After the bottle-green hills of the Puncak Pass, the sprawling bulk of Bandung hits you like a baseball bat across the back of the head. Once the ‘Paris of Java’, the city is now a twisting throng of congested streets and endless suburbs, and any romantic notions of colonial glamour have long disappeared. This is Indonesia’s fourth-largest city and West Java’s capital, and it likes everyone to know it.
But not everything has gone to pot. Among the shopping malls and business hotels you’ll find a dynamic, major city that’s on the move. It attracts workers, intellectuals and artisans from across the archipelago, and its industries, bars and restaurants throb with life. Today, grandiose Art Deco buildings, heaving market stalls, becak and multiplexes jostle for space in a city where past, present and future effortlessly coexist. It’s also the centre of Sundanese culture, which plays a supporting role in the city’s identity.
Bandung was originally established in the late 19th century as a colonial garrison town, but it rapidly acquired importance as a commercial and educational centre. Because of its pleasant climate – it stands at 750m above sea level – the Dutch even had plans to make it the capital prior to WWII. Bandung’s most notable entry in the history books was as host of the Asia-Africa conference in 1955, which finally placed it in the world spotlight.
The main attraction of Bandung is its proximity to sights; high volcanic peaks, hot springs and enormous tea plantations are all easy day trips from the city. But with its cool climate and a handful of its own attractions, Bandung is worth a day or two of your time. This is the place to dip into Sundanese culture and, with street after street of shopping options, explore the depths of your shopping desires.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009