Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A DAY IN NUSA PENIDA

A DAY IN NUSA PENIDA

After that whirlwind affair with the rugged coastline and panoramic seascape of Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia, I would definitely not recommend a short sojourn – day trip to be specific.

Despite the limited tourist infrastructure and poor dirt road conditions, it is highly recommended to spend more time in the island, have it a few sites for each day.

Time-constrained on our case, we managed to visit only the famed and touristy landmarks of Nusa Penida.

Friday, February 10, 2017

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

It is unusual for a ferry ride of an approximate hour and a half to have a time difference of one hour.  Crossing the Bali Strait, we reached Banyuwangi at around 4PM (5PM in Bali).

My travel buddy made the arrangements with a reliable travel agency, Ijen Blue Fire, for convenience of the trip – from hotel bookings and guide for the trek to the Ijen volcano.

TRAVEL FROM BALI TO BANYUWANGI

The closest gateway to Banyuwangi is Gilimanuk of West Bali.  From our hotel in Legian, Bali, we were fetched by a pre-arranged transport from our reliable tour guide in Bali, the Bali Golden Tours.  Approximate travel time from Bali to Gilimanuk is three (3) hours.  But due to on-going constructions made on major thoroughfares and highways, it took us almost four and a half hours (4.5 hours).

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

There are no trains as public transport in Bali and buses are elusive and with unreliable departure time.  It would likewise be expensive to travel from Bali to Gilimanuk through a cab.  Hired private transport (vans) is the best way and I highly recommend to contact Golden Bali tours, as they have friendly and English-speaking drivers/tour guides.

Upon arrival at the Gilimanuk port, we purchased our ferry tickets immediately bound for Ketapang and since ferries depart every thirty (30) minutes, waiting time was not that long.  Operation is likewise 24 hours so this route is recommended when going to Banyuwangi.

The ferry ride is forty-five (45) minutes with ticket price of IDR6,000.  It has the most basic of facilities so no expectations should be set relative to amenities and service but it definitely provided a safe trip.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

HOTEL BERLIAN ABADI

As arranged by the Ijen Blue Fire travel agency, we were booked at Hotel Berlian Abadi, which is just a few minutes away from the port.  The hotel served as our sleeping quarters for a few hours.  We will be having a midnight trek which means we have to sleep early after our early dinner.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

Welcome drinks and breakfast is included in our standard room with a terrace and electric fan (not air-conditioned). The hotel has a swimming pool as well and with a very few guests, we were able to meet a Spanish lady traveling solo in Banyuwangi.  On the next few hours, she was with us on the trek and even on our way back to Bali.

THE MIDNIGHT TREK

We were fetched at the hotel by a van with four (4) other guests at around 11 in the evening.  I am actually not sure of where we are going and haven’t researched that much.  All I know is, at the crater of this volcano blue flames are emitted.  Sounds interesting of course that I did not entertain any second thoughts of not pushing through with this.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

I was wearing my typical jacket and shorts with sandals.  At the base of the mountain, while our tour guide was doing the registration on our behalf and distributing the gas masks, I noticed everyone was dressed fully-covered.  With the sudden drop of temperature of only a digit, I was uncertain if I could bear the coldness not to mention the physical activity of trekking for hours.  The European guy even looked at me and say: “I will never what you are wearing now.”  Is this a threat?  I said to myself.  I just smiled knowing that this must be a warning of how cold and strenuous at the same time the trek would be.  They all came prepared after all, so they must have made intensive research.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

The trek to the crater is almost 3 hours – 2 hours to the rim and a descent of almost an hour to the crater lake.  By 3PM, we were at the crater and since the blue flame is best seen before 4PM, everything went fast.  And as for me?  Fully exhausted and cold.  But seeing the blue flame and the morning landscape of Kawah Ijen was a surprise for me.  It was simply amazing!

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

THE BLUE FIRE

The smell of sulfur was strong as soon as we came near the crater lake.  At 3 in the morning, there was total darkness and even the path towards it – what was only visible is the blue flame emitted.  This blue fire is actually an ignited sulphuric gas, which emerges from the cracks.  This is considered the largest blue flame in the world.

I have never seen a blue flame that close.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

THE MORNING VIEW AND THE CRATER LAKE

As soon as the sun rises, the landscape became visible and rewarding.  It was only during that time that I felt, the muscle leg cramps, the deprived sleep and the coldness of the midnight trek was all worth it.

