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The Bandung Rundown

Though Bandung seems to constantly jostle with the likes of Surabaya and Medan for the coveted second city title in Indonesia, this much is clear: the metropolis of 7.5 million is big and shows no signs of a demographic backslide. It helps to have a big brother like Jakarta on your doorstep. The “Big Durian” and national capital of Indonesia, home to 26 million people strong, is a colossal presence on the island of Java, after all, and is a mere 150 km from Bandung.

For all of Jakarta’s sway over life and politics in the archipelago nation, however, Bandung exerts a critical and singular cultural identity. The capital of West Java is the indubitable focal point of Sundanese culture - a fact spectacularly apparent in Bandung’s culinary scene, markets, architectural landscape and arts calendar.

Yet it takes some acumen to dig down to the marrow of a city like Bandung, which, like the rest of Indonesia, has been beset by rampant sprawl and lawless overdevelopment in recent decades. The result - incessant urban congestion - is a source of perpetual chagrin with conservationists and more than a few tourists. Still, Bandung is well worth the effort. Enjoy the old heritage charms of the city and, like so many Jakartans on the weekend, make the most of Bandung’s hilly environs and cooler tropical weather.

Bandung’s Top 10

10. Museum Konperensi commemorates Bandung’s most conspicuous claim to fame: the 1955 Asian-African Conference, which sought to foster economic co-operation among non-aligned nations and thwart hegemonic incursions by both the United States and Soviet Union.

5. The Museum Geologi may lack basic info in English but superb exhibits on Indonesia’s seismic landscape manage to surpass the limits of language. The old home of the Dutch Geological Service provides cool digs for the standout museum.

9. Gasibu Park is a welcome asylum of (relative) peace and tranquility in the frenetic city. The park is especially lively on Sundays, when people gather to exercise and frequent the many food stalls in the area.

4. Savoy Homann Bidakara Hotel is the pinnacle of Art Deco architecture in Bandung and one of the most emblematic creations of Dutch architect Albert Aalbers. Faded but overall, still significant as a telltale Bandung point of interest.

8. Museum Prangko is a philatelist’s dream. The landmark in the Gedung Sate complex is a foremost archive of stamps and postal-related memorabilia from Indonesia and around the world. Of interest to even staunch non-stamp lovers.

3. Villa Isola is another Art Deco masterpiece in Bandung and the former home of Dutch media tycoon Dominique William Berretty. Now known as Bumi Siliwangi, the magnificent heritage landmark dates back to 1933.

7. Bosscha Observatory is the oldest observatory in Indonesia and one of several fine reasons to visit the town of Lembang, some 15 km north of Bandung proper. Built by the Dutch authority in the 1920s, the observatory is now run by the Bandung Institute of Technology.

2. Bandung Institute of Technology is not only a prominent academic institution but a singular example of hybrid architecture in Indonesia. The mix of native and European aesthetics on offer is exquisite and the art gallery on campus is well worth a tour.

6. Tangkuban Perahu last sent plumes of ash into the West Java sky in 1959. The now dormant volcano is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Indonesia and the most visible natural landmark in Bandung.

1. Gedung Sate is a neo-classical chef d’oeuvre that serves as the office of the governor of West Java. The grand colonial-era landmark is a city treasure and foremost symbol of Bandung.

Bandung History

  • Geology Museum – A colonial structure that houses a large collection of natural history artefacts.
  • Villa Isola – Currently part of the University of Education Indonesia (UPI) complex, it was originally a luxury villa.
  • Gedung Sate – Built in the 1920s by J. Gerber, it is an incomparable example of art deco style and originally used as headquarters of the Dutch Indies Government companies.
  • Cipaganti Mosque – Its most attractive feature is the angular and straight architecture.

Bandung Art & Culture

  • Kopi Selasar – This art space combines a café and midday getaway, as well as organised art events.
  • Common Room – A platform for art and cultural activities including exhibitions, music concerts, lectures and workshops.
  • Braga Festival – Organised for three days each December and featuring live dance, music, stage events and shows.
  • Kawin Tebu Ceremony – In April, this ceremony in Bandung revolves around the sugarcane industry.
  • Convention Hall – Most cultural events in Bandung take place here, including an Islamic book fair and Braga festival.

