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dimanche 23 décembre 2012


On a good day, without the perennial traffic jams Indonesia is famous for, you can reach Bandung from Bogor in about 3 hours, I was advised. I was entrusted to the care of WoWo, on instructions from my good friend PJ. WoWo turned out to be more like a guardian: Driver, Guide, and purveyor of Food. After a brief stop at a roadside Starbucks, we reached Bandung in less than 2 ½ hours.

I had planned to look the remaining Dutch colonial architecture and I was not disappointed. There were many of them, most of them in good shape, some of them turned into government building, such as the Satay Building.
Bandung like Bogor are words from my childhood, I scratched my head for memories and I realized that I had heard it from my father, who knew the history of this region, mention it in relation to some of the giants of the political scene of that time, Nehru of India and Nasser of Egypt, to whom he bore a resemblance.
I remembered clearly now, once while visiting him in Kuala Belait, he mentioning about the 1954 conference of African and Asian states which was to become the Non Aligned Movement, organized by Soekarno.
Over the years the august body deteriorated in its ideals, its current head is nothing like a non-aligned state to look up to: Islamic Republic of Iran!
But this visit was so very satisfying. The first stop was of course at the African Asian Centre which might have looked grand in 1954 but the museum and the hotel nearby which still stands which may have accommodated the leaders stand as withered metaphors for the grandiose ideas of these western educated leaders who exploited local ignorant nationalistic fires and turned their countries into poor, corrupt and back ward nations.
Soekarno and the Chinese hating Suharto are not remembered and now Indonesia ranks just below China in its rapid growth and economic potential, but with a huge population of 243 million people stretching out from the Sharia-crazy Bandar Aceh (you can expect it to become the least developed part of Indonesia soon, as they are more interested in hijabs and prayers than human development) to the other extreme ending in Papua, covering multitudes of islands, volcanoes and languages and cultures!
It is a magnificent country, the most diverse in all of SE Asia. How lucky am I to have known SEAsian gems like Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia!
Braga Street gives you a glimpse of the past. Old cafes have been turned into art galleries but there are enough to remind you of the grandeur of the café and intellectual culture of Bandoeng of yesteryears.
A Kopi Tiam, Koffehuis Oey takes you back to the era of the Kapitans, the Chinese gentlemen of wealth, industry and influence; very much like the Baba culture of Malacca, who built homes faithful to their ancestors, maintained their original culture but mixed extensively with the new. There were many coffee bars still with the flavour of the Dutch clinging on to them.
While walking along the street, we were approached by a group of young girls attending a local Muslim school and I have chronicled that experience in an earlier blog
Encounters with the Enchanted

Certainly that was the highlight of the visit. Visited the Campus of ITB where Soekarno was once a student. Felt the very refreshing atmosphere of this university where the university students walked with pride and confidence and also a sense of unity.
While looking through an Indonesian Book Store, I was introduced to the Term Hijabbers. Like in Iran, Hijab, even though not compulsory outside Aceh, has now become a fashion item and I saw multitudes of books on how to look sexy, romantic, confidant etc. in a hijab!  Good on you, Indonesia! There were books on Wedding Hijab and also fashion models sporting hijabs of various types. So Hijab has become a fashion item rather than a proclamation of faith or even more importantly an item to separate one group of people from the next.
The meal at Kopi Tiam Oey was sumptuous and it was time to leave, within 2 hours 15 minutes we were back in Bogor!