In anticipation of my trip to Indonesia, I was told by the trip organizers that I wouldn’t be able to visit Borneo during my visit. Subsequently, I was disappointed – my first thoughts were purely selfish. I had long nurtured a dream of going to this ‘ultimate jungle’ to view orangutans in their native habitats.
But then I started feeling a different level of sorrow: Borneo is burning! The forest is being destroyed, the animals are dying, pushed away from their territories, unable to find food and completely intoxicated by the haze. And this really does make me sad. I hope to still visit someday.
The immediate issue was a practical one though. If I didn’t get to visit Borneo, where else would I go? According to the organizers, we’d to go Bandung instead. Band-what? I don’t even know where that is! Is it interesting? Is it actually worth going? What experiences would I have there?
Despite my initial reluctance, I will admit being pleasantly surprised by Bandung. The capital of West Java is also the fourth largest city of Indonesia. It was once considered the Paris of Java but the uncontrolled development of the last few decades has turned it into a chaotic web of narrow streets and large suburbs. This may not sound too appealing, yet I think that Bandung well deserves a visit – and here are a few reason why.
Reasons to visit Bandung, Indonesia
1. Access to the beautiful surrounding volcanoes and craters
One of the natural highlights when visiting Indonesia are the volcanoes. There are many scattered around the country with several conveniently not far from Bandung.
Tangkuban Perahu is about 30 km north of the city. A large crater is part of this active volcano which last erupted in 1969. It is known locally as the “upside down perahu (boat)” due to its shape which resembles a boat; this is a consequence of the collapse of the crater walls under the weight of the ash.
Smoke still comes out of the crater along with a sulphur smell; both can be “appreciated”. It is possible to walk along the crater; I highly recommend this for both the views as well as to escape the area right next to the parking lot, which is crowded with vendors and market stalls.
Another gorgeous volcanic site South of Bandung is Kawah Putih – this is a beautiful crater around 2300 meters above sea level. Smaller than Tangkuban Perahu, the main attraction of Kawah Putih is a gorgeous green lake – the entire landscape here is unique and stunning (if not a bit surreal).
2. An introduction to Indonesia’s multiculturalism
Indonesia is culturally very diverse – something that it is hard to appreciate when visiting for just a few weeks. A good way to appreciate the ethnic diversity and cultural traditions of Indonesia is through the Saung Angklung Udjo show in Bandung. Although mostly geared to tourists, it truly is an enjoyable & fun experience.
The first part of the show consists of a representation of traditional music and dances of Indonesia. All dancers wear colorful traditional costumes of the different regions of the country. The show is rhythmic and captivating and includes audience participation.
The second part of the show is more interactive when the director of the institution, Mr Udjo, teaches the audience how to play the angklung, a traditional instrument made of bamboo. Shaken with varying movements and levels of intensity, the resulting sound differs, as Udjo demonstrates. By the end of the “lesson”, the audience, under the direction of Mr Udjo, manages to play an entire song.
The overall result is very entertaining, but more than anything else it is heart warming to listen to Udjo’s message on the importance of being united in diversity, and the importance of being respectful to each other.
3. Fantastic restaurants
Despite not being a proper foodie, I enjoy trying new foods; Indonesian cuisine has definitely left a positive impression on me. Bandung and its surroundings are packed with some of the best restaurants in the country and between the fantastic locations, the tasty food, the settings and the atmosphere, the overall experience is a very good one.
I particularly enjoyed three restaurants: Dusun Bambu is located on gorgeous hills in an amusement park – this restaurant is a favorite of locals on weekends. The food is delicious and the views are fantastic.
The Peak Restaurant is ideally located – appropriately named it is positioned on top of a hill, with stunning views of the city. It is perfect for a romantic night out as it also has some very intimate tables, live music and a wide selection of wines.
Kampung Daun is completely surrounded by a luscious jungle and bamboo forest. Both small and larger huts are available for dining – each one of them is completely surrounded by nature. It is a very relaxed setting – and the food is delicious.
I enjoyed my experience in Bandung, it is one of my favorite places in Indonesia and I think anybody visiting Java should put it on their itinerary!
For more information on these attractions and experiences, visit the official Indonesia Bandung tourism guide: www.indonesia.travel/en/destination/496/bandung