[Pangandaran Beach, Java – Indonesia]
Up until a few days before I arrived I had never heard of Pangandaran. This fishing village on the south coast of West Java is a popular beach resort (if you can describe it as that) for domestic visitors, but like much of Indonesia beyond Bali, it is not on the international travel radar. I spotted a handful of foreigners when I was there, and during the week there are few visitors at all.
[Pangandaran is still a fishing village at heart]
[Pangandaran fishing boats]
Upon first sighting, the beach appears to be a mudflat and I was wondering what the fuss was about. Once on the beach though the sand is as soft and pleasant to walk an as any white sandy beach of your tropical dreams. After a long beach walk I began to like this coffee coloured shade of sand.
[Deserted Pangandaran Beach]
They say that Pangandaran is like Kuta beach from about 30 years ago. I was late to the Bali party so I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that you can walk from one end of the beach to the other and not encounter a single hawker or tailor shop. This beach hasn’t been developed (yet) so it is still lined with bamboo shacks selling reasonably priced coconuts.
[Walks on the beach should always be punctuated with a coconut break]
What I loved about Pangandaran was that I had that feeling of being somewhere exotic. Having spent a lot of time on crowded Thai beaches I had long lost that feeling. An empty beach, coffee coloured sand, dense jungle and mountains in the background, on a tropical island formed of volcanic eruptions, this is what I imagined a tropical beach in Southeast Asia to look like. Sure, Java is the most populated island in the world with chaotic cities and clogged up roadways, but from this beach, modern Java is out of sight, out of mind.
Rainy season isn’t that bad
I was at Pangandaran at the tail end of rainy season where the days would start off sunny, cloud over in the afternoon and with it the rain. Maybe I have been living in Asia long enough now that this doesn’t bother me. Rainy season is part of tropical life, and it is not rainy all day.
[Moody grey skies over Pangandaran]
Pangandaran for digital nomads
Like much of provincial Indonesia, the internet is not the most reliable, so if your work requires online heavy lifting you will go crazy here. If you only need email and general browsing capabilities you will get by. Pangandaran would be a good place to spend a month (a Cambodia Cash destination), where you can work 4-5 hours a day and spend the rest of the time on the beach or exploring the local area.
I could see myself coming here for a few weeks to work on a project without distractions. I felt like I was off the grid while still being connected. I did a month like this at Lake Toba in Sumatra, which at the time had no wifi at all. With only a few hours internet a day I got a lot done in that time.
For internet I used the wifi at my guesthouse and the some of the restaurant cafes on the beach. Bamboo Cafe has good food and coffee, and you can sit at a table by the beach with your feet in the sand while working under a shady thatched umbrella.
There are plenty of Losmen (budget guesthouses) in Pangandaran if you are looking for a cheap place to stay. The ones I visited didn’t have wifi, but I was eventually directed to Panorama A La Plage which has wifi on the property (though it doesn’t reach all the rooms).
I got a room with a bathroom attached for 70,000 IDR ($7.20 USD). Snoozing resident cats are no additional charge.
[Panorama A La Plage room and resident cats]
Around town there are some more upmarket digs and new hotels being built, such as this designer number which would not be out of place on Legian Beach in Bali. Maybe Pangandaran will be the new Bali one day?
[Menara Laut Hotel]
Getting to Pangandaran
Getting here is hard work, which is why I don’t think it will be a boomtown beach resort anytime soon. I got the bus from Bandung which was advertised as a six hour trip. It took closer to eight after struggling through traffic out of Bandung.
Maybe one day road and air infrastructure will be developed that will make Pangandaran more accessible. Until then you can enjoy Pangandaran while is still off the Banana Pancake Trail.