Bandung (/ˈbændʊŋ/ or /ˈbɑːndʊŋ/) (Indonesian: Kota Bandung) is the capital of West Java province in Indonesia, the country’s third largest city by population, and second largest metropolitan area in Indonesia with a sprawling urban population of 8.6 million in 2011. Located 768 metres (2,520 ft) above sea level, approximately 140 kilometres (87 miles) south east of Jakarta, Bandung has cooler temperatures year-round than most other Indonesian cities. The city lies on a river basin surrounded by volcanic mountains. This topography provides a good natural defense system, which was the primary reason for the Dutch East Indies government’s plan to move the colony capital from Batavia to Bandung.
The Dutch colonials first established tea plantations around the mountains in the eighteenth century, and a road was constructed to connect the plantation area to the capital (180 kilometres (112 miles) to the northwest). The Dutch inhabitants of the city demanded establishment of a municipality (gemeente), which was granted in 1906, and Bandung gradually developed itself into a resort city for plantation owners. Luxurious hotels, restaurants, cafes and European boutiques were opened, hence the city was nicknamed Parijs van Java (Dutch: “The Paris of Java”).
Since Indonesia achieved independence in 1945, the city has experienced rapid development and urbanisation, transforming Bandung from idyllic town into a dense 16,500 people/km2 metropolitan area, a living space for over 2.5 million people. Natural resources have been exploited excessively, particularly by conversion of protected upland area into highland villas and real estate. Although the city has encountered many problems (ranging from waste disposal, floods to complicated traffic system, etc.), Bandung still attracts immigrants and weekend travelers.
The official name of the city was Bandoeng during the days of Dutch East Indies. The earliest reference to the city dates back to 1488, although archaeological findings suggest a type of Homo erectus species had long previously lived on the banks of the Cikapundung River and around the old lake of Bandung. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, theDutch East Indies Company (VOC) opened plantations in the Bandung area. In 1786, a supply road connecting Batavia (now Jakarta), Bogor, Cianjur, Bandung, Sumedang and Cirebon was constructed.
In 1809, Napoleon Bonaparte, French Emperor and conqueror of much of Europe including the Netherlands and its colonies, (before his ultimate downfall at Waterloo in 1815) ordered the Dutch Indies Governor H.W. Daendels to improve the defensive systems of Java to protect against the British in India. Daendels built a road, stretching approximately 1,000 km (620 mi) from the west to the east coast of Java, passing through Bandung. In 1810, the road was laid down in Bandung and was named De Groote Postweg (or the ‘main post road’), the present-day site of Asia-Afrika Street. Under Daendels’ orders, R.A. Wiranatakusumah II, the chief administration of the Bandung regency at that time, moved its office from Krapyak, in the south, to a place near a pair of holy city wells (sumur Bandung), the present-day site of the city square (alun-alun). He built his dalem (palace), masjid agung (the grand mosque) and pendopo (public-official meeting place) in the classical orientation. The pendopo faces Tangkuban Perahumountain, which was believed to have a mystical ambience.
In 1880, the first major railroad between Batavia and Bandung was completed, boosting light industry in Bandung. Chinese from outside the city flocked in, to help run facilities, services and selling vendor machines. The area around the train station is still recognisable as the old Chinatown district. In 1906, Bandung was given the status of gemeente (municipality) and then twenty years later stadsgemeente (city municipality).
In the beginning of the 1920s, the Dutch East Indies government made plans to move the capital of Dutch East Indies from Batavia to Bandung. Accordingly, during this decade, the Dutch colonial government started building military barracks, the central government building (Gouvernments Bedrijven, the present-day Gedung Sate) and other government buildings. However, this plan, was cut short by World War II, after which the Dutch were not able to re-establish their colony.
The fertile area of the Parahyangan Mountains surrounding Bandung supports productive tea plantations. In the nineteenth century, Franz Junghuhn introduced the cinchona (kina) plant. With its cooler elevated landscape, surrounded by major plantations, Bandung became an exclusive European resort area. Rich plantation owners visited the city on weekends, attracting ladies and business people from the capital, Batavia. Braga Street grew into a promenade street with cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. Two art-deco style hotels, Savoy Homann and Preanger, were built in the vicinity of the Concordia Society, a club house for the wealthy with a large ballroom and a theatre. The nickname “Parijs van Java” was given to the city.
After the Indonesian Independence in 1945, Bandung was determined as the capital of West Javaprovince. During the 1945-1949 independence struggle against the Dutch when they wanted to reclaim their colonies, Bandung was one of the heaviest battle places. At the end of World War II nearly no Dutch troops were in Java. Before restoring Dutch sovereignty, the British took a military hold on Java’s major cities. The British military commander set an ultimatum for the Indonesian combatants in Bandung to leave the city. In response, on 24 March 1946, much of the southern part of Bandung was deliberately set alight as the combatants left; an event known as the Bandung Lautan Api or ‘Bandung Sea of Flame’.
In 1955, the first Asian-African Conference – also known as the Bandung Conference – was held in Bandung by President Soekarno, attended by head of states representing twenty-nine countries and colonies from Asia and Africa. The conference venue was at the Gedung Merdeka, the former Concordia Society building. The conference announced 10 points of declaration on world peace promotion and oppositions against colonialism, known as the Declaration of Bandung, which followed by wave of nationalism movements around the globe and remapped the world politics. The conference was also the first international conference of people of color in the history of mankind. Richard Wright in his book, The Color Curtain, captured the epic meanings of the conference for people of color around the world.
In 2005, the concurrent Asian-African Conference also taking partly in Bandung, bringing world figures such as President of Indonesia Susilo B. Yudhoyono, President of China Hu Jintao, Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh, President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki, President of Nigeria Obasanjo, and countless other luminaries.
In 1987, the city boundary was expanded with the Greater Bandung (Bandung Raya) plan; a relocation of higher concentration development outside the city in an attempt to dilute some of population in the old city. During its development, however, the city core is often uprooted, old faces are torn down, lot sizes regrouped, and what was idyllic residence is bustling chain supermarkets and rich banks.