Strangers to this city might question the purpose of visiting Bandung . Tales of pollution and traffic jams cloud the city's attractions, while the absence of a tourist friendly infrastructure makes travelers bypass Bandung and head for Yogyakarta or Bali instead. Certainly, some of these criticisms are true. As most of Indonesia 's big cities, pollution and traffic congestions are a nuisance to commuters and a hazard to both human health and natural environment.
Secondly, because tourism has never been of major concern to Bandung , facilities and infrastructure is somewhat visitor unfriendly. There is no effective and comprehensible public transport except for the road raging angkots (minivans). In addition, side walks are a pain and parks are a rarity. Indeed, the Kota Kembang (flower city) or Parijs van Java (Paris of Java) nicknames rarely invoke a sense of pride, but more often a smirk from Bandung inhabitants.
Nevertheless, Bandung is amazingly popular with Jakartanese and Javanese in general. Every weekend, the roads are packed with visitors and day trippers, wishing to breathe in Bandung 's fresh air but finding themselves sadly stuck in traffic on one of the major thoroughfares. What is it that they seek? What does Bandung have that makes it worth wrestling through the clouds of pollution? Why on earth should you visit Bandung ?
First of all, Bandung is situated in one of the most beautiful natural surroundings of West Java . In all wind directions you stumble upon volcanoes, tea plantations, strawberry fields and luscious green rice paddies. Resort towns in the North such as Ciater and Cipanas as well as Ciwidey in the South offer natural hot springs and paramount panoramas. The Tangkuban Prahu Volcano in Lembang can be reached within the hour from central Bandung .
Then there is the univocal fact that Bandung is a heaven for food lovers. Snacks are stashed in street side stalls, warungs and 5 star restaurants with views to die for. Bandung specialties range from batagor (crispy fried fish/tahu with spicy peanut sauce) to cendol (coconut drink with jelly beans). The variety is enormous and compared to for example Jakarta , a lot cheaper. Sweet tooth or salty sucker, you won't leave Bandung without putting on a few pounds.
Culturally, Bandung is regarded as the heart of Sunda land. This is reflected in language, music and customs by the Sundanese. Friendliness and a good sense of humour are typical, making Bandung one of the most welcoming places to visit.
And even though the name Parijs van Java is not really fitting these days, the remnants of the colonial past are everywhere. The Dutch favoured Bandung above every other city in the colonial era and this has resulted in an overabundance of colonial architecture. The Gedung Sate (Sate building), the Savoy Homan hotel and Jalan Braga are all lined with faded colonial splendour.
And last but not least, Bandung is without a doubt the fashion capital of Java. The phenomenon of Factory outlets has grown to an extreme in Bandung , reaching into the hundreds. Each with their own specialty, be it shoes or suits, big brands sell for small prices. The quality and variety definitely make Bandung a heaven for shopaholics.
So wipe the car dust from your eyes and see past the pollution. Bandung might not be easy to grasp, but once you know where it's at, it becomes clear why Indonesians are loving it.