Olivier and Sven goofing around in Asia

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August 28 - September 7 - Exploring Indonesia (part III - East-Java and Jakarta), Sven

Posted by goofingaroundinasia on September 27, 2009 at 3:47 PM


 Bondowoso and Kawah Ijen (East-Java)


During my trip around Indonesia I didn't want to miss out on visiting Kawah Ijen and Gunung Bromo, two of Java's highlights. Efrata hadn't visited either of those either.


When we arrived in Surabaya, we took the bus to Probolinggo, then from there two more buses (which was quite a hassle) to finally reach Bondowoso, near to Kawah Ijen.


A few months earlier, when I was planning my trip to Indonesia, I had posted some questions about my itinerary in one of the couchsurfing forums. Yonkie, a cs'er from Bondowoso, had e-mailed me and offered to stay at his place in Bondowoso if I wanted to visit Kawah Ijen. As our plans had changed late notice (initially we would stay in Surabaya for one day, but decided to push our schedule to be able to relax more in the end), I contacted Yonkie but was afraid that he wouldn't be able to host us. He was very friendly, offered us to stay over at his place and offered to pick us up at the bus station.


And he did. We got along very well from the start - Yonkie's a very friendly, hospitable and open minded person who has an opinion but truely accepts and respects other people's views. He's really into travelling and would like  to move to Australia soon (sure hope you'll make your dream come true mate... remember: "just go"!).


We had dinner at a local warung first, then went to his place. We first had a nice hot shower, then chatted a couple of hours with a good beer and some peanuts. 


The next morning, Efrata and I wanted to conquer Kawah Ijen, yet when Yonkie drove us to the bus station there turned out to be no more public transportation going there. Eventually Yonkie arranged two friends to drive us there for a fair price. We didn't find anyone who wanted to rent out their motorbike right away, and we didn't want to lose more time.


The ride was bumpy and took about 2 hours...   We were really glad when we arrived at the starting point of the hiking trail to Kawah Ijen.



Ijen Plateau was at one time a huge active crater, 134 km² in area. Today, it is a quiet but active volcano, and the landscape is dominated by volcanic cones.


The hike was only 3km long and not that steep. We met many guys carrying baskets of up to 60km / basket of yellow sulphur stones. They were obviously suffering and had to do this every day to make a living.


We were stunned when we reached the magnificent turquoise sulphur lake of Kawah Ijen, which lies at 2148m above sea level and is surrounded by the volcano's sheer crater walls. Ijen's last major eruption was in 1936, though a minor ash eruption occured in 1952. At the edge of the lake, smoke comes out of the volcano and the lake bubbles when activity increases.



We spent quite some time at the top, looking around and enjoying the view, taking pictures and devouring our tasty ayam rujak (chicken "rujak", a local dish).



When we got back, our drivers were impatient to go back already. We obviously had lost track of time and kept them waiting for a long time... whoops :)


It was obvious that they wanted to be back in Bondowoso as soon as possible. I didn't want to think too much, but I didn't feel very safe on the back of the motorbike because my driver was speeding, braking suddenly (some stretches were slippery!) and not avoiding bumps in the road (imagine the condition of his tires!). We arrived back in Bondowoso safely, though. I decided not to take a motorbike with driver anymore for long and dangerous stretches like this, unless the driver is someone I know and trust. I'd rather rent the motorbike and drive myself...


We waited for Yonkie to come home from work and he invited us over to his parents' place for dinner. Some other family members were there as well; they were very hospitable, friendly and genuinly interested in us and are trip. We had a nice conversation and the meal Yonkie's mum cooked was delicious !!


The next day Efrata and I would take the bus back to Probolinggo. We would take it easy that day: don't get up too early, and departing sometime after lunch.


When we got up, Yonkie was enjoying his day off and was just relaxing. We had some coffee and a nice conversation. He offered to take us to Pasir Putih on the north coast, one of East Java's most popular seaside resorts. We gladly accepted his offer, decided to stay for one more night and moving on the next day.



There wasn't that much to see in Pasir Putih, but we sure enjoyed the peaceful and refreshing evening walk. We took a few pictures, then drove back to Bondowoso, where we did some shopping. We all felt like cooking spaghetti... so that's exactly what we were going to do :)



We had great fun cooking the spaghetti and Yonkie proudly introduced us to his "magic box" - he cooks and bakes everything using his microwave. We looked at him i na strange way when he wanted to put the onions and garlic in a container with margarine and put it in the microwave, but it turned to work out :)



We really enjoyed our meal along with some good beers (Bintang, an Indonesian beer brand, is not bad at all). We had a long and interesting conversation about cs, travelling, life and what people want in life. We thanked him for his hospitality as we really enjoyed our stay there (and we wouldn't see him in the morning as he had to work) and went to bed.



