30.10.2014 - 04.11.2014 34 °C
We arrived into Surabaya on Thursday evening and first impressions were not great. It’s a large enough city with many run down areas and traffic is everywhere. Oh horse and cart, we dare not mock you now. Spend time in Java and you can't help but notice a few differences to life back home.
- First of all, seatbelts... it's not that they haven't been fitted to save on cost. It's that car manufacturers or dealers have gone to the trouble of removing them. In many cases you’ll have the belt but not the buckle, or vice versa. We can't figure out the logic.
- There's an evil love affair going on with cigarette advertising. Words like ‘confidence, leadership, power, taste, pleasure’ etc. are billboarded on every street with the local Indonesian brands. And cigarettes are almost free of charge here. The local kids have little hope in avoiding a 20 a day addiction unfortunately.
- The staring we encountered in Beijing is back with a vengeance. You wouldn’t want to be paranoid about yourself because the locals will whisper to their friends and family as they stare at you. I’ve started saying Salam (hello) to them which generally results in a warm reaction. To be fair we’ve seen only a couple of Westerners on Java so they’re probably more curious than anything else. If you make the effort to speak any other lingo like thanks or goodbye they love it. And many have been helpful providing directions.
- Retail outlets are really overstaffed. This is a common theme in Asia but even with cheap labour costs I’m not sure how businesses can afford to have so many people standing around doing so little. One evening we had five people greet us for dinner as we walked into a restaurant. Our waitress stood over our table as we read through the menu. The same five staff stared at us in silence while we ate and our plates were snatched off the table the very second we put our knives and forks down. Java my friend, sometimes less is more!
Ok rant over let me tell you what we’ve been up to the past five days. There are only two reasons to visit Surabaya as a tourist. It provides a transport hub for you to reach the rest of Java and it’s relatively close to Mount Bromo (more on this shortly). On Friday we had time to spare so we visited the famous Majapahit hotel for lunch. It’s a luxurious Dutch colonial-style hotel and worth a visit if you're here.
After we took a trip to the House of Sampoerna, highly recommended by Trip Advisor (thanks guys). It’s a museum dedicated to Indonesia’s most ‘prestigious hand-rolled’ cigarette. I couldn't help but wonder if children are brought here on their school tour. You can see the old factory floor below where the cigarettes were rolled. Thrilling stuff.
The next day we had an early start for Mount Bromo, the most well known active volcano in Indonesia. We took an organised jeep tour which was a lot of fun.
There is a temple located at the base but unfortunately it was closed.
There's a lot of volcanic ash lying around so don't forget your Michael Jackson style mask!
We had a one hour steep ascent to the top, with 250 steps waiting for us at the end. With the heat and high altitude I couldn't finish the last few steps quick enough. We were rewarded with an amazing view, and an overpowering smell of boiled eggs (my worst nightmare).
Surprisingly, there's also plenty of green and natural vegetation on the volcano.
On Sunday we took a train four hours west to Solo (aka Surakarta). Solo is a much smaller town but we were happy to be somewhere a bit quieter. We stopped off at Solo to visit two temples, the first was Candi Sukuh, a 15th century Javanese-Hindu Temple.
The second temple we visited is called Candi Ceto (again Javanese-Hindu and built in the 15th century). The first photo was taken in painting mode. Nice eh?
We noticed at the back of the temple, there are a few independent alters. There's a statue in each one and locals have donated gifts like drinks, fruit or money (insert cynical remark here). The most popular statue was, well take a look below.
Yep, it's a well girthed stumpy penis! Next up, Yogyakarta and the boiling pot that is said to be Jakarta. Say a prayer for me.