Graduation Trip

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As is the ‘norm’ for most college graduates, my clique decided to go on a graduation trip to commemorate the end of our formal education, and in a sense, to say goodbye to each other.

We somehow managed to get 9 people on board, and a short trip to Bandung, Indonesia was in order.

The planning was pretty haphazard, mainly because the final year was pretty busy for everyone. I tried my best to search up tourist destinations and plan the itinerary, but the main contributor was one of our party, whose mom had a local friend that pointed us in the right directions, not to mention help with some of the logistics.

Day 1

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A noon flight brought us to the small airport at Bandung, and it was a pretty different world from Singapore. It’s definitely nowhere near as bad as other places, but the traffic was horrid at peak periods and people just had to cross the road with courage and trust that cars and motorcycles wouldn’t run you over. Mobile food stalls pepper the streets, giving a sort of rustic, Asian charm that you won’t find in the more sterile environs of Singapore.

Our itinerary for the first day, since it was a flight day, was to just do some shopping and wandering around the city. We were pointed towards Cihampelas Walk (and Teras Cihampelas), which was a pretty big shopping mall/area. It felt a little divested from the rest of the city though, which was my prevalent feeling in all the factory outlets we would later visit. The cleanliness, the numerous Western brands…it was very disparate from the street hawkers just across the road.

Anyway, we went to Bakmi GM, basically a fast food restaurant of local food. We even managed to snag a student price despite being foreigners, which was a little funny. Then, an intrepid trio of us went to look for a place to buy SIM cards for those who wanted them (selected because we were wearing slippers and it was starting to rain). The heavens decided that we needed to be drenched, and we decided to brave the tropical downpour after giving up on waiting, sans SIM cards. And what do you know, after getting thoroughly drenched, the rain decided to ease off once we returned to Cihampelas Walk to rejoin our brethren. So, definitely keep a lookout for bad weather.

The hotel we booked was the Grand Tebu Hotel, which had pretty nice loft rooms that fit 4-5 people depending on which one you got. It is a pretty new hotel, which is probably why the staff wanted to take a selfie with us, and why we had complimentary drinks when we arrived, and complimentary cake and more drinks on the first night. The place is a little out of the way, but the road it sits on is within walking distance of several factory outlets and it’s pretty much the tallest building around, which gives a pretty nice view of the city. Fair warning; the pool is too shallow to swim in.

Day 2

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Day 2 started out okay, as we went to Tangkuban Perahu. It’s a set of 3 volcanic craters of an active volcano, and it’s definitely something you don’t see everyday. Unfortunately, the fog and the rain that started to come in meant that we didn’t spend a lot of time there; not to mention the numerous hidden fees, such as a 2nd parking fee for the Domas crater carpark that ultimately convinced us to skip it. I was looking forward to eggs cooked in volcanic sulphur, but that was at another crater we didn’t get to.

Also, we were accosted by some kids who wanted to take pictures with us. I guess we do stick out like sore thumbs, being what must be the only foreigners around. I even thought they wanted to ‘help’ us take photos and force us to pay, but it was a far more innocent, albeit strange request in the end.

20170509_114155The weather lightened up as we made our way to lunch at Gubug Makan Mang Engking. It started to pour again as we were eating, but that didn’t matter because the restaurant was gorgeous. We sat in little huts above the water, feet on a platform that sat just above the surface of the ponds with numerous koi. So we decided to just sit around and chat until the weather gave us a bit of a reprieve.

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We reached De’Ranch just as the downpour returned, but it passed soon after we finished our complimentary milk. The place is mostly a family leisure park, and some of us went for the horse rides. I was mildly interested, but the horses looked tired and malnourished, and it just felt a little like animal abuse, so I abstained.

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The rain came back again as we hit the Floating Market, and that meant we weren’t going to hire boats to go around and buy food to snack on. That didn’t mean we didn’t go around the place to buy food to eat though. It felt mostly like a tourist trap though, having to exchange money for chips to pay with. The food wasn’t too bad, with the highlights being the goreng pisang. The rabbit meat skewers just tasted like chicken, and the snails were annoying to pull out of their shells. It wasn’t a total bust, but the weather definitely put a damper on the day.

We finally ended the day at Rumah Mode, one of the many factory outlets in Bandung. The prices were only slightly cheaper than you would consider reasonable, and a good number of the items looked like QC rejects as opposed to old stocks. Nothing really stood out, so nothing was bought.

Dinner was at a place our driver recommended, a nasi padang place that was definitely more budget and in line with what locals eat. It wasn’t the best meal in the world, but we did try some animal organs that weren’t too bad. The food was pretty salty though, as is a lot of food here.

