On the Road to Bandung

Thursday morning, after a nice breakfast of pancakes at the apartment in Jakarta, Jason and I headed off to the train station to catch a train to Bandung.  Jason already had purchased tickets so we had reserved seats and they were nice and comfy – even had foot rests.  But before we hopped on board, we stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts shop in the station to pick up sandwiches for the 3 1/2 hour ride to Bandung.  Jason had warned me that I’d see some delicious-looking donuts in that shop but not to be fooled.  They really didn’t taste anything like our American donuts.  So even though I have to admit that I stood there and gazed fondly at every single variety of them, I didn’t buy a single one.

On our way over to the station, Jason had been telling me about an Australian TV show that they sometimes show on the trip which is similar to our “Candid Camera” and lo and behold, that show was playing on the TV in the train car.  I think I was feeling a little giddy from the jet lag because everything on that show was striking me as hysterically funny.  I really had the giggles.  The antics of the folks on that show certainly kept me entertained for part of the journey.

The beginning of the trip out of Jakarta was very interesting.  The train ran past many slum areas which often seem to be built right up to the tracks practically.  Because the tracks were elevated somewhat, I often found myself looking down on the roofs of the dwellings and wondering how in the world a person would ever be able to navigate their way through the maze of those interconnected alleys.  I was impressed with the fact that the people make use of whatever building material they can find.  The corrugated tin roofs are often weighted down with rocks or tires to keep the roofs from blowing off in wind or rain.  Laundry was hanging on railings and roof tiles and over window sills.   The homes all seem to be connected to each other – the outer wall of one house becoming the wall of another home until a neighborhood almost resembles some fantastical creature that is constantly morphing into an ever-changing shape.

When I think of how we Americans so jealously guard our precious square footage of yard space between our homes, I’m struck by how the very nature of the slums in the big cities here create an instant sense of close community.  Everyone is living in such close proximity that in order for chaos to be kept at bay, you have a sense of a large extended family with much more interaction between neighbors than we are used to in our suburbs.

Leaving Jakarta, we started climbing in elevation and soon I was looking at rice paddies.  It was so interesting to see the terracing that they do to keep each little field level enough to ensure that the plants can be flooded with water without it draining off.   I also was enjoying seeing the banana plants or trees, which I have always associated with tropical places.  I even saw some houses with the old Javanese architecture, the roofs ending in points fore and aft like the prow and bow of a ship.  There were even some homes in the fields with the walls made of the plaited mats, elevated on stilts.

Soon we began to see mountains looming in the distance.  These aren’t the gentle rolling hills of my Pennsylvania or even the more rugged mountains of the Smokies or Rockies.  These are some fantastic shapes that are caused by the fact that many of these mountains are dormant or extinct volcanoes.  They are the mountains that I’ve dreamed about since I saw the movie “South Pacific” and all those TV episodes with Gardner McKay in “Adventures in Paradise.”  They were just beautiful.

Jason pointed out the tea plants that were everywhere, growing along the side of the tracks and bordering many of the rice fields.  I asked him if these plants grew wild and he told me that he didn’t believe so.  He thought that the farmers simply used every available space that they could find.  I certainly had no idea that my tea came from plants like these.

We finally pulled into the station at Bandung and disembarked with all my luggage.  We hauled it all around the corner from the station so that we could hail a taxi that would be cheaper than the ones that wait right at the station.  It was certainly nice to have Jason there, able to negotiate all of this.  I actually felt kind of sorry for the taxi driver who took us up to Jason’s neighborhood.  At first we were driving past many stately old homes that were probably from the Dutch era and we also passed many newer “mansions” that were probably owned by wealthy Indonesians from Jakarta who own second homes in Bandung where they can go to escape the heat of Jakarta.  But then we kept climbing higher up and the streets got narrower and narrower and bumpier and finally we were driving in one-lane roads, narrowly missing walkers or folks on motorcycles.  Man, I wouldn’t have wanted to drive that route ever! 

Our driver got us as close as he could to Jason’s apartment and then he dropped us off.  We made the rest of the way on foot, down narrow alleys.  Who should meet us partway but my daughter-in-law Laura carrying Mika.  Oh boy, it was good to see them.  I even got a big smile from Mika right away.  We made the final climb up to the house, which has a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood (looking out over the roofs of the neighbors’ homes) and the mountains in the distance and then, after getting my bags into the house, it was time to meet some of the neighbors.  They were so gracious and pleased to meet Mika’s Nenek (I’m probably not spelling that correctly).  Yup, I’m Ibu Dee here.  And I can say that the feeling was mutual.  Just wish I could speak Bahasa Indonesia more than “Thank You” and the typical greetings but thank goodness that the kids can translate for me.

It was early to bed for all of us that first night in Bandung.  I’ll tell you about the sounds of Bandung in my next post.

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Hot Flashed Funk

  • Great descriptions! I could see it in my mind’s eye through your words.

    Great photos, too!

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