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Solo Trip To Indonesia: Java - Volcanos, Sulphur Mines And The Most Colourful Village Ever

In part 1 of this trip, I focussed on my first 3 days in Indonesia across Bali including Nusa Penida and Ubud. In this part, I'm going to cover the Java leg of the trip.

I took a ferry from Bali to Banyawungi - the southmost point/town in Java which you enter from Bali. It's the starting point to Ijen crater. I got here by around 3 pm and just napped in my hostel until it was time to leave for the trek.

Midnight Trek to IJen Sulphur Mines

At around midnight, my Ijen Mines organized tour guy picked me up in a van with a few others and off we went to the Ijen Sulphur Mines midnight trek. (I took all my luggage with me because I was going to leave for my next destination directly after Ijen.)

It's a fairly easy trek, but challenging due the darkness all around and some parts a bit treacherous. But what's at the end of the hike was so exciting to me that I carried on.

At around 4 am, the air was getting thicker with the pungent smell of Sulphur and I knew that we were approaching the mines. You can see local works lugging sacks and carts of sulphur rocks through the trickiest looking rocks and hills and your heart goes out to them. Then at around 5 am, the guide pointed at something - Blue Flames!

This is a rare but 100% natural phenomenon that only happens once a day when the rays of the rising sun catch the sulpur and it bursts into blue flames for a few seconds! I couldn't capture this moment on the camera, but what a sight I'll never forget. the rest of the hike was all about sulphur-- everywhere you touched was sulphur - it gets so intense that one has to wear protective glasses and a mask to protect themselves against the strong chemical! Here you can also buy some sulphur souvenirs to support the families if the mine workers which I support. The base of the hike is a lake - also a sulphuric lake which you cant get into or even touch, but makes for a pretty unreal sight.

Sunrise at Ijen sulphur mines Indonesia

The ride back is fairly easy with the sun having risen and lighting your path down the hill.

By 7 am I was back in Banuwangi and had my tour pickup drop me directly to the Karangsem train station

Day - 5 - Onwards to Mount Bromo for the volcano

Indonesia also famous for its many active volcanoes - some of which do erupt from time to time but the one that's on a tourist's trail is Mount Bromo, a dormant volcano that's relatively easy to get to and see up close.

Even though it was only day 5 of my trip, it had felt like an eternity given all the diverse experiences of the past few days and yet my trip was only about halfway over.

Sleepy and tired, I got on a train to Probolingo - a 3 hour ride and then another shared van to the village of Cemoro Lawang the nearest point of civilization at the Bromo national park. By the time we got to the Lawang, it was already sundown and all we had left to do was get a warm dinner (it was pretty chilly up on this altitude) where I made friends with a tall Dutch guy and a loving 70-yr old gramma from Hong Kong - both traveling solo like me.

This night was again going to be a short one as one has to start trekking around 2 am to get to Bromo by sunrise.

Day 6 - Big mess: The unofficial hike route to Bromo to avoid the entry fees

In my steadfast mission to go the offbeat route (read: avoid the $15 entry fees to Bromo park from the official entrance that tour guides take you through) someone had suggested an alternate route through which to trek on and get to the Volcano. So Dutch guy and I teamed up to follow my blogger's instructions, but all we did was get lost and got further and further from our destination. Eventually we gave up and ended up taking up on a local's offer to drop us there - the two of us on pillion - and eventually getting to Bromo. So instead of saving any time or money, we ended up spending the same and missing the sunrise! (even though we didn't pay for entry, paying the bike taxi almost cost the same.)

Once you're the base of Bromo, you go to the hill opposite it to catch the sunrise over the volcano. This trek takes around 30 seconds or until whenever you're at a great spot to see the sunrise and take pictures. We found ours and spent a good one hour posing and taking each others' photos here. The red and orange rays of the sun hitting on the beautiful Bromo volcano and nearby hills was quite pretty and alleviated my annoyance at my own stupidity earlier.

sunrise at Mount bromo

The surreal and spooky Bromo Caldera

The trek to Caldera or the "Mouth" of the Volcano is an easy 10-min trek which anyone can do. If you haven't been to a volcano before and I don't think volcano hopping is really a favourite travel activity of most, what you see at Bromo hits you!

A large "mouth" almost the size of a football stadium at the middle of the mountain with nothing but smoke coming out of it and with a constant rumbling sound. One wrong move and you're in the hot volcano like a human french fry! But spotting a Lord Ganesh shrine at one side of the Volcano soothed my fears a bit! (wonder why the elephant god is there? Maybe because the rumble of the volcano sounds like 1000 elephants?)

ganpati at bromo volcano indonesia

At this point I lost Martin and was left to navigate my way back to the hotel by myself. You won't believe it but I managed to mess up again. Taking a wrong path or two, again I ended up meandering endlessly through the volcano area and that under the crushing heat of the October Indonesian sun and alone didn't help my sleep-deprived and tired self a bit.

After about 2 hours of this annoying trot back, I got to my guest house and napped like I had never napped before but only to pack my bag and go again.

