Kota Kembang - City of Flowers

Bandung is heaven. Of all the cities I've lived in, Bandung stands pretty high on the list.
It could be because I was in a generally good period in my life (give me those pre-teen years any day!), but I don't think so.

Bandung is a city in Indonesia, on the island of Java. It's the provincial capital of West Java and Indonesia's third-largest city.

History of the city

The first references to Bandung seem to have appeared around 1488 AD. At that time it was part of the Hindu Pajajaran Kingdom. From archeological finds it is clear that the area has been inhabited for a long time and has even been home to Homo erectus1, the Java Man.
This prehistoric man lived on the banks of the river Cikapundung and on the shores of the now dry Great Lake of Bandung. This lake dried up some thousands of years ago to become the present Bandung valley. Flint artifacts can still be found in the Upper Dago area and the Geological Museum has displays with various artifacts and fragments of skeletal remains.

There is a city called Bandung, comprising 25 to 30 houses - Juliaen de Silva, 1614.


Jalan Raya Pos - De Groote Postweg - The Great Post Road

In 1809 the ruler of the Netherlands, Louis Napoleon, ordered Governor General H.W. Daendels to invest in the defense of Java against the English. Daendels did this by creating a chain of military defense units linked by a supply road between Batavia (now Jakarta) and Cirebon. The coastal area to the east of Batavia was mainly marsh and swamp, so it was decided to build the road to the south, across the Priangan highlands. This put the road just 11 miles to the north of the then small collection of houses known as Bandung. Some sources say Daendels ordered the city to be relocated to the road, others say he built a garrison town that quickly attracted some 90,000 Sundanese, Chinese and Europeans, in the process enveloping the original town.

Bupati Wiranatakusumah II chose a site south of the road on the western bank of the Cikapundung, near a pair of  holy wells, Sumur Bandung, supposedly protected by the ancient goddess Nyi Kentring Manik. On this site he built his dalem (palace) and the alun2 (city square). Following traditional orientations, Mesjid Agung (The Grand Mosque) was placed on the western side, and the public market on the east. His residence and Pendopo (meeting place) was on the south facing the mystical mountain of Tangkuban Perahu. Thus was The Flower City born.


The 19th century

With the introduction of certain plantation crops from South America, chincona (quinine), Assam tea and coffee among others, the area around Bandung, known as the Priangan highlands, became a prosperous plantation area. By the end of the nineteenth century it was even registered as the most prosperous plantation area of the province.
In 1880 the railroad connecting Batavia and Bandung was completed, shortening the trip from the capital to Bandung to 2½ hours. This railroad had some impact on life in Bandung, initiating a growth period wherein hotels, cafes and shops were built to accommodate the planters that came down from their highland plantations or up from the capital to spend some leisure time in the healing climate of Bandung.

The Concordia Society was formed and with its large ballroom was the social magnet for weekend activities in the city. The Preanger Hotel and the Savoy Homann were the hotels of choice. The Braga became the promenade, lined with exclusive Europeans shops.


The previous century

The railroad also brought light industry to Bandung. Raw plantation crops were not being sent directly to the capital for shipment, but were now first processed in Bandung. The Chinese came to Bandung to work in the new industries, and Chinatown dates from this period.
In the first years of the 20th century Pax Neerlandica was proclaimed, and the Dutch military government was replaced by a civilian one. With this came the policy of decentralization to lighten the administrative burden of the central government. And so Bandung became a municipality in 1906.
The changes resulting from this were major and are a bit too much to include in this writeup. Another period of expansion resulted and a number of memorable buildings were built in the following years, among others City Hall at the north end of Braga. This development was continued when the military headquarters was moved from Batavia to Bandung around 1920. The technical high school was also built in this period, prompted by an increase in the need for skilled professionals.

These years shortly before the second World War were the Golden Years for colonial Bandung and are alluded to today as the Bandung Tempo Doeloe2.

During the war Bandung was left in relative peace, but after the war, when the Indonesian people were fighting for independence, Bandung was severely burned during what has become known as the Bandung Lautan Api, or the Bandung Ocean of Fire. The following years were colored by political unrest in the first period of Independence.
By 1961 the population of Bandung had risen to one million, from 230,000 in 1940. The economic prosperity brought on by the oil boom of the 1970's pushed the increase onwards and at the end of the century the population stood at more than two million.



Sources:
http://www.asiatravelling.net/indonesia/bandung/bandung_history.htm - general history of Bandung
A number of other sites about Bandung, found quite easily by doing a google
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Atrium/1381/hominids2.html - in relation to archeological finds of early hominids


1 One of the sites on Bandung mentions Australopithecus as the Java Man. After some searching on archeology sites I decided this has to be Home erectus. I'm not an archeologist, so corrections and suggestions are welcome.
Gritchka seems to agree with me, but offered the explanation that the term Australopithecus could possibly have been given to the remains when they were first discovered.
2 Proper modern spelling would be 'Tempo Dulu', but as this is more of a name than a term, I opted for the old (Dutch) spelling.

April 7, 2001

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