One of my primary objectives of the trip was to revisit Bandung, the city my family had once called home. Upon arriving however, my curiosity directed me towards a neighboring town where things had been decidedly less pleasant.
I headed towards Tjimahi.
It’s primarily a garrison town once used by the Dutch and now by the Indonesian army. During WWII the area was taken over by the Japanese and used as a POW camp. It was here that my Opa, and many other men were imprisoned.
The old POW camp remains and is still in use as a prison today. The structure was built-in 1886 and is looking pretty good for its age.
If you were an occupant you may see things differently though.
The guards out front were friendly. I can’t imagine they get a lot of camera wielding tourists coming by for a snap shot so a break in the routine was a novelty I’m sure.
Unfortunately I was told pretty smartly that photos of the entrance are not allowed so the one you see was taken as we drove away. For me, seeing the building and being able to fix a location to a situation Opa had found himself in was good enough.
I did the same thing a number of years ago when I visited Strujswijk Prison (now Salemba) which is also still in use in Jakarta.
The town has a lot of Dutch buildings and driving around you get to see many. Churches, hospitals, houses, and office buildings, all of which add a little more insight to this era.
I didn’t spend a long time here in Tjimahi but long enough to be able to reflect and imagine. I realized a long time ago that being able to really use your imagination when focusing on history provides a foundation for an emotional experience, whether you’re talking Roman Forum or personal heritage.
On return to Bandung I went to Bimaweg.
Back in 2004 I visited the home of my mother’s family here. It was a great experience.
I decided to return on this trip and see how much had changed, if at all. I was a little hesitant because my experience first time round had been so good. The new owners had invited me in for a look around and then extended an invitation for dinner that night, which I accepted. The evening could not have been more perfect.
They gave me a tour of the house, told me what they could of its history, looked with interest at the old black and white photos of the house I had with me, and then they fed me a gorgeous meal.
This time it was more of a reconnaissance mission. Bimaweg (now Jalan Bima) was unchanged. A little busier and a couple of newer buildings but it remains much like I remembered.
My mother and her family grew up in this house and lived here for many years. They attended nearby primary schools, held birthday parties on the roadside, and had bread delivered by horse-drawn carts. I mention the latter because while I was there the modern version of the horse and cart drove by.
Returning to this street where my family have a significant history definitely puts the imagination into overdrive. Both Jakarta and Bandung, even though changing, have retained a lot of the Dutch residential areas. The streets are still there and most importantly, so is the spirit.
For photos of Indonesia click here.