Standing at 2,392m above sea level is an amazing feeling, especially when doing so at the rim of a volcanic crater – an active one, at that!
Looking down at the white fumes billowing forth from the Mount Bromo crater in East Java, I sniffed the smell of rotten eggs. This is because the fumes are sulphurous.
Despite that, I still enjoyed the moment and the chilly weather, which was a far cry from the heatwave in Malaysia.
Many others appeared as fascinated and breathless as I was; after all, we had just climbed up some 250-odd steps to reach the rim; not so easy for the elderly and the young. The steps can also be quite slippery.
The crater – part of the Tengger massif and within the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park – is one of the main attractions here. It is nestled in a vast plain called the Sea Of Sand. When we were at the base of Bromo, our feet kept sinking into the sand.
Merely a day earlier, about 20 media members, including me, had landed in the Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, our gateway to Mount Bromo.
Surabaya is a port city and the capital of the province, and the second largest city in Indonesia.
Sight for sleepy eyes
Our group travelled for over two hours from Surabaya to Sukapura, switching from our bus to several jeeps to make our way towards a hotel located close to Mount Bromo. Then it was another 45 minutes to reach the hotel. We stayed the night there, as we needed to wake up early to catch the sunrise from a viewing platform of Mount Penanjakan, which at 2,700m is a perfect vantage point to soak in the spectacular views.
Not even being sleep-deprived could douse my enthusiasm to kick-start our Bromo adventure. Even if I had to wake up at 2am for a slow jeep ride up to the platform. It’s apparently possible to take a two-hour hike to get there.
It was still an hour before sunrise when we arrived. The short walkway to the platform is lined with stalls selling hot drinks, roasted corn, some semblance of handicrafts, and flowers. There were also other goods including scarves, beanies and gloves.
Some of the peddlers would also come up to the platform. They proved to be life-savers (as I did not have the appropriate clothing – it’s a long story) and I managed to bargain my way to a pair of gloves, scarves and a beanie for only 90,000 rupiah (RM27), but some of my friends got theirs at half that price. They don’t sell jackets, which can be rented from the hotel or one of the many stalls located near the platform. Believe me, you will need a jacket as it’s quite chilly up there. “It is about 14°C but it can be as low as 4°C in August,” said our guide.
Even then, the sight is worth the wait. I forgot all about the cold when the sun rose. But then you forget all about the cold when you first glimpse the views ahead.
It was breathtaking. Mist shrouded Bromo as the light broke over the horizon. The volcano was still clothed in shadows and thick white fumes drifted to the sky that was turning gold, yellow and red amidst the green forests. Slowly, the sky started to turn into the shade of blue we are familiar with.
Everyone seemed to be in a frenzy to find the best angles to capture the breathtaking view. That didn’t bother me, though, as my colleague Wan was doing the photographing. Instead I bought myself a hot beverage, found a comfortable spot on the ground and soaked up the sun. (Darn, I forgot to take my Instagram shot!)
After spending about an hour on the viewing platform, we headed down to the base of Bromo. We made a couple of stops to take pictures. From the base of Bromo, there are two ways to make the 3km journey to the crater – by foot or on horseback. I leapt at the choice of a horseback ride.
Reality is cruel, however. I envisioned riding it looking like a princess, but I was holding on for dear life and I doubt that was a pretty picture. I was glad to ditch the horse and get back on solid ground.
Our next stop was Kota Batu, located about 20km to the north-west of Malang, the second biggest city in the province.
Along the way, we saw row upon row of apples being sold at the roadside. There are numerous apple plantations in Batu.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was picking apples. It was such a simple thing but it got me all excited. I had to come to grips with the fact that they plant apples here – I’ve never before equated apples with a tropical country.
Some of the farms have turned apple-picking into a tourist activity. We “harvested” some apples at Kusuma Agro Wisata. About 20,000 apple trees can be found in this 24ha farm.
The apples did not disappoint. The green ones were juicy and surprisingly sweet. “We plant apples with seeds from Indonesia, Ameri-ca, Taiwan and Israel,” said our guide Tarwoko V.H. The town has capitalised on their apple production so you can see various apple-flavoured products such as fried chips, jams and pastries on sale.
Even if you are not a fan of apples, there are other fruits there, such as guava, dragon fruit and strawberries. I was particularly fond of the pink guava, said to originate from Brazil. It could be confused with a mandarin orange due to the yellowish-green skin when it is ripe. That’s where the similarity ends; the guava has juicy, pink flesh and is crunchy and sweet.
It was a novelty to find and pluck my own fruits, and I tapped into my hidden inner farmer.
After spending the whole morning on a farm, my afternoon couldn’t have been more different. I visited an automobile museum with treasures to make any car enthusiast drool.
Located a stone’s throw away from the farm, the Museum Angkut is said to be the first modern transportation museum in Indonesia. More than just a museum, it features over 300 vehicles, ranging from traditional to modern, from all over the globe.
It is easy to fall under its spell as I spent hours gawking at one classic after another among the vast collection situated in the 3.9ha site.
The museum’s simple name gave no hint of the overwhelming displays which include a wide range of classics from Ford, Holden, Chevrolet, Maserati and Kaiser. It also features the different modes of transportation from the various eras. An eye-catching four-wheeled quadricycle from the 19th century particularly interested me; it was said to have been seen for the first time in 1853 at the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in New York City.
Although I’m not much of a car fan, I was squealing like a fan and came away with a greater appreciation of vehicles and the mechanics involved.
All in, I can truly say that we all had a great time in East Java. – Chong Kah Yuan
This media trip was sponsored by Tourism Indonesia, in collaboration with the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Penang.