Indonesia 2016

Bandung, pt. 1: Sweat, Cream Buns and T-Rex 

Our second full day in Indonesia was much more of an adventure — if you define ‘adventure’ as ‘things going wrong’. But it all worked out in the end, and was great fun.

The day started with us walking from the hotel to the travel agents — which sounds unremarkable, until you consider that Jakartan weather is not made for white people: it’s boiling hot and desperately humid, not unlike south India. Everyone around us remained calm and dry as a bone as we sweated and complained throughout the fifteen minute walk. When we eventually found it, we noticed that the travel agency was at the end of this corridor:


And, not for the first time, I was glad not to be alone.

The trip to Bandung took three hours on a minibus, during which I slept, and an hour’s taxi, during which I stressed about the traffic. (There was a little girl on the minibus who delicately held a hanky to her mouth each time she coughed. It was so cute. After we arrived, her mum drove off on a motorbike with her, another woman, and her daughter all clinging on). Bandung’s traffic was absolutely appalling, thanks to an annual sports event called Pon, and was directed by extremely brave traffic controllers who wore surgical marks, carried fluorescent batons, and had my ultimate respect.


We eventually arrived at the hotel, which was moderately grim, with a triple bedroom for us, shared bathrooms (tiny rooms with both toilets and a shower head hanging above), and a long-haired receptionist with long nails who arranged a day out to the volcanoes and hot springs in the south for the following day, of which more in another post. After lunch in a mall’s deserted food court, in which we ate ravenously while the only other visitors played karaoke, we set about exploring.

Bandung is a huge city in central-west Java, the third biggest in all Indonesia, and not much of a tourist attraction; most of its appeal comes from the rolling hills and interesting geology nearby, about which more in another post. Nonetheless we were certainly well-diverted.

First up was the mosque, whose minarets loomed above most other buildings in the city, and was surrounded by dozens of people lounging around on the surrounding marble floors, grinning at us and offering rice and tofu. We removed and stowed our shoes and tiptoed inside. (We were desperate not to cause offence.)

Inside, people also sat around and chatted and prayed, mostly in gender-specific areas. Matt went off to the men’s section, which he called “awe-inspiring”; I stood and folded my arms tightly, regretting not having my head covered. Watching people pray made me feel quite emotional. I started chatting to an Indonesian woman; when she asked my religion and I said Christian, which she struggled to understand, I signalled frantically to Matt as he approached that it was time to leave.

As has been a frequent occurrence so far, it then started to pour with monsoon-level rain. Great. We caught a taxi to our next intended destination, the Geological Museum, and arrived… five minutes before it was due to close.

But never fear.

As we were working out what to do next, a teenage boy approached us and asked us whether we wanted to come to a conference in the auditorium for an hour. We were feeling a bit awful at missing out on the museum, so we agreed, signing our names on the register, getting a free snack (water and a cream bun), and finding some seats in the large room. It was only when the speaker (we had thought it might be a movie) approached us, shook our hands warmly, and asked us which government had sent us that we realised we had made a mistake. We made our excuses (our original teenage friend had mysteriously left).

And that’s the story of how we accidentally went to an Indonesian geology conference and ate their cream buns.

It subsequently, thank goodness, stopped raining, and we spent the rest of the day walking south-east back to our hotel through the streets, which thronged with people, kids, cars, motorbikes, cycle rickshaws, stray cats, and gloriously poor English. Our favourite thing was a scale model T-Rex which occasionally lit up and played roaring sounds and “Party Rock is in the House Tonight”, terrifying nearby children. My favourite was a junk shop, full of beautiful old puppets, statues, books, and memorabilia, as well as the monstrosity that was a carved statue of a Minion.

We eventually ate at an absolutely delicious Chinese hotpot place, had a drink at a nearby bar, headed back, and were asleep by 9 – the benefit of our inexplicable triple room being that we were forced to sleep separately and therefore passed out for over ten hours.