Monday, January 7, 2013

The Enchanting East: Our journey to Parts of East Java and Bali

Part 1: The East Java Fragment
 
After the 10 days overland trip over parts of West and Central Java last year (which I haven’t had a chance to write about!), we got addicted!. 

There is always a certain charm about doing overland trips. You can go anywhere you want. You can venture out to less familiar terrains if your car allows it. You can stop anywhere you wish to and enjoy whatever it is the place is offering. 

And with kids, I always love going by our own car because that also means I have more freedom with them!. I don’t have to worry about our luggage. I don’t have to worry about other passengers getting annoyed by kids who can’t stand still. And best is, we can bond as a family as we journey in and out to so many places. 

And Indonesia is a place best to explore that way: drive at your own pace. Explore with your own interests. And who knows, you  may find many surprising facts and lovely places about this beautiful country. 

This time, just like last year I think, we had to crack one major issue: to get away from crowds as much as possible!. Not an easy thing to do considering this time we were planning to go during Christmas/New Year’s holiday; as well as school’s holiday. Cip and I both hate crowds…haha…we just dislike going to too touristy places and end up seeing too many people making it hard to enjoy the place!. So imagine how to do that in holiday time!. 

With that in mind, also the intention that now we had to explore new places, we picked East Java and West Bali. The latter is easy: West Bali is not often frequented by tourists, and it is also the easiest and closest to reach once we cross from Java to Bali. So kids won’t get too tired, and we all get to experience a new place. Cip and I are already bored with the familiar places of Bali and we have been wanting to explore West Bali. 

To pick up places in East Java is another matter. 

We have decided that we would first fly to Surabaya and explore the city a bit. Why Surabaya?. Well, it is now an impressive city!. It’s clean and organized. They put a lot of efforts in preserving historical buildings. They put a lot of effort in making many gardens in this very hot city. So we wished to explore it a little bit. Both of us have often visited Surabaya on business  so we never really have time to do so. 

After Surabaya, we first planned to go to Bromo. Unfortunately, we could not find a hotels!. And that also told us something: don’t go to Bromo cause there would just be too many tourists! :D 

We also considered going to Ijen Crater. But then another thought came – there is Lila who’s only 19 months old by the time we went. I believed she was going to be strong enough for the cold weather either in Bromo or Ijen, but with the wind and wet season, I did not want to take any chances. So we had to drop both options for these various reasons.

So after thinking and re-thinking, we finally set our itinerary. The trip would be from Surabaya – staying over for 2 days and 3 nights. Then off to Batu, Malang; before we continued the journey to Jember. In both Batu and Jember we stayed for 3 days and 2 nights. From Jember we would go to Ketapang, Banyuwangi to cross to our final destination: Pemuteran, West Bali, to stay for 5 days and 4 nights. 

Next, the car. At first we wanted to rent a car. But then, logistically it was proven impractical and too expensive too!. Because we wanted to fly to Jakarta from Bali, then we would have to rent a car in Surabaya to Ketapang, Banyuwangi. Then rented another car in Bali. There would be problems of who would take the car back when we were about to cross to Bali, and to take the car at the airport. Having asked around, Cip felt this was too troublesome to arrange. 

So finally we asked a trusted driver to take our car to Surabaya. And later, he picked it up from Bali and drove it down to Jakarta. 

Settled!. And the journey began. On the 21st December 2012, at 1630, we boarded the plane which took us to the starting point of our adventure: Surabaya. 


This map describes our journey across parts of East Java.The
purple line is the 'straight route' of the whole journey. The
red circles are the other places outside that line that we visited. In Mojokerto
(not far from Surabaya), we visited Trowulan. The 2nd circle is the
'Piket Nol route'from Malang to Jember. We also visited Bondowoso; and 
Kalibaru where we rode on Kaliraga lorry.



[...]

When I told a friend of mine that we’d start our trip in Surabaya, his first question was, “What will you do there? Shopping?”. 

So, here are my highlights, to show that there are plenty to see and do in this city!. I think I have to do this to do justice to it:

1.     Surabaya city itself. It may not be charming for most people. But if you’ve gone there, say, 5 years ago, you’ll probably be impressed by how it’s transformed itself now. The first time I went to Surabaya, around 17 years ago (oh my, I AM OLD :D), I did not want to explore it one bit. But, I went there last year and that was when I knew I had to come again and see its transformation. And, I was not disappointed.

