What else to see in Bandung?

Bandung is often associated with cool weather, good food, golf courses and factory outlets. While these have earned their places in peoples’ hearts, there are other things that need to be experienced here. We ventured beyond to find out.

#1 Kawah Putih or White Crater

Located in the south of Bandung, this crater lake is filled with blue-green water that is highly acidic (pH 0.5-3). Sulphurous fumes escape small vents and surreptitiously inch their way into your nasal passage, irritating your throat. The smell isn’t that pungent so you don’t notice this until you start coughing. This is why the recommended length of stay next to the lake is a mere 15 minutes. Face masks are usually worn but if you tend to pose a lot for photos, then don’t bother. This is a popular location to have wedding pictures taken because it is picturesque. But it would be tough to keep wandering tourists out of your shots.

#2 Stink beans or Petai

Encased within these pods are beans that stink and taste bitter. A fully developed pod contains about 8-10 beans the size of broad beans. These beans, wild or cultivated, are considered a delicacy and are usually prepared through stir frying with prawns and sambal chili. They are rather popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore. The ones in the picture are grilled so they taste a little raw and are crunchy. It’s like eating edamame except that it makes your pee smell odd like how asparagus stalks do.

#3 Kampung Daun Sundanese Resto

IF you fancy eating in an al fresco hut while enjoying the coolness of a rainforest and do not mind flies or kittens visiting mid-meal, this is the restaurant. The area is pretty large and is in a private space found after you enter a secure area past several large houses. They have little shops at the entrance and a pretty, winding path leads you into the compound. You will be directed to your own hut upon arrival and can choose to dine in a traditional setting (on the floor) or the regular way (sit at a table on chairs). When ready to order, you call for the waiter using a bamboo drum – it isn’t loud so you have to keep at it until someone decides to saunter over. It takes about an hour to get there from the city and it is touristy (i.e. higher prices). But it is worth the one visit, particularly at night.

#4 Driam Riverside Park

Frankly, there isn’t much here other than being a very scenic rest stop for decent coffee and chilling out. If you are up for a stroll, pay IDR10,000 (S$1) to go take a look at the river running through the establishment. There are swings set up by the river that you can use – definitely fun!

#5 Walini Tea Terraces

Tumbling tea terraces dominate the landscape here much like Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka. It seems the tea here is cultivated for the domestic market so we don’t hear much about it in other countries. Tea is mild and fragrant.

So there!

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Hello Bali

Bali. A lot of tourists. 
And people like us who ran away from CNY by the planeloads. LOL!

The airport we flew into was spanking new having only opened its doors to international crowds in October 2013. We checked in at the Daluman Villa in Seminyak very early in the morning on the first CNY day. It was new too, comfortable, clean and very pretty. Like most accommodations in Bali, the villa we were in had a personal pool, living area, bedroom and a generous rain shower clad bathroom. Of cos, there is a also TV with a myriad of channels, and free wifi. All the nice things urbanites crave for when off to seek their wee bit of tranquility while still tethered.

There were two days we travelled with hired drivers who spoke decent English. Charges are reasonable, about Rp. 400,000-500,000 per day (10-12 hours). They drive more than guide, and so the degree of knowledge that gets to you is dependent on the experience of the driver. We went around the northern and southern parts of Bali with the drivers, covering Mt Batur, a Luwak coffee plantation (Lakshmi I think it was called), Ubud and its arts and crafts cottage industries of batik, painting, silversmithing, stone carving, and wood carving. We also made our way to Denpasar, Tanah Lot, Jimbaran for seafood, Nusa Dua for massage, and trolled the streets of Seminyak, Legian and Kuta. Not bad for a short trip.

Along the way, we had Bali’s famous but overrated Babi Guling (aka suckling pig) and Crispy Duck. The pig skin was way too hard, though the flesh was tender; The duck was fried to death, though crunchy. Either way, I wouldn’t have any of them again. There is really nothing to brag about.

We also tried our first cup of Luwak coffee, extracted from the goodness of civet cat poop. The undigested coffee beans, that is. The reason why this cuppa is so darn pricey is cos the beans are top quality. Civet cats are a picky bunch and eats only best beans. They somehow are able to ferment these beans with a special enzyme they have in their tummies to enhance flavor. What eventually emerges is atas coffee beans that get transformed into a mild tasting coffee which is rather pleasing to the palate. But I am not quite sold on this. Brazilian arabica pleases the same way, without first going through the intestines of an animal.

Some Recommendations:

Our villa! Mangosteens served during breakfast were perfect, no bruises and the flesh was firm & sweet .

A hole-in-the-wall cafe in Seminyak called the Revolver. Walk too quickly and you’re likely to miss the entrance. Amazing food and good coffee from an aromatic blend of beans from 4 different estates – 2 Indonesian, Columbian and Jamaican.