Bandung Shopping

  • Omuniuum – This shop run by Bandung’s most friendly couple, Boit and Trie, offers the most complete music merchandise in Indonesia.
  • Rumah Mode – An excellent factory outlet offering fabulous bargains.

Bandung Gay & Lesbian

  • L. A. Discotheque – It is a popular destination for gay clientele and some lesbians, especially on Wednesday's “Jeans Night”.
  • Amnesia Disco – Attracts young executives, business owners and tourists.
  • Odeum – Attracts a mixed crowd of straight, gays and lesbians.
  • Asgar Massage – Popular massage parlor for men.
  • Brown Man Spa – Massage and body treatments for men that remains open until 11 pm.

Bandung Outdoor

  • Kawah Putih – This is the place a three-hour drive from town to soak into for total relaxation.
  • Saung Angklung Udjo – Once in Bandung, you must not miss this Sunda cultural experience.
  • Ciater Hot Spring – You will love soaking in the hot water pools considered healthy for your skin.
  • Pasar Baru Trade Centre – This seven-storey market can be the most engaging experience of the day, with shoes and souvenirs sold by local resellers.
  • Tangkuban Perahu – A breathtaking view of geologic formation about an hour’s drive from Bandung.

Bandung Sport

  • Kampung Gajah theme park is a bit overpriced but the children will love it.
  • As you trek down to the Tangkuban Perahu geysers, you will love the weather and nature, but don't forget your warm clothes.
  • A boat ride in Patengan Lake will be optimistically joyful, as it is believed to be auspicious for your love story.
  • While on your way to Ciater Hot Spring, you may try other attractions like archery and horseback riding.
  • Explore Bandung Treetop adventure alone or in a group or with family to experience a real adrenalin rush.

Bandung Local

Bandung’s urban drift is a testament to Indonesia’s growth and endemic, pervasive rural flight over the past several decades. The city extends over a Java-wide highway and rail transport web that ostensibly unites metro Bandung with metro Jakarta in one leviathan megalopolis. Bandung’s urban area now spans close to 200 km<sup>2</sup> and includes 26 subdistricts (kecamatan) and 139 villages (kelurahan). For tourists, however, the compact core of the city, from the small central business district to the few commercial streets, is where the chief points of interest reside.

The north side of Bandung evinces more affluence than the rest of the city and, as such, is home to numerous academic institutions, malls, museums, restaurants, hotels and parks.

Downriver, the south side of the city is the base of Bandung’s eminent textile industry. A modest Chinatown close to Pasar (Market) Baru is a pocket of rich diversity amid the Sundanese majority.

Anchor and linchpin heritage streets to visit in Bandung include the colonial-era promenades of Jalan Braga and Jalan Asia-Afrika (formerly De Grote Postweg under Dutch rule).

Dago refers to a vital and somewhat fashionable commercial area of Bandung that teems with outlet shops, more upmarket boutiques, restaurants, cafés and old Dutch villas. Important thoroughfares in the popular district include Jalan H. Juanda and Jalan Merdeka.

Avid bargain hunters can find solace at innumerable factory outlets on streets such as Cihampelas, Riau and Setiabudi. Ever-popular with day trip visitors from Jakarta, the trio envelops a wide variety of clothes shops.

Bandung Eat & Drink

Sundanese cultural immersion is the name of the game in Bandung, most notably in the food department. A few dietary staples in the regional arsenal emerge above the rest, from omnipresent lalab with sambal to the delectable rice flour pancake surabi. Sample it all in Bandung: the Sundanese penchant for concurrent tangy, sour, spicy and sweet mouthfeels is crazily addictive.Suis Butcher – This is the place for quality food within your budget. Sambara – Delight your taste buds here with any kind of Sudanese food, from bakwan jagung to semur jengkol. Cloud 9 – The best in town for cheap drinks and good pizza.

New Braga Café (JL Braga 15) is a convivial eatery that dates back to Bandung’s Dutch period. Happily, the food is as good and authentic as ever.

Sate Kardjan (Jl Pasirkaliki) is a legendary Bandung kitchen that serves melt-in-your-mouth lamb dishes around the clock.

