Sunday, 26 June 2011

Travel to Bandung

Finally after 2 months I could do a 5 day week (weeks with national holidays permitting) and so armed with the rare opportunity of a Saturday off I decided to make the most of it and actually do something. 
I decided to go to the Paris of Java - Bandung. A hill retreat some 120km east of Jakarta, with an elevation of 700 meters or more, surrounded by volcanoes, hot springs, tea plantations, full of angcots, traffic, and sadly Jakartans piling in for the weekend to enjoy the factory outlets, strawberries and not to be in Jakarta.
I have been to Bandung several times and it is nice, the city is small and walkable and there is plenty to see and do. It has a very lively music scene and plenty of bars in and around the city. And since there is a giant toll road carved through the hills it can take 2 hours to reach.  I use can as the trip on the toll is 2 hours, the bit in Jakarta and Bandung adds time and there are also times when it can take 8. 
There are buses so it seems every 2 minutes from as a little as 20,000 rupiah one way, private cars, mini vans, taxis, and of course the train. 
I opted for the train. I like train trips because to get to see places cars wont take you, namely round the back of what is normal and therefore, for me you really get to see and learn what a place is like by looking in their 'backgardens' and oh, I am nosy.
So Saturday morning 5am I arrive at Gambir railways, phone my fiancee to remind her to a)wake up and b)come and join me and then go and find a ticket booth.
Gambir railway station is lime green, on 3 floors, badly designed, unfriendly, unhelpful, dirty and ideal for me to leave the city from and so of course makes the day more fun.
At 5am there were hundreds of people up and about, all queuing at various ticket booths which were not open as they dont open until 5.15am and are poorly signed. I stood in which had a sign lit up saying Bandung Express and stood for 10 minutes. I queued and after a security guard came round I asked if this was the line for Bandung. No it was not it was the one to my left, so annoyed I joined that one.
2 tickets one way, executive to Bandung 120,000 rupiah, Fantastic. Executive means a/c / tv / food / hostess and no guitars or people sitting on the roof.
The train was leaving at 5.45 so a quick cup of sorching Coffee from Dunkin doughnuts, although they had no doughnuts to sell, and time to find Yovita, get on the train and sit back and relax.

Train times and costs to and Bandung and back.

We left on time and headed east through the city and it was glorious as the sun was rising and burning the mist off the rice fields between Jakarta and Bekasi and Karawang. The food on offer was turned down mainly as  I dont like rice for breakfast so I just chatted and looked out the Javanese country side.

At some point we left turned south east and headed into the hills and I guess that is where the beauty of the trip and travel to Bandung comes from. I have travelled on many trains in many parts of the world. The Devils nose in Ecudaor, the Tranzalpine in New Zealand, from Cornwall, England to Scotland, Singapore to Chiang Mai, Thailand, and all have been amazing and have something special to offer. In Indonesia I have been to Bogor, Surabaya, Malang, Jogja and back to Jakarta. And for trips in Java, so far Bandung was the best. It is a shame there is no tourist promotion as I am sure tourist would love the windy, meandering mountain hugging railway trundling across viaducts and through tunnels (well one) and allowing them to appreciate how beautiful Java is but I guess that wont happen. So here are some photos.


The journey really did cut through some amazing countryside and it was breathtaking. I did want to get up out of my seat and stick the camera out of the window and get some better shots but last time when I did that I had a soot covered face and sunburn so I decided to give it a miss. The hptos have come out fairly well despite the window being dirty, having a huge horizontal crack in it and being darkened.
Finally 3 hours later we arrived at Bandung Station and that was the end of the journey. Bandung station is again like every other main railway station (except Gambir which is just not nice as it was built after the Dutch left) as it had an air of authority and importance and was very well looked after and cared for and even had signs in more than one language.

There are 2 ways into the station, the north and south. The south takes you to the main entrance and within walking distance of the city and the south does not. Although there are no signs to explain that.
If you need to buy a ticket in the railway station you need to fill out a voucher first, why? who knows but it is still so simple. It even has a designated open air smoking area.

Some views

 Some links:

 Indonesian railways

Asia and the world


New Zealand

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