Sunrise at Bromo, for Free and Without a Tour

Visiting the Mount Bromo, contemplate the sunrise or sunset, can be done easily for free and without a tour.

First, you need to reach the small town of Cemoro Lawang, find a room and overnight there. If you arrive during the day, I recommend visiting the Bromo crater that day, after the tours left.

I woke up at 3.20am and left to the hike to the top of Mount Penanjakan, by myself, and could be easier. The trek uphill is about 5km long so you need some good 2 hours.
It’s important to have a good torch, proper shoes and warm clothes, its frizzing cold during the night, remember that you are at 2,217 meters above sea level.

Hiking to the top of Mount Penanjakan during the night

First, you walk on the concrete road for half of the journey and then you go into a rocky mountain trail, The hike is not difficult but you need to have a reasonable level of fitness. Its deep dark but using the offline map app maps-me makes the tasks pretty easy, as long as you have a light source with you.

It’s amazing to stop occasionally to look at the starts here, the visibility is just superb.

On the day I did my hike, I only pass through a couple of small moving light points from other travellers. This is not the same route taken by the jeeps (tours) and there are not many people climbing up this way.

After a while, I reached a viewing point that I liked (you will find many) and waited there for the sunrise. Slowly started to get brighter and brighter… It was magical, such a stunning and magnificent view over the caldera with Semeru volcano in the background.

I contemplated the sunrise wrapped in a blanket and stayed a bit longer having breakfast (that I carried in my backpack) looking at the views.

The weather was getting warmer and I went down to town, sat for a coffee, rest and finish an amazing morning.

The journey was tiring but completely worth it.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Batik in Yogyakarta, what to do and where to go on a budget

One of the best things about travelling is learning new things, and it would be impossible to visit or live in Indonesia and not to notice one of the country’s most highly developed art forms, the batik.

The Indonesian Batik is part of the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Batik is a method originally used in Java of producing coloured designs on textiles by applying wax and them dyeing them.

Felling the Batik smell, admire its patterns and learn about its processes needs to be part of any visit to Yogyakarta because is such an important part of the Indonesian culture and heritage.

Where to learn about the  batik process

If you want to see and learn about the batik process the Batik Winotosatro in Yogyakarta, shows it for free.

The manual process uses fabric, hot wax, tjanting and colours. Tjanting is a bell metal tool used in outlining the design of the batik art.

The Batik can also be made by stamp.

Where to try the batik process

Mirota Batik is a fixed-priced store, located in the Malioboro, that sell batik fabric and clothing, but also has a small space where you can try this technique (Rp.30,000~$2)

Batik scams

Batik is very popular in Yogyakarta among tourists, making it a great opportunity for scammers.

Everywhere you go,  someone will be trying to sell you batik, or they have a friend that does it, or they know the most authentic place to buy it, or they are a teacher in the University of Batik… well… the stories are many and I assure you; you will hear them all. The important thing is to decline all offers politely and choose wisely where you want to go.

If you want to buy some batik my advice is for you to go to a shop with fixed prices.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Yogyakarta a special place

The special region of Yogyakarta often known as Yogya, Yoja or even Jogja, is located in the island of Java, Indonesia. Unlike Bali, Jogya is more traditionally Muslimwith a minority identifying as Christian and Hindu. 

Yogyakarta is a busy sprawling city with lots of narrow picturesque side streets in a maze-like formation, that makes navigation confusing at times but also exciting.

Many people will say that Yogya is not a city to fall in love with, but I did… I truly fell in love with this city to the point I have returned again. If you have been reading my posts about Indonesia I was quite disappointed with most of the places.

For the first time on my adventure around Indonesia, I didn’t feel like everyone had an agenda, I liked the vibe of the city, its people, and authenticity.

Location

Yogyakarta also has an excellent location whatever direction you go. The Merapi mount at the North, isolated beaches at the South, The Heritage site of Prambanan at the East and the ancient Buddhist temple – Borobudur at the west to where you can go using public buses.

The Arts

Jogya is the centre of many art forms including traditional dances, batik, ballet, drama, music, poetry, puppet shows, and cuisine.

Yogyakarta is the beating heart of the Javanese culture. The city pulsates with creative energy, where artists from all over Indonesia come to join the community, making this city a feast for the eyes.

Street Art

Street art is just another way of expression, and finding the best street art is just one of the things you can do in Yogyakarta.  Jogya is a colourful, creative city full of surprises. There always seems to be something going on.

Local Markets

There are few better places to visit than the local markets in order to gain a sense of a country, its customs and culture than amongst the stalls and the people.

