Fri, 22 Dec 2000

Something for everyone in beautiful Bandung

Despite increasing traffic and a swelling population of more than three million, Bandung retains the charm which made it a favorite posting and retirement area for the Dutch during the colonial era. Yet while it proudly embraces its history seemingly on every corner, the city also offers very modern attractions.The Jakarta Post's Bruce Emond finds that Bandung beckons to a wide variety of travelers.

BANDUNG (JP): Only meters from major business areas are to be found lush parks and quiet residential streets, their architecture harking back to bygone times when Bandung was known as the "Paris of Java".

A surprisingly diverse range of bakeries, serving up a feast of traditional Dutch pastries and more modern delicacies such as brownies, are situated adjacent to clothing outlets, which have emerged in recent years as a major draw for domestic tourists.

Amid the modern scourges of the traffic jams on many of the city's narrow streets and increasing air pollution, there stand beautiful old buildings and shop-houses, which were designed by the colonists to assist in the process of acculturation from their temperate northern European homeland.

The marriage of old and new, with the tentacles of the past intertwining with those of the present, is the essence of Bandung's appeal. It is steeped in culture and history, but the modern trappings of the good life are widely available.

The city is still the leading center of trade in West Java and the home of the Siliwangi Military Command. It is also renowned as a university town, with several of the country's top universities.

"Despite the traffic jams and pollution, it has the same feeling of a university town that you find in places in America," said Michael, a 28-year-old American expatriate who makes occasional weekend visits to the city with his Indonesian girlfriend.

Although it was virtually unaffected by the May 1998 riots that rocked Jakarta, Surakarta and other cities, Bandung has not been able to escape the international fallout from the country's unrest and devastating economic crisis. Flights from Jakarta to the city were stopped due to the crisis; tourists must still make their way to Bandung via road or the stunningly scenic rail route.

Still, the city's shop and hotel owners have found other ways to compensate, including through drawing domestic tourists. Bandung has become a favorite destination for shoppers on account of its excellent bargains, particularly in textiles and clothing.

The city has long been known for Cihampelas, an entire street devoted to clothing, particularly jeans, sold at discount prices. Today, the catchword is outlets, to be found across the city. People from Jakarta and other cities in western Java flock to the shops, which offer well-known brands at bargain basement prices. The streets which are home to the outlets become virtual parking lots on weekends to accommodate the influx of shoppers.

Only three hours by train or car from Jakarta, the city is also emerging as a favorite site for conventions, company retreats and seminars.

The Hyatt Regency Bandung has recorded a 22 percent increase in guest numbers so far in 2000, according to the hotel's public relations manager, Keke Hidayat.

"It has also become the trend for the city to be selected as the site for business meetings and training courses organized by companies from Jakarta, which has caused a major increase in hotel occupancy and revenue during weekdays," Keke said.

"Domestic guests mostly come at weekends, while foreign guests come during the week on business, mostly connected with the textile industry."

Geulis Hotel and Cafe, which opened in the past year, is out to tap into the "boutique" hotel market segment. The hotel put quality first in every detail of its 26 rooms, said Mulyadi M. of its management team.

"Our way of thinking (in opening the hotel) was that we would ,as a boutique hotel, be different. Bandung is a great location, and hotels are always full on weekends."

What visitors to Bandung find is a diverse mix of attractions, from historical sites to excellent restaurants and shopping. Here is a selection of places around town.

Bandung Bites

The Peak, Jl. Desa Karyawangi Ciwaruga, Bandung (tel. 022-270- 0759). Not in the city of Bandung, but way out in the hills of Lembang, at the end of a very long and winding road. It's the "in" place to eat, especially on Saturday nights. Great views, but the food, and spotty service, are a matter of taste.

Braga Permai, Jl. Braga (tel. 022-420-1831). Pleasant restaurant, formerly the Maison Bogerijen, on the onetime main Dutch shopping boulevard. Nice spot to while away an afternoon over coffee and bitterballen.

