Sunday, 28 February 2010

Mt Bromo - Awesome Landscapes at 2,329 Metres

(Click here for Part 1)

After getting our arses back into the jeep, we were on the road again. This time we headed back down Mt Penanjakan and across the plains to the foot of Mt Bromo.

Soon we arrived at about 7.00am and the driver parked the jeep together with the other jeeps.

Despite having no proper parking lines, the drivers parked the jeeps in an orderly way.

It was really hot by then and I removed 3 layers of clothing and left 'em in the jeep. It was a good decision cause going from zero degrees to about 30 degrees is a toil on anyone's body. Another traveller in our group climbed up Mt Bromo with all her 5 layers of clothing, and she felt dizzy as she climbed down the stairs due to the heat.

The driver gave us only an hour to get our arses to the crater and back cause 4 of us in the group needed to catch buses to our onward destination at 9.30am.

There were many horses and their Masters waiting for customers. The horses will take you to the steps of Mt Bromo and back for IDR100,000 a horse. Putting 2 fellas on one horse to save money is not allowed.

As we started walking, a few of the Masters approached us, but we refused to take any horse cause:

1) we pity the horses having to carry our weight all the way.
2) we are fit and healthy to walk. I don't know why, but almost every tourist of Chinese descent chose to ride the horse. Are Chinese people that lazy and unfit to walk? Tsk tsk tsk ...

Horses and Masters waiting for customers. At the back is Mt Batur which looks so much clearer now without the mist.

When we refused the horses, some of the Masters followed us in case we capek (get tired) along the way and decide to take the horse. The price will of course reduce accordingly.

Master and horse following me in case I get tired half way.

Since we only had one hour, we started walking briskly on the Sea of Sand.

Soon we reached The Poten, a Tenggerese Hindu temple. You can't possibly miss it cause it's along the path to the steps of Mt Bromo and it's huge.

The Poten. In the background you can already see the white smoke billowing from the crater of Mt Bromo.

As we reached the steps, I turned back to see how far we've walked, and oh my ... it really seems so far away. Deep down inside it felt like a sense of achievement to have walked that far.

Chinese tourists riding horses to the steps of Mt Bromo. I think some of these Chinese buggers will even pay the locals to carry them up the stairs. By the way, the row of mountains in the background is Mt Penanjakan or the Viewpoint where we were earlier.

Horses and their Masters waiting for their customers. In the background are the steps that leads to the crater.

The final leg of the journey is the flight of steps right up to the crater.

Stairway to the crater. 

Everyone who makes it to the top were panting and sweating profusely. Reducing my layer of clothing was indeed a good decision!
After catching our breath, it was time to explore the place.
I looked down into the crater and I thought it was not that remarkably impressive after all.
You mean I climbed all the way for this ???

However, the magnificent landscapes were awesome!

Apart from the landscapes, the local folks amazes me.

Take a look at this lady who earns her living by selling water and other stuff to travellers. She travels daily from Cemoro Lawang to the peak of Mt Bromo with a huge sack of stuff that she carries on her back up Mt Bromo, daily.

Take a look at some of the stuff she carries on her back up Mt Bromo, daily. And those Chinese tourists can't even make the walk once!

It really puts life into perspective.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Picture Perfect Views from Mt Penanjakan

I was still groggy when the alarm rang at 2.30am. But it was time for the highlight of this trip - the climb up Mt Bromo.

After brushing my teeth, washing my face and putting on lots of sunblock, I slipped on a pair of jeans over my leggings, as well as 5 layers of clothing. Heard that the temperature can drop to zero degrees up there.

We then headed to the restaurant of Yoschi's where we were staying. The kitchen fellas had prepared breakfast for us: 2 slices bread, butter, jam, plastic butter knife, a banana and mineral water - all neatly packed into a nice box each.

Since we didn't want to carry the packs to the top of the mountain, we opened our packs and wolfed everything down. 

At 3.30am, the jeep arrived to take us up to the Viewpoint (also known as Mount Penanjakan) and then to the foot of Mt Bromo so that we can torture ourselves while climbing to the peak.

Our hotel had helped us book the tour for IDR100,000 per person. But we paid the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park entrance fee of IDR25,000 each to the driver before we started the journey.

