Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Surprising Madura (2): What Nature Gives, Human Enjoys

When we reached Madura, my husband reminded me that it is actually not an island. There are 67 islands and islets that belong to Madura – 66 of them lie to the east of Sumenep, and one island belongs to Sampang. Madura is divided into four Regencies, or Kabupaten, which run consecutively from west to east, respectively Bangkalan, Sampang, Pamekasan and Sumenep.

And coming from Java that has many mountains, looking at Madura landscape can be rather perplexing. There is no mountain in Madura – the land is flat, only contoured by hills. And the long narrow island makes it easy for any traveler to come across a beach, at any point in time, within less than 2 hours maximum from one beach to the other.
Madura landscape – no pointy spots like in other islands of Indonesia

-->Beaches by the road – this is a little bit further down to the East from Slopeng towards Lombang beach, Sumenep. A peaceful retreat just for you, soonest you step out of your car
And as we traveled from west to east, we noticed that the further east we went, the more beautiful the beaches were. From Siring Kemuning in Bangkalan, to Lombang in Sumenep, the different colour of sea and texture of sand were quite apparent. Sand was whiter and softer; the sea was bluer as we went east.

The heat was different too. To us Surabaya always has this uncomfortable stinging sensation of the sun’s heat as it reaches your skin. But as soon as we ‘landed’ on Madura, the sun’s heat became more bearable. You just feel the heat, without the stinging sensation. And the wind is a lot breezier than it is in Surabaya. And it got fresher as we went east.

There is a stereotype about Madurese: they are rude and unkind. My husband’s friend who arranged the car for us, and happens to be a Madurese, told us that outside Madura, that stereotype is very true. In Surabaya, for instance, if we ask for directions to a Madurese, the answer is likely not true. But he said, in Madura, everybody is very nice. Ask anyone and very likely that you will get the exact answer. He even experienced that he was led to the person’s home when asking for a direction.

I wondered why it could be like that. One reason I thought it must be because in Madura, the breath of Islam is stronger than in a big city like Jakarta. So you would be behaving in front so many Hajis and Hajjahs and ulamas. Then in your own home town, everybody knows you. So who dare misbehaving?.

But when I touched the main land of Madura – I suspected nature may have an impact too. Though hot and flat and dusty in dry seasons, but with the lovely beaches, very blue skies, stars at night, wouldn’t you be softer?. Ah well, I am not going to discuss this any further.

Water Jewels

The eastern part of Indonesia tends to fascinate me for its beaches. But I did not expect I would experience such fascination in Madura.

There are three beaches that I consider as ‘must see’ when you are in Madura. And you may also find this suggestion in travel books.

One is Slopeng. The other one is Lombang. Both are located near Sumenep. Closer from the crossing to Surabaya, is Camplong beach in Pamekasan.

Slopeng is the farthest from Sumenep. What is unique about this beach is its sand dunes, and also the quality of sand. According to my husband who once went to Dubai, the sand feels exactly like that in Dubai. And the contour of the sand dunes makes it feels like you are somewhere else – not in Indonesia, especially with its palm trees.

There are gazebos up in the sand dunes where you can sit and enjoy the sea breeze and enjoy the sea. It was just…heavenly.

Slopeng with its very soft sand, and the contour of the sand dunes. The water is very blue and clear. From afar one can also see the different layers of colours – from the deep to the shallow water. I loved the feeling that this beach gave me: like you are in the desert.

A little bit further up from Slopeng, to the West, there is Ambunten beach. It does not have the sand dunes but the quality of water and beach is just as excellent. It is also a fishermen village – so at certain times of the day you will see colourful boats.
Some boats that we saw – we went there almost mid-day so we could not enjoy the pleasures of seeing the rows of boats

We then went to Lombang, decided to take what it looked like a shorter route. Turned out, it was supposed to be shorter, if only the road was ‘friendlier’. It was so bumpy that after 20 minutes we decided to turn back and take another route.

