First of all, don’t believe the hype. Bandung is a small, quaint city but it has all the trappings (read: hassles) of a busy, metropolitan. Roads are jammed and traffic is horrendous (I was told that weekends or public holidays are particularly bad time to be in Bandung as people from other cities like Jakarta would be pouring in and boy, did they). The weather is pleasant and cool, and if you love rainy days like I do Bandung is terrific.
People tell me this place is shopping heaven. Well, the textile section in Pasar Baru didn’t disappoint. So many colours, so many textures, so many types of cloth. I bought a suitcase worth of cloth for sisters, friends, et cetera and spent a fraction of the amount I would have spent if I had bought them in KL. I could not find anything for me though. Everything is embroidered with rhinestones and beads and crystals (think Siti Nurhaliza, she’ll fit right at home here), everything is in striking colours like aquamarine, coral, aubergine etc. Who can wear these? Like I said in my previous post, I ended up choosing 4 pieces in white – simply because they were the ones with the simplest and cleanest designs. Now I only need to figure out how to wear them. Fancy fabric can start from as low as RM5 per metre; the most expensive that I saw was about RM120 per metre but it’s still cheaper than KL.
The factory outlets are highly overrated. Maybe I was hoping for more than casual and sportswear. I bought some interesting shirts and dresses from Burberry, Esprit, Rock and Republic and Abercrombie & Fitch but I didn’t think the selection was that great to begin with. I don’t know lah. There were tons of shoppers and the queues at the cashiers were unusually long so I guess it works for other people. Unknown brands can start from as low as RM5, but the average price would be RM20-80. I saw some stuff from dVB and JLo’s Sweetface, there were plenty of Guess, American Outfitters, Ellese, True Religion, Seven for Mankind, Armani Echange (AX), cK … well you know… all the sportswear lines. No recent high-end goods though, so if you see anything with, say, Burberry or YSL tags chances are these items are so off-season you’ll set yourself a few years in the past :-P But fashion is not about being trendy, no? Just a small note, don’t buy the knockoff handbags etc though, sure they’re cheap but the stitching and materials are really badly done. People would KNOW they’re knock-offs, k?
Food is easy to find, it wasn’t cheap cheap but it wasn’t expensive either. Just about the same prices like KL’s. We had a really good time in Kampung Daun (only about 20-30km from the city but takes about 90mins drive due to road conditions.). Kg Daun is an al fresco eating joint slash resort that’s carved into the highlands. Food’s excellent though the portions a bit too big, the ambience and environment is charming. It was really cold and I regretted not bringing a sweater the moment we exited the car. The taxi fare (return) was IDR600k and we spent about 4 hours there. We should have gone there a bit earlier though coz I was told the place is breathtaking in the daylight. The other place that we were asked to go was Bumbu Desa, the food spread was a bit too much for me to take in coz they were rows and rows of food. In the end I told Ina to just choose whatever she felt like eating and I’d just eat off her plate. We also bought some cakes and banana fritters with cheese from this iconic bakery called Kartika Sari. On our last night we went to Cafe Baraya at the recommendation of our driver, it was ok but didn’t rock my world.
We chartered a taxi to take us around Bandung. Driving on your own is a hassle coz the roads are congested. A 12-hour charter will cost IDR500k, you can book them per hour as well at about IDR50k per hour. Actually, chartering a taxi only works if you want to go to long distance places like the volcano crater. If you intend to just go round and round the city hunting for shopping bargains, you’d be better off with flagging taxis down coz they’re just about everywhere and it’s much cheaper than a charter. A chartered taxi from Bandung to Jakarta (about a 2 hr ride) costs IDR600k inclusive toll fares.
Trying to find a spa or get a good massage in Bandung is like searching for the holy grail, ditto entertainment. Ina went for karaoke one night and came back an hour later complaining about the song selection and how the place was full with ‘chickens’. The blind massuese that she booked for her 2-hr massage was also a disppointment; she tried again the next day and got disappointed again and when we tried to venture outside the hotel to find a spa, we found that no one could recommend us a place!
The grassroot music scene is robust. Musicians are everywhere. Some of them make a living by serenading motorists, they would swarm your car when you stop at traffic lights. If you like them, you can give them some money; if you shake your head they’ll go back to the roadside and continue singing to no one in particular. But that aside, there are many lone guitarman playing on the street… I don’t think they’re doing it for money but rather, simply because. We passed by a couple of stages erected at roadsides and rock bands roaring away – so yes, rock is alive and well in Bandung. I found out later that a few people died in a stampede during a punk rock concert that was staged on the weekend we were there.
Tipping is encouraged, but not compulsory. I always give out at least IDR10k, which is equivalent to about USD1. Normally, you round up taxi fares to the nearest 1000.
If you’re like me and prefer a more fast-paced city, Bandung is not for you. I had a good time, but it was just a so-so experience for me. Unlike Jakarta, I didn’t find any affinity with Bandung. Maybe I am too used to Bangkok and was expecting something similar. But well, it was a good break from the daily grind and it took my mind off things so all is good.
I leave you with something from Radja coz this was what our driver played on our drive to Jakarta.