Bromo [26 – 28 April 2013]

Pre-trip

The second trip from the one-for-one Jetstar offer last October brought me to Surabaya (S$128 a/i) from 26 to 28 April 2013. Lewis had seen nice pictures of Bromo and wanted to take some himself. He managed to gather a group of eight and I knew three from the Russia/Mongolia trip (Lewis, Jaslin and Lingrong) last June.

Lewis had found a guide named Adi online and he provided the most competitive quotation (4.7 million IDR) for our group of 8.

The itinerary sent by him:-

Day, 1st (April, 26th 2013). My team should pick you up at Surabaya air port as follow your schedule (flight no,…………arrival date…………… then drive to hotel at mount Bromo for 4 hrs. free program.

Day, 2nd (April, 27th 2013).
My team should pick you up at 3 am then at 3.30 am drive by 4×4 WD jeep to Mount Penanjakan ( view point) to see the sunrise and view surround. at 6 am drive to sand lake then walk pass the sand lake then walk with 250 stairs to see Bromo crater. At 8.30 am should drive back to hotel to have breakfast. Free and easy program.

Day, 3rd (April, 28th 2013).
After breakfast, we will drive you to Surabaya air port . end the program. Included: Driver, fuel, toll road fees, parking fees, 2 nights economy room, breakfast. Excluded: Any tips, any insurance, UN mention things

We had to transfer 50% deposit before the trip and luckily I had an Indonesian friend who could help us. He would transfer to Adi while we just transferred the SGD equivalent to his bank account in Singapore. Easy peasy.

Instead of spending two nights at Mount Bromo, we decided to play it safe and return to Surabaya on the second night. Didn’t want to take the chance of mad rush on the final day.

Day 1

My plan was to reach the airport early enough to make use of the SATS Premier Lounge voucher from my ANZ Travel Card. I used public transport and was at T1 by 10.10am, well in time for the flight at 11.40am.

After getting my boarding pass, I ran into an old friend James who was heading out of town on that weekend as well. It turned out that he missed his Jetstar flight to HKG and had to spend a small fortune on the next flight out on Cathay. I abandoned my plan of visiting the lounge and chose to catch up with James at one of the cafes after immigration instead. The best I could do to alleviate his pain of missing the flight was to buy him breakfast but he was kind enough to just have hot choc. It was always nice to meet up with friends whom I hadn’t seen in a while and be updated of how they are doing.

I bid James goodbye after the Changi Airport app indicated my flight to be on “Last Call”. Gate C19 was a long trek away. While walking there, Lewis called me and informed that Lingrong had missed the cut-off time for check-in and wouldn’t be allowed to board. Two different people, same scenario on the same day. What were the odds for that?

I enquired with the agent at the gate if it was possible to re-open the check-in desk. He wasn’t very helpful and just said that it wasn’t possible and would require special permission from the pilot. There was a Lion Air flight departing for Surabaya at 12.10pm and fortunately the walk-up rate was still a reasonable S$116. She would only arrive shortly after us so it wasn’t so bad after all (although this remains at the back of my mind).

9V-JSH bringing me to SUB

I met the rest of the travel party for the first time on the aerobridge while waiting to board the plane. Two of them were Lewis’s classmates from secondary school and the other two were his colleague and her friend.

Flight: Valuair VF247
Depart: Singapore (SIN) – 11:40
Arrive: Surabaya (SUB) – 12:55
Duration: 2h15m
Distance: 857 miles (1379 km)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Registration: 9V-JSF Seat: 14 E

Since Lingrong couldn’t board, I helped myself to her window seat of 14F.

Visitor from India

[Video of take-off]

I spotted Tekong.

Unforgettable place

The duration of the flight was split between chatting with Lewis and Jaslin and looking out to this view.

Beautiful clouds

Surabaya in sight

[Video of landing at SUB]

GA’s CRJs

Terminal

Juanda Airport was a fairly modest airport with mainly domestic and regional traffic. There was a bit of confusion after the immigration; apparently visitors to Indonesia needed to fill in a customs form before exiting into the arrivals area but there were no signs indicating so. We got ours from a smiley airport staff who was giving them out upon request and filled up 3 of them for our party of seven. Adi was already waiting for us outside.

Since Lingrong wouldn’t arrive until half an hour later, we grabbed some drinks and food at a cafe in the airport. While the service was friendly enough, our orders took way too long and by then even Lingrong had joined us. After being introduced to our driver, we were soon on our way.

Inside the van

Still inside the airport

Padi fields

Our first pit stop was for lunch at Gempol. Interestingly a guy came over and started chatting with Lewis. He was an Indonesian studying MBA in Singapore and was back in Indonesia for holidays. It took quite long for the dishes to be served (as anywhere in Indonesia) but the food was not too bad.

