Wednesday, August 19, 2015

10 reasons to visit Bandung, the Paris of Indonesia

1. The city is literally cool

The city lies on a river basin surrounded by the Parahyangan mountains. Temperatures are considerably cooler, which made our exploration of the city enjoyable. I forgot I was in South East Asia.

2. Pick up local designs at Jeans street

As soon as we touched down, we headed to Cihampelas Walk - known as Jeans street to tourists who may have difficulty pronouncing its name. (It’s pronounced “Chiam-plus”!) The street used to be known as the place to get clothes from local designers and the numerous shops selling locally-made jeans. 

Cihampelas Walk is where you can indulge in a healthy amount of road-side shopping with most products ranging from Rp 10k to Rp 40k (Yes, S$1 to S$5!) Just take note the branded goods here aren’t legitimate. The extravagant facades of some of the shops make for a colourful shopping experience.

If you want to retreat to something more modern, just head over to one of the malls nearby. Cihampelas street has a good mix of swanky malls and old-school street markets. You’ll be reminded of how developed Bandung is when you see familiar brands like KFC and Nike.

After some shopping, we headed back early to the hotel to prepare ourselves for a very long Day 2.

Tip: When travelling by taxi, always insist on using the metre. While we were there every taxi driver did so automatically. But we’ve heard stories of taxis insisting on a fixed price. When that happens, just walk away and grab another taxi.

3. Visit the sea of blue

Kawah Putih (meaning “white crater” in Indonesian) is a crater lake of staggering beauty that lies 50km south of Bandung.

This stunning lake of pale turquoise is highly acidic (pH 0.5-1.3) so do not even think about dipping your toes in the water. But the picturesque view will take your breath away. It is the stuff wedding albums and Nicholas Sparks movies are made of. 

Bring a mask along as there is a lot of sulphur in the air and be sure to grab a jacket too. It can be chilly here due to the lake’s high elevation. 

4. Go Strawberry Hunting

Whenever you visit a volcano, you’re bound to see miles of surrounding plantations. This is because of the breakdown of minerals; composites of volcanic residue that are highly beneficial for plants. Thank you secondary school geography class.

The strawberries fields were located just a 5 minute drive away from Kawah Putih. For a fee of Rp 40k , we were given a basket and allowed to pick all the strawberries we wanted. There isn’t any machinery being used here, so picking the strawberries ended up being a lot tougher than it sounded.

It was a fun and humbling experience going through the fields that made me understand first-hand the work that goes in to harvesting produce on a daily basis. I don’t think I can buy strawberries from Cold Storage again without this memory surfacing.

5. Visit a mythical volcano

Volcanos. Dragons. Middle-Earth. These are the larger than life legends we only read about. So I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to finally visit a live volcano - and the most famous one in Bandung no less - Tangkuban Perahu.

Tangkuban Perahu is an active volcano that technically last erupted in 1983; but the locals here regard the last eruption as being in 1969.The cool part is how you can walk around the perimeter of the volcano and visit the craters. The main one is called “Kawah Ratu” or Queens crater.

After posting a picture of this crater on my Instagram, my mom made a comment on how she fondly remembered visiting this place with my dad 30 years ago. I wondered if they witnessed the same view as us. Some things never change.

6. Ride a Unicor

The only thing better than visiting a volcano is visiting a volcano on a horse. It also helps when you’re given a magical looking horse with pink hair that looks straight out of “My Little Pony.” Our 15 minute horse rides were bargained down to Rp 150k for two

7. Trek through the jungle and crater hop

You can visit 3 craters at Tangkuban Perahu. After visiting the main crater Kawah Ratu at the top, we made the 30 minute trek down to Kawah Domas
You definitely need a guide to help you navigate through the woods through the cleared paths. Otherwise, you’re bound to lose your way - don’t even try. It’s a 30 minute downhill walk full of scenic sights and photo opportunities. Just be careful not to come here at night or alone and be sure to bring along water. A guide will likely approach you but if there isn't one just go to the administration office.

8. Dip your legs in volcanic springs

It felt surreal standing in the throbbing heart of a live volcano. Kawah Domas’ other appeal is the various pools of sulphuric mud and springs that never stop flowing.

