Bandung Travel Writing and a few photos, you may be interested in the series of photos and video from the night train. Next: street photography, and if you plan to visit Bandung, Indonesia, check out the travel tips and Indonesia travel page.
The night train huffs as it enters Jogja’s station. I’m reassured to discover its clean interior. Though we’ve been on the road for more than two months now, Coco is still a relatively inexperienced traveler. It’s important that she eases into this rhythm. The train isn’t too full either. Neither of us were eager to replicate our experience from the hell train to Dunhuang, in China.
Keep a watchful eye as we huddle together on the hard plastic benches and fall asleep. But so do all the passengers aboard. Later in the night, awoken and curious, I roam about the compartments, capturing some photos of the sleepers.
Our arrival in Bandung at the break of dawn remains hazy. A littered street, market stalls opening to and fro, no sense of our surroundings, we reach an overpass.
Coco doesn’t complain (perhaps is she asleep still) as I follow my instincts and lead us along the freeway, till we reach a quieter place. I worry about crowds in unknown places. There, finally take a breath and ask for directions. After some guesswork, we’re thrown into an angkot (jeepney-like public shuttle), under the eyes of surprised students on their way to school.
Over the freeway, factory chimney stacks puff the ebbing morning into day, our first glimpse of Bandung, the ‘Paris of Indonesia’. A bit of an overstatement, although I notice the fashionable students, young and younger, boast European-style garments and gear below their humble hijab.
Avenues lined with trees, columned mansions from the not so distant past when Dutch tradesmen owned the land…
We’re dropped off in one of the central neighborhoods: the fashion district, lined with retail shops, the most noticeable of which features a giant Rambo sculpture, complete with rocket launcher and helicopter. Walk to a multi-colored Marriott, marble-laden lobby, where we beg some Wifi from the kind clerks, and proceed to book a cheap room close by.
After some looking around, and nearly breaking my back twice (due to the slippers I purchased in Bali after losing my other pair in a sewage stream, part of the ongoing shoe epic embedded within the general adventure), we reach a gated residence.
Ring the doorbell and wait a few minutes. A young man appears on the driveway. He opens his garage door and leads us into the building. He invites us to remove our slippers by the ramp. And leads us down a tiled hallway to a clean and bare room fitted with a mattress. We thank him, he points down the hallway to the toilet and shower, and disappears upstairs.
Tired as we may be, there’s not much time to wind down, and we have no information about Bandung. There’s a brand-new (and empty) shopping mall close by, and again we borrow the Wifi, from a fast-food chain this time.
The main tourist attraction is a dormant and picturesque volcano crater dubbed Tangkuban Perahu, located almost three hours out of town. It’s unlikely we’ll have time to make it, and the price is steep for a day-trip.
With this information, we walk for a long time along the bleak avenues of Bandung. There aren’t many pedestrians in sight. Finally we reach the railway station, and book tickets for the next day. Keep walking randomly through the streets. Many military installations.
Later. Coco isn’t feeling too well. I walk about our neighborhood in search of food. The night is stuffy. A violent downpour interrupts my search. I retreat into the lobby of an unassuming building. The clerk and security guard raise their eyebrows, but don’t inquire. I like that. The downpour continues. Monsoon season is around the corner.
The streets have emptied, large puddles shimmer in the darkness. I’m curious to try the food from one of the Warungs that abound (literally: small business), and decide on a lady under a tarpaulin. I order jook and she fills a plastic bag, which she ties with a rubber band.
I’ve been used to these small eats and nooks when traveling alone. Enjoying some grime and shine whenever. But I’ve been more cautious with Coco.
It’s a learning curve. We’ll get there. Give time to time.
The jook tastes great. Coco slurps the warm pudding. I’m glad she feels better.
The next morning. Coco stays in to get more rest. More walking, a lot of it. Get a glimpse of this university and fashion town, which used to be the summer headquarters of Dutch plantation owners. Government buildings, bridges, soccer fields. Clothes and fashion shops, universities and students. I have fun getting ‘lost’ in the narrow streets of a residential neighborhood by the river.
When I return, it’s time to pack up. I can’t shake the somewhat empty feeling of our short stay in Bandung. I apologize for my inability to recount it in a more interesting manner. But perhaps some experiences just aren’t as adventurous as others. Life gets to rest too.
And Jakarta, the capital, is full of exciting promise. We’re headed there now.
If you enjoyed Bandung Travel Writing, you may be interested in the series of photos and video from the night train or street photography from Bandung.