Everyone I know told me that Bandung is packed with factory outlets offering branded goods at cheap, cheap, CHEAP prices. It was incentive enough for me to wake up at 7am on a Saturday (when I'm usually snoozing till 10am) and hop into our car for a two-hour drive to Bandung. The drive was quite okay as we took the highway.
Before I came here, I always thought we Malaysian drivers are the worst in the world. But these Indonesian drivers are something else. The 4-lane highway eventually narrowed to a 2-lane highway and guess who's hogging the fast lane? Big, slow tour buses! Since the slow lane was dominated by even slower trucks and lorries, guess where the cars went? The emergency lane! My god. Our driver, S, didn't do that though, he stayed on the legal lanes and finally managed to overtake them when we had a chance.
Bandung is in the highlands and once you reach the hills, you'll see terraces of rice on either side of the highway with cute little villages nestled at the foothills. I've never seen rice terraces before. Rice in Malaysia is grown in the flat northern plains of Kedah where paddy fields stretch all the way to the horizon. Terraces are so much prettier to look at. There were village folk out in some of the terraces tending to their crop and everything just looked so postcard perfect. The hills were also home to small tea farms and we saw workers out picking tea leaves and tossing them into the woven baskets they carried on their backs.
Bandung was cool but not cool enough to need a jacket. A short-sleeved tee and jeans will do fine. This is my first time there, so I didn't get my bearings at all, I have absolutely no idea where S was taking us. It seems cleaner and more orderly than Jakarta partly because there's a lot less people there. S wasn't too sure about how to get to shops so we asked some local fellows for instructions and they were very helpful. If you're lost, just ask a local... a Malaysian should be able to understand the language.
On our way to the shops, we passed by Bandung's largest university, Institut Teknologi Bandung. We also passed by a few white ponies with braided manes and poopie bags hanging out of their derriere. They had colourful saddles and looked like pretty unicorns without the horns. They were obviously meant for kiddie rides. Boy, the eight-year-old in me really wanted to ride one!
We pulled into the first shop we saw. It was called Level and was a large, two-storey shop. I think we spent over an hour inside there, which is long when you consider I was shopping with two males who don't like shopping! I didn't spot a lot of things for me. The styles weren't what I wear and the only things that suited me were the polo shirts and t-shirts. I picked up two Tommy Hilfiger polos for Rp50,000 (exch rate is approximately Rp10,000 = RM3).
Shopping was better for the men of my family as they ran riot in the men's department, picking up tees, shirts and jeans. This pattern was repeated across all the other shops we visited except the last one called Raffles City where I picked up a bag and a pair of raffia-canvas shoes. Dear Hubby came away with at least 7 tees, all costing about Rp30,000 each and a Hugo Boss shirt of excellent quality for Rp150,000.
Dear Hubby and I picked up matching monkey motif shirts. LOL We thought it would be funny as he is my Top Monkey after all and I am mum-to-be to a Little Monkey.
One shop where we spent all of 5 minutes in was Rumah Mode. Now I was really eager to spend more time here. The crowds were here indicating that something good was inside. They had shops selling snacks and mocha lattes right outside the shop so that if you're tired and thirsty, all you need to do is step outside for a bite and then step right back in to continue shopping. Inside were women of all ages grabbing clothes from bins and racks. My eyes widened with excitement. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect on the guys. One look and they went, "Okayyy... too crowded. Bye!" I gave in, partly because I knew I could always come back by myself or with my friends from KL when they visited.
We had lunch at an Indonesian restaurant chain (can't recall name now!) and invited S to come along. He normally eats a roadside stall without us. I've got to find the pics of the menu I took because it included items such as Roasted Goldfish and Crispy fried cow-skin. ??? I badly wanted to order the Roasted Goldfish just to see what it was like. I don't think I could eat it though as I used to have goldfish as pets.
On the table were two plates of snacks. One was a breaded flour-covered square of potatoes and bits of meat. Just like a karipap... only with a different outer. The other had my Brits asking me, "What's that?" They pointed at the four dark brown ovals skewered on a satay stick. I was surprised they'd never seen it before and told them, "Quail's eggs." The look of surprise on their faces was enough to send me into peals of laughter especially when they confessed they'd never eaten anything except chicken eggs.
By 2:30pm, we were all shopped out and ready to go home. I fell asleep in the car for most of the journey back as I was tired out. My verdict on Bandung is that it seems to be better shopping for the guys. Lots of cheap and cute tees on sale. If you're coming to Bandung hoping to snag cheap Zara, MNG stuff, you're better off waiting for the factory outlet sales they usually hold in hotels in the city. I'm coming back though, I think I haven't yet found the right shops to do all the shopping I want to do. If there are any experienced Bandung shoppers reading this, I would really appreciate if you could let me know which stores offer the best stuff for women.
Still, I enjoyed the day out. It made a nice change from Jakarta. Bandung is easily accessible from Jakarta via cab, bus, train and even airplane. Once in Bandung, there is a street where all the factory outlets are, so you won't need a cab, all you need are strong legs, strong arms (to carry the shopping) and a credit card. However, Rumah Mode is not located along this street but cabs are readily available. Leave early if you're going on a Saturday as the traffic gets really bad past 9am.
All in all, we spent Rp2.2 million for a load of tees, three Paul Smith shirts, one Hugo Boss shirt, a Hugo Boss wallet, a Zegna keyfob, a bag and shoes... so that was pretty good value for money.
When we left, the kids of Bandung were getting ready to fly their kites. I read in the papers it's kite-flying season now in Java. All along the highway, we could see lost kites trapped in trees and hillside bushes. It was nice to see the gaily coloured kites waving goodbye to us from the skies. We'll be back again, I'm sure. I'm not done with the shopping yet!