Bandung is the ethnic Sundanese heartland, located approximately 80 kilometres east of the nation's capital, Jakarta. With the greater urban area having a population in excess of 2 million, it is Indonesia's third largest city and at times it feels like it. Once called Paris van Java, or the Paris of Java, because of its charming colonial boulevards and laid back hill-town feel, Bandung has lost almost all of its former appeal. Boulevards are replaced by rutted roads jam-packed with traffic, fresh air is replaced by car fumes and colonial architecture replaced by rampant haphazard development. These ills are all that many passing tourists see and getting below the surface of this gritty town can sometimes feel impossible.
To experience the pleasant side of Bandung that local people enjoy, it is imperative to stay away from the centre of town and attempt to find a quiet back street where trees replace street signs and white-washed walls replace grotty shuttered street fronts. Only a short angkot ride to the north of Bandung one can experience market gardens, terraced rice fields and sprawling tea plantations -- the kind of stuff that explains why the Dutch colonists were so fond of this area.
The main reason to visit Bandung is to use it as a base to enjoy the spectacular volcanoes of Tangkuban Parahu in the north and Kawah Putih in the south -- both are worthy of a visit in their own right. Bandung also serves as a good place to decide where to head to next as many Javan highlights such as Yogyakarta and Pangandaran are well-serviced by public transport and are thus directly accessible from the city.
The weather in Bandung is warm, with an average day time temperature of 27 degrees Celsius, occasionally rising into the low 30s. Overnight temperatures drop below 20, but it's rarely cold enough to need a jacket -- the exception being the summit of Kawah Putih.
The train station is located in the centre of town and is also the location of the main angkot terminal and a smattering of reasonable hotels. To the east of the train station are the pleasant streets of Jalan Sumatra and Jalan Progo, where an abundance of fine restaurants and cafes exist.
Police stations, ATMs, internet cafes and convenience stores are common in Bandung and the better cafes offer WiFi for free. For a fast internet connection (~3mbit), we recommend heading to Giggle Box cafe on Jalan Progo. Money changing services are available in the Paris Van Java shopping mall.
Rumah Sakit Advent on Jalan Cihampelas (T: (022) 203 4386) comes highly recommended if you need medical attention.
By Adam Poskitt.