Bandung has been a popular choice of respite for Jakartans since 2005 when the highway connecting both cities was inaugurated. Every weekend cars with Jakarta plates roam Bandung’s narrow and maze-like streets, often driving local people crazy. However, that brings huge economic opportunities for the country’s third densely-populated city. Local authority ensures that despite the economic boom, the city will always have green spaces for its residents to keep their health and sanity. Taman Hutan Raya Juanda – locally known as Dago Pakar – is one of such places.
Situated in the northern part of the city at the elevation between 800 – 1350 m above sea level, Dago Pakar is easily accessible from the city center. In the prehistoric time, Bandung was once a basin with a giant lake. But the lake had long disappeared and now Dago Pakar sits right where the bank of the lake was. Evidences and artifacts have been excavated to support this theory, including the discovery of hunting tools which suggests that prehistoric humans once lived near the lake.
Today, tropical trees aside, Dago Pakar also hosts two caves built during the Dutch and Japanese occupation in Indonesia respectively. Despite having visited this place several times, I have only gone to Goa Belanda (Dutch Cave) which was built in 1918 as a part of a hydropower plant construction. However, during WWII Goa Belanda was converted into a radio telecommunication station, which later was converted again into an armory and ammunition repository after Indonesia gained its independence.
Today one can cross the pitch-black cave to get to the other side of a hill in Dago Pakar with a trail leading to Maribaya waterfalls. Most people opt for renting a flashlight from locals to go through the cave, but I never used anything. Instead, I always followed the light at the end of the dark tunnel and used the invisible rail on my footsteps to keep me on the right track. The rail itself was laid down to transport things between both sides of the hill.
Some people find this cave quite eerie due to its niches and chambers. But if you take it as a little adventure on your hike to the waterfalls, it will be a very pleasant activity to escape the city’s bustle.