The next day Efrata and I took a cyclo to the bus station and then the bus to Probolinggo.




Probolinggo and Gunung Bromo (East-Java)


 Efrata and I were really looking forward to visit Gunung Bromo. Compared with other major peaks, Bromo (2392m) is a midget, but this volcano's beauty is in its setting, not its size. Rising from the guys of the ancient Tengger caldera, Bromo is one of three volcanoes to have emerged from a vast crater, stretching 10km across. Flanked by the peaks of Kursi (2581m) and Batok (2440m), the steaming cone of Bromo stands in a sea of ashen, volcanic sand, surrounded by the towering cliffs of the crater's edge.


It was already around 7pm when we arrived in the bus station at Probollingo. From there we wanted to take whatever transport available to Cemoro Lawang, the starting point to visit Gunung Bromo.


We found out that the last public transportation to Cemoro Lawang had left, but that we could take a minivan to get there. When we inquired in a local travel agency, both Efrata and I found the guy way too slick in his stories and promises -- if we booked into his minivan (and he almost pushed us to write down our names, several times), he would make sure we would get cheap accomodation (he was mentioning prices of IDR 50,000 - 60,000 - we had tried booking by phone in advance and we knew that prices were higher and some places might be fully booked), when I asked him whether it was possible to rent a motorbike up there then it would be "no problem at all to find a motorbike there". Both Efrata and I had the same impression: this guy just wants us to take the remaining seats in his minivan and they'll drop us there in the middle of nowhere and for some "sudden" reason the hostel either won't have rooms available or it would be more expensive... So we insisted him on calling the hotel... he made a phone call and confirmed that there was a room available. When Efrata called, there seemed to be a room available but a lot more expensive... Confronting the guy of the travel agency he came up with some story about another hotel that didn't make sense. When he was so stupid to mention the name of the person co-ordinating tourism in the area and even giving his phone number, Efrata called that guy who told us we could get a minivan cheaper a few kilometer further. We told the guy from the travel agency off and decided to check it out.


Indeed, the ride didn't cost that much and we decided to book a tour with them also, basically only 4WD transport to a spot to see sunrise and then to Bromo itself.  Efrata had hurt her leg during the ascent of Kawah Ijen; it still hurt so she couldn't do a lot of hiking and climbing.


We didn't have accomodation yet but the minivan drive - as promised - took us to some hotels there. We didn't have any problems finding accomodation... Just a basic room as we would get up very early the next morning (3am) to see sunrise.


Around 4am the 4WD picked us up and drove us to Gunung Penanjakan (2770m), the highest point on the outer crater, along a very bumpy trail.


The viewpoint's platform was full of tourists, but that couldn't spoil it for us as the sunrise was absolutely amazing. It was really cold up there though!





 We stayed there for about one hour until the sun had risen completely, then drove on to Gunung Bromo. The 4WD stopped stopped in a big area of sand and we had to walk quite a while to the steps climbing up Gunung Bromo. The view was nice, not as impressive as the sunrise in the morning, but we enjoyed it and took lots of pictures.





We had breakfast, and took some more pictures as we had a beautiful view on Bromo from our porch! Then, we took the minivan back to Probolinggo.



When we inquired in Probolinggo about the bus to Malang the officer in the bus station tried to make us believe that there was no direct bus to Malang. We could book a minivan though.. and he pointed at the "rip off" travel agency we had told off the other night. As we didn't believe him (really sad that even the bus station officials are corrupt...), we walked further... and we were right as there was a sign "Malang" where all buses for Malang left.


We were approached again by several bus drivers offering tickets on luxurious air-con (read: freezer :)) buses, telling us there is no local "economy" bus to Malang.


Again they were lying... as we soon found the local economy bus going to Malang. They wouldn't fool us anymore :)




Malang and Batu (East-Java)


We decided to go to Malang because Efrata wanted to catch up with an old friend there.


Once arrived in the bus station, we had lunch. Afterwards her friend Dodi and Dani - a friend of his - picked us up with their motorbikes. They dropped us off at the hostel we had booked into (we had called in advance) and would pick us up again in 1,5 hours.


There seemed to be something wrong with our reservation, but that was good news as we got a more expensive room for the same price. The room was very nice, and we even had a private bathroom with western style toilet (I was a happy dude :)) and hot shower.


As promised, Dodi and Dani picked us up. They took us to a busy place with a lot of food stalls. During Ramadan Muslims aren't allowed to eat during the way until a signal is heard from the mosque. They gather at the food place, buy some food and drinks, meet friends there... and once the signal is heard they start to eat and drink.


That's exactly what we did: bought some food and drinks, which we shared once the signal was heard.


After dinner, Dodi and Dani wanted to take us to Batu, 15km northwest of Malang, which has a superb mountain scenery and a cool climate. It was really cold on the motorbike, but it was worth it, the views down on Malang were beautiful indeed.



We had some food and drinks, chatted for a few hours and then decided to call it the day.


The next morning we got up late, had lunch and headed to the bus terminal. From there we took the bus back to Surabaya. There we went to CITO, a big shopping mall where we would have a nice chocolate milk and meet up with Glo, a local cs'er I had met in Jakarta. We first boarded an angkot though ended up getting out, telling them off and refusing to pay (yes they would go to CITO, then when we boarded they didn't seem to know where it was and pointed into a wrong direction...) - we had had enough about touts :) 


Glo had texted us that she wasn't feeling well, so we concluded it'd be better for her to rest instead and we'd meet up some other time (somewhere, someday :)).


We headed to the airport, then took the plane back to Jakarta.




Back in Jakarta (West-Java)


We had booked a hostel around Jl Jaksa. When we arrived there though, they told us it was fully booked and they didn't note down our reservation. We were pissed off, asked to talk to the hostel owner who had confirmed our hostel reservation, complained and cussed him out. He first tried to justify not having a room by telling us how difficult it is to run a hostel there and how backpackers come in and leave if they don't like the room. We answered him that he should have told us on the phone instead of promising to make the reservation, and that backpackers wouldn't leave if the rooms weren't cleaned. We didn't waste any more time on him and left with a loud  "fuck off" :)


It didn't take us long to find another hostel though. We had dinner and a beer and dozed off. I had to get up early the next morning as Oni - one of Efrata's friends I met before in Jakarta - would pick me up at 7. I would join him to his school and would speak in front of his class about my country and my travels and would answer any questions they might have.


I had a wonderful experience at Oni's school. Both his colleagues and the students listened carefully and asked questions. Funny also... they asked me if I had a Facebook account and within 5 minutes I had another 10 friend requests, haha :)



Next, we drove to the University of Jakarta where we were meeting up with Efrata, Alek and other friends from her community. We went for lunch and then spent some more time chatting. Then Efrata and I left, as we were going to a CS meeting / karaoke and two friends of hers would join.


Having dinner with the cs crowd wasn't that much special, but the karaoke afterwards was - once again - great fun. It was great to see the cs crowd - with whom I had had great fun before - again  and we sang and danced along. Later on Boris (another friend of Efrata), Oni and Alek joined as well.



Later on that night, Oni, Alek, Boris, Efrata and I decided to get some food ,then called i the night.


The next day Efrata and I went shopping during the day; in the evening we went to see a movie (Nomad - seemed quite authentic and interesting at first, turned out to be an exaggerated, predictable American movie - can you imagine hearing Kazakhs speak English in a movie? :)). Oh, and in the afternoon she stitched my bag as it was broken. Thanks sweetie:)



Efrata and I counted down the days as I would have to leave Indonesia on September 7 (my VISA ran out). I would then stay another week in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) before flying back to London. Efrata brought some good news though: she would come to visit me in Kuala Lumpur from Wednesday - after work - until Sunday :)


So far my two months in Indonesia, on September 7 I took the plane to KL. It was not the easiest country to travel though one of the most interesting countries in my trip. For the first time I got so deep in finding out about and understanding part of the culture, for the first time I had been confronted that much with positive as well as negative aspects of the country, and for the first time I had had such an authentic experience in the countryside, mainly because Efrata - who speaks Indonesian and could communicate with the locals - and I travelled together.


Also, the first time I was in Jakarta the city overwhelmed me - its pollution, heavy traffic, noise, people everywhere and the lack of privacy, the heat... My second visit, however, felt different. I knew what to expect, I now knew more about the country, its culture and language.


Well... so far Indonesia, back to Kuala Lumpur!



- Sven 

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