Before sunrise, we started our ascent to the rim.  The one kilometre wide turquoise acidic crater lake revealed its panoramic landscape as soon as we reached the rim.  The lake is considered the largest highly acidic crater lake in the world.  In a matter of minutes before I reached the rim (since as expected I will trek on my own pace), the view was covered by clouds.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

While trekking, miners are likewise in action.  The labor intensive mining operations continue while a lot of tourists came to witness the blue fire and the sunrise in the mountains.  There are times that when tourists get photos of miners, the miners get annoyed and some ask for a small amount as remuneration of getting their photos.  But these are isolated cases as most miners were actually kind and welcoming.  Baskets full of sulfur were carried by these miners in an unpaved and at times slippery pavement of the mountains and for long distances.  I tried to lift one fully loaded basket and it was indeed heavy that I can’t even move it an inch for more than 30 seconds.  The miners earned my respect on that note.  Their work place is hazardous.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

The walk at the rim and the view of the mountains was a good morning treat.  More than the electric blue flames which was our initial purpose, the scenery was a good surprise for me.  It really pays to have no expectations.  I had a walk in the park descending back to the base of the mountain and more relaxed as there is no phenomenon to catch up like the blue flame.  With this, I was left behind and the last one to arrive to our van.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

TIPS FOR THE TREK

FIND A RELIABLE TOUR GUIDE AND AGENCY

Fortunately, we had a good deal for this trip.  The tour guide, David, was kind enough and accommodating to assist us on all our needs even driving us to the town center to find a place for dinner and do the last minute shop on what to wear for the trek considering that I came unprepared for this.  It was an extraordinary service that we were grateful for.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

It is really important to have a good guide while doing the trek especially that it poses a threat to one’s safety and health.  With that, you can contact the agency below with office at the port area:

Pertokoan (Shops) ASDP A-1 Ketapang
Harbour Banyuwangi East Java Indonesia
0813 3706 4929
customercare@ijen-bluefire.com

I have always trekked on my own pace and traveling in a group may have advantages and disadvantages.  One advantage is you gain new friends and more people to take pictures of you.  However, different people have different speed and fitness, which makes it more strenuous to catch up, thus, ending up in full exhaustion and pressure.  The role of the tour guide is important in this case.  Putting pressure to speed up the trek is good in the case of Kawah Ijen when ascending though, because the Blue Fire disappears before 5 in the morning.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN


STABLE AND COMFORTABLE FOOTWEAR

There is no need to invest in trail or hiking shoes, even those without climb experience can survive (I guess).  I believe what is important is a comfortable and stable footwear with a good grip and everything becomes smooth, the problem will be your physical condition.  In my case, I always have my reliable trekking sandals, even on cold mountains such as this.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

TAKING OFF OF JEWELRY

During the trek, you cannot flaunt your jewelry.  The exposure to sulfur will discolor it.

GAS MASK, LAYERED CLOTHES, EYEWEAR, HEAD LAMP/TORCH AND TRAIL FOOD

To be protected from sulfur gasses and especially for those who goes down the crater lake to have a close encounter with the blue fire, it is a must to have a gas mask.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

It would be advisable to have layered clothes that can be easily taken off and due to the low temperature, it would be best to have warm jackets. 

They say sulfur can be irritating to the eyes which is the reason why those wearing contact lenses are advised to take them off and wear glasses instead.  However, I did wear contact lenses and it worked for me, so this may be on a case to case basis.

The head lamp and the torch is definitely useful during the midnight trek.  There are no lamp posts and we only relied on the directions given by the tour guide and of course the illumination of the head lamps.

One thing that saved me as well from this trek is the trail food – chocolates and candies along with mineral water of course, as the trek requires a long number of hours.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN


TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES

And of course, to preserve the memories, taking pictures is a MUST.

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN

GUIDE TO THE ELECTRIC BLUE FLAMES OF KAWAH IJEN


Sunday, January 22, 2017

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

Bali is not solely about beaches and the night parties that comes with it.  The well-landscaped rice paddies is part of the picture of Bali, Indonesia, and a lot more focusing on how to commune with nature and enjoy the picturesque view.

On one morning, we were lead to one of Bali’s famous coffee plantations and enroute is the famed walkway of a terraced rice field.

TEGALLALANG RICE TERRACES

The traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system is depicted in the rice paddies of Tegallalang.  Being on the roadside location, it has become a popular tourist attraction and a favorite spot for photo shoots.  Art kiosks and cafes are lined up as well near the ledge.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

Approximately five minutes north of Tegallalang Rice Terraces is the Bali Pulina.  The agro-tourism landmark allows visitors to experience and witness roasting the most expensive coffee in the world and that is – sourced from a cat poop.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

MORNING COFFEE AND THE CIVET CATS

Caged civet cats welcomed us as we enter the vast plantation.  The expensive luwak coffee is made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet and other related civets and then passed through its digestive tract.  The beans are actually not digested as they are pooped out, collected up, cleaned, roasted and ground to be one of the most expensive coffees of the world.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

The actual process was presented to us by the tour guide.  And even the roasting part where some in the group tried.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEEBALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE
 
BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

I am not a morning person and seldom do I have breakfast, much more have coffee as starter for the day. But this visit was a willing exception.  It feels refreshing to be seated on a suspended lodge where a panoramic landscape of rice fields and towering coconut trees surround us.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

Bali Pulina does not only serve coffee as they also have my favorite – cacao bean chocolates, and other herbal plants and fruits that grows in the vicinity.

This is actually my second coffee luwak plantation experience in Bali.  And like any other guided tour, it ends with a sample of a variety of drinks that the plantation offers.

