From Java Island to Bali, Indonesia

Leaving Singapore

In the morning, we walked to one of the many malls of Singapore to buy coffees and tickets for the metro. As we were carrying our coffees we noticed one of the numerous signs reminding people that drinking or eating in the metro is punishable by a hefty fine. No wanting to gulp the coffee right there, we hid the two coffees in AA’s purse. The subway was quick to get to the airport and getting out of Singapore was very easy. The process to enter Indonesia was also straight-forward; we entered the building, paid our fees, went through immigration to get our 30-day visa on arrival, grabbed our bags and out the door we went. We had read about a bus to the city, so coming out of the airport we walked on the left side, followed the signs and bought our tickets to go to Gambir station. The bus took a while to enter the city, about 1.5 hours, most of it stuck in the terrible Jakarta traffic jams. Crossing the street was as challenging as Kathmandu, but we made it to Six Degrees, one of the nicest hostel so far.

Jakarta on the way to Bandung

We stopped in Jakarta only because it was our entry point in Indonesia. We didn’t visit anything; the lack of interesting sight, pollution level and hole filled sidewalks did nothing to encourage us to go for a walk. We booked a train ticket to get out of Jakarta as soon as possible. We had bought our ticket in first class, which is more like an economy class anywhere else in the world. It was a train with service, so they were walking by quite often, offering foot massage, taking food order and even selling from the train boutique. On our way to Bandung, everything was very green, lush and tropical. When we arrived in Bandung, we realized we had forgotten to save the hotel location in the phone, but managed to find it anyway. We were pretty impressed with our talents to find our way in cities we don’t know. The hotel was very basic but nice. We spent the major part of the day indoors as it was pouring rain. Bandung looked and felt like a Jordanian city; dirty and noisy.

We went to bed quite early as Seb was not feeling too good. He woke up a few times during the night, so in the morning when it would have been time to wake up, take the bus and explore a volcano, we realized it was not going to be an option. As we had already bought our train ticket out of Bandung, we couldn’t postpone our departure so we just had to skip this volcano.

First class in the train from Bandung to Yogyakarta

Kaliurang and Gunung Merapi

Getting from Bandung to Kaliurang was quite the adventure. The first part was easy, a direct train from Bandung to Yogyakarta. We arrived in Yogyakarta just in time for the rain to start. The girl working in the city bus station directed us to the right bus station, about 1 km away. When the right bus arrived, we were soaking wet. after the short bus ride, we got off and started walking on the street leading up to Kaliurang village. Seb asked a guy waiting on the street corner for directions and he told us a minibus would bring us closer to the village. We waited for a few minutes and a brown beaten-up bus showed up. The guy confirmed this was the right bus and we got on. We knew the bus was stopping in the village of Pakem and we would need to get a motorcycle taxi. For some reason we were expecting a motorized tuk tuk.. but no! It was actually a motorcycle where we had to sit behind the driver and hang on tight. It’s in those moments that you think maybe we should skip some details of the trip for our parents! It was a stressful ride but we made it safe to the Vogel’s hostel.

The next morning, we woke up at 3:45 am and went to the restaurant where Christian, the owner, had set up a table for us with breakfast. He did his briefing of the mountain, showing us a video while we ate. We then met our guide and started walking. We walked across the village, very quiet that early in the morning before heading into the rainforest. We watched the sun rise over the valley, walked across a lava bed and visited what is left of a village that didn’t survive the 2010 eruption. We saw the damages of the last two major eruptions, in 2006 and 2010. Unfortunately it was very cloudy so we didn’t get to see the whole volcano, but when we were walking back towards the village the clouds were moving so we saw the last dome. It felt good to be back in the nature after visiting bigger and busier cities.

