Indonesian cities are crowded and noisy, so we are craving for some sun, sea and beaches. Pangandaran seems to be the perfect hide-out, but on the way to the coast we pay a short visit to Bandung, Cipanas and Garut.
Bandung is this year’s host to the Asian African Conference and that opportunity was taken to give the city a major makeover. The old art deco buildings have been restored to their full glory and the city is exceptionally clean. Many Indonesians decide to use the last days of their Lebaran holiday to travel to Bandung and join us in shooting some photographs and enjoy the nice restaurants and bars in the city centre. We stumbled upon a restaurant that serves some typical Dutch meals, but decide to go with nasi and mie. We figured that the food just cannot taste as good as it would taste back home!
Meanwhile, a non-stop ‘Hellooo Misterrr’, ‘Hellooo Miss’ and countless selfie requests are fired at us. Often very funny but sometimes we politely decline a request or two, because around the Alun-Alun – the central square of most cities – we sometimes just get stuck taking selfies. We figured that most Indonesians do not know the difference between mister and miss and simply use the two words as they please. Because most Indonesians do not speak a word of English, we got to learn a lot more Baha Indonesian as of Thai and Malaysian. On most menus the prices are missing so we always check before we order. Amounts such as ’empat lima puluh ribuh’, 45,000 Ruphia are now no longer a problem to pronounce and understand. To make it even more interesting: As in Nepal we were confronted with the so-called Indian head-wobble (a combination of a yes and no nod and the shaking of your neck muscles) that actually just means ‘yes’, touts, taxi drivers and rickshaw drivers a swaying ‘go away’ gesture and actually mean look over here, come to me.
After two nights in Bandung we take the bus to Garut and get out a few kilometres before entering the city. We walk to Cipanas in about an hour, a small village in the rice fields at the foot of a few inactive volcanoes. A number of hot water springs ensure the reputation of Cipanas and a number of hotels have beautiful baths that seem to fall in favour with Indonesian tourists. We relax in Cipanas for a day and walk to Garut the next day. To get some directions about the trip to Pangandaran, we stop by at the bus station to figure out how to get to Pangandaran. With lots and lots of gestures, drawings, translations and pointing at maps and timetables we finally understood that we have to change to Tasik Malaya. Once in Garut, finding a place to sleep turns out to be quite a challenge. After a lot of asking around and searching we find a hotel, but that turns out to be full. We get directions for another place, but we are not able to locate it. Two hours later we still have not found a place and decide to grab a bite. The owner of the food stall appears to have worked on a cruise ship for fourteen years and speaks decent English. We seize the opportunity and after a nice meal we head of, armed with a drawn map looking for a homestay and found it! The price is almost three times as high as usual rates, there is no water from the shower and when we ask for a discount for the broken shower the owner suddenly no longer the owner and his English deteriorates rapidly. At least we found a bed for the night.
The ride to Pangandaran is smooth. Except for a flat tire. And a bus that breaks down completely. And a Swiss man who agrees to pay about ten times as much for the bus ticket, leaving us still paying too much after a good deal of negotiating. But in the course of the afternoon we arrive at the beach. We settle at a great guesthouse with a huge luxury breakfast included and pleasant rooms. Although there are some beautiful places to see in and around Pangandaran, we really want only one thing: surfing! We arrange a surf lesson and few moments later we are on the beach with our longboards. So first practicing in the sand. Half an hour later we paddle like a madman to catch our first wave, which takes us down roughly. But as promised by the surf master we stand on the board within the hour. Only for a couple of seconds of course, but it is an amazing feeling. The next day we rent two boards again and practice for a couple of hours with muscle pains in our arms and shoulders.
The few days at the seaside have at least given us new energy to explore Java, so on to the impressive temples around Yogyakarta!