East Java: Malang, Batu and Bromo
With Dutch colonial architecture colonial, leafy green boulevards and a breezy climate, Malang makes for a great retreat from the heat that many Indonesian cities face. Malang sits at about 500 meters above sea level and is surrounded by hills, making it a great the perfect base for exploring the surrounding area.
Malang is often considered a quick stopover on the way between Mount Bromo and Yogyakarta, and while it is a sleepy little city, it deserves a few days in its own right. I started with a plan to get to Malang just to visit Mount Bromo and ended up spending three nights there, one dedicated to Mount Bromo, one to visit the neighboring village of Batu and one of course, to check out Malang.
Malang’s city center is small enough to be walkable, but the lack of sidewalks and the motorcycles buzzing around make it so you’ll want to jump in a Grab from time to time.
I spent a day walking around the city, taking in the the city sights and stopping for lunch at Toko Oen, the famous colonial restaurant from 1947.
It’s easy to lose yourself wandering through the the neighbourhoods of Kampung Warna Warni and Kampung Tridi, which are part of Jodipan Village. These areas are slums, but a group of students from the University of Malang had a desire to change the face of the area and painted murals and colours all along the facades of the houses. This project has converted the area into an instagrammable tourist spot — it’s impossible to turn a corner without taking a photo.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Tugu Hotel is ultra posh but also a site to see. The hotel was built by an Indonesian tycoon, Anhar Setjadibrata, and it houses his personal collection of Asian antiques and art. One of the staff members, Rio was kind enough to give me a personalized tour which felt like a mix between a museum, architectural, and hotel tour — I got to see the antique collection, but also got a sneak peak into the Presidential suite! Dinner at the hotel was also delicious.
I was also lucky enough to be in Malang on a Sunday to visit Pasar Minggu, or the market. Since Ijen street is car-free until about 11am, the market is open from 6am and closes as the traffic comes in – and the cars start to show up around 10:30am! The market is an opportunity for the locals to sell anything because people come from all over – and literally, you can buy a stuffed animal, a pet rabbit, a fake ID, and clothes. And anywhere there is a market, there is copious amounts of delicious street food!
Back in Dutch colonial times, The Dutch East Indies government developed Batu as a mountain resort, making it a great retreat from the heat in Surabaya. Today this mountainous area is surrounded by agricultural land and is a popular weekend destination for the Javanese people.
The streets of Batu are lined with flower gardens and dotted with apple orchards. At 700 meters above sea level, the climate is cool and it’s perfect for hiking along many of the waterfalls in the surrounding area, or taking in the views from the surrounding hills. In addition to the nature, there are a tremendous number of amusement parks in the area – some purpose built and others that have popped up wth activities at the start of each waterfall.
I decided to rent a car for the day, and Novak, one of my Grab drivers, took me around the area. We visited Coban Rondo, Coban Talun, Coban Putri, Goa Pinus, Batu City and Bukit Paralayang Hills.
Coban Rondo was most like an amusement park with a waterfall towards the end. It makes for a bunch of cool photo spots though.
Coban Tulan was a short hike to the falls, making it a much nicer, and less crowded visit.
Coban Putri was also a short hike, and it offered the waterfall along with a bit of rock climbing.
Goa Pinus is a great opportunity to see the beautiful pine forest.
And Bukit Paralayang is visited mostly for the views, but I also had a chance to take my first paragliding flight! Not only was the flight spectacular, but the ride back up the mountain was an off-road motorcycle experience, which added to the adventure.
Mount Bromo is most famous for the sunrise over the mountain. Given the number of sunrises I had seen in this country, I was doubtful. Even more doubtful because it was rainy and foggy and the sun was nowhere to be seen. That said, it cleared up in about 20 minutes and unleashed a breathtaking view of the mountain surrounded by mist, the first rays of the sun, and a rainbow!
Mount Bromo stands at 2,392 meters and while nowhere close to Indonesia’s highest peak, it is an auspicious place that draws a spectacle of tourists that flock from far away.
We started our journey at midnight, in a jeep 4×4 that drove us to catch the sunrise. I chose to skip the traditional sunrise point and climbed up to King Kong hill instead, where it was less crowded.
Following our sunrise view, we made our way to the mountain itself to climb up to the crater.
Ganesha sits at the crater rim, guarding the mountain.
And following that, I visisted Pura Luhur Poten, a temple of the local Tenggerese people at the base of the mountain, to pay my respects to the mountain and the hindu gods that protect it.
We ended our journey traveling through the savannah grassland just east of the mountain, Teletubbies Hill, and then went through the villages of Tumpang and Jemplang, where we were greeted with more amazing scenery.