Monday, May 21, 2012

Bromo : Day 3

Bromo - Surabaya, Day 3 : 30 April 2012

We started our day early today at 4am to catch the sunrise at Penanjakan view point. To get there, we needed to take a 1 hour trip via a 4WD ala Paris - Dakkar race (according to our travel agent). Because of the bumpy ride, a member of our troupe (should I reveal who? heheh) couldn't really take it so that poor soul vomitted. Luckily we had plastic bags with us. Oh here's a hint: that poor soul was really excited the day before to get a tiger hat. Ahem heheh. There's an open space where visitors could perform Subuh prayers at the view point.

in the cold morning

4WD jeep

We reached there just in time to catch the sunrise. There were many visitors around, I really couldn't get a good view until I saw a vacant spot at the other side of the railings (but we had to be careful there as the spot is off limits supposedly, that is why the railings are there in the first place!) I couldn't find the others yet, so I just slipped myself through the railings in between the crowd and took pictures and recorded the sunrise. Well the video cam was with me since I took it over from the poor soul who vomitted heheh. The view was beautiful indeed, the sun rising slowly over the horizon.Subhanallah.


the other photographers

Then I remembered my friends. First I saw Liza and called her to find the others and come over through the railings. She rounded everyone up and we were all back together :) From this point, we could see 3 volcanic mountains - the nearest is Bromo, Mount Semeru and Mount Batok. The Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park is the only conservation area in Indonesia that has a sand sea the Tengger Sand Sea across which is the caldera of an ancient volcano (Tengger) from which four new volcanic cones have emerged. This unique feature covers a total area of 5,250 hectares at an altitude of about 2,100 m The massif also contains the highest mountain in Java, Mount Semeru (3,676 m), four lakes and 50 rivers. To read more on the National Park, go here
What better way to complement the sunrise watching amidst the cool refreshing mountainous air than having steaming hot coffee and tea  at the rustic wooden stalls by the roadside with good company. Ah dolce vita.


From Penanjakan, we proceded to the foot of Bromo via the same 4WD, but this time the journey was shorter.  At the foothill, we were given a horse (!) each. Mine was named Stefan. My jockey's name was Alexander (or something which sounded like that) Glamorous name hehe..

We rode the horses to a point where next we had to climb up the stairs to the crater of Bromo. I took the video while on Stefan's back, narrating the ride. Stefan also didn't disappoint me, he took to me rather well. Good boy Stef! ;) Of course, the horse jockey followed nearby, I wouldn't know how to ride a horse on my own! Actually, the horses are more like ponies, they are smaller. Pygmy horses maybe? Everything in Indonesia is small anyway, for example, I bought an XL t-shirt at Bromo without trying it. When I actually opened it back home, it was fit enough for me. I had planned to give it to my mom since she likes oversized t-shirts.

Sorry I digressed. Back to Bromo. Mas decided to fall back and waited for us at the drinks stall while we climbed up. Part of the staircases were covered by ash, some parts were eroded. So we had to tread carefully. Some of the braver ones just hiked up the crater by the side of the stairs, wearing just slippers. At the crater, there were no railings and it is only about 2m wide (or narrow, rather). So one must be cautious so as not to slip and fall in. OK I may be exaggerating, but I did have that imagination playing in my mind. Haiyo. Not for those with vertigo.

Bromo crater

posing sideways (trick to look slimmer)

horseback ride

Then it was back on the horses to return to our jeeps. Oh yes, on the way to the Bromo crater, we passed by a Hindu temple - the local Hindu religion of the Tenggerese is a remnant from the Majapahit era and therefore is quite similar to that on Bali but with even more animist elements. Source here  An offering ceremony at the crater is held once every year the Upacara Kasada held on the full moon of the 12th month (Kasada) of the Tenggerese calendar.

We then headed to an area reminiscent of a savannah, sans the zebras and giraffes. This was a resultant of the fertile volcanic contents and the climate there. Temperatures are refreshingly cool during the day, never exceeding 20°C but outright cold at night as temperatures can drop close to zero. Source here. We stopped at the savannah area for picture taking.

beautiful savannah

love this shot

looney kids hehe

Then we proceeded for the last picture taking stop at the Tengger Sand Sea containing volcanic sedimentation of ash/sand from Mount Bromo which seemed like a dessert. The Tengger Sand Sea has been protected since 1919. Source here

sand sea

It was then back to the hotel for breakfast. It was already 10.30am, luckily the hotel still had reserved the food for the latecomers. After breakfast (we were famished again as usual), we showered and checked out to head back to Surabaya.

It was another strenuous journey with the very fast driving (and sometimes haphazard, but none of us dared comment anything) of our driver. I would say for most of our Indonesian trips, we had to spend a lot of time on the road to get from one place to the other because of access via trunk roads. But of course this should not be a hindrance to our travels, as the journeys can be an enjoyment if you choose to look it from a another view - you get to see the quaint villages and the local folks with their unique activities.

