Xia's Journey

DISHEY goes Bromo

on August 26, 2012

Trip Date : 16 to 20 August 2012, Thurs to Mon

Having been to Mt Bromo and Ijen crater 3 years back with CJ, Soo Hoon and Sylvia, I had always wanted to re-visit the place.

Back then, I was less than three weeks into my Basic Digital Photography course at SAFRA, and whilst trying to capture the beautiful hues of the sunrise at Mt Bromo, I fumbled clumsily with my compact camera.

Sunrise in Bromo – Oct 2009

I remember vividly how less-than-prepared we were in battling the cold, chilly winds during the wee hours while waiting for the sunrise. This time round, I ensured that we were more well-equipped as I dropped constant reminders to my friends to pack in their thickest winter apparels.

This trip to Mt Bromo was mooted during our kopi session after Ken’s photo talk at SAFRA in Dec last year.

Preparations went underway as we sourced and contacted tour agents for quotations and in firming up the itinerary.

2 months of correspondences and our trip took flight.

After Ken’s talk at SAFRA – Dec 2011

Day 1 : 16 Aug 2012, Thurs

Came 16 August 2012, Thurs, the 6 of us (affectionately known as DISHEY; Daniel, Ivy, Siow Har, Hwee Cheng, Eric and Yew Kuan/Ken) started our 5d 4n of “self-induced torture”. Haha… ; p

Excited and all thrilled, we met up at the airport at 6am for our 7.40am SilkAir flight to Surabaya. We were all packed and ready to meet our dare-devils !

DISHEY goes Bromo : )

Upon arrival at Surabaya airport, we met up with our driver, Irwan. I bet he didn’t know what he was getting himself into. Off we went on a 7 hours journey to Ijen. By the time we got to Ijen, it was almost 6pm. We had our dinner by 8pm and headed off to bed before 9pm as we needed to start our itinerary at 1.30am the next day.

Day 2 : 17 Aug 2012, Fri

At 1.30am, we met up our local tour guide, Ansouri for the trek up Ijen crater. As it was going to be pitch-dark and we had to trek at the edges of the cliff, I had specifically requested for an English-speaking tour guide to hold our little hands and bring us on this little adventure. We drove 1.5 hours before reaching the foot of the crater. At 3am, we got off the vehicle and it was freezing cold. We started donning on our masks etc to keep the warmth in us. By the first 1km that we trekked, we huffed and puffed, we struggled and we rested every 10 steps… The air got thinner as we got higher and as we got higher, we got colder with the temperature closing in at 5 degrees celcius. There were millions and even billions of glistening stars up in the dark sky above us, but all we could see were the stars in our heads as we walked with our heads hanging down fixated on the track before us.

After two hours of trekking at 5am, we finally conquered the 2799m Ijen Crater in an attempt to catch the ‘Blue Flame’.

Alas, we were too late and the ‘Blue Flame’ was gone by the time we struggled up.

The ‘Blue Flame’ was only visible from 3 – 4am and one needs to set-off at 12midnight to catch this ‘Blue Flame’.

Sunrise at Ijen Crater. Picture credit: Ken Lim. Picture published with permission from author.

Sensing our disappointment, our guide hurried us along to try to catch the sunrise instead. The sun rose very quickly and most of us only managed to catch it from afar. The pic herewith was taken by Ken, who was at the head of the pack, whilst the rest of us struggled behind.

By day break, the smoke finally cleared up and we saw this beautiful turquoise-coloured acid crater lake.

The Ijen crater is the biggest crater lake in Java and it is the site of a labor-intensive sulphur mining operation.

Beautiful turquoise-coloured acid crater lake

Each of the sulphur miners mined the crater floor by hand and carry about 70 – 120kg of sulphur-laden baskets on their shoulders, walk barefoot down the crater to earn an approximate US$5.50 per day.

During this trip, it was a shame we did not manage to catch any sulphur miners as most had gone back home for the Hari Raya holidays.

