I’ve been lucky to visit a lot of places in Indonesia. Yet there are lots of places that I’ve never been to. Recently I had the chance to visit Garut in West Java. The area was once known as Swiss Van Java due to the cold climate, and the fact that this part of the highlands is surrounded by mountains. Some locals who I talked to in Garut even told me that Charlie Chaplin once visited the area.
They talked about his two visits to the region – in 1927 and 1935. The photographer Thilly Weissenborn (Margarethe Mathilde Weissenborn) was credited with spreading the word about the natural beauty of West Java back then through brochures and postcards. I can’t imagine how exciting the world was when brochures and postcards were basically the medium for showing people the beauty of a place. Well of course besides word of mouth.
If you’re planning to visit Garut you were probably inspired by more than a postcard 😀 To help you make the most of you time in the region I shortlisted some of the best things you can do, try and see in and around Garut.
The town is surrounded by a series of mountains. They are: Mount Guntur, Mount Papandayan, Mount Cikuray, and Mount Galunggung. We decided to do a short trek on Mount Papandayan. The start of the trek was 1-1,5 hours away from Cipanas. We trekked until the Dead Forest and Mumun, my travel mate, decided that we should go a bit further to Edelweiss Field. It was a nice half day excursion from Garut.
You don’t need to be super fit to do this trek as it is fairly easy. It’s a two hour trek each way. I would recommend to start early like 6 am from Garut as it is a lot nicer to hike in the morning before its becomes too hot.
Besides Papandayan, you can also climb Mount Guntur, and Mount Cikuray. I haven’t climbed either, but looking at some pictures I think it would be nice to climb Mount Guntur and Cikuray. If you are really into climbing (and want to climb more) then Mount Galunggung is just next door in Tasikmalaya.
After trekking in Papandayan, we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring Cangkuang Temple. The temple is closer to the city, probably around 30-45 minutes journey. The temple was founded around 8th century. We really wanted to visit the temple, because it is quite rare to see a temple in West Java.
To reach the temple we have to ride a bamboo raft. The raft is actually very large for a distance that is not too far away, probably around 250 meters. There are two other things that you can do close to the temple; visit the tomb (of Embah Dalem Arief Muhammad who spread Islam in the region), and visit Kampung Pulo.
Kampung Pulo is a settlement has 6 houses and one mosque. The six houses on the island represent the six daughters of Arief Muhammad and the mosque was built to commemorate his son.
The sheep from Garut are a mix of local sheep, African ‘capstaad’, and the Australian ‘merino’ sheep. The sheep are famous in Indonesia for their beauty. We went to a local Garut shepherd for a close up view of the sheep. He explained that not only are the sheep beautiful, but sheep fighting is also a big thing in Garut. To my surprise sheep can be sold for up to Rp 150 million each.
When we visited the sheep we also saw a customised treadmill used for training the sheep.
Most Indonesians connect Dodol to Garut (or the otherway around; Garut to Dodol?). It’s the kind of thing that people will ask you for if you visit Garut. During our visit we met several locals and we talked about the history of Dodol. Apparently it’s quite interesting. We tried to figure out who was the first to make Dodol, but nobody really knows. The snack has been famous since the Dutch era. According to some locals the first person commercialise was a lady named Karsinah. She was probably the first Dodol entrepreneur.
We also talked about why all Dodol sellers use Picnic style packaging (Dodol Picnic is the most well-known brand). One guy said that they don’t actually want to copy it, but they end up doing so because customers associate Dodol with the Dodol Picnic packaging. The colour of the packaging is a pinkish gush kind of color.
We asked the locals we met why Dodol is linked to Garut, but we never received a satisfying answer (if you know, please let us know). Regardless, I love Dodol, but I don’t really like the super sweet one. These are a bit difficult to find. I recommend the Sarinah brand.
You might be curious about what Dodol tastes like. Dodol is a sweet toffee-like sugar palm-based dessert. Dodol is essentially made from coconut milk with sticky rice flour, grated coconut, and brown sugar. Well, this is what original Dodol is made from. There are other options with new flavours like strawberry, durian, etc. The hip thing at the moment is chocolate and Dodol – which is called ‘chocodot.’ This stands for cokelat dodol.
Leather Jacket in Sukaregang
Sukaregang is famous for its leather jackets. I remember that my uncle, who is originally from Garut, would always tell me that it’s the perfect place to buy a leather jacket. The best place to buy a jacket is in Sekaregang, a craft centre, where you can see lines of shops selling all things leather.
This is going to be my next mission when I come to Garut. I would like to find a nice leather jacket! Hopefully I can find one with a nice inner layer which can keep me warm. I wonder if I can also see how they are produced on my next visit.
Where to Stay
We had the opportunity to try Sibentang Wellness Private Villa and it was a unique experience. Besides the fact that the layout, building and ambience are typical Balinese (I almost forget that we were in West Java), the staff were very attentive. I think it was the first time I got asked how I was feeling when I went for breakfast and also received a suggestion on what to eat. It is a new level of luxury I guess.
I’m new to wellness stay concept, but I can say that I had a nice stay and felt fully recharged afterwards. What I love most is the warm pool. To relax in an outdoor warm pool at night before you go to bed is so fantastic. We also experienced a nice morning treatment which started with a leg massage, followed by card reading and gemstone therapy.
Sibentang Wellness Private Villa is part of Sumber Alam Resort. Read my review of Sumber Alam Resort here.
Have you ever stayed in a place like Sibentang Wellness Private Villa? How was your experience? If you have any recommendations on things to do / see in Garut, please let us know in the comments below.