Clean river. When will Jakarta have this?!

The shaded, CLEAN, streets...a refreshing sight



2.     Art Otel. Cip, the art lover of the family, picked this hotel up and he continuously said to me that I would love it.Well, he was right. I think this was one of the most unique hotel I’ve ever stayed in so far. I love the simple ambience, and the work of art scattered everywhere. And I also like how they tell the story of the artist who made the painting they use as wall paper in each room. They are all local artists, who’ve won various awards from other parts of the world. It’s very invigorating, and there is a sense of pride as well, to see the work of art from these highly talented local artists. A hotel worth staying not just for comfort. And if you love art, then you must stay in this hotel if you are in Surabaya. You’ll be amused. 

 Very true, eh? :)

 The decor of the lobby - very colourful, energizing ambience, not to mention, very modern

There are cute resin statues inside. This was Lila's favourite :)

 The stairs with graffiti.. I love this touch...

What we found on top of the stairs. Apparently, they have some installation on each floor 

Outside they have these swan statues...Lila was also quite fond of them :) 


3.       Trowulan – the glimpses of Indonesia’s grandest kingdom, Majapahit. Their museum is quite amazing. And it is interesting to see various artifacts saved in this huge complex. You can see samples of living quarters, temples, and other things. It’s only around 1 hour from Surabaya, an easy drive to learn about one of this country’s grand histories.

Quite a respectable collection. Cip is explaining about a baby bath to Lila

Tara posing with the statue of The Goddess Tara, the wife of Avalokitesvara. She was amused! :) 
 
Their collections are all over the place and of various parts of either a temple, a house, or a tomb

The sample of a housing complex

Candi Tikus (Rat Temple). Named as such because it was found when there were rats attacking the villagers' padi fields. They chased and tried to kill these rats in their dwelling, and they found this temple underground, had become a comfy home for the rats (eeeuuuuhhhh....)
One of its beautiful gate. So in the past, there was a wall surrounding this huge site. And there are gates at different point. I forget the name of this one


4.       Free ‘Reog’ dance performance every Sunday in front of Balai Pemuda. If you haven’t seen it, then go. It’s lovely to see the intricate work on the huge masks, and the acrobats they do as a team.

It's quite amazing once they put on this gigantic mask!

Some animal lovers may scream seeing this. I believe this is a whole real peacock. This is on the gigantic mask. Pity, but you have to admit it is beautiful...

And it must be very heavy and not easy to maneuver with this gigantic thing on your head!

Discussing their next moves




5.       The Submarine monument. Going into a submarine has been my dream since childhood. Thanks to watching Jacques Cousteau’s programs, and the series ’20,000 league under the sea’. Going to this monument allowed me to imagine what life must have been inside. And it was a historical submarine – has fought many battles before it finally landed where it is now. 


The tornado chamber. Imagine this was used a long time back to free Papua...

The 'bedroom'. I don't think I can cope with this :D


6.       House of Sampoerna. I dislike cigarettes. But I appreciate the art of making hand rolled kretek cigarette. It’s one of Indonesia’s legacy in the cigarette industry. It’s been here for hundreds of years. So it’s interesting to see how people do it, in the House of Sampoerna. They also provide ‘Heritage Trail’ – a bus ride to various historical points in Surabaya. Unfortunately it was fully booked when we got there thanks to the School holiday.

We love these old posters


Apart from those, there are of course other things to see and do in Surabaya. 

We drove around the old part of town – which started from China Town, Jembatan Merah etc. Surabaya has lovely historical buildings in this part of the city. One of which, is now an office of the national plantation company. Cip and I had a chance to go inside some years back, by paying the security guard who gladly took us for a simple tour around this building, right after our trip to Madura in 2009 (if you want to know more about Madura, there are three series of The Surprising Madura, in Travel and Places in this blog). 

We were happy this time to see that they are starting the preservation of other various buildings in this old town. Because they deserve to be preserved. 

