Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Road Less Traveled to Mount Bromo from Malang (Part 2)

Note: This is the second of two parts. You can read the first part here: Mount Bromo from Malang (Part 1).

Three loud knocks on my room's glass windows and I was jolted awake. It was 3 a.m., still cold and very dark. I reckoned I had only slept for around three hours then, but the jeep we hired the previous night had already arrived to pick us up and take us to Mount Pananjakan. The peak was a popular viewpoint for witnessing the sunrise on the entire Mount Bromo volcanic complex.

We drove in complete darkness up to the peak. The narrow roads inclined steeply and zigzagged deliriously. When we reached the viewing deck, we quickly learned that we were sharing it with 300 other tourists who flooded in the area and blocked the views. I realized today might not be the day I get to witness Mount Bromo's famed sunrise.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
The Mount Bromo volcanic complex.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Road Less Traveled to Mount Bromo from Malang (Part 1)

Note: This is the first of two parts. You can read the second part here: Mount Bromo from Malang (Part 2).

The jeep slowed down as it rolled through the narrow main road of a small farming village up in the mountains. The noon sun was shining high but the crisp, cool air seeped sharply through our lungs. We decided to walk around the village, so we got off the jeep and asked our driver to meet us up the road.

As we looked back at the hills where we just drove through, we realized we had already risen above the cloud line. In the distance beyond the trees, a thick layer of clouds shrouded the lowlands of East Java, Indonesia. We had just arrived in the remote town of Ngadas. It wouldn't be long now before we reached our destination that day: Mount Bromo.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
The collapsed, smoldering caldera of Mount Bromo contained in the vast crater of a supervolcano, the Tengger Massif. For scale, the huts of the village of Cemoro Lawang are perched on the massif's crater lip.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Where to Stay in Malang, Indonesia: Kampong Tourist

Note: This review is not sponsored. I paid my own way.

Traveling in Indonesia, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of excellent accommodations for independent travelers and backpackers I found here. In almost every city I went, I stumbled into at least one. Word-of-mouth brought me to EDU Hostel in Yogyakarta (probably the best hostel in Southeast Asia). Hostel booking sites led me to the solid, well-run Six Degrees in Jakarta. Then, there are the recommendations by good old Lonely Planet. When it's the travel guide's latest edition you're holding, it'll be hard to deny its value.

Kampong Tourist, Malang, East Java, Indonesia
Kampong Tourist, a pleasant backpacker lodge in Malang, Indonesia

I traveled to the breezy and laidback city of Malang knowing it was here where you begin the road less traveled to perhaps the most popular tourist destination in East Java, Indonesia: Mount Bromo in the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. Lonely Planet recommended that I stay in Kampong Tourist backpacker lodge while in Malang. So I did and I loved it. Here's why:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

When a So-so Rafting Daytrip to Batu Turned into an Awesome Time at the Hot Springs

There we were. Standing at a corner of a relatively busy intersection of the mountain town of Batu, right outside the breezy and laidback city of Malang in East Java, lost and trying to retrace our way back to the city center. People on motorbikes and those in cars and angkot (minivans) amusedly stared at us—four bule (boo-leh, white foreigners) and one Filipino (me). We all had an identical clueless expression on our faces, so while completely capable to pass for a local, I was clearly not fooling anyone.

Kampong Tourist, Malang, East Java, Indonesia
Looking towards Mount Arjuno from my gazebo at the backpacker hostel, Batu situated on those vast slopes.

It had been a disappointing day, and we hadn't even done anything yet. Having set our minds earlier that Saturday into being "productive" tourists whilst in Malang, we decided to do a daytrip here in Batu, a city on the slopes of Mount Arjuno, to get our adrenaline pumping with some white-water rafting. Nobody knew where the rafting company in Batu was nor its contact number, so we had to find it ourselves.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Photos from the Breezy and Laidback City of Malang in East Java, Indonesia

The chill hit my face that morning as soon as I stepped off the night train from Yogyakarta. After a bumpy, seven-hour ride which unfortunately did not allow for much sleep, I had just arrived in Malang in East Java, Indonesia. Outside the train station, I hired a becak (a rickshaw) to take me to my hostel, which I did not bother navigating to myself even if I knew it was just close by. I was hoping the hostel accepted very early check-ins. Thankfully, Kampong Tourist, a charming backpacker lodge located literally on the rooftop of a mid-range hotel, did accept early check-ins. In fact, by the looks of it, staff expected backpackers like me to roll in from the Yogyakarta train every morning.

