Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Surprising Madura (1): “Why Madura?” (Well, Why In The World Not?!)

I had wanted to go to Madura since I bought my first Madurese batik in one of the handicraft show, about 3 years ago. Something fascinated me: the patterns on the batik gave me a kind of raw feeling. Something that was almost wild.
My first Madurese batik (2006). Love the pattern and color, as it so different from Java's Batik

And so, I have kept that wish that someday, I must go and see this island. At the very least, I really wanted to go to each of its batik centre. Talking to the artists who have beautifully crafted all the hand written batik that I have seen in the show.

Then some months back, my husband got hold of a magazine – Tamasya (or Recreation), a Bahasa travel magazine, that featured Madura. I read it, and got even more fascinated. Then, every time I mentioned to friends that I really wanted to go there, many always looked at me with bewildered expression, “But why Madura? What is there to see in Madura?”. That only made me more certain that I had to see it for myself.

Finally, that chance came. My husband seemed to be less enthusiastic than I was (or maybe it was just my impression because he kept on saying, “Lower down your expectations, you may not find what you are looking for”). He tried talking me into going to Bromo instead, but still, I was adamant that we just had to choose Madura.

And….how we just fell in love with every single corner that we went to…..

We started our trip with a free map from Tamasya magazine. This was our first trip where we did not equip ourselves with a ‘proper’ map. One reason for it because we could not find any map of Madura. The other reasons because we thought we could always try a different style of traveling: be lost in the place and be surprised.

Our little map – our only clue of what to see and find in Madura. We never expected that we would find more, much more…
Looking at it, we decided to ‘comb’ Madura: Bangkalan – Sampang – Sumenep – Pamekasan – back to Surabaya. All those in 4 days and 3 nights – the only days my husband could take off from work. We planned to only stay over night in Sumenep and Pamekasan, and spent the last night in Surabaya. But we changed our minds – all three nights we spent in Madura.

Our itinerary that we improvised along the way

Before I tell you more about what we experienced, some travel tips if you are interested to go to Madura (in no particular order!!):
-->Take off your city hat. Live it at home. I mean it. No use coming to Madura expecting all the facilities are there. If you are expecting an easy vacation – meaning that everything is ready for you by your feet, then brainwash yourself before planning to come to Madura. Get prepared - most places do not have proper public facilities. Just enjoy the beauty.

Camplong beach - one of the beautiful beaches that are lovely to take a dip at. But you cannot find any garbage bins, and toilets are very basic. Still, why bother, you are on holiday and the place is beautiful...just enjoy it

Don’t act like a tourist. Don't only come and go to see tourist places. Madurese are lovely people. Despite the fact that there is a myth about them being very rude, straight to the point. They love talking to you. Ask questions, sit down with them. And who knows, they may offer you lunch just like what happened to us several times. And I think because of the opening of Suramadu bridge, the Madurese are now hungry for interactions with people who suddenly flock into their areas.

Talking to some coolies at a harbour off Pamekasan. They just love talking to you

Watch what they do, find out why. Before the cow race practice began - ways they do to hurt the cows so they are outraged and can run very fast

Have low expectations about hotels.
They are still not ready to offer you with good rooms. The best bet is Pamekasan because it is the provincial city so it is the most developed. At Bangkalan and Sumenep – good rooms are hard to come by. But, think of it this way: if you have had such a lovely life staying at star hotels on your holidays, maybe it’s about time you go down the grade so you know the experience of both worlds.

The room of the hotel in Pamekasan - small TV but it has HBO!
I have only seen this once: leaving your sandals outside your hotel room. What I learned from this: though room is very basic, but this must be safe hotel for your personal belonging (depends on what it is, I know...still, imagine doing this in Jakarta)

Forget about dieting you women!. Madura’s food is excellent!. I was actually worried that I would not find anything that I would like. I have this perception that the food in Madura will primarily contain petis, or shrimp paste, which I do not like. But, what surprises I found. I ate and ate and ate. We could have explored a lot more of Madurese food. But between exploring the place, embracing the local life, and eating, many times we had to juggle our priorities.

Nasek Jejen (or a kind of Nasi Campur) - available at most road sides in the morning....and ooohhhh....what a taste.... I miss this a lot now

Shopping is scattered.
So again, this is about living city attitude behind. The attitude of having used to get everything in one place. It is always best to go to the sources, talk to the crafters, know their art, then shop there. Doing this gives you the best prices. And, the stories of each piece that you get. So do not attempt to find a handicraft centre – Madura is not huge. It is easy to go from one place to the other, people are helpful. So why not find them at their sources.

We did not see many of these souvenir stalls even at supposedly tourist places like the beaches. This was at Asta Tinggi - the Royal Kingdom's tomb complex ( of all places....)

Start your day early.
6am already feels like Jakarta’s 7. And the sun begins to set at around 5.15. So plan your trip carefully, start very early so you do not miss the views.

This was 6am in our room in Sumenep

Madurese have strong Islamic belief and practice. It is the land of pesantren (or Islamic boarding schools). It does not mean that women have to use veils, but you have to wear appropriate attire. I would not suggest hot pants – even on beaches. You would not be shooed away, but you will invite people to stare and whisper about you (unless you like that kind of attention). And if you are visiting the tombs, do not wear shorts even for men. It is not only considered impolite to the royal family members buried there, but also impolite in the eyes of Islam tradition.

The best way to explore Madura is to rent a car. But you have to do this from Surabaya. And be patient – bikers are generally more dangerous outside Jakarta…hehehe.
Now, you think you are ready for Madura?. Stay tuned.



  1. Your room looks faaaar better than the rooms in Eastern Indonesia... say, like the one in Ende, or Alor, or Labuanbajo :) So, it's not that low grade hotel.

    Visiting Madura is one of my dream, as I'm actually half-Madurese. I'll consult you when I'm ready to go... hehehe...

  2. mmm... yang harus dipelajari berarti itu tuh.... mengenai public facilities... tapi, bisa lah!! iya gak,mbak? hehehehe.... huuu....mau euy!!! - Sita

  3. @maynot...thanks for visiting this blog. and those places you mentioned...oh my I dream of going there..
    @sita - piece of cake Ta...piece of cake ;p


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