Most of us picture Indonesia with Bali but ever wondered that this region is made up of thousands of other islands? Spending two weeks in Bali and Lombok we only got a little introduction to the cultural diversity in Indonesia. We were spoilt for choice and had strong desire to hit another adventurous destination. It didn’t take long to book our holidays and few months later we were flying to Java, the biggest island in Indonesia.
Good connection from London through Singapore gave us a chance have quick stop in one of the most futuristic cities in the world. You can read about it here!
Following everyone’s advice we passed busy Jakarta and flew straight to Bandung. The capital of West Java has a great colonial architecture and remains as large provincial town. We set it as our base staying at Pinisi Backpacker Hostel, a very cheap and basic place so we can focus more on mountains, waterfalls, tea plantations and Java’s outdoors life.
Using insanely cheap GRAB application, we happened to meet friendly driver who gave us full tour around Bandung. We highly recommend Megantara, as he can speak english and drive you anywhere.
Megantara Putarda Whatsapp: +62 888 201 41 06
Price: For whole day of drive it should be around 500,000rupiah (32£)
We planned our route ahead and scheduled our drive for an early morning. With the traffic jam in Bandung you will always have to add an extra two hours or so before reaching outskirts. While passing local villages we pampered our taste buds with fresh fruits from street stalls.
If you are looking for a fascinating views with evergreen pine trees make your stop at Curug Cimahi waterfall. After a steepy trek you can just chill and snack at the terrace with a stunning scene from the top. We finished our day at Lawangwangi, a creative space and art gallery for local community with a views of Bandung city, what a great spot to see the sunset!
When choosing the sim card in Indonesia you can get really cheap and widely available Indostat, it will cost around 5£ for 10GB.
Few vegan gems in Bandung:
- Kehidupan Tidak Pernah Berakhir – local eatery with cheap meals and delicious fried tempeh, very close to Pinisi Backpacker Hostel.
- Fortunate Coffee – small and quiet cafe with a western design and menu
- Toko Organic – organic products and snacks
The next day was spent driving south of Bandung through tea plantations and strawberry farms of Ciwidey. After a very long and bumpy journey we reached infamous waterfall called Curug Citambur. This particular waterfall has been discovered not a while ago so we found ourselves only with locals around. Countryside and off the beaten path definitely helps a lot to understand traditional way of life in Java.
On the way back we stopped at Patenggang Lake to have a quick lunch and enjoy the relaxing view. Back to Bandung we also found an epic coffee shop called Blue Doors. It was just a little intro for our coffee journey on this island.
Few things to consider and keep in mind:
- Java is not a place for white sand beach holidays, it’s more about hiking your way up to volcanoes and admiring ancient temples,
- Try to avoid public holidays and religious celebrations because people will travel across the country and it will seriously affect your journey,
- Not only when visiting temples but even being in the villages/cities try to cover your knees and shoulders as it’s the way of showing respect and understanding to muslim culture,
- Distances between main destinations are massive so try to plan ahead, flights are quite cheap but if you are really on the budget book trains in advance,
- Traveling in rural places as a vegan/vegetarian you might find yourself eating only rice, tempeh and boiled vegetables – don’t worry bigger cities will definitely have good range of vegetarian eateries
Limited with time for the whole region we made a decision to take a flight from Bandung to Surabaya, central part of the island, with the goal to reach Probolinggo city – a transfer point before famous Mount Bromo. Here are some tips we thought would be useful while heading to Bromo:
- While backpacking in Java you will likely face lots of arrogant touts and scams
- Arriving by plane search for the bus company called DAMRI outside of the terminal
- Journey from the airport to the Bangurasih bus station takes around 45 minutes and should cost no more than 20 000 rupiah (~1.5£)
- The bus between Surabaya and Bayuangga Probolinggo will take around 3 hours and costs around 35 000 rupiah (~2£)
- Do not ever buy a ticket from the person outside of the bus, ignore those who are insisting you are on the wrong bus queue or there is no transport, pay only on the bus, there will be a conductor who collects money ONLY after 10-15 minutes of drive
- If you are not sure about something – ask fellow travellers and always keep an eye on your belongings
The reason why we are writing with such a details is that we have met many tourists who became a victim of scams. What is even worse that all the locals are pretty much aware of the scammers and most likely won’t help you.
Alternatively there is a train from Surabaya to Probolinggo. You can purchase the ticket online or right before departure if you are deciding on the go.
We decided to rest at Clover Home Stay and Cafe which costs around 11£ per night and attracts many fellow travellers for cheap price and pretty convenient location. The easiest way to get there is to wave at ojek, a yellow truck driving around the city. Always bargain the price before you get on the board!
Stoked up to hit the road again and explore another part of Java we took a minibus to Cemoro Lawang – the closest village to Bromo. The bus will leave only when it’s full which means there has to be 15 people to fill in. It will cost 35 000 rupiah (~2£) and journey will take around 2 hours depending on the traffic.
It’s hard not to recommend Cemara Indah Hotel besides poor facilities this homestay has the best location in the village. Unfortunately limited capacity makes it difficult to book on the go so once again do that in advance.
Trying to skip all the crowds from the morning we chose to trek in the afternoon to catch the sunset. Now you will have to prepare your legs and camera for an amazing hike towards two incredible viewpoints! Simply follow the main road in the front of the hotel and walk up the hill. Usually it takes 1-2 hours to reach first summit where the view is already amazing. This can be a good stop to have a snack and then after 2 more hours there is another summit of the King Kong mountain.
Hike your way up and you will be rewarded by two beautiful peaks.
Evenings at Bromo are quite chilly so make sure you have warm clothes and once you are back to the village there are places to hang out or grab a warm soup. We got our energy back by having a dinner in the famous Cafe Lava hostel. Their menu consist of many western/indonesian dishes and they do cater for vegans/vegetarians.
How to avoid jeep tours and entrance fee of 400,000 IDR (~21£) to reach Bromo Crater itself? Right next to Cemara Indah Hotel fence there is a tiny entry for the horses. We found this blogpost with detailed information and followed the route!
Once we accomplished Bromo we returned to Probolinggo by minivan. On the way back we got several stops and been offered tours to Kawah Ijen (you can read our diary here). Weeks before we were very skeptical about hiking the crater because of the crowds it attracts – overall it was the biggest highlight of East Java. We were so happy that we changed our minds and we will always encourage other travellers to do the same!