It may not always be apparent from our blog, but we often have no clue what we are doing tomorrow, let alone our next city or country to visit. Our experience dealing with Indonesian immigration is a perfect example of the kind of time suck the process can become and the various about-faces and deliberations we make (but that never make it to the blog).
These poor puppies don’t know where to go. Then again, they live in a fabric shop in Bali, so life is good.
Done with diving, we flew to Bali for a final week with Elizabeth’s parents. For family travel, Bali is a pretty good choice. Transportation is affordable, attractions are relatively close together, and the food is good and not strange.
Raja Ampat is pretty far off the radar for your typical traveller, however it’s the gold standard for scuba divers. Located in an island chain off the coast of Indonesia’s West Papua province (next door to Papua New Guinea), it’s pretty far from Indonesia’s traditional tourist haunts. For months scuba diving with my parents from a live aboard dive boat in Raja Ampat has been only concrete travel “plan.”
View from our hotel in Sorong.
This post is Part V in my series: Jumping Around Java. You can see the Preview with index here.
Jakarta is big, busy, dirty, and loud. It’s just the sort of place that Elizabeth and I can easily handle — we have traveled most of the way around the world, after all. The trick was handling it with her parents.
The main part of this planned mid-trip meet-up is our scuba diving trip on a live-aboard dive boat in the Raja Ampat Islands (where I am sitting while I write this, missing a dive due to ear trouble). That’s the sort of vacation my in-laws are used to; not Jakarta.
View from the hotel.
This post is Part IV in my series: Jumping Around Java. You can see the Preview with index here.
After our trip to the Ijen crater, we had just a few days before we were scheduled to meet Elizabeth’s parents in Jakarta before heading off on a scuba diving trip. We were in Banyuwangi at the far end of Java, so we booked a domestic flight back to Jakarta in a few days time and headed off on an adventure to go see baby turtles crawl into the sea.
Sea turtles lay eggs at Sukamade beach, which is part of Meru Betiri National Park. As part of a conservation effort, rangers watch the beach at night, then collect the eggs that are laid and bury them in protected cages. After the eggs hatch, the rangers release most of the baby turtles. A few baby turtles are kept for tourists to release for a small donation — though you must release the turtles early in the morning to increase the odds that the turtles survive.
But first, you must get yourself to Sukamade beach.
This post is Part III in my series: Jumping Around Java. You can see the Preview with index here.
As soon as we saw photos of Kawah Ijen we knew we had to go. Kawah Ijen is a volcanic crater with sulphur vents located inside the crater. Some of those vents burn, producing a blue flame that can only be seen at night. Other sulphur makes its way through pipes installed by locals and form sulphur deposits. Miners break these deposits off of the rock and carry them up the crater, up to 90 kilograms at a time.
Because the flames are only visible at night, tours leave just after midnight. Since we arrived in Banyiwangi late at night, we ended up spending a down day in town to rest a bit in preparation for our all-night adventure. We booked our tour via WhatsApp with Blue Flame Tours (for real), and breathed a sigh of relief when they showed up on time. Yea for technology! After about an hour’s drive we arrived at the base of the volcano where our guide handed out flashlights and gas masks. Yep, that’s right, gas masks. The sulphuric smoke released from the vents inside the crater is not exactly good for your lungs. Luckily, it turned out that we never needed the masks because the sulphuric smoke was blowing in the opposite direction during our visit.
The hike quickly revealed that the batteries in our head torches were basically dead, so we ended up using the flashlights provided by our guide. The hike up from the parking lot to the crater rim was easy by our standards, and the hike down into the crater wasn’t too difficult either. It was a bit tricky with a flashlight (not hands-free like we’re used to), and would have been better with hiking poles. But don’t believe your guidebook if it suggests it’s too difficult — this is a safe hike if you know how to hike. It could easily be done without a guide, however getting to the volcano is a challenge and we found that our guide did provide additional helpful context.
When we arrived at the crater’s rim we got our first glance of the blue flames below. The flames were simply amazing. Photos don’t really capture how it looks, but we got some amazing pictures anyway.
This post is Part II in my series: Jumping Around Java. You can see the Preview with index here.
Templed-out, we call it. Ancient or modern, we have had enough. So off we go to volcanoes. First, to Gunung Bromo. Unfortunately, there’s not an easy way to get there. Reading the guidebook I warn Elizabeth, “transport is going to be a shit show.”
The plan is to take the train from Yogyakarta to Surabaya, taxi from the train station to the bus station, bus to Probolinggo, minibus to Cemoro Lawang, walk to the rim of the Bromo volcano. Several steps would involve haggling and potential scams. The Internet is rife with warnings.
Then we go to the Yogyakarta train station and find out that the train we want for the next morning is fully booked. The best option is to leave in the middle of the night. So we do. I’m not a fan of waking up at 2am.
Best train we took in Indonesia.
This post is Part I in my series: Jumping Around Java. You can see the Preview with index here.
So we flew to Yogyakarta, a city we had not heard of more than two weeks before. It was a pretty good visit.
The Sultan’s Palace
Yogyakarta is home to its sultan’s palace — also called Kraton — which is worth a half day visit. The Sultan has some special semi-governmental status that I don’t really understand, but his home has a lot of area open to the public. Exhibits include traditional outfits and even the Sultan’s Boy Scout uniform.
Testing out the new camera. Result: Pass.
Turtles and Beaches in Southeast Javaby Michael
On this trip and prior trips, we talked with many people who loved travel in Indonesia. “It’s cheap, people are friendly, and there is a lot to do,” they said. But as we neared the end of our travel in mainland Southeast Asia and our planned date to meet Elizabeth’s parents in Jakarta for a planned scuba trip, we realized that nobody had told us specific things to do except scuba diving, surfing, and Komodo Dragons. We figured we would start in Java since we had to go to Jakarta anyway, but had no idea what to do. We ended up planning as we went, and while that made things take longer, we hit the main sites and ended up mostly satisfied with our visit.
Borobudur: Java’s giant Buddhist temple.