Saturday, June 09, 2007

Indonesia: Halo-halo Bandung!

I finally arrived in Bandung after an eight hour train ride from Yogyakarta. If Yogya is the cradle of Javanese culture, Bandung is said to be the cradle of Sundanese culture. The weather was a bit cooler since Indonesia's fourth largest city is 2,520 feet above sea level. And because it's closer to the equator, average temperatures don't vary much from a low of 22.9 C in July to a high of 24.2 C in May. The city is known for its large collection of Dutch colonial and tropical Art Deco structures. And thus, I decided to take a walk around Bandung even just for a few hours to check them out.

So from the Bandung Train Station, itself an Art Deco structure, I walked towards Jalan Asia Afrika where many of the buildings could be found. Since it was still early, I waited at the steps of the Gedung Merdeka for the Museum of the Asian-African Conference to open.

The museum chronicles the events of the 1955 conference which has been Bandung's claim to fame. Twenty-nine young (and old) nations from Asia and Africa met in order to build solidarity with the continuous fall of colonialism. I was able to see the hall where the conference was held. There are two rows of flags, the first with those of the 29 countries which participated in the 1955 conference; and the second, the countries of Asia and Africa during the 50th anniversary in 2005, obviously a much larger group since most countries in the region gained their independence after 1955. One thing it chronicled as well was the change in the blue field of the Philippine flag which was much lighter in 1955.

Close to the Gedung Merdeka is another Art Deco gem of Bandung, the Savoy Homann Hotel, its new design completed in 1938.

After about four hours in Bandung, I decided to make my way back to the train station for my trip back to Jakarta. I had been told that the views along the way would be refreshing. And I was not disappointed. They also had rice terraces. And the thing I liked about the rice terraces there was the houses blended well with their surroundings since they all had clay tile roofs. I hope they cover the galvanized iron roofs in Banaue and other Cordillera towns with cogon grass or nipa so that they don't look like eyesores amidst our grander and more majestic rice terraces.

Bandung is also known for its shopping. But I didn't get a chance to shop. Maybe next time. It's best if you shop with friends and many locals say Bandung is a group destination. And if you're wondering about the title, "Halo-halo Bandung" is a popular revolutionary song which was inspired by the 1946 Bandung Lautan Api (Bandung Sea of Fire) where the residents and combatants, as a sign of defiance to the Dutch who demanded the surrender of the Indonesians, deliberately burned the southern part of the city. More photos in Multiply.

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