Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Misty Memories of Bandung

Misty Memories of Bandung

The night air in Bandung is always fresh and invigorating. And there's that every-present scent of greens and pines which inevitably reminds me of California. Even though everyone laments the fact that Bandung is a lot more polluted compared to how it was even five or six years ago, it is still a very pleasant place.

Thinking back about my time in Indonesia, the projects that I had done in Bandung are my most successful and enjoyable ones. There's a very relaxed atmosphere about Bandung which made me able to think a lot better whenever I was there. I also liked the hotels: The Holliday Inn is a bargain; Hyatt is a bit expensive but the rooms are big and comfortable; and if you like Art Deco architecture and history, then the Grand Hotel Preanger and Savoy Homann are excellent places to stay at. There's always an air of romance about the place.

My last trip there was a personal one; I stayed at the Preanger and spent a couple of nights in the hotel room finishing my article about Bandung and Sukarno. Preanger is the oldest hotel in Bandung and I chose the place because I wanted to soak myself in the atmosphere of Bandung of 1930s--the years when Sukarno was there as a student at the Technische Hogeschool --forerunner of the now famous Institut Teknologi Bandung. It is believed that Sukarno helped to draft the designs for the renovations of the hotel in the 1930s, assisting Professor CP Wolfe Schoemaker, his mentor at the university.

When I was there I managed to meet up with people from the Bandung Heritage who gave me valuable clues about the old buildings that were associated with Sukarno. I managed to visit Sukarno's old house at No 8 Jalan Ciateul--the place where he spend some happy years living together with Ibu Inggit Garnasih--his second wife.

Sukarno wrote in his autobiography about his first impression of Bandung:

"I found its climate cool and its women gorgeous. Bandung and I took to each other immediately".

And I couldn't agree with him more. Writing these words from my room in Subang Jaya, my mind yearns to be on the Argo Gede train again, as it meanders its way across the highlands of West Java, towards that misty abode in the hills, that charming colonial town called Bandung, that Shangri-La of the Parahyangan.

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