Exploring Indonesia - Frolicking in Java

Much like India, Indonesia has a vast and varied culture, which can't be fully explore in one trip. Going beyond the famous Bali, we scouted other regions of this chivalrous country. Taking forward from the first part, the second part of this article roams around Bandung and Jakarta in Java, which were more cosmopolitan and contemporary than Sumatra.

By: Soumya Jain

Posted on: June 20, 2012

Much like India, Indonesia has a vast and varied culture, which can’t be fully explored in one trip. Going beyond the famous Bali, we scouted other regions of this chivalrous country. Taking forward from the first part, the second part of this article roams around Bandung and Jakarta in Java, which were more cosmopolitan and contemporary than Sumatra.

Bollywood mania!
Back in Padang for a night, we passed our eve of leaving Sumatra by dancing long into the night. We stepped into Tee Box first, in the China Town of Padang, and looked in awe as a wonderful, well-appointed discotheque met our eyes. The music was good. The dance floor was well-set. But no, it wasn’t only Indonesian music we were swaying our hands and hips on. Live Bollywood music was on demand too!

Drinks were a little problem as beer seemed to be the favourite drink of the nation, often with no vodka, rum, wine or whisky available. Also, headgears are not allowed inside the disc. Two Sikh gentlemen in our group, thus, had to face an unpleasant situation, which led to dampening the mood.

Trudging back to our hotel, the Basko Best Western hotel, we decided to spend some time at their lounge. And to our delight, it turned to be a wonderful experience! Having spent a night at this hotel before, we had faced the paucity of liquor here too. But this time, as soon as we entered the lounge, we were respectfully informed that the bar was now well stocked with whatever we could wish for. The live music was again enjoyable as the singers belted out Bollywood songs and some universal favourites too. And we danced wee into the night, probably giving other guests a peek into the madness that happy Indians can cause…

Shopping galore
Next morning, we caught a flight to the capital city Jakarta, in Java, and drove towards Bandung. The importance of Bandung lies in the fact that the first Asian-African conference, organized to provide a platform to African and Asian nations, was held here. The conference, which was attended by many luminaries, like our very own Jawaharlal Nehru, aimed at discussing how these nations could reassert themselves in the new world as they came staggering out of western domination, and also how to get freedom for the ones still under subjugation. Even today if you roam around Bandung, you’ll see graffiti on the wall with words like freedom and equality mentioned.

But more than the conference, it was the city’s shopping prospects that had us delighted. Spending time in the Dago area, we took our pick from local and international brands. It was, in fact, a fashionista’s paradise. We skipped from one shop to another, with the purchase bags piling up at each stop. You’ll find some goods from luxury brands too here. They claim that these are factory outlets. But be on your guard if you purchase from there. Not everything looked authentic.

Tired but exhilarated after the shopping spree, we then moved towards Sindang Retreat, our dinner venue for the day. And it turned out to be the most beautiful restaurant we had seen till now in the trip. With a small wall fountain near our table, a two-seater wooden swing and other such elements making an aesthetic ambience, we turned our attention towards the food. The piping hot Sundanese cuisine heightened our spirits. Though much like the food we had in Sumatra, it was less spicy and much more wholesome. This wonderful day ended with us retreating to our hotel, the Savoy Homman, where – we were told – we were stepping on the footsteps of Charlie Chaplin and other luminaries who have stayed at this hotel previously!

The soul song
Our last day was probably the most enchanting, relaxing and fun as well. Our first stop on the way back to Jakarta was Mount Tangkuban Perahu, a dormant volcano, where we witnessed a crater with sulphur spewing out of it. And even though we were far, we could hear it bubbling out of the crater! We could smell the sulphur all around us, but being early morning, it wasn’t too thick or unbearable. Later in the day, though, the air becomes thick with sulphur smoke, making it impossible to see anything around. We were certainly mesmerized. Driving back, spiraling downwards, we saw many tea plantations, which led me to wonder whether all that sulphur was not spoiling the tea harvests? But our guide said it didn’t.

Our next destination we were told, the Sari Ater Hot Spring, had waters coming out from the same sulphur crater we had just visited. It was cackling with tourists, local families and children. Reaching a spot, we dipped our foot in the hot springs and almost instantly took it out too. It was hot and scalding initially! But after a while, as our legs got adjusted to the temperature, we walked about and sat down around a fountain spurting out the miracle water. And indeed, after soaking in our feet for about 15 minutes, and posing for about 50 photographs, our legs felt separate from the rest of the bodies! That was the degree of relaxation we felt there. Anyone wanting to swim in this water had to pay for a 15-minute dip (the recommended time to spend in sulphurised water).

We weren’t too disappointed about not having the time to swim. After all, our next destination was the Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa. Smartly dressed women greeted us at the reception and led us gracefully towards our rooms. Considered to be a famous one in Jakarta, the spa gave me a traditional Javanese massage. The therapist was good and knew her strokes well. Make sure to tell her if the pressure gets too much. The spa rooms were well-designed. The couple rooms also had a large tub where couples could soak in a bath after their experience. The only thing I missed was spa music to soothe me further. The treatment ended with a warm tamarind drink. We loved it so much that we ended up ordering more cups of it!

Refreshed, energetic and dressed up, we went for our farewell dinner, which was, much to our glee, at an Indian restaurant. The Queen’s Tandoor restaurant was almost authentic of the Indian style of décor. Ditto for the food, though some of us found it to be a tad bit salty. But nobody complained really. After all, we were all enjoying tucking in the naan dipped in shahi paneer or dal tadka! The city has more Indian restaurants to try too.

Jakarta turned out to be much more beautiful and well-maintained than New Delhi could ever dream to be. Looking out at the city at night from my room window in the plush Borobudur Hotel, there was a mix of serenity and awe as I gazed at Indonesia’s national monument, which held 50kgs of pure gold in a flame-shape at its top. But more than that, there was gratitude at having got an opportunity to explore this multi-cultural country, and love for the way it had opened itself to us in the past seven days.

And how did we spend our last night in the country? By dancing away at Manhattan Club in Borobudur Hotel!

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