Head for the Hills
A place of creativity, cultural history and Art Deco architecture, Bandung offers far more than just a highland retreat from Jakarta.
A place of creativity, cultural history and Art Deco architecture, Bandung offers far more than just a highland retreat for Jakartans. As bigger and better transport options open up the city to a wider audience, Jonathan Evans finds a burgeoning urban hub.
A SPRAWLING MOUNTAIN town just 2½ hours from Jakarta, Bandung has long drawn natureseekers for its lush rainforests, accessible volcanoes and natural hot springs. But as the city opens up to an international playing field—last month it co-hosted part of the
2018 Asian Games’ football tournament— Bandung has quietly developed a more metropolitan charm, with both local and international businesses injecting fresh doses of contemporary cool to its streets.
There are also more ways for visitors to connect with the city: Kertajati International Airport, to the city’s east, opened in May, promising to ease the strain on both Bandung’s and Jakarta’s oversubscribed transport hubs; work will soon begin on Bandung Metro
Kapsul, a light-rail project using low-cost,
energy-efficient technology to combat the city’s grinding traffic; and a high-speed train connecting Bandung to Jakarta is slated to launch in 2020. Here’s why Indonesia’s third largest city deserves more of our attention.
The sharpest new digs in town, in more ways than one, the 119-room U Janevalla (uhotelsresorts.com; doubles from Rp1,240,000) comes encased in a series of angular glass boxes with abundant greenery on the exterior—a nod to the assimilation of natural and manmade in this “City of Flowers.” The interiors are no less edgy, combining warm tones with slick configurations of wood, metal and brickwork, and a rhomboid motif throughout. Standing almost opposite each other in the hip district of Dago, Courtyard by Marriott (marriott.com; doubles from Rp750,000) and Four Points by Sheraton (fourpointsbandung.com; doubles from Rp1,220,000) offer classy comfort. Courtyard’s sumptuous spa is startlingly large for a medium-sized hotel, and staff-drawn designs decorate its dining area. Four Points’ gleaming monochrome lobby and top-floor bar make a bolder, W-esque luxury statement.
EAT & DRINK
For a truly original brunch experience, head to the light-filled One Eighty Coffee (instagram. com/oneeightycoffee; mains from Rp26,000), with its huge circular coffee bar, shallow crescent-shaped pool for diners to cool their feet and upper-story performance area. The menu really impresses, too, with its thoughtful take on Euro and Indo classics. Go minimal at Subkulture Coffee/Panorasuna (instagram. com/subkulture.coffee; drinks from Rp15,000), an ovoid cabin with just four tables, vinyl for sale, turntables, recherché brews and DJs spinning EDM on Thursdays. Braga Art Café (instagram.com/bragaartcafe; mains from Rp20,000) is a notably upscale option on an otherwise grungy pub street, combining ethnic carvings with playful versions of local staples—try the beef rendang or satay burgers. For Western delicacies, drop by Buttercup Bakery & Café (buttercup.co.id; mains from Rp48,000), an opulent bistro situated adjacent to Four Points’ entrance.
In the evening, join the throng at Upstairs Bar (23 Jln. Trunojoyo; drinks from Rp120,000), a speakeasy-style hideout with fine cocktails, DJs and a pool table. Further north, a glassfloored observation deck and splashes of neon enliven Sky Bar, the swish rooftop boozer at Moxy Bandung (moxy-hotels.marriott.com; doubles from Rp426,550; drinks from Rp40,000), the first Asian outlet for Marriott’s hip boutique brand that opened last year.
Bandung’s boulevards are lined with clean pavements and ornate lampposts, making this a pedestrian-friendly city by any standards (let alone Indonesian). Saunter down Jalan Asia Afrika, past the curvy splendor of historic Hotel Bidakara Grand Savoy Homann (savoyhomannhotel.com; doubles from Rp2,300,000)—where
Dutch colonizers first established Bandung in 1810 as a staging post for West Java travelers— to find the largest concentration of Bandung’s Art Deco and colonial architecture. At the historical park, Taman Sejarah (53 Jln. Aceh), giant murals and smart landscaping wrap attractively around pools and canals using water from the Cikapayang River. For a culture trip, the major new draw is Bandung Creative Hub (bandungcreativehub.com), an avant-garde structure that echoes the imagination on display inside, with galleries, events, workshops, cozy communal spaces and a design archive that showcases the city’s artistic pre-eminence.
Bandung stakes an impressive claim as having Indonesia’s most idiosyncratic, local designer– led retail scene. The city’s factory outlets, known for both high quality and affordable prices, cluster around grungy Cihampelas Walk and upmarket Jalan Martadinata, in bargain-filled warehouses such as The Secret Factory Outlet (47 Jln. Martadinata) and Heritage (heritagefactoryoutlet.com). For local labels, sample the once-underground, Bandung-originating phenomenon known as “distro” (short for “distribution outlet,” the term references a subculture aesthetic made popular in the 90s), which birthed major players Nordhen Basic (nordhenbasic.com), Screamous (screamous.com), UNKL347 (unkl347.com) and Ouval Research (schofficial. com)—chi-chi stores with striking displays and serious hipster cred.
While the new Kertajati International Airport is larger, Husein Sastranegara International Airport (bandungairport.com), which services Garuda, SilkAir and a brace of budget carriers, is closer to Bandung city center—however, the high-speed Jakarta–Bandung fast train expected to begin in 2020 is also planned to eventually extend to Kertajati.
Currently, the least-expensive and most scenic route to Bandung is the three-hour
Argo Parahyangan train ride from Jakarta’s Stasiun Gambir (tiket.com; one-way “Eksekutif” ticket Rp100,000).
Around town, local taxis are plentiful, but tend to overcharge for short rides. Use Grab (grab.com/id) taxis instead, or visit moovitapp. com for personalized itineraries that link up with local buses (there’s free public Wi-Fi across the city).
FROM TOP: Portraits of former mayors at Taman Sejarah; U Janevalla's sleek interiors; crafted cocktails at Upstairs Bar. OPPOSITE, CLOCKWISE FROMTOP LEFT: Bandung Creative Hub; One Eighty Coffee's lush setting; indie menswear brand Nordhen Basic.
CLOCKWISE FROMTOP LEFT: The sharp façades of U Janevalla; artistic murals don the dimly lit walls of Upstairs Bar; mountain views from the rooftop Sky Bar at Moxy Bandung.