The Enchanting Blue Flame in Ijen Crater

It all started with a video I saw on the internet. There was this guy backpacking all around Indonesia and he made a short video showcasing each exotic place he’s been. And Ijen crater is one of those places. When I saw it, instantaneously I paused the video right there and googled Ijen crater. I am Indonesian and I live in Indonesia. I never heard of the word Ijen. It is a shame that this guy (presumably American) knew this place but I (Indonesian) didn’t. I told myself that Ijen will be my next destination. And now I can say, I have been to Ijen and saw the enchanting blue flame in Ijen crater.

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This is my story 🙂

Ijen is located in Banyuwangi, East Java. I took this trip with best mate, Wayne from Jakarta. In order to get to Ijen, we flew from Jakarta to Surabaya, capital city of East Java. We stayed overnight in Surabaya in order to take the earliest train from Surabaya to Banyuwangi.

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It was a long ride from Gubeng Station, Surabaya to Karang Asem Station, Banyuwangi.

We took executive class departing at 09:00 and arriving at 15:00.

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After arriving in Banyuwangi station, we got picked up to our B&B. AirBnB is really helpful for this trip! Our host arranged us to meet a tour operator to Ijen crater and we made a deal with them. We took off from our B&B at 1 in the morning. Why that early? The blue flame is only visible in the wee hours so we had to rush to get there. The ride to Ijen mountain was about an hour. That was the craziest winding road I’ve ever been. And the driver just didn’t slow down. He drove like F1 racer but the winding part is like 80% of the road. I felt sick so I took a mint candy and closed my eyes.

When we got there, it was dark. No light whatsoever. I only saw some people with flashlight. My fellow hikers. It’s dark and it’s slanted to be about 45 degrees up. It took us 1,5 hours to get to the top.

Along the hike, we met many sulphur miners.

They have one the hardest jobs in the world. Why? They carry 70 to 100 KGs (around 220 lbs) of sulphur (one time) and walk through a very dangerous area. The crazy part is for each KG, they are paid merely RP 910,- (around 0.07 USD). Imagine this. They have to hike like 4 KMs up (very steep) and almost 1 KM down to the crater to mine. So in total, they’ll have to do 10 KM both for mining the sulphur and taking them to the weighing area down there.

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One of the miners in Ijen. If you want to take photos of him, prepare some cash. He’d be asking for it right after you clicked you camera. “Money?”

A miner offered us this sulphur-based carving

A miner offered us this sulphur-based carving

I was shocked to find out that in order to see the blue flame, we had to go down the crater through some crazy paths that the miners take. Thank God that we have our guide with us. Oh I forget to mention that our guide is a miner. He works seasonally as guide as well.

The way down wasn’t like anything I imagined. It was dark and we solely depended on flashlight. The steep level is staggering. It’s not for amateurs and it’s actually forbidden for visitors because it’s too dangerous. My feet were shaking like crazy going down. It’s slippery because of the sand and it started to drizzle. Since it was a really narrow rocky path, whenever a miner wants to pass by, we’ll have to move somewhere and let him pass by first. No rail or anything like that. All giant rock. And if you slip, I’ll say adios. The closer we hiked to the crater, the stronger the scent of sulphur was so we wore our gas mask.

After a grueling 45 minutes, we finally got to the crater. It was AMAZING. We went down there and it all paid off.

The famous blue flame

We spent some time down at the crater before hiking up to the top. As the sun was rising, I could see the way down to the crater. Thankfully it was dark when we got down to the crater and I couldn’t see anything clearly aside from the area with our flashlight. Had I seen all the crazy steep paths, I wouldn’t had gone down to the blue flame, I’d pass. Nope.

Typing this somehow makes me reflecting on life. Often times, I ask God to show me what His plan really is down the line for me. But thankfully, He doesn’t do it because if He did, I’d be too scared to move because I thought it’s all impossible. One step at at time 🙂

Alright back to Ijen 😉

When we reached the top of Ijen mountain, the sun was ready to rise.

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The beloved guide who saved my life several times lol

The beloved guide who saved my life lol

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That’s the way down to the crater. After this, you’ll have to pass some really narrow path with cliff on your sides. Not for the faint-hearted fella.

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Overall, it was a great experience for me. I highly recommend this place for anyone looking for some adventure and looking for something incredible the nature offers. Don’t hesitate to book your flight and accommodation to visit Ijen. 🙂

Until next time!

Roaming-Free Monkeys in The Island of The Gods

I am sure many have heard about Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali. It is one the must-go-to places in Bali. It is located in Monkey Forest Street in Ubud. If you don’t want to get stuck in traffic to get to Ubud from other parts in Bali, I’d suggest you to stay in Ubud instead.

If you want to see one of the oldest site in Bali, this is the place. It is soothing. And it has monkeys roaming around freely. Before I went there, I read articles warning me about the nasty behavior of the monkeys: picking glasses, grabbing bags, and all that. But thankfully, they all behaved well. I saw some tourists playing around with the monkeys and they seem tamed. But still, you need to take precaution. Guard your camera and make sure you don’t give them any food or even show them the food in your bags!

