BANDUNG: A first timer’s insight for the first time traveller


Bandung had never been my choice holiday destination. When one says shopping, the one destination that comes to mind would naturally be Bangkok. Beaches would probably be Mauritius.

Bandung? What’s there to do in Bandung? I travelled to Bandung on 21 April 2015 and spent 5 Days & 4 Nights in this very beautiful capital city of the West Java province in Indonesia and here are my account, experiences and impressions of this beautiful and often-ignored (or misinformed) tourist destination.

My flight schedule was supposed to have been from 21 to 24 April 2015. But because of the Asia African International Conference, the Husien Sastranegara Airport had to be closed to ensure security of the highest levels for the heads of states attending the conference. So I had to extend another day of my stay there.

For Malaysian travellers, if you are from KL or PJ – you can travel by SkyBus to KLIA2 from One Utama. It only costs RM15.00 per person per way. You can also drive to One Utama Shopping Centre and park your vehicle there throughout the entire duration of your holiday. That’s what I did and it costs me only RM18 in parking rates. If I had used my One Card, it would have been cheaper.

Okay, back to what I’m supposed to write.

DAY 1 – Free and easy

My AirAsia flight from KLIA2 left at 9:30am and arrived at Husien Sastranegara Airport at 10:30am. Note that Indonesia time is an hour behind Malaysia’s, so flight time is actually two hours. After checking out, my tour guide; Encik Amir Seun was standing there and waiting for me. Amir is a very, very pleasant man and very helpful too. More about him later and I must say this: If you MUST hire a tour guide, hire Amir! Like I said – more about him later.

My partner and I checked into Orange Home’s Syariah Guest House, located about 1.5km away from the Airport. I booked this hotel as part of AirAsia Go’s travel deal and I thought this would be an ideal stay because of its proximity to the airport.

Orange Home's Syariah Guest Homes
Orange Home’s Syariah Guest Homes

If you expect a comfortable stay, you should avoid this hotel. At about RM65.00 a night – the facilities are sparse, the breakfast (included) below par and the first night – some rowdy insomniacs without respect for other guests’ consideration made us lose sleep. We requested another room on a higher floor and my goodness – this would be the first guest house/hotel I’ve ever stayed in my life that does not have a wash basin. We packed and left for another better hotel after suffering for 2 nights!

Since it was free and easy on Day 1, we decided to check out the Zen Family Spa. Bandung is renowned for its health spas. For only IDR 165,000.00 (RM45) – we were in for one of the best 2-hour aroma massage ever experienced. Yes – 2 HOURS! You cannot even get an hour’s worth of professional massage in Malaysia! If you want to know more about Zen Family Spa, please click on http://www.zenfamilyspa.com/.

Zen Family Spa - excellent deep relaxation massage especially after a harrowing day out shopping!
Zen Family Spa – excellent deep relaxation massage especially after a harrowing day out shopping!

DAY 2 – Shopping, shopping, shopping!

Amir was all smiles when he arrived to pick us at 10:00am. He first brought us to Rumah Mode. In my honest opinion, Rumah Mode is highly overrated with the sort of apparels you can find in swanky Malaysian shopping malls. No good. We left and headed for Polo Ralph Lauren. There were many bargains here and I purchased 3 original Ralph Lauren tee-shirts for about RM150 (about IDR 550,000.00). No bargaining allowed. Come to think of it – I hadn’t even bargained for a single item here!

Shopping, shopping & more shopping!
Shopping, shopping & more shopping!

We visited many other factory outlets like Secret (worth visiting), Heritage House (Good bargains), and many other fashion outlets that with names we can’t recall. These factory outlets offer reasonably good bargains for renowned brands like SuperDry, Armani X-Change, Jack & Jones, Tommy Hilfiger, and many more. But – don’t expect variety. Even in footwear factory outlets, you get mostly Nike and Adidas. Very few sell Pumas, Hi-Tech, Reebok. Even if they do, the choice is limited.

Tip:
Pack only the bare necessities for your shopping holiday so you won’t exceed the standard baggage weight upon your departure. That’s what I did. I did not purchase AirAsia’s checked baggage to Bandung but I did for my departure.

DAY 3 – The Great Outdoors

Today’s the Asia Africa International Conference and Amir, my trusty tour guide told me that it’s better to go out of town and we did.

TANGKUBAN PERAHU is a dormant volcano 30 km north of the city of Bandung. It is the only crater in Indonesia that you can drive up to its very rim. Its distinctive shape, like an “overturned boat” earned its name Tangkuban Perahu.

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The drive took us slightly more than an hour and be forewarned that foreigners pay a much higher entrance fee than locals. It can be quite chilly here, especially when the wind blows as it is 768 metres (2,520 feet) above sea level. When you arrive there, you will not only be greeted by the crater that everybody’s here to see – but also the stench of sulphur, which smelled like rotten eggs if you ask me. Along the way, you will see the very many souvenir stalls and people peddling their wares. It is not advisable to buy from them as these items are sold at very inflated prices.

