Thousands of people crammed into small streets, colorful pennants flying in the wind, and music blaring from speakers.
It very much looked like any festival in the Philippines, with the huge crowd and costumed participants roaming the streets.
The difference, however, was that I was in Bandung, Indonesia, and the participants wearing their native costumes didn’t just come from the different provinces in the country, but also from 20 other countries worldwide, including the Philippines, China, South Korea, France, Nigeria, Jordan, South Africa, and India, among many others.
It was the Asian African Carnival, and it was the most spectacular event in Bandung.
Our group of bloggers and social media personalities arrived too late for the parade, but there were still a lot to see along the Asia Afrika Boulevard, one of the oldest roads in Bandung.
There was a band of military personnel playing on one stage, and the crowd loved them, singing along with them, and when there was space, dancing to the tune. They were just one of many participants to this Costume and Music Festival where local and international participants competed not only with elaborate costumes but with their own music as well.
We headed to the main stage where the crowd was thicker. Our vantage point from one of Bandung’s double-decker tourist buses provided a wonderful view of the parade grounds.
There were easily a hundred thousand people in the area (or more!), a big nod to the Tourism Office which aimed to make this activity, the culmination of the 60th Commemoration of the Asian African Conference, the biggest event in Bandung for the year.
“This parade and carnival will be a benchmark for other large and mega events in Bandung,” Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil said.
Just 180 km South of Jakarta, Bandung is aiming to be one of the top destinations for urban tourism in Indonesia. They may be halfway there already.
With its cool weather, great shopping choices, inexpensive but delicious food, and the many entertainment options in and outside the city, Bandung is already a prime destination for weekend and holiday travelers from the capital.
The Asian African Festival was a city-wide effort; Mayor Ridwan Kamil has gotten over 15,000 volunteers to help out during the event, from ensuring the delegates’ safety and controlling traffic, to making sure the streets are clean of trash when the event was done.
International visitors like us were assigned volunteers, too, to help us get around and to serve as translators. Wita, who was assigned to me (our group, actually, but we soon got separated because of the crowd), was an instructor in architectural design. She, together with the others who were at the Media Center, made sure we got to the parade grounds quickly.
Herlan J.S., head of the Indonesia Tourism Office in Bandung, asked that the people of Bandung collectively support the government in maintaining and keeping the city beautification program. “Visitors would love to stay longer and spend more in Bandung when the city is comfortable,” he said.
I have only been in Bandung for a couple of days, but I can already say that it is more than comfortable, it’s completely delightful.
The weather was cool and not humid (what a change from Manila!), and accommodations are aplenty. We were given the chance to stay in two properties: The Trans Luxury Hotel and Ibis Bandung Trans Studio, both top of the line. The Trans Luxury Hotel, in particular, was one of the best hotels I’ve stayed in, and no wonder. It’s Bandung’s only 6-star hotel.
Bandung doesn’t lack of budget hotels, though. In fact, Bandung’s hospitality sector works hand in hand with the Tourism Office to make sure local and international travelers include Bandung in their itinerary, from offering competitive rates, extensive trip packages, and unique menus of local food.
Indeed, Bandung is ready for tourism!
Take a look at this video made by Sutiknyo of Lostpacker, a fellow guest of the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia. We had so much fun!
This is the first of a series of posts I will write about Bandung, Indonesia. My thanks to Wonderful Indonesia for giving me the opportunity to enjoy the attractions of Bandung and West Java. As always, opinions are my own.
Some photos courtesy of the Indonesia Tourism Office.