Sgtravellers

Header

Main Content

Content Text

April 24, 2018, Indonesia

A revitalised Paris of Java

As transportation and hotels in Bandung are upgraded in time for the Asian Games, Jonathan Evans sizes up the old and new in Indonesia’s third most populous city

Jonathan Evans

AS CROWDS gathered in Jakarta’s central Stasiun Gambir, I queued patiently to buy a ticket for the three-hour ride through the rice terraces of West Bandung into the mountain city of Bandung — only to find that the day’s trains were, on this holiday weekend, fully booked.

Vowing to reserve a seat for the return journey, I took the much pricier option, a private cab, for a highway ride though merciless monsoon rains.

A new US$6-billion (S$7.9-billion) high-speed rail link — South-east Asia’s first — will cut travel time between Bandung and Jakarta to 36 minutes when it opens next year. But for now, it is essential to pre-book the comfortable Argo Parahyangan train that is named after the mountain range it trundles through.

By the time I arrived in Bandung at 9pm, to the refreshingly cool air on a Saturday night, I was more than ready to eat.

Making a beeline for Jalan Braga, a Dutch quarter of eateries and galleries, I feasted on Javanese classics and soaked up the ornate surroundings of Braga Art Café, a chic two-storey building packed with ethnic art.

Down the road, I struck up a lively conversation with hotel staff enjoying karaoke at a beer bar, where cover bands knocked out boisterous renditions of Western rock anthems.

The vivid contrast between these outlets sums up the oddly alluring paradox of Bandung.

The city juxtaposes tradition with modernity; faded elegance with gentrification; contemporary-art museums affording spectacular mountain views with graffiti-strewn urban relics; canals winding through gorgeous  parks with traffic-choked streets.

Instagrammers and families often head north to Lembang and Dago Pakar to find serenity in high-up valley vistas unpolluted by motorcycle fumes.

In central Dago, Bandung’s most manicured district, well-paved boulevards with flower baskets hanging from curlicued lamp posts funnel a steady stream of shoppers to the factory-outlet and local-brand fashion stores for which the city is famous, while musicians strum acoustic folk tunes by the roads

Turn a corner and you will find dimly lit pavements strewn with gerobak (snack carts) and gaudy electronics stores winding towards the stately governor’s pile, Gedung Sate. Turn another, and horse-drawn carriages await outside an unkempt food court serving Japanese bites and strong coffee.

This August, the city co-hosts the Asian Games with Jakarta and Palembang, and in recent months alone, Dago has welcomed three trendy boutique hotels.

Bandung Metro Kapsul, a game-changing monorail, is also in the works, promising a low-cost, eco-friendly transport network in this sprawling conurbation; and Kertajati airport, 68km to the east, will open to international flights in June.

While glamour and grunge happily co-exist for now, offering intoxicating contrasts for weekend visitors, “the Paris of Java” — as the Dutch colonial rulers called the city — is on the cusp of a new tourist era.

GETTING THERE

Fly SilkAir from Singapore to Bandung Husein Sastranegara International Airport. For a more adventurous journey, fly Singapore Airlines to Jakarta, where you can take the train to Bandung from Stasiun Gambir (reserve a 100,000rupiah “Eksekutif” ticket for optimum comfort; tiket.com/ kereta-api). Bandung station (Stasiun Kereta Api Bandung) is a 10-minute walk from Jalan Braga.

 

Side Bar

Most Read This Month
曾兄弟旅行社:与星同行旅游配套

圣托里尼(Santorini)是希腊东南200公里爱琴海上火山群岛中的最大岛,别名锡拉岛。这里是新石器时代晚期(距今约4000多年)阿克罗蒂里的米诺斯文明发源地,南部的考古遗址留有壁画和陶器,揭开辉煌的古文明历史。此外,她因位于群岛的最南端而拥有无敌海景,是观赏绝美日落的最佳地点;蔚蓝海洋、金色沙滩、白色房屋与蓝顶十字教堂,构成典型的爱琴海风情,是被公认为最浪漫的度假小岛。

Wonderfruit for the soul

This festival in Thailand leaves Wu Shangyuan with fresh perspectives on life and living

Latest travel story
Miri’s myriad marvels

Jac Woo discovers that the East Malaysian city is a gateway to exotic cultures and adventures

48 hours in Yerevan

Jiahui Tan gets a quick lesson in Armenian history in its capital

Colours of Bolivia

Hong Weixi explores the vivid landscapes of the South American country