Our mode of transportation to Mt Penanjakan and Mt Bromo. Maximum number of passengers is 6 pax.

After we passed the town of Cemoro Lawang, the fog became so thick I could only see 1 metre in front of me. I was thinking the driver would slow down, but he continued driving like he was born to drive up Mt Penanjakan!

I was saying my prayers that we won't plunge down a ravine or something. At one juncture the jeep lights went out for a second or two and we were in complete darkness. I could hear myself and the American lady behind me gasp when that happened.

After 45 minutes of driving in darkness through fog, rocky roads, broken roads and winding roads up the mountain, we arrived at Mt Penanjakan.

When we got down from the jeep, few people walked up to us offering coats for rental at IDR5,000 a coat. Rentals at Yoschi's is IDR20,000 a coat. So you know where to rent if you need to.

I thought my 5 layers of clothing, beanie and woollen gloves were enough, and it was.

The lane leading to the Viewpoint is paved with shops selling snacks, hot drinks, winter clothing and souvenirs.

If you need a snack, try the roast corn. I didn't, but just snapped this pic cause I thought the guys looked cool all sitting in a row roasting corn :-)

After the rows of shops, the Viewpoint approaches. It was pitch black and we had to feel our way up the steps. At this point I regretted leaving my cellphone with torchlight feature back at the hotel.

The main area in the Viewpoint.

Since we were one of the early birds, we quickly surveyed the place (in the dark!) and booked our spots before the crowds arrived.

This is the crowd during the low season. Imagine if it's during the high season. I think there won't be enough space to move around.

Crowd waiting for the sun to rise so that they can snap and snap and snap lots of pics ...

After waiting and watching, the sun soon peeked over the horizon. The crowd started snapping non-stop to capture breathtaking views like these:

The highest mountain at the back is Mt Semeru, the one with the crater is Mt Bromo, and the one right in front is Mt Batur.

Most of the shots I took were unclear because of the mist that covered the mountains. What to do ... we went in February which is considered the rainy season.

So now you know where those picture perfect photos of Mt Bromo were taken - from Mt Penanjakan. The locals call it "Viewpoint".

The weather was cooling and perfect. I could stay there for hours watching the mountains light up in all its glory. But it was time to head back to the jeep for the next part of our journey - the climb up Mt Bromo.

Click here for Part 2.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Review: Yoschi's Hotel & Restaurant - Good Choice of Accomodation in Mt Bromo Area

Our AirAsia flight to Surabaya's Juanda Airport landed at 3.30pm.

Since we knew we were gonna be landing rather late, Angie had already arranged with Yoschi's Hotel & Rastaurant for someone to pick us up.

Adi and the driver were waiting for us when we exited the arrival area. They led us to the car and we were on our way!

This is the 4-wheel drive that took us safely to Yoschi's. Here it's parked outside a musholla (prayer room) in a Pertamina petrol station cause Adi and the driver wanted to pray.

Oh yeah, Adi brought us a welcome gift too - rambutans!

I wonder if Adi would have brought us rambutans had we been Western travellers, hehehe. I'm saying this after seeing a Caucasian tourist in KL's Petaling Street (Chinatown) being so fascinated with these hairy fruits that she couldn't stop taking pics!

After stopping for a nasi padang dinner and prayer break for Adi and the driver, we arrived at Yoschi's at 8.00pm.

According to Adi, taking public transport from Surabaya's Juanda Airport to the Mount Bromo area like Ngadisari and Cemoro Lawang can be a hassle.

Reason is because from the airport, travellers need to take 2 buses and 1 minivan to the area.

Getting to Cemoro Lawang via Public Transport
Step 1: From Surabaya's Juanda Airport, take the Damri bus to Purabaya Bus Terminal.
Step 2: From Purabaya Bus Terminal, take the Patas bus to Probolinggo
Step 3: From Probolinggo, take the light green minivan that heads to Cemoro Lawang, the town nearest to Mt Bromo.

Adi said that buses don't move until they are filled. So just imagine the amount of waiting you'll have to do on all 2 buses and 1 minivan.

So it was a good choice to take private transport to Yoschi's, despite having to pay IDR550,000 for the entire car. But if you have more travellers in your group, then cost per person is lesser.

