31.12.2011 - 03.01.2012
“Indonesia needs a good press agent as it always seems to be in the headlines for the wrong reasons.” – Lonely Planet
I couldn’t agree more with the statement…
About 5 months ago, I came across several amazing pictures posted by my friend in Facebook where I kept wondering where on earth this place is. To my surprise, it’s Mount Bromo in Indonesia! To be frankly, I’ve never heard of this place. However, this place is always ranked number 2 tourist attraction to go after Bali Island in most travel books and website based on the quick research that I’ve carried out. Shame on myself because as I do not know that is such a supernatural beauty in my neighbor country!
Without further delay, I proposed to my buddies that to have a 2012 New Year celebration in Mount Bromo! It should be very exciting, at least I believe! And I know there is another world well known Borobudur Buddhist temple nearby. Therefore I made up a travel plan to these two places and I hope at least some of them will show some interest as few in the group mentioned Borobudur before.
And here is part of the proposal’s content:
“ NEW YEAR CELEBRATION @ INDONESIA!
Have you ever thought of countdown-ing New Year in Indonesia? It sounds a bit freaky BUT in fact it is not! Can you imagine celebrating the last moment of 2011 and welcoming a brand new 2012 with a gang of BFF surrounded by breathtaking sceneries (just in case you don’t know, it stands for Best Friend Forever lol)? Don’t think too much, act now! ”
The reason why I said “freaky” is because I know my buddies well enough and I honestly do not think they will be thrilled to celebrate New Year in Indonesia. Another reason of organizing this trip is that I have never travelled with them to overseas except with one of them (that was already 5 years ago in Bali Island). In fact, they do have BFF overseas trip annually but it just that the destination they’re going always fails to excite me. lol
Luckily enough, the response was quite encouraging and there was LUCKY 7 of us “registered” for the tour. Thanks god! And I can’t wait to spend some quality time with my buddies that I’ve known for more than 15 years.
The day has come and here we go, Indonesia! (31/12/2011)
Before I further illustrate more of the trip, I should have made clear here now of what had happened to the two people that you might have identified gone missing later on. Unfortunately, something unlucky had happened where the two who is a couple did not turn up last minute due to the boyfriend had high fever and the girlfriend decided not to go but to take good care of him.
It was a two hour and forty minutes flight from Kuala Lumpur to Surabaya and we were welcomed by our friendly guide, Mr. Argus and cool driver, Mr. Irfan. After a quick lunch, we headed straight to our destination, Mount Bromo. It took about 4 hours driving from Juanda International Airport all the way up to the volcanic wonderland.
You might think it must be a long journey from Kuala Lumpur to Mt. Bromo. But not for me! We had so much chatter and laughter talking about the past as well as sharing each travel experiences during the journey. Further, I was pretty amazed by the surrounding sceneries on the way to Mt. Bromo and I felt thankful simply because this gem is not being fully discovered yet. What I’m trying to say is that it is not too commercial and touristy yet. Road is pretty narrow and the condition is rather unsatisfactory only, no cyber café spotted, not many cars but motorbikes, simple yet very clean squad toilet, not many foreign tourists too …
After unloading our luggage, we were brought to a cottage like restaurant for our New Year meal. The whole atmosphere was so inviting with the colorful decoration and lighting. More importantly, coming from hot tropical country, we certainly enjoyed the weather here (less than 10 degree Celsius I guess). Though it was a bit chilly, it was a warm dinner. There were moments during the dinner I’ve had the feeling as if they were my family members and we were celebrating big day together. In fact, I do see them as if they were my siblings.
After the dinner, we walked around and you will definitely feel the New Year is coming real soon if you were there. Though there was a shower but it did not even have a slight impact from stopping the public to countdown-ing the New Year 2012. Local youngsters and families were everywhere, small live concert & fireworks, everything were just seemed to waiting for 2012 to come!
We were informed beforehand by the tour guide that after the hotel check-in at 6pm, the rest of the day is free at our own leisure. For the fact that there’s nothing much we can do, I suggested having a gift exchange session to kill the time. Also on the way to Mt. Bromo, we stopped by a grocery store to get some local snacks and beverages for this particular activity. Again, it was a warm and fun New Year celebration where we were laughing at the gifts of each other has prepared, looking at the TV and countdown-ing together “5 4 3 2 1 Happy 2012! Cheers!” (Just for your information, Bintang Beer tastes much better than Tiger and Heineken) Further, people’s excitement and live bands made lots of New Year noise to accompany the exploding light over a dark night sky. We just couldn’t feel any better.
Though it was 3:30am in the very early morning, people were everywhere outside the lodge and everybody seemed to be ready heading to where we were going. We hopped on to the Jeep that will bring us to the world’s most famous view point at Mt. Penanjakan on the rim of the Tengger caldera to see the sunrise with its young volcanic including Mt. Bromo and an active Mt. Semeru in the background. It was absolutely adventurous!
