Two hundred kilometers’ drive from Jakarta, the dusty roads dried out by the scorching sun will suddenly bring you into dramatic greenery where mountains feel close, suggesting heaven may not be too far from the city hell. Welcome to Garut, the sign placed on two columns resembling a gate says. And after that, brace yourself for endless panoramic views of mountains that seem to astonishingly encircle the region popularly known as the Switzerland of Java. This area’s magnificent beauty has been widely recognized around the world since colonial times. Even legend Charlie Chaplin visited Garut twice to embrace the serene beauty of the region, which is guarded by three mountains — Papandayan, Guntur and Cikuray. The comedian first came here in 1927, then came back in 1935, staying at Grand Hotel Ngamplang in Cilawu region, a nice hilly resort around 3.4-kilometer from the city center. No one knows what brought Chaplin twice to the area, which lies about 60 kilometers southwest of Bandung, the capital of West Java.
But as soon as you touch down in Garut, you will know there are a myriad of great spots to visit near the small town. Green street signs indicating interesting sites which surely cannot be missed while in town can easily be found. But before that, why not just enjoy nature’s free treat and feel the fresh breeze blowing through the never-ending paddy fields on either side of the roads. You can just pull up your car and make a sweet stop, to embrace the glorious greenery beneath the far blue mountain, a view you will recall from children’s drawings, while sipping a coconut ice drink from ubiquitous street vendors. Enjoying this luxurious moment down by the road, people may think: Who needs Bali when you have Garut near you?