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This is how it looks like after I pass ticket booth. There is something about this place that is so soothing. I like this place already!

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Once you passed the entrance, this is how the forest looks like. The air is just so refreshing

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Just what I like, trees and trees.

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Once you walk in, you’ll see monkeys like EVERYWHERE. They are not shy to human. Seems like these two are chatting ;D

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Cute little monkey enjoying himself 🙂

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Nope. They are not afraid of human at all

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They are fooling around… I think

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Walking deeper in the forest to see the temple

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Starting from this point onward, you won’t see any monkey around. They are everywhere but not here. Strange, isn’t it? There are temples in there. It is believed to be most sacred place of the forest. Even monkeys don’t want to mess around.

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Still… No monkey in sight

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There is a way down. I thought it’d lead me somewhere but apparently it’s a dead-end to a river ;p

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Some very old trees

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Really, really, really old trees

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Seeing Another Side of Bali with a Bike

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If you have a day to spare in Bali, make sure you fill that day with a full day biking. It is so refreshing. I took a bike tour for this. Early in the morning, I got picked up from my hotel to have breakfast. We had a nice mountain view. What I like from this bike tour is how I get to see where Balinese lives, their daily activities and the amazing Jatiluwih rice field.

Actually I have posted this before but I realized that I have so many pictures in my computer, might as well just share them 🙂

So here they are:

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The view for breakfast

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The participants in this tour and our tour guide in the restaurant for breakfast

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After breakfast, we’re brought to this place where the bike tour officially started.

Met this Balinese woman who's washing her clothes

Met this Balinese woman who’s washing her clothes

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Bumped into some kids playing around

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That is the place where usually Balinese “perform” their healing treatment. Every traditional house in Bali will have this “ward”

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A traditional rice container

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Traditional Balinese still uses wood to cook

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Not only on smooth road, but also on path like this

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It’s just the end of a Hindu celebration so everywhere in Bali, I found this.

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Harvesting

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Up to the hill

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Steep hill where I slipped

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The wind. The view. Perfection.

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Ubud, The Medicine that We Need

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Ubud is easily one of my favorite places in Bali. It has been known as the cultural centre of Bali. When you get there, you’ll find many cultural centres like dance studio, museum and the likes. If you are looking for somewhere to just easily layback with no much noise from the party scene, I’d highly recommend you visiting Ubud. Ubud is actually featured in Julia Roberts’ movie, Eat, Pray and Love. According to the local, the word “ubud” means medicine. This place is full of traditional healers. People from the region will go to Ubud to find healing.

I stayed in a hotel closed enough to the centre of Ubud. There are many stores along the street. What I like the most is I can walk safely on the sideway without worrying about being hit by car or motorbike.

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I had read a lot about Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud and decided to give it a try. It was easily one of the best view in Ubud. I will not provide you how to get there since there are a lot of blogs already shared that kind of information. Actually the real reason is because I can’t recall how to get there ahaha.

So here are some pictures for you to enjoy.

The start of the walk

The start of the walk

It is a pretty long walk but it’s totally worth the view and fresh air. I only met a couple of fellow trackers. I went there in low holiday season, probably because of that. It was good though. Less crowd.

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From the top of the hill, you will be able to see some villages

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After a really long walk, finally I got to see some signs of living

Village on top of the hill

Village on top of the hill

After you found a village, you’ll notice a “cafe” with a really nice view of paddy field. Thank God for this place. I was drenched with sweat and needed a place to rest. It was drizzling by the time I reached that place so after I finished my drink, I quickly asked about the walk back. The waiter suggested me to walk back the track I took instead of continue walking straight down. The walk straight down is 2 to 3 times longer. Thankfully, one of the guys were willing to take me to downtown Ubud with his motorbike. I paid him 25 thousand Rupiah for that.

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I asked someone to take me to downtown Ubud with his motorbike

I asked someone to take me to downtown Ubud with his motorbike

French Architecture in Ho Chi Minh City

IMG_6172Vietnam was a part of French colony. In Ho Chi Minh City’s metropolitan area, you will find many buildings with French architecture. Here are some of the pics that I took there. Enjoy! 🙂

Lam Son Park

Lam Son Park

The luxurious corner in the city

The luxurious corner in the city

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Shop and Eat in Ho Chi Minh City!

Hi fellas! How are you doing? Hope you are doing great and feeling all inspired! 🙂 So a while ago, I went on a trip with my best mate, Wayne to Indochina. My best trip so far! For those of you who might be wondering what Indochina is, lemme enlighten you guys 😉 Indochina is actually a peninsula in Southeast Asia with countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore. We had 2 weeks for this trip and after a really long discussion (it takes weeks to decide which countries to go to with such limited time), this is how our trip looked like. IMG_5960 This is how we broke it down:

  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Phuket, Thailand
  • Bangkok, Thailand

Now let’s start with PART ONE: Shop and Eat in Vietnam!

