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The Express Guide to Bandung

Updated on February 3, 2015

Let's Do Some Briefing First

Bandung is the capital and government’s seat of the West Java province, the third largest city in the country after Jakarta and Surabaya, and earns the nickname of Parijs van Java (Paris of Java) since its architectural style that resembles Europe. Bandung is also home to the Sundanese people, the native people of West Java province and the second largest Indonesian ethnicity after the Javanese. Other than that, this city has another nickname of kota kembang (which means “flower city” in Indonesian, since back then there used to be a lot of flowers in Bandung), and is gaining popularity among students for pursuing their degree since several of Indonesia’s most respected schools are sited here. Climate wise, Bandung is also surrounded by mountains, hence the cooler climate compared to Jakarta or its surrounding regions.

Getting There

Bandung is served by rail, air, and road. By rail, trains arrive and depart at the Bandung station, which is located at Kebon Kawung Street and has bothday and night services to cities throughout Java. From Jakarta, there are air conditioned trains whose rides take an approximate duration of three to four hours. To be honest, rail travel in between Jakarta and Bandung takes twice as much time than by highway, due to the steep cliffs the railway has to pass. However, when taking the train, you are gifted by the photogenic scenery of the paddy fields. If you are not in a hurry, the train is a good choice to travel to Bandung.

By air, there is Husein Sastranegara International Airport at the west end of the city, close to the highway exit. Husein Sastranegara Airport has the IATA code of BDO, and has flights to cities in Java, Bali, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi by major Indonesian carriers including AirAsia, Lion Air, and Garuda Indonesia, as well as daily international links to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur by AirAsia and Singapore Airline's Silk Air.

While in the meantime, there are two notable road accesses to Bandung. The first one is the Cipularang Highway, which connects to Jakarta in around 2 hours. The other option is through the classical Puncak-Cianjur-Bandung countryside road, in which, although it takes a much a longer time, but then the views of mountains, paddy fields and tea plantations are very promising.

Still by road, in my opinion the most decent way of getting into Bandung is by the shuttle buses. These shuttle buses seat 12 people at most and practice point-to-point service in between the two urban areas, using spacious vans such as Toyota Hiace and Isuzu Elf. Major shuttle operators have included Cipaganti being the largest, as well as Baraya, X-Trans and Day Trans. As of summer 2013, the ride on a shuttle bus generally worth from Rp50, 000 to Rp100, 000.

Commuting Around

Just like any other major Indonesian city, the public transportation system mainly composes of taxis, angkots, and buses. However in Bandung; due to its smaller size as well; several types of rides found in Jakarta are omitted, like commuter trains and bajajs.

Despite Bandung being smaller in terms of area than Jakarta, getting around for the ones who are unfamiliar with this town might be a bit of a confusing experience since most roads here are one way. Not to mention that traffic jams are basically everywhere, up to the extent that a short commute to the other side of town could last up to an hour because of this issue.

People here tend to get around by using angkots; or shared minivans; which have basically the same definition and function with its Jakartan counterpart.

The second choice is none other than taxicabs of course. Taxicabs here are plenty, and there are several reliable operators that you can choose from, such as Blue Bird (yes, the same one like in Jakarta), Gemah Ripah (green and blue cabs), and Cipaganti with its dark red taxis.

If you decide to walk, go ahead, but then in various places the infrastructures are at minimal to support pedestrians. Some streets don’t even have sidewalks at all, or if they do, its space has been taken up for parking.

Where to Head

- Gedung Merdeka – This museum is the site of the Bandung Conference back in the year 1955, participated by Asian and African nations who were already independent at that time. Apart from the conference hall itself, the building also hosts a museum that displays attributes, dioramas and information related to the conference’s history. Gedung Merdeka is relatively easy to spot; it is located slightly across the famed Savoy Homann Hotel at downtown Bandung.

- Bosscha Observatory – Bosscha Observatory is at Lembang, a hilltop suburb town in the outskirts of Bandung. It is pretty interesting for a fact that it is Indonesia’s one and only observatory. However, you cannot just visit it as you wish; you got to arrange your visit first with the Department of Astronomy, Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), who currently “owns” the facility.

- Mount Tangkuban Parahu – This is an active volcano also situated not far from Lembang . There are two main craters; Kawah Ratu (Queen’s Crater) and Kawah Domas (Domas Crater); both having accesses by hike or a steep drive uphill. Within the vicinity of Kawah Ratu, visitors can enjoy the view as well as observe the steam coming out of the main crater, whereas at the grounds of Kawah Domas, more activities are on offer, such as mud bath, egg boiling, or view the hot springs. At times when volcanic activity increases, the whole tourist attraction may be closed to visitors.

- Gedung Sate – Gedung Sate (Sate Building), which faces the direction of Mount Tangkuban Parahu is the office of the West Java governor and also the icon of Bandung. The roof has a spire which resembles a satay, thus the name of the building. Other than being a governmental building, a section of it also holds a postal museum.

Bandung Landmarks at a Glance

Kawah Domas from a distance
Kawah Domas from a distance
Kawah Ratu at the summit of Mount Tangkuban Parahu
Kawah Ratu at the summit of Mount Tangkuban Parahu
Warenhuis de Vries building across Gedung Merdeka
Warenhuis de Vries building across Gedung Merdeka
The museum section of Gedung Merdeka
The museum section of Gedung Merdeka
Gedung Merdeka's conference hall (sorry blur)
Gedung Merdeka's conference hall (sorry blur)
Hotel Savoy Homann
Hotel Savoy Homann
Cihampelas Street at daytime
Cihampelas Street at daytime

A Few Other Useful Tips

- Don’t be afraid to put your jacket or sweaters on, even under the sun! At any ordinary Bandung day, there is almost always breeze or a slight tinge of cool air; hence it doesn't make a sunny day really hot.

- Sights and attractions are not limited to the city’s grounds alone. Indeed, lots of other places of interest are located nearby to Bandung, such as the hilltop town of Lembang, Sari Ater hot springs resort, and so much more.

- Before leaving, don’t forget to shop for snacks (locally known as “oleh-oleh”, which literally mean “gifts” in the Indonesian language) at the snack shops scattered all around town. Popular choices include the cheese sticks, brownies, klappertaart (Dutch pastry), bagelen, and so much more. Besides, these munchies are better enjoyed with families and friends back home, so don’t miss buying some as an oleh-oleh for your loved ones!

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