There are different pools of varying temperatures here. The warm ones can be used as a mud spa while you can even soak your feet in the hotter ones; said to have therapeutic healing properties. The boiling springs can even be used to cook eggs, which you can purchase from a nearby shop.

Remember not to make the uphill climb back to Kawah Ratu. Ask your guide to inform your driver to wait for you at the exit of Kawah Domas, a relatively easier 15 minute walk away. 

Because of how tipping culture is in Bandung, we paid about Rp 300k each for “official entrance” and another Rp 400k to the guide for 2 hours of his time. So the trip down cost us both about S$100 which was super pricey. You don’t really have a choice though but the trip was definitely worth it.

TSL Tip: An 8 hour car ride will cost you about Rp 600k if arranged by the hotel. We ended up spending over 16 hours travelling with our driver on Day 2

9. The best 10 cent Goreng Pisang in the universe

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at one of the roadside stalls recommended by the driver. Perfectly crispy on the outside and sweet and tender within, this goreng pisang was the best we ever had. It cost Rp 10k (S$1.50) and came in a packet of 15. So one piece was just about 10 cents. Unbelievable!

TSL Tip: I’m sure we all heard horror stories of street-food before, and that could cause hesitation when it comes to trying really authentic local food. But you really should not worry so much about the hygiene levels of food when you go overseas. Because as long as the stall has a local crowd, it means it has already been vetted by the locals and the food is safe. Avoid stalls with no patrons.

10. Find incredible bargains at Factory Outlets

At the end of our day, we squeezed in some last minute shopping at the factory outlets.

This is the main reason Bandung is so popular with weekending Singaporeans, Malaysians and even Jarkatans. The three main areas are Dago, Jalan Setiabudi and Jalan Riau and they are all within walking distance to each other.

You’ll be able to get most branded products for under S$20. I bought a bunch of brandless boxers for S$3 each and ended up buying a Burberry polo-tee for under S$18 and a CK leather jacket for just S$80. Yes, leather!

If you’re into shopping, you could easily spend days in the endless maze of factory outlets.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Asian-African Carnival to become annual event in Bandung

As part of a week-long program to celebrate the Asian-African Conference's 60th anniversary, the Asian-African Carnival was held on April 25.

Around 70 countries had participated in the carnival, including China, India and Egypt.

The carnival started with Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil and Tourism Minister Arief Yahya greeting the eager spectators from the top of a Bandung tour bus.

With the starting point of Bandung's Simpang Lima, the carnival participants then started to grace Jl. Asia-Afrika, showcasing not only their extravagantly colorful costumes, but also displaying the cultural and artistic performances of their countries of origin.

The carnival excited its spectators, many of whom were visitors and foreigners.

Many Bandung residents were also awed when the city finally hosted a lavish carnival such as the world renowned Jember Fashion Carnival.

Earlier this week on May 4, Mayor Ridwan shared the news regarding the Asian-African Conference anniversary in Bandung.

With the huge financial success gained from the foreign exchange after a week full of Asian-African Conference-inspired events, the Tourism Ministry set out to make Bandung one of its top priorities for developing urban tourism in Indonesia, the mayor announced.

This means that, in the future, the Tourism Ministry will hold more events in Bandung, such as the carnival.

"Therefore, the Asian-African Carnival is set to be one of Bandung's annual events," the mayor said.

Bandung set to lure more foreign tourists

The government has substantially increased its target for foreign tourist arrivals to Bandung, West Java, according to Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil.

“The tourism ministry has assigned me to raise the number of foreign tourist arrivals to Bandung from 90,000 visits per year to 500,000 visits,” Ridwan said in Bandung on Monday as quoted by

Ridwan said Tourism Minister Arief Yahya advised him to formulate a new strategy to boost tourism.

The tourism minister previously declared the successful Asia-Africa Carnival, which was held on April 25 during the 60th anniversary of Asian-African Conference, would become an annual event.

The move was seen as a part of the ministry’s effort to attract 10.06 million foreign visitors to Indonesia this year, an increase of 7 percent from the 2014 target.

Ridwan also revealed his plan to involve underprivileged families in the effort to boost Bandung tourism.

“I am designing a program in which underprivileged families would be empowered to make souvenirs related to Bandung,” Ridwan said, adding that the program was expected to enable low-income people to take advantage of the expected booming tourist industry in his city.