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Just 60 km south, or a mere one hour by road from Jakarta lies the town of Bogor, once known as “Buitenzorg” meaning “free of care”, located at the foothills of Mt. Salak. It has a high, year-round rainfall and a much cooler climate compared to metropolitan Jakarta. Here are spread out the 87 hectares world famous Bogor Botanical Gardens (Kebon Raya Bogor), with the impressive out-of-town Bogor Presidential Palace fronting it and soaring Mt. Salak at its background.
Bogor Botanical Gardens boasts over 400 species of palm trees, 5,000 trees gathered from around the tropical world, and an orchid house containing 3,000 varieties. Records show that the Bogor Botanical Gardens harbours 3,504 plant species, 1,273 genus in 199 families.
The Gardens are said to have been initiated by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who, between 1811-1816, became Governor General of the East Indies during the interim reign of the British over the archipelago. With the help of botanists from London’s famed Kew Gardens, Raffles first laid out a small garden. However, the Gardens were officially established by the Dutch in 1817 under the directorship of CGC Reinwardt. A memorial to Raffles’ wife still stands in the Gardens.
The Bogor Gardens today function as an ex situ conservation site, a research center for taxonomy and plant utilization. In horticulture the Gardens study adaptation, planting and propagation of plants and develop the science of plant growing.
The Bogor Palace, built by Sir Stamford Raffles, was the historic site where five Asian leaders from India, Pakistan, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Burma and Indonesia, held the preparatory meeting to decide on convening the First Asian-African Conference in Bandung in April 1955. This meeting is also known as the Bogor Conference of 1954.
Bogor itself is a pleasant town that has grown around the Gardens. Here are Iindonesia’s Agricultural University and the Zoological Museum, where is displayed the last stuffed rhino found in the Bandung plateau. From Bogor the road climbs up passing picturesque mountain resorts all the way to the Puncak, or the Peak. The Safari Park is located on this beautiful but winding route. Further beyond Puncak before reaching Cipanas is the Cibodas Park just at the foot of Mount Gede-Pangrango, laid out for the study of temperate plants, where Java coffee was originally cultivated. At Cipanas is another out-of-town palace that has hot water springs in its gardens.
Today, Bogor is a favourite place to spend weekends and short holidays. Bogor is famous for its “asinan”, fresh fruit and vegetables sour salads, and oddly enough also for its apple pies and baked macaroni.
The Gardens are open daily to visitors. There are paved walkways for visitors to stroll at leisure to admire the variety of old, gnarled trees, walk under the canopy of their foliage and listen to the river rushing over large boulders. On Sundays and public holidays the Gardens are usually very crowded.
From Jakarta, you can rent a car (complete with a chaffeur) to go to Bogor. As mentioned above, the journey to Bogor will be about one hour. Be advised that the traffic on weekends and long holidays will be more packed.