I bumped into one as I was making my way down and bought a sulphur-mould Donald Duck figurine from him at IDR 5,000 (S$0.80). He asked if I had any eye drops with me as his eyes were red and infected by the sulphur mining. I did not have my first aid kit with me and none of my friends were around then. My heart sank as there was nothing much I could do for him… :”(

Atop Ijen crater

We started our descend at 10.30am and arrived at the foot of the crater by 12noon.

We thought the up-hill was tough but soon realized the downhill was worse.

It was more challenging to go downhill as there were stones, pebbles and gravel that caused our legs to go jelly each time we slip.

I had a few near-misses and fell on my bum and left knee twice – adding more ‘flowers’ to my very-injured left knee! By the time I reached the foot of the crater, I was jelly from the falls and plagued with fatigue and hunger.
After our lunch, we proceeded to Baluran National park.

It was known to have one of the largest forest preservation area that extends about 25.000 ha on the north coast of East Java.

It was a panorama of savannah and the Mt  Baluran (inactive volcano) in the center has became a habitat to many exotic animals such as wild pigs, deer, peacocks, wild chicken, monkeys and bulls. There were also hundreds of bird species such as hornbills, peacocks and bulbuls. The park is also a heaven for a variety of trees, plants and flowers such as pecan nut trees, Maja, Gadung, Java tamarind trees and mount Widara.

What was unique about this park is that, 15 km from the main entrance, there is a beautiful white beach known as Bama Beach, which is the habitat of coral reef, fish and mangrove.

Source : Stock photo from Web

However, having said all that, we were so bushed out from the early morning rise and 2 hours trek that we were completely knocked out throughout the entire Baluran National park tour whilst driving around the park in our vehicle! We got our driver to cut-short the tour and off we went back to our hotel for a shower and dinner before hitting the sheets again.

Day 3 : 18 Aug 2012, Sat

It was our only day of sleeping-in. We rose at 6am! It was a luxury as compared to the rest of the days that we had. We had our breakfast and checked out by 7am. On our way to Bromo, we stopped to shoot, rest and had our lunch at Lava Lava Hotel. There was a huge map of Bromo and its surrounding craters. The restaurant staff that serviced us was very well-versed with Bromo and he had very kindly helped us informed our driver who was not very English-conversant, of our early morning plans. Our initial plan was to shoot sunrise from Cemorolawang view point but he suggested Mentiagan instead as Mentiagan was of the same level with Mt Bromo whilst Cemorolawang was higher and the photography angle may not be as ideal.

We arrived Yoschi Hotel in Bromo at about 3pm and proceeded to wash up.

Showers at Yoschi Hotel, Bromo

As there were no hot showers in our hotel rooms, we had to use the two “VIP Hot showers” that were equipped with water heaters at the garden.

These water heaters ran on gas. We had to shower quickly lest the hot water runs out but yet we were not able to, with the water flow in droplets.

VIP Hot shower at Yoschi hotel that has a signage within that read; “Waiting 5 mins then water is hot”.

There were times when the water heaters combusted and there was no hot water after that. It was worse when we were shampooing our hair halfway when hot water ran out. It happened on one of the days when I was in the showers! I yelled to Hwee Cheng who was next door for help. But alas, there was nothing she could do too.

The water heaters were like a time-bomb waiting to go off. It was pretty scary using such an old rickety water heater. Having hot water shower was not a luxury but rather a need considering the high altitude of the location. In Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs, physiological needs was the most fundamental and I strongly feel that they should supply guests with good, strong supply of hot shower if not in every rooms, but at least in the two “VIP Showers” in the garden. This was a basic need that was not even met.

After a nice clean shower, we headed out to walk around the hotel.

This group of kids were trying to sell us the woolen gloves and beanies.

I bought one on my last trip and gave it a pass.

