Travellers to Indonesia often rate Bali as a top destination. But if you’d rather stay on the mainland, Bandung can be a good alternative. The city is surrounded by lush tea plantations and active volcanoes, with Tangkuban Perahu volcano crater to the north, and the striking Kawah Putih volcano lake also within driving distance. It boasts a thriving arts and cultural scene, which led it to be nicknamed “Parijs van Java“: the Paris of Java.
Here are five reasons to visit the capital of Indonesia’s west Java province.
Like the rest of the country, Bandung can be hot; but it has cooler temperatures than most other Indonesian cities. Bandung is set at a high altitude, snuggled between three mountains, with less intense heat than, say, Jakarta, where temperatures consistently rise into the 30s.
Art, culture and music
Bandung is home to several museums and galleries, including the Museum Geologi Bandung, which showcases the geological history of Indonesia; and the Selasar Sunaryo Contemporary Art Space, established in 1998 and with a permanent collection including masterpieces by senior Indonesian artists like Drs Sunaryo himself, as well as the work of contemporary and emerging artists.
At Saung Angklung Udjo, a community music centre, children and adults perform concerts with the angklung, a traditional Indonesian instrument made of carved bamboo tubes. You can take angklung-making classes, as well as watch traditional dance and puppet show performances. All the proceeds from the music centre go towards the education of local students, most of whom are underprivileged children.
Bandung’s reasonably priced fashion outlets attract shoppers from across Indonesia. Cihampelas Street, known as “jeans street” is full of bargains and was opened in the 1990s, with designers selling demin goods. Big Indonesian brand names, like outdoor equipment retailer Eiger, began their lives on this thriving street. It’s a vibrant, buzzing place where you can buy tech gadgets, clothes or just hang out and people-watch, with the scent of street food wafting out from the street’s many stalls.
Food and drink
Indonesia is a well-known foodie destination, with plenty of flavoursome dishes to choose from, like satay (seasoned, grilled lamb or chicken skewers), nasi goreng (a meal made of fried rice with other food added to it, like fried eggs, vegetables, and chicken), gudeg (a dish made from young jackfruit boiled in palm sugar and coconut milk) and of course, sambal sauce: a spicy sauce that can be added to rice or other dishes (along with chicken, it’s a popular accompaniment to gudeg).
Bandung brings something special to all this classic Indonesian fare: strawberries. The Dutch imported strawberry plants during the colonial era; if, like us you enjoy picking your own fruit, the roads leading out of Bandung to Lembang and Ciwidey are abundant with berries. For a strawberry-themed meal, you can eat dishes like ‘Gourame Goreng Strawberry’ and ‘Nasi Liwet Strawberry’ at the Natural Resto and Strawberry Land.
Indonesia was a Dutch colony until 1945, and the colonial influence is unmistakeable in Bandung’s architecture. The city is dotted with striking examples of Art Deco buildings from the 1920s and 1930s, like hotels Savoy Homann and Preanger; and Villa Isola. Dubbed ‘New Indies Style’, the tropical Art Deco on display in Bandung is a fusion of local elements with more traditional Art Deco styles (of course, there are also plenty of non-Art Deco hotels to choose from, like the Hotel Horison Bandung).
Have you stayed in Bandung? What did you think of it?
For more on Asia, read our post on five reasons to go on a family holiday to Cambodia