Fresh Air, Clear skies, cool breeze, winding mountain paths, friendly people, great food, pulsating rivers, adventures, breakfast with a view from your private villa, who would not want all of these things in a quick and easy getaway from the organized chaos of Jakarta. This all is within reach; the great escape, Puncak Pass. Only one thing stands in its way of being the perfect getaway and that is getting there. 75km of toll roads and narrow streets lie between you and a relaxing and truly peaceful experience.
Once you exit the toll road at Ciawi you enter what once was natures back garden. Today for better or for worse the streets are lined with shops, banks, restaurants, cafes, petrol stations, vegetable stalls, mechanics and all the other modern conveniences you might be trying to escape. Yet when you turn off this lively thoroughfare you find yourself amongst tea plantations and rolling hills that are dotted with understated homes and holiday villas.
Before you get to your villa you might be in need of something to eat, if so there are a couple of popular destinations, Raffles restaurant stands near to base of the pass and offers a wide variety of Sundanese and Western food. Service is good and it provides a good view of the hills lying in front of you. Cimory Resto is a very popular destination for families and belongs to the famous Indonesian milk company, the milkshakes and yogurts are particularly good and the service is surprisingly quick. The restaurant that boasts the best view has to be Rindu Alam, which is perched near the top of the pass and allows a splendid view over the valley below.
Many visitors come here in somewhat of a spiritual journey and their destination is the grand Mosque that sits near the top of the pass. Reaching new heights spiritually or otherwise is also offered at this altitude, as there is the base for Paragliding on the hill adjacent to the Mosque. It is a wonderful sight to see these fliers take off and majestically sail through the currents making their way to the tea plantations below.
People come here for a mixture of things, relaxation, adventure and even business. Many of the hotels double as convention centers offering outward-bound team building activities amongst the natural surroundings. These activities are also open to individuals and smaller groups with hotels acting as agents in selling the activities, so if you are interested in rafting, x-cross motorcycling, 4 x 4 rallying, hill trekking, mountain biking, fishing, horse riding, paragliding and pretty much anything else you have in mind, it is here.
The biggest attraction in the area is by far Taman Safari providing an up close and personal viewing of some Asia’s rarest and wildest animals. The park has gone through many transformations and each one has improved the experience for both visitor and animal. In addition there is now a water park that ensures this to be a sure fire success with the kids. They have also taken great lengths to make this an active experience for the family not just drive through the park and watch, we highly recommend the bird enclosure as you can get very close to some amazingly exotic species. The best advice is, go early as during the school holiday season traffic has the potential to destroy the experience for all.
Another popular destination is Taman Bunga Nusantara a 35-hectare celebration of colorful and exceptional floral classes. It is still in the Puncak area yet getting there is a 10 km trip down roads, which have not been resurfaced in many years. It effect is what should be a 20 minute drive will take over an hour. Upon arrival you feel like you are entering a theme park, as there are tram rides and a couple of limited spectacles to enjoy. Again this is a children friendly area and there are lots things to see and explore. Entrance is Rp 20,000 per person and operational hours are from 8am to 5pm on weekdays and 8am to 5.30pm at weekends and on special holidays. It is a large area to cover on foot and during the days it is hot so you might want to consider paying an extra Rp 25,000 per person to take the tram around the park.
When the sun sets and most tourist attractions have closed the hills become alive with flickering lights leading the now chilly tourists to the roadside cafes for hot drinks and great views leading down the valley. These cafes, built on stilts on the steep inclines at the side of the road, have been providing hot drinks and snacks for over 20 years and you get a real feel of this as the floorboards uncomfortably creak and bow as you walk to the window seats. Barbequed corn on the cob smothered in chili sauce or sweet dressing is the local delicacy, mixed with steaming black tea it fits perfectly as you enjoy the nightly drop in temperatures. People also come to these parts to enjoy another local culinary tradition, rabbit satay. Better not mention this to the kids.
A word of warning, education, interest is needed at this juncture, you will see many young ladies frequenting these road side cafes in the small hours, shall we just say that they too are on the menu for those so inclined.
Where to stay in Puncak? Is a great question and to be honest one with many many answers. If you arrive without any reservations you will be delighted to see men lining the streets with signs reading VILLAS, as you can expect you never quite know what to expect with this type of accommodation. These people will collect a finders’ fee from the owner of the villa so they want to make sure you pick a place with them which does make them a bit pushy and using the hard sell. Yet if you are the best prepare before hand with some reservations let us suggest some places.
Safari Garden – Great Hotel, wonderful accommodation, very close to Taman Safari and offers a Tram service to the park.
Via Renette – Perfect for the Family, clean, reasonably priced, wide range of facilities – 2 pools, free cinema, fishing, futsal, badminton, business center
Bukit Talita – Best View of the valley, interesting accommodation, good service