Our next stop was Bandung, to see my friend Johannes. We took the several hour train ride from Jakarta. As we rode, Jakarta’s sprawl lasted about an hour, and we saw neat little communities of cottages, as well as slums. City chaos gave way to the beautiful scenery of Java’s spine — lush mountains, quaint towns with Dutch-style cottages. And, most impressively, fertile terraces of young green rice plants, cascading down the hills.
When we pulled into the Bandung station, Johannes was there waiting for us. It was great to see him again.
He began our gastronomic tour of Bandung with a traditional Indonesian lunch. It included a really great gado gado salad; some kind of sweet soup containing starchy, colorful balls of dough; cooked jackfruit; potato and corn fritters; and other delicacies.
We really enjoyed the beauty of Bandung. The city is well-planned, and has fairly wide streets. It’s a little gritty, but you can see a lot of charm under the grit. I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of wonderful old Dutch art deco buildings. They have a distinctively Dutch flavor that is reminiscent of Juergen Stijl, and are very well-proportioned and livable, in contrast with the theatrical fabulousness of Miami deco.
The colors are generally muted compared to Miami too. Newer homes and developments reflect some of this style, and people seem willing to experiment a little with architecture in Bandung. And, in both old and new Bandung architecture, there’s a lot of stained glass, some of it really well orchestrated. It made me wonder why we don’t use more stained glass in our buildings today.
Our hotel was near Johannes’ mother’s house. We met her, and his brother Jozef, who showed us his Harley Davidson. He’s part of a big local Harley club. Jozef explained he would be riding with the club, and the mayor in an anti-drug ride the next day. Somehow, we weren’t expecting to see hog culture in Indonesia.
Johan’s mother was really sweet, and is very proud of her sons. Her front rooms are actually devoted to Johan’s artwork, and I recognized a lot of pieces from our college days.
The next day, we met Johannes’ fiancee, Hanna. She and Johannes drove us to the edge of town, and up a hill lined with plant nurseries, to a wonderful restaurant, whose name in English means "Leaves Cafe." The restaurant is in a natural setting with lots of flowering trees, and a cliff carved by a clear stream. Paths along the stream lead to traditional thatched huts, with low tables for eating. The paths and huts are punctuated by various water features including gentle waterfalls and rapids. Leaves Cafe wins the title for top brunch location of our trip.
Johannes ordered lots of small dishes for us — Indonesian snacks — so we could sample a variety of local foods. I loved the pofferges, the Dutch-style miniature pancakes; I first tasted them in Holland. Tofu and vegetable fritters, and black sticky rice in coconut milk were also tasty. A continuation of the Indonesian sweet/fried theme.
That afternoon, Johannes and Hanna took us to an antique furniture store, where there were some interesting pieces, including elaborately carved beams from a traditional house. Bandung is also an outlet mall capital, so there are a huge number of outlet shops all over the town. They could probably do with some zoning laws.
A big blue genie leers over "Jeans Alley."
And the silver surfer jives to beatnik drums at an outlet. Performance art or sales technique? We don’t know.
Johan also took us to a sculpture park, where Jason expressed himself.
That evening, Johan and Hanna took us for a Sundanese meal, which included some delicious fried chicken and coconut rice. A hard, extremely salty fish, local satay, as well as tempeh (my favorite) were also part of the meal.
After dinner, Johannes and Hanna showed their shiny new home, which he’s decorated with some of his artwork, and Indonesian handicrafts. He’s hoping to have it finished for their wedding.
The next day, we caught up on some sleep and email during the day. At one point, we were searching for an internet cafe in a mall, and asked some coffee shop employees for help. They were really sweet — they were curious about us, so all four of them were trying to tell us directions. One drew a really complicated map to the place, and we finally got him to simplify matters by writing down the name of the cafe, and the street it was on.
Later, we had a snack at a strawberry-themed cafe. It was an airy, loft-like outdoor cafe, with a large koi-filled water stream. On previous days, we’d had delicious blended strawberry drinks. Hanna had told us that strawberries were only cheaply and widely available about two years ago in Indonesia. So they’re a very popular ingredient now, as evidenced by the strawberry cafe. It was extensively branded, with Strawberry Shortcake merchandise on sale, and even strawberry-flavored drinking water.
Later, we dined with Johannes, Jozef, Jozef’s wife Eva, and a couple of their good friends. Jozef and Eva design casual menswear, and have their own brand, Red Plus. Later, at Jozef and Eva’s house, he gave us some Red Plus clothes — five or six shirts and some pants for Jason, and a shirt for me, thus doubling Jason’s travel wardrobe.
We really enjoyed hanging out with Johannes and family in Bandung. It was lovely to see them, and they were so generous with their time and resources.
And being in Bandung gave us a chance to see how some Indonesians go about their daily lives. The city doesn’t have a lot of western tourists, and people at stores, or on the street, were really friendly to us. We were glad to have some encounters that felt more genuine than those in touristy areas.
Johannes drove us to the train station, where we boarded for Yogyakarta.