Most markets you will encounter are packed with people, are hot and sticky, have colourful foods and gods on offer, some are located in narrow alleyways full of the sounds and smells of a country waiting to be explored.

Whichever you choose, make sure you’re there early as most stalls close after 11 am.

Food

There are food stalls in every corner, and vegan and vegetarian food is abundant in Yogyakarta. Tofu and tempeh are super common and dairy, on the other hand, is rarely used in cooking.

The busiest area is on the north end of JI Malioboro where you will find dozens of street food vendors during the evening.

Look for nasi goreng (fried rice), gado gado (vegetable salad with peanut sauce), lotek (similar to gado gado), gudgeon (jackfruit curry), nasi Langgi (coconut rice with temple),  tahu and tempe sate (tofu and tempeh on skewers) and pecel (mixed veg salad with bean sprouts and peanut sauce).

Becaks

Becaks (cycle rickshaws) are used for public transportation in Yogyakarta. Around the Palace Quarter after the sun has set the streets are filled with a selection of illuminated vehicles decorated with everything from Hello Kitty to Pokemons.

Batik

Batik is an ancient waxing and dying process, very popular in Indonesia. In fact, it is here, on the island of Java that the finest batik in the world is produced.

Jogja being the Javanese cultural hub, is a great place to witness the process of batik first-hand.

Some batik workshops give free tours of the batik process. But please do some research and be aware of all the scams directed at tourists.

I’ve visited Yogyakarta twice and spent some considerable time there, and I can’t recommend it enough, I really loved it..

Have you been to Java or Yogyakarta? Let me know your thoughts..

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Malang: Villages With all the Colour of the rainbow

Malang is located in the east side of Java,  Indonesian. 

When I travel somewhere, one of my favourite things to do is to walk around to get a true feel for a place. I like to meet people, and experience what it would be like to live there, even if for a short time. I love to explore all the smells, colours and flours around me. I’m crazy about markets, food stalls and art. Malang has a bit of everything.

Malang’s colourful villages are definitely a must.

The three villages in Malang that were revitalised used to be slums on the verge of eviction. Poor areas without any basic conditions to live in.  Today they have a new face and the economy in this deprived neighbourhoods is growing and there is finally some money to support the community.

Colour Villages in Malang

Kampung Jodipan

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The Kampung Tridi

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Kampung Biru Arena 

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Separate entrance fees are asked to enter to the different neighbourhoods (Rp.3,000~$0.20)

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

 

Ijen Crater, chasing the blue flames, without a tour

Ijen Volcano, Acid Lake and Blue Flames

The Ijen volcano is located near the eastern tip of Java island, and anyone visiting the island is probably planning a visit to the vast volcanic region of the Ijen plateau.

This region has three volcanos, the Ijen (2368m), the Merapi (2800m) and the Raung (3332m). The vast majority of visitor goes only to the Ijen.

Hiking the volcano, contemplate the Acid Lake, the Blue Flames and the sunrise can be done easily independently without a guide or a tour.

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Getting There

You can get to Ijen via Bondowoso or Banyuwangi. 

Java is well connected by bus so its easy to get to one of these towns from any place in Java.

To get to Ijen you will need to rent a scooter or hire a taxi. If you are used to drive a scooter, the roads to Ijen are really good, and because you do it during the night there is no traffic, plus the route is quite straightforward and well sign-posted.

At the entrance

Once you arrive you need to go in direction of the building where you can buy the entrance ticket. It costs Rp.100,000 (~£7.10) on weekdays and Rp.150,000 (~£10.60) on weekends for foreign visitors.

Ijen – chasing the blue flames

To chase the blue flames its starts with a midnight hike to the crater edge, although is a steady walk up a hill, it’s no easy task.

Once you get to the crater rim, you’ll find lots of guides offering to help you on the way down, but it’s up to you whether to get one at this point, to be fair you don’t need one at all.

Whatever you decide to do, the only thing that really matters is to put the gas mask on and keep it at all times, the sulphuric fumes are toxic, corrodes the skin, stings the eye and cause breathless.

Descending to the volcano crater

When you start descending the terrain turns to boulders and rubbles and its important to take care where you step. The rocky path down to the crater is breaking up because of the number of people walking on it daily.

Be mindful that you will not be the only person doing this journey, the place is completely packed with tourists plus you have the miners making their way back up with their baskets full. Its horrible to see the miners working in conditions that can only be described as hell —a portrait of bone-crushing physical labuor.

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Once inside the crater, you can see the blue flames of the sulphur mine if the weather allows it. The ones I saw where quite small, much more impressive than the flames are the miners work in such harsh conditions, where is almost impossible to breathe.