We arrived at the foot of Mt. Penanjakan after 30 minutes ride. Mr. Argus asked if we need the horse riding service and the answer was of course not. The place was just breathtaking! The left hand side looked like Switzerland for me, the front view looked like Tibet and the right hand side looked exactly what we have imagined, volcanic wonderland! We spent about an hour hiking up to the view point to appreciate the beauty of nature around us. According to the tour guide it should be 40 minutes instead but my buddies who love to take pictures couldn’t resist the magnificent scenery that lies in front of their eyes and kept clicking their DSLR camera. It thus explains why we were taking more time than norm.
The adventure continued to an active Mt. Bromo. First, we were brought to a Tibet like place. The place was full of people, tent, horses and colourful Jeeps. At one point, girls in our group decided to go for horse riding due to the lower energy level. The price was 2USD, which we think it’s absolutely affordable and reasonable. After that, we climbed up 245 steps of stairs to see the large “hole”. It was superb! I would rank this the 2nd amazing scene that I’ve ever witnessed in my life after Niagara Falls. For me, it is even more impressive than the Great Walls! You might want to consider putting this on your bucket list.
Time to say goodbye to Mount Bromo...
At 10:30am, we started our 4 hours drive to the town to catch the 5:15pm train to Yogyakarta. Not long after we embarked our journey, our car stopped moving due to a super long unmoving traffic queue. At first, we were thinking 3 hours buffer should be okay and so we waited in the car patiently. Tik tok tik tok ... It was approaching 1pm and all of us started getting worried because our car has only travelled for merely few kilometers away from the point of origin. Our tour guide jumped off the car and walked to the front to find out what had caused the massive traffic jam. After 30 minutes he appeared to us with a bad news. According to him, there was a road construction and as a result cars were moving extremely slow. All of us were like: “What the heck! You must be kidding with us! Road construction being carried out on 1st January at one of the Indonesia’s popular tourist attractions? It doesn’t make any sense at all.”
The tour guide suggested us to walk pass the construction side and take a motorcycle ride to the town if we did not wish to miss the train. Without much deliberation, we jumped out from the car and run as fast as we could. I bet it must have been some kind of entertainments for many passengers who were waiting in their cars to see the 5 tourists to scuttle across them. Some of my friends even put the luggage on their head given the very limited space we have between two vehicles.
Just about to jump on the back seat of the motorcycle, one questioned: “Don’t you guys think it will put the girls in danger?” We were taken aback by the sentence and agreed that we should let go 40USD worth train ticket but to prioritize their safety. It was confirmed by the tour guide that we will miss the train. Therefore he suggested us to take an overnight bus for 7 hours from Surabaya to Yogyakarta. I believe Mr. Argus must have reported to the tour agency of what had happened on 5 poor guys. Guess what? The agency bought us 5 free bus tickets with meal included even though we never asked for anything as that was not their fault. Can you believe it? We couldn’t thank you enough for the arrangement.
In the mean time we were told two travellers from Thailand faced the same situation like us. They visited Mount Bromo on the same date as us; got stuck on the way to the town and they even bought the same train ticket as us. What a coincidence!
I like travelling by train and I wanted my buddies to experience it too as they have never tried before. But things just happened. Well, that’s alright! If we look at the positive side, we made friends with travellers from Thailand who later on joined us for the Borobudur’s day trip. In fact, I’m glad that we had such an adventure and 1/1/2012 is a date that I will never forget. It was a “great” kick start of the brand new year, wasn’t it?
A very early hotel checked in followed by a quick freshen-up we headed straight to Borobudur which is the largest Buddhist in the world at 6am with our new Thai friends, Tar and Jas. Borobudur is one of world's truly great ancient monuments and it’s the single largest Buddhist structure anywhere on earth. Borobudur with the backdrop of mighty active volcanoes was impressive!
Initial plan was to visit Prambanan (a ninth century Hindu temple compound in Central Java) after Borobudur but the plan forced to call off due to the heavy rain. Since it has been a long day for us, therefore we decided to go back to the hotel and rest for a while before dinner time.
We walked along the Malioboro Street which is a major shopping street in Yogyakarta to search for a nice restaurant for the last dinner of the trip. After few minutes walk, we spotted a restaurant in a warm and cozy setting along the street, Legian Garden Restaurant. Food served was absolutely delicious and I in particular liked “ayam Legian” very much. What I did not expect from this dinner was that my buddies had an early birthday celebration for me. Everybody put on the little hat they brought all the way from Singapore. That’s my buddies! They always have many extraordinary ideas to make one’s birthday special and unforgettable. It was a blast!
There goes our New Year trip in Indonesia. I’ve been to Bali Island for twice and it did not really live up to my expectation. Perhaps the place was way too commercial for me. But here in Surabya, Mount Bromo & Jogyakarta were so much more only one of its kind. Price charged for goods and services were reasonable and you just have to smile and say: “No, thank you!” if you do not wish to buy. This is because the merchants will stop nagging you and smile back. Further, local people in general demonstrate great culture of hospitality to the tourists. And if you were to visit the places mentioned here, be more respectful and please help preserve the local culture.
In a word, I would describe apart from the amazing sceneries that what Indonesia can offer; it is also a place where I felt so safe and comfortable during my travels even though my buddies and I were among the only few “aliens” in the public.
Indonesia will touch your heart…