Before reaching Surabaya, we stopped by at a placed called Semburan Lumpur. This spot used to be a village - not just one, but 16 villages actually - where the place was engulfed by volcanic mud as result of a blowout of a natural gas well drilled by PT Lapindo Brantas, in May 2006 although company officials contend it was caused by a distant earthquake. There are 3 hypotheses suggested which might have triggered the explosion (too technical to share it here, but do check it out at the mentioned link). It has been in eruption ever since and it is the biggest mud volcano in the world.  Source here. We took a motorcycle ride with the local residents to see the area. Smell of natural gas permeated the air - but heck, I saw a (maybe ignorant) villager lighting his cigarette and happily smoking away. Better stay away from him.

mud flow

We said our thank yous to the villagers, but left them feeling pity for the misfortune that befell them. We headed to another branch of Restoran Tempoe Doloe for late lunch. Then we went to Little Madina - a street stall shopping area selling religious goods such as prayer garments and garments for haj and umrah. Got myself a lightweight travel telekung ala parachute which you can fold them into a very thin layer and fit it into a cute bag, which is provided together. But unfortunately, we found out that we were ripped off by the shop as at the shop next door, the same telekung cost IDR 15,000 cheaper. We quickly left the pasar.

It was now already 7pm, the bazaar -Jamabatan Merah Plaza that would have been a good place for souvenir hunting and shopping was already closed. So we were brought to a modern shopping complex in search of souvenirs - but to no avail. We ended up having coffee and drinks instead.

We reached our hotel at about 9pm. Since we were feeling exhausted a good massage would be great to loosen our stiff muscles. Mas and Ezad decided to stay at the hotel while the rest searched for a proper massage parlour. Luckily our driver remembered sending a previous customer there - so he brought us to a spa center which I forgot the name. Our spa package was relatively cheaper than what we have experienced before. But later we found out that the masseuse asked for a tip of IDR50,000 from each of us.

After massage we went back to the hotel for rest. All good things must come to an end, and unfortunately this was it. Tomorrow we would be heading back home at 11.30am, so no plans for tomorrow, just going to the airport.Thank you Surabaya (and its surrounding areas), we had so much fun and Bromo especially was majestic. We would also like to thank our very efficient guide Wong and his trusted driver Pakzi. Thank you for making our trip such worthwhile :)


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Batu: Day 2

Batu - Bromo, Day 2 : 29 April 2012

We started our day with breakfast which comes with the hotel package. Breakfast was fried rice and soto ayam soup with vermicelli (padahal bihun je kan hehe).

Aha there was incident after the breakfast. Want to know more? Read on ;)
Razeif went back to our hotel # 1 (there are 2 branches of Gradia, our room was at #1, breakfast at #2, but it's just a 100m walking distance apart) to arrange for the check out, while the rest waited at the breakfast area. Mas then went for the loo. Then it was already more than 15 minutes or so. I was starting to have doubts. Probably Mas was having a bad stomach ache? So I decided to check her out. Only then I realized she was stuck in the WC! One of the staffs there was prying open the latch at the door, and within a few minutes she was free. Poor Mas had to endure being stuck in a lavatory! Then I asked her did she scream for help? Yeah she did, and she banged the door too! Luckily someone was passing by, or it would have taken quite some time to get out. Lesson learnt: next time check for your friends if they are missing for more than 10 minutes. She was calm though after the incident, so all was well and we were roared for our next activity - picking apples yeah! Oh but before that, we would be stopping by at the Coban Rondo waterfall.

The waterfall is 84m high, generating a high powered water gush at the bottom pool - I wonder how much hydro power it could generate. The water was cool and refreshing, but we didn't bathe - didn't bring any change of clothes. Oh, the waterfall has a legend too -the tale of Prince Raden Baron Kusuma and Princess Dewi Anjarwati who were held by a man named Joko Lelono. He fell in love with the princess. A fight ensued, but both men died. The princess was taken by her guards to the waterfall and waited for her prince there. But he never came back and she became a widow. In Javanese widow is called rondo and waterfall is coban. It was then that the waterfall was named Coban Rondo. Info taken from here

Coban Rondo

We then proceeded to one of the apple orchards at Batu. Oh yeah - Batu is a high terrain area with cool weather - sort of like Cameron Highlands. So our room at Gradia had no fan or air conditioning. It was all natural air circulation.

We then stopped by Wisata Payung - stalls lined up by the roadside of the hilly terrain with a fantastic view of Batu. At first we wanted to have a light snack there - just chilling and enjoying the vista - but since we still have a lot on our agenda - we decided to takeaway the jagung bakar. We only had our instant sachet (it's their style there in Indonesia where they hang the 3-in-1 instant sachets on display and you choose which is your desire) hot coffee and tea there. Ah, being big eaters, all the jagung bakar were walloped before we even reached the apple orchard lol!

But before going to the apple orchard, we passed by one of Jemaah Islamiyah's explosives expert and mastermind Dr Azahari's (who was once a UTM lecturer) house where he was shot by a police sniper and one of his disciples blew himself up (destroying the house as well) after they were ambushed by the special forces Densus 88. More info on him here.

