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marianne Pelabuhanratu - A travel report by Marianne
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Pelabuhanratu,  Indonesia - flag Indonesia
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marianne's travel reports

Pelabuhanratu: The Queen's Harbour (west Java)

  16 votes
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Pelabuhanratu: unspoilt coastline, pristine beaches, orange-red sunsets. During weekdays it is all yours. At the weekend you will have to share with Jakarta residents.

Pelabuhanratu's best kept secret is room number 308 in Samudra Beach Hotel

Room 308 in Samudra Beach Hotel
Room 308 in Samudra Beach Hotel
Room 308 in Samudra Beach Hotel was my main reason to go to Pelabuhanratu. I had read that Nyai Loro Kidul, the Goddess of the South Seas, has room 308 permanently kept empty for her.

Legend has it that Nyai Loro Kidul lures fishermen to her love nest at the bottom of the ocean. She whisks away anyone who ventures into the sea, anyone wearing green.

Swimmers are warned not to wear green and not to swim in the ocean and if drownings occur they are attributed to this malevolent Goddess.

She was so very beautiful that she was banned from the Royal Palace because the King's concubines couldn't stand her beauty. They used black magic and robbed her of her beauty When she came to the ocean she heard mermaids singing and flung herself into the sea to regain her beauty. But instead of dying she became a beautiful Goddess who haunts the bay. Drags fishermen and bathers down to the bottom of the sea, especially those that are wearing green. (I haven't been able to find out why green was her favourite colour)

True to say the ocean at Pelabuhanratu is often rough with dangerous undertow, but my common sense told me these people were simply bad swimmers.

The fishing village of Pelabuhanratu is 150 km south of Jakarta. It is a three to four-hour drive along winding roads lined with tin-roofed houses, mosques, garbage dumps and paddy fields.

The village comes to life at weekends when Jakarta residents come down for a breath of fresh air. During weekdays many of the warungs (simple restaurants) are closed but from Friday night on they open up, and serve fresh fish.

You won't loose your way in Pelabuhanratu because there are only two streets. Most hotels are along Jalan Siliwangi which leads into the village and to the harbour.

Favourite spots:
Samudra Beach Hotel
Samudra Beach Hotel
My favourite spot was Room 308 in Samudra Beach Hotel. The hotel itself is an ugly concrete block built by Sukarno, Indonesia's first president.

It is close to Karang Hawu cliff, an impressive lava flow formation from which, as legend has it, Nyai Loro Kidul flung herself into the waves below.

We asked if we could see the room and had to wait a little so that it could be made ready (put the air-conditioning on and lay out offerings of yellow lotus flowers to propitiate her).

We took off our shoes before entering the room. Her gowns and robes, all green, hung next to the door. Half-filled bottles of shampoo and scent, hairbrushes, combs and a vase with yellow flowers cluttered her dressing table. It was as if she could return any minute. The green duvet on the bed was turned down. The picture on the wall showed her, a young woman with downcast eyes, a billowing, green ocean all around her.

We didn't see Nyai Loro Kidul. I wondered if we were lucky or unlucky.

What's really great:
Fish drying in the sun
Fish drying in the sun
The beach is wide, sandy and windswept. Paddy fields descend from the hills stop right at the beach.

When I looked out over the Ocean I realised that there was nothing between me and the South Pole, only this vast expanse of water.

At night hundreds of lights twinkle on the fishing prahus out at sea.

Pantai (beach) Citepus, 3 km from the town towards Ciselok, is the most popular and most beautiful beach. It is deserted on weekday, but animated at the weekend.

Another thing I will never forget the pungent, salty smell of the fish that lay drying along the roadside.

Paddy fields
Paddy fields
When you have seen Pelabuhanratu's harbour, have strolled along its two streets, paid a visit to the fish market, you have seen all the sights.

Karang Hawu, 13 km to the west, is the cliff from where Nyai Loro Kidul flung herself into the ocean. Once a large lava flow created the many pools and caves ion this outcrop. Right on top is a small shrine. It is not very strenuous to get there because there are stairs.