Happy kids selling the woolies

My friends wanted to get one piece but since all three kids came at the same time, we ended up buying three pieces – one piece from each of the kid. It felt like a re-play of our “Hui-Gen” scene in Hanoi. Haha ; p

When we got back to the hotel rooms and washed up before heading to bed, the face basin got choked. For the next two days, we had to squat at the shower to wash up. Before we lights out, we discussed our next day plans ~ each of us in our own respective rooms. Yes, and we could hear every single conversation in all three rooms loud and clear! It would not be a good idea for any hanky panky in this hotel. Hahaa… ; p

However, to be fair to Yoschi hotel, it was a rather nice, rustic and quaint place to be in.

It has its own little charms too.

If those above-mentioned amenities were improved and upgraded, I’m sure they will be a hit.

The rustic, quaint Yoschi hotel

Day 4 : 19 Aug 2012, Sun

We left the hotel at 2am and arrived at Mentigan viewpoint at 2.40am. Not many knew of this location as this was a ‘less-touristy’ spot. As it was going to be a long, cold wait from 2.40am to 4.30am before the first hues of sun rise, we self-indulged in shooting the stars, star trails, light trails and light-painting etc. It was of no mean feat being out here for 2 hours in this 8 degrees celcius wee hours!

When we first arrived at this location and looked up above us, it was just so amazingly beautiful with the blanket of stars hovering over us.

The stars glistened brightly in the pitch dark skies.

Never have I felt so liberated like one of the stars in the sky.

All the bitter coldness and early-rising have not been in vain…

Starry Starry Nite ~ Awesomely Beautiful

I tried a 15minute star trails but had not been too successful.

I did not know how to calculate the exposure and F-stops, despite Ken explaining in detail how to do so.

It was just way beyond my comprehension level and in simplicity, it was way too ‘cheem’ for my little brain to grasp  : X

A not-so-successful attempt at star trails

We caught light trails of jeeps crossing the sea of sand and going up to Penanjakan view point to watch the sun rise.

We knew we would be one of them on the following day too.

Light trails of jeep going up Penanjakan view point

I brought along light sticks to try out light painting and we did our own names and one for our group name too.It was really cool.

If opportunity permits, for the next time round, I would like to try out two different coloured light sticks and perhaps having two different persons doing the light painting simultaneously.

Light Painting of all our names

After all the fun we had, it was almost sunrise.

We saw the first hues of sun hiding behind the mountain and creeping up slowly.

Within minutes, the sun rose. I had no time to change to a zoom lens or to add on a filter. I just shot.

Sunrise at Mentiagan view point

After the sun rose and exploded his rays, many whom came for his glory left.

It was just us at this location once again, and this was taken at barely 6am.

only US at mentiagan once again

There weren’t many villagers left nor were there many who came by our way. Hence when this man came by, we just shot as much as we could.

Guess we need to present him with the “most-co-operative” villager award.

He asked us for money in return for his hardwork, but we did not relent.

I gave him my breakfast box instead.

Most photographed villager award

We headed back to the jeep where our driver was waiting. He had in fact waited in the cold with us (in his jeep) from 2.40am up to 630am whilst we shot. He had also gone to rent a jeep for us so that we did not have to alight at ‘Last Village’ and trek another 15 minutes to the Mentiagan location. We were driven all the way to the foot of the view point and we only had to walk up a short slope of 5 minutes. With that, I am thankful for all that he had done for us despite not being too conversant in English and having several communication breakdowns along the way.

Sea of Sand

We crossed the Sea of Sand and came to the carpark of Mt Bromo.

Many of these masked-horse-riders came to our vehicle and crowded around us.

In my previous trip, my friends were petrified and decided to flee from the site.

This time round, we got off the vehicle, masked ourselves too and made our way onto the Sea of Sand to shoot.

We could choose to take a horse ride costing IDR 100,000 (2 way) or to trek 1 hour in the sand to Mt Bromo. We chose the latter.

After half an hour of walking in the sand and dust, we finally arrived at the Hindi temple near Mt Bromo.

