The old man nodded confidently when we asked whether he could take us to Jalan Progo, so we hopped into his becak and he pedaled us away from the cheese dim sums, fried mushroom with peanut sauces, and sausage fest in Jalan Braga.
For a few minutes, we silently enjoyed the cool Bandung evening breeze on our cheeks. It had been a long day, but a wonderful one. It was our first time participating in Wego Hangout, a gathering for travel enthusiasts organized by Wego Indonesia, and apparently we were in luck because it’s the first time the event is held out of town. We left grey and rainy Jakarta for grey and rainy Bandung at 9 in the morning, enjoyed TED-like talks by travellers for a few hours in Lembang, and ended with a walk-through Braga Culinary Night almost 12 hours later.
“So, what do you think of today’s hangout?” I asked Twosocks.
It took him only a few second before answering. “I can’t get Usi Theo’s sopi poetry out of my head!”
I nodded vigorously. Theoresia Rumthe was the last speaker of the event. She passionately talked about her beautiful hometown, Ambon, and closed her session with a hypnotizing reading of a poetry about Ambon’s local liquor, sopi.
“You know, I think I enjoyed the hangout so much because people talked about their hometowns. It is such a sentimental topic,” he said.
He was right. The atmosphere of the talks was not one of “look at this crazy thing I did” or “look at how awesome this place I got to travel to”. It was an atmosphere of personal pride, as reflected in Gilang’s talk on Lombok’s many hidden beauties, Graham’s presentation on the West Australian outback, or when Adis talked about the revival of Bandung’s public parks. It was an atmosphere of nostalgia, like when Yohan recounted his childhood in the mining town of Sorowako or when Diyan spoke about his grandparents’ hometown in Harau Valley, West Sumatra. It was an atmosphere of togetherness, which we felt when Popon confided that she minds people treating the Lapindo mudflow disaster in her hometown, Sidoarjo, as a tourist attraction. It was a heartfelt atmosphere, for the people who spoke clearly care about their hometowns and it shone through their talks.
Our becak stopped, but it wasn’t in front of our guest house. “Punten, bade tumaros dupi Jalan Progo di palih mana?” the old man asked a bunch of ojek drivers in Sundanese. Apparently, we were lost. But we didn’t mind, Bandung is a breeze compared to Jakarta and we liked watching the night-time scenes while chatting in the becak.
“So, what would you say when people ask you about your hometown?” I asked Twosocks when we started moving again.
“I always have mixed feelings about Bali,” he said. “I have a deep attachment to my family and friends, the places I grew up in, and Bali is a beautiful island throughout. But at the same time, mass tourism and the lack of sustainable planning for Bali worries me. I honestly don’t know how long the paradise Bali is so known for would last.”
“In my case,” I said, “I will admit that Jakarta is a tough city to love, but it’s not an impossible case. This is one of the cities that will open itself when you explore it with a local, someone who already loves Jakarta. And I will say that loving Jakarta takes effort, so I committed myself to explore it over and over again.”
“You’re right, hometown is a sentimental topic,” I said again. “But pushing the sentiment aside, I really enjoy hanging out with travelers. We didn’t get to talk to that many people, but I remember vividly the ones we did talk to.”
“Oh, yes. How can we forget Inggrid? Her nature exploration club in Trisakti University was crazy enough to do a solo sailing expedition in a traditional sailboat from Sulawesi to Jakarta, and she is also the niece of Elias Pical the legendary Indonesian boxer! Elias Pical! Who would’ve thought?” Twosocks said.
I laughed. “You have to toughen up, you’ve got Kerinci coming up next, right?”
Before he had the chance to answer, our becak skidded to a halt and I grabbed the railings to prevent myself from falling. It seemed that we were still lost. All thoughts on hangouts and hometowns were forgotten as we climbed down the becak and helped the old man ask for directions. It seemed that Bandung sensed that we still had our heads in Lembang, so she demanded our full attention. We gladly gave in.
P.S: If you’d like to hear Usi Theo’s magnificent poetry reading and catch a glimpse of Wego Hangout, check Lostpacker’s short video of the event.
P.P.S: This is not a sponsored post, we were invited to participate by Wego (thanks, Mad!) but all opinions are our own.