Lava bed – Gunung Merapi

Cloudy Gunung Merapi


The next morning, we took our bags, cuddled the hostel kitty one last time and crossed the street to wait for the minibus back to Yogyakarta. When we arrived in front of the cell phone shop, two guys and one girl were already waiting. We sat with them and tried to have a conversation, with Aida being the translator. We waited for about one hour when Christian drove by on his motorcycle to tell us he was going to find the bus. The ride down to the city took about 45 minutes and the driver dropped us north of the train station. We walked towards the Sosrowijayan neighbourhood, filled with many tiny streets, Losmen (homestays) and restaurants. We looked into our options to get to Bromo: the train schedule was not very convenient so we decided the tourist minibus that stopped in Bromo on its way to Bali was an easier choice. The minibus stopped at the office in Probolinggo where we had to get off and get our vouchers for the hotel and next day bus to Bali.



Helicopter ride Ma’am? – As the driver would ask…

Yes, you can transport anything on a motorcycle

Gunung Bromo

We had a very early start at 3:45am. We headed down from the village into the sea of sand. We followed the jeeps and when we arrived at the bottom of the hill we asked a local where to go for Bromo. He must not have understood the question, because he pointed us not quite in the right direction. So it was the middle of the night, the sky was lighting up slowly and we were trying to find the white rocks surrounding the path in the dark. Two motorcycles drove by us and when the second one came back, he asked if we wanted a ride to the bottom of the staircase. We had said no to the first one as he was too pushy and asking too much, but with the second guy, the sun was already starting to be up, so we agreed on a price and both sat at the back of the motorcycle for the few minutes ride in the sand.

We arrived at the stairs, walked past a group and made our way up. Bromo is very impressive when seen up close as it is very much alive. It is breathing and spitting smoke. We walked on the edge of the crater, which is not fenced off, taking many pictures and enjoying the morning light. There are many jeep tours available. The jeeps usually go to the higher viewpoint and then bring tourists to Bromo, so when we arrived at the volcano there was just two small groups. It was very quiet and we could enjoy the views almost to ourselves.

After our volcano expedition, we got on the minibus down to the city. We were dropped in a different tour office where we waited for over 2 hours for the big bus to arrive. It was a very long bus ride with just one stop where to eat and use the toilets. We took a small very slow ferry to cross over to Bali island and finally arrived in town at midnight, local time. We were very happy to have decided to book a hotel while on the bus so we didn’t have to start looking for a place at midnight. We shared a taxi to town with two other fellow Canadians.

Foggy morning so far…

Gunung Bromo – The crater!

Quite a steep crater…

The fog is dissipating slowly

Walking on the edge

Gunung Bromo’s smoky crater

Watching the sunrise from the edge of a volcano’s crater, check!

Kuta, Bali

We spent most of our days in Bali relaxing and enjoying the hotel swimming pool, just going out for dinner. We visited the main tourist street, which looked like any waterfront cities in the US with its beach, bathing suit shops and fast food restaurants. But we also walked in the less crowded and often forgotten small alleys and streets where the locals actually live. It is an interesting contrast and we enjoy seeing both sides of the medal.

Small convenience stores are everywhere in the back alleys

The small shelf on the left contains used mismatched bottles of vodka or other drinks.
They are full of gas and for sale to anybody looking to fill up their motorcycle.

One of the entry point to Kuta Beach

The beach

Oops! That makes you trust the infrastructure right?

That’s a lot of stuff to carry on her head

During our walks, we were asked many times to stop for a survey, encouraged to “come and have a look” in the shops, asked to buy something or rent a motorcycle, etc. We found it very annoying to be always asked for things like that, making us feel like walking ATMs. As soon as you get out of the touristic area, the feeling is different. Most people seemed curious and truly happy to see us when they where greeting us. They were also not trying to rip us off and we even bought a bathing suit for 3.50$ instead of 50$.

It is the first time in our travels where we are both unsure if we like a destination. We have mixed feelings for Kuta, Bali, or even Indonesia so far; the beaches are nice, but people can be rude, and are often trying to rip us off.

This year is going to be our first Christmas without snow. You will learn everything about it in the next post…

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