Living in Jakarta, your options for the weekend usually consist of beers, shopping, brunch, dining out, sport, more beers, finding your favourite Australian sport on a satellite channel (at the local pub…so more beers!) and sleep. Sounds great right? It is, however my weekdays consist of all of the above as well so as often as possible we take the opportunity to get out of the city on a weekend. For Easter in Jakarta, Good Friday is a recongised Public Holiday, so we thought, we will head to trusty Bali….Every other Jakartan and Australian had the same idea and prices for flights and accommodation were through the roof! Considering we have been to Bali more times than we care to mention, we thought it would be a great opportunity to go to one of the other amazing places in Indonesia.
Not wanting to spend a fortune and restricted with time, we wanted somewhere fairly close and inexpensive. I have recently joined the world of photography and my husband is always looking for locations that give me a chance to practice my new hobby. With this in mind, he suggested Mt Bromo in East Java. I had a quick google but considering it was already the Tuesday before Easter, we didn’t have much time to research.
I jumped on and booked us a flight each (half the price of the Bali tickets) and went about searching for some accommodation and in fact how to get to Mt Bromo as there is no airport. We decided to fly into Malang as there seemed to be a bit to do in the city itself.
We flew to Malang Thursday morning. The plane flew in over fields and fields of rice. The airport is tiny! There is 1 baggage claim conveyor belt. It is 10m long and at the end just has a metal bin. Once your bag gets to the end it simply stops. This would be fine if the plane was only carrying 20 people. In our case there were approximately 180 people waiting for their bags. Needless to say it was an interesting experience.
Once we pushed our way through the crowd to retrieve our luggage we set off in search of a taxi. There seems to be a different procedure to getting a taxi at each Indonesian airport and this was certainly no different. Aware of scammers at airports that rip you off by claiming to get you a ’cheap taxi’ we were reluctant to line up at the window which said “Taxsi Stand’. After having a quick search around we found this was in fact the only way to get a taxi (not to mention, the locals were lined up too so that should have been a giveaway). When we got to the counter they asked where we were going and after I mentioned our hotel name, the lady requested Rp 75.000. She then radioed through and 30 seconds later a taxi pulled up right in front of us.
While I was hastily trawling through Tripadvisor to plan the trip, Hotel Tugu came up both as a place to stay and also to visit. It was reasonably well priced (~$144 AUD via Hotels.com) so I book us in for the 1 night.
My first impression was WOW! This hotel clearly has a lot of history and that is so beautifully captured in the design and fit out. We were greeted at the front desk by a gentleman with exceptionally good English….although his accent changed from British to American and back again which gave my hubby and I a good giggle. Our bags were briskly taken to our room while we sipped on the best fresh orange juice I can recall ever having!
When we finished our drink, we were shown to our room. I have learnt, in Indonesia, no matter how many stars a hotel has or the amount of positive comments on multiple holiday websites it has, there is usually some disappointment. Not here. With a stainless steel bathtub, king size (comfy) bed and wooden floorboards, the room was well above expectation.
We hadn’t had any lunch so we headed down to find some food. The weather had taken a turn so we couldn’t go far and decided on one of the hotel restaurants – Melati Pavilion. I ordered a steak sandwich and my husband ordered a local Indonesian dish. No complaints but hard to compare as I am Australian and personally believe we do the best steak sangas in the world! My hubby has to duck off to do some work so I took advantage of the incredible thunderstorm passing over top and ordered a chocolate lava dessert and a glass of wine. I was now in holiday mode!
After the storm passed, we headed down the road (ab
out a 400m walk) to the bird and flower markets. They were both within an hour of closing time and the rain was still sprinkling so they were fairly quiet. There were lots of colourful flowers and birds, but I was a little disappointed at the condition of some of the more exotic birds. The owls in particular looked quite distressed. At the same stall however, the gentleman was bottle feeding an injured bird so I don’t doubt that the majority are cared for. There were also rabbits, flying squirrels, turtles and millions of other birds. The local vendors are very friendly and their English isn’t too bad. They didn’t mind me practicing my average Bahasa on them either!
We strolled back through the hotel which really has a lot of history throughout. Definitely worth a wander through the back of the restaurant and into the Bam Lam Wine Shop and bar. The Wine Shop offers a generous range of wines and cigars and is worth a drink just to take in the ambiance.
After a bottle of delicious wine in our hotel room, we ventured out in search of a local restaurant or street food for dinner. We were directed by the hotel staff to a restaurant about 10 minutes’ walk away but on the way we stumbled upon a local place that looked like it had some character. We were shown to an outdoor table right by the bar and promptly ordered our Bintangs. Being the only westerners in the restaurant, we didn’t have much hope for them to be ice cold, but low and behold, not only was the beer cold, they served it in cold beer glasses! We like this place already. Shortly after we ordered our food (Indonesian food only) the local band started up. The first song they played was in Indonesian and while it was nice to listen to, it isn’t the same when you’re not singing along. After a bit more of a warm up though, I hear a familiar tune… Shania Twain, and the band did a great job (as far as I can tell because as my hubby can attribute to, I am completely tone deaf!) A few more English songs followed and we really enjoyed the night here. After settling the bill (and breaking the bank at $20 AUD) we headed off home.
When we arrived back at the hotel, our bed had been turned down and our room ready for us to drop into bed. There was even a cute little poem printed on brown paper and rolled up into a scroll wishing us sweet dreams. A lovely touch to this incredible hotel.