Now a bit on Yoschi's Hotel & Restaurant ...

The hotel is located in the Probolinggo area, with many signboards showing the way. Moreover it is located along the only road heading to Cemoro Lawang. So you can't possibly miss it.

Archway welcoming you to the area.

Only one main road leads to Yoschi's.

Signboard 1

Signboard 2

Signboard 3

See ... I told you there were many signboards showing the way to Yoschi's ... And if you still can't find the place, then knock yourself on the head.

Despite the Japanese sounding name, Yoschi's Hotel & Restaurant is owned by a German lady and her Indonesian husband. In fact, the hotel's name is a combination of both their names.

There was a group of backpackers when we were there. I think they were from The Netherlands.

Yoschi's is popular with travellers, like this group of backpackers.

I think they must have read bout Yoschi's and want to enjoy the hotel's beautiful surroundings like these:

Small doorway that leads to the rooms, restaurant, shower rooms, etc.

The employees work hard to keep Yoschi's gardens beautiful and clean. In fact, we saw them gardening tirelessly day in and day out. What a shame cause I only garden on FarmVille.

Our Economy Room was inside here. I didn't take any pics of the rooms cause it was very dark. In case you're curious, the beds and pillows looked like they never saw the light of day for 20 years.

There are no attached bathrooms in the Economy and Standard Rooms. So you shower in the shower rooms outside. The shower on the right is clean and spacious. The one on the left is quite dirty and not well maintained. Both showers have hot water - something very important in the cold climate of Mt Bromo.

A beautiful fountain beside the shower rooms. Behind this fountain is a musholla.

Breakfast (included in room rates) is served in the restaurant. The restaurant also serves delicious Indonesian and Western food.

If you are on a tight budget, there's an alternative to cut food cost. A young fella comes to sell bakso daily in the small hut opposite Yoschi's - only IDR5,000 a bowl. Super cheap!

Young fella preparing a bowl of bakso from his portable stall.

You can bring your bowl of bakso into the hotel's restaurant. But I chose to whack mine outside - surrounded by lovely mountains :-)

To me, bakso is one of the national dishes of Indonesia, like what nasi lemak is to Malaysia.

Apart from it's close location to Mt Bromo, what I like about Yoschi's are its friendly staff. They were helpful, always smiling, and never showed favouritism towards Caucasian travellers, like how I experienced in some fucked-up places.

So how much is a room in Yoschi's? Since I'm too lazy to type the details out, I snapped pics and posted them here. Click on the pics to get a bigger image. All the rates and contact details are there.

Enjoy your trip!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Visitors in Borobudur

For this entry, I'm not gonna tell you about the splendour of Borobudur cause you can always Google it. You can also click here for the official website and let the professionals tell you about it.

Instead, I'm gonna show you what visitors do in Borobudur, the world's biggest Buddhist temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Let's begin with the numerous signages reminding people not to climb onto the reliefs.

"No climbing" signages are found almost everywhere in Borobudur.

Clearly the folks who visit Borobudur don't know how to read, or they just don't give a damn. Take a look at these kids:

Being cheeky.

"Look at me ... I can climb onto the stupa!"

"Don't look cause someone is trying to snap a picture of me being bad."

"I wonder how's the view from the top?"

Busted. This boy was sitting beside the Buddha statue to snap a photo. He must have noticed that I was watching him.

A cardinal rule when visiting any ancient monument is not to touch the reliefs. But take a look at these people:

According to a Borobudur handout, there's a legend that anyone who can reach in and touch the cloth of the Buddha near the East stairway will have their wish come true. Maybe that's why these fellas are so enthusiastic in touching the Buddha statue inside the stupa. But this is not even the East stairway!

Borobudur was swarming with people when I was there. As a person who appreciates ancient monuments and reliefs as well as all UNESCO World Heritage Sites, I watched in disbelief at what the visitors were doing.

Borobudur was restored from 1907 till 1911 by Theodore van Erp. From 1973 till 1983, the ancient monument underwent a major restoration by the Indonesian government with help from UNESCO. It is hoped that the temple will survive for another 1,000 years.

But by the look of things, I don't think Borobudur can even stand another 100 years, let alone 1,000 years!