It was then all my friends decided not to advance further but to head back to the jeep instead.

Masked men on horses

I was rather disappointed but decided to proceed on my own anyways. I did not want to live a life of regrets when I think I should have done so, but yet not do so, as we were almost at the foot of the crater. It was a dejavu of being in Beijing. My friend, Annie and I arrived and stood at the Great Wall of China. She didn’t want to move on. I decided to trek up Great Wall on my own. It was a decision that I have never regretted.

I waded on, on my own. It was a killer treading the upslope sand sea to get to the top of Mt Bromo. It was equivalent to 20mins of resistance-training on sand at the beach, except that I was all masked up. I was already as breathless as I was and yet I had to don on the mask and glasses to keep out the sand and dust. By the time I reached mid-way, I was full of regrets. I should have taken the horse-ride instead! Nevertheless, I spurred on and continued my journey. It took me about 20 minutes to get to the foot of the crater, but I felt like it took forever.

When I arrived at the foot of the crater, I was told there were 250 steps.

Looking at it, I don’t see many steps!?  Steps? Where are the steps?

The steps were actually covered by the ash and we had to struggle up using the broken, damaged hand rails by the sides of this flight of steps.

As I climbed up the steps, many were coming down from the opposite direction.

There were as young as 3 years of age and as old as 70 years of age. If they could do it, I’m sure there’s no good valid excuse for me not being able to! I had to swallow my pride and struggled on.

After a good 10 minutes climb, I finally arrived at the top of the crater.

I gave myself a pat on my back! YES! I did it…

Steps ? Where ?

There were more damaged barricades around the mouth of the crater. It was kind of scary and I was not going anywhere nearer to the edge. I took shots, lots of it – to compensate for the sweat I had poured out in this uphill task.

As I was hanging around, the crater was emitting smoke.

Well, it was a sign to head back down.

Crater emitting smoke… RUN…!!

Mt Bromo is the only active crater in the Tengger caldera which contains seven eruptive centres.

On 28th January 2011, ash emissions from Bromo volcano caused the cancellation of some international flights to Bali. Thousands of passengers were affected by the disrupted flight schedules after ash emissions from Bromo volcano. A volcanic ash advisory reported ash emissions extending 200 nautical miles east of the volcano, and rising to a height of 18,000 ft. Well, I wouldn’t want to end up having my friends bring me home in a vase.

By the time I got to the foot of the steps, there weren’t many tourists left.

As I was lazy, tired and wanted to head back quickly (as I felt bad having to let my friends wait too long), I chose this Mr Handsome to send me home ~ back to my friends who had been waiting very patiently in the jeep for me.

It costs IDR 50,000 for one way, but I managed to bargain it down to IDR 40,000. Ultimately, I paid IDR 50,000 as Joker (the name of the horse that I was on), was really handsome and sweet.

A Handsome to bring me home…

We were supposed to visit the Savannah as well, but all my friends were totally flat out and Ken was not feeling too well either, so, we headed back to our hotel and rested for the day.

Day 5 : 20 Aug 2012, Mon

It was another day of early rise.

We left the hotel at 2am and arrived at Penanjakan view point at 3am.

The road up the mountain was really treacherous and we were one of the first few jeeps to arrive.

We planted ourselves on the parapet at 3.15am and sat in the cold till the sun rose.

First rays of sun rise at Penanjakan view point

In that cold darkness, we could not see much, but could only hear the wind howling and it beating against the naked skin on our faces. Never have I felt so cold. It was about 3 degrees celcius and one of my friends had 7 layers of apparels on him + 2 packets of hot pack embedded within! I thought to myself ~ why in the world were we doing this? We must be crazy!

When the sun peeks out slowly from the sea of clouds, it was simply breath-taking. It just felt so surreal to be there.

The scent of the fresh mountain air, the feeling of being at the ‘top of the world’ and the accomplishment of surviving another cold, freezing night was all that made the trip worthwhile.

