Explore Indonesia #1: Bandung

When Agent D first took up post in Jakarta, we agreed that we would try to explore as much of Indonesia as we could in our 3 years here. Our first destination was Bandung last September 2015, a 3-hour train ride through the hills of West Java (very pretty scenery on the way!). My parents happened to be visiting during that long weekend so they came along too.

Day 1:

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Passing by a train junkyard on the way to Bandung. The trains were stacked like LEGO!

We took the 8.30 am train out of Jakarta and arrived in Bandung around noon. All of us were VERY HUNGRY by then so we proceeded straight to Hummingbird Eatery for lunch. I had previously read rave reviews about this cafe (from tourist blogs/ touristy articles on Bandung) and was having high expectations. To my disappointment, it was actually the SAME Hummingbird Eatery (same décor, same menu, even the waiters wore the same uniforms) as the one in Kuningan City, Jakarta – which Agent D and I frequent. It wasn’t that the food was bad; it was just that we travelled all the way to Bandung to specially seek out a cool cafe only to find out that it was not that cool. 😦

After having our tummies filled, we went for some factory outlet shopping which really wasn’t that fantastic. The only thing I got was a polka-dotted pyjamas set. To work out for our dinner carbs later, we headed to Dago Pakar (contains 2 adjacent parks) for some light trekking. Sadly,  Taman (Park) Wisata Maribaya (known for its waterfalls and  natural hot springs) was closed. I had read that the natural hot spring pools there were believed to cure skin diseases. Hmm maybe it could have helped my mild eczema oh well.

So we went to  Taman (Park) Hutan Raya instead. Totalling 590 hectares of land, Taman Hutan Raya was built to conserve Bandung’s diversity of plants and flowers. It houses two separate waterfalls (Curug Lalay and Curug Omas) and REALLY DARK tunnels/ caves dug out by the Japanese and Dutch during World War 2. Prior to entering the tunnels, one could rent flashlights from the locals at the entrance. But we didn’t and it was a bad decision. My handphone torchlight wasn’t strong enough and I was tripping over myself half the time (there was many pot-like holes inside the tunnels). Also, do put on appropriate footwear if you ever make it to Taman Hutan Raya . The hike can be (WAS for me) pretty treacherous and I was THAT close to hailing one of those motorbike taxis to ferry me up the steep slopes back to the entrance (but Agent D didn’t allow me to sobs).

We had dinner at Kampung Daun, which was quite an otherworldly experience. My parents loved it. It is a whole village on its own — constructed out of bamboo, solid rocks, gurgling streams, green leaves, and a waterfall. To top it off, there was FRESH MOUNTAIN BREEZE. Everyone dines in their own private gazebo which is…super private (and nice).

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Our private gazebo amidst greenery and rushing streams.

The Sundanese traditional menu is a must-try, such as the wrapped rice Nasi Timbel to complete your way back to nature. Here are more pictures of our visit to Kampung Daun:

 Day 2:

We started off day 2 at De’Ranch — a previous actual ranch with 5 hectares of greenery. There are 22 activities to choose from costing between Rp 20000 to Rp 200000, including archery, horse riding, fishing, animal feeding, gold hunting (?!), etc.

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De’Ranch against a very pretty backdrop.

Apart from the horse riding, I didn’t find the other activities particularly amusing. We paid to fish from a pond that seemingly contained more dead fish then alive ones. After 10 minutes, we decided to give up. It was too painful and the smell from the pond was overwhelming.

We didn’t stay too long at De’Ranch because our journey to Kawah Putih (white crater) was estimated to take 2-3 hours depending on traffic. On our way to see the mystical crater lake, we stopped by Saung Gawir for lunch. It was another lovely restaurant with a different kind of ambience altogether — private huts with atap leaves overhead and bamboo walls + COOL MOUNTAIN BREEZE again (simply love the air in Bandung!). Diners can choose to either sit tatami-style in a private hut or on proper chairs with tables in the main area.