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Ho Chi Minh City from above

IMG_6146 If this is your first time to Ho Chi Minh City, you’d be surprised with the traffic here. Why? This city has so many motorbikes on the street. I mean they occupy like 70% of it! The road is just full of bikes! Be really careful when you are crossing the street here cos they don’t really seem to care about anyone’s life.

Benh Tanh Market

Benh Tanh Market

IMG_6174 Our first stop is this place. Benh Tanh Market is a big market. If you are looking for souvenirs, this is your place. I suggest you to have something in your mind before you come here. Why? Because there are so many products they are selling here. And you might get lost in your head.

And one more thing: Haggle! Haggle! Haggle!

As a proud Indonesian, I am accustomed to haggle in my home country. I have been haggling ever since I was a little kid. Haggling for toys. Haha.

Ok. Below is how I usually haggle and I am proud to say it works like 90% of the time.

Please note that this is how most of the sellers converse with tourists in Indochina. I just shared what I experienced 😉

Seller (S): 1000 for this
Jonny (J): No… Expensive… 500
S: How many you take? (They ALWAYS ask this)
J: Just one pair and I’d take it for 400 right now.
S: Can not sir… Can not… 900 OK?
J: Let’s make it 600 OK?
S: 850. No profit. Cheap. Cheap.
J: Nah.. Thanks. *I walk out and turn my back to ask again* 600?
S: Ok. Ok. 700? *frowned face*
J: No. No… 650?
S: Ok. Ok. 650… You buy more?

My tips on how to haggle:

  • Start with at least half of the asking price. Actually you can get lower than that. Just use your common sense. The way I usually do it is compare it with the price I’ll have to pay in my country and then lower it down a notch. I was told goods in Vietnam is much cheaper than in Indonesia.
  • Be confident. Act as if you know that the original value of the item is actually much lower than the asking price.
  • Be flexible. Being persistent won’t take you anywhere. And you will end up pissing off the seller. So adapt with the seller. If he lowers his asking price, you go up from that insane numbers you just gave him.
  • Smile. Haggling don’t make that seller an enemy. Smile 🙂

After you are done with this market, I strongly suggest you to go to this next place. It’s right across the street of Benh Tanh. It’s on a second story of a coffee shop. IMG_6175   IMG_6144   If you have never tried Pho in your life, this is your time. Pho is Vietnam’s traditional noodle soup and this place serves the best kind! You are a vegetarian? No worries! They have a tasty vegetarian soup too! Pho in this place is so good that we had both lunch and dinner in this place haha

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L’usine, such a hidden gem

Before we got to Ho Chi Minh City, I had done my research and decided that we had to find this French cafe/restaurant called L’usine. It is on Dong Khoi Street. On the second story of an art gallery. I read good reviews on it and I wasn’t disappointed! IMG_6178

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This place is full with expatriates. A way to blend in into local scene, non?

I really like the atmosphere in this place! It might be a biased opinion, coming from a French aficionado like me ;p but hey! That guy in the photo enjoyed it too. He was thinking for some small-bites but eventually opted for lunch. :p

Monsieur Wayne enjoying his lunch

Monsieur Wayne enjoying his lunch

Alas we didn’t spend more than 2 days in this city so not much restaurants/cafe to visit. That concludes my post on Shop and Eat in Vietnam! On my next post, I’ll share some of the cool places we visited in this busy city! Until next time, Jonny

Palembang, The City of Pempek

Hello there, travelers! How are you doing? 🙂
It’s been quite a while since I posted something here. This time, I’ll share with you, my recent trip to a city in Indonesia called Palembang. It is the capital city of South Sumatra, Indonesia. It is one of the oldest cities in Indonesia with a history as the capital city of Kingdom of Srivijaya, a powerful Malay kingdom, which had lots of influence in Southeast Asia.

My flight from Jakarta to Palembang

View from my hotel room

The Famous Pempek

The famous pempek

If you come to this city, make sure you find this delicacy called Pempek. It’s made out of fish mixed with flour. The fish they use is not some random fish you can buy in the market. It’s commonly known as Spanish Mackerels. On the table, they provide a big bottle of chili sauce. And they have different kind of pempek in various shapes. I had another portion and much bigger than this but I forgot to snap a picture of it. Too busy to enjoy the food haha.
Where to find it? Palembang has many restaurants specifying on pempek but personally I like a place called Beringin. They have many branches in the city. Actually we have pempek in Jakarta but nothing tastes this good. So I brought home 1 big box containing different kinds of pempek ;p

Mie Celor

Mie Celor

Another famous dish from this city is Mie Celor. As you can see, it is noodle with creamy soup. It tastes fine. Nothing spectacular but still worth a try 🙂

That's me in front of Ampera Bridge

That’s me in front of Ampera Bridge!

On the background is the famous landmark, Ampera Bridge which connects two parts of the city. The north part of the city, Seberang Ilir, is Palembang’s economic and cultural centre while the south part, Seberang Ulu, is the political centre.

Dinner with Ampera bridge in the background

I managed to get a nice table for dinner 🙂

Ok. I think this concludes my travel post this time! Hope you guys enjoy it! Until next time! 🙂