The Bandung Slot: The Iron Giant

When Disney’s Fantasia chose to depict the volcano’s awesome power to destroy and create as a phoenix, as an accompaniment to Stravinsky’s Firebird, they couldn’t have picked a better mystical creature to represent one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular forces.

Stand at any point within the city of Bandung and the dark, imposing Tangkuban Perahu is a mere sight away since it’s merely just 30 kilometres north of the city. The city and the fiery mountain’s destinies are as intertwined as the Romeo is to Juliet’s. After all, it is through Tangkuban Perahu’s fan-like lava flow that gave birth to the plains of Bandung. It is through the mountain’s nutrient-rich geology that has turned the region into one of the world’s most fertile places on the planet. However, the “upturned boat” can take it all away, as it has in 1983 and most recently, 2005 – a pertinent reminder to all of our place in the world. Unbeknownst to us, we were doing the impossible. With a flight to catch at 4.40pm, we were pushing ourselves to the limit of efficient time management. Since this is an active seismic region, the roads up these mountains have been, what’s the term, inadequate, while traffic in, out and within the city is catastrophic, it made the journeys twice to five times longer than what it’d usually take. Our plan was simple – head out to Tangkuban Perahu, down for a quick lunch and zip down to the airport as fast as legally possible, and hope traffic’s on our side. Great plan, isn’t it?

Unlike Kawah Putih yesterday, the roads almost immediately embark on a steep ascent barely outside the city limits, so that was a good sign. The vegetation and houses also transition faster – graduating from willows and bamboos to coniferous ones, and from traditional stilt-type Sundanese architecture into a more sturdy, European style mountain cabins. Along the road, the street side food stalls’ menu go from the quintessential chicken to rabbits exclusively. Yes, rabbits. We had initially thought they were being sold as pets, but we quickly had a real awakening as the signs pointed to “Kelinci Goreng”. Nuff’ said.

The scene at the summit of the volcano was absolutely immense. To meet a maker and destroyer at such close range is like staring death right in its face. The “Queen Crater”, unlike that of Kawah Putih, is active – with a nagging loud guzzling of gasses creeping out from the bottom. Trekking somewhat around the crater, one just feels humbled by the ever present force, and it’s a feeling that you’ve to personally experience to know what it feels like.

After that, we rushed down to get a soak at Ciater Hot Springs. It’s quite a quaint themed park set amongst the lushness of the surrounding tea plantations, but Ciater is the region’s most famous hot spring so it was a real zoo down there. Kevin and I quickly took out our socks and shoes to give our calves and thighs a good soak while Titus scoured the periphery for shorts so he could swim in the shallow warm pool (to no luck). It was a fitting end to our short stay here in Bandung.

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