As a favourite weekend destination for many Jakartans, the city is never short of sights and activities that you can’t find anywhere else in Indonesia. Whether it’s taking in the fresh mountain air, exploring the endless culinary treats, or browsing the city’s many shopping outlets, Bandung is perfect for everybody. Here’s our short and nifty guide to The City of Flowers.
Getting to Bandung
Bandung is served by the Husein Sastranegara International Airport. The newly-renovated terminal has connecting flights to Surabaya, Denpasar, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore.
The Bandung Hall Station or plainly Bandung Station is the city’s biggest train station. Daily departures include destinations such as Jakarta and Surabaya. The Argo Parahyangan train is the main connector between Jakarta and Bandung via rail. The trip takes about three to four hours and follows a track that winds through the beautiful mountains of West Java.
Bandung is located about 160 kilometres south-east of Jakarta. By far the most popular method of getting to Bandung, the interstate highway is arguably the most convenient –when it’s not a national holiday. Normally a one way trip to Bandung from Jakarta would take almost three hours via the Cipularang highway. Be warned though, traffic on weekends can occasionally be horrendous.
Nicknames for Bandung
Kota Kembang (The City of Flowers)
Bandung is widely known to be greener and lusher than Jakarta. The sheer number of parks and natural areas has made Bandung for its flowers, hence the nickname.
Paris van Java (The Paris of Java)
A long time ago when Java was a colony of the Dutch Empire, Bandung was a shining gem. The architecture and city planning resembled a fully functioning European city. Coupled with the city’s fresh mountain air, laid back atmosphere, and excellent food, people back then likened the city to the French capital.
Kota Lautan Api (The City of Fire)
Another nickname that stemmed from colonial history, Bandung Lautan Api was a notorious event that marked an important boiling point during Indonesia’s struggle for Independence. It was said that local groups resisted the colonial regime by setting on fire numerous ammunition stockpiles across Bandung hence setting the city ablaze and created a “sea of fire”.
Kota Mode (The Fashion City)
For those who has been to Bandung, this particular nickname is self-explanatory. Bandung is the home to hundreds of factory outlets where you can get quality garments and clothing at very reasonable prices. Even people from neighbouring countries make trips to Bandung on weekends for this reason!
Meet the people
As with any major area in Indonesia, Bandung and West Java in general are home to the Sundanese culture. At around 40 million people who identify themselves as Sundanese, this ethnic group is the second most populous in the whole archipelago. The Sundanese are predominantly Muslim and has their own dialect. Their great care and appreciation towards the arts has been made famous around the country. That is why many consider Bandung to be a haven for budding artists across all fields such as music, painting, and sculpture. Prior to visiting Bandung –especially for the first time- it’s worth knowing a few notable characteristics of the Sundanese people.
The Sundanese people are a proud bunch and will not tell you otherwise. When you’re addressing a person from West Java, do refrain from calling them Javanese as this might slightly offend them to be named as such. Even though they live on the island of Java, their culture and traditions differ from that of their Eastern and Central Javanese counterparts and they take great pride in this. Being culturally sensitive is a key element whenever you’re exploring different parts of the world and knowing that the Sundanese people are their own distinct culture is the first step to having an enjoyable trip in West Java.
The fairest of them all
Sundanese people are known far and wide to be some of the most fair-skinned people in Indonesia. Their face contour is also distinct, possessing a more rugged and well-defined characteristics. It’s the belief of many that the reason a lot of Sundanese people possess fair skins is that a lot of Dutch settlers married the indigenous Sundanese people during colonial times, hence producing offspring that share similar traits with Caucasians.
Alphabet mix up
When you’re making your way through Bandung and get a chance to interact with the local people, don’t be surprised when the words they utter sound completely different than what you’re used to hearing in Jakarta. The Sundanese people are famous to pronounce the letter “F” with the same enunciation of the letter “P”. A useful tidbit especially if you’re trying to navigate a busy local market.
The kind people
The Sundanese are nationally recognised as one of the friendliest and kindest ethnic groups in Indonesia. As with most people around the world, kindness mostly applies when it’s reciprocated. Just because they’re known to be friendly doesn’t mean you should disrespect them by any means. The Sundanese are also known to be fierce when they feel threatened or looked down upon. Kindness goes a long way!
Comforts of home
Sundanese people are not known for their adventuring prowess. Ever since the age of the first Sundanese, they’ve been blessed with a geographical area that’s rich and abundant in natural resources. Even in the modern age, the capital city of Bandung is a thriving metropolitan that can provide its citizens with everything they’ll ever need. Perhaps it’s worth keeping in mind when you’re sharing travel stories with the locals.