We woke the next day and headed down to the restaurant for breakfast. As well as the cereals and fresh fruits available on the table, a full breakfast menu was available and included in the price of the room. The hubby went for the cooked breaky and I had the ‘healthy’ option. Both were really nice. We took a walk across the road to the National Monument and took some photos. It was a nice spot to sit on the grass and soak up some sunshine.
Mid-morning we headed off with a driver we had organised through the hotel to take us up to Mt Bromo. This was the most expensive part of the entire trip, but as I mentioned we didn’t research very well, and the research I did, I honestly didn’t find overly helpful. The package was for an early morning (1am) departure from the hotel to make it to Bromo for sunrise (2hr drive), a day full of sightseeing and then return to the hotel by dinner time. We only required the one way but unfortunately had to pay for the entire package (Rp 1.7Mil – each!) If we did this again, we would contact the driver we had from here on in. Agus. He was great. Good English and good price. After a fairly uninteresting 2 hour drive we stopped at a house halfway up the mountain where we swapped into a short wheel base Toyota FJ (my hubby was in heaven as I have banished his long wheel
base to his parents’ farm in the hopes it might not start again ;)). After swapping vehicles, we continued up the hill for some photos. The cloud had come in and it was quite low so there wasn’t much opportunity for photos. The last stop for the day was the Mt Bromo crater itself. To access this you have to drive across the sand desert. Cars have to park about 800m away from the base and there is the opportunity to walk or to go by horseback for a small cost (Rp 75.000 each). It was quite amusing to see a number of horses
with their handlers chasing our car to get our business. We did opt for the horse as we weren’t dressed for the trek. Next time we would walk.
Once we were at the base of the crater, we just had to walk a few stairs to the top….all 200 of them! And they went straight up. Now, I consider myself fairly fit but I was huffing and puffing by the time we reached the top. The smell at the top caught me a little off-guard. The Sulphur smell was extremely strong and I really struggled to breathe. But the view was really cool. There were plumes of white smoke every 20 seconds or so that would filter up and allow me to get a semi-decent photo before the next plume.
Once we made our way back down the stairs and back to the vehicle, the thunder had started. So we jumped in and started heading back to our accommodation. We stayed at Istana Petani Homestay. Again, the lack of time didn’t allow for much research and to be honest, I found a lot of mixed reviews of all of the accommodation available, making it hard to make a decision. I h
ad enquired at another few hotels but they didn’t have any rooms available (it was a long weekend). The rooms at Istana Petani was ok. The price was cheap (Rp 35.000) and the bed seemed clean w
hich for me is massively important! The bathroom was clean..ish. There was quite an extensive menu in the room however when we arrived at the restaurant for dinner there was only two options. Fried Rice or Fried Noodles. We shared one of each and both were quite
tasty. We retired early as we had a 3am start. From about 2am, all I could hear were other Toyota FJ’s passing (there are about 800 in the area we were told) and other people who had an earlier start than us moving around and slamming doors. But alas, 3am rolled around and it was time to head off. We had a smooth, albeit windy road for about 40 minutes when all of a sudden, we hit traffic! Even our driver hadn’t expected it to be so busy. Lucky for us Agus knew the backstreets. When I say streets I really mean paths. W
e were weaving between cabbage and chives but after about 5 minutes popped out where we were supposed to! A 20 minute uphill walk was ahead of us and with the daylight looming we made our way
up as hastily as we could. Horses are also available here but we were better equipped this time. We made it to the top and as I was about to get the tripod and camera setup, Agus told us we were going to climb up a little higher, and climb we did. I needed both hands and all my strength to pull myself up to the hill ledge he perched us on. We were however only one of two couples in that section so we had a great, uninterrupted view.
We spent the next 2 hours snapping photos of the ever changing light – the view was beautiful!
Once we were satisfied that one of the 700 odd photos would be salvageable, we headed back to our accommodation for breakfast. We opted to skip breakfast and snuck in a quick nap before we got picked up for our trip back to Malang. We organised our trip back to Malang through our driver Agus. He charged Rp 60.000 for the both of us!
We hadn’t organised any accommodation for the night so I again jumped online and found a relatively cheap hotel (rp 600.000). The Kartika Graha Hotel. This was the type of hotel I mentioned earlier… high expectations…low reality. Again the bed was clean and the bathroom tolerable so all in all I can’t complain. The pool looked too dirty to swim in and the food was below average, especially for the price.
We were within walking distance to Jalan Ijen which is a road full of huge Dutch architecture houses. The thing we loved about Malang is the open parks and greenery. Living in Jakarta this is a real rarity! After reading some reviews online, we decided to have dinner at the Amsterdam Café. I’m not sure if it was the lower expectations (after my earlier disappointment at the hotel) but we were happy with the 2 pizzas we shared, or maybe it was the ice cold Bintang J. The staff were lovely and the restaurant was clean.
Early Sunday morning we took advantage of the car free day on the main roads near us, going for a stroll. We came across some markets back near Jalan Ijen which seemed to be mainly food and drink stalls. There were a lot of locals and a little bit of entertainment. Probably not worth a trip out to see especially but a nice find no less.
We headed home Sunday afternoon. While Mt Bromo was truly a sight to see, I was glad to be home in my own bed and clean bathroom!
List of accommodation and services
Tugu Hotel Malang – Thursday Night Accommodation
Melati Restaurant, Hotel Tugu – Thursday Lunch & Friday Breakfast
Rumah Makan Kertanegara – Thursday Night Dinner
Istana Petani Homestay – Friday Night Accommodation and Dinner
Kartika Graha Hotel – Saturday night accommodation and Sunday Breakfast
Amsterdam Café – Saturday Night Dinner
Mt Bromo Driver – Agus Tugio +62 85231216941 firstname.lastname@example.org