Bandung, “Paris van Java”

I hadn’t been to Bandung for more than 18 years so I jumped at the chance to visit Bandung again when friends of mine organised this recent trip. It was to be a serious shopping and eating mission with very little sightseeing involved!  Bandung is the third largest city of Indonesia and is roughly 140km from Jakarta.  Up in the highlands, it’s a wonderful retreat from buzzy Jakarta.  And I can understand why many from Indonesia’s capital make their way to this quaint city – the cool weather is a wonderful respite from the hot and humid city.  Definitely a great help when one is on a serious shopping mission 🙂

The airport in Bandung is unlike Jakarta’s international facility – it’s small and has no aero-bridges.  You get off the plane and walk across the tarmac when it lands.  Golly, you can even see your bags being transported from the just landed aircraft to the little drop chute in the airport!  Most foreign visitors have to pay a visa upon arrival.  Be prepared for a rather long clearance at immigration.

Bandung is already teeming with Jakartaans over the weekends and now that Asian regional and low cost carriers are flying into this beautiful colonial city, the place is even more packed!  It adds however, to the bustling atmosphere.  Suffice to say, even the Dutch colonialists thought Bandung was special when they ventured to Indonesia in the 18th Century via the Dutch East Indies Company.  The topography made the city a natural extension to growing tea.  Many soon came to reside in this cool retreat which led to the rapid development of the city, hence the beautiful colonial buildings that one can see today.  In fact, it became known as ‘Paris van Java’ or ‘the Paris of Java’.

Much was done in the way of developing education and research and development and the Pasteur Institute in Jalan Pasteur comes to mind.  The Pasteur Institute, which is like an offshoot of it’s well-known sibling in Paris, helped develop the vaccine for Malaria.  The city still continues in the farming tradition but it is also a centre for textiles with many clothing fashion brands setting up garment manufacturing here.

Garment manufacturing is such a big industry that converted old houses with large compounds have been turned into factory outlets, replete with cafes and bistros for customers to take refuge from the crowds and aching feet!  One such place is ‘Rumah Mode‘ which we went to on the first day of our visit.  It had a lovely expanse of grounds and an extensive range of clothes for men, women and children.  A lot of the clothes  styles which are sold in the outlets seem to be more smart casual and good quality t-shirts.  Besides the factory outlets, check out the ‘Jeans street‘ – we didn’t have time to check this place out but I’ve been told that in addition to the usual T-shirts, you can also fish for beloved denims in these outlets.

Peanut Vendor

Shopping is an intensive affair and to replenish your energy, clever food entrepreneurs set up food carts to cater to flagging energy levels 🙂  If you don’t fancy sitting in the cafes, just check out the stalls outside the factory outlet compounds.

Have a break – get some Mie Bakso!

Durian Ice-Cream Vendor – check out the durian skins on top of the cart

Not only is the shopping good, so is the food!  We stuffed ourselves with Indonesian staples such as Mie Bakso as well as Nasi Padang and Ikan Gurame (fried fish) – so absolutely delicious!

Mie Bakso, or Beef Ball Noodles

Nasi Padang Spread

Generally, it takes little to have fun in Bandung.  I was touched by this family who just hung out outside the factory outlet we were visiting.  I was told it was the last day of the school holidays, which is probably why Mum and Dad just decided to hang with the brood.

Hanging with the Kids

It was a good weekend break for me which incorporated my love for food, shopping and the spa 🙂  Air Asia and Silkair fly daily to Bandung from Singapore.  Remember to hire or book a car and a guide to bring you around when you get there – traffic can be murder and you need local knowledge to move around!  The next time I visit, I’ll be getting in some serious photography as the city has some fantastic art deco buildings.  I see alot of similarities in the architecture of Sri Lanka, Malacca and Penang in this beautiful city and I hope to stay longer to capture this.