More efforts need to be done like placing more officers around to remind visitors about the importance of preserving this national heritage. Otherwise the future generations will not be able to see and appreciate beautiful reliefs like this:

Buddha image in Borobudur.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Happiness Is ...

... when you unexpectedly receive simple but meaningful gifts from the beloved :-)

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Shopping in Bali

I hardly shop whenever I travel. Shopping doesn't interest me cause most of the stuff that I bought used to end up at Cash Convertors or in the recycling bin.

But during my recent trip to Bali, I did a bit of shopping cause I went there with family members whose sole purpose whenever they travel is to shop till they drop.

Here are some stuff I bought in Bali which I would like to show you.

Don't know why, but I tend to get attracted to beer t-shirts whenever I go to a country that has its own beer.

Bintang Beer is the national beer of Indonesia, like what Beer Laos is in Laos.

Since Indonesia has its own beer, I bought a Bintang Beer tank top and t-shirt to add to my collection.

You can find Bintang Beer t-shirts almost anywhere in Bali. I bought these from one of the shops along Jalan Legian in Kuta. Cost: IDR50,000 (RM18.30) for both t-shirts.

Celuk is a place in Bali that is famous for its hand crafted silver jewellery. There are numerous shops in the area all selling silver jewellery of various designs.

On our way to Tanah Lot, the driver stopped at one of the shops there for us to browse around.

The last time I was in Bali in November 2007, the driver also dropped us at one of the shops in Celuk. But at that time I didn't fancy the designs. I thought they were old fashioned.

But this time around I saw this jewellery set that I fancied.

Pendant and chain

Matching earrings. Don't know why this photo is elongated.

The sales assistant will pack your jewellery in cute woven containers like these.

If you're interested, this picture contains the address and contact details of the shop. Just click on the photo to enlarge it. Otherwise, please drop me an email.

Costs me IDR600,000 (RM219.30) for the pendant, chain and earrings. Had to pay by credit card cause didn't bring enough cash.

The Art Market in Ubud is a dream come true for anyone who has the shopping DNA in their genes. There are many shops here selling stuff like home deco, paintings, hand crafted wooden boxes, clothing, costume jewellery, shawls and the list goes on.

When my family members stepped into the art market, heaven came down and glory filled their shopping soul. So I excused myself and headed to Milano Spa to get a Brazilian wax. The spa is located near the football field on Monkey Forest Road.

After getting myself as clean as a baby (huge grin), I walked back to the art market to look for my family members.

As I was passing one of the shops in the art market, a leopard print dress caught my eye. I quickly enquired the price cause I had developed a crush on animal print clothing lately. Opening price was IDR50,000 (RM18.30) and I bargained to IDR20,000 (RM7.30). So what else but grab lah!

My dirt cheap leopard print dress bought from Ubud Art Market

I had one bad experience about shopping in Bali when I paid quite high a price for 4 pairs of earrings. Story goes like this ...

I had just finished a traditional herbal (lulur) massage at Sicilia Spa in Kuta. I was so relaxed and happy after that massage that I was not thinking straight.

Can you blame me for not thinking straight when the spa was so damn gorgeous? A traditional herbal (lulur) massage here costs IDR165,000 (inclusive of 10% tax), which is approximately RM60.00. In Malaysia I would definitely be paying more than RM150 for a similar treatment!

Anyway, at the entrance of the lane leading to Sicilia Spa on Double Six, there are many shops selling costume jewellery at wholesale prices. Since I had extra Rupiah to spend before my flight back to KL, I walked into one of the shops to buy a few pairs of earrings.

The lady quoted me a price. After stating my price and the lady stated hers, I thought it was a fair price and paid up.

As I was walking back to the hotel I did a mental calculation to convert the amount into Malaysian Ringgit. It was then that I realised I could get similar earrings for a much cheaper price in Malaysia.

IDR50,000 for four pairs of earring is expensive.

I think I must have gotten all confused with the Indonesian Rupiah which come in a bigger denomination and difficult to convert to Malaysian Ringgit. Anyway, no use crying over spilled milk.

Ok, so enough of shopping in Bali. I'm not gonna shop anymore when I head to Surabaya and Jogjakarta on 16 February. Mt Bromo and Borobudur ... here I come !!!
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