I arrived Bandung, West Java, a couple of weeks ago on a high from my enjoyable journey through Singapore and Malaysia. Well, the high actually wore off before I arrived in Bandung. Boarding the plane to Bandung, I was the only white person in line. I was unexpectedly unnerved! I was fidgeting and trying to quell it by slouching and acting cool. On the plane, when the announcements came on in English immediately after the Indonesian version, I imagined everyone was thinking “this is for the white guy”. Of course they weren’t (were they?), but I was becoming unsettled. Arrival at the airport in Bandung provided another unexpected challenge. I had to rely on my limited Bahasa Indonesia skills to negotiate my way through customs and immigration — there was no falling back onto English words when I didn’t know the Indonesian version — no safety net.
Things got worse when I entered the cab. The driver had zero English, it was 11pm and he didn’t know where my hotel was despite saying he did. He took me to Unik Hotel whereas I wanted to go to Unique Hostel. Simple mistake. So we were stuffed. We drove around aimlessly for about 20 minutes before I had a great idea. I’d been looking at Google Maps on my laptop before departing Malaysia and I still had the browser window open. So I fired up my laptop, amazingly zoomed into the address of the hotel and I was able to direct the driver there. It was stressful because the whole saga played out in Indonesian and I’d only just hit the ground.
I settled into the hotel and woke the next morning to a pretty ordinary breakfast. Bread, a sausage with some creamy, moussy stuff in the centre and some coffee. Of course I ate it. That day I walked the 7km up the hill to my language school and got a good sense of where it was in relation to the rest of the city. I also researched a few hotels along the way in case things didn’t work out at Unique Hostel.
The next day I tried to get a motorbike licence from the police station, but the intelligence guys who deal with foreigners told me it wasn’t possible. Likewise, it was impossible to get a post-paid sim card for my phone. I would have to stick with the entirely adequate pre-paid system. That same day I stumbled around some upmarket cafes and got a feel for where I would espcape to if the nasi goreng on the streets got too much.
By this stage, I was settling in and quite happy to take the next 10 days to travel around Java with the confidence that my return to Bandung would be easy. Or would it? Halo Halo Bandung!