If you love ice cream, you must go to Zangrandi. An ice cream house which goes way back to the colonial time. If you’ve been to Toko Oen in Malang, you’ll feel the same ambience in Zangrandi. Their ice cream is nice – not heavy like modern ice cream, but lighter, less sweet, and more refreshing. You can actually buy this ice cream in Jakarta. Haha…I accidentally found it on the way to Radio Dalam over the weekend!. Don’t ask me where it is located exactly, I don’t know the name of the road!. 


Quite a lovely place to spend the afternoon especially after a hot day in Surabaya!

There is also an 8 years old mosque built by the Chinese Muslim community in Surabaya – Masjid Muhammad Cheng Ho, taken for the great admiral of his time who ventured out so far and could practically make a world map on his own!. It was interesting to see its architecture – they retain the Chinese feel to it; mixed with Arabic scriptures you typically find in mosques. It is not a big one, but quite nice to get a different feel from the boring architecture of mosques in this country that tend to always take either a Mediterranean or Arabic style (well, I find them very boring!). 


A refreshing architectural touch


 

The 'bedug' - the drum like device that people use to signify a prayer time


Then of course you can always taste the feel of crossing Suramadu – the long bridge connecting East Java and Madura. We crossed it for Tara to know. It was amusing to see her enjoying the view. And it was also interesting to once again feel the difference between Surabaya and soonest you landed on the land of Madura – one very crowded and developed, the other feels very provincial. The contrasts of Indonesia, once again :) 

Oh and FOOD!!. We tried 'Sate Klopo'. This is the usual meat or chicken satay, but it is covered with shredded coconut. It's very tasty and gives a different texture thanks to the shredded coconut. 

Served with peanut paste, it serves a delight to our palate!

This was how it was cooked...

and how it was prepared with the peanut sauce + sliced chili + sliced shallots


From Surabaya, we went to Batu, Malang

In Batu, we stayed in Kartika Wijaya, a villa turned into hotel used to be owned by the Sarkies family. This is a family which owned four historical buildings and hotels including Kartika Wijaya: Majapahit Hotel in Surabaya, Raffles Hotel in Singapore, Niagara Hotel in Malang. All lovely buildings. 

The original part of the building is only the middle part – the rest were added, but I think they did it quite well. The additional buildings did not ruin the beauty of its main entrance. And what’s amazing about the lobby? – the Java map work on its glass. Beautiful work, quite stunning as you walked into the lobby. 
 
And you can see Mount Arjuna right after you walk out from the lobby


If you're impressed with the outside, wait till you get into the lobby... 

That beautiful map of Java in the lobby

It has a huuuuge garden at the back for kids to run around to their hearts' content!


This hotel also has a library. And it has one of the books that Cip translated as a student!. It was a surprise for both daddy and daughter :) 

Mount Arjuna from afar


If you are in Batu, I would highly recommend you to go to Batu Secret Zoo and Animal Museum. Even when you don’t have kids!. They give you a very different feel. To me, the zoo is like a miniature of the Sydney zoo – with clean paths, shaded areas, lots of chairs to enjoy the view and animals, and interesting ‘region’ layouts (e.g. they have reptile area, Savana etc). The museum is a tiny weeny replica of the Smithsonian in the US with its diorama of animals. Seriously, both are very entertaining!. Our only regret was, there were just too many people when we went there!. So we will surely go back there someday. 

 The dioramas in the museum are really good and educative

There were some local musicians when we were done exploring. So it was quite fun cause we honestly were tired seeing too many people rather than from walking!



Batu has an interesting ‘plaza’, or alun-alun we call them. If London and Singapore have their ‘London eye’ or ‘Singapore eye’, hey, Batu has one too in this alun-alun! :)
 
They have a traffic garden for kids to play with battery operated cars, they have various lampions, and, it is very clean!. So it’s nice just to have a walk in the afternoon to night time, enjoying the ambience and the nice, clean, cool air that you wouldn't get in Jakarta!.

'Batu Eye' :) 

Of course, there should be an apple as one of its lampions as it is Batu's natural produce
We spent some time also in Batu Night Spectacular. This is like a mini Fantasy World in Ancol, Jakarta. We went there just wanting to know what it’s like. And of course, too noisy to my liking. But interesting to see what locals enjoy in their free time. And it was a pleasure to see that hey, you no longer have to go to Jakarta for these types of entertainment!. Talk about a spread of economic opportunity too. 