Personally, I am not a seismic or volcano expert so to me, a dormant volcano crater doesn’t thrill me to bits. For the first time visitor to Bandung, this place and Kawah Puteh (another huge crater about 50km away from Bandung city proper) are in the tour itinerary, so what the heck. Visit it!

CIATER HOT SPRINGS was our next destination. If you fancy a dip at the less crowded private hot spring pools, you should come here but come prepared with your bathing suits unless like me, I had to fork out money again to buy a pair of shorts.

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LEMBANG FLOATING MARKET is a must-visit tourist destination because of its myriad of attractions, from Telly Tubby like bunny holes, boat rides, superbly landscaped surroundings, foods and goods sold from the many boats and more. If you’re an avid photographer, this is the place for you.

KAMPUNG DAUN – “where culture and taste meet” was our next stop for an incredible, traditional rustic kampong style outdoor dining experience. Diners will get their very own private thatched hut where delicious, “kampong” (village) food will be brought steaming hot to them. Surprisingly, a marvellous epicurean experience like this doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Reasonable is what I’d say!

DUSUN BAMBU FAMILY LEISURE PARK was our final stop. This is a magnificently landscaped park that harmonizes traditional Sundanese culture in one integrated area. If you stand here, you can see the majestic and panoramic vistas of the mountain slopes and certain parts of Bandung city. Here the air is fresh and you’ll also be in for a treat for the insect symphony – sounds of insects lulling you to nature’s embrace. There’s a restaurant here and similar to Kampong Daun, diners have their private dining huts in the shape of bird cages perched on top of age old majestic trees.

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Private and exclusive accommodations are available to the public. Overseeing the placid lake, these villas range from 100sq. m and start at IDR 2,600,000.00 (RM711) to the bigger, 250 sq. m. family villas for IDR 3,750,000.00 (RM1,0261.00). Villas are equipped with bedrooms, living room, kitchenette, and private garden, and BBQ facilities.

DAY 4 – Free and Easy

CIHAMPELAS was our stop of the day after checking into the Fave hotel in town. Because of the international delegates’ presence, many roadblocks around the city prevented us to use the normal routes.

To me, Cihampelas is more like our Malaysian “Pasar Malam” or “Day/Night bargain market” in English. Clothes here are cheap, and so is their quality. Certain places sell their wares at cutthroat prices, so beware of which shop you step into.

Along Cihampelas Walk, you’ll be greeted by giant figurines; either standing like Ultraman or swinging through the air like Spiderman. Cool!

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We found CiWalk by accident. Ciwalk is an upper end version of the Cihampelas Walk and here, you can find mostly branded stuff. It is an enclosed shopping mall with clean and breezy walkways. You may be tempted to indulge in the many classy boutique eateries and here. Prices of clothing are of course higher than Cihampelas Walk but you may bag a good buy here. I bought some quality shorts and T-shirts in a departmental store inside.

DAY 5 – Back to Malaysia and you know the rest of the story.

Undoubtedly, there may be several other questions you need answered before deciding to visit Bandung, such as:

DO YOU NEED TO ENGAGE A TOUR GUIDE

The answer is yes. Because without a tour guide, chances are you could end up going around in circles due to communication breakdown, the time (and money) spent looking for public transport, and especially if you’re a shopaholic. The factory outlets are not near to one another and you could be in one and walk out of it within 5 minutes if their wares don’t appeal to you. With a tour guide, everything is easy. Forget about the other websites that say travel by Angkotan (van ferrying locals) or use only Bluebird Taxi services. If you add up your expenses, they’ll amount to a something bigger than you can imagine. I highly recommend my tour guide, Amir because he’s honest, always on time, speaks excellent English and knows the inside out of the city.

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He also caters to special request tours. Just contact him via phone, Whatsapp, Line or sms to ask for a quotation. That’s what I did! He knows the best food in town too. To know about him, the Company and the many vehicles he use, please visit http://www.javadelightour.com.

WHICH HOTEL SHOULD I STAY IN

Nearly every hotel is good. Apart from Orange Home’s Syariah, I’ve also stayed in FaveHotel Pascal Hyper Square and Ariandri (near the airport). There are hundreds of hotels in the city. Amir will advise you on which hotel will suit your needs and budget.

HOW IS BANDUNG FOOD?

Basically, Bandung people are Javanese or Sundanese and their food is delicious and spicy. Amir brought us to some really good restaurants around Bandung. Whether traditional Indonesian, Western or Chinese fare, tell him in advance and he’ll know what to do.

For coffee lovers (like me) – I discovered that the local coffee is not filtered. Yep, the locals do not filter the coffee and as a result, you may have coffee grounds swirling inside your mouth. But not to worry – there are many specialized coffee stops in town that serves coffee the way we like it. They have a wonderful variety of coffees like Sumatra Mandheling, Toraja, Sulawesi, the exquisite and pricey Kopi Luwak and many more!

HOW FRIENDLY ARE BANDUNG FOLKS?

Very friendly, very helpful and honest. They are well mannered and respectful!

DO YOU NEED TO TIP JUST ABOUT ANYONE?

Not necessarily, only tip your waiter, hotel staff, tour guide and anyone who has gone out of their way to help you.

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