Category Archives: Java

Pangandaran, West Java

After taking care of a few housekeeping matters in Bandung, I decided to head off on a journey to some Javan destinations. The rough plan was to visit about 5 places in 10 days, but I ended up only visiting Pangandaran on the south coast and Yogyakarta in central Java which is more akin to my normal pace of travel.

Getting from Bandung to Pangandaran is easy. You simply find your way to the bus station in the centre of Bandung called stasiun hall and catch the number 1 city bus to Cicaheum. Buses to Pangandaran depart regularly and tickets for the 7 hour journey can be bought on the spot for about Rp35,000. It’s not a particularly pleasant journey because the condition of the road is poor, but the scenery in parts is stunning.


Pantai Pangandaran
Pantai Pangandaran

So the main reason you go to Pangandaran is for the beach. It’s a grey-looking thing lined with palm trees and it’s really quite picturesque despite the colour of the sand. Few foreigners make it to Pangandaran and you’ll be sharing the main portion of the beach with domestic tourists. Move west along the beach and it suddenly becomes barren and devoid of any human life whatsoever – perfect for a romantic walk along the beach (blergh).

It’s not very safe to swim at the beach due to the large waves and strong currents, but some people give it a go anyway. In the past 12 months, 11 people have drowned there and near-misses are daily occurrences. The lifeguards have a nice, shiny truck that they drive up and down the beach, but I didn’t see them get out of it let alone jump in the water. Maybe they can’t swim…

Whatever the case, the beach is a fantastic place to relax, people watch and surf (if you’re into that sort of thing).


There’s plenty of accommodation in Pangandaran and a basic room with cold water and a squat toilet will set you back around Rp70,000 per night. You can upgrade to an air conditioned room for about Rp100,000 per night. Most of these places cater to Westerners and are located at the far western end of town. The locals all stay in the centre of town and I reckon there’d be some decent cheap options there as well if the Western options are too expensive or not up to scratch.

Green Canyon

Green Canyon, Pangandaran
Green Canyon, Pangandaran

Around the Pangandaran area there are a few cool things to do. Well maybe one. A visit to Green Canyon is a must when visiting Pangandaran. It’s a small canyon with crystal clear turquoise-coloured water where you can hire a boat to take you up to a small swimming area. On the weekends, it’s extremely busy as I found out, but it is still a beatiful place even with the throngs clambering all over the rocks to watch their friends swim. Go here.

Batu Karas

Young Girls on the Beach
Young Girls on the Beach

Batu Karas is a surfing town that is less-heavily touristed than Pangandaran and it’s still relatively undeveloped. To be honest, it feels like a bit of a dump. But this will change as time passes and people invest money into the roads, warungs and seaside infrastructure. Apparently it’s a great place to surf and private lessons can be had for about Rp100,000 per day. I think I might partake in a bit of this later in the year when I’ve got a bit of spare time. Hopefully I can find some more redeeming qualities.

To keep you going, here are a couple of videos I took of Pangandaran and Green Canyon.

So that’s it. Another great tourist destination in Indonesia. If only infrastructure and marketing gave this place a chance. Want Indonesia?

Learning Indonesian Progress Report – Understanding Accents!

Today, for the first time, I realised that I recognise accents in Indonesia. You might think that it’s no big deal, but for me it’s important because it allows me to understand when someone says a word that sounds different to the way I learnt how to say it. Wha? Example.

Pakai. This is the verb people use for “to use” (which is not technically correct anyway!!!) I learnt to say the “ai” part like an American would say “I”. People in West Java say the “ai” like a Brit would say the “ey” bit in “hey”. Then the rest of Indonesia quite often speaks informally and just says “pake” with the “e” sounding like “e” in “egg”. That same principle applies across all the words with “ai” in them and then a range of other words that mean you have no idea what someone is saying, even though you’ve learnt the vocab!

So it’s important. And I have only just realised that I am naturally hearing the different variations in pronunciations without having to think about them. That is fantastic! Real progress.

Pantai or Pantay?
Pantai or Pantay?

The next problem I have to work out is when people are speaking in a mix of English and Indonesian. Most of the time I have absolutely no idea what they are saying when they use English words because I’m concentrating on each word trying to convert each Indonesian word into English in my mind… and then someone gets tricky and slips in an English word with an Indonesian accent. For me, it just sounds like an Indonesian word that I haven’t learnt yet! Pure hell! I reckon it’s better for people to just use one or the other, particularly if their English pronunciation is not quite up to scratch.

Which leads me to my last point — Given that I often have problems understanding Indonesians using English, it’s important for me to make sure my Indonesian pronunciation is spot on if I want to be understood by the vast majority of Indonesians. So I’ll continue to work on that…

What’s your experience with accents in foreign countries?


Arriving in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

I arrived Bandung, West Java, a couple of weeks ago on a high from my enjoyable journey through Singapore and Malaysia. Well, the high actually wore off before I arrived in Bandung. Boarding the plane to Bandung, I was the only white person in line. I was unexpectedly unnerved! I was fidgeting and trying to quell it by slouching and acting cool. On the plane, when the announcements came on in English immediately after the Indonesian version, I imagined everyone was thinking “this is for the white guy”. Of course they weren’t (were they?), but I was becoming unsettled. Arrival at the airport in Bandung provided another unexpected challenge. I had to rely on my limited Bahasa Indonesia skills to negotiate my way through customs and immigration — there was no falling back onto English words when I didn’t know the Indonesian version — no safety net.

