Bandung is a sprawling city in the west of Java, just three hours south of Jakarta. We arrived by a very scenic train from Yogyakarta in the afternoon and headed to Buton Backpackers Hostel – a small, cosy hostel with comfy capsule beds.
We didn’t fancy staying in Bandung, so we booked a car and driver through our hostel for the following day to take us out of the city to see some sights.
The car we had would not have been legal in the UK – there was a TV screen in the front between the driver and passenger playing music videos throughout the entire journey (we got to know Taylor Swift’s new (awful) song a little too well!).
Driving out of Bandung took a couple of hours, through the endless dilapidated suburbs and textile factories.
Our first stop was Ciwidey – a town on the outskirts renowned for strawberry production. Our driver knew a family that grew strawberries, so we stopped there and got to pick our own for 15,000 IDR per polystyrene box. The strawberries were delicious but, in hindsight, we should have washed them before eating them because some of us had rather bad stomachs the following couple of days!
After another hour or so drive, we arrived at Kawah Putih – a beautiful, turquoise crater lake. The lake had some local tourists, but we were the only foreigners. We could only spend a maximum of fifteen minutes by the water, because of all the toxic gases released from the lake.
Next stop was the never-ending tea plantations, stretching as far as the eye could see. The tea plantations in Indonesia are all government owned, meaning the land is only used for tea production and can’t be used for development. I think this is great because it ensures the charming countryside stays intact.
After frolicking amongst the tea, we headed to Rancabali lake – a huge lake with a huge restaurant shaped like a boat on the shore. The lake was beautiful, but it felt more like a destination for coach trips judging by the screeching karaoke coming from the restaurant. Nevertheless, it was nice to see.
On the way back to Bandung, our driver took us to a small restaurant that served local food. We had some delicious vegetarian dishes (mine was so spicy I cried!) and a very addictive local drink made from coconut milk and brown sugar. The restaurant owner filmed us whilst we ordered and we were also asked to pose for a photo with a group of men – I guess they weren’t used to tourists eating there.
On the outskirts of Bandung, the heavens opened and there was a huge storm and heavy rain. Kids were helping to push mopeds through huge puddles to try and earn some money. Back at the hostel it was bone dry, and we headed out for some dinner after booking flights from Bandung to Padang (in Sumatra) the following morning.