Monday, December 22, 2014
AT THE CRATER’S EDGE
Arriving here with a minimum of fuss, I took a walk through the quaint town surrounded by misty mountain landscape and lush green tea plantations to familiarize myself with the layout. It’s a city with some character that’s for sure; embracing all this is good hospitality, from the warm welcome of a Hotel door, restaurant or shop owner, to the friendly Indonesian who’ll help you find your way. Interestingly this capital of West Java province, Bandung in ancient times was known as Parijs van Java (Dutch) or “Paris of Java”, needless to add I spent the entire afternoon browsing the different Factory Outlets of expensive brands (read Louis Vuitton, Burberry etc.) starting off with Cascade and moving on to the best one in the evening which was Rumah Moda, for the best designs and prices.
Next morning we embarked in our car at the break of dawn, with a hot cup of Javanese coffee. We drove down thirty kilometres north to the fabled crater of Mt. Tangkuban Perahu (translates into upturned boat in Sundanese), which happens to be the only ‘drive-up’ volcano on the island. The road entered an enchanted pine forest and two kilometres after that: right on the crest was a marked turnoff to the left; and just when I thought we were lost on the serpentine road, the crater revealed itself in all its splendour. The first thing to strike me on the approach to the summit was the stench of sulphur, which reminded me of rotten eggs. Once at the crater rim we had a beautiful view down below into the bubbling grey liquid at the bottom. That said, do not be fooled by its quiet demeanour, it is very much active though it has not vented its fury lately. It is believed that mild eruptions occurred in 1969, when Kawah Ratu spewed ash 500m high. This mountain has 3 craters; Kawah Ratu (Queen's Crater), Kawah Domas and Kawah Upas. We only got the chance to see Kawah Ratu as to see the other two craters; we had to hike through mountain trails and I certainly wasn’t up to it.
published in Hm's Food & Wine