I know it’s been a long while since I last posted but we’ve been very, very busy doing absolutely nothing in an idyllic surf village called Batu Karas. But more about that in a later post.
At the time I’m writing this we’ve been in Indonesia for three weeks and I'd like to say something about the Javanese people. We have never met a people that are so quick to grin. Travelling through western Java has been an experience so far. It really isn’t set up for tourists and we’d be lucky to see three or four other westerners each day. As such we attract a lot of attention from the locals. There are a lot of stares but every time we smile back they just beam at us. And we are universally acknowledged as “mister” and “missy”. Even hotel staff will address us as Mister Andy and Miss Trudy. We have been absolutely overwhelmed by how friendly and welcoming the locals have been on our whole trip so far.
So after Bogor we headed to Bandung which is Indonesia’s third largest city. The three hour minibus trip (which actually took six hours) took us up over the mountains and through an area called the Puncak Pass. There really is some beautiful scenery through here and it is also renowned for its tea plantations. Unfortunately it is pretty much built up the entire way so we only caught glimpses here and there and the traffic was horrendous. Buses are even banned from the road on the weekends in an acknowledgment of how bad the traffic can be.
Here are a few photos of the Puncak Pass.
A typical roadside store
Bandung itself is a pretty uninspiring city although we spent a few days here unwinding a little. Bandung is essentially just a working city, a couple of million people living here but not a lot to attract the tourist. We also spent three nights in three separate hotels as each one we booked was unavailable the next night when we tried to extend. The last hotel we stayed in, the Zodiak Hotel, was actually the pick of them, as although it had the smallest rooms the staff were unbelievably friendly and went the extra mile in organising our transport to our next destination. But I’ll get to that shortly.
The first night we spent in the Novotel on a $50 deal and we got an upgrade to an executive suite on top of that so we were pretty chuffed. Here is the view from our room looking out over central Bandung. From the look of the houses this is a fairly well to do area (well we were staying in the Novotel). I also recorded the six o’clock call to prayer from the mosque next door. This sounded amazing as night fell across the city.
Apart from strolling around the vicinity of our hotels we didn’t do much in Bandung. We did, however, spend an afternoon and evening in an area known as Jeans Street which is full of factory outlets. Bandung is well known for its cheap shopping and we saw plenty of bus tours bringing Indonesians in and out from other parts of Java. It also allowed us to pick up some cheap souvenir t-shirts. I love one that I bought that promotes Bandung for its “shooping” – I love good Engrish.
Jalan Cihampelas, colloquially known as Jeans Street.
Doesn’t every factory outlet need a giant Rambo?
A view of residential Bandung from the back of one of the shops.
This area of Bandung also has an amazing upmarket shopping plaza. From walking down unpaved streets we just turned a corner and stumbled upon it. We felt like we were back home with the top end shops and restaurants. This is obviously where the elites and students of elite parents hang out. Another example of the vast social stratification that is so evident in Indonesia.
So once we’d had enough of Bandung we tried to organise transport to our next destination, the beachside resort town of Pangandaran. We had the name of a minibus company out of the Lonely Planet but the phone number didn’t work. Our hotel staff couldn’t find them either so we headed onto the streets to find a bus company we’d read about online. A fruitless search returned us to our hotel where Miss Astry told us she’d found the company on Google and that they’d take us the 9 hour trip for $8 each. Hooray! The next day we were waiting in the lobby for the minibus to turn up. And waiting...and waiting...and waiting. Three hours after it’s due the hotel staff sheepishly approach us and say, “We’re so sorry but the bus has left for Pangandaran without you”. We know well enough not to get upset in developed countries, so we shrugged our shoulders, asked them to book us another bus the next day, and poured ourselves a rum each. Five minutes later the manager and Miss Astry come up and tell us they had had stern words with the minibus company and they had turned around 90 minutes out of Bandung and would be at our hotel in ten minutes (Trudy had heard quite a commotion coming earlier from the hotel office – the staff were obviously on our side). Sure enough the minibus turns up three hours overdue with three Indonesian passengers already on the bus. Funnily enough they didn’t seem to mind at all and just smiled and welcomed us on board. We can’t praise the staff of the Zodiak Hotel highly enough.
Thanks to Miss Astry from the Zodiak Hotel.
A very long bus trip was broken up with a stop literally in the middle of nowhere at what could only be described as an Indonesian style truck stop. The food here was delicious, I had the beef stew and rice (it was really a broth type soup but absolutely delicious) and Trudy had the vegetarian option. This is the sort of moment that we’ll always remember.