Day 6 Leaving Cemero Lawang for "Rainbow Village in Malang

The Rainbow Village in the Malang district is a heritage village purposefully painted in all colours as a tourist attraction inspired by the fevellas of Brazil. It was amazing how an entire village with some thousands of houses, shops and roads were all painted and decorated with the brightest colours, flags and wall art. The children definitely seemed eager and proud to be showing off their unique village. I got myself a tea at a local shop surrounded by this burst of colours and signed off a very interesting last 2 hours in this lively village.

rainbow village indonesia

Overnight train from Malang to Yogyakarta

I got on a train from Malang to Yogyakarta, a few hours; journey and it was a delight to see serve you snacks and tea onboard like in a plan! I reached Yogyakarta at around 4am and got to my hostel half hour later -- too early but they were nice enough to let me lounge about in the common area till I could check in. What a charming little hostel it was. A tiny but heart place full of plants and a plunge pool in the centre. Now this is the thing I loved about traveling in Indonesia - most all hostels and guesthouses irrespective of their tariff come with swimming pools or plunge pools. Could also be a way to attract tourists in unforgiving Indonesian heat.

Day 7 - Exploring Jogja

Once checked in, I napped like there was no agenda. Cuz there wasn't. I had a day and half to explore Yogyakarta - loving called "Jogja" locally so I only got out into the city at evening. I ended up going to a local mosque -- Java is largely Islamic so mosques are to Java what temples were to Bali.

Riding the scary Becak!

Interestingly, the local ride of choice in Indonesia, especially in Java is the Becak - A kind of manual rikshaw where the driver sits behind you while you face the road head on without any protective gear or railing in front of you! It gave me the jitters as he raced me around the narrow alleys and bazaars!

bekak rikshaw in indonesia

Day 8 - Borobudur Temple

I was looking forward to this part of my trip excitedly. Having seen multiple photos of this temple before, I already knew what to expect but the actual place blew me away even more. I don't even know if I can describe it but the Borbudur temple is like nothing I'd seen it before. It's a buddhist temple perched upon a hill and on a raised platform comprising of multiple levels. Each levels has a slew of Stupas or domes in varying complexity of design, shapes and sizes. On the top, you see hundreds of little stupas down below and the green fields in the distance.

borobudur temple indonesia

The place was full of tourists including local ones so getting a good picture was proving to be difficult and just then A gang of school children closed upon me and asked me to "let them practise their English with me!" Hah! Never thought someone from India would be used for their English linguistic skills! But I happily obliged and got a pic or two from them.

After Borobudur, I had an option to visit the other famous temple - The Prambanan temple which is a 9th century Hindu temple, but somehow it looked like Angkor Wat to me where I'd already been just a year prior so skipped it and got back to Jogya city.

I continued my day of exploration of the city, its local areas and its bazaars instead of any particular tourist spots. I must say I did regret not going to the temple as on day two there wasn't much exciting to look at Yogya and I spent the whole evening chilling in my hostel instead.

local muslim girls in yogyakarta indonesia

Day 9 - Onwards to Jakarta

I had a very uncomfortable night in the overnight train from Jogja to Jakarta as it was over 12 hours long and I was seated up all night along and I lost my phone charger. So there I was seated in a train for 12 hours without a phone or sleep. So by the time I got to Jakarta in the wee hours of the night, I was pretty annoyed already. All I did was crashed into my hostel immediately. Any exploring the Indonesian capital would be tomorrow.

But I guess the annoyance from the previous day spilled over as I didn't enjoy my time in Jakarta one bit - the city was polluted (In fact recently it was declared so polluted that they've shifted the capital to another city altogether!) hot and there didn't seem to the character or soul that was there in Bali.

Around morning, I went around hoping to pick up a charger and do some shopping. I got the charger but I was disappointed by the shopping. I was hoping to finally buy all the amazing things I saw in Bali but didn't want to lug with me through Indonesia, but Jakarta had none of it.

So Indonesia turned out to be one trip where I didn't shop at all - save for a couple of scarves in Jogja. Lesson learned -- SHOP in Bali! The stuff you get there is charming and reasonably priced and people from all over the world import stuff from Bali.

Day 10 - Back home

I took a flight from Jakarta to Bangalore after almost missing it thanks to Jakarta's infamous traffic. I got back home with a severe tan, aching bones and a biter sweet feeling. There was so much I'd done , experienced and felt in the last 10 days -- the stunning untouched beauty of Nusa Penida, the serene vibes of Ubud, the segue into Java, the sulphur mines, the volcano, and the urban madness of Jakarta - Indonesia was a sensory explosion. It left me wanting more but also saying "that'll do."

10-Day Solo Trip to Indonesia : Total Costs

To be honest, I didn't really calculate the exact costs but overall the trip cost me about INR 50,000 back in 2017 split into the following heads:

  • Return airfare from Bangalore to Bali and from Jakarta to Bangalore -- Rs. 21,000

  • Per day average hostel stay * 9 nights - Rs. 6,000

  • Ijen Sulphur Mines organized tour: Rs. 1500

  • Boat to and from Nusa Penida - Rs. 2000

  • Food * 10 days - Rs. 5,000

  • Taxis and bike rentals - Rs. 2000

  • Borobudur Temple entrance fees - Rs. 1500

  • Trains and buses: Rs. 1000

  • Misc - Rs. 2000

  • Shopping: Rs. 1000

I definitely want to return someday to check out some of the other Indonesian islands like Raja Ampat, the Gillys and do another volcano hike or two.


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 I (Monica) am a lifelong traveler, (40 countries), sustainability and veganism advocate, and a marketer by profession. I'm old school in that I still like to blog and document rather than shoot and post.

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