The ‘Blue Flames’, are Sulphur gas escaping from the walls of a dormant volcano igniting to 300 degrees when in contact with oxygen.

At the time I visited the Ijen, it was really cold and very very windy, that means that the visibility was terrible plus the fumes were blowing in all direction. When the fumes are on top of you, you can’t open your eyes and is really hard to breathe, would I repeat the experience, probably not.

After you’ve explored everything inside the crater,  climb up to contemplate the sunrise overlooking the landscape.

Once the sun is up, the views over the largest acid lake on earth are quite nice, this lake has a pH lower than that of battery acid, caustic enough to dissolve metal, can you believe it?!

The way down from the volcano rim is not easier than the way up, I’m sorry to say it..  the downward slope is absolutely killer on the knees.

Essentials:
  • gas mask
  • rain jacket/windbreaker
  • warm clothes and gloves
  • proper shoes
  • head torch
  • snacks and water

The rest of the Ijen plateau area is worth exploring, with its breathtaking views, countless streams and hot springs and coffee plantations. There are also a few nice isolated settlements.

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If the crowds, toxic smokes are nor for you, you may prefer visiting the magnificent  Mount Bromo.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Goa Gajah the Elephant Cave _ Bali

Goa Gajah is located in the village of Bedulu on the edge of a cliff, about 2km southeast of Ubud on the road to Bedulu, Bali.

Despite the roads that lead to Goa Gajah being crazy chaotic the temple area is quite beautiful surrounded by shady green trees. The place is an archaeological site of significant historical value that makes it a special place to visit. The complex dates back to the 11th century, built as a spiritual place for meditation.

The Goa Gajah has a relic-filled courtyard, rock-wall carvings, a central meditational cave, bathing pools, and fountains. Goa Gajah is carved into a rock face and you enter through the cavernous mouth of a demon. 

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Don’t expect to see any elephants around. The name ‘Elephant Cave’ probably comes from the Petenu River, which was once called Elephant River.

How to get there: the best way is to rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day) the traffic between Ubud and Bedulo is quite heavy but is a short distance.

Entrance Fee: Rp15,000/ adult ($1) and Rp.2,000 ($0.13) to park your scooter.

Dress Code: Sarong is required to enter the temple, and can be borrowed from the temple’s entrance for free.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

🏍 find out more easy day trips from Ubud 🚌

Yogyakarta’s street art

Yogyakarta, or Jogja, is a hub for culture and arts in Indonesia, and hands down one of my favourite cities in Indonesia. 

First, because it’s full of art, culture, music, great vegan food, friendly people and has a great vibe that I found hard to find elsewhere in Indonesia.

Jogja is mostly known for its fine art scene, but not surprisingly, the cultural centre is also a bastion for street art activity. Here wherever you roam, you will stumble upon incredible street art that is brightening up streets and neighbourhoods.

Yogyakarta’s street art makes this charming city feel even more unique. You can find work of artists like Digie Sigit DS13 and Anti Tank Project. Both artists are using their painting to express their opinion on the social and political environment of their city.

The Jogja street art scene, along with the numerous contemporary art galleries in the city, makes Yogyakarta an absolute must-visit for any art lover travelling to Java.

To get a good overview of Yogyakarta’s street art scene, you will need at least a couple days in the city.

Have a look at the photos and get inspired by this small fraction of what Jogja has to offer, and let me know what you think of the street art in Yogyakarta.

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photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Malang a charming Javanese City

Malang is an East Javan city, that I went to just because I had time to spare, is not really a touristic destination, although Malang is where Surabaya’s residents would come to get away for a day or two. Malang moves at a more slow and enjoyable pace than the regional Capital, Surabaya.

Located 90 km south of Surabaya, the capital and largest city of East Java (Jawa Timur), Malang is the second largest city in Indonesia’s East Java province, but you don’t fell the  rush of a big city, Malang is a place that welcomes you with open arms.

Malang is one of those cities that a lot of people love, and it’s easy to understand why.

My suggestion is to skip all the attractions that you see mentioned on the main sites and the lonely planet guide, and head to the amazing neighbourhoods.

On top of that you can admire some historical Dutch buildings, and sample delicious vegan food, that can be found easily anywhere in the city from street stalls to restaurants.

There are a few traditional markets in Malang that you can visit, and also night market at Jalan Kyai Tamin but don’t expect much for the food here.

The colourful villages

If you walk away from the centre of the city you will be amazed in the most unexpected way. What a few years ago were slums are now vibrante and colourful places, full of life, wrapped in a magical vibe.

