Bandung the capital of West Java province, located about 180 kilometres (110 miles) southeast of Jakarta, is the fourth largest city in Indonesia. This once upon a time idyllic, quiet town has been hit by urbanization and is now a cramped and over populated metropolitan area, a living space for over 2.5 million people!
During the Dutch occupation, Bandung was known as the ‘Paris of Java’, making it a resort town for colonials. Today, it is touted as the new Jakarta by some locals and often visited as a cool weather getaway since the temperature drops several notches. Bandung is 768 m (2520 ft) above sea level and we found it cool in the evenings and cold even when it rained! Many come here for its rich history, art deco building heritage, the shopping malls all around the city and factory outlets in Setiabudi, Dago, Jalan Riau and Cihampelas. Outdoor adventure seekers and nature lovers will not be bored as they can escape to jungle trails in Dago section of town, Tangkuban Perahu volcano to explore, Ciater hotsprings and even more green attractions in the outskirts. (We will cover these places in our coming posts)
We chose Bandung as our first destination instead of Bogor to cover more ground enroute Yogyakarta. Arriving evening in a downpour, we found shelter at Pasteur Hyperpoint – a small shopping mall with Malaysia’s Giant Supermarket as its anchor tenant. After an average tasting dinner, a purchase of a local prepaid number and a 2hour wait, the rain subsided to a drizzle and we began our accommodation hunt. Most mid level accommodations in Bandung are in a poor state. After walking out 2 hotels nearby we decided to catch an angkot to Cihampelas. Not having found our bearings in this very large town, the angkot dropped us off at a large dark intersection (most places in Java are dark). A friendly ‘lady’ on the street pointed us to Cihampelas Street (see photo attached later in the post). After a long search with help from locals, we settled on Hotel Cihampelas. A mid end hotel which had a sister hotel not too far away. At Rp280,000, this was a mid end hotel, not terribly clean or new, but it was late and we were tired from trudging on broken sidewalks in the rain. As mentioned before, the mid end hotels are dilapidated and this was just acceptable. We crashed onto the beds wishing for those nice affordable guesthouses in Thailand.
Morning. Our second day in Java and our first of the many, many, many Nasi Goreng and Roti Bakar (Fried Rice and Toasted bread) breakfasts from the hotels.
Welcome to Bandung.. !
Bandung. We were here to experience the ‘magic’ first hand.
Funny how bittersweet this turned out to be – it was an outcome for something that was wished for but with unforeseen consequences. We were taken with the land, the people, the food but shocked by the appalling depth of poverty. Apparently, the government has made strenuous efforts to alleviate poverty by stimulating economic potential in the province through an economic cluster strategy, such as developing sugar producing centers, but this was not evident in the state of affairs around us.
Zany, upbeat and optimistic people everywhere.
The t-shirt reads ..Young, Rich, Handsome and FREE
BB rifles/Air rifles are sold openly by the roadside and Java seems to feel safer than Malaysia
Traffic on Cihampelas Street is constant, ..up till 10pm even
Cihampelas street – shopping mecca for jeans and very memorable with its giant superhero statues
As we made our way from Cihampelas street to the train station, we saw some interesting street ‘performances’.
The Indonesian government itself says that least 8 million people in Java are still categorized as poor, since 6.5 million of them are under-employed with no proper job, while 1.5 million others are registered unemployed. The poor people in the province are scattered across almost 9 thousand villages and sub-districts in 36 regencies. The number of poor people is still above the national average – around 15 percent of the total population.
under the flyover, beggars wait for kind souls to give them money.
take anything, but don’t take my friends.
Sometimes, business is slow under the flyover.
This is who I am
This kind-hearted person we met was a really nice “lady”. On the day we arrived, the city shrouded in darkness and rain beating down relentlessly from the above, she actually pointed us in the direction of our hotel on Cihampelas Street. Never judge a book by its cover.
