The 2nd stop of my short Java trip is the favorite weekend getaway destination of people from Jakarta. Not surprising because it’s so easily reached from Jakarta by train, supposedly a scenic 3 hours journey or by mini van, short 2 hours ride via the super highway. I opted for this option with X-Trans for 70,000 Rupiah (Php280).
Bandung was not on my original list but since it is en route Jogyakarta and was highly recommended by the people of Indonesia group, so, why not? They said it has good food, climate, shopping, and an interesting Nu Art Gallery. I thought I could do this all in a day but I think it’s to couchsurf for one day so I planned to stay for 2.
Bandung is situated on a plateau and surrounded by mountains/volcanoes, strawberry fields, tea plantations, and has a hot spring, all within one hour by car (and public transportaion) from the main town. I didn’t know of this before but I saw photos from Yannie and they’re great but unfortunately, it will have to be for another trip.
I took the 2pm trip and was dropped in Cihampelas at 4pm, which luckily is a colorful street and near the workplace of my host Noni. This is one of those popular Jeans Street filled with outlet shops with screaming signages. I stroll the stretch assessing Bandung fashion and quickly decided, not my style. The shops and merchandise looks like those in Tutuban Mall that made me seriously wonder about the shopping hype… But it was good. I don’t plan to shop anyway and I’d hate to be tortured with great buys. Then in about an hour I met up with Noni, a doctor doing research and her friend, Stefanus, a student, and my would be nanny/guide for the next day.
I didn’t micro plan this trip. I only decided on the cities/provinces I will go to and the approximate number of days per stop. Flexible too as I will be traveling by land except for Bali back to Jakarta. So this means, I will heavily rely on my hosts for my detailed itinerary. The plan for the following day is to visit the old town of Braga and find this art gallery nobody seem to have heard of.
Noni lives 4 minutes walk from the Leuwi Panjang bus station, so in the morning, I leave the house with her at 8.30am so that she can show me which bus to take.
BRAGA is the downtown and central business district of Bandung. This is an interesting place to see because Braga Street and Braga district has a lot of old buildings of architectural merit and historical. Braga street was known as the 5th Avenue of Indonesia during the time Bandung was the Paris of Java in the 1930s. This was where the Dutch socialites came to buy their luxury goods on weekends, as this has always been the weekend capital of West Java.
I arrived about 9am and started going around taking photos of the old buildings. Then I went to Canary Cafe at the end of Braga St to have my coffee and waited for Stefanus. We then covered the rest of the district of Braga and came to the Museum of the Asian Afrikan Conference. It was so hot already that we decided to go in, it’s gratis anyway. It turned out to be an interesting stop over. The museum was established to commemorate the conference held by Indonesia here in 1955 to inspire colonized nations, mainly in Asia and Africa, to strive for their freedom. It was very enlightening to know about the mission, preparation, the efforts and the impact of this conference.
The walk ended in alun-alun (square) and we sat down for lunch at one of the hawker kiosk. The noodle soup here is more expensive than in Jakarta, 12.000 vs 8.000perhaps due to the ambiance. I had, after all, the post office at my back and was faciing the grand mosque of Masjid Raya.
I wanted to check the train schedule for Jogyakarta and since the map we got from the Tourist Information Center shows the train station to be near the post office, and because the guy Stefanus asked said it is walking distance, we started to walk. And it turned out to be a pilgrimage. Actually, I’m okay to walk even in my flip-flops and under the frying sun, this should build my stamina for the Condura marathon, he he. But I wasn’t sure about Stefano though I didn’t ask lest he collapsed. He he.
We found the train station via the area that must be their Divisoria. The shops and stalls very similar to Recto Avenue towards Ilaya part of Divi. I’m wondering about the connection of Tutuban Train Station and Divi vs. Bandung Train Station and their Divi (not able to ask what this area is called). :)
Next destination is the NuArt Sculpture Park. Fortunately, there is 1 angkot ride from the train station. The art gallery is located in the residential district which is far in relation to the size of Bandung City. It’s at the opposite end of where Noni lives. It’s not difficult to go like I said, one angkot ride away. Angkot being their counterpart of our jeepney. It works exactly like the jeepney. It travels on a fixed route and you can board and stop at any point shouting “kiri-kiri“.
But if the gallery were hard to go, it will still be worth the trouble. The Nu Art Sculpture Park is an amazing place! 3.000 hectar of land with steel/copper sculpture artworks scattered around the garden/villa. There’s an art gallery/ building of mordern glass and concrete architecture. I love it! I had no idea it’s going to be so nice. And it’s all by just one artist: Nyoman Nuarta (ergo, Nu Art).
