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Monday 6 May 2013
Bandung, Indonesia

Doe, a deer, a female deer...

We started our day with taxis to Jakarta Central Station where Sukio had booked us 'Executive' class rail tickets for the four hour journey to Bandung.  This gave us very comfortable reclining leather seats and table service on drinks and food.  We'd stocked up on snacks so munched crispy seaweed sheets as we left the city buildings and ramshackle shelters behind in favour of sweeping rice paddy terraces, palm trees, deep valleys and distant volcanoes.  The villages were generally made up of rendered villas with brightly painted walls and terracotta rooftiles.  

Our hotel in Bandung was only a short walk from the train station.  After checking in we headed back out in a minibus with an excellent local guide named Dais.  His personality was infectious and we liked him instantly.  He took us for a local Indonesian buffet lunch, which was just what we had been hoping for.  Fried chicken, grilled fish, tempe, spicy greens, dried fish and steamed rice to name but a few dishes.  Our tour of Bandung took us past the Savoy, the oldest hotel in Bandung, which was an art deco concrete structure neighbouring an equally old Dutch storehouse (now converted into shops) with the original names still along the top.

We also visited the Technical University, one of over 20 universities in Bandung.  This one boasted some beautiful old teak halls and buildings in the traditional Javanese style - sloping roof with pointed 'ears' at each end of the roofline (imagine somebody standing with their arms out to the sides and hands raised in a 'stop' gesture) said to offer protection to those inside.  The entrance buildings were overgrown with the most enormous bougainvillia I've ever seen.  It has been growing for over 80 years and now appears to support the building rather than vice versa.  Enough flowers still remained to be impressive, but to have seen it a few weeks earlier would have been something really special.

The Governor's Residence was an imposing building designed to reflect the different religions in Java.  The top of the central tower has three tiers (Hindu style), while the central window has a pyramid shape above it which is very similar to the Mayan temples in South America, though the local religion is not actually connected to the Mayan beliefs.  The first and second floor windows were straight-arched to reflect Christianity, while the ground floor had Muslim-style onion-shaped arches.  It is situated opposite a large open square with a needle monument, looking towards a not-so-distant volcano on the outskirts of the city which once destroyed the lakes and swampland on which Bandung now stands.

The highlight of our afternoon was a performance of Anklung music at a local music school.  The school teaches local children from the age of three up to 16 and concentrates on the Anklung, a traditional bamboo instrument.  Three hollow bamboo pipes are attached to a rectangular frame - fixed at the bottom and able to slide freely at the top.  The frame is held at the top and shaken at the bottom, causing the pipes to bang against the sides, playing a note with each shake - either a single strike or a continuous rattle sound.  Each Anklung plays a different note of the octave, so they can be hung on a large frame to create a sort of xylophone, or played individually.

We watched an hour's performance of dance and Anklung music played by children of various ages and abilities, which included group performances of over 50 children harmonising individual Anklungs and the senior class playing some very fast and intricate pieces on their full Anklung-xylophones.  The children then spread themselves through the audience handing out individual Anklungs for us to play.  The compare was brilliant, teaching us all to play first by numbers, then by hand signals.  Within 10 minutes we were playing (and singing) "Doe, a deer, a female deer. Ray, a drop of Golden Sun..." and it didn't sound terrible!  We even learned to harmonise and play a few Beatles and Abba songs.  It was a brilliant experience and had everybody laughing and enjoying themseves.  It is impossible to play an Anklung and not grin at the same time.  The performance finished with a group dance from the children, after which they pulled most of the audience up with them.  It is not easy to ignore a beautiful smiling Indonesian six-year-old in full dance costume when they have you by the hand and are determined to get you onto the dancefloor!  

The traffic in Bandung was no less crazy than in Jakarta, but Dais assured us that it all worked and we wouldn't see any accidents.  At busy junctions there were enterprising people taking tips from drivers to hold up traffic o the mainroad and let them out of their side streets.  There were quite a few horns blowing, but it was done in a friendly 'just letting you know I am here' way, rather than anything aggressive.  Despite Dais' assurances, we saw two bike accidents.  One happened right in front of our bus - the biker wasn't paying attention and drove straight into the side of a minibus coming into his lane.  Luckily our driver had quick reflexes and avoided running him over!  The second one involved a bike and a pedestrian.  The passers-by promptly ran into the road, picked up the bike and the injured biker and moved them both to the pavement so the traffic could carry on!  Dais admitted he had driven in Java for over 20 years without a licence and only bought one two years ago so he could compete in off-roading competitions.  Any time he was stopped by the police they would accept a bribe in exchange for a yellow slip - a receipt that indicated his licence was with the police for three months.

Our dinner was at a posh foodcourt where we ordered from a menu, but the food came from a variety of food stalls around the outside.  My food was excellent, but there was a real mix-up with the bill at the end which soured the experience a little.  Ailsa and I had a beer with Jim afterwards and got to know him a little.  His friends are always amazed at the places he goes off to, but he has a travel agent that seems to know him quite well now and comes up with a new adventure each time.  I hope I still have his enthusiasm for new things when I am his age!





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