My Favorite Place; Bandung – The Asian Paris

I know, I don’t write much these days; a whole lot going on but here’s something, my favorite place, for 2011 at least.

Valarie Kimani’s Village Girl came to mind as I thought of this short narrative of Bandung City. In particular, a line in the song referring to a City Boy; and a city Boy I have pretty much become over years. I am very much at home in the city. As such, arguably my favorite place in Asia has to be Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. It could have been the company (very awesome crew I was with) and the art of seduction that transpired while there but nonetheless, it became my unforgettable place.

Bandung is the capital city of West Java, and the third largest city in Indonesia after Jakarta and Surabaya. Nicknamed Parijs van Java (Paris of Java) by the Dutch for its resemblance to Paris and European atmosphere back at the colonial times. Bandung is also known as Kota Kembang, literally meaning the Flower City since Bandung has history with having many flowers, a flowery city. See where the seduction comes from?

Located at the altitude of 768 m with the surroundings of lush and beautiful Parahyangan mountains make the climate mild and pleasant. The city has been well known for the universities, apparel products and a great place for gastronomic adventure. Nowadays, Bandung has become a very popular weekend escape for Jakartans, Malaysians and fun lovers from Singapore. I loved Bandung, the week or so I spent there made it arguably my most favorite place on Earth.

Getting to and around Bandung;

Paris Van Java!

Bandung’s Hussein Sastranegara airport has a difficult location among the mountains and has only limited services with small planes. Bandung is located in the central highlands. It can be reached from Jakarta either via the toll road or by airplane. When using the road, there are many small buses connecting Jakarta and Bandung. An alternative to the toll road is the winding and mountainous roads through Puncak. The route through Puncak is quite scenic but on weekends and public holidays the traffic is very heavy, really heavy; you could easily get stuck in traffic travelling from Jakarta to Bandung, the entire journey. There is plenty to see by the highways though, beautiful highways at that with scenic and landmark situations through; Chinese coffees and teas plantations, beautiful train flyovers, underpasses and overpasses, tobacco stretches and many others. Bandung has thin roads, as such even town service vehicles called anglot are really tiny vans. Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport is about 3 hours away (plus any traffic jams). A number of companies offer direct shuttle services. There are also cabs, the Blue and the Blue/Green cabs similar to those in Jakarta to get anyone around. They are all metered and easily available around the city, cheaper too compared to the taxi fares we pay here in Nairobi.

Hotels and Accommodation;

There are many travellers’ hotels around Bandung. There are high end hotels too, from Hilton Bandung, to The Cihampelas. If you’re going there for fun you might want to use some travel and tour agents for guidance. I stayed at Aston Tropicana, around Cihampelas, beautiful hotel with several restaurants and amenities on it; Daishogun; a Japanese restaurant run by a beautiful Japanese lady, Cintah. She had a team that kept calling folks over there to try the food. I shared many stories of Africa and she did of Japan while there. Very pleasant lady that, always in black business suits and with a smile that defined awesomeness. She asked me whether I was seducing her, I asked her whether I was, she said she thought so, I asked whether I should, she smiled but not for long. She in particular didn’t speak to me much after I visited the hotel with another friend, severally. Oh well…

There is Lemon Grass Restaurant at Aston too; they made better food than what I ate in Jakarta. They have very pretty and yummy waitresses on site, with slits that got a Namibian friend Augus to learn Indonesian. As a matter of fact, he walked with a handbook just to wow them with his mastery of the Indos Nesos. Augus, one very funny chap; I tell you! As is common with most Indonesian hotels, there is also a Karaoke Bar at the sixth floor; with a lady DJ that mixed some techno and house beats to my amazement. I will not say I made a fool of myself singing a Swahili song over there, it won me fans! There is a Piano Bar at the Coconut Lounge of Aston; every evening there came this couple, a man on the Piano and a lady with very beautiful legs on a high stool singing ballads. One random wine evening my pal Al from Uganda stepped up and sang some Lionel Richie with her. That lady, her singing could easily light up dead bulbs. Of course a gym, a swimming pool sigh, memories and other basic hotel facilities too. Oh and a Spa too, one fellow Kenyan Benard knows a story or two there. I will let him keep those. He hee…

Shopping and Sight Seeing;

That Bandung is considered the South Asian Paris is not just a name. By weekend, the City of about 5 million people could easily mark up by more than half that number. Folks come fro all over; Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Australia to shop and enjoy the city. Buying clothes and memorabilia is standard there. Every shop gets you hooked. Visiting the mountains, it’s said West Java has about 17,000 active volcano mountains which risk takers and fun lovers go to. Clubbing is a big thing, so you will always hear of a top DJ from some place coming to town, or a Musician, like I left just when Neyo had checked in and it was billed to be such a hit. Like Paris, Bandung is equally billed with romance and such tales. Quick romance too, especially at clubs and such.

