Bogor was by the Dutch during the colonial era called Buitenzorg (means “without a care”)
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. Governor General van Imhoff built his country estate by the same name here as early as 1745, and it became a favorite place of retreat for later governors as well. Sir Stamford Raffles made Bogor his country home during the short British rule of Indonesia from 1811 to 1816.
A railway was completed in 1873 between Batavia and Buitenzorg. Raffles called Bogor a “romantic little village”, but it has today grown to be almost a suburb of Jakarta, with a population of more than 700.000. It is still growing quickly, maybe faster than Jakarta itself. It sits at a height of only 290 m, but is still noticeable cooler and more relaxed than Jakarta. This makes the city a popular place to visit for people who live in the hot and busy capital only 60 km to the north. Some also prefer to have their residence here and do the daily one hour journey each way to Jakarta to work.
Bogor is the first natural stop if you travel from Jakarta to the Parahyangan highlands south of the capital. It sits at the foot of Gunung Salak, a 2.211 m high mountain to the south of the city, which is also one of the reasons why Bogor is called “City of Rain”. It probably has the highest annual rainfall on Java, which you should have in mind if you visit during the wet season.
The main attractions in Bogor are the huge and world famous Botanical Garden, Kebun Raya, and the Presidential Summer Palace, Istana Bogor. The Botanical Garden is said to be the inspiration of Sir Stamford Raffles. The monument Raffles erected in memory of his wife, Lady Olivia Marianne, who died in 1814, can be seen in the garden close to the main entrance. The area around Istana Bogor were however converted to botanical gardens by Professor Dr. Casper Georg Carl Reinwardt, a Dutch botanist of German descent. It was officially opened by the Dutch in 1817, and soon became a center for development of important colonial crops like tobacco, tea, cinchona and cassava. It is still an important centre for botanical research in Indonesia.
The garden today is 87 hectares of lawns, gardens, streams, lotus ponds, tree groves and avenues surrounding Istana Bogor, the Presidential Summer Palace, located in the centre of Bogor. Specimen of native plants have been collected not only from South-East Asia but from many other tropical regions as well. The main objectives of the garden is conservation, research and education for scientists and students. It is also a popular place to visit for both locals and foreigners, either for walking the many kilometers of paths within the park or just for relaxation.
More than 15.000 species of trees and plants can be found here, including 400 species of palms. The Orchid House in the northeast section of the park claims to have more than 3.000 variations of orchids, but only a small part of this is open to the public. On the eastern side there is a cafeteria with a nice view of the park. Weekends can be crowded, but on other days you will find the garden a very relaxing and relatively cool place, especially if you arrive from Jakarta. It is normally open between 8 to 5, the main entrance is the southern gate, smaller gates are normally closed except for on weekends and holidays. There is a small entrance fee for visitors.
Close to the main entrance you will also find the Zoological Museum which was founded in 1894 to study the fauna of Indonesia. Here you will see a display of animals and insects from different environments, including the skeleton of a huge blue whale. It is open daily from 8 to 4.
The Presidential Summer Palace
The Presidential Summer Palace, Istana Bogor, is located on the northwest side of the Botanical Gardens. It is a group of buildings built on the site of the old Buitenzorg mansion which was destroyed by an earthquake and replaced by a new palace in 1856. It was then the official residence of the Governor Generals of the Dutch East Indies. After Independence it became a Presidential Palace, often used by President Sukarno who collected most of the art that can be found here today. It has not been frequently visited by the following presidents, and is now mainly used for provincial and state occasions. The most famous event here was the second APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) held on November 15, 1994. In the declaration issued at the end of the meeting, leaders pledged to achieve free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region by 2010 for developed members and 2020 for developing economies.
White-spotted deer were imported by the Dutch and raised in the park surrounding the palace during colonial times to provide meat for the Dutch elite. Today you can still see more than 300 deer on the lawns outside the palace. Only groups of ten people or more can visit the palace, children are not allowed inside. The tourist information centre can arrange permission well in advance, you need to give at least five days notice. If you are alone you can be lucky and allowed to join an ongoing tour.
The tourist information centre, on the west side of the botanical gardens, has a rough map of the town. The office is open from 8 AM to 2 PM Monday to Thursday, from 8 AM to 11 AM on Friday and from 8 AM to 1 PM on Saturday. They also have a branch at the entrance to the gardens. Bogor has plenty of banks, mostly along Jalan Ir.H. Juanda, and you can easily find an ATM here. Bogor has a good range of accommodation and restaurants in all price layers. It is almost impossible to find a taxi here, but you can get around with minibus or a becak (bicycle taxi).
Other attractions in the vicinity of Bogor is an inscribed stone called Batutulis, 2.5 km south of the botanical garden. It is dedicated to Sri Baduga Maharaja, a former king who were believed to have great mystical power, the stone is said to still possess some of this power. If you are into mountain climbing you can climb to the summit of Gunung Salak. You have to travel by car for about 45 minutes, and then walk for 3-4 hours to reach the top. 20 km southeast of Bogor, in Cisarua on the way to the Puncak Pass and Bandung, you can visit Taman Safari, a modern zoo with foreign and local animals (see Puncak). Many of the animals can be seen by car.
Travel to and from Bogor
The majority of visitors to Bogor come from Jakarta. Buses depart every 10 minutes or so from the Kampung Rambutan bus station. It’s recommended to take a train to Bogor, which departs frequently from every railway station in Jakarta. The Ekonomi trains are reasonably efficient but best avoided during peak hours when they can be very crowded. You can also go by taxi from Jakarta, preferably use a car from the Blue Bird Group, for a relatively cheap price, around 100.000 IDR (2002).
Travel from Bogor: Buses depart frequently from Bogor to Bandung, a ride which will take about three hours. Buses are not allowed to go via Puncak on weekends and have to travel via Sukabumi, the trip will then take about four hours. Other bus destinations from Bogor include Pelabuhanratu, Rangkasbitung, Labuan and Merak. Air-con, door-to-door minibuses also go to Bandung. Ring for pick up, or your hotel can arrange it. The easiest way to reach Central Jakarta is to take the train, which run about every 20 minutes until 8.30 PM and take 1.5 hours to Gambir station or to Kota station. There is no through railway service to Bandung. It is relatively easy to hire a car and a driver in Bogor, a convenient way to go on day trips in the surrounding area.