So yeah, here's a brief summary of what to look out for in these three places.
We arrived at Surabaya from KL and stayed at Da Rifi hostel, and hired a tour van to bring us to Mount Bromo.
|Da Rifi hostel. Image: Chin Kok Hoe|
According to wikipedia,
Surabaya is locally believed to derive its name from the words "sura" or "suro" (shark) and "baya" or "boyo" (crocodile), two creatures which, in a local myth, fought each other in order to gain the title of "the strongest and most powerful animal" in the area according to a Jayabaya prophecy. This prophecy is sometimes interpreted as a conflict between Mongol forces and Raden Wijaya's Majapahit forces. Now the two animals are used as the city's logo, the two facing each other while circling, as depicted in a statue appropriately located near the entrance to the city zoo.
There's another story detailing two heroes whose names were Sura and Baya, who fought each other in order to be the king of the city.
Bromo is an active volcano located 4-hours away from Surabaya.
Bromo" is derived from the name of the Hindu god Brahma, and thus you'd expect a majority of the people here to be Hindu. These people, who live at the edge of the volcano, are the Tengger people who, according to our driver, think of themselves as the direct descendents of Majapahit princes.
|The Tengger people are skilled horse riders. Image: Chin Kok Hoe|
The view of Mount Bromo and Batok from the viewing point was simply breathtaking—definitely well worth the trouble—and here we could even see the milky way with our naked eyes.
And it farted a lot, too.
|The horse I was riding was actually a juvenile, probably not yet accustomed to the harsh environment and the ashes coming off the volcano. It farted, coughed, sneezed and struggled to breathe like an asthmatic old man. Image: Foo Chee Soon.|
|Walking back to our jeep. Image: Chin Kok Hoe|
Mount Ijen, unlike Mount Bromo, is actually a dormant volcano.
We arrived at the Ijen foothill and had to walk for 1.5 hours to reach the crater. Inside, we saw blue fire igniting on the sulphur and gosh I've got to say the flame was so mesmerizing. And it smelled so bad.
This blue glow—unusual for a volcano—isn't, of course, lava. Sulphuric gases emerge from cracks in the volcano at high pressure and temperature—up to 600°C, and when they come in contact with the air, they ignite, sending flames up to 5 meters high. Some of the gases condense into liquid sulfur, which continues to burn as it flows down the slopes, giving the feeling of lava flowing.—National Geographic.
There is a sulphur mine currently in operation in the Ijen crater, and according to some sources these miners earn a meagre 50,000-75,000 rupiah a day—that's roughly RM 15 a day for carrying baskets laden with heavy sulphur blocks and walking the rugged pathway in and out of the crater.
|A miner carries baskets laden with sulphur block.|
Then we went for another 7-hours drive to Bali.
Bali, like Bromo, is a Hindu stronghold. Legend has it that when the Majapahit kingdom in Java collapsed during the 15th century, Hindu aristocrats and peasants fled to Bali to escape Mataram Sultanate's Islamic conversion. And so you'd expect to see a lot (literally hundreds of 'em) of Hindu temples in Bali.
At Bali, we stayed in the CX Hostel in Jalan Legian, Kuta. It's located near the beach and only around an hour's drive to all major attractions. We rented two motorcycles (at 45,000 rupiah a day) from one of the travel shops scattered along Jalan Legian.
19 Oct 2014) rupiah.
There are three must-go temples in Bali:
1) Uluwatu temple
2) Tanah Lot temple
3) Pura Tirta Empul, Ubud
The highlight of this temple is the cliff, the sea and the sunset. There's a cultural show you can watch in the temple as well. Be wary of the monkeys though—I didn't heed the warning displayed at the entrance and paid heavily for the consequence: while at the cliff, I was looking through my camera to shoot a picture when whoosh, a monkey sneaked up right next to me and, in a burst of lightning speed, snatched my spectacles right out of my face!
I later found out that I wasn't the only victim that day. Damn those monkeys.
|The cliff at Uluwatu temple|
|The damn monkey took my spectacles. Image: Foo Chee Soon|
This temple, also known as the Temple in the Sea, is located roughly 25 km away from Kuta. We managed to evade the troublesome motorcycle parking and parked at some illegal parking spaces and pretended nothing happened.
And, as the name suggests, it's a temple, errr, in the sea. The temple faces westward, and thus you can get to see awesome sunset here.
This temple is pure awesomeness.
The temple has a pond in which people may come and bathe. Legend has it that the pond was created by the Hindu God of Warfare, Indra, in an attempt to revive his poisoned forces during the war against the evil Mayadanawa. Balinese believe that soaking themselves in the water could ward off evil and bring good luck.
For several times I saw our driver giving out "token of appreciation" to guards and guides to expedite the registration of document etc. Upon reaching Bali, he once again gave some money, this time to the police manning the wharf, and said "here in Indonesia, 20k (rupiah) can solve all problem, there's no need for ID inspection anymore".
Let's face it, corruption occurs in all parts of the world. But it is especially rampant in Indonesia. It's easy to put the blame on the government for not taking a stronger stance in fighting corruption. But the locals themselves, driven by poverty, often find it difficult to resist the temptation of taking bribes.
According to the World Bank, out of Indonesia's population of 237 million, roughly 28 million—a number equals to the entire population of Malaysia—live below the poverty line, and approximately half of all households remain clustered around the national poverty line set at 200,262 rupiahs per month.
|A hawker stall in Surabaya. Image: Chin Kok Hoe|
|30,000 rupiah per person for a highly satisfying lunch in a remote village in Sanur. Image: Foo Chee Soon|
It's actually quite easy to understand the concern regarding the low cost-of-living in Surabaya and the opulent lifestyle of Bali; the salary in Surabaya is lower than in Bali, in line with the relatively lower cost-of-living in Surabaya compared to that of Bali. In fact the cost of housing in Bali is 54% more expensive than in Surabaya, and the overall cost-of-living in Surabaya is 21% lower than in Bali. Putting that into perspective, it's like you earning RM 1975 a month in Penang while your friend earns RM 2500 a month in Redang. Can you feel the pain now?
Despite these discrepancies, the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and the cost-of-living index take account of a country's living costs in aggregate without distinguishing Bali and Surabaya. The high cost-of-living in Bali raises the overall cost-of-living in Indonesia—when in fact a vast majority of Indonesians still live on Surabaya-level income—thereby overshadowing the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor.
Still, Indonesia is a good place to go. Do visit Bali if you haven't already, and don't forget Mount Bromo, too.
|The old man and the sea. Shot taken at Tanah Lot Temple. Image: Chin Kok Hoe.|
Speaking the language helps a lot, in all kinds of way.
p/s: The rest of the photos are on my facebook and yourshot account.