Utami (JL Cihampelas 12) heaps on clean, fresh plates of regional classics.

Santosa (Jl Aceh) fires up the best hawker wok in the city, with long lines of hungry converts from 5 to 9 pm.

Prefere 72 (Jl Juanda 72) is a cosy, upscale nook in north Bandung. The library cum restaurant is popular with prosperous expats and locals.

Make a pilgrimage to Kartika Sari (Jl Haji Akbar 4) for traditional Sundanese sweets.

Kyooki (Jl Braga 21) is the place to mix it up with Bandung’s pretty youthful set. Solid Japanese fare and heavy-duty cocktails helps lubricate the mood.

Kiosk (JL Braga) is a convenient food court in Braga City Walk that unfurls a delicious array of Sundanese snacks and drinks.

Rumah Makan Sari Sunda (Jl Jenderal Sudirman 103-107) is inauspicious at first glance - until the food arrives. Tacky décor aside, tasty Sundanese comfort food is on the menu.

Bubur Ayam Mang Oyo (Jl Sulanjana) serves typical Sundanese breakfast items.

Bandung Events

Bandung marks a variety of civic, Islamic and Sundanese holidays and festivals throughout the year. From Indonesian Independence Day on August 17 to Maulid Nabi (observance of the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad in late January to March), the city has ample reason to celebrate no matter what the season.

The Braga Festival takes place over three days in late December and features a spectacular parade of street food stalls on Jalan Braga and myriad performances at the Asia Africa Cultural Centre.

The Kawin Tebu Ceremony commemorates the all-important sugar cane industry in West Java with numerous special events in Majalengka, 100 km from Bandung, throughout the month of April.

The Bandung + Performance Art Community is a beacon of creative expression in the capital of West Java. The collective puts on and supports shows and performances on a regular basis.

Nu-Substance Bandung is a rarity in Indonesia: a digital music and media technology festival.

Festival Jajanan Bango di Bandung is a massive food festival that takes over Stadion Tegalega every October.

The Bandung Biennale is a prominent showcase for a vibrant city and provincial arts scene.

The multi-purpose Siliwangi Stadium is the home pitch for both Persib and Bandung F.C.

The hot springs, plantations and volcanic peaks that surround Bandung provide a supreme base for a wide variety of recreational pursuits.

When To Go

Though Bandung experiences cooler temperatures than Jakarta, for example, the city still resides well within a tropical wet and dry climate zone. The wet season typically lasts from October to April, with peak precipitation in January, February and March.

Temperatures in Bandung waver between 63°F (17°C) and 84°F (29°C) for the year, which is several degrees less than Jakarta’s maximum.

The crux of the dry season in Bandung spans the months of July, August and September.

What To Miss

Dodgy trishaw and angkot (minibus) operators can be a bit of a persistent problem in Bandung. Avoid the trishaws altogether and be sure to flag down official angkots, which have uniform paint-jobs and signage. Opportunistic pickpockets have been known to ply their nefarious trade within the confines of the minibus fleets, which have specific routes and can hold up to a dozen passengers or more at a time. With that in mind, stash your stuff safely and be wary of thievery wherever you travel in the city.

In the same vein, traffic is chaotic in Bandung and, much like Jakarta and Surabaya, a monumental problem for city officials to overcome. The Dago area is particularly bad on Saturdays.

Scenic treks outside the city lure hordes of tourists to the slopes of Tangkuban Perahu. While the volcano is a wonderful, worthwhile attraction, beware of rapacious vendors of trinkets and useless junk. The best tactic is to dismiss unwelcome advances with calm, declarative authority.

Getting Around

Husein Sastranegara International Airport is 5 km outside of Bandung proper, 3 km from the central train station and provides service to destinations like Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Singapore, Bali, Jakarta and Yogyakarta.

Shuttle bus service from Jakarta is the most popular mode of transport to Bandung. The West Java city is 140 km southeast of Indonesia’s capital. Rail access is another option, from both Jakarta and Surabaya, but service can be slow and unreliable.

In Bandung proper, ubiquitous angkots and cabs (with meter) are the best hassle-free transport alternatives. Again, however, when possible, be vigilant in your choice of company.

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