We roamed around its Lampion Garden. And I quite liked to see that the lampions they have are quite well made. You know, a car does shape like a car, a flower like a flower; with good expressions too. Quite comparable with the Disney’s lampions we saw in one of their Festival of Lights. Well, still need refinement here and there but these are not bad at all!. 



  

Now. I just have to share with you the scenic route from Malang to Jember.

Before we started the trip, Cip told me that we would go to Jember through a very scenic route, called Piket Nol. He told me we would have cliffs on one side, and the view of the sea on the other. That was enough to get me intrigued!

And oh how I was stunned....  Just enjoy these pictures....I’m really out of words to describe them.. they remind me of my mom’s homeland – West Sumatra, to some extent. I seriously never really think that such a thing still exists in Java, the most populated island in Indonesia. So I was pleased, and amazed, to see all these... 

I wouldn't have found this view if it hadn't for the old bridge being repaired (the one where Cip was standing carrying with Lila), which caused vehicles having to pass one by one, and VERY SLOWLY at it too. So as we passed I looked down, and saw the gorgeous view. I wish I could see how the water fall would look like from the other side if the river was overflowing. It must be stunning. This is Kali Lengkong, by the way




The lush vegetation. The stunning view far away. All you can ask for on a 'scenic route'. If you've been to 'Kelok 44' in West Sumatra, you'll feel some resemblance on this route



 We passed 'Gladak Perak'. The old bridge was where Cip and Tara were standing. It was built in the colonial time. The new one, in the picture below it, was only built in 2010. Imagine how strong the old one must have been!

Jember. My mom was there last year. And she raved about a very clean little town. 

When we got there, the first impression that I got was a little town with an ambience that was similar with Cirebon, to some extent: business like,a well-off little town, and my mom was right, it is very clean.  

It has a huge plaza. Very clean, well lit at night, providing a real space for people to do their activities. When we visited this place, Cip’s comment was, “If only we see all these places around every city, then we would really know WHY we pay taxes every year!”. Hehehe.....so much painful truth in there especially from someone forced to be a Jakartan! ;)




Jember is actually a rich little town. Its main income comes from tobacco plantations. And recently it is also a center for Dragon fruits. When we were there, this fruit was in season.

Just like any city in Java, Jember also has its batik. And thanks to its economic root from tobacco, its batik has its own identity and is called ‘Batik Tembakau’ or tobacco batik. The colours of their batik, is similar with any coastal areas in Java: bright, strong colours. Price wise, its hand written batik I find cheaper than those in Central Java. We bought some to add to our collections. 

This isn't the finished batik, it's still in the colouring process. Just picked this one so you see clearly the tobacco leaves always exist in their batik pattern


There are also beautiful beaches in Jember. We visited one of them – Tanjung Papuma. 

The way to get there was really lovely. You have to go through a teak wood forest before you finally find the beach. What was unique when we passed through the forest, was that on one side, the trees were covered with their leaves, while on the other, there were no leaves at all!. So it was quite a sight. At some part it looked like Europe in autumn!.








The beach itself, is like a Petite Halong Bay. Well, at least to me it did look like PARTS of Halong Bay thanks to some of the rocks. And the sea was really calm and clean. Oh and yes, it was scorching hot, and this was only at 10am! :D







Unfortunately, it was very, very dirty. There was trash everywhere. 


Not sure if you can see the trash or not. This is just a 'small' example of so many others at this beach!








It was a pity. This is a beautiful country, but we often disregard its beauty by our own misconduct. I often wonder why it is so difficult for people to take care of their own trash!. How can people be so ignorant thinking that SOMEONE will take care of it?. And there are so many of us thinking that way, from the looks of it. The behaviour in using public facilities and places in this country, is often appaling, if you ask me. Makes me ashamed. And it makes me angry because our own behaviour, negates what The Creator has given to us: a beautiful country. A real pity, indeed. 

Anyway. Enough bitching about cleanliness!. 

If you think only in Surabaya or Malang or Semarang you can find that delicious old style ice cream, well hey, Jember has one too!. 

The store is called Domino. It sells old fashioned ice-cream - which I think in my childhood days we called them 'es potong' or cut ice cream. 