Back on the road

Sun starts setting at around 5pm in East Java and it was already quite dark when we made the turn towards Mount Bromo at Probolinggo. We got the chance to chat with the driver when we stopped briefly outside a mosque for Adi’s prayer. His level of English turned out to be surprisingly good and he offered a brief insight to an average Indonesian family (as opposed to my friends’ ones in Jakarta).

Our van’s air-con was switched off when we started to climb the hill. After more than half a day of traveling since leaving Singapore, we were all glad to arrive at Yoschi Hotel. It was a refreshing 15-16 degrees, compared to the 30+ degrees from where we were at earlier. There were vendors who approached us to sell beanies and gloves but we had no business for them. We got the rather basic Economy rooms with shared bathrooms.

Room 04

Bed for the night

Price list

Dinner was at the hotel restaurant and it was great having hot soup in the cold weather.

Restaurant

After the meal, while the girls chose to wait for the bathrooms with hot showers, the guys decided to just go with the cold ones. I knew that I made a bad choice the moment the icy cold water hit my body; I could feel that my heart skipped a beat and as you could guess, the showers was a very quick affair for me.

One of Lewis’s main aims of the trip was to take photographs of the stars but the especially bright and full moon put paid to the plan.

Full moon = no stars

We were all tucked in bed by 10pm, in preparation for an early rise the next day.

Day 2

3am came and we started to get ready for our excursion to Mount Bromo. It was a chilly 6 degrees celsius and I put on my 4 layers of tops.

3.30 am

Each jeep could hold four so we had two for the eight of us. We were part of the trail of jeeps who were all heading for the sunset at Mount Penanjakan. At one stage of the jeep ride the ride got really bumpy and the visibility became very low due to the sand. I just closed my eyes and tried to rest although it was too bumpy to have any sleep.

By the time we were near the summit, the jeeps which were there earlier had clogged up the narrow road. There must be more 100 of these jeeps around. We had to get off the vehicle and walk to the sunrise view point.

Soon after coming off the vehicle, I realized that my phone was no longer with me. I searched all my pockets but it was nowhere to be found. The rest were already ahead of me and I needed to catch up and inform them. I thought that I had left my phone in the jeep but couldn’t find it anywhere. One of my travel partners tried calling my number but couldn’t get through inside. Then the other spotted something on the ground.

Yes, it was my phone. Its injuries were beyond superficial; I couldn’t power it up at all. My deduction was that it fell out of my jacket pocket when I came off the jeep. A vehicle might have accidentally ran over it in the dark.

RIP. Will miss you.

What done cannot be undone so I tried my best to enjoy the rest of the trip. The view point was already crowded with people when we arrived and we could see light in the horizon.

Horizon

Brighter

The girls enthralled by sunrise

Sun’s up

The crowd

Map of the National Park

After the sun had risen we moved on to another part of the view point.

Moon was still up

View of Bromo

Smoking

More photos at the view point before we made our way back to the jeep. Seen along the way:-

Offerings for prayers made from edelweiss flowers (I think)

Vendors selling sweet corn

Noticed the spider

Back in jeep

On the way up to the sunrise viewing point, Lewis spilled some isotonic drink on the seats on his side (left-hand side on the jeep). On the way down, I noticed that Jaslin boarded first and chose to sit on the right side instead. Sneaky.

From the next view point:-

Washed out

强颜欢笑

En-route to Bromo, we stopped by at the plains for more photos.

Nice

The other jeep

(Stolen from Lewis) Group Jump Shot

(Stolen from Lewis) With jeep

The jeeps dropped us at the parking area at the edge of Sand Sea and we would need to traverse it to reach the Bromo crater. For those who mind the 40 minute or so trek, they were many horses (and horsemen) to choose from and each return trip would cost 100,000 IDR.

(Stolen from Lewis) Girl with her pony

Three of the girls decided to ride up while the rest of us chose to walk with our guide Adi. Halfway through the last girl decided that the uphill walk was too tough and took up one of the horseman’s offer of 40,000 IDR to (almost) the top. We were considerably later than the ladies on horses as we stopped for toilet and some noodles. I would find out later that Ling Rong was scammed by her horseman; instead of given the card with the pony’s name, she was asked for full payment at the end of the first leg. Certainly not the best of trips for her.

Horsemen waiting for the customers to return

Still got quite some way to go

(Stolen from Lewis) 250 steps more only

It was a strenuous hike up to the crater.

Scary looking back; no railings at all

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this guy who went beyond the railing.

What is he thinking?!

Looking for something

It was only afterwards when I saw him selling offerings for prayers did I realize that he was actually a vendor who went down to scavenge those which were thrown into the crater by previous visitors. Tough job honestly.

Bromo is an active volcano and is still smoking.

Wouldn’t wanna go inside

(Stolen from Lewis) Travel mates from Russia.Mongolia at Bromo

First time getting so close to an active volcano and found myself having new respect for mother nature. After staying there for a while, we made our way back to our jeep for our ride back to guesthouse.

Back at guesthouse

While breakfast was included, Lewis was adamant that there was a stall selling fried chicken “round the corner” and we decided to follow him.

