The modern metropolis with a backdrop of tea plantations

Once known as the ‘Paris of Java’, the city of Bandung only became the sprawling metropolis it is now in the 20th-century, when Indonesia won independence from Dutch occupation in 1945. Before that, it was the holiday destination of choice for the wealthy owners of tea plantations that scatter the local countryside in Indonesia’s West Java.

Today, Bandung is a city rich in culture and surprises, from historic architecture to bargain-basement shopping and incredible food, all surrounded by lush tea plantations and even a live volcano.

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Top things to do in Bandung

One thing that will strike you walking around this urban hub is that its rich history is evident everywhere you look. The Dutch, who occupied Indonesia for over a century, had planned to make Bandung the capital of the Dutch East Indies, and so erected many buildings in the cooler climes of this mountain town. Villa Isola (now known as Bumi Siliwangi) is a must-visit for the quality of its Art Deco architecture alone, all curves and turrets and glass. Braga Street (Jalan Braga) was, in the 1920s, known as a popular place to promenade and experience the European-side of Bandung. Today it is a great spot to see the colonial architecture that the city is known for.

Exploring recently renovated Bandung Chinatown, situated in the old Chinese quarter of the city, is a true adventure. It is not all dim sum and Chinese noodles though; you can also find heaps of traditional Sundanese fare, too, like batagor (fried fish dumplings doused with delicious, spicy peanut sauce) or nasi timbel, which is rice steamed in a banana leaf. This is also a great area to check out local antiques and pick up some bric-a-brac. It is a matter of steps away from one of the oldest temples in town, the colorful, ornately decorated Satya Budhi Temple (Vihara Satya Budhi), which dates from 1855 (at that time, the Dutch rulers only recognized Buddhism as a Chinese faith, not a Sundanese one).

Bandung is known for its buzzing music scene, so while you are in town, make sure to keep an ear out. You will often catch musicians playing at Paris Van Java Mall or on the street – it is often said that if a musician can make it in Bandung, they can make it the country over. It is a city equally known for its shopping: Cihampelas Walk, locally known as ‘jeans street’ is the place for outlet shopping, lined as it is with factory outlet stores.

Yet Bandung is as much about what is inside it as outside. While you’re there, take a jaunt out to Tangkuban Perahu, a 2000-meter-high active volcano, which last erupted in 2013. Only 30 kilometres outside of the city, tourists are known to bring eggs along to watch them boil on the super-hot volcano surface. If you need to keep the kiddies occupied though, a slice of whimsy can be had at Dusun Bambu Leisure Park just outside of the city, which boasts a ‘Rabbit Wonderland’ playground.

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