Monday, June 30, 2008

Bandung Culinary Festival #2

Text and picture by Eki Qushay Akhwan

Still from the same scene as yesterday's post, shown here is a group of friends enjoying on stage life perfomances and cooking demo after having their rounds of the food stalls - white tents seen at the perimeters of this park (Gasibu Square), where visitors can taste different kinds of food from around the country.

As you can probably see from the picture, the sky was heavily overcast. The rain - unusual dry-season rain - had just stopped when I got there at about 3-ish p.m. It was quite a difficult lighting situation to take a good shot. But I managed to get some that captured some interesting things about the festival.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bandung Culinary Festival

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

Blessed with more than 300 distinct native ethnicities and a huge variety of flora and fauna, it is hardly surprising that Indonesia has a very rich culinary heritage: The varieties of foods you can find from Aceh - its westernmost provice - to Papua - its easternmost province can be "tongue boggling". Indonesians in general love good foods, and Bandung is considered by many as one of Indonesia's food capitals.

As part of the efforts to preserve our culinary heritage, a national kecap producer is currently organizing a tour of Indonesian culinary festivals called "Festival Jajanan Indonesia" in a number of cities in the country. Yesterday (Saturday, June 28, 2008), the festival landed in Bandung.

Pictured above is a replica of Nasi Tumpeng or yellow rice cone dish, a traditional Indonesian set rice dish usually served at salamatan or thanksgiving feasts.

I'll post some more pictures from this festival tomorrow.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Selasar (The Corridor)

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

As a city with predominantly Muslim population, Bandung has a lot of mosques. Many of these mosques have nice architecture. This one is the right wing corridor of the Al Furqon Mosque at the campus of the Indonesia University of Education. I took the picture today on my way to the Friday congregation prayer.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bandung History Revisited

These two young people were looking at a ten-meter long banner outlining Bandung's historical highlights. The banner was displayed at a festival recently organized by STV - a local television station - on Braga street. The banner was put up as part of the efforts to educate the citizens, particularly the youths, about the city's history.

While it is not one of the oldest cities in Indonesia (it's officially only 198 years old this year; compare this to Jakarta, for example, which is officially 481 years old this year) , Bandung has a fascinating history. The following is the excerpt of Bandung's history from Wikipedia:

Early Settlement
Although the oldest reference to the city dates back to 1488, where it was the capital of the Kingdom of Pajajaran, there have been some archaeological findings of Austropithecus or Java Man, living in the banks of Cikapunding river and around the old lake of Bandung.

Dutch East India Company (VOC)
During the 17th-18th centuries, the Dutch East Indies company (VOC), made small plantation area in the fertile and properous Bandung area. A supply road connecting Batavia (now Jakarta), Bogor, Cianjur, Bandung, Sumedang and Cirebon was built in 1786.

In 1809, Louis Napoleon, the ruler of the Netherlands and its colonies, ordered the Dutch Indies Governor H.W. Daendels to increase the defense system of Java island against British. Daendels built a road, stretching about 1000 km from the west coast to the east cost of Java. Since the northern part of West Java at that time was only swamp and marsh, the road was diverted through Bandung.The Great Postweg (now Jalan Asia-Afrika) was laid down in 1810.

Local folklore has it that when Daendels was walking along the edge of Cikapundung river, He was amazed by the site where he stood. He then put a stick at the edge of the Cikapundung and said: "Zorg, dat als ik terug kom hier een stad is gebouwd!" ('Attention! If I come again here, a city must be built!'). Today, this site is the center of Bandung, the kilometer zero of the city. R.A. Wiranatakusumah II, the regent of Bandung regency at that time, moved its office from Krapyak, in the south, to a place near a pair of holy city wells (sumur Bandung), today this site is the alun-alun (city square). He built his istana (palace), masjid agung (the grand mosque) and pendopo ("pavilion") in the classical orientation. The pendopo faces Tangkuban Perahu mountain, who was believed to have a mystical ambience.

In 1880, the first major railroad between Batavia and Bandung was laid down. It gave a high boost of light industry in Bandung. Chinese migrants flocked in to help run the facilities, services and vendor machines. A small old Chinatown district can still be recognised in the vicinity of the railroad station. In 1906, Bandung was given the status of gemeente (municipality) and then later as staadsgemeente (city municipality) in 1926.

