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Bandung: AsiaWheeing Suffers From Re-Entry Burn

The Bandung train station was filled with bright sunlight, and we attracted quite a crowd as we unfolded our Speed TRs outside the main entrance. Children gathered in droves, causing the local police to shoo them away and maintain order, or so that they themselves could get a closer look.  During the next few days in Bandung, many, many local men were to approach us and compliment our bikes in a language we could not understand. In fact we were to engage in quite a number of lengthy conversations in which we would speak English, and the other party would speak Indonesian, or even a Sundanese dialect. While very few of the actual sentences could be translated, these conversations somehow moved forward. A very strange occurrence, this communication by willpower, but very powerful and the connection undeniable.

Riding the Speed TRs with our packs proved to be feasible, but we certainly had room for improvement. As we pedaled across the hot pavement of Bandung, we found ourselves to be less maneuverable, and at one point, on a brief uphill, my front wheel actually lifted from ground under the back-heavy weight distribution of the pack.

Riding with the packs also proved to make us a bit of a magnet for solicitation from the locals. As we rode, many people came up to us on motor-bikes and in cars and asked us questions in Indonesian, or broken English. “where are you from?” “good bicycle!” and “hello mister, where are you going?” formed the lion’s share of the English queries. All comments were posed with smiles and in a very unthreatening manner, though some of them certainly were bait for scams.

Wheeling Hard

We rode on in search of a hotel, applying the old and relatively reliable Indian method of asking many people for directions and averaging the results. As the sun beat down onto our Panama hats, we began working our way through a list of possible spots, assembled for us by the illustrious Mr. Jackson Fu.

A Halal Hotel

Soon, a deep and gnawing hunger began to lay in and we became sweaty, thirsty, and exhausted. Traffic in Bandung was very thick, and locating hotels was becoming quite tiring.  The first place we had in mind seemed to no longer exist. So, though it was not the cleanest, cheapest, or most well lit place in the city, we decided to settle at the Hotel Patradissa, not far from the train station.

Hotel Patradissa

As Scott put it, the place was “totally halal.” With a giant back-lit, foil-embossed photo of the largest mosque in the world (in Mecca) playing a central role in the lobby, and a special prayer room, located, coincidentally right next to room 11 (ours). The entire establishment appeared to have been decorated thirty years ago by someone of my grandmother’s age, and never dusted.  The beds were soft and springy and the bathroom marginally terrifying.  The room had an odd funk of ripe jungle, but the common outdoor spaces were clean and filled with sunlight. The staff was uncompromisingly friendly and hospitable. Of course there was no beer for sale in the locked teakwood armoire that may have once stored prized crystal.

With our packs safely locked in the room, we took to the streets. Since our map of the city was not yet well developed, we headed back to the section where we had wheeled previously. We rode and rode, through thick smog and the racket of hundreds of poorly muffled engines, searching in vain for an eatery that looked as though it might not wreak havoc on our digestive systems. These seemed few and far between. We wheeled and wheeled, and the hunger began to clutch our reality, distorting our behaviors and clouding our judgment. The city streets were a choking mess of dusty motor-bike jams and inconveniently-placed truck deliveries.  Our blood sugar was bottoming out and both of us became singularly focused on acquiring calories without the accompaniment of deadly bacteria.  We continued to sweat.

Bandung Traffic Jam

Safety at Last

Eventually, we decided that a giant garment trading mall might contain a food court that might contain a sanitary restaurant, so we negotiated a parking spot for our cycles with a nearby lot attendant, chained the steeds to a load-bearing pole, and entered the fray.  We prayed that in this country where underwater torch-wielding scuba divers remove re-bar from bridge pylons to sell the iron, our beautiful pump-enabled seat-posts would not be stolen.

Textile Mall

The mall was quite large, with seven or eight packed floors. Each floor contained hundreds of small stalls selling lengths of fabric, batik, and finished products like shirts and jeans. Like all malls, we thought, this one must have a food court atop it.  We took escalator after escalator, climbing skyward in search of sustenance. Finally we found the snaking hall of restaurants. This court contained a great number of stalls, many of them selling traditional Sundanese food, which looked delicious, but at least in our altered state, seemed too dangerous.  Cooked village chickens hung splayed from the rafters and purveyors called out to us to sample their dishes of dubious hygiene.  Quite a few of the vendors were burning charcoal, so the room was filled with a stifling and acrid smoke. Gripped now by hunger and wandering forlornly through crowds of shawled women, we finally arrived back where we had started. None of the places looked sanitary. And the smoke was beginning to cause our eyes to water.

