Shazia Khan
After our arrival at the Jakarta international airport in Indonesia, we headed to the city of Bogor.
A relaxed, one and a half hour ride in an air conditioned bus brought us to the hills of Bogor – a pleasantly cool Indonesian city. Like Jakarta, wider roads with fast paced traffic have turned the poor, backward Bogor into a city that attracts a large number of international tourists. Affluent Indonesians have weekend and summer homes there.
Elegant mansions and villas along with striking farm houses constructed with Dutch and Indonesian architecture surrounded by villages and thick forests produce a remarkable scene.
As the bus reached the outskirts of Bogor, people were busy selling and buying fruits, handicrafts, food stuff and decoration glass work.
After leaving the highway market, the bus started to climb a mountainous road. The landscape became greener, and cooler, with a beautiful view of rice fields, palm trees and lush green mountains.
Our destination was Punchuk, a small area of the Bogor city. The driver parked outside the hotel, we had to stay in. A narrow iron bridge over a small stream led down to the hotel, constructed in traditional Dutch villa style with high wooden ceiling and long corridors.
The hotel was situated in middle of large amazing waterfalls. The water seemed to come out of the mountain, covered in lush green vegetation, plunging  15 meters down with a thud. I gazed at the scenery for an hour, before I had dinner and went to sleep.
Next day I woke up early and went for a walk, while walking aimlessly on slopey roads of Punchak. A small ascending path of the village “Happy valley village” continued, provided me with a very arduous climb for an hour and led me through the mist of clouds. The view just kept on getting better as I walked upwards. When I finally got to the top of the hill, the viewpoint offered me an amazing view of this incredible landscape.
I would have spent more time there but the presence of dozens of monkeys, lizards and other unfamiliar animals scared me. While returning I passed through several villages of this town, where people were busy tilling the fertile reddish soil. Many women working in the farms with babies wrapped in blankets slung around their shoulders greeted me with warm smiles, as I passed by.
The houses in the villages are small and colourful, either single or two-storey, with peaked Minangkabau (shingle style) roofs. Every village has one or more mosques, with brightly coloured roofs mostly bordering the green patches of rice fields lined by palm trees.
There are many nice and green areas with old Dutch mansions, where the constant noise of traffic would die down to a distant hum. Though the Dutch left Indonesia several decades ago, its influence on architecture and Indonesian language is clearly visible everywhere – from restaurants to skyscrapers to small beautiful villas. Besides that people have become habitual of using many Dutch words like dokter, apotek, notaris, bioscoop (cinema) to oom (uncle) and tante (aunt). Even the billboards are written in ‘Dutch-English’.
People in Bogor mostly eat outside at small food stalls.  You will find Nasa (rice) in most of the cuisine in Bogor. Bedises being the staple food, rice is the main ingredient in many desserts and beverages. They even serve it with all types of sea food and various other meats such as chicken, goat or beef with Rujak (salad) and Bumbu (spice paste).
The transport is cheap and comfortable. For an hour’s ride in a comfortable Tacxi (taxi) you have to pay some twenty thousand Rupiah (around 100 Indian rupees). In every public bus you can enjoy Indonesian music played by Buskers (small children playing music) who would get on in moving vehicles, alone or in pairs, playing their guitars and singing Indonesian songs, and then pass around a small plastic bag, asking for a donation. Usually, when one Busker gets off, another would immediately board the bus and that continues till you are out of the city.
The capital city of Jakarta is a bustling city with wide alleys, enormous shopping malls, huge skyscrapers and fast paced life. The incredibly tall skyscrapers in the city’s central business district, gave us the feeling of being very small – as it is quite obvious for a person from a small city.
Near the historical presidential palace scores of people were observing a silent protest holding umbrellas in their hands seeking the whereabouts of the persons disappeared in 1965 allegedly at the hands of Indonesian military.
Just few yards from presidential palace there is Monas, or national monument, the enormous, socialist-style tower in the middle of Jakarta, with a big bronze flame on top. The top deck of the Monas provides a grand view of the city. At the base of this tower, there is a big dark air-conditioned room carrying a relief map of Indonesia, in its original state, before the separation of some of its territory.
A drive along the boulevard with 25 lanes of traffic was an experience. Jakarta’s shopping malls sell quality products that are imported from all over the world.  
Indonesia is a beautiful place inhabited by very friendly people. But, the country is still struggling with its relatively new democracy, violent uprisings and ruthless military suppression in vast parts of its territory.
However, in spite of all these issues, the country composed of more than 17,000 islands and a population of over 200 million is making a quite march towards prosperity.


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