We wanted to do something special for my birthday. The desire was to head for sunrise on Mt. Bromo for the morning of June 9th. We could have flown from Krabi to Surabaya for a certain price, but that is not what you do when you travel, you save $20 and go the long way.
We were picked up from our hostel by a van the morning of June 7th and dropped off at the main bus station. At the station we transferred our bags into a bigger 15 passenger van and took off. There were no instructions, just pointing and hand signals for which van to get into. This by far one of the most uncomfortable rides of our life, yes it was an air conditioned 15-passenger van, it meant every single seat was full. Of course, not complaining, it was great but when the majority of people are backpackers so all of the luggage made it extremely tight.
Hours later we arrived in what I believe was Hat Yai, we pulled over and the driver started pulling our bags out and putting them on the side of the road. He signalled “wait here,” 5 minutes another van pulled over, we hoped in and went for the Malaysian border. As usual with land crossings, first we went through the Thai side then the Malaysian side, both relatively quick. At the Thai one there are a few old ladies on the backside (after you go through the border check) and you can buy food and spend your last Baht. If you didn’t pack anything this was the first place we had time to pick up a snack and eat, don’t expect food or washroom breaks.
We are heading for Kuala Lumpur but purchased our tickets only to Penang. In fact, we are glad we did because in the cramped van we couldn’t handle going any further. We left at 6 a.m and arrived in Penang at about 6 p.m. for the price of about 700 Baht ($26 CAD). In Penang we were dropped off in Georgetown so we walked to the Prangin Mall and purchased the remaining ticket to Kuala Lumpur for 75 Ringgit ($22 CAD) on a comfortable bus with reclining seats. The bus left at 8 p.m. and landed in downtown Kuala Lumpur at about 2 a.m. Some things to note at 2 a.m. are that taxi and Uber are the only things operational to get to the airport. Also, the taxi fares go up 50% more, to 120 Ringgit ($36 CAD). We made it to the airport within an hour and waited in the Curry House for our flight at 7 a.m. to Surabaya, Indonesia. We have said it time and time again, outside of India this has to be some of the best Indian food we have ever had, the Dosas at the Curry House are worth flying into Kuala Lumpur for!
Entering Surabaya at 9 a.m. on June 8th was chaotic, the airport is busy with people coming back from Malaysia with loads of goods that can only be purchased in Malaysia. When you exit the airport you’ll see arms waving on your left-hand side, this is the taxi counter. The fun thing to do is just stand there for 15 seconds while they yell, scream and wave their hands trying to get your business, it is quite a sight. You may pay a little bit more here, but for the extra few dollars you know you’re getting a safe ride and unlikely to get your stuff stolen.
Our destination for seeing Mt. Bromo is Probolinggo, this is the nearest big city. You can take a number of methods for getting there, private taxi, bus, and train. We went for the train for a number of reasons. The cost of a private car is far more expensive, about 500,000 Indonesian Rupiah or $50 CAD, which is not bad but when you want far more exciting experiences you never go with the easiest option. As for the bus, if you do a simple Google search of the notorious Probolinggo Bus Station you will quickly understand why we chose the train. On July 8th at about 11 a.m. we arrived at the train station, bought our tickets, and were well on our way. The train isn’t crammed by any means and there is plenty of room to relax and just watch the beautiful landscapes. The cost was about 70,000 ($7 CAD) and the total trip is about 2.5 hours. The bus is about half the cost of the train, but for the hassle that other backpackers have experienced over the years, the bus it is not worth it.
In Probolinggo we stayed at Clover Homestay which is within walking distance from the train station but you can arrange a pick up for 30,000 IDR or $3 CAD. The homestay is simple and pleasant for a couple nights stay, where it looks like a North American motel but located in a quiet neighborhood. The food they make is tasty and reasonably priced, but if you want there is a nearby convenience store, Indomaret, where you can by snacks for Mt. Bromo. The staff are also friendly and make sure that you know everything you need to know before going up to see the volcano.
There are many blogs that have written in-depth articles about Mt. Bromo, so I will just give a brief overview of what we did. When we arrived at Clover Homestay in the evening of June 8th there were two other couples from Germany and America who had rented a car and private driver for 2:30 a.m. the next morning. We were fortunate as these cars seat six people making it fairly cheap for everyone at 630,000 IDR ($63 CAD) for all six. This was also great because by the time run rose the next morning it would have been 47 hours since our departure from Krabi, Thailand.
There are a few ways to do Mt. Bromo and we suggest reading about them online beforehand. Most people stay in guesthouses near the Mountain and just walk up early in the morning, sadly these guesthouses were full on these dates. We had considered renting a motorbike and doing the drive ourselves, but these bikes can be hard to find in Probolinggo and only a handful of people have written about finding bikes to rent. Therefore, our opportunity to share a car was easiest and not al that bad. After the viewpoint, many people say they hike to the crater without paying a fee. While I believe this was the case, we were told that this had changed and they regularly patrol the area looking to catch tourists and charge them a fine. What you can do instead is rent a jeep costing 150,000 per person ($15 CAD).
If you ever get the chance to do Mt. Bromo, we strongly suggest you just do it, in fact I don’t think you’re allowed leaving Indonesia until you do hike one of the volcanos (only kidding). However, don’t do it like us, we only saved about $20 CAD each by taking the shuttle bus 24 hours from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur, take the plane. Although not as fun, you’ll get to spend more time in the places that matter most.