This trip was all about waking up early, and that since the very first day.
We woke up at 5:00 am to take our 8:30am plane to Surabaya. I hoped not to burst because of the diving I did the previous day but everything went well. We booked our first train ticket to arrive at our hostel in Java in the airport, in class economy as it was the two last spots in the train. But all the blogs, we read about Java said that it was better to take the executive class. So when we arrived at Surabaya we went directly to the train station to book the other train tickets in executive class.
While waiting to our train to arrive, we went to the mall in front of the train station. It seemed to be done for a very crowded place but it was completely empty, so the feeling was a bit weird. We found a very small supermarket that selled instant noodles. The young man working there studied French and he was very happy to see us and practice the basic French he had. It was great. A girl also asked me in a very shy way if she could take a picture with me. Afterward, she had the biggest smile you could imagine. (But we didn't know that this was the start of an unstoppable demand of pictures). Everyone was very nice, the trip started well.
We took our 6h train to Banyuwanghi. The class economy was not that bad actually but the 6h did feel long. Our hostel landlord came to pick us up at the train station. He also new some French and was very nice and talkative. When we arrived at the hostel, we headed to have some dinner and went to sleep.
We only slept 1h as we had to wake up at 00:30 am to start our expedition to Mount Ijen. It is a sulfur volcano. The miners work there to use the sulfur for cosmetics. The particularity of this volcano is that with the mining activities, the sulfur combustes when entering in contact with the oxygen, creating blue flames. Our hostel landlord drove us to the volcano, picking up our guide on the way. When we arrived at the place to start the climbing, the first thing we were impressed by was all the stars in the sky. It had been very long since I hadn't seen a sky this clear. They gave us sweaters, gloves, flashlights and gazmascs for the sulfur in the air. It was cold at first but the intense climb heated us very quickly. After the ascent, we had to climb down on very sharp rock paths. It was good that the climb was at night, as we didn't see where we were going and didn't know how long it was, otherwise we might have been demotivated. When we arrived at the bottom, we saw the blue flames which was very impressive. Our guide also told us to touch the water to acknowledge that it was warm. The only detail he only gave us afterwards is that it was acid water, nice. We then climbed up again to see the sunrise. It was really beautiful. We could also see the 1km wide acid water lake and its very clear blue water. We came back to our car. It was 7:30 am.
Our hostel landlord brought us to coffee and rubber plantations. He made us try the coffee fruit : you only have to eat the meat in between the seeds, it had a sweet taste. We went to a small waterfall and he offered us fried bananas and corn for breakfast. We then came back to the hostel, took a shower and slept for the entire day. At the end of the day we walked around Banyuwanghi and saw a complex of houses all decorated with street art. All the kids playing waived at us saying "Hi miss!" when we were passing by, very welcoming.
The next morning we took a train to head to Probolinggo, to go to climb Mount Bromo. We went there for the sunrise, so we woke up at 3:00 am. We went with 2 other French girls we met at the hostel which organised the tour with a jeep. We had to climb very little and took the best spot to see the sunrise and Mount Bromo. Again, the star sky and the sunrise were beautiful. After the sunrise, we actually went to climb Mount Bromo. The crater was huge. It was in the middle of a desert landscape. It felt very empowerful. We came back to the hostel napped again and took another train from Probolinggo to go to Yogyakarta. For both of the drives to Probolinggo train station we had the same driver from the hostel. He also learnt some French and he was very interested in history and was very curious. He knew a lot about the french news and about events of the french history, it was very impressive.
In our 8h train to Yogyakarta, we bought the train dinner box. It was... interesting. It was Nasi Goreng (fried rice) with a packet of rice, some vegetables in a plastic bag and a piece of dry chicken and a weirdly cooked egg. Well, at least we tried. We arrived at Yogyakarta Station at midnight.
The next morning we slept in a bit (we deserved it). We then did a little tour in the city to see the bird market. Indonesians love having birds in cages outside their house. The bird market was full of cages one on top of the other filled with birds. They didn't seemed to be in very good conditions. There were also chicken, rabbits, cats, monkeys, fishes, lezards, and even bats. After this we tried to figure out how to get to the Borobudur and Pranbanan temples. There were a lot of tours but we decided to go on our own as it was a lot less expensive. We started doing Pranbanan on the afternoon for the sunset. When we arrived there high school student did free tours of the temples for a school project in order to improve their English. The girl that made us the tour didn't really speak English and she had just memorized the lines by heart and she went as quick as she could. So, we could forget about getting answers for our questions. We also went to see other little temples nearby. Sadly, in 2006 an earthquake hit Yogyakarta destroying a lot of the temples, and some statues inside of the temples were stolen. We finished our tour enjoying the sunset on the temple.
The next day we woke up at 5:00am to go to Borobudur. We didn't go there for the sunrise but just after the sunrise as it is the moment when it is the less crowded. It was the perfect timing : when we left a lot of school trip children arrived.
Both of the temples were really nice, and a lot bigger than expected.
After Borobudur, we went to visit the city. We went to the sultan palace. Yogyakarta is a sultanate that rules in... In the palace there was a traditional puppet show going on. Later on, we went to one of the atelier where they make the puppets from Buffalo leather. A man explained us all the process and history of it. In the sultan palace there was also women making batik, which is cloaths decoration thanks to wax to make different color patterns. We also went to the water castle, which is the former castle for the sultan to relax with his many women in the pool. After this, we finished by going to the beringharjo Market and having lunch in one of their stall that our grab driver recommended us. He told us that he didn't have enough money to go to university in Indonesia but he was passionate about history and sciences. He did have an opportunity to go study in the Netherlands but he couldn't afford it either. So he was being a driver waiting for a new opportunity to study. We finished our day by going to a bar called Sakapatat with the other two French girls we met at the hotel. The last day we just rested to be ready to come back to Singapore and started classes again.
I did expect this trip to be great but it was. The volcano climbing experiences were truly impressive. Everyone was super nice, open and willing to share their culture. We met several other backpackers who made this trip even more fun. It was intense but completely worth it.