Longing for Old Sundanese Authenticity in Parijs van Java

Parijs van Java (Photo credit: Panji Nugnugroho)

A local historian in Bandung was upset to find out some people call the capital of West Java “Paris van Java”. Nonsensical, he said. If you wrote it in Dutch, then it goes like this: Parijs van Java. But if you prefer English, Paris of Java sounds more sensible. I laugh at this. This historian sounds more like me, a writer who goes mad whenever an erroneous piece of text is spotted.

Just recently, too, I found the fact that historically the nickname was coined by a Jewish trader who resided in Bandung. This is new to me. Though I know that there is a very small number of Jews in Java but I’ve never heard of their existence there.

One of my most favorite parts of trip is definitely the train ride. As majestic as it gets, the breathtaking view really stuns me. While the Argo Parahyangan train passes through Padalarang, I cast my glance at the surrounding ravines and green hills. Simply lovely! Hilly areas with a lot of splendid natural attractive landscape of ‘Pasundan Earth’.

Because I am such an old building lover, going to the increasingly congested city feels like paying a visit to seventh heaven. But I do witness some newly built establishments around the city as well, making me forget that this place is the national heritage on its own. Its adjacency with Jakarta makes it truly special. It offers Europe-like weather and temperature, thanks to the latitude. Yet, Bandung is no longer that cool and green, so I heard. And I found it true somehow. Global climate change is no joke for sure.

Farmhouse, Lembang is NOT a place to visit in this rainy season. Your excursion might get disrupted by sudden downpour, just like what I experienced here. As we (my coworkers and I) got off the bus, we could feel the breeze that gradually became a gust of wind. I could never thank myself more for bringing along an umbrella with me all the way from home.

The raindrops were still falling down when I got to the house of hobbits. One huge disappointment to us was that we – everyone actually – was not allowed to get into the house. And we didn’t see any worth-doing things here other than taking photographs to upload on Instagram. Which is quite sad to me.

Sitting down at the cafe inside the compound is truly joy to be honest. That lazy afternoon, we couldn’t help ourselves from sipping a cup of coffee or flavored milk that we just had gotten from a counter right before we entered the compound.

Theme park with European-style buildings, Dutch costumes for rent, a mini zoo & a hip restaurant. Nothing special. I in fact wished something more Sundanese, something local, something authentic, something you can’t find anywhere else on earth. This is good but well, this is a replica of a chunk of Europe. No matter great it looks, it still comes second to Europe or New Zealand where you can find cattle grassing on meadows. Here, I can’t find any of these cattle.


Shifting to Chinese Town in Bandung, I can tell you it’s an overly hyped tourist attraction. When I was told we were going to the place, I thought it was a vast area where we can just wander around freely, where a whole-day sightseeing is possible and foods are made by authentic local food sellers with recipes that have endured and been tested for decades and treasured as family legacies.

It turned out to be a small, derivative, artificial version of China Town elsewhere.  Excuse me for being derisive but I thought it could be far better than this.

While I was trying to be positive, I found the China Town quite informative in some way to tell us a brief history of Chinese descendant people in Bandung and the surrounding areas.


Overall, it was a lovely place to visit if you want to snap a photo or two (or two hundreds even because this complex was – I assumed – built to accommodate such Instagram-worshiper crowd) to upload on your social media feeds. But if you want something more meaningful and historically profound and detailed, this is just not for you. It’s no museum in any way, so please don’t expect there’ll be a guide here to tell you some history of the China Town in Bandung.

My brief visit here was ended with the showcase of barongsai , performed by a band of little boys with agility level far from one of professional performers. Anyway, you can just appreciate their hard work to put on a show by giving them some change in your pockets because that’s the norm there according to my Chinese Bandung native colleague. (*/)


My Cathartic Walk to Bogor Grand Botanical Garden (3)

The gigantic trees always amaze me. Some of them started to sprout long before my grandparents were born. How did they survive decades or even a century?
So this is the restroom. Kind of spooky and too spacious to look like a decent restroom, but well it was built by the Dutch. My hunch is the Dutch needed extra room to 'wash' themselves.
Arrived at Bogor Train Station around 30 minutes before the train headed to the crap-ital, which was good as I couldn't stand the worry to arrive in Jakarta late at night!
Got off the commuter train at Gondangdia. As soon as I saw that automatic door was closed, I realized it was that day's worst decision made. And it cost me a 60-minute walk from Gondangdia (Cokroaminoto) to Karet Kuningan. It felt like I crossed the entire country the whole day. Walking that far is absolutely not for the faint-hearted. And this is what I saw under the flyover of Kuningan. Welcome to the reall world...againnn...hhhh





My Cathartic Walk to Bogor Grand Botanical Garden (1)

It's really an honor to see this flock of middle-class workers on weekdays, without being a part of them. Suddenly arises a sense of freedom.
My commuter train ticket to Bogor. Got this at Sudirman Station.
Sudirman Station, a modern-looking station that provides you a river view from its windows. A heavily polluted one, sadly.
Sudirman Street, one of the capital 'arteries'. If it gets clogged, you'll find lots of Jakartans cursing Fauzi Bowo on Twitter.Perusing the schedule. Really wish I was coming earlier in the morning. I had to wait around an hour just get into the next train. I learn my lesson 🙂
In the train heading to the town of rain, that is Bogor. The train stops at every and each station it passes through, so I can't complain for a faster riding experience. We obviously inherit this snail-paced, obsolete technology product from the 20th century Japan. Shame on us!
We know democracy is overly hyped, but I didn't learn it until I spotted this warm exchange of thoughts on a public toilet at the Bogor train station. Excuse the inappropriate words!
Ok, I hate it when I fail taking the best shots. Even for amateurish photographers, I'm too clumsy! So here is how the station looks in front.
This is how arts can be grounded, unlike classy, overly cleaned, untouched galleries full of paintings scattered in Jakarta.
A long, not-so-winding road...A friend of mine 'advised' me to walk around the garden. And yes I literally DID WALK only to find how hugggeee the garden is! Broke my legs afterwards.
The homeless in Bogor shows us another grim side of the town. Did they ever brush their teeth?
Walking barefooted is good to stimulate the nerves on your foot palm. But often I have to carefully choose where to step, or else I'd tear mine. Look at the stones! I appreciate any creatures who spent their time to work on this artistic stony path.