Having location in a lowland, surrounded by a ring of mountains, Bandung is strategically advantageous for military defense. In 1930s, Dutch East Indies government had planned to move the capital from Batavia to Bandung. The Dutch East Indies government built military barracks, the central government building (Gouvernments Bedrijven, nicknamed Gedung Sate) and other buildings. However, this plan has never been realised following the failure of the Dutch to reclaim Indonesia after the World War II.

A more complete account can be found here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bandung Commuter Train Services

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

Bandung and its western and eastern vicinities are connected by a commuter train service called the KRD (Kereta Rel Diesel - or Diesel Train) from the town of Padalarang (about 20 km west of Bandung) to Cicalengka (about 25 km east of Bandung). The KRD is by far the most economical mode of transportation that is free from traffic congestions. Comfort and reliability, however, are out of the question. The trains are usually not very sanitary, crowded (especially during the morning and late afternoon rush hours), and frequently not on time.

There are two kinds of KRD service: The PATAS (which stands for Cepat Terbatas or Limited Express) and the standard. The former is a bit more expensive, but more sanitary and reliable. It still is very crowded during the rush hours. The latter is of course a lot cheaper at the expense of comfort and reliability.

According to its website, PT KAI (Indonesian Railway Company) is planning to have the KRD replaced by KRL (Kereta Rel Listrik - or Electric Train) in 2009. I hope this change will also result in better sanitation and reliability. I also hope that someday in the near future Bandung will have commuter train services that connect its other parts, north and south, to help reduce traffic congestions.

By the way, the people in the picture above were waiting for the KRD at the southern part of Bandung central station. There are not enough benches to sit at this part of the station. That's why some of those people were sitting on the floor. The northern part of the station is reserved for upper class intercity trains and has better facilities.

In the next posts, I'll take you on a KRD ride to see what it looks like onboard.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bis Surat (Mail Box)

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

Since the advent of the internet and emails, post boxes like this one seem to have become an obsolete artifact. I can't remember when the last time I actually posted a snail mail. So when I came across this "bis surat" (mail/post box) a couple of days ago, it kinds of reminded me of the good old days when I had to go to the post office or find this orange box to post a mail.

This kind of post box is very old. It dates back to the Dutch colonial era. The new model is smaller with stilts instead of solid steel from bottom to top like this one.

By the way, the word "bis" in Indonesian also means "bus". And the word "box" in Indonesian is "kotak". Therefore, "mail/post box" should be "kotak surat" in Indonesian. I think the term "bis surat" comes from the Dutch word "bus breven", and hence the word "bis" stays in "bis surat" as a matter of postal terminology.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bandung Sunset

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

This sunset could be anywhere. We share the same earth, the same sun. But this is what I saw, here where I live.


The sun is what unites us:
It’s the sun that shines upon us

Blesses us with lives.
Blesses us with lives.

When it sets in my hemisphere
It raises in yours

Night is only a flip, of morning
Time of sleep, time of raising

When it raises in your hemisphere
It raises in ours

Distance may there be between us
But you and I are us

May peace be upon you
May peace be upon you

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Pasupati Bridge

Text and pictures © Eki Qushay Akhwan

As Bandung’s newest icon, Pasupati cable stayed bridge (2.147 kilometers long, 21.53 meter wide) is probably quite well known among those who know this city. The stories behind it, however, may not be as familiar to those who live outside Bandung.

The name Pasupati is an abbreviation of the parts of the city that are linked by this overpass, namely Jalan Pasteur (Pasteur street) at the west side of the city and Jalan Surapati at the east part of the city, hence Pasupati. The proposed name was originally Paspati – not Pasupati. But because the word Paspati in Sundanese (the language spoken by the people of West Java) means the time of death, the name was then changed to Pasupati, which is closer in sounds to Pasopati, the name of a powerful arrow that belonged to an epics character in the Mahabaratha.

