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Indonesia and Singapore, August 2016 - Singapore Photos

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Indonesia and Singapore, August 2016 - Mount Bromo Photos

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Indonesia and Singapore, August 2016 - Malang Photos

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Choosing Malang as jump off point to Mt. Bromo

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large_1840343_14769678819380.jpgAbdul Rachman Saleh Airport (MLG)Going to Mt. Bromo, I had two choices - the popular and heavily touristed route via Probolinggo, and the more expensive but less traveled route via Malang [Malang-travel-guide-866647]. Despite being an extrovert, I also abhor being harrassed by touts - and there are hordes of them in Probolinggo! So I focused my research on Malang instead, noting that this place was of higher elevation than Probolinggo, and nested between a few mountains, notably Gunung Arjuno and Gunung Arjuna (likely sibling mountains deducing from the names) to the north, Gunung Kawi to the west, and the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park to the east. Until the 11th hour I was constantly chatting with Fay and Maya trying to determine which airline to take, and I was somehow drawn to the national carrier Garuda only on the condition if the flight would be departing from the new terminal 3 (it didn't yet, so I ended up with one of the low cost carriers, Sriwijaya).large_1840343_14769678788964.jpgSriwijaya 737-300I booked through an OTA (online travel agency) site, Nusatrip.com, just a couple of hours before I was to leave for the airport in Manila. The fare was reasonable and baggage and a snack were included free, so I considered it a good deal. Not to mention Fay had generally positive reviews of the airline (knowing how meticulous Fay is, I definitely trust her travel advice).

So while the flight was still at 1105AM, I was told by Fay and Maya that I should leave before rush hour (8AM), just in case we encounter unexpected heavy traffic on the way to the airport. Surprisingly I left a few minutes after 8AM, but there was hardly any traffic in my directions - since I was leaving the city. On the opposite lanes though, traffic was piling up at the expressway, and hundreds of meters long.large_1840343_14769678634079.jpgnot bad for a low cost carrier - free food!I arrived at the airport with a lot of time to spare for a domestic flight, and check-in wasn't a challenge at all, so I made my way to the domestic terminal. Terminal 2 is interesting as it is shaped similar to a flower, with the airbridges/gates being the equivalent of the petals. By the time I had gotten to the gate, the outsole of my hiking boot was detaching itself from the midsole, and I had to devise a patch using the laces to prevent the outsole from completely separating. Hmmmm...talk about 5 year old shoes that have been rarely used until recently...

The plane was an old 737-300, and its age was evident in the seat upholstery and trays. But whatever shortcomings of age the plane had, the generally pleasant flight and free snack made up for it. Arriving in Malang airport, it was not as difficult finding my way around except for the nearly separated outsole.large_1840343_14842293388601.jpg I had no choice but to get the airport taxis (seemed they were a cartel, since no public buses were around) and it cost me 45,000 IDR. The drive was a bit far, about 25 km. so the fare seemed reasonable enough. The hotel I was staying (Best Western OJ Hotel) was in the northern area of the city, but within walking distance to the train station and Alun Alun. Good choice, I got a healthy amount of exercise from walking over the next three days.

Going around Malang City was an easy walk, and when I got tired, I tried their blue passenger jeeps, although the directions weren't clear so one time I had to be dropped off far away from my intended destination. Of course one of the first chores of the day was to get my boot fixed, which I was able to do at one of the department stores.large_1840343_14769678535881.jpg I also went to the train station to get my tickets to Yogyakarta [Yogyakarta-travel-guide-1311494], as I would be meeting Hayley and her friends in a few more days.

Finally, I sought out a tour to Mt. Bromo - checked out two places including the local tourist office near one of the big churches, but in the end, I went with Helios Transport since they seemed quite professional and were well established in the city. A couple of folks had booked already for the tour departing on August 10th, and there was room for at least 3 more. So if in case we fill up the 4x4 with 6 people total, the cost of the tour would easily be half compared to if only 2 people had joined.


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Second attempt at Indonesia in two years - this time, succes

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large_1840343_14769677294895.jpgJakarta BRT (Bus Rapid Transit)I am a fan of AirAsia seat sales that I inadvertently end up booking destinations on sale for free (except for taxes and surcharges) or very cheap (under $50 one way). I had booked early in 2015 a trip to Yogyakarta [Yogyakarta-travel-guide-1311494] but had to cancel due to the dreaded 4 letter word - work :P Anyway, I knew it was a matter of being able to buy another cheap ticket to the canceled destination where I finally would be able to make amends for missing it in the first place.

