Difference between revisions of "East Java"
Revision as of 15:21, 30 May 2011
The spine of East Java is dominated by a series of rugged, spectacular volcanic peaks. The most famous of these are in the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park and Semeru and Bromo together make up one of the great iconic images of Indonesia. There are four volcanic peaks higher than 3,000 m in the region. This volcanic activity has created a largely fertile area and verdant agriculture is a prominent feature of the area.
Both the north and south coasts offer some beautiful, deep, fine sand beaches and these are another key attraction of the region.
The two large southern national parks of Alas Purwo and Meru Betiri are remote and sparsely populated and represent the nearest thing to a wilderness experience that you will find on Java. In the north-east, Baluran National Park recalls African Savannah plains.
The island of Madura sits off the north eastern coast of the region and is as off-the-beaten-track as you can get in this part of Indonesia. That is slowly changing as the road bridge linking Surabaya to Madura opened in mid-2009.
Surabaya is the capital city and Indonesia's second largest. It is though largely bereft of attractions, over-crowded, polluted and supports sprawling industry. Few visitors stay in Surabaya for reasons of tourism. Malang is the second city of the region and a bigger contrast to Surabaya could not be imagined. It is a clean, airy city with an important and interesting history.
People in East Java speak Indonesian as well as Javanese which they mix together at times. A significant minority also speak Madurese. English will be understood and spoken at large city hotels and at obvious tourist destinations.
For all place names, beware that in the local East Javanese accent, "A" and "O" are largely interchangable: often the official spelling uses "A", but the locals pronounce it "O". Hence a resident of Surabaya is locally an arek Suroboyo and Cemoro Lawang and Cemara Lawang are the same place.
Surabaya's Juanda Airport (IATA: SUB)  is one of the busiest in Indonesia, with very frequent flights from Jakarta, Bali and other major Indonesian destinations. There are some direct international flights from destinations including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Bandar Seri Begawan.
Surabaya is connected by rail from Jakarta, Semarang and Yogyakarta with many stop points in between . It is possible to travel to the region from Bali with an all-in "train" ticket that also covers the necessary bus and ferry portions.
The popular star tourist attraction of Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is sadly not part of the Indonesian rail network.
Surabaya is a major national and international port city and virtually every major coastal city in Indonesia is connected to it in some way. Check the national passenger ship operator Pelni for detailed information.
Frequent buses travel across Java and this is a reliable, if not always comfortable, method of travel. All of the the major cities and towns in the region can be reached by bus.
Driving anywhere is Java is a hazardous business for visitors not used to Indonesian driving habits. East Java is no exception and visitors are advised to rent a car with a driver if this is your chosen method of getting around in the region.
The region is well served by the national rail network which connects all major cities and towns. 
The Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is the main attraction in East Java and accounts for a large percentage of overseas tourists who visit the region. The national park is named after its two mountains, Mount Semeru (the highest in Java at 3,676 m, Mount Bromo. the most popular. The Tengger people inhabit this area. Mount Semeru also known as Mahameru (Indonesian language holy mountain or seat of the gods), is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes. Semeru is often closed due to its highly active nature.
There are many opportunities for trekking in the park to suite all levels of physical fitness. One of the most popular activities (especially for the less energetic!) is to stay in one of the simple lodges in the park, then drive up to the top of Mount Penanjakan (2,770 m) pre-dawn in a 4WD vehicle and wait for a truly spectacular sunrise. Later in the day, a slightly more arduous 90 min climb up to the rim of the Mount Bromo caldera to view the bubbling active crater is very worthwhile. You can also make this ascent seated atop one of the local ponies.
The Ijen Plateau near Banyuwangi and Bondowoso is a less well known but in its own way equally spectacular area of volcanic activity. The Ijen Plateau is the centrepoint of the large mountain range west of Banyuwangi and which abutts the Baluran National Park to the north. For the adventurous traveller a visit to the Ijen Crater (Kawah Ijen) is a must whilst in the region. The crater can be approached from Bondowoso in the west or Banyuwangi in the east. The Bondowoso route is recommended as the road is relatively better (although that is not saying much) and the 90 min foot climb much easier. When you arrive the colour of the water in the lake is scarcely believable being an extraordinary vivid aqua blue. Evidence of volcanic activity is everywhere with steaming water and brilliant yellow crystaline sulphur deposits. The Ijen Crater is one of the great natural wonders of Indonesia.
Malang is a city of great historical significance. It was a seat of major power in Java's Hindu past and the Dutch took a great liking to its relatively cool, fresh climate in the colonial period. Modern day Malang, although significantly urbanised, has retained much of its historical character and a few days looking around this lovely city and visiting nearby places of interest, will be time well spent. In the city centre a great first stop is Ijen Boulevard. This is a quite beautiful street lined with tropical trees against a backdrop of old colonial structures. The street houses a number of interesting buildings including the Brawijaya Army Museum, Immanual Catholic Church and the city library. Nearby Jalan Tugu is home of the city hall (Balai Kota Malang), the Tugu Monument, Aloon-Aloon Bunder (park) and the Tugu Hotel. The latter houses a magnificent collection of Javanese antiques and serves lunch or tea.
About 30 km south of Malang there are three lovely beaches close together: Balekambang, Ngliyep and Sendangbiru. It is best to visit on weekdays as this is a very popular weekend escape and it can get get crowded. It is not safe to swim here but these are great relaxation beaches which offer some stunning coastal scenery. There is a offshore island called Pulau Simpu which can be visited by chartering a boat from Sedangbiru beach. At Balekambang beach there are three little islets just offshore which are attached to the beach by walkways. Of the three beaches, Balekambang itself is the most attractive. The beaches are easily day-tripped from Malang in a car.
The Bondowoso region has many ancient stones spread across several districts including kenong stone, grave stones, sarkofag, and others. Alun - alun city is the main place to gather people (the crowd), to the north stood the Regent Hall, which is an old building, and there are also Dutch heritage building that is now a Junior High School 1 Bondowoso. There are many more Dutch heritage buildings in this city. about 10 km east of Bondowoso no brass handicraft center (Cindogo). Kakianyar village, 15 km south of Bondowoso is a good destination if you want to enjoy the countryside with cool air.
Eating is an extremely important part of life in East Java and there is an extraordinary range of options.
High quality western food is available in the large cities of Surabaya and Malang but there are so many local delights that any visitor is surely better off concentrating on these. Indonesian cuisine from all corners of this vast nation is widely available. As elsewhere in Indonesia, the best bet is often simple warungs and road-side stalls and the rule is to follow the local crowds.
Specific East Javanese specialities include:
There is a local type of fermented palm tree alcohol, called tuak.
When visiting any of the volcanic areas, understand and be respectful of their active nature. Never take unneccesary risks.
Temperatures in the high parts of the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park can get close to 0 °C at night - come prepared.