Bandung Healing Noodles

We decided that the safest bet was noodles, due to the heavy use of very hot water in their production and we finally settled for one of the many stalls that looked marginally more sanitary, but still a gamble. The noodles were luscious; glorious; and refueling.  A pleasant surprise. As the sustenance entered our systems, we felt our entire reality morphing, becoming more manageable. We began to grin like fools, and even to laugh aloud.

We spent another hour or so strolling in the mall, investigating the textiles and manufactured oddities therein.

Textiles

We returned to the exterior world to find it had rained quite hard during our time in the inside.

Rain Outside

Outside the Mosque

The cycles were safe and sound, and we re-entered the traffic very much new men. We made our way back through the fuming traffic toward the city center, where there was a very large mosque, and a large grassy brutalist square. We paused there to relax and take in the scene. However, it was no more than five minutes later that we were joined by a small army of children, poking at our bikes, and calling out to us “hey mister” and “where are you going mister?”

Alun-Alun Square Bandung

One of the children had a large guitar, certainly longer than he was tall. Had he simply played an entire song for us I certainly would have given him a princely sum or 30 or 40 cents, but instead, he was unable to play more than a few chords, before his urges to touch us or our cycles overcame him, or he dissolved into bouts of uncontrollable giggling at the bizarre nature of the situation he found himself in. We were also joined by a number of high school- to college-age men and women, requesting photos with us and the cycles, one of whom presented us with her business card. Scott looked at the card, astonished. “You sell equity futures?” The pretty young school girl blushed, nodding her head.

The extremes of experience, indeed.

We bid our goodbyes to the small entourage of doughnut salesmen, wandering musicians, and curious children that had collected around us and hit the streets. An hour or so of wheeling later, the skies began to threaten rain again, so we made our way back to the hotel Patradissa.

Finally a Feast

Though our room was dank and musty, the common space of the hotel proved a glorious and luxurious space wherein to collect ourselves, and consult the WikiReader, in order to better acquaint ourselves with the town. While we were sitting, a Dutch couple arrived and looked at the Patradissa, then left in search of somewhere better. As the rain continued to fall, in sporadic bursts, we saw them reappear and finally purchase a room for the night at the our hotel. They had been traveling for some time, but had just arrived in Indonesia. We enjoyed chatting with them, and briefly entertained the idea of journeying up the volcano together the next day. We eventually came to our senses upon council from the illustrious Mr. Fu and decided wheeling was a better investment of our time.  After all, we were here to wheel.

As they retreated to rest inside, we climbed back on the cycles to explore the glistening streets of Bandung in search of more food.

As though transported there by divine providence, we found ourselves parking the bikes at a quaint and auspicious looking Sundanese place by the name of Dapur Ku.

Sundanese Food

Sundanese food is served in a kind of buffet hybrid style, which involves approaching a large bar that displays to the eater the full array of menu items, laid out in baskets lined with Banana leaves.

More Sundanese Food

The eater then selects a number of these items, and they are brought back to life by a brief visit to the grill, the firer, or the steam bath, and presented at your table. We selected a number of glorious items: a grilled fish on a stick, chicken in a bamboo tube, fried tempe, a hot bean mush, and a variety of fresh cucumbers and cabbages. And proceeded to enjoy them all thoroughly. Sundanese food is spicy enough to wake up the taste receptors, while remaining manageable enough to experience a diversity of flavors without excessive cleansing of the pallet.

So, once again full and happy, we locked our cycles to a lamppost retired to a local cafe to compose this communiqué for you, dear reader.

Locking Our Dahon Speed TRs


Comments

  1. Mark/Dad | January 15th, 2010 | 10:43 pm

    I love the colors in your photos–particularly the one in the mall of the smiling young woman behind the rainbow rack of what appear to be sweaters.

  2. Henkes | January 16th, 2010 | 10:40 pm

    yes guys, great pictures… keep ‘em coming and safe travels!

  3. Woody | January 17th, 2010 | 9:33 am

    Thanks, Ya’ll. Scott is an animal with that camera.

  4. Hud | January 19th, 2010 | 7:07 am

    i like this post a lot. completely lost and wheelin’.

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