Our very memorable three days in beautiful Bandung, capital of Western Java, concentrated on three activities:
- Admiring the very rare tropical Art Deco architecture
- Visiting two active volcanoes
- Exploring the bargain shopping opportunities
To bring you up to date, we left Jakarta and took the train to Bandung. The three-hour journey provided some excellent views of West Java’s stunning scenery. We were the only Westerners as far as we could see, but everybody went out of their way to accommodate us. We traveled executive class; that does not really mean what it sounds like, it just means a less crowded carriage and AC that did not function very well. The porters put us in the last carriage because it had a rack for our cases. Initially, we had the carriage to ourselves but it soon filled with families who rated it cooler and less crowded than the next carriage. When the train stopped in Bandung, there was no platform at our door, just a four foot drop! Alf managed to lower the baggage and then we both clambered down the train’s emergency one high step and jumped the rest of the way, executive class?
Our hotel was full of local families as it was a long weekend for a public holiday and we were the only Westerners again. The hotel was situated in a lively and busy area in the city. Many of the staff had only limited English, so communication was a bit of a challenge, as we got the impression that Bandung did not get many foreign visitors from the west.
Alf had found the address of a tourist information office in a guide-book, so that was our first stop Saturday morning. It was supposed to open at 10.00 AM but was late. The cleaner saw that we were a bit concerned, so offered us a seat in the adjacent shop, the local police station and he had the key! The cleaner also took out his mobile and called the man from the tourist information and informed us that he was stuck in a traffic jam – well, maybe not using those words, but he made himself understood to us! We sat patiently waiting in this tiny police station, until the toothless tourist information character arrived. People in Indonesia are incredibly helpful and friendly. Anyway, we booked a trip to the volcanoes for the next day to learn that our toothless friend was to be our driver and guide! We inquired as to the location of the Art Deco buildings. To our surprise, some of the famous Art Deco buildings were just down the street. Some were extremely impressive and in excellent condition – they were built by the Dutch during their colonial period in Indonesia. Bandung is one of three cities in the World that feature tropical Art Deco architecture – the other two are Miami and Brisbane.
We spent hours wandering around the crowded streets, admiring and photographing these beautiful buildings. We visited the historical Asia Africa Cultural Center (open this link for photos). Then we had an iced latte at the famous Hotel Savoy Homan (see photos). Our favorite building was the Villa Isola (open this link for photos) – the building still serves as the headmastership office of the Indonesia University of Education, while the surrounding complex is the campus of the university (also some lovely deco buildings).
We then went and looked in the shops, but were unimpressed. Everything was very cheap, but that is where it ended, cheap and not so nice! Bandung is full of factory outlet shops.
The next morning, we were met by our toothless guide at 7.30 AM and set off to see the volcanoes. The center of Bandung was busy with thousands of families all out early, enjoying their Sunday. The West Java countryside was stunningly beautiful. Java is very heavily populated and every square inch of the rich volcanic earth seems cultivated, with some very attractive terraces climbing every hillside. We visited two volcanoes. For the first, an active volcano, we needed to hire a local guide for the one hour walk to the crater and back. We chose not to sit with our feet in the pool, as the water was too hot! It was also proved to us how it was possible to hard boil an egg in ten minutes. Neither of us had ever climbed over an active volcano before, so this was a first and new experience – we got very close to the steaming heat and in parts the ground was very hot too. Our guide broke a piece of the volcanic rock to demonstrate the sulfur content. It was a bit touristy but fun and a lovely walk! The second volcano was was the famous Tangkuban Perahu. There were thousands of cars and families, all out like ourselves, enjoying Bandung’s number one attraction on this busy Sunday. This time we could not walk in the crater because of poisonous gases – we just admired the crater from behind fences. It was a photographer and artist’s dream with an array of colors and textures – open this link for photos.
On the way back to Bandung, we stopped for drink at a restaurant high on a hill overlooking Bandung – the farms and the city beyond made a wonderful site. Our toothless guide told us that he was doing extra work to save up for some false teeth to make him more attractive. Once we understood his English, we learned that he was charming, thoughtful, caring and knowledgeable. He tried hard to share the natural wonders of west Java. He then stopped to buy his ninety-five year old mother some bananas as she had a problem eating anything hard, we thought this was such a nice gesture. Anyway, we would like to return, if possible, some day. We descended the hill, on a narrow road, back into Bandung and were witness to all manner of street life.
Banding, famous for it’s flowers, will always have a warm place in our memories.
Tomorrow we fly to Jogjakarta, so watch out for our next blog..