But the view from this patchy road is as breathtaking. At some points we could see the layers of colours of the sea. And there are secluded beaches – you can easily park your car and plunge into the refreshing, blue, sea. It all reminded me of what my family used to do whenever we traveled to coastal areas: pack up 2 galons of fresh water, searched for secluded beaches, and plunged in.

The road to Lombang from Slopeng - supposed to be the shorter route. It was very bumpy. We would have gone through this if not remembering the risk to the rented car on our heads. And look at the landscape. Later we realized that this is actually the place where they mine lime stones. We saw them used in many building projects across Madura – replacing the common red bricks

Free, secluded, clean beach…at your doorstep

If Slopeng is unique for its sand dunes, Lombang is unique for its pine trees. Yes, pine trees – locally they are called ‘cemara udang’. I don’t know what it is in English – in latin it is called Casuarina equesetifolia (the beauty of internet – you can find anything!). Its sand is whiter than Slopeng’s, the sea is as clean.
Lombang and its pine trees – ever saw pine trees in a beach area?. If not then maybe about time you pay a visit to this place

Compared to Slopeng and Lombang, Camplong does not have any uniqueness in terms of landscape. But if you are in Pamekasan and wish to have a dip in the sea, then Camplong is your best bet if you do not wish to travel all the way to Slopeng or Lombang, which can take around 3 hours travel from Pamekasan.
Camplong beach – clean sea, a wide stretch of beach, nice to have a dip and to play around

Lombang has more facilities than Slopeng and Camplong – the wash rooms and toilets are cleaner too. But one thing that broke our hearts in all these places: we could not find garbage bins. And people left their garbage just as they pleased. It made us wondered how long will it take for the place to deteriorate. But here’s hoping that one day, the local government will do something about it.
This picture may look beautiful, but these were empty coconut shells left by visitors at Slopeng beach. How much longer will the beach be as white and clean with all the garbage left behind by visitors?

Stretches of Salt Fields and Tobacco

Madura is a land of salt. We went to Kalianget to see the largest salt fields. It was interesting, at least for me, to see stretches of white fields in front of you. And if there are stretches of cloud up the fields – the view can be rather breathtaking.
Salt fields at Kalianget. Looking at them for long can actually make you dizzy thanks to the blinding reflection of the sun light on them

Madura’s economy is thriving not only for its salt, but also for tobacco. At least in the past, this used to be one of the main income of Madura. So it is not strange to see many tobacco fields everywhere. Even nearing the beach (though we were told that the taste of tobacco will not be great).

Tobacco flower – I never saw it before, it looks lovely
Working at tobacco fields – this was in Pamekasan

There are 2 unique places that we did not visit: Dhangka near Pamekasan, and Toroan water fall. Dhangka is unique for its everlasting fire in the soil. So if you dig a little bit, there will be fire coming out. We tried looking for this place with no avail. I guess because we were already too tired traveling all day in Sumenep to all the beaches, as well as the journey to Pamekasan.

Toroan water fall goes straight into the sea. This is in Ketapang area – around almost 2 hours from Bangkalan. We reached Ketapang too late in the afternoon that the sun was ready to set, to search for this supposedly beautiful water fall.

Madura is certainly a jewel waiting to be polished. We left this flat land with a hope in our hearts: whoever is going to polish this land, hope they realize that Madura needs a loving touch.And we have found many of those loving touches in the handicrafts and buildings that we saw at many corners. From Bangkalan to Sumenep.



  1. beautiful ...just beautiful shows how much we miss when grinding our nose to the corporate desk.
    Its time to enjoy Indonesia

  2. ampunnnn!!!! mau banget kesana!!! huuuuu - Sita

  3. @bonita - hahaha...benernya via work we have visited interesting places, too, havent' we? ;)

  4. beautifully writen... I'm enjoying every bits of the stories... from Madura, to your reasons to love Jakarta and also flight experience...

    2 THUMBS UP!!!!

  5. thank you for visiting. keep checking - both of us are trying to post things regularly :)


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