could have come for them. But, I really want to visit Komodo Park. It’s on our list! 🙂 The gardens were stunning and an oasis in the middle of a city. I hope I painted an accurate picture of Indonesia. It is a stunning country and I wish we had spent more time exploring the villages and mountains.

  5. Sorry to hear about your near-snatch experience. It would have really spoilt your holiday had your bag been snatched. We unsuspecting travellers have undergone the same experience at one time or other.

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