Bandung people love malls; shopping malls. At four in the morning you will still find couples at a coffee house talking and holding hands. In the evenings you will see droves of young people walking about malls, and taking photographs. Their malls are all inclusive, from Starbucks, to Star wars playing zones. From Salons to Food courts and other fancy things like the Sky Walk I saw Cihampela’s Ciwalk; I have no clue what went on up there but lovers walked about with such contentment. I spent so much time in that place, very conducive for those embracing romance. There are Apple Shops, Android zones and Nokia stops. Cloth lines are all over there, you will definitely spend money there. It is hard no to. Even chicken lovers have their Kentucky Fried Chicken there and some Pizza Huts too.

Basically everywhere you go in the City is a shopping place. But the most memorable is this one Sunday with my Ethiopian friend, Fre. We walked about Heritage Fashion and some othere places I keep forgetting names. She wanted to go buy those textile things for women, they called them textile there. So we were referred to some market called Pasa Baru. Now, Pasa Baru is like Muthurwa, Gikomba and Kenyatta Market Combined. I have never been in these three places either but the madness that was there! First, no one speaks English, like really you have to trade in sign language. We were told while going there to hold everything to our chests; there wasn’t even oxygen there heh! Everyone wants to make money of you even when they can’t communicate. But Pasa Baru is cheap; you can buy meters and meters of clothing for just a few hundreds. Do not go to Pasa Baru alone though, seriously do not.

Tour Sites;

Asia Africa Museum

The Asian-African Conference which was held on 18th to 24th April 1955 in Bandung gained a big success both in formulating common concerns and in preparing operational guidance for cooperation among Asian African Nation as well as in creating world order and world peace. The conference has had a result Dasasila Bandung, which became the guideline for the colonized countries in fighting for their independence. It also became the fundamental principles in promoting world peace and international cooperation. The success of the conference was not only for the time being but also for the time after so that the soul and spirit of the Asian-African Conference becomes one of the most important factor that deciding world history. That’s in briefing of the Asia Afrika Museum which holds a whole lot more than just that independence tale. Inside the museum you will gather a whole lot; there is a theatre showing colonialism tales, there are many artifacts there, sculptures of leaders involved and general museum stuff like animal skeletons, cultural identities and such.  More here.

Saung Angklung Udjo;

The Angklung Instrument

You cannot afford to miss the Saung Angklung Udjo especially if you are a lover of culture and music. This is my best place on earth. It’s the one place I can ever recall in my entire life when I just sat, and listened to instruments and it didn’t matter where I was, or who I was or where I was headed. Those two hours watching kids play instruments, wooden instruments named after the extensive islands and giving different keys.

The Angklung is a musical instrument made of two bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. The tubes are carved to have a resonant pitch when struck and are tuned to octaves. The base of the frame is held in one hand, whilst the other hand shakes the instrument rapidly. This causes a repeating note to sound. Each of three or more performers in an angkalung ensemble play just one note or more, but altogether complete melodies are produced. The Angklung is popular throughout Southeast Asia, but it originated in today’s Indonesia and at this musical center, they really just hit you with the music; commonly identified by the Sundanese (not Sudan) culture in Indonesia.

They played modern music, Rolling Deep, Adele. They played oldies from Ray Charles and a beautiful lady sang along Alicia Keys’ No One as the children hit the little bamboo instruments. The crowd in attendance was given instruments and everyone had to follow some sign, based on the name of the island their instrument was tagged with…and we all became a huge orchestra. There is no way I can explain that. Just visit This Site. It is out of this world. If you know what music can bring to you, you will probably understand.

Summary

I told Lady Atika, Madam Nina and Mr. Widya, some of my hostesses and host there that I will go back to Bandung.  I really will, in a near future. There are some proposals that are already sending me to Indonesia in visible time but I’d love to just go there and have fun. I liked the place; by the time I left Nairobi for Asia, my mind was quite cluttered; I could not summon my gut to quit employment and focus on my own growth, I was overly worried about my vision which still in some scary days fails me, I had had an ugly year for most of my time; health, work, economics, and yeah, heart break. It took me a trip that side on what I thought was to see the world, but I got to really see myself in other people’s eyes, thoughts and in my own mirror. It turns out, people and the world as you know it can really make you feel broken yet a different part of the world can really energize you. The world as I came to know it from that end gave me a lease of life no one can ever break. Thank You Asia, most importantly Bandung, unforgettable; Terimah Kasih!. When I find a nice girl to marry, I will take her there for honeymoon and make babies ha!

You can also read on my stay in Jakarta at Bankelele’s Blog.

Thanks for passing by…

Till then, Cheers!

3 thoughts on “My Favorite Place; Bandung – The Asian Paris

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