My friend said Bandung was like Jakarta. Just another big city. But the West Java capital still maintain a small-town ambiance with classical touches. Is it possible to be bored in Bandung, with its abundance of charm, a wide selection of destinations and rich culinary offerings? So, let’s enjoy Bandung.
I have a vintage soul. Anything to do with history gets my attention. Bandung is rich in historical sites and stunning architecture. And since Ridwan Kamil became mayor of Bandung, the city’s heritage sites have been receiving renewed attention.
Museum Asia Afrika & Gedung Merdeka
Long before the Asia Africa Conference was held 60 years ago, Gedung Merdeka, located on Jalan Asia Afrika, had already had an interesting history. In 1895, it hosted meetings of Societeit Concordia, a group composed of Europeans, especially the Dutch, who lived in Bandung and its surroundings. In 1921,the building served as a conference hall and was famously known as the city’s most luxurious “super club.” The Dutch architect C. P. Wolff Schoemaker helped revitalize the building, giving it an Art Deco flourish.
During the Japanese occupation, the main building was renamed Dai Toa Kaikan and was used as a cultural centre. After Indonesia’s independence, the building was used as the headquarters for Indonesian youth who were fighting the Japanese army and later became a government office.
For me, Gedung Merdeka is more than a heritage building. This is a place where our nation declared its independence. Entering the main hall gives me chills as this is where history was made. The main hall looks much as it did 60 years ago. You can sit in red leather chair while imaging the leaders of a newly independent Indonesia gathered in the hall. For more details about the Asia Africa Conference, just next to Gedung Merdeka is Museum Konfrensi Asia Afrika (Asian African Conference Museum). The museum contains displays about the conference, with pictures and notes that describe the history and figures behind the conference.
There is an interesting story behind this artistic street. A few decades ago, Braga was just a small street home to a scattering of deserted settlements. It was called the kidnaping street because it was so empty. Braga became famous after Dutch entrepreneurs set up shop there. The street starting to become famous between the 1920s and 1930s with the advent of boutiques modelled on Paris. Development Societeit Concordia (now Gedung Merdeka), Hotel Savoy Homann and a cinema behind Societeit Concordia helped boost the fame of Jalan Braga.
Jalan Braga soon became an icon of Bandung. Some of the old buildings still standing along the street attest to the splendour of the past. For travellers interested in history, Braga is the area to find historic buildings. There are also street artists and a range of restaurants and shops. Jalan Braga never sleeps and is hopping 24 hours a day.