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.

Route map of Karnaval Kemerdekaan
The route of the parade, lasting a little over 2km (1.2 miles)

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.

Indonesian President Jokowi from parade float
The president and others are dressed in the best of Sundanese attire, being the predominant ethnicity of Bandung

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.

Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil throws t-shirts from float
Four for you Glen Coco. You go Glen Coco!

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.

Man dressed as old woman on tall bicycle with boombox attached
Cross-dressing is rare in Indonesia, but worth it


Veterans ride on bus in parade
Veterans gave us a friendly wave!

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.

Huge elaborate green and gold costume
Good shoe choice there. This is not sarcasm, others were in heels.


Huge red and gold costume with elaborate tassels and horns
I don’t know what you are, but I like it


Feathered costume of yellow, red, and white.
The costume diversity reflects Indonesia’s vast medley of cultures

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.

Two young female ribbon gymnysts in parade
Dem skillz


Costumed women with red fabric, and gold accessories
Indonesian costumes don’t shy away from extravagance


Women holding up red and white panels of fabric
Did you know the Indonesian flag is the Dutch one without the third blue stripe?

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.

Costumes of feathers, red, and skulls or bones sewn on.
Give it to me!


Costume made of bones and feathers
Bones and feathers

Black dragon like costume with gold coored accents

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.

Women dressed in red and white with matching fans, and accents of gold to represent Bali
This is distinctly Balinese style. Given away by the hair style, the iconic gold hair accessories, and of course the umbrellas.
Balinese men with dark black eye and beard makeup in clothes of red and white with gold accents
The men did not shy away from makeup here


Workers in bright orange vests with multi-colored fake brooms
Street cleaners show their pride! The colorful accessories are elaborate decorative versions of street brooms

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.

Large lion shaped mask with 12 foot tall peacock feather display
So many peacock feathers…. Deceptively looking short in this shot


Back of mask with 12 foot tall peacock feather display
Back of the amazing lion/peacock masks. They switched out to keep up their strength due to the weight.

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.

Body builder showing off mass arm muscle to camera
Please don’t hit me


Child in colorful costume
What a cutie. She looks tired
Cosplayers in parade featuring Marvel's Loki and a stormtrooper among others
Everyday is Halloween when you’re a cosplayer

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!


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