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Cartoon Invasion

21 Jan 11
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Bandung is known for many things – good food, great music, the Sundanese culture. So it was a puzzle when friends were visiting recently and their son insisted on a visit to Jeans Street.

Bandung lays claim as the outlet capital of Java. Clothing and shoe stores can be found in all parts of the city. But the biggest collection of stores is along Jalan Cihampelas, known locally as “Jeans Street.”

Generally we try to avoid the area. Cihampelas is a one-way street carrying those traveling from the northeastern suburbs into the city’s center, and although it’s a major artery this major influx of traffic means it’s prone to become an impromptu parking lot at any moment, day or night. The street is narrow, with just two lanes, usually filled by three lines of cars and trucks. Cars back into traffic from parking areas, and tour buses move slowly to give rubber-necking out-of-town visitors a good look.

All of this makes it one of our less favorite spots. At least, if it weren’t for one thing – Warung Laos. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

All the traffic converging on Jeans Street isn’t just there to shop, or to purchase the cheaply-made imitation jungle blowguns that desperate-looking men try to sell to the tourists. Rather, they come for the statues.

No one seems to know why some stores began building the statues, or if they know they aren’t telling us. The guidebooks certainly have no explanation for it. And I’ve not met anyone who remembers a time before the statues were there. Most importantly, they cannot explain why the statues are of American comic book heroes and larger-than-life Hollywood action figures.

From Spiderman to Catwoman, and Rambo to the out-of-place flying saucer, more than a dozen legends are honored. We just don’t know why.

Despite the traffic we still visit Jeans Street now and then, because our favorite pizza place is found there. Warung Laos has a wood-fired pizza oven that toasts their thin crust pizzas covered in garlic and smothered in cheese (a real treat in a country with very little dairy products) to perfection.

The owner greeted us on our first visit, offering a discount card that offers us 5% off anything we eat. But even without the card we would go back. The kids are allowed to make their own pizza, and the food is great. And it gives us a bit of a western fix. So we try to regularly stop by.

Now we just need to figure out what statue they should build outside.

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