Bandung received quite an honor this year, being chosen as the site for the 2017 Karnaval Kemerdekaan (Independence Carnival) on August 26th. Thousands of participants from almost all provinces in Indonesia were included! We were so lucky we got to see this, although the pregnant half of our team did tap out about half way through during a lull in the parade and sheltered herself in a nearby hotel lobby for lunch. Still, it was an incredible few hours of vibrant colors, elaborate costumes both imaginative and culturally definitive, and a representation from all ages and backgrounds.
The roads were packed all around the route beginning around 12 pm despite the parade not truly taking place until at least 2:50 pm. We made sure to find somewhere we could park that was a 15 walk away and camped out in a Chatime right on the route until the festivities were to begin.
One of the highlights of the parade would be the appearance of the Indonesian president, Jokowi himself! He was in the first parade float along with First Lady Iriana and the Mayor of Bandung, Ridwan Kamil.They threw out t-shirts to the crowd.
Ridwan Kamil kept up the beat and energy with the t-shirt throwing. It did create a kind of attractive chaos as people swarmed the streets for a chance at the booty. I have immense respect for this Mayor, as he and his team have done unimaginable wonders to foster Bandung’s leading IT and entrepreneurial spirit. He is a well-respected architect, formerly working for huge international clients and undertakings. The fact that he has turned his spirit towards investing in the cities and people of Indonesia makes me so proud. I cannot say enough good things about the infrastructure and improvements we’ve seen in just the year we’ve been living here. Bandung is really ahead of the curve for an Indonesian city.
The carnival’s theme this year was Nyalakan Api Semangat Kerja Bersama or Light up the Spirit of Collaboration. Indeed there was a sense of this as the parade included so many formal and informal communities, such as onthel (vintage) bike community, street workers, skating groups, veterans, and cosplayers. This came along with groups representing ethnic or geographical locations which is more expected. Those in the parade, as well as the audience, was full of energy despite the heat. There was a lot of laughing, shouting, and occasionally people stepping into the road to ask for selfies.
The diversity and beauty of the costumes are unlike anything that could be comprehended in America where our cultures are generally mashed together into a conformed, mono-paste. I mean this in the sense of culture and identity. I’ve never seen a parade that represented so many backgrounds and ethnicities so clearly as this parade has. It would be like an American parade but featuring Pennsylvania Dutch, Spanish Floridian, and Californian Chinese roots and influence all in one go. Something I realize now is that American culture doesn’t really recognize or appreciate these influences except in a sort of touristy, B&B kind of way that you put back after a weekend. You just have to visit that little Amish farmers market! But if you’re looking for an opponent to style and color- the LGBT parades in New York or San Francisco or Mardi Gras might be able to come close.
We were lucky that it was such a gorgeous, clear sunny day. Bandung is typically cloudy as we sit in a large vast valley at a much higher elevation than most of the country’s cities. I felt pretty awful for some of the parading participants who were in shoes that looked like they were dressed to impress, not walk.
Rio also had the foresight to have us bring an umbrella. In true Asian style, we opened up the umbrella to shield our previous skin and from just plain being too hot. I gotta say- it makes so much sense. Beaches are about the only place I see Americans hiding under the sensuous shade of an umbrella. I’ll definitely be bringing this habit back with us when we move state side again.
If you get a chance to go and see this beautiful parade, that you do so. Every year the flavor and style of the parade must change so much due to the accessibility and location. Last year was in Lake Toba, which is just about as expensive and longer to get to than Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Yes, Indonesia is huge.
Really impressive if you take a closer look is the sheer size and weight of what these costumes require. Just look at the front and back of this one.
We just have a few more photos from our huge stash we took that day. We hope you’ve enjoyed a look at this amazing display as much as we had fun watching.
Lastly, here’s a cool video of the whole affair. Seeing some of the way these costumes shook and jingled, as well as the sheer size is captured a bit better in the video. Skip around to catch a look!