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Saturday, December 5, 2009

A week in Bandung

I am on a solo work assignment again, this time it is taking me to Bandung, Indonesia. It is Indonesia’s fourth largest city after Jakarta, Surabaya and Medan. Being located at a higher elevation, the climate in Bandung is cooler than most Indonesian cities with an average temperature of 23.6 °C throughout the year.
However, on this occasion the weather was far from ideal when I arrived in Bandung’s Hussein Sastranegara Airport, it was raining heavily and there was no aero bridge to speak of. We had to take a 30 meter walk from the tarmac to the terminal using umbrellas provided. The small arrival terminal was also not a big help to the situation, especially when there was another flight from Singapore that arrived a few minutes earlier, clearing immigration took some time, luggage collection was chaotic, do not expect to see luggage conveyor belts here, what you can see are people manually handling your bags to you. But I supposed the system do work, I got my luggage intact after stepping over a few persons toes and elbowing whoever is in my way. In just slightly more than an hour (the flight from KL to Bandung took 2 hours) I am able to clear all obstacles from tarmac to arrival hall and meet my host patiently waiting for me.
The route taken to my intended destination in the next few days for my work proves to be refreshing, crossing rice field and narrow village roads in the outskirts.

Meanwhile, the sheer density of people in the town here are overwhelming, you can literally feel the crowd everywhere. Traffic is haphazard but surprisingly I see many polite drivers here giving way when the need arise and with a smile too, never mind the other guy was travelling against traffic. Even more surprising was that I was able to see civilians and traffic policemen directing traffic together on the same spot of the road, most unusual and it doesn’t seem to cause any conflict.

Bechas and Horse carriage are a still a popular mode of transport here

On the first evening, I went to Jalan Riau, famous for their “factory outlets” where supposedly textile products direct from factory, with products that are rejected or over-produced and export quality items are sold. Quite a number of branded items are available here at reasonable prices. The ladies at home would have loved this place.

Jalan Riau where most of the "factory outlets" are located.

The food here is generally spicy, with many restaurants serving Nasi Padang, a local favorite consisting of many dishes of spicy curry beef, fried chicken, fish and vegetables served with rice, the unique practice here is that you are only billed on what is eaten, and dishes served but not touched are taken back.
Typical Nasi Padang spread
Restaurant located on a paddy field

Suroundings of the restaurant

Other interesting food I had was beef ribs in barbeque sauce called “konro” served together with a delicious soup. There was also an opportunity to do lunch in an interesting restaurant located on a paddy field serving, yes, you guessed right, Nasi Padang and satay.
Konro with soup
Followed by a lovely desert of shaved ice with banana fillings in sweet syrup called "Pisang Ijo"

Upmarket dining

Also had the opportunity to try out Nasi Timbel for lunch that comes with spicy barbeque chicken, fried bean curd, salted fish, rice rolled up in banana leaves and red hot explosive chili paste (sambal) on the side, guaranteed to light up your life at least during lunch.

Nasi Timbel

Of course, as in most of my travels in Asia, it is almost certain I will eventually be taken to a Chinese restaurant and this trip was no different.
For all homecoming trips from Indonesia the buying of Indonesian cakes has evolved to be somewhat mandatory, unfortunately the family’s favorite layer cakes, does not seem to be as popular here as in Medan and I ended up with some special Bandung cream puff and other pastries. But I am sure the items gotten from the “factory outlets” will more than compensate for the layer cakes.

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