My visit to Bogor Indonesia – eating durian and other things
One of the first big trips I took a trip to Bogor, Indonesia to visit my friend Herwanto in his hometown for a week before flying off to Bali where I would close out the remainder of my 30-day visa. I had met my friend in high school, the peak of my online gaming “career”. We became good friends and stayed in touch outside of the game long after we both quit playing. When I told him I would be visiting Indonesia he happily offered to let me stay in his guest bedroom and even to pick me up from the airport! After the long flight from LAX, I was happy to take him up on the offer.
Bogor is a city located on the island of Java roughly 40 miles south of Jakarta. Before I went I expected it would be a small town with light development, but I was wrong! It turns out Bogor is located in the Jakarta urban area. Situated on the most populated island in the world it boasts a population of over 1,000,000, and a density comparable to Los Angeles.
As with most developing countries, there is a sharp divide between the rich and poor in Indonesia. Bogor is no exception with crumbling shacks and modern high-rises occupying neighboring blocks. This economic gap was most apparent when sampling the local Indonesian cuisine. My friend was able to introduce a number of delicious, amazing restaurants during my stay. I had the chance to try a lot of delicious food that I would never have known to order if I was traveling alone. We didn’t always eat at expensive restaurants, though. There were many roadside tents and small shops selling congee (a watery rice porridge), or other inexpensive meal.
During my first day in Bogor, we stopped at one of these shops to grab a quick bite to eat. It was here that I experienced a bit of culture shock. The ‘shop’ was really just a couple of tarps strung together to make a 3-sided tent. As the restaurant was situated on the side of a dirt road the tarps were coated with a thick layer of grease and with dirt. As I was sitting under the black tarps and trying not to breathe in the dirt kicked up by passing vehicles, I wondered what my friends and family would say. Unhygienic would be the first thought. Certainly. Luckily I am not a germophobe and have been blessed with an iron gullet – after a moment of comparing this shop to my past dining experiences, I quickly finished the meal. The part that struck me the most was that the congee, which cost under a dollar, was a normal meal for many people. It was tasty but not something I would want to eat day-in-day-out. Since then I have eaten a variety of food from numerous countries but this experience has always stayed fresh in my mind. It taught me to always be thankful that I have the ability to choose what I want to eat each day. Eating for pleasure is a luxury that many people don’t have.
Another interesting food in Indonesia is the Durian fruit. The durian fruit is relatively unknown in the west but is quite popular in Indonesia! The first thing you notice is its striking appearance, a large fruit (often bigger than a football), covered with a hard spiky shell.
Since we are on the topic of food I should mention an interesting bit of etiquette in Indonesia. Your definition of ‘interesting will depend largely on where you hail from obviously.
Although you may see forks and spoons in some restaurants it is more common to eat with your hands here. Food in Indonesia should be eaten with the right hand while the left hand is kept free, and clean, to perform other tasks (such as uploading photos to Instagram). It took some time to get used to using my hands, especially when eating ‘wet food’ like curry. I must have looked pretty timid at the start, but by the end of my trip, I had to admit it was pretty nice to throw out the utensils and not care about getting messy.
Many people have asked me why I visited Bogor, a city that is relatively obscure in the world of international travel. I must admit was a bit skeptical when I hopped on the airplane, and to be honest, the only reason I booked the ticket was to see my friend. While it may not be high on your travel wish list, it turns out there are a number of interesting reasons for tourists to visit Bogor. It has a number of colonial buildings to see and a great selection of traditional food. One of the most famous buildings in the city is the presidential palace. Built in the 1700’s during the Dutch colonial period, it is a striking building that showcases the beauty of colonial design.
Adjacent to the palace is the palace is the Bogor Botanical Gardens. You might not think of botanical gardens as a top tourist destination, but the gardens in Bogor are well worth the trip. The gardens are home to a massive and diverse collection of plants and trees. It even contains a specimen of the legendary Rafflesia Flower, the largest flower in the world. It’s well known for its putrid smell, as well as for its size! Unfortunately, the Rafflesia Flower was not in bloom during my visit to Bogor. This flower has fascinated me since I was a child and I hope to see it in bloom one day! While I was disappointed to have missed the Rafflesia bloom, I was quite happy to experience the rest of the gardens. Walking around under the trees made for a pleasant, relaxing afternoon. The shade from the trees provided a welcomed escape from Indonesia’s insane heat.
A popular activity in Bogor is the day trip to the Taman Safari Park. I skipped visiting the safari park because I had a safari lined up a few days in Bali. If I get the chance to visit again this will definitely go on my to-do list. Another thing you can’t miss are the numerous waterfalls in the area around Bogor. The sparking power of the waterfalls highlights Indonesia’s natural beauty.
Things I would do differently: Visit Indonesia during the cooler months. It wasn’t deal breaking but I wouldn’t recommend visiting in the summer unless you can handle the heat and humidity!
If I visit again I would definitely want to spend more time exploring the areas around the city. The reason for visiting Indonesia should be to experience and explore its lush jungles and pristine beaches.