Our drivers, they do airport pickups and dropoffs too for about Rp. 130,000 per way:

 

[First published: 4 Feb 2014]

Going home, bleh

10.50am: Waiting room@Bandung International Airport
We are seated In a small area with freezing cold air rushing out of a standalone aircon unit at least 10 meters away. People seating nearer have jackets on !?!
There is really nothing to do except sit and fiddle with whatever electronic gadgets we have with us. A bad habit of city slickers. So I decided to do something productive – like write down all the addresses of the factory outlets we visited the past two days for future reference before I cleanly forget.  SJ gave me 5 mins on his 4s to get it all in, cos if he didn’t have it back by then he’d self-destruct with unspeakable force of vile boredom. I say, #%^*”. So I dug out my iPad. He says, #%^*”. Lol!

11am: Still waiting…
There are only two waiting lounges at this airport – the one on the left and the other on the right. We are in the right one. Heh, pun intended. Passengers of AirAsia dwell in the other, and they just got paged to board. Then there are always strange people who, despite the tiny area serving just two flights, they forget which one they are on. So the two or three funnies got paged by their names to hurry up and get the crap on their plane. Why on earth they are siting with us – I do not know.

11.25am: Yay!!! We now go wait in the plane!

 

[First published: 22 Sep 2013]

Bandung Factory Outlets

If you google enough and do some homework beforehand, you’ll find information and recommendations on the FOs in Bandung. You will realize as you read that there are only 3 main areas, about 20mins apart, where the FO-seekers can lurk. Opening hours are usually 9.30am to 8.30pm weekdays; 9am to 9pm weekends & public hols. Here they are *drumroll*…

Jalan Setiabudi 
Rumah Mode (41 Jalan Setiabudi)
Fashion World (43 Jalan Setiabudi)

Jalan Riau
Heritage (63 Jalan Riau)
The Secret (47 Jalan Riau)
Passion (36 Jalan RE Martadinata)

Dago
The Uptown (123 Jalan Ir H Djuanda)
Blossom
Grande

If you are only dedicating a day for FOs, my top 3 recommendations in order of merit would be: Rumah Mode, Heritage, Secret. They have the largest selection of brands like zara, hilfiger, banana republic, nike, h&m, a&f, ralph lauren, espirit, dkny, bebe, hermes, superdry, loft, calvin klein, armani exchange, longchamp, and can hold their own against some of the units in the US outlets. But you don’t get blown away. If you are trawling with men in your posse, Rumah Mode is the best option to keep them occupied. And they have a nice range of overcoats too – from trench to leather to here-I-come-Antarctica!

Authenticity of the higher end brands is suspect. Go try everything on before purchasing. sizes printed on the clothes sometimes don’t mean a thing. Cuts may differ for the same item and sometimes pockets appear where they should not – I’d suggest you do not place all your trust in your eyeballs, some sense-making is useful too. Like I said, proceed with moderated expectations.

There are cafes either next to or around the outlets, so you can rest your weary legs and arms after emerging triumphant with your loot. There are also street stalls if you are game for a bellyache or two. I tried their durian ice-cream – you essentially get what looks like durian slushee, with a piece of durian complete with thy large  seed, buried inside. Not bad for a hot day. There are a lot of things to see. We tend to scan and lock in on our targets. So if you shop like us, one day is enough, but two days is comfortable.

 

[First published: 22 Sep 2013]

Bandung Shop Fest instead

Our annual US shop fest was not to be this year cos we are opting for the tropics. Wildlife, tea plantations, and the beaches will take precedence at year end.


Not that we make appointments to shop in the US – that sounds kinda pompous. But we visit family, and hang around the outlets in a scheduled manner. The discounts are just mind boggling and too good to pass up. And the visit always comes complete with a meal at Cracker Barrel. *drool*


Anywho, in the absence of that, Bandung is actually a pretty decent option. Satisfies my 3 golden rules of a getaway ; fast, cheap and good. It’s a 1.5hr flight away from SG, prices of goods and services are typically two-thirds less and the quality doesn’t differ from expectations*. 
I’m a happy consumer!

(*A caveat: it is not The US of A, so moderate accordingly)


More on Bandung coming up…

[First published: 22 Sep 2013]

 

Batam Seafood with Fireworks

I had a blast last week with money – lots of it and none belongs to me! Heh. That was when we got back from our weekend jaunt to Batam with the usual suspects over the Hari Raya weekend, and I waltz into like two presentations and a week’s worth of seeing figures fly past my face. The week felt like an eternity! Saturated is the word.

That aside, that weekend past was fabulous. There was a whole new side to the Batam I’ve seen so many times over – we discovered Wey Wey Seafood at Harbour Bay and Spa Secret near Nagoya. For some reason, the cab drivers in Batam call it the secret spa in hushed tones *wiggle eyebrows* – and, no, no, it’s clean.

There were 4 of us at Wey Wey by the sea and we ordered some really yummy cereal prawns, assam fish head, fried sambal squid, their special, delish fried garlic chicken and the obligatory vegetables to make-up for all the guilt and cholestrol, all for the royal price of S$42. With drinks of course. Good eh?

And because it was the eve of Hari Raya, we were treated to a two-hour long fireworks display – from the residents over the river yonder. I didn’t know where to place my eyeballs – on the seafood or the pretty sparkles above me, but I managed to enjoy both. *grin*

To top it all off, we went there on a deal from groupon – $49 per head with everything in, and even if you throw in the taxes and weekend surcharges, it’s a deal.

What’s really not to like about living in Singapore?

 

[First published: 29 Aug 2012]