I’d been in Singapore too long. For eight months I’ve been sweating in this country without traveling apart from a quick jaunt over the border into Jahor Bahru, Malaysia. With a week of public holiday leave about to expire, I decided to head to the closest destination with the most opposite environment to Singapore: The Volcanoes of East Java.
With Indonesia being the most geologically unstable country on the planet, and less than two hours away, it was a no-brainer that this was a spot I needed to hit while in Southeast Asia. (Plus, as I either want my body to be ejected towards the next nearest star or dumped into a volcano when I eventually cease to exist, this would give me a head start on choosing the right volcano should my space idea become too popular.) I decided I would fly into Surabaya, hit Mount Bromo, and leave the rest of the week open eventually making my way to Bali.
Seated next to me on the plane was an extremely nice, older couple from Surabaya. They only spoke a few words of English, but it was enough to ask me where I was going. The woman approved greatly: “Bromo, good!” “Bali, good!”. This however followed with the husband saying, “Surabaya, … ” and then acted out a little skit that depicted money being put down underpants and being knifed in the belly. “Surabaya, not stay,” I replied and they nodded their heads. Apparently they enjoy it, but I guess they aren’t a twenty-something year old tasty piece of white ass someone can either just shank for my underwear money or kidnap and use as a piece of furniture in their basement until someone coughs up enough dough to buy them a ticket out of town.
Before we parted ways, they were nice enough to write out a series of directions to get to Bromo. With my tighty-whities bulging (because of the cash, you dirty creep) (but also I was slightly aroused by so much money being so close to my junk) (also, how do strippers manage? It is really quite itchy) (seriously, if strippers are reading this, please comment. I’d like to know for future knowledge) (for purposes of hiding money only) (also leave any names of clubs that may be hiring) (thanks) I stepped out of the airport and was hit with a bit of a shock. I’m used to being outnumbered racially, here in Asia, but not only was no white, but everyone was much much older. I’m talking get-a-graveplot-ready-because-someone-is-going-to-fall-over-dead-any-second old. Apparently anyone younger than sixty doesn’t travel in Surabaya. On top of that I attracted stares from every corner of the street. I felt like I was a giant sign that said “STAB ME, AND GOLD WILL FLOW FROM MY VEINS” on it. Everyone wanted me in their taxi. I simply said no thanks, that I was taking the shuttle bus and they kindly pointed me in the right direction. (It helps to act very sure of what you are doing, even if you don’t have a clue.)
Note: I’m going to pause for a moment. I feel bad that I’m starting this adventure off on such a negative note. Perhaps the city of Surabaya is actually quite nice, I never saw it. All I saw was the airport, and the main bus depot, Purabaya. I gotta say, everything in between is kinda what I imagined third-world-poverty-stricken-Africa to look like. I didn’t get many photos on this leg. Even with my camera pimped out to look like it was owned by a dirty hobo, I didn’t dare take it out. What I saw was dirt roads, trash piles burning in people’s “yards”, stray sheep grazing in sewage filled ditches, and little mopeds packed with a man, a girl, a woman and a baby in her arms. Somehow that little two wheeled vehicle could still move.
However above all, I’ve never come across nicer people. Everyone I encountered was extremely kind and interested in where I was going. A young woman who was a Damri shuttle bus attendant at the airport told me all the information I needed on how to get to Probolinggo, and then on to Bromo. She then told me how she loved my mustache because it made her nose look small…? I think I missed something there. Next she proceeded to tell me to keep my stuff hidden or I’d get stabbed. I got to the bus depot just in time for the bus to Probolinggo and set out right away.
The guy next to me on this bus was about my age and had a guitar with him, so I felt pretty safe for the time being; when was the last time an a musician was strapped for cash? He didn’t speak more than a couple words of english either, but convinced me to try the strange food a vendor was selling on the bus. It was green and mushy with coconut on it and burst in your my mouth when I bit down on it. Not too bad, sweet and tangy with the texture of play-doh. The guys sitting around me told me it would give me energy to climb Bromo. At least that’s what I think they were getting at. Either that or it will give me super powers and turn me into the hulk. And then they told me not to take out my stuff or I would get stabbed.
I did not get stabbed.
Stay tuned to read the rest of the journey through Mount Bromo, the acid lake of Mount Ijen, and the monkeys and temples of Bali. I promise more pictures next time. And less imagery of my underwear. Unless, of course, that’s what you want.