The people of Bandung are probably some of the most fortunate group of people on this earth. With its U-shaped bowl-like landscape located almost 1km above sea-level, Bandung is surrounded with large mountains with few of them classified as still active volcanoes. The temperature constantly hovers around 15-25 degree Celsius (68-77 degree Farenheit) throughout the year, the ideal temperature for most of us. Various natural factors such as the volcanic soil, high rainfall and temperate climates contributes to high level of soil fertility and perfect agricultural ground. Once labeled as Paris Van Java (The Paris of Java), Bandung is always ready to enchant every of her visitors. Here are the 5 trails you should not miss when you are in Bandung.
- Shopping Trail. Since 1980s, Bandung has been famously known as the clothing warehouse of Indonesia. Today, the sprouting presence of Factory Outlets (FOs) has made Bandung popular among casual shoppers or fashionistas, and it has earned its reputation well even among foreign tourists. Large number of FOs are concentrated along Jalan Setiabudhi or Jalan Dago. If you are not running against time, then you probably want to embark on a FO adventure and drop by each shop. But if time is the essence, you probably want to drop by only one or two of them. If time permits only one place to choose from, my recommendation is the all-time favorite Rumah Mode (RM) that is located along Jalan Setiabudhi. This is probably one of the most well-known establishment in Bandung. If you happen to have lost your way, you can simply ask the traffic police for direction (just mention Rumah Mode) and they will tell you where it is. Today, RM offers more than just a fashion shopping experience. Over the recent years, it has added food outlets as part of its attraction. You can enjoy casual al-fresco dining experience with that traditional touch while giving yourself a culinary treat – from Indonesian (Mie Goreng Jawa, Tahu Mendoan and…) to Chinese to Western cuisines. The food is reasonably priced. So you can simply spend the entire day pampering your fashion and taste buds at the same time. While my job is not to promote RM, one other thing that differentiate RM from other FOs is the absence of street vendors who oftentimes will persistently follow your every step.
- Nature Trail. Surrounded by mountains and highlands, Bandung offers ample outdoor trails for anyone who wants to get close to nature. Tangkuban Perahu is the most prominent volcanic mountain in Bandung and certainly a must-visit destination. If you are into skin treatment, you can buy sulfur at very cheap price. I love the batik wood that they made into multi-purpose ornament such as pencil holders, flower vase and even cigarette receptacles. But the lack of quality of guarantee always stop me from buying them. Ciater natural hot spring spa offers an intimate experience with Mother Nature. You can choose from the public pool (always very crowded), public-private pool (requires additional entry ticket) or private pool (pay for half-an-hour usage) that accommodates two persons at a time. Ciwidey is probably the best kept secret of Bandung. Unlike Dago or other parts of Bandung where tourism boom has marred the beautiful face of nature, Ciwidey has so far remained unspoiled. But this also means that you should expect less exotic dining options here. Kawah Putih is a major attraction in Ciwidey. But I was utterly disappointed during my last visit there. The entrance fee was ridiculous. On top of individual entrance fee, each car is required to pay Rp. 150,000 (15USD). Considering the minimal amount of development efforts and proper tourist informational guide, to me the fee is simply illogical. So during my last visit there, we refused to pay and turned back instead. Further down from Kawah Putih is the tea plantations. The green tea plantation offers some of the most stunning green scenery and the air is absolutely refreshing. You can also do some outbound activities such as the flying fox. The outbound provider does not appear professional with minimal equipments. Nonetheless, the idea of flying across gigantic green mattress (tea plantation) was so intriguing that it might be irresistible to not try. Do give it a shot, but at your own risk though. On your way back from Ciwidey, do remember to drop by at one of the strawberry farms. Frankly speaking, we were a little skeptical initially. But we were wrong. Strawberry grows abundantly there and they are indeed some of the best grade that we have ever come across. Adding to the joy is the fact that you get to pick your own strawberry and of course get to illegally eat them right from the tree.
- Romantic Trail. I would have to agree with the fact that given the so many cool hangout places in Bandung, it would be hard to pick the best. Based on my personal experience and feedback from several of my guests, I would say Kampung Daun is probably one of the most romantic place in Bandung. The place is simply amazing and it promises to blow your imagination away. I would not try to describe the place too much here. Experience it yourself and you will know why.
- Indulgence Trail. While Javanese spa is probably one of the most exploited name in the industry, I have so far not come across real Javanese spa that is well worth mentioning. Well hopefully, one day I probably might. But if you have spent the entire day hopping from one FO to the next and feel that your bone is starting to feel tired or if you are just looking to relax your stressed muscle, you can pamper yourself in one of the massage houses. Along Jalan Sukajadi, there are at least two prominent massage houses – Zen Reflexology and Yu Yuan Tang. They are situated opposite to one another. As a result, prices are very competitive. Zen Reflexology offers a slightly cheaper alternative but less privacy if you are just there to do your foot reflexology. On the other hand, Yu Yuan Tang offers royal treatment from the moment you step into it. Whether you are there for foot reflexology or full-body massage, you get your own privacy. Each room caters only for two or three persons. The price between the two massage houses are similar with Yu Yuan Tang charging slightly higher price. But overall, our past experiences tend to lead us to Yu Yuan Tang every time we are looking to pamper ourselves.
- Culinary Trail. Bandung is probably best known for its street hawkers’ dishes such Batagor (Bakso Tahu Goreng), Siomay, Tahu Mendoan and of course the legendary Tahu Sumedang. Do not leave Bandung before heading to either Kartika Sari or Primarasa. They are the signature souvenir of Bandung. At Kartika Sari, do not miss their Pisang Bollen (Banana Pastry) and Banana Roll. At Primarasa, do not miss their Tiramisu or Chocolate brownies.