“If firing a gun is something you really want to do, then go for it here. There’s a safety instructor to help you anyway,” my friends urged me last month after I expressed my interests through words and a longing look at the shooting range. After walking over and asking how the guns worked and much consideration, I handed three 10-thousand Rupiah bills to the cashier and received seventy plastic pellets in exchange.
And that was the story of how I fired a gun – albeit an airsoft one – for the first time in a shooting range located a stone throw away from a field of flowers. All this can be found in a place familiar as quite a luxurious getaway in Bandung: Dusun Bambu.
Located in a rather secluded area near Lembang, Dusun Bambu is more commonly known as a place to take Instagram-worthy pics with its treetop restaurant and luxurious Sundanese villas. Dubbing itself as a “family leisure park”, most of the people I found here were part of the upscale crowd with their fancy clothes, sunglasses, some women in high heels and toting fancy handbags.
At first, I could not understand why the place got the crowd it got. But after paying IDR15.000 for parking, another IDR15.000 for entrance, seeing the fine imposed on anyone bringing outside food and beverages, and walking around the complex to get a feel of the place, I could see why. There was a classy, uninviting, luxurious air to the place. It was as if everything in the park was orchestrated to embody fanciness and luxury – from its sculptures to creeks to rice fields. Considering the fact that the area surrounding the park was a village with small houses, the park carried the air of a utopia – beautiful, comfortable, but not real.
The fact that there were three different upscale restaurants serving high-end Indonesian cuisine at quite a hefty price (IDR80.000 and more per dish) inside the park did not help change my opinion about the mood of the place at all.
The park complex itself was actually quite huge and there was only one way we could get around – on a brightly-decorated shuttle car. The shuttle ride was for free, but it could only take us to the area of the park near Lutung Kasarung (its treetop restaurant). The rest of the park area could be explored on foot or by getting into a car or motorcycle and asking to be dropped off at P2 or the second entrance. The only maps available to navigate such a huge complex were available at the few information counters available. There was not a lot of signage, the customer service was rather unfriendly, and there weren’t a lot of people to ask for more information.
All in all, the park was huge but the system to point out where everything is so visitors can navigate without the shuttle was really poor.
Once we hopped off the shuttle, we went up the path that led to Lutung Kasarung instead and found a children’s playground with Alice in Wonderland as its theme. Never had we wanted to badly return to our childhood as we did right then.
The playground looked really classy with all its wooden slides and ramps and fake grass. Yes, even the playground was fancy. But that inner kid in us definitely wanted to play anyway as we gushed over how we would love to climb the ramp and walk around that maze.
But the truth is, our main reason to visit was to shoot some arrows and ride an ATV. After walking around with no idea where to go and no signage pointing out where we could do those things, we got a map and tried to find some information because the map wasn’t helpful. We asked the customer service for directions to which they said “just look at the map, it’s all there” (real helpful, ladies, really helpful), asked the security guard who finally gave us some directions (“just get to the white tent near Pasar Khatulistiwa. Climb up and walk to a white tent”), walked up some stairs to get to Pasar Khatulistiwa to try and find the white tent.
We couldn’t find the white tent at first, so we decided to get some dessert at Pasar Khatulistiwa instead.
After almost an hour in the park, we still couldn’t find the archery or ATV grounds. But hey, at least we found dessert even though it cost IDR30.000 for a really, tiny portion and no water to wash it down!
It was while sharing this dessert and actually observing the grounds around Pasar Khatulistiwa that we found the said white tent. It was perched on top of a hill and getting there meant walking through flower fields and a creek.
After the short, but quite an uphill walk, we finally found the archery grounds and were a bit disappointed to find that it was quite small. There were also less visitors there than around the restaurants’ area of Dusun Bambu and nope, no high-heeled handbag carriers were spotted here.
The targets were a bit closer than we expected, but the bow and arrow looked lovely. We got 10 arrows for IDR30.000 per person and had a safety instructor walked us through the process. There was also a forearm and finger guard – something I didn’t have in my previous two occasions of shooting arrows. He asked about my experience in shooting arrows, asked me to show my usual stance and corrected it while teaching me the breathing pattern and accuracy hacks involved in shooting arrows. From time to time, he checked on my stance again, talked me through what happened if I missed and how to improved my accuracy. I actually hit the target every single time, though only got one bulls-eye.
It was an enlightening session of archery and the equipment was definitely a lot more sophisticated. The bow was heavier than any bow I’d ever used and the arrows steadier. The forearm guard definitely helped and made me realize how much of an arm workout archery was because it kept my forearm straight in shooting.
It was after I was done shooting arrows that I discovered a row of guns next to the archery range. I was tempted to give firing a gun a try even though it was just some airsoft guns. After some extra coaxing from my friends, I gave in and decided to give it a go.
There were three replica machine guns to choose from and I picked the only one without a mount. A safety instructor was standing by the entire time to teach me about gun safety, how to load the pellets, and how to shoot. There was a sight attached to the machine gun I picked as well, but I couldn’t get my left eye to shut for my right eye to look through the sight. Eventually, the instructor told me to try and aim as well as I could without the sight and go with my gut.
There were about twenty small targets to shoot at – from tiny circles made of tin which could be knocked back to little balloons to be popped. The instructor said I could shoot sitting down or standing – whichever I was most comfortable doing. Because the targets were shorter than me, I decided to sit down and use my elbows as my makeshift mount.
And my my, knocking back each target and popping the balloons was fun. The instructor was encouraging, saying “good job” or “well done” every time I hit a target. I hit about 9 out of 20 in total without sight.
And shooting a gun was definitely a challenge, especially without a sight. With each target I hit, I felt really accomplished and getting a square hit on each target was part of the challenge. I also felt how important gun safety and a proper instructor is when it comes to shooting.
Next to the guns was an entire area dedicated to knife-throwing but we didn’t have time to try that. That must be quite fun though. We also didn’t get to go on an ATV ride because the ATV course turned out to be really far from where we were – somewhere near P2 – and we didn’t have the time for it.
My friends and I went to Dusun Bambu and did the things most people overlooked there. It was while shooting arrows and guns that I discovered what I loved about the place which was how much care they had for safety in terms of the activities visitors could do there and how much they wanted us to walk away with positive experiences in doing those activities. There’s a mix between aesthetics and class and adventure here and I would love to see more of it. I loved how I could fire a gun near some beautiful flowers.
If you look past the fancier, more orchestrated parts of the park and decided to actually take part in some leisure activities here instead of simply dining at fancy restaurants, you’ll find reason to go back. It’s just such a shame that we had to go through a lot of the arrogance and classy fancy bonanza of the park to finally find what’s awesome about it. It didn’t help that they didn’t even allow water from outside of the park to be brought in and will fine you IDR250.000 for simply bringing it. That was arrogance at its finest for me.
Will I come back to actually do some knife-throwing, more pellet-shooting, and ATV-riding here? Perhaps, but only if it improves its service, policies, direction system, and become more inviting towards visitors instead of being unfriendly and rather arrogant towards them.
Dusun Bambu | Jl. Kolonel Masturi KM 11, Situ Lembang, Cisarua, Bandung Barat, Jawa Barat | Open: 8 AM-9 PM