Ijen-Bromo-Bali, Indonesia (Part 1)

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Indonesia seldom strikes as a preferred travel destination among tourists these days. With the emergence of Japan and South Korea as the top destinations in popular demand, an occasional trip to the lesser-known gems of Indonesia could be a surprisingly pleasant addition to your travel list.

In April 2015, I had the opportunity to travel to three places in Indonesia – the Ijen Crater at Banyuwangi, Mount Bromo volcano at East Java, and the ever popular Bali island. The trip lasted 6 days – 3 days at Ijen and Bromo, and 3 days at Bali.

So, here’s a guide on what’s in store in these three places…

Ijen Crater

We arrived at Surabaya airport, and immediately made our way to Banyuwangi for our first destination – Ijen. The car journey took more than 4 hours, so do prepare some snacks and water. We spent the night at Ketapang Indah resort – well, sort of – we had to wake up at 2am the next day to begin our hike for the Ijen crater.

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A general view of Ketapang Indah resort. Rooms are in these cute little huts, perfect for couples.

The hike for Ijen is relatively easy – you can reach the crater within an hour. However, as the hike starts at around 3am – to be able to catch the blue flames in the crater and the sunrise – the terrain may be dark and slippery, so do bring lights and do not hesitate to use hands as support where necessary.

The best time to view the blue flames in the crater is around 4 to 5am, as these flames disappear into clouds of sulphur smokes at the slightest bit of sunrise. The sun rises early in Indonesia, well before 6am (around 5.30 to 5.45am), so it is essential to make plans for timing. Also, make sure to either bring or rent gas masks, the pungent smoke from the sulfur can be unbearable, and sharp towards eyes.

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Blue flames in the dark, from the middle of the crater
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More blue flames
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The flames bursting into smoke as the sun gradually rises
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The whole of the crater becomes more visible as the sun rises
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At around 6.30am , the sun is up as the whole crater is clearly visible.

The journey down from the crater is equally breathtaking, with views not seen previously due to the dark. With the sun up, the entire landscape becomes visible and you start to realize what a beautiful setting you are actually in.

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The hike trail seen from the crater
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Lord of the Rings, much? Also in Indonesia!
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At the end of the hike, you tend to look back at what you have achieved and been through in the morning.

Nearby the exit of the crater, you can find a waterfall where you can have a simple picnic breakfast after your hike. The water is sulfuric, though, so don’t touch it!

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Sulfuric-waterfall

I’m not exactly a foodie, so there aren’t a lot of information on food in these guides, but one thing I know from my travel in Indonesia, is that to have authentic Indonesian food, eat like a local! Get food from streets orĀ warungs (Indonesian stalls) and eat with the locals to avoid overpriced and ‘internationalized’ food.

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Banana leaf and bamboo-fragrant rice with meat
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Got it by a food stall by the streets on the way out of Banyuwangi

Mount Bromo

Right after lunch, we headed straight for Mount Bromo, which of course, is another 4 hours car journey away. So remember to prepare snacks and keep hydrated!

We checked into Lava View hotel, which is the highest hotel up the road of hotels towards Mount Bromo. The hotel entrance faces the volcano directly, showing why it is known as the top of the crop.

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The hotel was simple and cozy. No air-conditioning, but the weather was cool enough.
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First view of Mount Bromo from the hotel.
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During our two-days stay at Bromo, the weather was generally pleasant, with constant cool breeze.

Similar to the first night at Banyuwangi, we could not afford to have much sleep. 4am next morning and we were up and running to get to a nearby mountain, Mount Pananjakan, before we headed to Bromo.

You can choose to hike up to Mount Pananjakan which would take around an hour or more, or hire a jeep (plenty of those around) to take you up in no time. People often come to the peak of the mountain to catch a sunrise over Bromo.

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A merchant selling beverages in the dark near the peak of Mount Penanjakan
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The little town of Bromo with the sunrise at the backdrop
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Hills and views around the area at sunrise
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A fully visible town of Bromo and the black sand on the other side, leading to the volcanoes
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Jeeps for hire at the foothill

We took the jeep to Mount Bromo. The journey there was a fun ride, with the jeep making bumpy jumps and turns in the black sands towards the volcano. Right at the moment you can see Bromo in your sights, do not be surprised to be swarmed by horses and horsemen trying to get you to hire horses to hike up the volcano. You can choose to go by foot or on a horse.

The centre of the volcano was a fascinating sight, as we get to see the main pit of the volcano, with smoke spewing out from it, though the sight has been polluted by rubbish thrown into the crater by inconsiderate tourists.

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Horses for hire
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Smoke spewing our from the volcano right in front of our eyes. Rubbish made an eyesore, though.
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The sea of black sands around the volcano.

After having breakfast back in the hotel, we made our way to the airport for our flight to Bali. This was the longest car journey yet, just a little short of 6 hours from Bromo to the airport. Don’t forget to stop by every now and then for some street food breaks!

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Klepon from street stalls on the way
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Goodbye Surabaya!

Part 2 – Bali is here!

Been to these places? Share your experiences and opinions in the comments!

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