Malang, East Java, Indonesia
A surprisingly chilly morning in Malang, a city between mountains and volcanoes in East Java, Indonesia

Over the course of the week I based myself in Malang, I would accomplish a number of things. Foremost of these is an excursion along the less traveled trail to one of the most popular attractions in the region: Mount Bromo. In between, I took in the cool, at times chilly, breeze and tree-lined streets of this old Dutch colonial outpost. Though this city was indeed popular with the Europeans during the colonial period, Malang had already been an established town way before Dutch conquest. Historical documents showed Malang was born as early as the 8th century.

Related Post: The Road Less Traveled to Mount Bromo from Malang

Hopefully, the few photos below provide a look into the pleasant and laidback character of what has become one of my favorite cities in Southeast Asia.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

EDU Hostel Yogyakarta: It May Just Be the Best Hostel in Southeast Asia

Note: This review is not sponsored. I paid my own way.

As with any backpacker who has traveled around Southeast Asia, I have had my fair share of hostel experiences. Some good, but also the bad and the ugly. Crammed dorms, filthy bathrooms, damp beds, etc. Now, I won't regale all of these experiences here but I am very, very happy to notice that modern, clean, and well-managed hostels are beginning to pop up here in my main stomping grounds.

EDU Hostel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Yogyakarta skyline mural in EDU Hostel Yogyakarta. This may just be the best hostel in Southeast Asia.

I have seen some notable ones. Off the top of my head, you have May de Ville Backpackers Hostel in Hanoi, @Hua Lamphong Hostel in Bangkok, Grid 9 Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and a few others I may have only mentioned in my social networks. Some of them are so new, in fact, that Lonely Planet has yet to list them down. The newest, most notable, and probably the best one I have encountered thus far is EDU Hostel Yogyakarta in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Let me explain this pronouncement in no less than 12 reasons. Here we go:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why Travel Tuesday: Mendut Temple

(Every Tuesday, I will be featuring a photograph from a place I have gone to, a photograph which I believe will inspire others to go out and see the world for themselves. For this week, Why Travel Tuesday features a small but nonetheless enchanting ancient Buddhist monument: Mendut Temple.)

Mendut Temple, Magelang, Indonesia
Mendut Temple, an ancient Buddhist monument in Central Java, Indonesia

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Photos from the Royal Palaces of Yogyakarta: The Kraton and Taman Sari Water Castle

In the center of the cultural capital of the Javanese lie the white walls which house the royal residences of the Yogyakarta Sultanate: the Kraton. There are a number of kraton in Indonesia as it simply refers to any royal palace. Kraton comes from ka-ratu-an, or "where the ratu resides." The ratu is the title of the ruler, the head of state. To Filipinos like me, a similar title exists: datu.

The Yogyakarta Kraton was built in the mid-1700s and has since been the political and cultural center of the city, not to mention a fine example of royal Javanese architecture. I walked here from the Prawirotaman area in the south and learned (the hard way) how large this complex was. There are actually three primary sets of structures here (from north to south): the Museum Kareta Kraton, a museum for the sultan's chariots; the Kraton royal residences itself; and, the Taman Sari Water Castle, a recreation facility for the royal family complete with swimming pools and relaxation areas.

The Kraton is easy to reach from Sosrowijayan, Malioboro, or Prawirotaman, all located immediately around the city center's walls. Respectively, entrance fees are 5,000 IDR (5 cents US); 12,500 IDR (1.25 USD); and, 10,000 IDR (1 USD). Below are some photos I took from the royal palaces of Yogyakarta.

Kraton, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
The Pagelaran is the main entrance hall of the Kraton. Oddly enough, you cannot access the Kraton from here, just the Museum Kareta Kraton.