Hurray for the month of September! With so many long weekends, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to planning exciting getaways for the family. Your next trip could be to the city of Bandung, Indonesia. With its clean streets, amazing scenery and lots of great activities for kids, it caters for a fun family weekend away from KL.
“What is your name? Where are you from? How long you stay?” Indonesian Grab drivers in Bandung love to ask you everything about your life, the minute you get in the car. To them, making conversation is a polite way to make you feel comfortable. I have to admit it, a friendly chat is more sociable than staring at the screen of your mobile phone. It is 8.30am though when we leave Bandung airport on the way to our hotel in town and I am still trying to wake up.
Welcome to Bandung, Indonesia, the third largest city on Java, the most populated island of Indonesia. Bandung is located 770 meters above sea level in a mountainous area, roughly two hours by car from the capital Jakarta. With an average temperature of 23.6° Celsius, this place is always pleasantly cool.
Volcanoes and waterfalls
So what makes Bandung special? First of all, the incredible nature around Bandung is stunning. The nearby volcano Tangkuban Perahu (which means ‘upside-down boat’) for example, is a great place to explore with kids. The volcano itself is 2084 meters high and is still active. If there is an increase in seismic activity, the mountain will be closed for visitors.
Just keep in mind that – like in a lot of other places in Asia – tourists pay considerably more to visit.
After entering, you can opt to hire the services of a guide. If you feel comfortable enough though, it is fine to walk to the caldera yourself; the road is safe for walking and well indicated. The steaming blue-greyish crater is stunning and you can boil eggs in the little pools. You can buy the eggs at road side stalls. Obviously, this is a no-stroller area. Children as young as 5 or 6 years of age will be able though to come with you.
At the end of the hike, you can buy small bottles with mud from the crater; apparently this is good for your skin!
Equally beautiful are the Maribaya waterfalls, north of Bandung in Lembang. This place is great for family picnics. You can either bring your own food or buy deliciously roasted corn and satay on the spot. There are tables, but you can also bring a mat to sit on, next to the watervall and the stream.
What to do if it rains…?
If it rains in Bandung, it poors. Literally. Not to worry, because this is a great opportunity to take the kids to Bandung Super Mall! Here you can visit indoor theme park Trans Studio Bandung. There are some great rides and other entertainment for young and old. Our personal favourite is a little train, that takes you through a ‘scary village’. Tickets for Trans Studio start from RM 52 per person – depending which day you go – and the place is open from 10am till 7pm.
Bandung is also the city of angklungs. An angklung is a bamboo music instrument, which makes a special sound when you shake it. The smaller the instrument, the higher the tone. With instruments of different sizes, you can make a whole orchestra! This is being demonstrated by the children of the angklung school of Pak Udjo at Jalan Padasuka 118 in Bandung. Performances are interactive, so kids from the audience will get the chance to try for themselves.
The best thing about Bandung are the countless factory outlets. You will find not just cheap clothes here, but also bags, shoes and a lot of accessories. Most famous of all is Rumah Mode at Jalan Setiabudi. Those among us who do not understand the fun of shopping can hang out in the two restaurants next to Rumah Mode, where food is tasty and wifi powerful and fee of charge.
Other factory outlets can be found at Jalan Juanda (many sports outlets) and Jalan Martadinata (general stores and bags). Outlets which cater for children’s clothes are Heritage on Jalan Martadinata and Anakecil at Jalan Hayam Wuruk No.32, just behind the Gedung Sate. This building got its name because of the pinnacle on top, which makes it look like a giant meat sate stick.
Not done yet with shopping? Well, then head to Pasar Baru on Jalan Otto Iskandar Dinata 70, where you can shop-till-you-drop on seven levels of happiness. You will find clothes here for young and older, food, beautiful Indonesian batiks, bags, underwear, souvenirs and jackets. This is a place where you can practise your bargaining skills. Keep in mind that ideally you want to pay around 60 or 70% of the asking price.
Come, let’s eat. Bandung is heaven for foodies and discovering the incredibly tasty Sundanese kitchen is a wonderful experience for the whole family. For authentic Sundanese food like grilled fish or chicken, nasi timbel, karedok, oncom or batagor, I would suggest the Sari Sunda restaurants. There are quite a few outlets in Bandung.
Another top place to eat is Café Bali on Jalan Martadinata 211, where our kids always order siomay Bandung, an Indonesian style dimsum with peanut sauce.
Our all-time favourite though is restaurant Kampung Daun on Jalan Sersan Bajuri in the town of Lembang, almost an hour drive north of Bandung. The place is worth the trip; the food is insanely tasty and is served in small huts, spread along a small river within a beautiful green ravine.
How to get around
Using Grab taxis is super easy in this city, they are very affordable and the small talk of the drivers gives you an opportunity to connect with local people. It does makes sense though to rent a car for the day including a driver, if you plan a trip outside town to the mountains.
Walking in Bandung is nice, due to its cool climate. Be mindful of the condition of some pavements though; pushing a stroller can be challenging.
Like in many other Indonesian cities, you can find the bicycle taxis or becaks in the outer areas of Bandung where it is more quiet on the roads. They are cheap and are great fun for a family outing. Do not enter the more busy streets in a becak though, unless you’re a fan of exhaust fumes.
Where to stay in Bandung
We normally stay at the very affordable U Janevalla hotel on Jalan Aceh 61. When you check in at 9am (yes, there is a very early 6.30am flight from KL), your checkout time will also 9am, so plan well. The rooms are modern, yet cozy and comfortable.
Breakfast is very tasty with a mix of European and Indonesian food and the kids always enjoy the waffle station. The rooftop bar on the 9th floor has got a nice view over Bandung and an infinity pool. A great hangout for the whole family!
This hotel is in walking distance of the big factory outlets on Jalan Martadinata as well as the hustle and bustle of historic Jalan Braga, where you can find a lot of cafes and restaurants.
There are many other hotels which are suitable for families, like the Sheraton on Jalan Juanda, the Padma Hotel on Jalan Ciumbuleuit or the historical Savoy Homann.
When to visit Bandung
The raining season on the island of Java starts in November and lasts till April. May till October are the best months to visit Bandung.
Please be mindful of the crowds on Saturdays and Sundays, when people from Jakarta and other places outside Bandung tend to visit. Plan your activities accordingly in the morning (or on Mondays, if you’re still there during a long weekend), rather than in the afternoon. Have fun in Bandung!