Pasupati plan was conceived 74 years ago. The 1931 Carsten document of Autostrada Program already layed out the need to build a passage way that would link the western and the eastern parts of the city. This plan was subsequently included in Bandung Master and Detail Plans of 1971, 1985, 1996, and 2003.

In 1988, Bandung municipal administration proposed the construction of the Pasupati bridge to the Department of Public Works. Following this, feasibility studies were conducted by the Bandung Institute of Technology in 1992. The construction began in 1999 and was partly funded by a loan from Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED).

The cables that support the bridge is 15.7 millimeter in diameter. The supporting cables are not symmetrical in number and in length. There are five double sets of cables at the eastern side and nine at the western side. The length of the cables at the eastern side is 55 meters, and 106 meters at the western side.The bridge tower that anchors these cables is 37.5 meter tall.

Sundanologist (expert in Sundanese culture) considers Pasopati as Kecapi (traditional Sundanese string musical instrument) and Suling(traditional Sundanese bamboo flute) bridge. The kecapi is represented by the cables that resemble the strings of this musical instrument, while the flute is represented by the impressions of holes – similar to the holes of the Sundanese bamboo flute – on the main tower. Viewed from the top, the bridge looks like a bow that is symbolic of its name (Pasupati or Pasopati is the name of a powerful arrow and the whole bridge is the bow from which the arrow is shot.).

Kompas and other sources.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Motorbikers' City

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

Bandung could probably be appropriately called a motorbikers' city. There are approximately 500,000 motorbikes in this city of about 3 million population (1:6 ratio). Motorbikes become the preferred mode of transportation not only because of their agility to navigate the relatively narrow streets of the city and their economical fuel consumption, but also because the city's public and mass transportation system is largely not working very well and in need of a comprehensive overhaul.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Man Against Machine

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

Bandung holds a number of festivals and art events of different kinds every year. I took this picture of a man arm-wrestling against a mechanical arm at a festival recently held at the Gasibu Square by SCTV, one of Indonesia's national television networks. He had to do 30 pushdowns against the machine to get a t-shirt. He lost! The machine was apparently too strong for him. Quite a number of visitors tried their luck (or rather, strength) with this weight lifting mechanical arm. Some of them won, some lost.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Shoe Deposit Counter

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

You have to take off our footwears to enter a mosque. Leaving your shoes or footwears outside the mosque might not be a good idea if there are a lot of people going into the mosque at the same time like during the Friday prayer service. For security and convenience, big mosques like this one at the Indonesia University of Education campus in Bandung, provides a shoe deposit counter where you can leave your footwears and claim them later after the prayer. The counter service is usually open only on Friday during the Friday prayer service. I don't know if you could find this anywhere else, but in big mosques in Indonesia this is a common practice.

By the way, these people are claiming their footwears from the deposit counter after the Friday prayer service that I attended today.

Roda Gila (Crazy Wheel)

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

Roda gila (crazy wheels) is a kind of traditional acrobatic attraction where two or more motorcyclists ride and do crazy and breathtaking acrobatic actions in a cylindrical drum made of wooden planks about seven meters deep and 10 meters in diameter. Spectators have to climb onto a platform at the top of the cylindrical drum to watch their actions. I took this picture at a festival held at the Gasibu square sometime ago.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

PENGAMEN (Street Musician)

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

It's rather enigmatic to translate the Indonesian word "pengamen" into English. Originally this word means a person who sings and/or perform music on the street for tips. Nowadays, however, the performance seems to be secondary to the tips/money. While some performers are really good and worth giving the tips, many are not good at all. Hence, the translation for "pengamen" could be street performers/musicians or simply street beggars depending on the quality of the performance.

Pengamen is quite a street phenomenon in Bandung. You can find them almost anywhere: on the city buses, commuter trains, traffic light junctions, and even street side parking like this one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

STEMPEL (Rubber Stamp)

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

Another sight from Bandung's sidewalks. Stempel (rubber stamp) maker like this one on Cikapungdung Street is a fast-disappearing profession. People now prefer custom and machine-made rubber stamps offered at book stores and shopping malls because their quality is considered better and are faster to make.

