Java… We didn’t go for the coffee (Part 1)

Lets start with where is Java…don’t feel bad, everyone asks 🙂

Java is another island in Indonesia, directly to the West of Bali. You can get there by bus but we “splurged” for a $25 flight from Bali which saved us 11 hours of travel.

A quick history lesson… While coffee is originally from Ethiopia, the climate doesn’t produce the type of beans we think of as coffee today. Java is one of two places that coffee was originally grown, the other place is called Mocha. Unfortunately we didn’t try much coffee during our brief stay in Java because we came for two specific reasons.

The first reason for venturing to the less touristy island of Java was to view Mount Bromo at sunrise. We flew directly to a city called Malang (known for no apparent reason as the Paris of East Java).

Malang is about 2 hours from Bromo and the starting point to reach the volcano, though there are closer cities. Malang is a beautiful city, that showcases the architecture during the time of Dutch colonization. 

one of the tree lined streets populated with old mansions

We knew that leaving Bali and entering Java would be vastly different in three ways.

  1. They speak little English, 
  2. The majority religion is Muslim 
  3. It is much less touristy. 

We experienced the first of the three the night we arrived. We walked to a restaurant, skipping the one that looked Western and took a seat. The cute waitress didn’t speak English and nothing on the menu was in English. Between the three of us we managed to understand what was fish and what was chicken and blindly picked out dinner with our fingers pointing at the menu. 

What arrived was a delicious grilled piece of fish and one sad fried chicken wing. We then understood why she was asking us if we wanted only 1 when she was holding up her finger.

On the religious front, the main difference is visual. Woman specifically tend to be dressed more conservatively not less fashionable I might add, but usually ladies are covered up. When we visit more conservative countries I stick to wearing pants or long skirts/dresses. I don’t think anyone would care if I wore shorts but people stare less and I think it’s better to conform. There is also an audible difference, as the Mosque loudly plays the call to prayer five times a day starting early in the morning. It’s actually quite pretty.

The same afternoon that we arrived was the evening that our tour would begin for Mt. Bromo. Our jeep was to pick us up at 1 am. We went to sleep at 8 pm and set our alarms for 12:45 am.

Knowing that this tour would take almost 12 hours, we had prepared a couple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and snacks by shopping at the local market. 

We crawled out of bed and slipped our shoes on to find our jeep and driver outside waiting for us. 

To our surprise, we expected to be with a group but it was just us. We drove for about 3 hours, exhausting the 4 wheel drive the whole time on the bumpy and uphill climb in the pitch black. Falling back asleep was not an option.

We finally came to a stop, the driver in broken English, pointed and said to start walking up the hill. We stopped for a hot tea and fried bananas along with other the other tourists, who are mostly Indonesian.

We then carried on a few more feet to the view point. It was about 55 degrees and we had 2 hours until sunrise. The reason we got there so early was to get the best seat in the house. It fills up based on the order of your arrival so the early bird really does get the worm.

The hawkers sell wool jackets for rent, plus hats and gloves all for a dollar. We ended up renting a jacket because despite being in leggings, a shirt, a long sleeve shirt and a hoodie, it was still cold after an hour of sitting out there. We have been in daily 90 degree weather for months and we just weren’t ready

The slow rise of the sun illuminated the sky in fiery orange and yellow, showing off silhouettes of what the full light would soon expose to us.

We experienced a sunrise for the books. 

It’s like a different world, a world from thousands of years ago. I swear you could almost see dinosaurs roaming around. It just looked prehistoric. 

We spent an hour up there after sunrise, enjoying the changing colors and headed back to our jeep. 

The next stop was to the actual Mt. Bromo volcano that we had just watched the sun bring to life.

The drive was about 30 minutes, this time downhill. When we parked, we were gobsmacked at the setting that lay before us. It was the most bizarre scenery either of us have every seen and they call it the Sand Seas of Bromo. I think I used the word bizarre to describe it a dozen times. 

Under this thick layer of fog is the Sea of Sand that we walked through.
fog is so thick and hazy that when your eyes adjust, you notice the ground beneath you is a charcoal gray, thick dirt and then you notice there are horses everywhere. 

It felt like we were on the set of the movie Mad Max. The driver gesticulated with his finger which we now knew meant “walk in that direction”. We didn’t even know where or what we were walking to because of the overwhelming fog. But it was exhilarating and so cool! 

The horses are there to be your transportation across the sand seas to the volcano but we opted to walk, not only because I felt bad for the horses but because the walk was fascinating. We quickly realized we could play with perspective as well.

Hills of charcoal dirt began to appear and our flat walk turned into an uphill climb that got more and more steep. We came to the base of about 350 dirt stairs.

These would lead us to the rim of the volcano to view inside the crater. 

After getting our fill of the outrageous crater views, we hiked back down and across the flat sand sea to our driver. 

We stopped at savanna which is a lush green patch of rolling hills, opposite a tall rock face with more lush greenery.

Our last stop was optional, a water fall hike. We took the opportunity, since it was only a few dollars entrance and a 15 minute hike. It was only about 9:00 am but the adrenaline high from the crater walk was keeping us awake. The hike was downhill, nicely paved and boasting with green nature. It was very peaceful. 

For the second time that morning, we were asked to take a picture with a local. 

Rewind: Not take a picture FOR a local, they want pictures WITH us. As we stated before, the third difference between Bali and Java is that it isn’t a very touristed part of Indonesia, so locals like to wave at you, take photos with you/ of you and just shake your hand and say hello. 

So back to the waterfall hike… We came to a magnificent waterfall. I almost passed on seeing it because I’ve seen many waterfalls and they aren’t something that excite me all that much, but this one did. The water poured from a point about 100 meters high and hit a very shallow surface so the side spray was really dramatic! 

We made it back to our jeep relieved that it was time to head back. Sleep and a shower was needed. Our driver dropped us off and we accomplished both.

We headed out for dinner which was nothing to highlight except the interesting decor.

We spent our last day in Malang exploring their city. We had breakfast and delicious coffee at Java Dancer and then walked around. 

We found the train station and picked up our train tickets for the next day’s journey. We even took a rickshaw ride. 

We wanted to do a tour of hotel with very interesting decorations that had great reviews but we missed it so instead we had lunch there and explored ourselves. 

The lunch was okay but the waiter was nice and asked me to sing the Adele song that was playing with him… I politely declined. (Because they had on the one Adele song I didn’t know the words to.)

Nate ventured out while I stayed at the lunch spot (the streets are busy with no walking paths, so I prefer to avoid walking around). He wanted to try a national dish called Bakso at a streetwise stall, which tastes like wonton soup with a mild but delicious clear chicken broth and 5 different types of meatballs in it.

Aside from the Bakso, the food was just okay in Malang and our dinner sealed the deal, it was really poor quality Indonesian food.
I think three nights might have been a little much for the sleepy streets of the Paris of East Java. We were looking forward to our next stop in Java…. Yogyakarta, a mere seven hour train ride away. 

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