June 22, 2007 2:01am CST
Bandung (IPA pron.: /b?nd??/) is the capital of West Java province in Indonesia, and the country's fourth largest city. Located 768 m (2,520 ft) above sea level, Bandung has relatively year-around cooler temperature than most other Indonesian cities. The city lies on a river basin and surrounded by volcanic mountains. This topology provides the city with a good natural defense system, which was the primary reason of Dutch East Indies government's plan to move the colony capital from Batavia to Bandung. The Dutch colonials first opened tea plantantions around the mountains in the eighteenth century, followed by a road construction connecting the plantation area to the capital (180 km or 112 miles to the northwest). The European inhabitants of the city demanded the establishment of a municipality (gementee), which was granted in 1906 and Bandung gradually developed itself into a resort city for the plantation owners. Luxurious hotels, restaurants, cafes and European boutiques were opened of which the city was dubbed as Parijs van Java. After Indonesian independence, the city experienced a rapid development and urbanization that has transformed Bandung from idyllic town into a densed 15,000 people/km² metropolitan area, a living space for over 2 million people. Natural resources have been exploited excessively, particularly in the conversions of protected upland area into highland villa and real estates. Although the city has encountered many problems, ranging from waste disposal, floods to chaotic traffic system, Bandung however still has its charm to attract people flocking into the city, either as weekend travellers or living in.