Southeast Asia

B For Bandung

If I have to choose 3 things that define Indonesia. It will be this.

Batik. Bali. Bandung.

Bandung is a microcosm of Indonesia. The heavy traffic, dynamic vibes, varied local cuisine and dramatic scenery; they are  all there. In Bandung  it is easier  to find a stalwart IT start-up company than in Jakarta. In fact the country’s best universities are found here; so are budding creative-based industries.  It’s the wonderfully cool air I’d say. Afterall, Bandung is 768m above sea level. Perhaps the pleasant weather and altitude encourages people to be creative?

As we neared Bandung on the highway, my ears went ‘ping’. There was a discernible change in air pressure. Up till then, we had been on the road for about 2 and a half hours with no toilet break. Confusing traffic greeted us as we entered Bandung. We deduced correctly that we probably wouldn’t find Padma Hotel immediately. So we took a quick break at the nearest shopping mall. And we saw this.

We ‘toured’ Bandung for a while before we finally found the road to Padma Hotel. Padma was nicely perched on a hill, seeming to possess its entirety.  It was a refreshing change from the maddening crowds in town. The view was great, the atmosphere was laid back and everything was tranquil. Only, the hotel room felt too small for 3 persons even ladies and seemed old and under maintained considering it wasn’t at all cheap. Not so befitting of a 4-star resort hotel.

We headed out to lunch first. Lunch was soooo many hills away I thought our guide was trying to be funny. He wasn’t but he got a bit pesky which made us uncomfortable. When we finally reached Kampong Daun more than 1 hour later, we were glad to relieve our battered butts and gear up for lunch. The venue was quite quaint. Very traditional Indonesian, very good for spending a lazy afternoon holed up in a private hut and sipping juice or tea.

Reluctantly, we wound up our lunch tete a tete to check out the Volcano crater. It was misty so there wasn’t much to see. There was scant water in the crater; it was all dried up. But we did have fun taking pictures with some craggy trees in the mist.

Next up were the hotsprings; we decided to give them a miss because we had to trek a bit and the weather wasn’t looking good. Just as well. It rained big time as we meandered down the mountain back to town. There were spots of minor flooding here and there.

We visited a tea plantation and toured the tea-making facilities inherited from the dutch. It was like scenes out of my secondary 2 geography textbook! Quite fascinating to observe how the tea leaves were dried, roasted and pressed – the traditional way. An old guy led us through the maze explaining the process. The girls followed him obediently. Later, they confessed they didn’t know a single word that he said! But they played along out of courtesy!

There are 2 die-die must-dos when you visit Bandung: shop at the  factory/discount outlets and get the famous Amanda brownies. All conveniently lined up along Jalan Dago. Naturally, being good Singaporeans, we acquiesced. The clothes in the outlets were cheap but many many seasons outdated. Still, they might be worth the buy if its your thing.

The brownies however were another matter. Amanda Brownies Kukus (Jalan Rancabolang No 2) were steamed, not baked and were deliciously rich without being too overwhelming. At roughly 23k-28k rupiah per box, they were super worth it. Only problem was they were heavy to lug back and had a one-week expiry date (stick them into the fridge to prolong shelf-life). This was a problem because there were so many flavours besides the original (marble, pandan, blueberry, cheese, strawberry etc) and you’d want to cart each back. But beware the imitations. always ask locals to point you to the original Amanda. Yes, the brownie boxes didn’t look fancy but you’d be sorry to judge a brownie by its container.

That said, the best bit of the trip for me was the massage that pesky guide introduced to us, at Mariaty’s (original outlet at Jalan Setiabudi 38). It was the best body/oil massage I ever had. The auntie pressed all the right points. Only a few moves were useless (I paid attention!). I was so impressed I gave her a huge tip. After the massage, they even served tea with home-made dessert. And all for only 120k rupiah.

Talk about tips. Now, we were told it was imperative to give tips. and I couldn’t agree more after the experience. I suppose you can get away with not giving any but just so little will ensure prompt attentive service. Tips could be as little as 2k rupiah to 20k rupiah (for restaurant) for example. A very small  investment on our part but totally worthwhile. It would make them very happy.  And why not?

Categories: Southeast Asia

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