Three hours train journey East of Jakarta we disembark at the city of Bandung.
The municipality is ambitiously known as “The Paris of Java”, though if the speed of the train brining us here is anything to go by, then the Javan SNCF is a taste of exaggerations to come.
Upon exiting the (admittedly tasteful) station, the connection is not immediately apparent. Apart from a typically North European greeting of a rain shower and a population of somewhere in the region of 7 million, there is little obvious synergy between the flat lying romantic capital of France and this city which sits hemmed in by substantially sized volcanoes.
There is a river, but for the Seine, read a rubbish strewn waterway with its rive gauche consisting of ramshackle dwellings and the occasional warun-style café serving pre-cooked food of a dubious standard of hygiene.
There are also some phone masts, but none that compare in scale or stature with the imposing outline of The Eiffel Tower.
The traffic is bad, the air pollution on the main thoroughfares, thick and tasteable.
This is a city most definitely in need of some major spin doctoring.
My research informs me that a century ago, the city gained its Parisian association on account of the luxurious hotels, European style boutiques and fine dining that was demanded by the Dutch gentry who ruled the roost.
The boutique shopping is still going strong, and the city offers a profusion of decent eateries in and around its middle class districts, but startlingly, what it also offers is the unforeseen option of eating rissoles.
Now, those not acquainted with Welsh cuisine (or that of the West of England where I have on occasion encountered a serving or two) may be oblivious to the charm of the rissole. It is to their eternal detriment.
A traditional Welsh rissole is a savoury croquette like product, usually made from potato, onion, corned beef and herbs. The ingredients are then moulded into a rough ball shape, coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
Rissoles are often to be seen for sale next to the fish cakes in chip shops, or may be found late at night in town centre gutters, where in every South Wales valley you will find that they have been carelessly allowed to fall off chip trays by their inebriate owners, only to be trodden down to a soggy mush by fellow revellers.
The humble rissole may be a far cry from the haute cuisine of the arrondissements, but this little piggy was well chuffed to be able to taste the irregularly shaped Indonesian versions which came in both cylindrical and triangle pieces as well as an array of oval and spherical shapes.
Pointing our their tempting gastronomic presence to the 0.5, she immediately started mocking my Wenglish, wildly accusing me of the classic Welsh grammatical error of taking the starting description of a state of being and repeating it at the end of the sentence.
To understand what I mean, you might want to listen to and then affect a strong valleys accent where commonplace usage would be “I’m freezing I am”, “I’m knackered I am”, “I’m absolutely steaming I am” or in this particular case, “I’m going to buy a rissole I am”.
It transpired that the 0.5’s grasp of Indonesian was clearly not as strong as her supposed understanding of Wenglish syntax. Else she would have duly noted that the Indonesian word for chicken being “Ayam”, that my sentence was perfectly good when I stated “I’m going to buy a rissole ayam”.
Coarsely pointing out that the error was on her part and not mine, I turned the mockery tables upon her before ordering a couple of croquettes.
They were good.
A somewhat creamier texture than I was expecting, but well seasoned and worthy of the title “rissole”.
Beyond this fodder find, my highlights of Bandung were the fantastic factory outlet shops where branded western goods could be bought at about a fifth of the price of their usual retail value (our budget restricted me to one t-shirt).
One street (colloquially known as Jeans St) consisted of a substantial stretch of road dedicated to discount fashion stores and hooky clothes outlets of all qualities.
Competition is so rife that many of the more down-market stores have taken to branding themselves with superhero imagery, to the extent that the road is now awash with 5m high superman logos, giant spider webs which span the width of the stores, and oversized figurines of Arnie and Sly commandeering key strategic locations upon road junctions.
In one store, I tried to get the 0.5 to buy a wonderwoman outfit but she flatly refused, instead foregoing the superhero section in preference for the more contemporary fashions of the women’s department.
My Lynda Carter fuelled boyhood fantasies will have to wait, but the 0.5 ultimately paid the price because as she tried on a pair of trousers and a cotton top, “The Boy” took his first tentative steps.
Justice was served in the DC comics universe, Bandung.