Monday, June 16, 2008

CIRENG (Cassava Flour Cake)

Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

Sundanese, the people and language of West Java, is very good at making acronyms. Cireng, the title of this post, for example, is the acronyms of aci (cassava flour) digoreng (fried) - fried cassava cake. It's a kind of local traditional food.

This posting, however, is not going to talk about that food (I'll probably discuss it next time), but about these two boys selling it at the sidewalk of Asia-Afrika street in downtown Bandung. This is a phonomenon that the residents and anyone visiting Bandung will probably see on the streets of Bandung: uderage children selling a variety of things from cireng (like the ones in the picture) to stone grinders. Some uncanny adult businesspersons have apparently exploited them. Using these children as salesboys is very effective in getting the attention of potential customers. People would usually buy their merchandize not because they need it or wants it but because they sympathize with these children's hardship.

I think this is a social problem that the city's administrator needs to tackle immediately. The practice is a violation of the children's human rights. Children their age should not be on the streets making money for some irresponsible adults. They should be at the playgrounds enjoying their childhood and schools studying for their future.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

In an ever diminishing number of functioning sidewalks, it's good to see one that's really functioning like this one on Jalan Braga (Braga Street).

A functioning sidewalk is very essential for a city. It's not only the place where pedestrians can walk safely, but also a place where people can actually meet and interact. Unfortunately, slack law enforcement has made most Bandung sidewalks dysfunctional. They are used by kaki lima (K-5 for short, literally means five feet) - street traders of all kinds who encroach the pedestrians' right of safe passage. Not only have K-5 traders forced the pedestrians to walk where they should not - the streets - and jeopardized their safety, they have also destroyed the sidewalks and made them dirty. It's high time that the city's administration did consistent and stringent law enforcement about it.

We, citizens and taxpayers, pay for the high cost of the construction and maintenance of sidewalks. Yet, when it comes to using them, we are pushed away to our perils by these K-5 traders. They make profit from the facilities we gave them and pay no taxes for the profit they are making. It's unfair. K-5 should be banished from the sidewalks and relocated to a designated place to do their business.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Text and picture ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

No. This man's not a terrorist or a criminal (despite the black mask). On the contrary, he could well be an urban hero. In the plastic bag he's lugging around are the refuse of our urban consumerist lifestyle: plastic bottles, cans, and other throwaways - things we don't want anymore, things that become the sore of our sights and smell.

He's a scavenger. He walks the streets, picks up the trash that can be recycled (from the trash bins and streets), and renders a service most of us barely recognize: helping the city to clean its streets and do the costly work of dumping and recycling its garbage. In other words, he helps us - citizens and taxpayers - clean our city and save our tax money. He - and many others like him - is another invisible hero of our society.

True. They don't do it out of philanthropist spirit. They make a living from it. It's all the more reason to consider what they do as an honorable job and them honorable members of the society. Now, what other jobs are there that earn a living while at the same time render a great service to the society? To me, these scavengers should be put at par with teachers, doctors, policemen/women and other professions whose services help make the world a better place.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Text and pictures ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

Of all Bandung icons, Lapangan Gasibu, or the Gasibu Square, is probably the most symbolic. Located just accross the street from Gedung Sate (the West Java governor's office mansion) and the Provincial Council Offices complex, it is literally the center of everything's going on in Bandung. Political ralies and demonstrators go here to have their voices heard, entertainment events are staged here for the Bandungese to enjoy, mass prayers are held here at least twice a year during the Moslems' holidays of Idul Fitri and Idul Adha. Think of any activities you like (or don't like), and chances are you can find people doing them here: from the spiritual to the mundane, private to public, philantropic to commercial.

And every Sunday morning, this place and its surrounding areas are bursting with life. Bandungese of all walks of life go here to exercise or just stroll and shop. Yes, shop! Stalls and street traders of all kinds selling foods, clothes, home accessories, toys, and even pets are found here. One day in a week, this place turns into a marketplace where you can find everything and anything. Here are some snapshots.

Young enterpreneurial spirit at Gasibu: Two youngsters selling rabbit pets to an eager buyer.

A juggler offers a free entertainment to the Sunday walkers.

Colorful scarfs - one of the many wares sold at Gasibu.

As if symbolic of the real life, poverty and social problems are also represented here.