As part of a project to revitalize the area that was on the verge of eviction the riverside slum was transformed into a rainbow village.

Nowadays  virtually every corner has colour. This project was an initiative of some students from Muhammadiyah University of Malang. The students were inspired by the favelas of Rio.

You can easily spend a day exploring the different neighborhoods, immersing yourself in the narrow pathways, walking around and observing the surroundings.

Kampung Warna-Warni  – Indonesian for Village of Colour

The Jodipan village and the Kampung Tridi village are connected by a yellow bridge over a small river and are coloured with bright colours, on the opposite side of the highway is the village Kampung Biru Arema, named after the popular Malang football team where everything is coloured blue.

These colourful neighbourhoods are not in the foreigner’s tourist route yet, but they are really popular among locals. The rise of local tourism is spurred the local economy. The tourism is giving women (who are generally uneducated), an opportunity to make a living out of selling food, drinks and souvenirs.

Around Malang, you can find great Hindu and Buddhist ruins and beautiful pal-dapples rice and corn fields. Malang is surrounded by active volcanoes, mountains, rivers, and the rough Indian Ocean.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Lombok, not the paradise you expect

I’ve traveled to Lombok from Bali, using the old slow ferry, and took a taxi to Kuta from the pier (Rp. 200.000 ~$13). While Bali’s dominant religion is Hindu, Lombok is almost entirely Muslim. And that makes a massive difference between the islands. That is why you can see and especially hear mosques everywhere. When booking accommodation always check how close you are to a mosque, because it can become very noisy.

Because of the earthquakes I didn’t have time to visit the all Island of Lombok just the south.

I stayed and used Kuta as a base, because has plenty of accommodation and food options. Although Kuta itself is a soulless place, quite dirty and unkept, where you are constantly harassed.

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Kuta beach with with lots of trash and more touts than people sunbathing

I arrived in Kuta, Lombok with low expectations after being in Bali, despite expecting better beaches I didn’t expect an unspoiled paradise and true to be said I didn’t got surprised.

Even though I still stuck around for a few days to explore the surrounding areas with a scooter. The roads west and east of Kuta have great views of the sea, but be prepared to pay a fee to go to all of them (fee Rp. 10.000 ~$0.70 ). One of my favourite parts about Lombok was actually just driving around.

On the mainland, there is a deserted feeling when you drive between towns the landscape is quite arid.

Beaches

The Pantai Mawon beach was quite disappointing, very dirty and packed with children selling stuff, and groups of men staring. At one point a man got fire to a beautiful health palm tree on the beach just for fun. It wasn’t pleasant so we left.

Tampah beach has a slogan at the entrance saying ‘no Harassment beach’. When I saw the sign I tough, ok I can try and see if its true.

This beach is a peaceful, quiet and clean place with no vendors, we were not harassed there for once unlike on any other beach.

The fishing village east of Kuta is nothing special, but there is a nice beach called Tanjung Aan just before the village. For me the most beautiful stretch of beach in south Lombok.

What to do around Lombok

Despite the beach, Lombok also has many waterfalls, the Rinjani volcano, rice fields, markets and the option of going on a trip to one of the Gilis.

Rinjani volcano is for me probably the highlight of the island, the trek is picturesque, with impressive views of Bali, the Gilis, and beyond on a clear day.

Its still true that the island Lombok receives far fewer visitors than Bali but its far for being an untouched unspoiled place.

Have you been to Lombok? leave your thoughts..

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Indonesia Earthquakes, my earth-shattering experience

Lombok and the Gili were part of my plans when I visited Indonesia, what wasn’t on the plans were earthquakes or tsunamis…
During the summer of 2018, Indonesia was hit by several earthquakes, and I was there.

first earthquake

A deadly 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck off Lombok, on 29 July 2018, followed by nearly 100 aftershocks.
At this time I was in Bali, I felt a strong long shaking, that woke me up. It took me a while to understand what was happening because this was my first earthquake experience, to be fair one of those experiences you wish not to have.

The epicenter was below Mount Rinjani, Lombok, and I was in the island of Bali approximately 200km away, so there was no destruction on the island of Bali.

During the following days I followed the news to know what was happening in Lombok.
And I read a lot about earthquakes, tsunamis, and the Ring of Fire (an area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. The Indonesian islands are located right in the middle of the Ring of Fire).

You probably know the felling of “I wish I didn’t read about it” sometimes the more you know more you are afraid of, and that is what happened to me. I was ready to finish my trip and fly to another country somewhere else, just to have peace of mind and be able to relax.
My partner, on the other hand, didn’t share my worries or concerns, and I ended up convincing myself that was very unlikely that Indonesia was going to be hit by another earthquake soon. So I relaxed as much as I could and tried to put the worries away.
When things seemed to get calmer and safer we took a ferry to Lombok.

