Bandung on my mind: the old and the new

When my friends back in Manila ask me about Bandung, I usually say: “Bandung is like our version of Tagaytay here.” Although this may not be 100% accurate and it doesn’t do justice to Bandung, I need something to anchor Bandung on so that my friends can visualize how it’s like.

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For the longer version of it though:

Bandung is the capital of West Java, roughly 140 kilometers away from southeast of Jakarta. Again, in Manila reference, the distance is like 3 times of Tagaytay, one way.  In terms of population, it;s the third largest city by population in Indonesia.

Whole year round, it has a cooler temperature compared to other parts of Indonesia (thus, my Tagaytay metaphor). The city lies on a river basin, surrounded by volcanoes and tea plantation. In the olden days, the Dutch immigrants planned to move the colonial capital from Jakarta (formerly Batavia) to Bandung (formerly Bandoeng). With this plan came the blossoming of restaurants, cafes, hotels and European-inspired shops. With this, the Dutch nicknamed Bandung as Paris Van Java (The Paris of Java).

I dare not romanticize Bandung this way, because like it or not, what used to be an idyllic place surrounded by lush greenery and flora has become a nightmare of traffic gridlock.

This is not to say though, that I have stopped loving Bandung. There is a workaround to the traffic. For me, I go to Bandung for 3 main reasons:

  1. Factory outlet shopping 
  2. Culinary exploration 
  3. Relax amidst nature and fresh air 

Last weekend’s trip to Bandung was a combination of business and pleasure. I had to do a market visit and an on-ground activation in Paris Van Java mall. I took that as an opportunity to spend the weekend there as well and check out what’s new. Since I had limited time, I mainly wanted to just do a quick R&R and check out the new restaurants. Based on this very recent visit, here are my  recommendations and new finds:

1.   Padma Hotel Bandung – consistent in their service and always reliable. If you are looking for a place that has everything because you just want to hibernate, then Padma Hotel it is. Situated right in the middle of lush greenery  and colorful flora, Padma Hotel is the perfect getaway.

 

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The Padma Hotel Bandung Lobby

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View of the playground at Padma Hotel

Complete with amenities, it has a massive gym, sprawling gardens, pools, a hiking trail, a playground for children with a small petting zoo, spa and several hidden corners where you can just sit and read a book.

They have yoga sessions by the pool side at 7am during the weekends and activities for children.

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I particularly liked that the gardens and the yards are well-maintained. Every morning, I saw gardeners cutting and watering the plants.

The restaurant’s view is spectacular. It’s located above the green valley, overlooking trees and bright flowers, giving you a whiff of open, fresh air. The buffet spread has a lof of selections, I don’t even know where to begin! I fixated on the local fare, and I liked their lontong, mie goreng and local pancake.

2. The Valley Cafe and Restaurant – has an amazing view of Bandung. I read about an Indonesian blogger rave about it so it made my list of new places to visit this time around. The place is massive in terms of seating capacity and its come-hither factor is its unobstructed view of the city.

When it comes to food, The Valley offers a wide range of cuisines: Japanese, Thai, Italian, American and Indonesian. The exhaustiveness of the menu sacrificed the authenticity, though. I ordered unagi with rice and salad and although the eel was very fresh and tasty, it didn’t taste “Japanese enough” for me. I was so hungry that time (it was 5pm) and it was my first decent meal of the day so I couldn’t care less.

The Valley made it up for its beautiful view and surprisingly – cheap wine! They also didn’t have an exhaustive list of alcoholic drinks, but Jacobs Creek (a safe choice) can be had for Rp285k! Cheap, in Indonesia standards.

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3. Sierra Cafe’ and Lounge – not far from The Valley is the Sierra Cafe’ lunch, also with an idyllic view of the Bandung hills. Again, another massive restaurant in Dago Pakar. The restaurant is massive! It can accommodate 700 clients.

The menu looks interesting but I was too full by then that I only had space for coffee and dessert. The latte and mascarpone with cream as a combination was perfect for me! I’m definitely bookmarking Sierra Cafe’ to try their mains the next time I visit the Dago Pakar area.

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Mascarpone at Sierra Cafe’

4. Yoforia Yogurt Studio – I’m a sucker for ads (What a paradox for a marketing executive, I know!)

yoforia_wmI saw Yoforia’s Coffee Meets Yogurt add inside Paris Van Java mall and I immediately hunted it down.

I ordered their Yofoccino at Rp35k a cup. It’s a delicious combination of plain yogurt + espresso + caramel. Not bad if you are looking for a cold drink with a slight caffeine kick.

5. Pop-up markets and local hipster brands – last but not least, and in fact my most favorite discovery in Bandung, is the proliferation of local, hipster brands that sell unique, beautifully crafted items. I’m a sucker for pop-up markets. They offer a lot of things that you can’t buy from the big brands in malls. Although I like designer shoes, bags and watches, I also like wearing items that can’t be had from the popular brands. In my last trip, I discovered 3 brands that hail from Bandung: Suvit.id, Chillax Friday and Fawn and Luna.

I bought a pair of Bohemian sandals from Suvit.id and some weekend book bags from Chillax Friday. I bookmarked Fawn and Luna as supplier for quality notebooks and sketch books for my artist friends because I love notebooks with great quality leather and acid-free paper where I can draw, sketch and write smoothly!

Overall, I have to say that Bandung is still very much worth the trip and the traffic. Given a 3-day weekend, I don’t mind doing a road trip to smell the fresh air, try local food and discover more local brands! That for me is a perfect Bandung weekend.

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