Paparazzi in Bandung

Mr and Miss TourismBandung is a city with plenty  of sights, sounds, smells, and charm. Cafes, street vendors, museums, parks, and shops are all within walking distance..and the walk is a pleasant one.

In terms of chaos it is the smaller sibling of Jakarta by far. The streets are busy but they are not constantly clogged. It is a mountain town and used to be known as the “Paris of the East”. Its boulevards and elegant buildings attest to this moniker and there is pride; a proudness for a once great city  now firmly rooted in the legacy of its former glory.

The afternoon monsoon rains came thundering down a little earlier than expected and instantly the sidewalks and gutters flow in torrents.  Umbrellas explode open above the heads of walkers while the umbrella-less scatter and seek shelter in shops.  For me, I took refuge under the eve of a building along with some street vendors and…beauty contestants. 

Yes, beauty contestants!

All dressed in long gowns and wearing sashes depicting their individual regions. 

The rains continued and as I waited it out hunger set in.  No great surprise really, since I was not only surrounded by competitive beauty couples but also by woks ready and willing to throw down some rice or noodles.

I had a word to the closest guy and after a bit of hesitancy on his part he got to work preparing a mid-rain meal.  A little bit of this, a little bit of that, some black sauce, some of the red sauce, throw a fork in it and hand me the bowl.  I began eating my concoction and since the rains had eased up the paparazzi came out in force.

I know this could sound like I am making it up but it happened. I swear!

As I stuck my fork in to begin eating I was gently moved to one side. I was blocking the light.  “What light”?  We were covered by a layer of dark and ominous thunder clouds.

Then another photographer, less forward than his colleague, simply gave me the stink eye and made it audible. Through the grunts and groans of his dissatisfaction it was clear my presence was an annoyance.  The models seemed not to even notice and went about smiling and posing oblivious to me, my nasi goreng concoction, or the wok totting vendors.

When the rains stopped I left my shelter and headed down Jalan Braga, the main street in the city center.  There had to have been another 20 contestants lining Braga and a swarm of photographers angling for the best shot.

We were far from the days golden hour that photographers love but the shards of sunshine shattering the rolling grey clouds made for impressive lighting opportunities.

I had to know what was really going on. Some distance away was a guy who seemed to be directing the pageant, so in a mix of English and broken Bahasa I made my inquiry.  Apparently the contest for “Miss (and Mr) Tourism” was underway.  Contestants from all provinces of West Java were represented.

I had been lucky enough to get soaked to the skin by a mountain deluge, eat a mystery bowl of noodles, share the stage briefly with Indonesia’s face of tourism, all while simultaneously and inadvertently stealing what little light we had.

I love monsoons.

For photos of Indonesia click here.

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41 thoughts on “Paparazzi in Bandung

    1. You’re right, it was one of those little things that happen when you’re traveling that add a whole other dimension to the trip…more memorable for it.

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  1. Did you ask the locals what they think/are taught about the colonial era? There’s a lot of revisionism happening now, even if they’re comfortable with labels like “Paris of the East”.

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  2. I wish every monsoon was this eventful! Great story. I love that you ate mystery noodles while all of the posing happened (and that you almost stole their thunder – pardon the pun!) I wonder what they look for in Mr/Mrs Tourism? Gotta love travel!

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  3. I’ll hold my hands up and admit I had never heard about Bandung but you describe it beautifully…you have a lovely style of capturing your unique experiences! As for the monsoon…well you seemed to make the best of it! 🙂

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  4. Paris of the East???? Wow. But in all seriousness, love your description of Bandung. I’m curious, how long did you spend here, because you’ve really managed to get under the skin of the place in this post!

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    1. My family lived here for many years well before I was born so have always heard about Bandung growing up. I have only been to the city myself, three times spending a total of maybe two or three weeks. It is easy to see that it once was a gorgeous little city, back in the day.

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  5. This is one of the great things about traveling – happening upon local events. So fun. And I’m glad you enjoyed your brush with monsoon. After almost 9 years in India, I still love a good downpour. The first one of the season would send everyone out into the streets to revel in it!

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  6. It is fun, when traveling, to be in a not-so-big city and happen on some unusual event. A nice rain doesn’t hurt either because it makes for interesting light and people doing something a bit different than they had intended.

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  7. Every time I read one of your posts, I’m convinced I should travel more. Your food descriptions make me hungry. I’ve been considering traveling to Indonesia for five years now because of a former acquaintance with family in Jakarta. He was more comfortable there than any place he had ever been, including his home.

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  8. Sounds like another interesting experience. I know you were probably thinking “What the heck?” when the paparazzi first started snapping photos. I know I would have been.

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  9. Your story-telling is always so captivating. I could feel the rain on my face and smell the aromas from the nearby woks. I like how you captured your moment and continue to reflect and share it with us!

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  10. You can’t make this stuff up. Beauty contestants and monsoon-battling paparazzi. Who knew? How do you always manage to be in the middle of the action? I love monsoons, too, and the sun “shattering” the clouds is one of the reasons why. Thanks for bringing me a smile today.

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  11. I’ve never experienced a Monsoon but the play of light you describe sounds superb! And I can almost smell the fragrance that the deluge of rain stirred up, earthy mixed in with the spices from the street vendors. Another breathless moment shared with you.

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    1. You are exactly right Susan. The passing of time and the lack of maintenance for many decades. It is only recently that restoration of some of the beautiful buildings and avenues has begun. I would love to write a book of my travels; just never knew if anyone would be interested in reading them. I am finding out they are. Nice feeling.

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  12. I love the connections you make here, especially the second to last paragraph and the final line is bound to bring a smile to any reader’s face 🙂 It’s amazing how light can not only set the mood for photography, but in writing as well which you’ve used to full advantage here.

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  13. Good description of a city that I frankly know nothing about, Tim. You described Bandung as a “once great city.” Is it no longer? Did something happen to cause some decline?

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    1. There is crime everywhere but with common sense and some directions you can usually avoid the bad parts of town. There is not usually much to see in those parts anyway. I remember when I was in Rio the same was said but I just put anything flashy or expensive away and never had a problem. That said though, you have to feel comfortable no matter where you go.

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  14. Tim, you really do grab every opportunity to enjoy, don’t you? Fortunately for us. Do you realize how many people would have just complained about the rain and not noticed anything going on around them? I’m so glad you’re observant.
    Lenie

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  15. Bandung sounds like an awesome little brother city. Big yet not as huge as the capital, with a more chill vibe. Almost reminds me of Busan in a way. We just had our monsoons here but somewhat light compared to before. Any changes there been felt?

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