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Bandung Wheeling: Coffee, Musical Instruments, and Goldfish

Our first full day in Bandung began to the sound of a morning downpour. However, when we went downstairs to breakfast, we found the sun to be shining, and the streets dry. We returned to our room, the window of which looked out directly onto a filthy brick wall about a half meter from the glass. We peered out it but were not able to locate the downpour. Eventually, we narrowed it down to the toilet in our bathroom, which we promptly deactivated by means of a grubby, rubber coated lever.

Back downstairs at breakfast, we had already sent our “toast” back once in an effort to achieve some toasting, but it seemed the humidity of Bandung and the lack of a toaster at the Patradissa were conspiring against us. I made an effort to combat the lackluster nature of the toast by over buttering. Unfortunately that too proved ineffective when my maneuvers were foiled by the presence of some petroleum-based butter substitute that refused to melt in my mouth, instead coating the interior with a thin, Vaseline-like substance.  I attempted to counteract this by applying vast quantities of ambiguous jam, which merely sweetened the toast to a cloying and terrible shape in my mouth.

And then there was the coffee that accompanied the breakfast. I can’t hope to do it justice, but perhaps we might get within a stone’s throw by visualizing the boot scrapings of a horse stall mucker, dissolved in lukewarm water, and left out all morning long in a rusting kettle. But this is not a website for griping. So please, dear reader, accept my apologies. I merely encountered the most distasteful breakfast of my life, and am now finding myself griping.  You know there are few things we take extremely seriously here on AsiaWheeling, and coffee is one of them.  So onward, we reviewed the course of the day’s wheel.

Scott Reviews the Map

Griping aside, and still somewhat in need of sustenance, we began our wheel. Our first waypoint was up in the north of Bandung, a place called Dago, where we were to climb up into the foothills overlooking Bandung. It was rumored to be a very beautiful view, and we were excited to get out of the bustling inner city.

The sun shown bright as we wheeled up a steady but manageable incline towards Dago. The wheel was brisk and invigorating. Somewhere near the top of the current foothill, we called a lichtenstein at a random tree lined road. The road turned out to meander its way to the courtyard of what appeared to be an elementary school. From where we called a waypoint, we could just barely see an open pagoda full of little children all dressed up in what appeared to be Tae Kwon Do garb, practicing semi-graceful kick routines.

To the right of the school was a tea house that had at one point charged about 10 cents admission just to see the view. Now the ticket stall lay long unused, so we locked our bikes to it and proceeded into the establishment. Inside we discovered why. What must have at one point been a stunning view was now dominated by a number of large hotels and a power station. Still the area was rich with foliage and the air was sweet and clean, so we decided to settle down for a cup of coffee.

The coffee was an improvement over the first day’s cup by a factor too large to express without serious use of exponents, and served with what appeared to be a quarter of a cup of sugar stuffed into a small plastic bag. When they want something to be sweet here, they pull out all the stops. We lingered for some time, enjoying the screams of the Tai Kwan Do kids, which mingled well with another group of children who seemed to be learning Solfège.

Wheeling Down in Bandung

A 15 cent bottle of water later, we were bombing down the hill on the Speed TRs,. blasting by traffic, and receiving all kinds of shouts and whoops from the locals. At the bottom of the hill, Scott called lichtenstein and we found ourselves in bumper-to-bumper stand-still traffic. In an attempt to avoid it, we pulled onto a side street. The pavement there was disintegrated to the point of near unrideability and we thanked the powers that be at Dahon for the wide and Kevlar-lined tires.

Scott Buys a wrench in Bandung

This crumbling avenue dumped us out into a vast market, where it truly was impossible to wheel, due to thousands of people haggling over all kinds of goods. So we dismounted and began to wander through the market, in hopes that it had been the source of the traffic, and on the other side we might find an operational thoroughfare. We stopped in the market to buy a wrench, giving us now the ability to change tires on the Speed TRs. We paid about 50 cents. Robbed blind I am sure.

On the other side of the market, the traffic was only marginally better, and we were forced at times to dismount and walk the bikes, taking our chances on the also teeming sidewalks. Eventually the traffic thinned and motion resumed. By now we were quite hungry, with the un-toast attempting to make peace between the good and evil cups of coffee, which battled for supremacy in our guts.