The long day (we had to wake up early to beat traffic) took its toll, and one of us suggested dropping some locations in order to keep us from just stumbling from location to location in a daze, without being able to enjoy ourselves. Taking that into consideration, we decided to drop the Stone Garden/Gua Pawon and The Lodge Maribaya from the next day’s itinerary, shift day 4’s activities up, and made day 4 a more relaxed day instead.

Day 3

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After another early breakfast at the hotel (which has pretty good omelettes), we made the back-breaking 3 hour ride to Kawah Putih. It was made worse by the fact that the 9 seater we took on days 1 and 2 had broken down, and we had to squeeze 9 people and our driver into a 7-seater car. One of us volunteered to sit in the boot, which made me feel pretty guilty, but we survived the ride.

Our driver suggested dropping by Patenggang Lake first, which we did. It’s a crater lake up in the mountains, and we took the option of rowing our own boat out into the lake. It was a good bit of exercise after most of our mountainous destinations having been reached by car, and the lake was quite gorgeous too.

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We thought of having lunch at the restaurant above the lake, but the weather looked ominous, so we decided to head to Kawah Putih and get our sightseeing in before the rain ruined our day again. Due to our driver being unsure if the car had enough fuel to take us up to the top, and his need for lunch at places cheaper than we ate at, we decided to go up in one of the many small vans that can be hired instead.

The place was packed, which sort of took away from the majesty and surreal nature of the beautiful sulfur lake that greeted our eyes. But it was definitely a view worth the trip, and we lingered until a small drizzle started again.

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We had to go back the same way towards the lake for our late lunch destination, Pinisi Resto. It was actually separate from the boat area, requiring another fee for entrance (and we were told we needed to pay if we didn’t row our boat back to the dock and just stopped at the restaurant). But the view was nice and the food was good (if expensive by Indonesian standards), and the downpour was brief.

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We ended the day at Ranca Upas, which is a camping site and deer ranch. The deer looked thankfully better fed than the horses at De’Ranch, and it was nice just to relax and watch them eat, chew cud, and one particular deer trying to get it on with an uninterested doe. We then dropped by Suis Butcher for dinner, a steakhouse just a short walk from our hotel. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.

Day 4

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We woke up at a much more reasonable time, had breakfast and went to Trans Studio Bandung. It was an indoor theme park, and it was mostly quite fun. The roller coaster was possibly the most intense ride, because it didn’t bother with a slow build up and just accelerated rapidly. The big swing was also pretty fun, but I skipped Vertigo because it looked highly emetogenic.

The Marvel 4D experience was pretty bad, with the seats just vibrating madly at every moment it didn’t need to. The haunted house was pretty lame for me too. The water ride was pretty fun, but beware, the splash is quite heavy, especially for those sitting in front. The magic show was also a little shoddy, and isn’t worth the watch in my opinion. Finally, the Trans Car racing thing had cars that were slow and could barely climb the inclines along the track, and is probably not worth the ride.

We then had A&W for lunch in the mall. We initially wanted to grab ice cream floats on Day 2 night after we spotted a sign, but our driver didn’t know where to go, so we had to skip it. But we weren’t to be denied this time.

Finally, we took a trip to a Kartika Sari, a pastry store that one of us had been tasked by a friend to buy brownies from. We had our 9 seater back, but it was hot and the traffic was horrendous. We eventually made it, but we gave up on going to Paris van Java because the driver informed us it would take 2 hours for what is normally a 15min drive.

So we went back to the hotel, took a selfie with the driver, and walked to several factory outlets along the road from our hotel instead. Again, nothing much stood out in terms of value, and once we had enough, we went to Kuku Mama to have what we can probably call our supper. We ordered some finger foods, played some card games, and eventually retired for the night.

Day 5

There was only one thing to do on day 5, and that was to fly back home. This time, we had a morning flight, which meant a really early morning. But the queues were still awfully long at the airport, and the mosquitoes fed happily on me. The stick for the action cam I brought wasn’t allowed on cabin luggage despite having no issues on the flight to Bandung, so I had to go through the trouble of checking in my crap.

Then, after crashing on the plane, I was back in Singapore before I knew it. And then, just like that, we dispersed after taking a group photo. It didn’t feel like a permanent goodbye, but it certainly felt like the end of something. I hope it isn’t.

So overall, it was a short but sweet trip. There were, inevitably, some ups and downs both trip-wise and friendship-wise, but I think we made it through pretty well, especially for such a big group. It was a pity that rain wrecked a big part of our trip, and traffic was definitely something I wish I had done more research on. Having helped plan the itinerary at the beginning, I can’t help but feel a little responsible for activities falling flat. But in the end, I don’t think we missed too much, and the important thing was never about hitting the sights, but sharing the experience with friends.

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