Beautiful colours on the other side too…

5 days 4 nights may seem like a short easy trip. But it has not been an easy one for us, for sure! Below’s a brief outline of our itinerary. Our ‘easiest day’ was a sleep-in till 6am! Many times back at home, 6am was the earliest that we pull ourselves out of bed. On this trip, 6am was the ‘latest’ we could have! For every other day, we were getting up at 12mn or 1am.

Would I make the trip again? Perhaps. If I was more apparel-equipped and staying in ‘better hotels’, I may. I am not one to stay pampered in 5-star hotels, but I would expect the minimal to be met. I do not reckon I would want to shower in the cold, stay in paper-thin hotels or squat at the showers washing up again.

Apart from these little grouses, it was a trip of hardship and fun with a strong accomplishment of ‘Mission Impossible’. What we once thought impossible, was made possible during this trip! We never knew we could pull ourselves out of bed at 12mn or 1am to do sunrise, but we did. We didn’t think we could trek 2 hours up a crater at 3am, but we did. We didn’t think we could stay out in the cold for 2 – 3 hours to shoot the stars, do star trails etc, but we did. What did not break us, made us much stronger than before… : )

And all these were made possible because of the amazing friends that I had during the trip; early mornings, bumpy rides, long difficult treks, no hot showers etc, but everyone gave their all and place our passion above everything else. I cannot think of anyone else who would have sacrificed their sleep at 1am in the morning to do crazy stuffs like what we did ! With that, a BIG Cheers to my group of travel pals : D

D I S H E Y goes crazy

A Brief Outline of our Itinerary :

Day 1 : 16 Aug Thurs Meet 6am at airport for flight to Surabaya. Travels 7hrs to Ijen crater.
Day 2 : 17 Aug Fri Meet 1.30am at Mirah Hotel lobby to do 2hrs trek up Ijen crater from 3-5am.
Day 3 : 18 Aug Sat “Rest day”. Meet 6.30am at Mirah Hotel for breakfast. Travels 7hrs to Bromo.
Day 4 : 19 Aug Sun Meet 2am at Yoschi Hotel lobby. Up to Mentiagan Hill at 2.40am to do star trails, light painting whilst waiting for the 4.30am sunrise.Trekked 1 hr up Mt Bromo.
Day 5 : 20 Aug Mon Meet 2am at Yoschi Hotel lobby. Up to Penanjakan view point to catch Mt Bromo sunrise.

Our Expenses Breakdown :

FLIGHT Details Cost per pax SGD per pax
To Singapore (SIN-Changi Intl Terminal 2), Thu, 16 Aug 2012, 0750hrs

Surabaya (SUB-Juanda Intl), Thu, 16 Aug 2012, 0910hrs

Silk Air ~ MI-222 Economy Class

SGD 322.20
Return Surabaya (SUB-Juanda Intl), Mon, 20 Aug 2012, 1840 hrs

Singapore (SIN-Changi Intl Terminal 2), Mon, 20 Aug 2012, 2155hrs

Silk Air ~ MI-225 Economy Class

ACCOMODATION 2 nights in Mirah Hotel Ketapang, Ijen

2 nights in Yoschi’s Hotel, Mt Bromo


Yogya Reizen Management

Mr Fajar +62 85 7299 13189 (24 hours)


US$240 SGD 298.56
Driver Tips

Pooled Funds for Meals, Snacks, Drinks etc

Intl Flight Airport Tax

Camera fees at Ijen Crater

IDR 200,000

IDR 400,000

IDR 150,000

IDR 30,000

SGD 26.36

SGD 52.72

SGD 19.76

SGD 3.95


IDR 780,000


Do enjoy the video below, done up by Eric after the trip.

This is a video of our trip up Penanjakan view point. A real treacherous ride up…

(p.s. Pictures and videos in this blog post have been published with permission from the respective authors.)


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