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View from where we sat.

I was so hungry when our food came that I COMPLETELY FORGOT to take food pictures (how is that possible?!). By the time I realised, only fish and chicken bones were left on our plates. 😦 Do try their Nasi Timbel with grilled Gurame fish (a Sundanese dish), it’s pretty good stuff.

After having our tummies filled, we continued our journey to Kawah Putih. Thankfully, there was no hiking involved to get there *phew* and our car could go all the way up. Known as the mystical lake above the cloud, this crater Lake was formed after Mount Patuha blew its top. Apparently, its crystal blue waters changes with the weather conditions, and it is surrounded with fine white sand.

One can see that even the vegetation around the area is quite different from those on lower ground. Just standing there and taking in the majestic sights of Kawah Putih before me was a reminder of God’s wonderful handiwork. Be warned that the smell of sulphur can get pretty overpowering!

From Kawah Putih back to Bandung, we passed by many strawberry farms. Too tempting.  We decided to stop at one of the bigger farms to pick fresh strawberries for dessert after dinner!

For our last night in Bandung, we had dinner at Stone Cafe — another village ambience with gazebos made out of bamboo and a lot of stones. The restaurant is located on a hill and offers a fantastic view of Bandung city. Although it’s a tad pricier compared to other eateries in Bandung, the view more than makes up for it. Not to mention there’s a live band to accompany your dinner.

I did not take any food pictures this time round because my handphone battery and portable charger were flat beyond redemption (and not because I forgot!). Just to be safe, try to order fully-cooked food items on the menu. I had pan-seared tuna steak which was rare — I attribute this to my terrible food poisoning the next day (a little bit of diarrhea on the train journey back and full-blown diarrhea for 3 consecutive days which warranted a visit to the doctor). This was my THIRD TIME getting food poisoning in 3 MONTHS and I am now very selective of what I put into my mouth. That said, I would still return to Stone Cafe if I ever make another trip to Bandung.

Day 3:

We wanted to go easy on ourselves for our last day in Bandung i.e. sleep in and take things slow. After breakfast at the hotel, we headed to Lembang floating market. The floating market sells a wide selection of traditional Indonesian food served from small boats with a beautiful view of a lake.

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Lembang floating market.

Apart from eating, visitors can do various activities such as ride the ATV and paddle boats, feed swans/rabbits, visit the cactus/stone gardens or get a massage. There is also a European house and miniature train set which takes about 10 minutes to get through.

We decided to get some afternoon exercise and rented two paddle boats — one for my parents and one for Agent D and myself. At first, I thought it would be a light and easy workout for my legs. BUT NOOOOO. The paddle boats were heavy and we both had to paddle in sync to move the boats forward. To make things even more difficult, water kept seeping into our boats and my legs were almost submerged in water! 10 minutes into paddling, lactic acid was building up in my legs and I pleaded with Agent D to return to shore. To my dismay, he was not done with paddling yet (we had the boat for 1 hour) and wanted to explore the other side of the lake. *help*

After paddling around for 45 minutes, we bought some food and walked around the art and craft stores. Two monochrome paintings caught my eye and I knew I had to get them (plus they were at a really good price!). Must support local artists right hehe.

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Paintings bought from Lembang floating market.

We had planned to go to Dusun Bambu for lunch. Dusun Bambu has not one…not two…BUT THREE amazing restaurants each with a unique theme and gorgeous views. I was especially interested in dining in a birdcage suspended in the trees at Lutung Kasarung. However, due to time constraints, we had to head straight to the train station. It will definitely be in my itinerary for my next visit to Bandung!

All in all, Bandung was a really nice break from Jakarta city life. Am crossing my fingers I’ll be able to visit Bandung again sometime!

Useful Information:

Recommended lodging: Padma Hotel Bandung (http://www.padmahotelbandung.com/)

Recommended car rental service (comes with driver): Diaz Travelindo                             (http://www.diaztravelindo.com/p/package-and-price.html)

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