Wednesday, November 30, 2005



Although the oldest reference to the city dates back to 1488, where it was the capital of the Kingdom of Pajajaran, there have been some archaeological findings of Homo erectus (Java Man) living in the banks of the Cikapundung river and around the old lake of Bandung[7] [8]. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Dutch East Indies company (VOC), made a small plantation area in the fertile and prosperous Bandung area. A supply road connecting Batavia (now Jakarta), Bogor, Cianjur, Bandung, Sumedang and Cirebon was built in 1786.

Gedung Sate

In 1809, Louis Napoleon, the ruler of the Netherlands and its colonies, ordered the Dutch Indies Governor H.W. Daendels to increase the defense system of Java island against the British from the Malaysian peninsula. Daendels built a road, stretching about 1000 km from the west coast to the east coast of Java. Since the northern part of West Java at that time was only swamp and marsh, the road was diverted through Bandung[9][10]. The Great Postweg (now Jalan Asia-Afrika) was laid down in 1810.

When Daendels was walking along the edge of the Cikapundung river, he was amazed by the site where he stood and he then put a stick at the edge of the Cikapundung river. He said: "Zorg, dat als ik terug kom hier een stad is gebouwd!" (Make sure that, when I return, there's a city here!)[11]. Now, it is the center of Bandung, the kilometer zero of the city.

In 1880, the first major railroad between Batavia and Bandung was laid down[12]. It gave a high boost of light industry in Bandung. Chinese who had never before lived in that area flocked in to help run the facilities, services and vendor machines. An old Chinatown district in Bandung can still be recognized in the vicinity of the railroad station. In 1906, Bandung was given the status of gemeente (municipality) and then later as stadsgemeente (city municipality) in 1926.

Having location in a lowland, surrounded by a ring of mountains, Bandung is strategically advantageous for military defense. In 1930s, the Dutch East Indies government had planned to move the capital from Batavia to Bandung. R.A. Wiranatakusumah II, the chief administration of the Bandung regency at that time, moved its office from Krapyak, in the south, to a place near a pair of holy city wells (sumur Bandung), now it is alun-alun (city square). He built his dalem (palace), masjid agung (the grand mosque) and pendopo (public-official meeting place) in the classical orientation[13].

The pendopo faces Tangkuban Perahu mountain, who was believed to have a mystical ambience. In the meantime, the Dutch East Indies government built military barracks, the central government building (Gouvernments Bedrijven, nicknamed Gedung Sate) and other buildings. However, this plan has never been realized as the failure of the Dutch to reclaim Indonesia after the World War II.

The fertile area of the Parahyangan mountains surrounding Bandung has made productive tea plantations. In the nineteenth century, cinchona (kina) plants was introduced by Franz Junghuhn[14]. Cinchona is a plant that can be used for the treatment of malaria and the old pharmacy factory of cinchona still exists in the city.

Bandung had developed itself into an exclusive European resort style with hotels, cafes and shops[7]. Rich plantation owners came during the weekends and so did girls and businessmen from the capital, Batavia. The promenade Braga Street grew into an elite area of cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. Two art-deco style hotels, Savoy Homann and Preanger, became two major accommodations there. The Concordia Society (now known as Merdeka Building) was built as a club house of these rich people, complete with a large ballroom and a theater[12]. The title of "Parijs van Java" was given to the city.
Gedung Merdeka during the Asian-African Conference in 1955
Gedung Merdeka during the Asian-African Conference in 1955

Bandung was decided as the provincial capital of West Java, after the independence. During the Dutch police action, there was an ultimatum for the Indonesian combatants in Bandung to leave. As for the answer, on March 24, 1946, the southern part of Bandung was deliberately burned down as they were leaving. This event is known as Bandung Lautan Api or Bandung as the sea of flame[15]. A heroic song "Halo-halo Bandung" was sang along by these hundreds of patriots.

In 1955, the first Asian-African Conference was held in Bandung. Twenty-nine countries attended the conference that established the Nonaligned Movement block.

Today, Bandung has growth more than its city core with the Bandung Raya plan. Traffic in Bandung is infamous with its complex, congested and chaotic nature[16]. The city core is practically uprooted, old faces are torn down, lot sizes regrouped, and what was idyllic residence is now bustling chain supermarkets and rich banks[7]. However Bandung is always be a weekend break destination for people living in Jakarta. A new Cipularang highway was recently completed, reducing travel time from Jakarta. The major attraction to come to Bandung is the food and fashion shopping. The food in Bandung is well known for their wide varieties and taste. Bandung is also a place to do fashion shopping with its numerous factory outlets and stock centres[17].