That opportunity happened when relatives had expiring miles on Philippine Airlines that they wouldn't be able to use before expiry. So they endorsed the miles to me, and I was able to book a one way ticket to Jakarta [Jakarta-travel-guide-864113].large_1840343_14909491251646.jpg For the return flight, I had not booked anything yet for fear that my schedule would again change with just a few weeks or days before the actual trip. Fortunately, it did not.

So on Sunday, August 7th, I finally flew out of NAIA Terminal 2 onboard a Philippine Airlines A320 to Jakarta. Getting into the plane it seemed there was a misunderstanding by someone who had taken my seat, 6F (he was supposed to be seated in the row behind, row 7), and so when things were sorted out, I finally took my chair at the window beside a nice senior couple. It turns out that they were Filipinos who have been living in Indonesia for more than 20 years now, and the husband was an advisor to many family owned corporations looking to invest their millions. We had a lively conversation and I was the eager listener to the experiences of Rudy and his wife as expatriates making a good living in Indonesia, where professionals like them (Rudy was a certified public accountant and finance planner) gave them great respect among the local Indonesian business community.large_1840343_14909491325949.jpg

Obviously toward the end of the flight I had to ask for directions going to downtown from CGK Airport, as I was dreading the infamous Jakarta traffic. However my TravBuddy friends Fay (hightide) and Maya (mmeymey) gave me the assurance that as I was arriving on a Sunday, it wouldn't be rush hour heading into the city. After saying goodbye to Rudy and his wife at immigration (they held residence permits so they went through the other line), I made may way through and finally into baggage check. On the way out of customs, I kept an eye for those Blueline taxis that were highly recommended, but then Rudy caught up with me and offered me a ride into town. Graciously accepting their offer, I was deligthed at the opportunity to ask more questions until they finally dropped me at my hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Wahid Hasyim.large_1840343_14909491475887.jpg This was the nearest area to the Sarinah mall not far from the planned TravBuddy meetup venue.

However I was quite concerned as this is also the area that was the scene of the last terrorist attack in Jakarta. On January 14, 2016 (less than 7 months before my trip), three suicide bombers had attacked the area near the Starbucks at the corner of Sarinah Mall, which wasn't really the most glamorous mall frequented by foreigners in the city. It was an ordinary but busy area, and I wanted to make sure that nothing like that would happen while I was around. So far, most people gave assurances that the police were on the lookout for any suspicious activity that might happen after the bombings, and so far, nothing unusual since the attacks. So I was set to have my first TravBuddy meetup in Indonesia.large_1840343_14909491502465.jpgThis was the mosque we weren't able to visit due to rain

Fay had messaged me from her car that she'd be arriving shortly. Likewise, Maya said she would be arriving soon. Good to know that these two would be showing me around the area - Maya, as I've met her in the past during the Kuala Lumpur meetups, and Fay, who always fascinated me with our frequent discussions on WhatsApp regarding many airline and travel hacking topics. Maya had arrived a few minutes ahead of Fay and they messaged me from the lobby. I headed downstairs and we caught up with a few stories and photos before we decided to drive around the main city near the National Monument (Monas) in Fay's SUV. On our way out, it started to rain so definitely no way of continuing around on foot. We first went to the Catholic Cathedral (St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral)
not far from Monas, where I caught a glimpse of the crowds attending mass, plus a few more photos in the garden which was patterned from the grotto at Lourdes.large_1840343_14909491555683.jpg The cathedral is built in the neo-Gothic style, so it reminds me of many of the churches in Europe. We hurriedly left as the rain was getting stronger and the crowds will be exiting once the mass is over. We didn't have time anymore to go to the Mosque across the street, so I guess that will have to wait for my next visit to Jakarta.

As it kept on raining, we opted to stay inside the SUV and went driving around the old town and other areas until it was time for our TravBuddy meetup at Warung Desa. At the restaurant, Yuyun (Yuness) and Early, as she prefers to be called (Arianna88) were already waiting for us there. Unfortunately Cicie (cicie) was sick and we had missed out the opportunity to have a three way Eleven Heaven meetup. Well, another reason to return to Jakarta - to meet Cicie, plus Sisca and the other Indonesian TBs.large_1840343_14909491587735.jpgWith Fay, Arianna, Yuyun and Maya

By 10PM we had to head back as I was flying out to Malang [Malang-travel-guide-866647] in the morning. And with the notorious Jakarta traffic, I had to be prepared ... only that the traffic the following day was going into the city, but not heading out.


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