The drive to Bandung was all by toll roads and parts were very slow and congested while on other sections we could go incredibly fast. We got up to 120kph at one stage! We drove there in an Avanza, a very popular car in Indonesia at the moment. We could fit not only myself and the driver, Pak Him, but also Pak Hadi’s family of 5! His youngest daughter suffers terribly from car sickness, so she was sandwiched between her parents in the middle row of seats while the 2 older children shared the back seat.
We passed many broken down trucks, most with blown tyres, and also one truck that had earlier tipped over but had been righted by the time we passed it. Once we left Jakarta and the outer suburban areas we came upon scenery just like you see in Bali; terraced hills, rice fields and beautiful greenery. It was so beautiful that Pak Hadi’s wife couldn’t resist taking photos! We also passed a tea plantation too and it’s layout was not what I expected a tea plantation to look like! The tea bushes were pruned low and round and were growing haphazardly under tall trees! Whether this was just for us passerby’s to enjoy or not, I don’t know!
We ate a delicious late lunch at a restaurant which served all Indonesian food while listening to a band thankfully situated around the corner, singing a mixture of old & modern easy listening English songs like Hotel California & ‘Someone like You” by Adele. Here are some photos of a few of the dishes that were available to choose from:
After late midday prayers, we headed back out to the car. Here is Pak Hadi & his daughter, Bunga, outside the restaurant
Our original plan was to visit a geological museum before heading to Saung Angklung however it was 3pm by the time we finished lunch so we headed straight to the Angklung Theatre. As we were paying for our tickets, we could hear the performance just starting so we had timed it perfectly!
Before I go any further, I should probably explain what ‘angklung’ means! Here is a definition and a picture of some angklung from the Embassy Of Indonesia;
Angklung is pronounced ‘ung’ (as in hung) – kloung (‘ou’ as in could, would, should).
We found seats to the side of the stage just as the m.c. was introducing the first act, which was a wayang golek performance accompanied by a gamelan (orchestra). Wayang golek is a puppet performance and unlike wayang kulit which is performed behind a screen, this is with 3D puppets
and reminded me more of a Punch & Judy show! The dalang sits behind a low screen and the puppets are all lined up on either side of the screen just like is done with wayang kulit, however there the similarity ends.
The dalang holds the puppets above his head so that the audience can see the puppets but not the dalang! While the puppets were all characters from the Ramayana, the puppeteer mainly used the very minor characters and wove into their dialogue current events which the mainly Indonesian audience thoroughly enjoyed. There was a lot of punching and shouting from the puppets and every time one of the puppets made contact with another, the dalang, (puppeteer) would crash a cymbal he held in his toes onto a box positioned next to him. After a while, the structure the dalang was sitting behind, was removed so we could watch the dalang in action.
He was so skilled the way he could actually hold the puppet while manipulating the puppet arms simultaneously. One of the puppets was wearing a sash and the dalang had the puppet flick the sash repeatedly with it’s hand!
After this performance, the dalang and puppets were removed from the stage, yet the gamelan remained up on the stage. The gamelan was largely familiar except for the sitar which gave it a very Indian tone.
The next performance was a dance performed by primary aged children. It included ‘kuda lumping’ (horse shapes which are traditionally made from woven bamboo and are held by dancers and ridden just like a horse), a junior angklung orchestra, some dancers and a young boy carried out in a sedan chair. The dance itself went for quite a long time and included an angklung performance, some dances and some singing. At the end of it all, the m.c. explained that years ago, after a ‘sunat’ ceremony (circumcision ceremony), the boy was carried around the village in a sedan chair and people entertained him along the way both to commemorate his achievement and also to help keep his mind off any pain he may still be feeling!
We were then treated to an interesting traditional Javanese mask dance. 3 girls danced and mid way through their dance, they donned tiny masks which seemed to be suctioned onto their faces!
After that the youngsters reappeared and played and sang a few songs, then handed out an angklung to everyone in the audience!
This part fascinated me because I have several times taught angklung to classes and getting 30 odd students to focus without interfering with their enthusiasm is very challenging. I was keen to see how one person could do it with over 100 people! She gave us all a quick lesson on how to play our angklung and then pointed out that we each had a number on the bottom. To play an angklung, you hold the angklung in the middle at the top with your left hand and then grasp the bottom right hand corner with your right hand and shake firmly with short tight motions. However, it was the next part of the ‘lesson’ which I found the most impressive. Instead of calling out the numbers that corresponded with our angklungs, she gave each of the different number3ed angklungs a hand signal. Some were a flat stop sign, another was pointing at the ground,, one was a fist etc. For number 6’s, we had a flat upright palm with fingers bent 90 degrees. Altogether there were 8 different hand signals to represent an entire octave plus A sharp! The m.c. then proceeded to lead the entire audience using only these hand signals and together we had an absolute ball playing mainly English songs, including Love me Tender by Elvis Presley! She did it all from memory! Boy would I like to be able to do that!
We handed back the angklung reluctantly as it was so much fun and then the senior angklung ensemble treated us to an unusual performance. Instead of holding the angklung upright, they played them upside down. Each musician had an entire octave strung upside down in front of them. On the top (bottom) of each angklung was a flat bamboo knob which looked a little like a piano key. When this was played firmly, the angklung ‘klunged’! One member of the ensemble was significantly younger than the rest and he did an awesome solo towards the end! Very impressive!
The show finished soon afterwards and we made our way back to the car. Ibu Sri hoped that we could head home, stopping somewhere in Bandung on the way to get some traditional oleh oleh which is a must when visiting anywhere in Indonesia! However, once we got out onto the main road, we hit a gigantic traffic jam on the bridge just before the entrance to the toll road. The first thing that struck us was the number of motor bike riders parked on the opposite side of the road. As we drove along, the number grew & grew. We couldn’t work out why they were there until suddenly an absolutely huge mass of people on motor bikes drove onto the bridge. They looked like they were part of a demonstration but they were actually carrying blue and white banners & wearing blue & white jackets bearing the name and logo of the Bandung Soccer Club. They were supporters heading towards a match against Jakarta! The group of motor bike riders, we estimated eventually, to be in the millions; there were just so many! They then started swarming on our side of the road too. It was quite scary because we were in a car with Jakarta plates so whenever a supporter passed by, they glared at us or shouted at us. One even spat at us and another whacked the car so hard it shook! By this time, we were totally caught in traffic and felt very vulnerable. Windows were up and doors locked and we tried not to make any eye contact with them. The frightening thing about it all was that we saw very few police and the few we did see, were more like kelpies shepherding sheep than police men keeping the peace. It took us 2 hours to get through that and it was a long 2 hours! We abandoned the plans to stop & get oleh oleh in Bandung, and instead headed straight onto the toll road and found a rest stop on the way home instead to buy oleh oleh. It turns out that one of the things you must buy in Bandung is ‘tape’ (pronounced tup-aye) which is fermented sweet potato. It is a very unusual flavour and surprisingly sweet.
Bandung is 120km from Jakarta. It took us about 3 hours to drive there and 6 hours to drive home! Luckily the driver had slept while we were enjoying the performance because we all slept the remainder of the way home after our brief stop to buy oleh oleh. At one point he tried to put the radio on but thankfully Ibu Sri told him to turn it off as Bunga and the other children were sleeping!