By Shahida Sakeri on February 26, 2019
To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether I’d enjoy the sunrise tour in the first place – I dreaded the idea of hauling myself out of bed in the wee hours, specifically at 2:00 a.m., just to catch the first light of the day. Yes, sunrises are beautiful, but so does Chris Hemsworth, the “Sexiest Man Alive” who happens to make regular appearances in my dreams when I’m asleep.
But having said that, I’ve never been to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park before, yet I’ve heard many people raving about its sunrise. It would seem such a waste if I didn’t visit the place the right way – carpe diem, right? So I agreed to join the tour.
The drive from Surabaya to Wonotoro, our base, took about three hours and a half. Our small group checked into Jiwa Jawa Resort Bromo, an environmentally-conscious resort with its own art gallery and an open-air amphitheatre, which I heard is a world-renowned venue for the Jazz Gunung festival. The resort’s rooms are designed with ultimate convenience in mind: a comfortable bed, a hot shower, a hair dryer, bath amenities and more – it was hard indeed for me to leave the room and brave the early morning cold.
At 3:00 a.m., a group of jeeps rumbled in front of the lobby, waiting to transport us. The journey took an hour or so along craggy narrow roads to reach the middle of Mount Penanjakan, where plenty of jeeps were parked, flanking both sides of the road since it was more congested at the peak. “Ok, we need to walk from here to the viewpoint,” said my guide. The night was still dark but my half-asleep mind was finally awaken in full by the sudden lively scene; I could make out the silhouette of sellers offering warm snacks, while sepeda motor (motorcycle) riders tirelessly offering rides.
At 2,770 metres above sea level, Mount Penanjakan viewpoint is slightly higher than Tengger Caldera, making it ideal for witnessing the volcanic cones of Bromo and Batok. I found a great spot at the viewpoint, and peered into the darkness in front of me for the merest hint of the grand landscape I was promised. I saw nothing. But at about 5:30 a.m., amidst the murmurs of indistinctive chatters of excited spectators, the sky began to show light. A giant orange orb rose slowly in the distance, painting the landscape into a canvas of fiery splendour. Beneath me, a carpet of mysterious mist started to blanket the green valley. And suddenly, I saw it: Mount Bromo in its glorious state, releasing white dramatic plume of gas out of the crater. I’d be lying if I were to say that such hypnotising and geologically unique view didn’t take my breath away. And at that very moment, I started to understand why people chase sunrises for fun. “This is definitely (Hems)worth it.”
Mount Bromo has deep significance to the Hindus. In fact, the name Bromo was derived from the Javanese pronunciation of Brahma, the Hindu God of Creator. During Kasada Festival, Hindu devotees from the surrounding villages throw offerings into the crater and pray at Pura Luhur Poten, located at the base of the volcano. I was told that it is safe to climb Mount Bromo due to its stability and predictability. Besides, it is also one of the most accessible mountains in Indonesia even for people with average fitness. One may opt for a leisurely stroll across the Sea of Sand to reach the foot of the mountain, while those with jelly legs can take the ride on horseback that costs IDR 150,000 per return trip between the car park area and the base of the mountain.
|Tips on Visiting the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park
Exhibiting the archaeological treasures and literary gems of the Mataram kingdom, Panji Museum is the place where travellers can explore East Java’s proudest heritage: its art. Some credible sources cited the region as the place where much of Southeast Asian art originated. The museum is named after a legendary Javanese tale – Panji – which is a tragic romantic story similar to ‘Romeo and Juliet’. This is also the right place for history buffs to learn about the birth of Malang town.
Support the local industry by buying local products. In Malang, Sanan Village has been the main producing area for tempe (fermented soy bars) since the 1800s. One may find a variety of tempe-based products, including tempe chips created by mixing tapioca flour and salt. These chips come in over 10 delicious flavours and are sold at IDR4,000 to IDR8,000 per pack.
In the south of Malang’s city centre lie two riverside neighbourhoods that were once filled with anaemic walls and unkempt narrow streets. But the scenery changed after a group of students from nearby Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang, with the help from a local company Indana Paint, gave the area an artistic makeover by splashing the walls with bold colours and built a glass bridge across the river connecting the two villages, magically transforming Jodipan and Tridi. Today, the narrow lanes become an open gallery of vibrant artworks that attract many Instagram royalties, who ended up visiting the villages and buying products and services sold by the villagers, hence increasing their income.
Like Cameron Highlands, Batu is an area known for its cool temperature where well-off locals love to build their weekend residences. It is a peaceful but never boring getaway destination, popular since the Dutch colonial days, with much-preserved undulating countryside, orchards and quaint little villages. Those who decide to take a pause from city life can escape into the woods and chase waterfalls, while travellers hunting photogenic spots will be enthralled by abundant selections of dreamy backgrounds.
And Batu Flower Garden offers just that: plenty of exciting thematic photo opportunities that include the Smurf village, the igloo village and a hammock tower. Our favourite is the Hobbiton-inspired mini park where one can witness lots and lots of colourful Hobbit holes. The general entrance fee to Batu Flower Garden is IDR25,000, but expect the total cost to go up as separate fees are charged at the door of each thematic mini park. For instance, entrance to the Hobbiton-inspired park costs an additional IDR25,000 per person.
With over 10 attractions across 22 hectares of land, it would probably take two days to fully explore Jawa Timur Park. One may travel across the globe on a single trip at The Legend Stars Park, where its main attractions revolve around replicas of iconic monuments such as Taj Mahal and White House. The Infinite World, on the other hand, pull visitors into a kaleidoscopic world of impressive art installations that tease one’s imagination. The Fun Tech Plaza is the centre for electronic games while the World Music Museum exposes the evolution of music industry through a remarkable collection of musical instruments such as the 18th century polyphon from Germany, an elaborate concert hall, and displays of life-like wax sculptures of famous celebrities like Adele and Taylor Swift.
Animal lovers should pay a visit to Batu Secret Zoo, a breeding and conservation centre that houses almost 300 species of animals from around the world, including an Indian rhinoceros and the adorable Pygmy Marmoset, the world’s smallest monkey native to the Amazon rainforests in South America. Animals are properly treated here, and its active breeding programmes are recognised internationally, ensuring the survival of species. Families with young children should also take the opportunity to experience the train ride, which allows visitors to get up close and feed selected animals.
The Museum Angkut Movie Star Studio is the first and the biggest transportation museum in Asia. Admire over 300 vintage automobiles, some of which are still running smoothly. Highlights include the Land Rover Ceremonial once used by Queen Elizabeth II, Boeing 737-200 that used to be President Suharto’s private jet, Formula 1 car and Airbus plane simulators. The museum also features a thematic Gangster Town complete with vintage car props and creative building facades that come alive during a dance show performed by the park’s talented staff.
Established since 2012, this eco-resort offers travellers the chance to learn about the significance of the mangrove system that exists at the confluence of Banger River in the most enlightening ways. The mangroves are decorated with twinkling fairy lights and decorative art installations to enhance the site’s aesthetics and enjoyed by travellers as they stroll along the wooden walkways. There is also a restaurant on site in case travellers feel peckish.
Gaya Travel Magazine team members extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Ministry of Tourism of The Republic of Indonesia and the Embassy of The Republic of Indonesia Kuala Lumpur Office for making our trip to East Java smooth sailing.