And these are: the lemon tea, ginger tea, ginger coffee, ginseng coffee, chocolate coffee, pure chocolate, vanilla coffee and bali coffee.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

And you guessed it right – of course my favorite is the pure chocolate.  But for coffee lovers, you may definitely have a hard time choosing which ones to indulge into.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE

When in Ubud, Bali, it is highly recommended to drop by for a more in-depth appreciation of Indonesia’s agro-tourism and its by-products.

BALI PULINA: A MORNING OF LUWAK COFFEE
  
BALI PULINA
Banjar Pujung Kelod, Tegallalang, Sebatu
Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80561,
Indonesia

+62 361 901728

THIS TRIP IS IN COLLABORATION WITH THE MINISTRY OF TOURISM OF INDONESIA

Monday, December 26, 2016

HARPER KUTA BY ASTON: RUSTIC CHARM IN THE HEART OF LEGIAN

HARPER KUTA BY ASTON: RUSTIC CHARM IN THE HEART OF LEGIAN

Neon lights of different colors flash on all corners of the street.  Pubs, restaurants, bars were all decorated in time for the Halloween Parties.  All throughout the year, the street never sleeps.  Legian is a landmark in itself and one of the reasons why people visit Bali, Indonesia.

With all the bottles of Bintang consumed and the countless strangers and travellers bumped into, there is a perfect haven that sits in the middle of this organized chaos of Bali.  And this will be our home in Bali – the Harper Kuta Hotel by Aston.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

SUNSET KECAK FIRE DANCE AT ULUWATU

SUNSET KECAK FIRE DANCE AT ULUWATU

Perched on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean is the Uluwatu Temple.  Everyone is headed towards the farthest end where the nightly performance is about to commence.  After a few minutes, a group of bare chested Indonesian men entered as they chant and sway with the rhythm.  Apt for the traditional dance name, “ke-chak” was the only word heard of.  It was non-stop for a chanting of one hour.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

ROYAL AMBARRUKMO YOGYAKARTA: WHERE THE IMPERIAL LEGEND LIVES ON

ROYAL AMBARRUKMO YOGYAKARTA: WHERE THE IMPERIAL LEGEND LIVES ON

What once served as the Yogyakarta Royal Palace and Gardens stand today as one of the city’s finest 5-star luxury hotels- the Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta.  And this will be our home in this part of Indonesia.

The royal façade of this grand hotel is just the tip of the iceberg as there are more interesting features to experience within the vast acre of property.  The hotel infuses the tradition and heritage of the Java royal palace.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

THE BREAK OF DAWN AT INDONESIA’S ICON OF CULTURAL HERITAGE

THE BREAK OF DAWN AT INDONESIA’S ICON OF CULTURAL HERITAGE

No two sunsets are the same.  And I guess the same holds true for sunrise.  But there would be less comparison for me when we speak of sunrise, as seldom do I wake up that early to witness the break of dawn and feel the warmth of the morning rays.

To visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Indonesia is one willing exception of my extended slumber. Call time was 3:30AM.  And at 4:30AM, we were at Manohara Hotel grounds for the special registration of sunrise viewing before the regular guests are allowed to enter. 

It was all worth it.

Monday, December 5, 2016

INTERESTING FEATURES OF MAGELANG INDONESIA

INTERESTING FEATURES OF MAGELANG INDONESIA

Apart from being the gateway to a ninth-century Buddhist monument, Borobudur Temple, there is more to discover at Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia.  Magelang City is a small city located in a fertile agricultural area and one of the most densely populated regions on Central Java.

A year ago, I and my friends wandered in the streets of Magelang but only for a few hours as we insisted in going back to Malioboro Yogyakarta just after sunset at Borobudur Temple - even if it entails haggling for cab fares in the most creative and persuasive way we can.  There was total darkness in the dirt road and we I, speaking for myself, felt we’re trapped in a dungeon with nowhere to go.  There’s nothing interesting as perceived.  But such perception all changed through the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia’s prepared itinerary.  Indeed, there are interesting sites to visit and things to do at Magelang, Java, Indonesia.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

TRAVEL GUIDE: IT’S ALL ABOUT YOGYAKARTA (“JOGJAKARTA”)

TRAVEL GUIDE: IT’S ALL ABOUT YOGYAKARTA (“JOGJAKARTA”)

Cliché sounding, but it is indeed lovelier the second time around.  On both occasions of my visit, weather is consistently unpredictable and the heavy downpour makes me want to curl up in bed and lounge at the hotel room.  But with fixed itinerary made possible by the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia, exploring Yogyakarta becomes hassle-free.

Yogyakarta or Jogjakarta is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Indonesia after Bali. There are about 70,000 handicraft industry and other facilities in the likes of accommodation and transportation. As the capital of Yogyakarta Special Region in Java Indonesia, it is renowned as the center of education, classical Javanese fine art and culture in the likes of batik, ballet, drama, music, poetry and puppet shows.