It wasn’t just the Incas and the Egyptians who can build civilisations, as the origins of Gunung Padang in west Java can be traced back 23,000 years! It has been called the largest megalithic site in all of South East Asia, and has produced carbon dating results which, if confirmed, suggest it is an extraordinarily old site. The main point of interest here (apart from the tea plantations) is the pyramidal structure upon which the main site sits. There are not many pyramids in Asia, so an open-air and free of charge site like the one here at Gunung Padang is a real breath of fresh air (literally!).
Located at 885m above sea level, the site covers a hill in a series of terraces bordered by retaining walls of stone that are accessed by about 400 steps rising about 95m. These steps are not easy to climb, although it’s not like climbing a volcano; just watch your step and avoid treading on the moss! The Sundanese people consider the site sacred and believe it was the result of King Siliwangi’s attempt to build a palace. Based on various dating techniques, the site was completed by the year 5000 BC, and I am told quite likely much earlier. There are preliminary indications that the hill site may itself be an ancient pyramid construction, possibly similar to the pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
As somebody who has yet to visit the awesome ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, this site here at Gunung Padang must be the closest I have came, and I was interested to learn that it is the largest megalithic site of its kind in all of South East Asia. There were not too many people around during my visit, although I doubt that the place gets too busy anyway. Mostly Indonesian people were hiking the mountains, and apart from a few Chinese/Japanese groups, I seemed to be the only “tourist” there, which just added to the atmosphere. The things that will strike you the most (apart from the arduous journey up the steps) are the massive rectangular stones of volcanic origin that litter the entire Gunung Padang megalithic site. These rectangular stones reminded me a little of the stone tablets used in Confucius temples that I’ve seen in China and Vietnam; they were same kind of shape, although the ones here at Gunung Padang were obviously formed a long time ago due to volcanic activity, rather than hand-made.
There is no strict entry fee to climb Gunung Padang and enter the area, although guards do try to command donations in little boxes provided. I handed them 100,000 Rupiah, which isn’t a lot, but it was all I had spare at the time. Getting to Gunung Padang is not easy, but if you are in the Bandung area, then a private car will take you here for around 500,000 Rupiah round trip. I don’t think any public buses run to the area, although there is a train station a few miles away that we passed on our journey home.