Another ‘must not miss’ in Bandung are the local snacks/oleh-oleh shops along Cihampelas street. The pisang salai goreng or smoked banana fritter is to die for. Anyway if you are wondering which shop to buy from, Odjolali is one of the popular snack shops. Their fried snacks are fresh and crisp and you can see them packing them right there in front of the shop. Once you enter Odjolali, you’d be amazed at the variety of snacks available. They have banana fritters, dodol, keropok (varieties from very spicy to not spicy at all) and all sorts of sweet savories. Plenty of sampling available!
We bought many packets to eat on the long-haul between towns.
The second “cannot miss” in Bandung is the infamous Durian ice-cream. Cumi shudders at the thought of eating the ‘king of fruits’ since he doesn’t enjoy the lingering stench after consumption. He made an exception this one time since he likes ice cream. In case you are wondering what’s so special about Durian ice-cream here, the Bandung one comes with a huge durian pulp (and seed) in it. Other towns may have the pulp already blended in with the ice cream. How is it served? 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream (we actually couldn’t taste much vanilla), a durian pulp, another 2 scoops of ice cream then topped with your choice of evaporated milk, chocolate syrup, chocolate sprinkles and/or black glutinous rice. The taste was simply magnificent! This had been one of our favourite eats in Java. There are varying degrees of good tasting durian ice-cream since its dependent on the quality of the durian. Our 1st vendor was the best since his durian was the bittersweet variety. There is a no sure fire way of knowing which one is the best unless maybe re-visiting the same vendor but then again he might not always have the same fruit from the same source.
animal coffins. notice the cross is the wrong way round.
This is the same guy with the rifle in the 1st two photos.
Rifles, guns, leather, metal music and coffins.
Welcome to Columbine Bandung!
More snacks. Various oily fritters. Banana, Tofu, Tempe (soya based) and Yam. That white one was just fried flour.
Various dodols (gooey candy made with palm sugar/jaggery, coconut, flour) in various flavors
A perfectionist scrutinizes the barber’s cut.. and us.
Mirror doubles as weapon.
Street barbers only use the imported blades from Czech! Don’t be duped by imitators, homey!
Also doubles as a weapon! (hehe)
Interesting contraption above. Cumi’s dad had one that was purpose made, unlike this street version. With this one, it brings a whole new meaning to a perfect hair design since you can adjust the shave to varying degrees.
Reservations FULL for next 3months
the huge sign on the roof translates to ” There is only one word for success.. Quality!”
Notice how dilapidated the station and the buses. Quality.
On this entire 9 day trip, the best Nasi Padang we had was found in Bandung. This shop by the train station had the most delicious, dry rendang beef that we have ever eaten.
This is my plate of Nasi Padang and I finished the RICE!
(Ahpa, are you reading this:P)
Nasi Padang, restaurants serving Minangkabau cuisine. Padang people are an ethnic group indigenous to Southern Sudan. Over the next 9 days, we had the pleasure of eating food representing different parts of Indonesia.
Generally speaking, we found that the food in Java tended to be sweet and less spicy if compared with say, for example food from Sulawesi. Sulawesi cuisine tends to be spicy and savory and not as sweet as Java cuisine.
“magic java” come to take you away..
Me, waiting for the 4848 bus to take us to Pangandaran, en route Jogjakarta
Notice the driver sleeping behind me? This waiting room doubles up as a bedroom for the poor tired drivers of the 4848 who have done more than a few shifts a day. It does not instill any confidence in me. He will probably be our driver pretty soon(and I was right). This is a far cry from the luxurious Cipaganti we arrived in.
What to do? This is the fastest and soonest way to get us to Pangandaran , en route Jogjakarta and so we decided on it. Actually I am pretty glad we did this because the experience is worth a thousand words. Me and Cumi actually had a great time getting integrated into the system and we will do it again, and again.. gladly! (Anyone out there wanna sponsor our trip to say.. Cuba?! :P)
Shake and Bake .. 4848!
What music is Ciki listening to? Place your bets now!
Compare and contrast the Cipaganti with the 4848 (photo before).. See what I mean?
Next stop.. Pangandaran
Books on Java:
Essentials for Backpacking:
My personal favourite read that covers Indonesia: