It’s been said before, but living in Singapore really does open up Asia for exploration. It’s a fantastic base to jump off from. This was definitely the case when Will & I visited the eastern side of Java. It was not a place either of us had known anything about before moving to Asia, but we were really excited about taking a trip over there. We have decided to make the most of being here and explore places that we perhaps wouldn’t have seen, had we stayed in London.
Will was already in Indonesia on a work trip so I flew into Surabaya to meet him, and to start our Javanese jaunt. We didn’t really spend any time in Surabaya as we wanted to get straight up to Mount Bromo, and it was about a 3 hour car journey to get there. I had already arranged to be picked up by Eko from the Cafe Lava Hostel, which is based in Cemoro Lawang (the nearest place to Bromo). We had a great drive through loads of little villages and up twisty mountain roads to get there. The scenery was just jaw-dropping, and it was wonderful to see what village life was like in Java (lots of chickens and goats wandering around).
We stayed in the Cafe Lava Hostel, which has mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, but we really liked. The staff were super friendly, and the bedroom was basic but comfortable. In the evening the temperature really drops – not something we were used to coming from Singapore! Make sure you take jeans/long trousers and a cosy jumper. I saw one girl shivering in shorts and clearly most of the tops she owned. We had a delicious meal in the cafe before heading off to bed for an early night – we had an 3.30am wake-up call to get up and see the sunrise. The room is chilly but once you get into bed it’s cosy and you soon warm up.
I was fast asleep when Eko came to wake us up, but we were soon out of bed, wrapped up, and in the back of a 4×4. The journey up to the viewpoint on Mount Penanjakan is pretty scary, as you are bouncing around with dust in the headlights, giving very little visibility, and you know there is a steep drop off the side of a mountain just out of view! Take a sport bra ladies, as the road is anything but even! However, soon we were perched on the edge of the mountain, with about 20 other people, making sure we had a good spot to watch the sun come up. It was great to look back at where we had come from, and see a procession of pinprick headlights snaking up in the darkness.
The sunrise started slowly – just a slight lightness in the east. I don’t think I’ve ever taken so many photos of the same thing! With each increase in light, the landscape was transformed. Slowly you could make out more and more details. The sky turned beautiful colours, highlighting the mist nestled around the volcano on the volcanic plain. Mount Bromo rises out of the mist, with its taller cousin, Mount Semeru smoking in the background. The word magical gets overused, but this definitely felt like an incredible experience, and one that managed to shut both Will & I up, as we gazed out over it in awe.
After watching the daylight slowly arrive, we headed back down Mount Penanjakan, and back over the Sea of Sands towards Bromo itself. From here, you can climb up to the top of Bromo, and peer over the edge into its smoky crater! You can hire a pony to take you most of the way, if you like, but there are quite a lot of steps to climb up at the end. It was quite tough going (we didn’t take the horse) because of the sandy ground, and the thin air, but it was so amazing to look down into the mouth of a volcano, and out at the peculiar landscape that was laid out before us.
After another bumpy ride back to the hostel, and a bit of breakfast, we headed off again – our destination this time was the city of Malang, where we planned to spend a few days just relaxing. The drive was just as spectacular. We stopped on the other side of Bromo and the landscape here looks incredibly European – grassy and green! We drove along the tops of hills, with incredible views down into the valleys. I was astounded by how much farming went on – the slopes are so steep! Apparently, they grow a lot of potatoes in this region.
We stopped at a beautiful waterfall on our journey – Coban Pelangi. You wander down the hillside, crossing a stream, before rounding a corner and spotting this incredible cascade!
Malang is a pretty town with lots of buildings dating back from the Dutch colonial era. We stayed in the Tugu Hotel Malang which is a really quirky hotel, with koi ponds, tons of lush greenery and loads of antiquities lining the hallways and restaurants. It is a bit of an oasis from the urban atmosphere all around you.
We wandered down to the bird market which was just a short walk from the hotel. I’ve never been to a market like it! Not only were there loads of different types of birds, chirping away, but there were also monkeys, bats and civets for sale! Next door there is also a big flower market, which is kind of welcome change from the madness of the bird market.
We took a trip out of the city to some orchards where they grow loads of different varieties of apples, strawberries, guava, oranges and more. It’s peaceful and cool up there, with great views over the city and up the mountains.
We also took a trip to some hot springs, tucked away up in the mountains. Will went for a dip but with the conservative culture in Java I didn’t feel right going for a swim in a bikini, especially not when some of the other women were swimming wearing jeans and t-shirts! If you do go, take a t-shirt you don’t mind getting wet to make sure you cover up.
We had a fantastic time in Java – our Mount Bromo experience was one which left us both raving about it for days afterwards. This part of Java is also relatively undeveloped, so you still get to experience village culture. Even in Malang we never got hassled or subjected to endless questioning; the closest we came was men on bicycles waving and shouting ‘hi’ as we walked around! I’d definitely recommend a visit if you fancy doing something a little different.
I’ve put a selection of photos in this post, but you can see more on my Java Flickr set.