A Trip to Cirebon Part 2: The Unforgotten Part of the Not So Memorable City

I’ve mentioned in my previous post that three days in Cirebon were enough if you want to explore the city as a tourist. Cirebon still needs a lot of improvement, although it is now easier to go to this port city (thanks to Cipali toll road and the existing train route). Cirebon may not leave a memorable impression as a city, but I’ve had one most memorable moment there.

Before we get into that part, I’d like to recommend some tourism spots that are worth your time.

Sunyaragi Cave

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Sunyaragi Cave

Sunyaragi comes from the Sanskrit words “sunya“, which means “silence”, and “ragi“, which means “body”, hence this cave used to be used by Cirebon’s royal family for meditating. Based on what I’ve read, Sunyaragi Cave was built by the great-grandchild of Sunan Gunung Jati, namely Prince Kararangen. Its structure look similar to coral reef and it consists of a lot of caves that serve various purposes, including for the servants to guard and provide supply while the royal families were there (the caves are so small, I can’t imagine how they did that). The architecture is very beautiful and this cave is my favourite part of Cirebon.

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Sunyaragi Cave
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Sunyaragi Cave
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Sunyaragi Cave

Sunyaragi Cave is open from 8.00 AM to 5.30 PM and the entrance fee is IDR 10,000/person. You may want to hire a local guide for IDR 50,000 to hear the history of this place. Just be aware that Cirebon is a port city, hence the weather is extremely hot at noon.

Address:  Jalan By Pass Brigjen Dharsono, Sunyaragi, Kesambi, Kota Cirebon.

Keraton Kasepuhan

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Keraton Kasepuhan

There are two most-visited royal palaces in Cirebon: Keraton Kasepuhan and Keraton Kanoman. However, I’ve read somewhere that it is best to just go to Keraton Kasepuhan because it is bigger and more beautiful, and the latter is rather untreated. I went to Keraton Kasepuhan using public transportation (angkot) and becak. Don’t expect the angkot to stop at an angkot stop (as if there’s any!). They will stop anywhere you want and you have to ask for their route first otherwise you may get lost.

Keraton Kasepuhan is one of the biggest and the oldest palaces in Cirebon. The architecture is so beautiful, a fusion of Islamic, Chinese, Javanese, European, and Hindu architectural styles, even though this palace was once the oldest Islamic ancient kingdom in Indonesia. What fascinate me were the details of the doors and the gates, and the thick brick wall that was decorated with gorgeous Chinese-style plates.

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How can you not love the details?
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Lovely, lovely gate

There are some museums inside this palace, including Pusaka Keraton Kasepuhan, Benda Kuno, and Kereta. Too bad, Pusaka Keraton Kasepuhan Museum was not yet available during my visit, while Benda Kuno and Kereta Museums were under construction at that time.

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One of the gorgeous doors
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This kind of plate is everywhere around Keraton Kasepuhan

Keraton Kasepuhan is open from 8.00 AM to 6.00 PM and the entrance fee is IDR 10,000/person.

Address: Jalan Kasepuhan No.43, Kesepuhan, Lemahwungkuk, Kesepuhan, Lemahwungkuk.

Kanoman Market

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On our way to Kanoman Market

I love exploring traditional markets when I arrive at a new city. They are like a melting pot where you can see people from many backgrounds gather together to find the best food the city has to offer. Kanoman Market is no different. I found a lot of fresh seafood and many other ingredients at the market. Not only that, there are some stalls that sell gourmet gift and even pork meat. Thanks, acculturation! I’ve also heard that recently a paint company decided to paint the market colourful, making it more attractive to visitors. You can read the news here.

Interested in exploring Cirebon backpacking style? Here are some tips:

  • Conventional taxi is available, but most of them don’t use meter, so don’t forget to settle the fare in the first place!
  • Online taxi apps, Gojek and Grab, are available in Cirebon.
  • Don’t rent a car, it’s freaking expensive (around IDR 400,000 for Avanza/Xenia for 1 day, city only – with driver).
  • Cirebon is very small, if you don’t mind sweating, you may want to try local angkot. It’s only around IDR4,500 for one trip no matter how far.
  • You may want to use becak if you go somewhere near the traditional market, because the traffic is so bad. Remember to settle the fare first.

Unexpected, Unforgotten

One day before I and RM had to go back to Jakarta, we really had no clue of what to do.

  • All must-visit-tourism-places-for-the-first-timer: checked.
  • Coffee shops: checked.
  • Food: checked.
  • Mall: nah.

Luckily, at one moment, RM found out from his friends that there were some crystal clear lakes in Kuningan. It wasn’t not too far from the main city but we had to go by car to reach it.

Our initial plan was to rent a car, but after contacting several car rental in Cirebon, we thought the price was way to expensive. So, out of nowhere, RM stopped an angkot right after we had lunch and he asked the driver whether he was available for half-day charter to the lakes. Surprisingly, the driver, Pak Badawi, said yes and asked us to hop on. So we did! It was quite crazy, the whole angkot for ourselves. Yes, it was pretty hot inside because we started in the afternoon and, of course, there was no air conditioner. But, we could play music as loud as possible (we brought portable speaker, thank goodness). The driver was also very nice, he was so proud of his city and told us many great stories about Cirebon (which I couldn’t hear because I sat on the back).

So, our destination was Nilem Lake and Remis Lake. A friend of RM had been there. We saw the photos on her Instagram and it looked promising with its crystal clear water and like-out-of-nowhere location somewhere in the jungle. But… it is no secret that Instagram photos can often be deceiving, right? When we finally arrived at Nilem Lake… what we thought as a lake in the middle of nowhere turned out to be another local attraction. The lake was surprisingly tiny and surrounded by small cottages. The jungle that we saw in the picture? Apparently that was just one side of the whole 360 degrees view.

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Remis Lake
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Remis Lake
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Remis Lake

We didn’t spend too long at Nilem Lake because there was nothing much to do and Remis Lake was located not too far away from the first, so we headed on to the latter right away. To my surprise, I enjoyed Remis Lake much more than Nilem Lake. It was huge although the water was cloudy and people couldn’t swim there. BUT, the good thing was there were duck boats for rent. It costed us IDR 20,000 for 10-15 minutes rent, not bad.

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Situ Cicereum

The last (and additional) “lake” we visited was Situ Cicereum, which apparently wasn’t really a lake but a reservoir. The good thing was the water was completely clear and cold, I could see fishes swimming around. The bad thing was, again, it was not really a lake and surrounded by small shops. Again, this experience is a good reminder that pictures can be deceiving.

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson

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Beautiful view on our way to Nilem Lake
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Beautiful view on our way to Nilem Lake

I couldn’t say great things about the three lakes, but I’ve found an unforgotten memory during the trip. It was our first time charting an angkot for a trip and I couldn’t ask for a better option (it costed us IDR 250,000 only!). The view on the way to the lakes were gorgeous: paddy fields, mountains, greeneries, or, in other words, things someone who lives in a big city rarely see. Pak Badawi also gave meaningful insights about people of Cirebon:

“People in Cirebon are very tolerant of differences. You can see that the architecture of our buildings (including mosques and keraton) have, among others, Islamic and Chinese influences. We live side by side in harmony. Even in the traditional market (Pasar Kanoman) Chinese people are selling pork next to Muslim stalls,” he said.

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The one that made our trip unforgettable!

He acted like our local tour guide and told stories we might never heard of if we were sitting comfortably in a private car.

Oh, Cirebon. You’re so lucky to have him!

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