Things got worse when I entered the cab. The driver had zero English, it was 11pm and he didn’t know where my hotel was despite saying he did. He took me to Unik Hotel whereas I wanted to go to Unique Hostel. Simple mistake. So we were stuffed. We drove around aimlessly for about 20 minutes before I had a great idea. I’d been looking at Google Maps on my laptop before departing Malaysia and I still had the browser window open. So I fired up my laptop, amazingly zoomed into the address of the hotel and I was able to direct the driver there. It was stressful because the whole saga played out in Indonesian and I’d only just hit the ground.

I settled into the hotel and woke the next morning to a pretty ordinary breakfast. Bread, a sausage with some creamy, moussy stuff in the centre and some coffee. Of course I ate it. That day I walked the 7km up the hill to my language school and got a good sense of where it was in relation to the rest of the city. I also researched a few hotels along the way in case things didn’t work out at Unique Hostel.

The next day I tried to get a motorbike licence from the police station, but the intelligence guys who deal with foreigners told me it wasn’t possible. Likewise, it was impossible to get a post-paid sim card for my phone. I would have to stick with the entirely adequate pre-paid system. That same day I stumbled around some upmarket cafes and got a feel for where I would espcape to if the nasi goreng on the streets got too much.

By this stage, I was settling in and quite happy to take the next 10 days to travel around Java with the confidence that my return to Bandung would be easy. Or would it? Halo Halo Bandung!

A New Chapter – Off to Java

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Learning Indonesian in Java. Well, the days and weeks roll on and I’m on the cusp of departing Australia for an unknown period of time. On the 16th of June I’ll be boarding a plane to Melbourne where I’ll hang out for a few days catching up with old friends and eating some good food. Then on the 19th, I’ll be catching a flight to Singapore where I intend to give this city nation a second chance.

I first went to Singapore in 2009 and really didn’t like it. This time I’m heading to Singapore because that’s where I could get a cheap flight to. My first thought was to burn through there as quickly as possible, but I’ve thought about it a little more and this time I think I’ll stay 4 nights. I’ll walk as much as possible, try to find top eating, decent walking trails and basically do everything I didn’t do last time. If they had a mountain, I’d climb it — but they don’t. So eating and walking will have to do.

Avenue of Lanterns in Singapore
Avenue of Lanterns in Singapore

After Singapore, I’ll head to Kuala Lumpur by bus and then fly to Bandung in Java late in June. I’ll have a couple of weeks to kill in Java before my language course starts and I’ll probably use this time to nick up into the Dieng Plateau and see a few of the natural sites that this part of the island has to offer.

But more importantly than all of these tangible activities, this signifies the start of yet another chapter for me. A quite significant chapter ended for me last year when I headed off to Bali to research and write for travelfish. That was the culmination of a long-term relationship and the start of forging a new path on my own. On reflection, the chapter I have been living over the past 9 months has been transitionary and I met some great people and did some great things along the way such as a fantastic Australian roadtrip. But when I leave Australia this time, I don’t feel like I have a home to come back to (even more so than last time) and that gives me a sense that I may well be away for much longer than the 3 months that the language course will go for — and this means a new chapter is beginning right now.

People on a Mountain
People on a Mountain - One of the wonderful experiences from the last chapter

With that in mind, I look forward to exploring what comes next — hopefully it is filled with happiness, adventure and self-improvement. If I can share that with other like-minded people, that would be great too. Here’s to a new chapter.

Learning Indonesian in Java

Those that have read my blog in the past will have gotten a sense that I love one country over and above all others. It’s a strange love affair I have with Indonesia that even I don’t understand, despite the interludes being frequent and varied. Next month I will once again visit my beloved with a mission to learn a bit more about her.

I can already speak Bahasa Indonesia, the single unifying language of a country that has more than 700 active languages and which is spoken by more more than 200 million people. I currently speak at a level that allows me to go to the markets and buy whatever I need, ask where buses are going to or coming from and discuss the generalities of daily life. But I want more. I know my language skills are deficient when I hear news reports or two friends speaking to each other, only picking up the odd word or two – most of the time I have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. And this probably means that I’m only able to communicate with people because they are speaking slowly and simply so I can understand.

Brooding Gunung Merapi, East Java
Brooding Gunung Merapi, East Java

So I’ve been in contact with a school in the Javan city of Bandung called IMLAC. It’s a Christian school used by missionaries before they head off around the country to do their work. For me, it’ll be about the language aspect and I hope to advance from a basic speaker to a fluent speaker. Bandung is a city located in the hills about 2 hours from Jakarta. A friend of mine lived there for 18months and raved about both the school and the city and ever since I’ve thought about actually doing it myself – and now I am. The plan is for 3 months of full time study and I hope to get myself a nice little house in what the Indonesians would call the kampung – the village.

Muslim Girl
Muslim Girl

At some stage I’d love to learn some other Indonesian languages such as Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese. A staggering 80+ million people speak Javanese. True. That’s probably got something to do with over 130 million (!!!) people living in Java. They pack em in, but still you can find solitude. I can’t wait.

Oh yeah, I want to climb a few volcanoes there as well. Anyone with hot tips for Java?