Notable people from Bandung and West Java
Dewi Sartika (1884-1947)
A leading figure and pioneer for the education of women in Indonesia. She founded the first school for women during the Dutch East Indies era.
Otto Iskandardinata (1897-1945)
A national hero whose face can be seen on the Rp.20,000 bank note. He was a key figure in the nation’s fight for independence and served as one of the first ministers in Soekarno’s then-newly established cabinet.
Ir. H. Djuanda (1911-1963)
The tenth and final prime minister of Indonesia during the infancy years of Indonesia. His most important legacy was the Djuanda Declaration, which reinforced Indonesia’s claim to sovereignty over its maritime borders.
Ali Sadikin (1927-2008)
The legendary former governor of Jakarta who had a knack for heavy-handed approaches. He has been widely considered to be responsible for moulding Jakarta into the metropolitan we know today.
Taufik Hidayat (b.1981)
The former world number one badminton player calls Bandung his home. He has won the Indonesian Open six times and won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.
Rhoma Irama (b.1946)
The legendary Indonesian dangdut artist actually hails from Tasikmalaya, a major city in West Java that’s situated about 100 kilometres from Bandung. He is known for his staunch support of religious values in music.
Get to know the food
Bandung is the epicentre of the Sundanese culture and therefore the centre for its culinary treasures as well. Compared to the dishes of Central or East Java, Sundanese cuisine tends to shy away from sweet flavours and often prefer savouriness. Furthermore, they’re also very fond of frying everything from chicken to cow innards. Oh, and their sambal is famous for its heavy use of tomatoes that makes it one of the freshest sambal you’ll find anywhere in Indonesia. Here are a few notable Sundanese dishes you need to try while in Bandung.
The Sundanese people like to wrap their rice inside a banana leaf and steam it. The end result is a very fragrant and aromatic rice that’s meant to be eaten with your hands. Common accompaniments for nasi timbel are fried tofu, tempeh, chicken, or fish –with a dash of sambal on the side. You can find this type of dish almost everywhere in Bandung, from roadside stalls to proper restaurants that would fit hundreds of people.
This particular dish is the quintessential vegetable dish of Bandung. Similar to that of the gado-gado, the karedok is a combination of numerous vegetables –such as long beans, cabbage, eggplants, cucumbers, and lemon basil- mixed with a sweet peanut sauce. If you’re looking to differentiate karedok with gado-gado, you might have to look extra hard because the differences are very subtle –mainly in the sauce and vegetable content.
Sayur asem, or literally translating to “sour soup” is the Sundanese’s take on creating a refreshing soupy dish. Similar to that of the Thai tom yum, sayur asem instead relies of vegetables instead of seafood as its main content. The ingredient that makes this dish unique is its use of Javanese tamarinds, that gives it a light-brown colour and a sourness that will wake you up. Vegetables used for this dish usually includes young jackfruits, peanuts, melinjo leaves, and chayote.
A self-contained dish, soto mie is a soupy concoction of beef slices, egg noodles, and vermicelli. Variations of this popular food can be found everywhere in West Java –from Bogor to Bandung. More adventurous diners can opt to have cow’s cartilage or innards to be included in their bowl. But our favourite condiment for soto mie is the fried spring rolls filled with vermicelli that will give your bowl an added crunchy texture.
A portmanteau of three words –bakso (beef meatballs), tahu (tofu), and goreng (fried)- batagor is similar to that of the Indonesian siomay or dumplings that are served with sweet peanut and soy sauce. However, batagor is not steamed like siomay, rather it’s deep fried giving it a look similar to a fried wonton. This dish is a hot favourite among Jakartans and a lot of them will take back at least a few portions of batagor back home from Bandung.
Another self-contained dish, mie kocok literally translates into “shaken noodles”. What differentiates this particular dish with other noodle dishes such as mie ayam is that mie kocok tends to favour beef broth rather than chicken broth. The soup is almost compulsory when you want to enjoy a bowl of mie kocok instead of optional in most portions of mie ayam. Furthermore, mie kocok’s signature ingredients are beef tendons and cartilage.
