The city of Bogor has been the preferred place of a quick getaway for Jakartans. It’s a relatively short drive through Jagorawi toll, which makes an ideal destination for a day trip with friends and family. Although Bogor has factory outlets, handbag industries (hello, Tajur), and plenty of yummy traditional food and cozy restaurants, for me personally, Bogor is represented by two places: Kebun Raya Bogor and Istana Bogor.
While most of us have enjoyed Kebun Raya Bogor as it is open to public, I’m sure that many have always wondered about the presidential palace, Istana Bogor. If we drive along the crowded Jl. Juanda, we’ll see rolling green lawn around the palace. The band of deer grazing on the lawn or sticking their cute noses on the fence, a grand white building, and lush green background of Kebun Raya adding to the charm of the palace.
As a history buff, I’ve always been interested in palaces. I’m curious to see up close the architecture of the building, the interior design, the history behind the structure, and most of all, how the palace serves its current inhabitants. Now, I don’t know my chance of ever been invited to Istana Negara in Jakarta, but I’m happy that Istana Bogor is actually open for public!
As with any government buildings, there is a procedure to gain access to the palace. But it’s not as complicated as we may have thought, as I have visited the palace last Saturday.
How do you gain access to Istana Bogor?
Simply by writing a letter addressed to Kepala Rumah Tangga Istana Kepresidenan Bogor, Jl. Ir. H. Juanda No. 1, Bogor, requesting a visit to the palace. The letter should state the following: your name (the requester) and your ID number, your contact number (phone and fax, if available), the proposed date of visit, number of people visiting, purpose of the visit (study tour/family trip/etc) and also attach a copy of your ID. If you’re planning a group visit, also state the name of your institution/group. The request letter should be faxed to 0251-8328172, at least one week before your preferred date of visit. Your request may be granted if there is no official event at the palace on your preferred date, however granted access may have been cancelled if the palace happens to be occupied that day.
Upon approval from the Kepala Rumah Tangga, the palace will issue an official letter that will serve as your pass to enter the building. Protocol dictates that you should pick up your access letter at least one day before the visit, however the administrator that I met said that visitors from outside of Bogor are allowed to pick up their access letter on the same day of the visit.
Now, this will create a little problem at the gate, as visitors have to present the access letter to the Military personnel on guard. I had to explain to the officers that I have sent my request on a certain date. It will be helpful if you have a copy of your request letter with you, as the guards will check with the administrators inside the palace. If the request has been granted, the guards will let you in to get the access letter, which will come in two envelopes. You have to walk back to the gate to present the envelope addressed to the Chief of Guard, before you can proceed with the tour. Well, the walking back and forth will prepare you for the walking tour of the palace
The palace will assign one tour guide and at least one other personnel to go with your group. You may have to join other groups that are also visiting at the same time. My family happened to join a group of Dharma Wanita from a kabupaten in Central Java. We made a one merry group, as the ladies were always chatting, laughing, and busy taking pictures Visitors will enter through a locker room, where you can put your bags and belongings. Then the guide will walk you to the main buildings, and tell you the history of the building, the use of various rooms in the palace, the origin of artworks, and stories of previous residents of the palace. I will spare you the details on the palace, as plenty information is available onlineThe guide is knowledgeable and patient, while other personnel is mainly present to make sure that visitors are behaving accordingly- as in not touching the artworks, stay behind the line, not taking photographs inside the main buildings, and so on. Our group of ladies were a bit difficult to manage in the beginning, but the kind guide and other officials that went with the group kept their smile and good humor throughout the hour long tour. They also gave enough opportunities to take group pictures outside of the buildings.
Now, what did I learn from my visit to Istana Bogor?
First: gaining access to a Presidential Palace was not impossible.
Second: the palace is grand, structure wise, but not opulent. Don’t think about Versailles, this is more of a grand office building with Italian marble and Czech chandelier.
Third: our first president really earned his reputation as an “admirer of women”. A lot of paintings hung in the main buildings were from his administration, which pictured beauty queens from many nationalities. The grand ballroom with vaulted ceiling on the Main Building is said to be the place where he used to ballroom danced, waltz and lenso (I think) with various famous female artists from his era.
Fourth: I would kill for the view of green, rolling lawn every day. If they let me, I wouldn’t mind to camp on the steps of the palace so that I can spend whole day looking at the view.
These are some rules and general information for visiting the palace:
- The palace is open for public, Monday to Saturday from 8 AM to 2 PM, except on Fridays which open only to 11 AM
- The contact numbers are: 0251-8321001 (phone) and 0251-8328172 (fax)
- The visitor access (and parking lot) is located right next to the Zebaoth Church.
- The minimum age of visitor is 10 years old, so please don’t bring your toddler along!
- Dress code is business casual, which means no shorts, sleeveless tops, t-shirts, jeans, and flip flops
- There are some nude statues on the lawn and inside the palace. Depending on the characteristic of your group, you may want to inform them about this in advance.
- Taking pictures is allowed, but only outside of the main buildings
- Only bring necessary items with you during the tour, as in your wallet, phone and camera. Leave everything else in the car!
- No eating and picnicking within the premises
For a certain period, usually during the anniversary of the city of Bogor in June, the DPRD Bogor also organized tours of the palace. More information about this event is available here. Tours during this event are highly anticipated, as in 2012 there were 36,000 (!) people registered for the tour. So if you want a more pleasant experience of the palace, don’t wait until June. Just fax in your request, and enjoy the palace without the crowd!