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INDONESIA | Monday, 14 May 2012 | Views [891]

The next destination is Bandung. According to travel guides:

1) It was nicknamed "Paris of Java" by the Dutch colonist for it's resemblance to Paris.

2) It a university town

3) It's a weekend shopping trip for Jakartans on steroids or a spa town the weekend break.

I'm hopeful of seeing some colonial style architecture missing from Jakarta and lots of culture. I'm not expecting very much from Bandung in terms of excitement, but that's OK compared to the chaos of Jakarta. I decided to get to Bandung by train. Even the fastest train takes over three hours, making this slower than a bus, but the scenery between Jakarta to Bandung is supposed to be beautiful. So I booked a train travelling in the daylight hours to ensure that I can appreciate the passing countryside. For the first 5 minutes or so of the journey, the scenery is actually the slum housing next to the railway tracks that I'd seen before in the "Real Jakarta" tour, and it's quite a distressing sight to see so much poverty. After the train gets out into the countryside, the views really are spectacular, with the train passing close to hills, forests, passing villages an bridges over ravines:

My hotel is so far aware from the city centre that by the time I've settled down, it's already 3.30 and most of the museums will be closing soon. Then I find out that most of the cultural activities are not open during the weekend. So I just stayed in the hotel until it was time for dinner before going out the the 'Paris van Java" shopping mall.

Day 2

Bandung is also known for it's volcanic mountains, the most famous of which is probably Tanguban Perahu. It costs Rp350,000 to hire a car for the day to see the mountain, which is £$%^ expensive by local standards. All the way up to the mountain, I was have hoping for for a little bit of drama via an eruption. Nothing too spectacular so course.

When you do get to the mountain, and you can get real close to the main crater Kawah Ratu or Queen crater. The first thing that really hits your nose is the sulphur. It's a real live volcano spewing stinking sulphur.

It takes about 3 hours to circle the crater and it's worth it just to see to see the volcanic activity closely as steam makes it's way out of the crevasses, creating layers of sulphur. Although there's plants and tree growing on the mountain side, rim-side is a wasteland.

The there's the other thing this place is also known for, the hot springs. I was persuaded by anyone with an opinion to offer that a guide was necessary, costing a whooping Rp250k. When we get down to the springs, the place stinks even more of sulphur. Some of the springs are really hot, this one is boiling:

Fortunately, some of the pools are cool enough for a foot bath, which is quite a popular activity. And another popular activity is to cook eggs in the boiling pools. OK, I knew it's just an expensive gimmick for the tourist, but I might as well have a go:

I wasn't impressed with the egg. Imagine a boiled egg with a suspicious smell. Unsurprisingly, considering the water probably contains sulphur. Just for the record, a guide is totally unnecessary, the locals know the way so just follow them. Even if you're planning on going further to the car park instead of back up to the mountain, just follow the mud track going downhill, there's only one.

So back in Bandung, I go to the train station to book an advance ticket to Yogjakarta in 2 days time. In Indonesia, advance tickets require a form to be filled in and I can't find any. The ticket counter is no help, they shoo me away. I have to go to the customer relations office and they explain to me that the forms haven't been restocked because it's a Saturday. 


Day 3

I'm booked in to see a performance of a musical instrument known as Angklung. With everything but shopping malls closed, Bandung is turning into a staycation holiday. So rather than waste the day away until the performance, I head to the hotel gym. It's a Sunday and most of the guests are checking out so I get the gym to myself. I'm doing only 70% of my previous workout and I'm still struggling. Just goes to show what 5 months of no exercise does to even me.

As for the show itself, it started with a wayang (puppet) performance. I was really happy to see this because I missed out on this while in Jakarta.  After this, there were dance and theatre perform by children, a orchestra of the Angklung playing a redition of "We Are the World" and "Bohemian Rhapsody". Finally, there's an audience participation, where the audience are each given an Angklung and played when instructed by a conductor. That was fun. At The whole show cost Rp100k, so it's not cheap, but well worth the money.

Tags: angklung, bandung, indonesia, spring, volcano


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