Dr Azahari's house

I've never been to an apple orchard before. I didn't expect the trees to be so low that I could pick the apples without having to climb ladders. For 6 ft tall Ezad, he was a standout there - but to his disadvantage - he had to stoop a bit to pass through the low trees. The apples were crunchy and ready to eat! We just had to wipe them a bit - no chemicals/insecticides were used- so they claimed. We were told to pick the greenish-white coloured ones - those were sweeter and juicier. I always thought the red ones were juicier. Or maybe this is only applicable to Batu's apples?

As for the entrance fee, we paid IDR 20,000 (RM7) with all you can pick and eat, or if you want to bring back the apples, you pay another IDR 10,000 (RM 3.50).

Ladang epal

After the apple crunching, we left for lunch at Waroeng Bambu - a cool bamboo constructed restaurant floating on a huge fish pond where you can dip your feet / soak your legs in the water while eating and feeding the fishes. Really. Don't believe me? See here.

Take a closer look at our lovely legs hehe

Dip dip

The food there was good too I think they are Sundanese food. We ordered  the delicious ayam bakar. Yummy! We were famished by then (although we just ate some apples and corn before lol!)

Ayam Bakar yummeh!

After filling in our tummy, it was time to visit the animals at the Batu Secret Zoo. Hmmm I have some reservations going to the zoo after feeling a bit of a letdown somehow at Zoo Negara last year. But boy was I wrong! There were many exotic animals (at least to me heheh) here and they were active. I imagine my Partner In Crime would have love it coming here :-p

Among the animals here are the biggest rodent in the world, weighing in 10 kg and they can swim! (and they looked quite cute heheh), but don't worry, I thought they look cute, unlike the ones you find at the backyards. Other animals at the zoo include meerkats, exotic monkeys (such as common marmoset, golden headed lion tamarin), albino kangaroos, slow loris,  the friendly, cute & cuddly binturong (bear cat), polka dot stingray (like my polka dot clothes hehe), my favourite kitty family - lynx, puma, white lion, among others. The zoo are divided into sections of the animal or area category such as the savannah land, tiger land, tropical, reptile, marine life etc. We actually really enjoyed ourselves at the zoo - we spent about 4 hours at the zoo!

slow loris

golden handed tamarin

from the savannah section

the cool savannah setup

giant swimming rodent

cute n cuddly binturong

polka dot stingray

We had our dinner at the zoo restaurant as the journey to Bromo would be quite far and take about 3 hours, and probably there aren't decent restaurants otw. There is a section of the restaruant which rotates, but it only caters for 4 person per table. Since our group consist of 6 persons, we just sat ourselves at the stationary section.There are also stalls selling t-shirts and souvenirs outside the zoo - which I should have just bought here, as we later found out there wasn't enough time to shop for souvenirs at Surabaya the next day. We also stopped by at some souvenir shops before departing for Bromo - got myself a local apple bakpia (sort of pau).

We reached Bromo at midnight and just went to bed as we were already very tired and we had to start the next day in the wee hours of the morning at 4am local time. Now why is it so special that we had to rise early? Wait for the next post ;)


Friday, May 18, 2012

Malang : Day 1

Surabaya - Malang - Batu, Day 1 : 28 April 2012

Razeif arranged for our ground tour from Surabaya – Malang – Batu – Bromo – Surabaya. He found out about Wong, a Chinese Malaysian married to an Indonesian via one of the travel forums on the net.
We took the 9.35am flight from LCCT to Surabaya, arriving at 11.30am local time. Surabaya is 1 hour behind Malaysia.

We were greeted by a signage of Dato Razeif upon arrival at Juanda International Airport, Surabaya. How creative of Wong! 

Dato Razeif
We would be making our way to Malang to visit the Masjid Turen next. But on the way, we stopped by at Waroeng Tempo Doeloe (which just means a stall once upon a time ago) for lunch and enjoy the Gurami fish, sapi rawon and nila pesmol. 

On the way to Malang, we were shown the haunted Niagara Hotel (we were told there was a murder case ). We finally arrived at Masjid Turen around 5.15 pm, after a 4 hour drive. It rained during the journey so it was a good time to catch some sleep.

We were mesmerized by the majestic masjid Turen. It reminded me and Mas of the Sagrada Familia we visited in Barcelona as the masjid was still under construction and it was higher than the usual masjid. Legend has it that djins / spiritual forms built the masjid as the villagers there realized the masjid was already buing built overnight. We couldn't really verify that. But alas, we truly admired the unique beauty of the masjid with the colourful tiles adorning the walls and floors and fountain and small pond within the vicinity. 

beautiful Masjid Turen

We then proceeded to Batu, another 2 hours driving after prayers at the masjid. On the way, we stopped by Ayam Goreng Remaja restaurant for dinner. Not quite sure why is it called that haha. The tofu soup was great. We arrived at Hotel Gradia 1 at around 10.30pm. After checking in, we then continued to the Batu Night Spectacular fun fare before closing time at 12midnight, so we had another hour. We tried the Crazy House ride which was tilted a bit and then spinned 360 deg, making us feeling dizzy after that lol. While still nursing the dizziness, we went into the Galeri Hantu to get spooked out. It wasn't really scary though. At midnight, it was time to go back and get some rest for another exciting day tomorrow :)

ayam goreng remaja

Batu Night Spectacular

Crazy House at BNS