By Will and Amy
(Thanks to Brent for several of the pictures used in this post)
A few weeks ago, Amy’s cousin Stephanie and her partner Brent came East Java to spend their vacation with us. Indonesians were astonished. “They are coming here, but not to Bali? Why would they do that?!”
Despite not going to Bali, we had a full schedule and we think they really enjoyed their week here. Amazingly the timing worked out well as we were both free Monday through Wednesday of that week to enjoy some sites.
We picked them up at the airport in Surabaya and, along with our friend Justin, we chartered a car to take us to Malang. Malang is the second biggest city in East Java, next to Surabaya, though it couldn’t be more different. Surrounded by mountains and with temperatures that get just a touch chilly at night, its a really nice reprieve from the oven that is Jombang. We had a little experience with Malang prior to this trip, as our training took place about 20km from Malang in nearby Batu. Malang and Batu historically served as a vacation area for the ruling Dutch and in Malang you can still find some Dutch architecture.
Amy found a really cool place (Kampong Tourist) for us to stay during the two days we were there. A hotel partnered with a woman from the Netherlands to create a hostel on the hotel’s roof. They are separate entities, but you use the hotel’s elevator/stairs to get to the roof where you find a small bar/eating area, three individual huts and a separate dorm-style room for single travelers. We stayed in the huts. Despite the lack of temperature control, or the ease with which the street traffic and the 4am call to prayer found its way into our hut, it was a great place with an even better price (about $12 a night for the hut).
On our second day in Malang, we hired a car to take us to the southern coast of Malang/East Java where we hired a boat to take us across the small strait to Sempu Island. There is supposed to be an unbelievably beautiful lagoon on the interior of the island, which you can get to after a 1 hour hike. Unfortunately, due to the rainy season, we weren’t able to make the trek. Instead we were forced to just enjoy the beautiful clear water and white sand beach. Rough, huh?
After returning to Malang, we headed to the alun-alun (town square) where Brent and Stephanie were introduced to kuta lumping (a dance that involves the performer inviting demon spirits into their body) and bakso (Indonesian meatball soup).
The next day, we boarded the bus and headed to our village. They got to experience the pleasure that is riding a standing-room only bus at capacity, flying around curves, with fellow passengers throwing up in tiny bags, navigating the the mountains before arriving in Jombang.
Over the next three days, Brent and Stephanie got a taste of village life. We ate at our favorite warungs and restaurant, they helped teach our classes, Brent and Will went for a few runs and they became intimately familiar with the mandi bathing and squat toilet that we have come to know and love.
However, this time wasn’t completely uneventful as Amy’s principal became very worried that they would be too bored while just staying in our village. She arranged for us to all go with her and a few of her family members to visit a volcano located about an hour and a half from our village.
Gunung Kelud is an active volcano, but the bigger attraction there is Gunung Kelud Anak, (or, Child of Gunung Kelud), which is a new volcano that is growing rapidly. We were able to get pretty close to Gunung Kelud Anak and could see smoke pouring out of several vents around the rock.
During this trip, Brent and Stephanie also had the opportunity to try durian fruit. Durian fruit is one of those foods you always see on “weirdest food lists” and it lives up to its reputation. Its shell is spikey, its inside is soft, and it smells like dirty socks (being nice) or rotting flesh (being realistic). The taste actually isn’t bad, but you have to get past the smell. As you can see below, that was a challenge for Brent.
After three days in our village, on Saturday we travelled back to Surabaya in a mini-van type vehicle with four other passengers and a chicken. That night we celebrated Amy’s birthday. A night of meat eating, adult beverage drinking and karaoke singing ensued. Amy’s birthday and Brent and Stephanie’s vacation culminated in a wonderful brunch at our new favorite place in Surabaya, a french cafe that serves great coffee and food.
They even give out cookies decorated with mustaches and lips with the cappuccinos. A great end to a great week.