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Perfect Weekend: Top choices of ST's foreign correspondents

Perfect Weekend: Chill and thrills in Indonesia's Bandung

From riding a bike against the sky to glamping, here are eight not-to-be-missed activities in the Indonesian city

Dubbed the Paris of Java for its rich heritage, Bandung has long appealed to tropical city dwellers with its cooler climate, stunning volcanos and hot springs.

But travellers now head to the provincial capital of West Java not only to chill, but also to seek some thrills.

•This is the first of a 10-part series. Next week, regional correspondent Tan Hui Yee enjoys Thai pop, designer caffeine and nature in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.


Saturday

1. SKY BIKE FOR "LIKES"


I wish I could look as cool as the millennials before me, but my knees wobble. ST PHOTO: ARLINA ARSHAD

I have a height phobia and am hopeless at cycling. But here I am cycling on a thin wire, suspended 5m over a valley of green pines.

The millennials before me have been kicking their arms and legs in the air like starfishes or they stand with only one foot on the pedals.

Their stunts against the backdrop of lush pine forest and blue sky make them look like heroes - at least in their photos. In this Instagram age of adventurous selfies, they will surely win the Internet "likes".

I wish I could look as cool, but my knees wobble.

  • GETTING THERE

  • Fly directly from Singapore to either Bandung or Jakarta, then hire a car (www.hadirentcar.com) to take you around Bandung.

    Unless you thrive on pain and do not mind the unpredictable public transport system, a car with a driver is essential.

    WHERE TO STAY

    There are plenty of accommodation options.

    At Adarapura Resort and Spa (www.adarapura.com), room rates start at 1,080,000 rupiah (S$113) a night for a Queen room with a balcony.

    At Dusun Bambu Family Leisure Park (www.dusunbambu.com), you can go glamping, or glamour camping, from about $200 a night for a two-man tent.

    TRAVEL TIPS

    • Do not assume every driver knows how to get around Bandung. Ask the car rental company to assign a driver who knows the area well.

    • Be prepared to spend a lot of time on the road as the tourist spots are not close to one another. Winding and bumpy mountain roads can also make you dizzy and tired. Take along medication. •Take along a light jacket. The temperature can dip to 20 deg C.

    • Be kind and polite. Indonesians are friendly and helpful. Do give small tips for good service.

"Change your pose," the photographer hollers. "Yes," I whimper, but remain wooden. The photographer grunts and says, "Next."

Zip biking, or sky cycling, is one of a number of picture-worthy, ticketed activities offered at Lodge Maribaya. You can also climb a "sky tree" or sit on a "mountain swing" and wait to be pushed off a cliff. Do not worry, everyone is strapped up.

Where: The Lodge Maribaya, Jalan Maribaya Babakan Gentong, Cibodas, Lembang

Admission: 15,000 rupiah or S$1.60 a person (weekdays), 25,000 rupiah (weekends); separate tickets needed for each activity

Info: thelodgemaribaya.com


2. FLOAT YOUR BOAT


Unlike traditional markets, the Lembang market is built as a tourist attraction. ST PHOTO: ARLINA ARSHAD

From bandrek (a ginger and palm sugar drink) to batagor (fried fish dumplings served with peanut sauce), the floating market in Lembang offers Sundanese dishes at just $1 to $1.50.

More than 30 hawkers cook their food on individual boats and serve them piping hot to customers waiting at low tables and chairs on the lakeside.

Unlike traditional markets, the Lembang market is built as a tourist attraction, so it also features touristy water attractions such as canoes, paddle boats and "water trains", which are a string of "cabins" slithering like a toy snake on water.

Ah, that perhaps explains the absence of trash in the water and on the floor. Surely it is good news to the pampered Singaporean stomach. We can eat cheap and clean street food and not worry about getting a tummy upset.

Where: Floating Market Lembang, Jalan Grand Hotel No. 33E, Lembang

Admission: 20,000 rupiah a person


3. JUST AN OPTICAL ILLUSION


The 1.5ha Amazing Art World museum boasts a dozen photo zones featuring anything from menacing dinosaurs to a giant octopus to Santa Claus on a sleigh pulled by cute reindeer. ST PHOTO: ARLINA ARSHAD

Bandung's Amazing Art World museum is a must-see.

Opened in January, this 1.5ha trick-eye museum claims to be the biggest in the world.

More images are still being painted in the gallery, which already boasts a dozen photo zones featuring anything from menacing dinosaurs to a giant octopus to Santa Claus on a sleigh pulled by cute reindeer.

After three enjoyable hours, I am convinced I belong here among the 3D artworks.

I sing, dance and live out my stand-up comedy dreams, casting all inhibitions to the wind.

Where: Amazing Art World, Jalan Setiabudi No. 293, Isola, Sukasari, Bandung

Admission: 91,000 rupiah a person (weekdays), 119,000 rupiah (weekends)


Sunday

4. GO GLAMPING


Reluctant to rough it out? Glamour camping with "butler" service might be right down your alley.  ST PHOTO: ARLINA ARSHAD

Roughing it out in the woods is not for everyone. Glamping, or glamour camping, might be less dreadful.