Destinations in Bandung that are off the beaten path
Sendang Geulis Kahuripan
If you’re looking for fresh air and a country side atmosphere, head over to Desa Ganjarsari in West Bandung. In this little village, you’ll find a beautiful natural pond called Sendang Geulis Kahuripan. The water of the pond is unbelievably clear and clean, you’d want to jump inside right away. This place is mostly unknown to tourists, so more often than not, you can enjoy the refreshing water on your own without too many people around.
For those who like a little adventure, Tebing Citatah is the right place to go. Tebing Citatah in Citatah, West Bandung, is a limestone cliff you can climb through paths that varies in difficulty. There’s Citatah 48, Citatah 90, and Citatah 125 –named according to the height of each cliff. The most popular one is Citatah 125, because it covers the most ground and takes you high up the cliff. This area also has caves dotting the walls of the cliff as an ideal place for climbers to rest.
Ranca Upas, Ciwidey
Ciwidey known is known to be the home of one of Bandung’s most famous tourist attraction: Kawah Putih. But not many people know that Ciwidey also has a deer conservation park and camping ground at Ranca Upas. With an entrance ticket of only Rp.10,000 (weekdays) or Rp.15,000 (weekends), you can spend the day feeding the deer or just watch them graze. Ranca Upas also has a camping ground with an outdoor park, suitable for holidays with your family and kids.
Surrounded by tea plantations, Situ Cileunca (Lake Cileunce) sits about 1.500 metres above sea level where the air is cool and fresh. Take a boat ride around the lake and marvel at the beauty of the landscape. You can also stroll along a bridge across the lake which connects two villages together. This is the perfect place for you to snap some pictures and share them on social media.
Taman Hutan Raja Ir. H. Djuanda
Stretching across 590 hectares of land, the Taman Hutan Raya was built to conserve Bandung’s diversity of plants and flowers. Named after Indonesia’s tenth Prime Minister, a museum showcasing Ir. H. Djuanda’s memorabilia along with personal belongings can be found in the area of Taman Hutan Raya. There is a spot further up the park where locals refer it as Tebing Keraton, a cliff with a stunning views of the pine trees below.
Stone Garden of Padalarang
Head to Desa Gunung Masigit, Padalarang, in West Bandung to witness the natural wonder of the Stone Garden. After only about twenty minutes hiking up Mount Pasigit, you’ll find an array of calcium-rich rocks, which are usually found along the beach. Scientists believe that there once existed a sea stretching from Padalarang to Negreg, with Bandung lying hundreds of metres underwater. The theory is that a few volcanic eruptions later caused the valley to be formed. Here, you can see seashells embedded on the rocks hundreds of kilometres away from the actual ocean, how cool is that?
4 Instagram-worthy restaurants in Bandung
Little Wings Book Cafe
From the outside, the building of this café looks like something out of a children’s story book –a lot of bright colours and fairy tale-like. If you identify yourself as a bookworm princess in search of a cosy hide-out, Little Wings Book Café is the ultimate haven for you. Aside from their great food, the café also provides a book collection for you to read while enjoying the cool weather of Bandung.
Address: Jl. Cigadung Raya Barat No.2
Contact: 022 8252 2652
Opening Hours: 12pm to 11pm
Taking inspiration from the classic 60s era, Southbank Gastrobar instantly reminds you of London’s old pubs with its rough interior and ambiance. Furnished with large sofa beds in a dimmed, this is the place for a perfect night out with friends. Even though it harkens back to old Europe, you can find Indonesian food here and also a wide selection of cocktails and spirits.
Address: Jl. Aceh No. 61
Contact: 022 9218 3888
Opening Hours: 5pm to 1am (weekdays) | 5pm to 4am (weekends)
Don’t have a lot of time to spend in the City of Flowers? Street Gourmet is the perfect place for you who wants to dine and also sightsee around Bandung. This restaurant is a clever combination of both culinary and city tour. Street Gourmet is actually located in a bus that will take their guests wandering around Bandung while enjoying the city’s culinary specialties, cooked directly on the bus.
Address: Jl. Cilaki No. 45
Phone: 0817 0326 7777
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm
Lawangwangi Creative Space
Located higher up in the mountains leading to Lembang, the view from this café is astonishing –it’s surrounded by greenery during daytime and when night falls, Bandung’s city lights can be seen from the 200-degree panorama deck. The place may be crowded during late afternoons and you may have to wait for a table, but it wouldn’t be so bad, because there are four galleries (on display – works of local contemporary artists and emerging art students) bound to keep you occupied.
Address: Jl. Dago Giri No. 99A
Phone: 022 250 4065
Opening hours: 7am to 11pm