 Unlike Toko Oen in Malang and Semarang; or Zangrandi in Surabaya, Domino does not have that vintage feel to it. But it looks quite provincial compared to those other heritage ice cream stores

 But its ice cream is just as good!

 While in Jember, we also ventured out. We went to Bondowoso. 

In the old times, Bondowoso was once a very important town. East Java was once divided into three administrative regions; Bondowoso was once the ‘capital’ of the most eastern region. So we went there expecting we would see a lot of colonial traces which mark the importance of it in the olden days. 

And we also wanted to ride on Dokar Wisata – a horse carriage (dokar in Javanese dialect), that resembles one that were used by kingdoms in the past. 

Bondowoso also has ‘Gerbong Maut’ or Deadly Carriage monument. 

The story told that in the Dutch colonial era, the freedom fighters who were caught and put in the prison in Bondowoso were so many that the prison could no longer hold any more. Thus the Dutch decided that some had to be transferred to the prison in Surabaya. 

They did this in waves.  Every wave, the train would carry 100 prisoners. The first and second waves were smooth. But the third, ended in sheer disaster because the Dutch General at that time, forbid people to go near the train to give food and water to the prisoners, and they used a new carriage made of steel. 

In that wave, 100 were put in small carriages. With the last 30 or so prisoners were practically shoveled into the last, new, carriage – with no ventilation, made of steel. This train traveled to Surabaya under extreme heat. The screams of the prisoners ignored by the soldiers. That when they finally arrived in Surabaya, in that last carriage, everyone died. That was why it is called ‘Gerbong Maut’.

So with those stories and historical background, I expected to see a lot in Bondowoso. 

I got goosebumps seeing the carriage ‘up, close and personal’. I could not imagine the sheer terror people had at that time. I prayed that all their souls could rest in peace. 


We unfortunately did not get to see the Dokar Wisata. Apparently it only operates on Sundays (we were there on Friday). But we got to see the little town. Very clean, with a nice plaza. Unfortunately we did not find that many historical buildings – except for the train station from where the Deadly Carriage went off. The station is still used until now. And was under renovation when we came. A lovely small station, carrying the weight of history. So we were glad it was well taken care of.




My highlight of our visit to Jember, the best part of it which I intentionally save for the last in this part, is the Kaliraga Lorry ride.


Kaliraga – short from Kalibaru, Mrawan, and Garahan, is a lorry trip across those three stations. It is an open lorry, fit for around 6 passengers (you have to allow room for 2 crews), and goes around the hills around those three points. It was just beautiful. At some part I almost screamed because I’m not fond of height and there were parts where we just passed a very high point on a bridge, in the bloody open lorry!. 

And we also went through a 690m pitched dark tunnel, made in 1901. Our lorry driver (is that what you call them? :D), said that there are ghosts in it. Thank God we did not see any. If we did, then that would probably be another highlight! :D 



 about to enter the 690m long, dark, tunnel..


 that, does not look too scary from here. If you're afraid of height, my advice would be: don't look down... 

 ...unless you wish to know how far you'll fall in case the lorry gets a little imbalance, or if there is a strong wind passing the lorry by. And no parachute is provided ;)

 But the view is lovely...really...

This is not The Alps, but if you can't go to The Alps, don't pity yourself! This country has a lot to offer!


What I found most interesting was how the lorry got turned when we got to Garahan, the final station. 

From there we would go back to Kalibaru station. I thought, the lorry would then turn around following certain tracks - that someone would turn the tracks; just like trains do before they go to the opposite direction. Turned out, the lorry itself GOT TURNED, manually. 8 people lifted it up, turned it towards Kalibaru's direction, and voila, we were ready to go!. So cute!. 

 Lifted and turned!



All wheels on track?. OK then, we were ready to go! :) 


I could not put words into this whole lorry ride experience. It was just an amazing 2 hours trip. And that we took not in a bright daylight. It was raining and cloudy. So I can only imagine how much more stunning it is in the brighter days!.


Aaahhh....Indonesia, Indonesia, Indonesia. You have so many surprises in your pocket....

I’ll continue with the Bali fragment part later. Now, I have to be realistic, my report is waiting! (impatiently too...). 


(R I R I..... will be back with part 2 of The Enchanting East: The Bali fragment)




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