Indonesia: A land of many wonders

November 21, 2017

Indonesia was never on the top of my bucket list, but here is why it definitely must be on yours. I have realised that this is one of my favourite destinations that I will return to.

Indonesia was never on the top of my bucket list, but here is why it definitely must be on yours. I have realised that this is one of my favourite destinations that I will return to.

The Indonesian archipelago has mystified travellers, adventurers for years with its 17,000 islands, ring of fire and endless wonders of nature. The land takes you into a journey of its heritage, in the richness of its culture, liveliness of its people; it takes you further to show a past before you, the display of stories you read in your historic books.

There are many escapades and destinations that would inspire you to travel but there are few as stunning and incredible as East Java.

Before travelling to Indonesia, I had never even heard of Mount Bromo. I roughly studied our itinerary and re-read the lines that said, “witness the world’s most spectacular sunrise”. I curiously searched the photograph of it and left the rest for the experience. 

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Without much anticipation and only relying on the information that I had scored from conversations with a few Indonesians friends, I left for Jakarta from Muscat. Nine hours later, we landed in the capital that welcomed us with grey skies and light drizzle.

We were cautioned about the sudden showers in Indonesia but woke up to a bright, sunny day the next morning and took a one and half hour flight to Malang, the second largest city of  East Java.

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Our first stop was the Jodipan village. After five minutes walking in the crowded streets, we found ourselves in the neighbourhood of Kampung Jodipan, a slum that was once infamous for issues such as trash and poverty. It was so severe that the government considered administering a slum dislodgement because of the environmental problems. This village’s exceptional history was written by a group of eight students of communications of Malang Muhammadiyah University, who decided to transform it into a colourful place for their thesis, making it the most Instagrammable slum in the world.

As I walked down, I could see bursts of pretty colours forming entertaining shapes, shades and contrasts. The roofs, walls, and floors...literally everything was painted in shades of neon, generating happy vibes. The rebirth of this village has given people a new means of livelihood as tourists flock to take pictures and has also instilled them with sense of cleanliness and recycling.

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After a six-hour drive from Malang to Bromo, we were cold and tired and told that we had to meet by 2.30am in order to witness the most spectacular sunrise at Mount Bromo. Mount Bromo is an active volcano in the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park on the island of Java.

The view of the volcano sitting inside the 10km wide Tengger caldera, and Mount Semeru behind, billowing smoky clouds every 20 minutes or so, is considered one of the most scenic volcano views in the world. 

When my alarm clock jolted me awake, I was delusional and giddy with lack of sleep. Dressed in layers to brace the chilly morning climb, we were transported by a convoy of SUVs to Mount Penanjakan.

After about a 30-minute hike in absolute darkness and guided by our phone lights, we huffed and puffed to reach the view point much earlier than sunrise. We waited as the sky turned from black, to gritty grey and shades of pink.

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As the sun came up, we all went silent and into our own zones, watching the mountain wake up in the light. Only the occasional click of a camera broke the spell. The scene was beyond spectacular - a glimpse of paradise. The warmth of the first rays contradicting the chilly breeze awaken the senses.

Clouds of smoke hang above the mountain as sun rays unveil colours of the majestic Bromo.

We left the place unwillingly to head to the base of Bromo on the promise of an equally enthralling experience.

The exotic landscape mesmerised us. The dusty land was strangely beautiful but also a stark reminder that you are in the caldera of what is a very powerful active volcano. This place is called the Sea of Sand.

Visitors must rely on their physical aptitude or horse-riding skills; as nothing else can traverse this sandy terrain.

From its foot, Mount Bromo offers another beautiful challenge - the staircase to heaven, which is 250 steps no less.

These steps undoubtedly test one’s endurance, but at the end, offer view of the majestic crater of the mystical Mount Bromo. 

When you are standing at the edge of the crater, the billowing gases can be quite overpowering, making it difficult to look down.  But, it’s an experience of a life-time.

The ethereal landscapes of seas, mighty mountains, Javanese rice terraces, the infectious hospitality of its people, a diverse and rich cuisine, colourful culture and an affordability are some of the many reasons that Indonesia must be on your travel list.

Terima Kasih.