Second  earthquake

It goes without saying that during our first night in Lombok on 5 August 2018, a destructive and shallow earthquake of magnitude 7 struck the island again.
I was in the room when everything started shaking and the earth roaring, I run outside on my underwear, locals were running, shouting, and crying and there was a deep feeling of panic on the street.

The quake lasted for what seemed like a minute building into a crescendo of panic and destruction. The lights flickered and then suddenly, darkness swallowed us.

I’m not going to lie. I was petrified. Fumbling my way in the darkness, the shaking intensified and fear consumed my entire body. They were the longest seconds of my life.
I sat on the street, in a relatively safe place, rolled up in a blanket and stayed there for the rest of the night. I didn’t dare to go inside the room again.

During that night I felt several aftershocks beneath me, but with no falling bricks, roof tiles and coconuts near me, I sort of felt safe. If you can feel safe when all you see around are locals crying and praying.
The family from the house in front of me killed a chicken in a sacrifice and all the families got together and slept in the street .

With a second earthquake in the same island there was no way I would stay longer, but like me, hundreds of tourists were trying to leave, so I only managed to get a flight 2 days later.

During those two days I was ok and relatively calm during the day, but really scared during the night and I wasn’t able to sleep.

Third  earthquake

After two weeks I still jumped when I heard a loud noise and I was constantly feeling the earth shaking even when was not.

While Lombok was still recovering, another 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck on the northeast corner of Lombok and northwest Sumbawa on 19 August, two weeks after the quake that killed more than 460 people.

I was on the island of Sumbawa waiting for the bus to go to Maluk when I felt the ground shaking over me, everybody ran to the middle of the street. It was a small earthquake compared to the previous two. What I didn’t know, is that this quake was a “warning” of what would come later.
I was in the bedroom with my partner later that day and we started to feel a stronggg shake.

We looked at one another, and we knew what this was, we had felt it before.

Again a massive earthquake, and the longest 30 seconds of my life, everything was rocking side to side with such intensity, that I swear I could see the road pavement rippling beneath me.
We were just a few meters from the beach, so I started to say to my partner that we should go to higher ground far away from the sea, while he was trying the calm me down scared people began running shouting tsunami, tsunami and my fears became a reality. All you could hear in the darkness was the sound of hysterical people screaming to “head for the hill” and “the tsunami is coming”.
Everyone was petrified. With no helicopter to take us all magically from there, we grabbed our motorbikes and drove as fast as we could through the deep night, without really knowing where we were going.
We passed collapsed walls, cracked roads, smashed windows, locals were shaking with fear, huddled together praying frantically.
We got as high and far as we could and stopped the motorbike.
Two families where at the same place we stopped our motorbike, and one of them asked us to join them, they made a fire and we tried to communicate using google translator. The night was cold and they invited us to sleep in their car.

The groud kept moving and shaking countless times during the night. The women was constantly checking the reports on her phone, sending messages and calling to friends and family.
When the aftershocks started to get weaker and more spaced people started to get back home.
It was a terrifying night and I didn’t want to stay another night sleeping near the beach, so we grabbed our bags and looked for a place on the top of a hill.

I finished my holidays at the beginning of September and through out my stay I felt countless shakes that made sleeping impossible. I really got traumatized by the all experience and sometimes a feel the bed shaking for no reason.

Fourth earthquake

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province on September 28 and triggering a tsunami and landslides that caused widespread destruction and loss of life. I feel really sorry for all the Indonesian people that leave in fear and lost everything. So many catastrophes in such a short period of time.
Unfortunately, seems like natural disasters are more frequent and more severe nowadays than a few years ago..

Some Tips:
  • Have emergency supplies such as food, water, first aid, torch, battery charger, passport, insurance papers, money ready to grab.
  • Make an escape plan
  • Keep yourself safe from falling or moving objects during a quake.
  • Drop down to your knees, so the earthquake cannot knock you over, and protect your head and neck.
  • download the app earthquake.
Avoid:
  • Doorways, windows, bookcases, tall furniture and light fixtures.
    Elevators, power lines, coastline, and entering damaged buildings.

Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia has seen more than its share of natural disasters. In the last 10 years, it has experienced many volcanic eruptions, floods, and earthquakes.

When you travel, there’s always room for adventures and misadventures and this time we just weren’t lucky. Although, in a way we were lucky to go through this experience without getting hurt.

I hope Mother Nature stays calm and allows Indonesia to heal and rebuild 🙏