Only three hours from Jakarta by train, four or more by road, the highland city of Bandung offers a cool alternative to the capital’s oppressive heat. Located in a huge basin 700 metres (2,300 feet) above sea level and surrounded on all sides by lofty peaks, Bandung is now the population and cultural centre of the Sunda lands, a burgeoning cit with over 1,5 million inhabitants. Before thw war, it was a quaint Dutch administrative and university town of about 150,000- then known as the Paris of java because of its broad, shady boulevards and elegant homes. Today, although a rapidly growing industrial city with snarled traffic and often polluted air, Bandung is still green attractive and is popularly referred to by residents as Kota Kembang – the “City of Flowers.”
Aside from the charming colonial ambience imparted by numerous Dutch mansions, shops and hotels dating from the 1920s and 1930s. Bandung’s sights are actually quite few.
The Geological Museum on Jl. diponegoro (opposite the imposing Gedung state provincial government headquarters) is definitely worth a visit, for a look at the extraordinary array of rocks, maps and fossils displayed here – including replicas of the famous “Java Man” Homo erectus skulls found in Central Java. incidentally, the Publications Departement, upstairs in the back building, makes and sells copies of detailed Dutch survey maps for nearly all places in Indonesia.
The campus of Bandung’s Institute of Technology (ITB), Indonesia’s oldest and finest university, is also interisting. The institute’s library, built in the 1920s, is a honeycomb of massive wooden girders, and ITB students have a reputation for outspokenness and activism. Spend some time, too, wandering in the old Dutch shopping district downtown around J. Braga, and have a look into the newly remodelled art deco Savoy Homann Hotel on Jl. Asia Afrika. The town’s large flower market is nearby (on Jl. Wastukencana) and if you are interested in the Sundanese performing arts, then spend a morning observing classes in the Music Conservatory (Jl. Buah Batu 212) or at Pak Udjo’s private angklung school (Jl. Padasuka 118) in Bandung’s suburvs. In the evenings, attend one of several local theatres and clubs to observe traditional music, dance or puppet performances.
Bandung’s most exciting excursion, though, is a visit to one of the neighbourding volcanic highlands. the nearest and most frequently visited peak is Tangkuban Perahu, the “Upturned Boat” volcano lying 32 kms (20 miles) to the city’s north. A steep, narrow road veers left a short distance past the vegetable growing town of Lembang, and winds right up to the crater’s 1,830 metre (5,700 foot) rim.
Here, cold mountain mists and sulphurous fumes swirl around jagged, scrubcovered ridges, and souvenir sellers offer you strange monkey like objects fashioned from tree fern fibres. After this rather chilling experience, make your way quickly down to the Ciater hot springs, 7 kms (4 miles) beyong the Tangkuban Perahu exit, for a meal and a soothing soak in one of their piping hot pools. Accommodation is available at Ciater, as well as at Lembang and at nearby Maribaya – where there are also hot springs and numerous nature trails.
Several peaks to the south of bandung are even more spectacular but, higher and more rarely visited, they are somewhat difficult to find. At Ciwidey, 30 kms (19 miles) to the southwest of the city, you’ll find blacksmiths turning out a fascinating range of hand forged knives and daggers, and then you can continue on up through the tea estates to scenic Lake Patenggang or to Ciwidey Crater. Alternatively, the town of Pangalengan, with its seemingly endless vista of manicured rolling hills, 40 kms (25 miles) due south of Bandung, is the jumping off point for visit to the Cileunca Lakes, to the rim of Mt. Wayang, and into the “Golden Crater” of sulphurous, steaming, sputtering Mt. Papandayang. Add to all of these the old Dutch hill station of Garut, with its hot springs and recontructed Hindu temple, and you could easily spend weeks exploring the beautiful southern Parahyangan mountains.
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