The bewitching Chinatown of Bandung - Tourism Indonesia


Monday, October 2, 2017

The bewitching Chinatown of Bandung

The bewitching Chinatown of Bandung: An Oriental Touch in the City of Flowers

Bandung has a new attraction. When you happen to visit Bandung, do not miss its latest attraction called: Bandung Chinatown. Although part of the city has always had an area which is popular as a busy trading and shopping center whose inhabitants are mostly of Chinese descent, but now part of Bandung's Chinatown has been renovated and revitalized giving it a new magnetic appeal.

So, if Semarang has its Pasar Semawis, and Jakarta has its Glodok area, the lovely city of Bandung now also has its own oriental touch provided by communities of Chinese descent living along the streets of Jalan Kelenteng and the adjacent Jalan Cibadak.
This is where annual rituals such as 'Imlek' (the Chinese New Year) and the 'Cap Go Meh' (the 15th Day of the New Year) are centered and celebrated with vibrant festivities. Adding to the already unique oriental ambience in the area, this August 2017, a new attraction has been added, which is simply called: "The Chinatown". It is a shopping and culinary attractiion that in addition gives you an authentic feel of an old Chinese settlement which also provides a brief overview of how the Chinese first came to settle in this cool hilltown.
Bandung Chinatown is located not too far from the Satya Budhi Temple, the oldest and largest Chinese Temple in Bandung built in 1896, located at Jalan Kelenteng Street No.41.
As a matter of fact, the street is named after the temple itselfm, which in the local language and in Bahasa Indonesia, the word Kelenteng literally means Chinese Temple.

Entering Chinatown, you will immediately feel as if drawn into the set of a classic Jacky Chan or Bruce Lee's Kung Fu film. Vibrant colors of red and yellow dominate the scene, while distinct Chinese ornaments such as lanterns of various shape and color, Chinese calligraphies, and the soothing melodies of the continuously playing traditional Chinese music altogether add to its special ambience. 

Set in a small village-like setting, all buildings resemble small traditional ancient Chinese houses constructed in great detail. These include unplastered brick walls, traditional rolling roof tiles and distinct Chinese roof decorations, antique wooden windows and door frames, and more.

However, what makes this area even more special is the assembly of vintage and authentic antique household items that are placed here as beautiful decoration that perfectly fit this nostalgic ambience of old Chinatown.
From various tea pots and thermoses, glass jars of many shapes and sizes, antique lamps, vintage bowls and plates, unique glasses and cups, antique mailboxes, to a variety of steel and wooden crates, old bulging television sets with big knobs, antique telephones, ironing boards, scales, and a whole lot more, these are among curios that will definitely give that classic Chinese Kung Fu movies vibes.

Honoring the way of life of the early generations of Chinese descendants in Bandung, a special room called Bandung Chinatown Museum has been set up right next to the entrance gate. Here you can find neat collections of even more various unique vintage items that were once actually used by the grandparents or even great-great grandparents of today's Chinese descendants. Aside from general items such as plates, bowls, or glasses, and kitchen ware, here you can also find antique sewing machines, old radios and handy talkies, a classic thermometer, old shampoo glass bottles, as well as photo collections of personalities who were at the time the most popular Chinese celebrities.

Here, among the pile of old Chinese books, you can also find a collection of what is popularly known as the 'Kho Ping Hoo's short novels. These are taken from wellknown Chinese Kung Fu stories and legends, written by author Asmaraman Sukowati or better known as the Kho Ping Hoo novels that were once very popular in Indonesia, For those who are familiar with his works, these short novels will definitely bring back sweet memories of olden days.

At this small museum there are also infographics placed on the wall that tell the brief history of Chinese descendants in Bandung. Another infographic highlights Chinese culinary delights that have evolved not just as Chinese Food but are today widely enjoyed by Indonesians in general. These daily foods include Bakcang, Bakmi (noodles), Bakpao, and Cahkwe.
Here, you can also learn about Imlek or Chinese New Year celebrations along with the tradition of giving 'Angpau' or monetary gifts in red packets, and a brief description of Barongsai or the Chinese Lion Dance.

Aside from its sheer ambience, Chinatown Bandung also offers to visitors delicious culinary experience. Here, you can take one – and plenty more - bites from the wide selection of yummy food and snacks. Available here are not only Chinese food but also of traditional Sundanese meals as well as other more 'modern' appetizing snacks. Muslim travelers donot need to worry since all food and drinks sold here are Halal, containing no pork. While you are here, do try and taste some of the delicious Chinese foods such as its dim sum, a variety of noodles, and more, as well as traditional Sundanese menu such as Nasi Timbel, Baso Tahu, and much more.

Chinatown also gives visitors the perfect shopping experience. Here, you can find shops that sell everything you may need from clothing, accessories, house decorations, to unique souvenirs. Do keep in mind that all transactions here are cash-less as payments are in debit or credit cards. However, you don't need to worry since there are booths that offer you e-money cards which you can also top-up later.
With the ambience of an authentic Chinese village and the nostalgic vibe of old Kung Fu movies, Chinatown Bandung definitely offers a pleasantly unique atmosphere. Be sure to bring your camera along with you for you will definitely want to take a lot of pictures. Here you will definitely find plenty of 'instagrammable' spots, where you may even fool your friends into thinking that you are in fact somewhere in China.

To get there:
Situated not too far from the heart of the city, Chinatown Bandung is easily reachable. From the Central Train Station of Bandung, the area is actually still within a walking distance (a little under 1 km or about 8-12 minutes' walk). However, after stepping off the train do make sure to head south and exit via the southern station which was actually the original station that still retains its art deco architecture until now. From there walk past the public transport terminal until you reach jalan Kebon Jati. From there, head West (against oncoming traffic) until you find the street sign that says Jalan Kelenteng on your left. Turn left and you are in Chinatown Bandung.
From Alun-alun, or Bandung's City Square, Chinatown Bandung is about 2 Km. From there, just follow the road along jalan Asia-Afrika and the adjacent Jalan Sudirman until you see the streetsign saying Jalan Kelenteng on your right. Turn right and you will find Chinatown Bandung. If you take a rented car or motorcycle to get here, be advised that parking is going to be a bit tricky since there are no dedicated parking lots and you need to park your car or motorcycles on the side of the street.  

(Andi Muhaimin,
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