Bandung Square

The next waypoint was to be a musical instrument factory, recommended to us by the illustrious Mr. Fu. Upon our arrival, we made a beeline for the restaurant. It served traditional Sundanese food, like we had had the night before, and was disarmingly delicious.

I might take a moment here to digress about Indonesian chickens. There are two kinds of chickens here: imported chickens that look much like those you might find at Safeway or Whole Foods and village chickens, which are little scrappy things that look much more like, well, birds. We have been sampling the village chickens and I might dare say they taste more flavorful and provide a more texturally satisfying meat, compared to the many chickens I have eaten in the U.S. Perhaps, and I invite speculation in the comments, this is due to the fact that village chickens spend their lives wandering around, actually getting exercise. Although just thinking of what they must eat while wandering around Indonesia is somewhat terrifying. Well, we’ll report back to you if we experience any village chicken-related liver toxicity or the like.

After another splendid Sundanese meal, and a few bottles of water, we strolled back to find a group of music students practicing some sort of jazzy exotica on traditional Indonesian instruments. We paused to watch them noting this interesting costume.


We toured the rear of the compound as well, where the instruments are produced, and wandered through the gardens and the store. Prices were very reasonable, and I found myself tempted to buy a very nice sounding drum. But the illustrious Mr. Fu had explained to us that these were all made in Jogjakarta and we could likely get them cheaper there, so I held off.

Making Anklungs

In the meantime, we cornered a student for a tour of the Anklung, the instrument that seemed to form the backbone of this place. He played us a little ditty. Bear in mind this fellow is a student, so please go easy on him.

Coming back into town from the Anklung workshop, we found what we thought at first was a mirage.  It was Dunkin Doughnuts in the middle of Bandung, just waiting to serve us a cup of coffee.  At the same prices as Boston, it was one of the more expensive encounters of the day.

Cycles in Dunkin Doughnuts

Back on the road, we pedaled south, through entire neighborhoods devoted to different goods and services: motorcycle repair, signs, key copying, pets, and a fantastic one for fish.


All very interesting.

Badly in need of a refreshment, we pulled up to the hyper square, an interesting geometrical idea, and also a mall in Bandung. We over payed for bottle of halal water and took a breather.

Bandung Hyper Square

With rain once again threatening, we high tailed it back to the Patradissa. In no time, it was pouring, and we were huddled at the tables in the common space, humbly working on this very correspondence for you, dear reader.


  1. Irma Jauregui | January 16th, 2010 | 9:02 pm

    I love reading your emails and am very envious of your travels. Keep the emails coming!

    (your former co-worker at Mars)

  2. Mark/Dad | January 16th, 2010 | 10:02 pm

    It is a relief to see how slow most of the traffic is! (I hope that is typical.) Also pleased to see Hari make the blog. You should know that Roger Vetter mentioned he is a blog reader, so I’m sure he’ll be pleased to see & hear Hari.

  3. Ian Simon | January 16th, 2010 | 11:35 pm

    You guys need some amped

  4. A.L. | January 17th, 2010 | 7:15 am

    Was that possibly “Oh Danny Boy” that he was playing?

  5. Woody | January 17th, 2010 | 9:46 am

    @ Irma Jauregui
    Great to see you online! Thanks again.

    Well, we can’t count on that always being the case. But in many many of the places that we will travel, I think we will find gnarled and slow moving traffic is the norm, if for no other reason than the sorry state of the roads.

    @Ian Simon
    Dear Sir, we are sponsored by redbull. Thank you for your readership, and interest in our community.

    That’s possible. I think it was an amalgam of tunes, and mistakes. But we gotta give Hari his cred, that’s a tough instrument to play.

  6. Kathryn | January 17th, 2010 | 10:12 am

    I’m a big fan — keep it up guys! Mark’s been put on notice that he might need to bring a really big (read: me-sized) suitcase when he comes to wheel through Lebanon

  7. Woody | January 17th, 2010 | 6:45 pm

    @ Kathryn
    Great. We’d love to have you along. Bring a folding bicycle if you’ve got one 😉

  8. AsiaWheeling » Blog Archive » Spokes like Spaghetti | February 5th, 2012 | 1:06 pm

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