A "doorman" greets us, shields us from the rain with his umbrella and carries our luggage to the tent.

A "butler" delivers a portable heater, towels and our dinner of fried rice and oxtail soup which we had ordered via a "room" telephone.

There are electrical ports, a radio and free Wi-Fi, but only a single dim lamp.

Outside, there is a toilet and bathroom with modern facilities, a barbecue pit, a wooden table and benches.

We call for room massage and soon learn that it can be hit or miss. My friend loves his masseuse, but mine seems more interested in sporadically pounding me like sambal belacan with her imaginary pestle.

I tremble - from the fury and cold - under my thin towel.

But that is forgotten when the big and bright Full Worm Moon - said to be the last full moon during the winter season - peeks out and washes the midnight sky and towering pine trees in magical light.

The stars sparkle, the crickets sing and the moths invade the toilet.

And the tent leaks. It is camping after all - get over it.

Where: Dusun Bambu Family Leisure Park, Jalan Kolonel Masturi KM. 11, Kertawangi, Cisarua, Lembang

Admission: From about $200 a night for a two-man tent

Info: www.dusunbambu.com


5. A WALK IN THE PARK


Bamboo gazebos surrounding a lake in the sprawling Dusun Bambu Leisure Park. ST PHOTO: ARLINA ARSHAD

Be prepared to spend many hours on the road getting to attractions in Bandung. The traffic jams, winding and bumpy mountain roads as well as hot days and cold nights can wear down the most seasoned traveller.

After a night of glamping, we spend half a day walking around the sprawling Dusun Bambu Leisure Park, taking in the views of well- landscaped gardens and bamboo gazebos surrounding a lake.

It is a perfect getaway for families and large groups. Everyone can enjoy outdoor ticketed activities from riding an all-terrain-vehicle quad bike to shooting an air rifle to riding a horse. The large playground, which is open to the public for free, will keep young children happy.

Where: Dusun Bambu Family Leisure Park, Lembang

Info: www.dusunbambu.com


6. FISH AND SHIP


The Pinisi Resto restaurant is shaped like a phinisi, a traditional wooden two-masted sailing ship. ST PHOTO: ARLINA ARSHAD

It is less than a year old, but Pinisi Resto is fast becoming a popular spot for lunch breaks.

Sitting atop a hill overlooking the calm Patenggang Lake and maze-like tea plantations, the restaurant is shaped like a phinisi, a traditional wooden two-masted sailing ship built by the Bugis- Makassar people of South Sulawesi.

We must cross a suspension bridge to reach the restaurant. There, we pick from rice dishes, sandwiches and snacks. The food is nothing to shout about, but the panoramic view and cool weather are to die for.

Other popular activities around the restaurant include walking in the tea plantations, picking strawberries, boating and fishing.

Where: Pinisi Resto, Jalan Raya Ciwidey, Situ Patenggang, Glamping Lakeside Rancabali, Ciwidey


The scenic and serene Patenggang Lake. ST PHOTO: ARLINA ARSHAD


7. FIRE MOUNTAIN


At one of Tangkuban Perahu's three craters, you can dip your feet in the sulphur pool and boil an egg. ST PHOTO: ARLINA ARSHAD

A trip to Bandung is not complete without visiting Tangkuban Perahu, an active volcano which last erupted in 2013. It is shaped like an upside-down boat, hence its name Tangkuban, which means "upturned boat" in Sundanese.

Tourists can take a minibus or trudge an hour through jungle from the main gate to the crater to see the boiling mud. But we are overstuffed with Bandung's famous snacks such as pisang bollen and Amanda steamed brownie, so we get chauffeured all the way.

The volcano comprises three craters - Kawah Ratu, Kawah Upas and Kawah Domas. At Domas, you can dip your feet in the sulphur pool and boil an egg.

Where: Tangkuban Perahu, Sukajaya, Lembang

Admission: 200,000 rupiah a person (weekdays), 300,000 rupiah (weekends)



Kawah Putih crater lake. ST PHOTO: ARLINA ARSHAD

8. IN HOT WATER

Another oldie but goodie is the Kawah Putih crater lake, which changes colour from blue to milky-green to brown, depending on its sulphur content.

Bandung is well-known for its numerous hot springs, but not all are worth the time and effort.

If you are a germophobe, stick to dips at the private hot springs at hotel resorts.

We overestimate our gungho and go to the Cimanggu public hot spring on a high, but leave the place dry - very dry, in fact. The sight of children squatting with their pants down is enough to spur us to bid our swim dream goodbye.

Where: Kawah Putih, Lebakmuncang, Ciwidey

Admission: 50,000 rupiah a person

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 16, 2017, with the headline 'Chill and thrills in Bandung '. Print Edition | Subscribe