No fried chicken; only giant lettuce

The lettuce were HUGE; the extremely fertile soil probably explains why the villagers are willing to live under the shadow of volcano eruptions.

Feels more like in a temperate area than near the Equator

The mission to find fried chicken failed and we made do with the ayam penyet on the way back to Surabaya.

Topping up petrol

We arrived in Surabaya after five hours’ ride (including 1.5 hour ayam penyet lunch) and it took the driver a while before locating our accommodation.

Panggon Guesthouse

Panggon Guesthouse was weirdly located in a upscale gated neighborhood. We weren’t complaining though when we were shown our rooms.

Bed

What you see is what you get

Toilet

The guesthouse only had 5 rooms and we occupied the four rooms upstairs. The friendly staff brought us some welcome drinks and snacks shortly after our arrival.

View from my room

Reminded me of the nice houses seen in Jakarta

We washed up and chilled at the guesthouse until dinner time. The driver then drove us to G-Walk or “Singapore of Surabaya”. To be honest, G-Walk is nothing like Singapore but it has many few food stalls and we tried several of them.

G-Walk

Moon

While we were there it rained suddenly. It was a typical tropical downpour and fortunately it didn’t last. Besides the food there were nothing else to keep us interested so we retired early after dabao-ing (take-away) more satays (including some for our driver and guide).

Due to some road closure, our driver couldn’t take the usual road and sorta lost his way trying to find the guesthouse. He drove through some unlit small roads and had to stop to ask people on the streets. It was rather scary as we didn’t know where we were heading to but eventually we got back to the guesthouse safely.

Lewis and I tried staying up to watch the late match between Liverpool and Newcastle but I fall asleep after the first goal.

Day 3

We woke up the next morning to find out that Liverpool won 6-0. The breakfast (included in room rate) was toast, rice and soto ayam. The other guys didn’t fancy soto ayam and ordered maggi goreng instead.

(Stolen from Lewis) Group shot with the friendly staff of Panggon Guesthouse

We reached the airport early and bid goodbyes to our guide and driver (both were rewarded with pretty good tips). It was too early to check-in so we decided to treat ourselves with something no longer available in Singapore.

At least the A&W in Indonesia serves root beers in iced mugs, not paper cups

Like in CGK, one had to show his/her printed itinerary before being allowed into the check-in area at SUB.

FIDS

Checking in

Handwritten boarding pass

The air-side of SUB’s international departure wasn’t really interesting; it only had a handful of shops and one cafe. There was a charging station for mobile phones ( I wondered if the idea was inspired by SIN’s) but none of the points appeared to be working.

Nothing to charge anyway

Waiting to board

There was nothing much to do beside plane-spotting.

GA’s 738

GA’s CRJ in the background

Citilink

Our plane arrived too

Flight: Valuair VF248
Depart: Surabaya (SUB) – 13:40
Arrive: Singapore (SIN) – 17:00
Duration: 2h20m Distance: 857 miles (1379 km)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Registration: 9V-JSH
Seat: 17 E

Cabin shot

No idea what they were laughing about

Although I was supposed to sit at 17E, I managed to trick get Ling Rong to swap her window seat with me.

Mandala and Lion

Job’s done

Love how SUB incorporated traditional Javanese architecture into its building design

Taxi-ing

Aircraft graveyard – Did I see a Bouraq?

[Take-off video]

Farmland

Off the coast of Java (or Madura?)

The flight was a standard Jetstar/Valuair one and I dozed off for most of it.

I woke up when we were already descending.

Some town in the Riau islands

Tengku Fisabilillah bridge

Not sure if it’s Malaysia or Indonesia

Think it’s Ubin

[Landing Video]

Spottings:-

Shanghai Airlines

Visitors from Saudia Arabia and India

Mates from Australia

SIN’s control tower

Handlers in action

Something unusual happened at our arrival at SIN; there was a security check for passengers from our flight.

Puzzling security check on arrival

This was the first time that something like this had happened to me. Was it a routine check or did the airport authorities receive tip-off? I never got to find out.

Epilogue

Would I recommend going to Bromo? Yes but probably not on a weekend when the crowds are huge.

Seeing an active volcano was quite interesting experience for me although I thought that Bromo was a bit overrated. Perhaps the pictures which I saw prior to the trip gave me unrealistic expectations of the scenery there.

Both flights were pretty routine and got me from point A to B without fuss. One thing for sure was that Jetstar is firm with the check-in deadline (40 minutes before departure) and their agents aren’t particularly helpful to passengers who miss it.

Moral of the story: Better to be early than sorry.

Getting a guide like Adi made the trip pretty hassle-free; he organized our trip and was on hand to translate for us whenever required. Nothing to complain about the accommodation; Yoschi was a basic place to stay for the night at Bromo while Panggon Guesthouse was value-for-money, albeit located in a rather unusual neighborhood.

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