Dago Tea House, Jl. Bukit Dago Utara (tel. 022-2505364). Renowned for its stunning views over the city, and a favorite place for weekenders and out-of-towners. Worth a trip, if only to say that you have been there.

Gambrinus Pub and Restaurant, Jl. Prof. Drg. Surya Sumantri 59 (tel. 022-201-2704). A bit of an expatriate enclave (it's next to an international school) but welcoming to all. Better-than- average Indian cuisine, German specialities, a delicatessen and small bar.

Kintamani Restaurant, Jl. Lombok 45, (tel. 022-426-1673). Open until the wee hours, the two-story restaurant is a haunt of night owls and clubbers on their way home. Live entertainment on the second floor.

Riung Sari, Jl. R. E. Martadinata 22 (tel. 022-4206723). It's a must for visitors to try Sundanese food in the heart of West Java, and this is a friendly-enough restaurant to take the plunge. Central and only a short walk from major hotels.

Sweet Treats

Prima Rasa, Jl. Kemuning 20 (tel. 022-720-6468). Often known simply as Kemuning, this small store in a residential area is famed as the place for the best brownies in Bandung. They come in a variety of flavors, including raisin, cheese and Amaretto (!), and there are lots of other cakes and pastries available. Friendly, helpful staff, but a crush on Sundays.

Tizi Cake Shop and Restaurant, Jl. Kidang Pananjung (tel. 022- 250-4963). Bread, cakes, sandwiches and more substantial meals served up in an al fresco setting. Pleasant place where you can hear yourself, and your dining companion, speak.

Kartika Sari, Jl. Kebon Jekut 3C (tel. 022-423-0788). Famed for its moelen, a scrumptious mix of pastry, bananas and cheese. Lots of other varieties of pastries available at its store, conveniently located near the train station.

Yogurt Cisangkuy, Jl. Cisangkuy 66, (022-727-3926). Long the place which has made yogurt into something more than sour milk. Great variety of flavors and something for every taste.

Rest Spots

The Chedi, Jl. Ranca Bentang 56-58, Ciumbeulit (tel. 022-203- 0333). A boutique hotel of the highest order, far from the hoi polloi in a cool, leafy suburb of the city. Delicious food, dramatic black-tiled swimming pool plus the recent addition of a spa. Great for quiet, romantic getaways.

Hyatt Regency Bandung, Jl. Sumatera 51 (tel. 022-421-1234). Luxurious five-star accommodation in the heart of the city (it conveniently adjoins Bandung Indah Plaza, the swankest mall in town). Restaurants are something to write home about, and the hotel has a small but well-equipped fitness center.

Savoy Homann, Jl. Asia-Afrika 112 (tel. 022-423-2244). Worth a visit, if only for a peek at the grand old hotel of the city. Bit ragged around the edges, but the hotel does have a number of suites, kept very much the way they must have been in the 1930s (they even have bathtubs with "feet").

Santika Bandung, Jl. Sumatra 52-54 (tel. 022-420-3009). Spacious, bright hotel in the heart of the city, with the unusual attraction of a swimming pool perched above the lobby.

Geulis Hotel and Cafe, Jl. Ir. H. Juanda 129 (tel. 022-250- 7777). A new addition to the hotel scene in the cool Dago area, it offers luxurious suites and a popular cafe on site. Pricey upmarket boutique hotel will suit those with time on their hands and cash to spare.

Sukajadi, Jl. Sukajadi 176 (tel. 022-203-3888). A cozy, homey no-frills hotel a little way from the city center. Right next door to one of the city's most popular clothing outlets.

Better Brew

Aroma, Jl. Banceuy 51 (tel. 022-423-2468). A visit to this shop-cum-factory is a fascinating experience. The friendly owner will take you to the back of the shop to see the old German machinery used to roast the coffee beans. The robusta and arabica coffee, aged for years, are simply superb, and make great gifts.