Mr. Nuarta is Bali born but grew up in Bandung which explains many of his Bali inspired work. I love his paintings too. He owns this awesome place, but the gallery keeper told me Mr. Nuarta didn’t acquire his wealth overnight. He did a lot of huge steel monuments scattered around Indonesia. His current project is the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park: Jimbaran, Bali, attempting to build the tallest statue in the world. He is also building a tall Noah liked statue for the island hit by the recent tsunami.
I’m actually very surprised that Bandung doesn’t have visible marks of this artis. Ok, let’s not exaggerate to compare him to Gaudi of Barcelona, but at least like Kublai of Davao where his sculpture of the giant durian is found at the airport. I don’t know if it’s because I just saw the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona but this park reminded me of Parc Guell and maybe Jimbaran will be his Sagrada Familia?
One of the nicest experience here is that we get to tour his workshop. It’s amazing to be face to face with art in progress. This is where the major sculptures were being made in pieces and shipped to the final destinations for installation. So the big face in the photo will be the actual Noah statue and the mold for the Wisnu in Jimbara is the other big face. The actual is made of plastic resin.
Let’s talk about shopping or something we now fondly call as “investing“.
I mentioned about my first day arriving at the Jeans Street, and so seriously contemplated on joining one of these nature day trips offered by the tourist information center in Braga for 500.000 Rupiah. I didn’t take it because (1) I leave for Yogya the following evening and I don’t want to be scrambling for time. I hate this type of stress. Ya, there are types of stress that I like. (2) I think it’s expensive. Ok, so 2.000 pesos isn’t so expensive for tour and transportation, but it feels expensive in Indonesia with all these zeroes.
So the next day, I set forth on to the outlet world. I must say I wasn’t too hopeful but Noni suggested Jl. Riau and Jl. Dagu where she said have the more interesting outlet stores. I left the house with her as the day before, meaning at 8.30am because she only has one key, and was shown which bus to take. I got off the intersection of Jl Riau and Merdeka disoriented, as it was a big avenue and no outlet store nor signage in sight. I asked a girl for direction, and she pointed naturally, “outlet, that way.” It was about 5 minute leisure walk when finally the 1st one came to view: The Secret Outlet.
I walked in and I swear my heart paused for a second, omg. It was a huge one level store with rows and racks of clothes. My feet were cemented as I wasn’t sure if I should proceed or retract. Being it’s a little past 9am and I am the 1st customer, the staff were all smiley and welcoming. I courageously took the first step and go near the merchandise. Normal me will be zipping around the racks and piling clothes in a basket to try on but here, I was just staring and afraid of touching. Should I even bother? I have a modest backpack and 2 more cities to go before going to back to Jakarta, so technically 3. Then someone handed me a shopping bag and soon, like a possessed woman, I roamed the store. Topshop, Zara, Mango, H&M, Esprit, Gap, Banana Rep, Old Navy, and many brands I’m not familiar with but beautiful none the less. Very soon I filled the bag and went into the fitting room. They only allow 3 items per time, but the woman just smiled and let me in with the full basket. I tried them one by one, happy when something doesn’t look good or with bad fit. Ok, the reason I’m so gaga is that the items were all so cheap. It’s even better than Hong Kong in August. The price ranges from Pesos 120 (t-shirts) to 500 (nice cotton dresses, sometimes with stretch). My tactic is to feed my gluttony by trying on everything I fancied and then be really critical about each item. I went in the fitting room a few times and spent a considerable amount of time in this shop, the first one, because I need to walk around and debate with myself which to shed from my basket. Finally, I quite proudly walked out with only 4 items, light ones, no twill or other heavy fabric.
I then went into a quaint cafe to have my morning fix and then continue my venture. Maybe I have calmed down or maybe the next few stores are not as nice, but I’d walk in and out most of them in 2 minutes, empty handed, I’m so glad. The next place I spent some time in was at The Heritage. It also carries brands I like but they don’t allow fitting of shirts, so I came out only with one Roxy shorts. I decided to quit while I’m ahead and I went into Dakken Cafe & Steak to have my late lunch. It was a very nice cafe, like fine dining with soft light, beige wall with paintings, and comfy couches, but the food are not expensive. A plate of pasta bolognese cost like Php150 and coke at Php30. I sat here for hours because wifi-hotspot is free provided by Melsa Hotspot. You have to register but it’s free. Per log in time is 1hour and then you just log on again with the same name and password. Why don’t we have this in Manila?
My hosts were mighty protective and great! In Jakarta, when I left on Monday and Yannie had to work, Vivie came to take me to lunch and drove me to the bus station. Here in Bandung, I volunteered to bring my bags with me and put it in the train locker, but Noni insisted that I can put my backpack in her mum’s car and then they’ll just come and get me wherever I end up and then drive me to the train station, of course, not without taking me to eat delicious native Bandung food first.