Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mount Bromo Takeaway Thoughts & Tips



Communication
Language may be difficult at times, the tour guides can speak enough English to get you. Sign language/ charades helps.

Food in Cemoro Lawang

Like I shared in a lot of my previous blog entries, I am not a foodie. I like eating, but I will not exert a lot of effort researching about a place’s unique cuisine. I was lucky I found this really nice eatery-type of restaurant in Cemoro Lawang. This is just a couple of meters away from my homestay. The prices are reasonable. And I love it that their menu is short. I feel that if a menu is long, it is more of a “customer-pleaser” than “sharing a cooking talent”. Also, less options makes me more decisive.



I urge you try their drinks! I really really love susu jeruk (milk with orange), susu jahe (milk with ginger) and their teh (tea).


 
Tea with potato fries :)

Their Indonesian hot soup is also amazing. Their mi goreng is really pansit. I like the instant mami version better. Buy Mi Goreng in the supermarket and take them home as souvenirs.

Wasn't able to finish them. The hot soup is really delicious.
 
The server/cook/owner is this grandma-type person who greets you sincerely with a smile. She grows her own herbs in front. She picks them depending on your order. Don’t expect express service here, this is not a fastfood. The delicious food will come.

Fresh herbs in the garden
 
I had a nice time watching people pass by (not a lot of people, but still) outside the restaurant. I was reading the required readings. Bagay.

The Power of Place by Harm De Blij.

  
Attire

No need to bring some serious hiking gear. I survived the trek with simple cross-training shoes (an old pair tried and tested in Indochina). The trek to the Penanjakan viewpoint is uphill in a paved road. The trek to the crater is dusty, BRING A MASK. In both, normal walking shoes will suffice. You can rent a coat from your homestay for IDR 20,000-25,000. Better rent because rental rates up in the viewpoint are higher. You can ditch the jacket when you trek to the crater because it will be hot by then.

 
Savannah outfit

 
Layers and layers of clothes that I didn't need during the trek to the crater

 The Touts of Probolinggo

I did the Ngadas route because I didn’t want to endure the long van trip and I didn’t want to deal with the notorious touts of Probolinggo. But... you’ll probably pass by Probolinggo because it is the transportation hub going to Mount Bromo (unless you have enough moolah to hire a private van from Mount Bromo going all the way to Surabaya airport). The trip takes around 4 hours because of traffic. I had an evening flight (20:50H) flying out of Surabaya. I left the homestay past 10:00H and headed at the end of the street to find the vans going to Probolinggo. Renting the whole van to Probolinggo costs IDR 500,000. The price per passenger goes down if more passengers ride. We were 9 in the group and we agreed that we would pay IDR 55,000 each (I think someone was willing to pay an additional IDR 5,000 just so the van would leave). The ride was bumpy, I tuned out after a while in their conversations because I was getting dizzy from the humidity, the van was not airconditioned. We arrived in Probolingo after 40 minutes.   

 
Stuffy van

My fellow passengers have been in Probolinggo before so they knew the drill. Just ignore everyone or loudly say NO to all the touts shouting and offering you stuff. Bromo? Bromo? Bromo? There are loads of them. They were all highly annoying, I tell you. A test of patience. I stuck with a French couple and they kept saying “No” for me. When we broke off, I was approached by this very pushy tout and pointed me to a bus going to Surabaya. I checked the destination, it was indeed going to Surabaya. He went to the bus with this other person and he said that I should pay him IDR 50,000. I had a nagging feeling that it was wrong but I lost all my travel assertive powers and handed him IDR 50,000. Both touts got off the bus. That bad feeling in my gut stayed, and I just recalled that they didn’t hand me a receipt! Fudge! So I stormed down the bus past the driver and some other touts (I think) and went to the direction of the ticket office where an official-looking person was in the window. The tout club called “Hey! Hey! Hey!”

I asked the official looking guy behind the window how much the fee going to Surabaya bus was. The normal bus costs IDR 15,000. The express bus costs just IDR 23,000. Boooo. Boooo. Boooo. I got scammed.  He wrote down the numbers in a piece of paper. I tried to explain the bus driver that I already paid but those freakin’ touts didn’t give me any ticket. He just said: “Okay, just please ride the bus, we will leave in 10 minutes”. I guess they all get a kickback of some sort in this operation.

I guess the family in front of me knew that it was a scam but they didn’t want to get involved, they probably had little English as well. I placed my backpack beside me during the entire trip so I was actually occupying two seats. Aba dapat lang no, I paid the scam price that was enough for two seats. There was a lot of vendors climbing on and off the bus during the trip. The vendors place their goods in your lap. Then they get it back after a while. You can just accept the item, just don’t open the package and you don’t have to pay for anything. I enjoyed the “musicians” who were playing Indonesian music (then asks for donations afterwards). I pretended to be asleep when they pass by me. 


 
My tip for Probolinggo survival: ignore the touts, and go towards the ticket information office directly and ask the person to write down the fare for you.

Traffic was horrible in some areas. We arrived in another terminal in Surabaya shortly past 3pm. I found the official bus going to the airport. Fare costs 20,000. These are the gray mini-buses. The trip took less than 30 minutes. 
 



Souvenirs

I had four hours to kill before my flight. I had enough time to buy some souvenirs at the airport. They had lots of dried stuff. Dried cassava chips – flavored i strawberry, grapes, and there’s good old plain. There’s also dried eel and snapped. Stick to the cassava chips. The strawberry flavor is quite nice. The coconut cookies are also yummy. Both are cheap enough at IDR 15,000-20,000 a pack.



 Reminds me of Pixie’s boneless bangus. Not gonna buy that one and carry it all the way back to Manila.

Take-home boxed fish all the way to the Philippines?

Don’t waste all of your Rupiah in buying souvenirs. I paid IDR 75,000 as airport fee in Surabaya airport – amount was collected when I checked-in my luggage.

Race in Jakarta Airport

The Surabaya to Jakarta flight was delayed by 20 minutes and it took time to get my luggage. 

From Jakarta Airport (CGK), I had to catch a 00:25H flight flying back to Manila. I had to change terminals. At 22:35H, I was rushing out of the terminal to catch the shuttle going to the other terminal. I had just enough time. In my rush, I rode the WRONG BUS. I asked a foreigner and he told me the bus’ destination is 75 kilometers away from the airport. GOOD THING the angels were on my side, the bus was stopping at Terminal 2 before going its long way. I got off terminal 2 and spent another 15 minutes getting lost finding my check-in counter. Out of breath, I was at  the check-in counter 1 hour before departure. Phew! A heart-pounding experience I do not want to repeat again.





I had to pay another airport tax of IDR 150,000 when I checked-in my luggage. I had some time to grab water and some snacks from an open food stand, I got thirsty from the whole ordeal (although I had to throw out the water when I passed by security. Boo. My flight was already boarding when I got in the boarding gate. I fell asleep even before the security demo.

I was able to grab this flyer before I left. It is nice to know that Indonesia offers VAT refund. I WISH that the Philippines would have the same mechanism for tourists. We have nice shopping malls but we don't offer any VAT refunds for tourists. It would be nice to have a VAT refund system to entice tourists to shop and enjoy our humongous shopping malls.
And they have a VAT refund. Hay. Pilipinas.

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