The second stop on our Indonesian tour was in the coastal town of Pangandaran. Considered a coastal retreat of sorts for the locals, the town does see a fair amount of tourism thanks to it surfing spots. While wandering the streets you definitely get the feeling of a tourist hotspot with shops and kiosks selling beachwear and multiple vendors offering kitschy rental “bicycles” often in the form of bright, lit-up VW beetles or trucks with music blaring. However, on the coast you see the roots the town still strongly has to fishing, with brightly painted blue boats lined up along the beach-side on the west of the peninsula and fishing nets and local warungs (small cafe/restaurants) on the east side.
The very tip of the peninsula is taken up by the Penanjung Nature Reserve. Our first evening we were taken by our local guide on a sunset walking tour through a small section of the reserve. At dusk, some of the residents of the nature reserve start to venture out into the town; it’s extremely common to see deer wandering the streets looking for an easy meal. We also got a glimpse down into a gutter, where a huge reptile was hanging out perhaps waiting for a meal! In the park itself we visited with some monkeys, met a family of porcupine in a dark cave along with a whole host of bats, tried to spot a flying fox (we did, but only stationary), as well as countless geckos.
For our one full day in the area, we woke up to pouring rain. It made everything a bit tricky, although it was luckily the only day of full rain that we had for the entire trip. We headed first to Green Canyon for a boat ride along the river and a glimpse at the waterfalls. Usually the water is green (or so we were told) but due to the rainfall it was just a murky brown.
Afterwards, we headed for lunch to Batu Karas, a local surf spot where we could go swimming… if not for the rain. But the restaurant provided a great view of the beach and we got to have some amazing, fresh seafood for lunch. We tried to brave the beach for a short walk, but the downpour stopped us after mere minutes.
Our next stop was at the traditional, wooden puppet artisan, Wayan Golek’s workshop. We got to view his impressive collection and heard about the history of puppet making and the ritual behind the puppet shows. Individual shows can go on for even six hours at a time, with little break for the puppeteers! The faces of the puppets show what sort of character they are – good or bad. The work that has gone into each is incredible.
With some of our activities having been rained out, we ended up with half the afternoon and evening free. So we made the most of it and headed down to a Pangandaran beach bar, the Bamboo Beach Club to hang out, get to know each other better, and enjoy the beachy vibes!
As for our accommodations in town, they weren’t the best of the trip, but there was still something charming about the Sunrise Beach Hotel. The rooms were a bit dated and damp, but they did have terraces on the front and the back, with the back overlooking the warungs and piers on the east coast of the town. If it wasn’t for the, you guessed it, rain, I could have imagined enjoying a cup of javanese coffee there each morning watching the sunrise! But the grounds were lovely and lush and the breakfast was much nicer than what we had faced in Jakarta.