Cipanas hot springs, 2 km beyond Cisolok. The water is boiling hot. It streams into the river and cools down so that lower down you can soak in this therapeutic water. There are changing cubicles and warungs at the weekend when it is quite crowdy.

Goa Lalay is a bat cave some 4 km to the south east. At sunset thousands of bats fly out. The walk to it is more interesting than the cave itself.

The beach at pelabuhanratu
The beach at pelabuhanratu
During the week accommodation is easy to find, but at weekends many places are pre-booked.

We stayed in Hotel Cleopatra. This hotel is not in the village itself but about 20 mins walk to the west. It is at 4 km marker in Citepus.

The hotel has a well-kept garden and a small pool. This is very convenient because the sea is often too rough for swimming. Besides it is highly unusual and improper to sunbathe on the beach as most people in Java are Muslim.

Paddy fields stretching to the sea front
Paddy fields stretching to the sea front
Not in this part of the world.

Would you need clubs if you have whispering palms, softly swaying banana trees and an azure blue ocean?

The picture of Nyai Loro Kidul  with downcast eyes, a billowing, green ocean all around her
The picture of Nyai Loro Kidul with downcast eyes, a billowing, green ocean all around her
None in Pelabuhanratu as most inhabitants are Muslim.

The Warna Sari Bar in Samudra Beach Hotel is the only place where you can get beer and other drinks.

If you want to splash out Samadra Beach Hotel is your place. Their Roas Restaurant serves Indonesian, Chinese and western food. Seafood is their speciality.

If you want something more down market try one of the many warungs. Warungs are small restaurants: no table cloths and no air-conditioning. They are open to the air, some have ceiling fans. They serve nasi goreng (fried rice), mee soup (noodle soup) and fresh fish.

Some of them don't have bottled water. We did not think this was a problem because Indonesians never drink water that hasn't been boiled. The water is sometimes still luke warm when served. This may sound unattractive to you but I can assure that that it is the prefect drink when your nasi is too spicy. Cold water or beer (but not for sale in Pelabuhanratu's warungs) bring no relief.

Other recommendations:
The bus station is in the centre near the intersection of Jl Siliwangi and Jl Kidang Kencana.

There are no direct buses from Jakarta, you will have to go to Bogor, from here to Sukabumi but get off at Cibadak (some 15 km before Sukabumi) where you will find colts (minibuses) to Pelabuhanratu.

If you want to travel on to Bandung you will have to go via Sukabumi.

Published on Monday December 12th, 2005

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Mon, Sep 25 2006 - 12:53 PM rating by mrscanada

You always write wonderful reports they flow like a river.

Wed, Dec 14 2005 - 08:15 PM rating by magsalex

Interesting and informative.

Wed, Dec 14 2005 - 01:34 AM rating by gloriajames

hiya Marianne!
I enjoyed your report and the legend kept me interested. Did not realise that such a place is so close to Singapore.. Thanks for expanding my travel horizon. Btw.. perhaps on the sections where you cant upload pics of the restaurant or other recommendations, you can upload other pics that you wish to share in your report. Nevertheless, a job well done!

Tue, Dec 13 2005 - 05:52 PM rating by mistybleu


I enjoy reading your report, especially the fairytale. Legends are always great to muse over.
All the best

Tue, Dec 13 2005 - 08:31 AM rating by davidx

Very good and informative report. I don't know that I should want to go there but that's not your fault!

Tue, Dec 13 2005 - 05:47 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent report Mari,and equally good pictures too

Mon, Dec 12 2005 - 09:30 PM rating by delfster

hi marriane,
i like reading you report on pelabuhan ratu. it's really good for a guidance, since i'm planning to go on a road trip south of java. thanks for sharing the info on where to stay and the insights of the place. i hope you have great travel in indonesia.



Mon, Dec 12 2005 - 02:30 PM rating by rangutan

Marvelous report, I like the legend and mystery part of it too. Pity here again that the titles "Clubs" and "Pubs" are forced upon us. I wish staff could rename them "Clubs and Societies" and "Nightlife"?

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