Indonesia Part 2: The Probolinggo Mullet (or Driving to Mount Bromo)

Backstory: I spent a week traveling Indonesia from East Java to Bali trekking around Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen—Why am I explaining this? This is Part 2 after all. Why don’t you just go read Part 1?

A couple weeks earlier I looked into getting a hotel or guesthouse in the town next to Mount Bromo. Unfortunately, I had decided to not only arrive on a Saturday, but also on the night of a full moon and coinciding concert. EVERYTHING was booked solid. My new plan was to find a place in the next nearest city, Probolinggo.

However, even before I reached the bus station in Probolinggo, an Indonesian man with a very pronounced mullet hopped on the bus and seeing me, the only white person aboard, asked where I was going. It turned out he was a stylish travel agent and he claimed he could get me place to stay at Bromo so I decided I would hear him out. It wasn’t too far to the bus station incase he decided to grow a creepy mustache as well. He said he not only had a guesthouse available in Bromo, but there were several other people “like me” (translation: white) that were signed up to do a three day tour of Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen ending in Bali. As this was actually my original plan, and at this point I was not looking forward to finding a place to sleep, I agreed to join the group. It was around 120 USD for the three day tour. While I probably could have gotten a better price by shopping around or haggling, I was tired and went for it.

I stepped outside to find an ATM and all of a sudden it was dark. Because of some strange planning in timezones, the sun sets around 5:30 in East Java. I felt like I was back in Alaska for just a small moment, but then I felt the sweat running dripping into my butt-crack like a rusty old faucet that drips into butt-cracks and was quickly reminded where I was in fact located.

At 6:30 PM our driver arrived and I hopped on a minibus with two of my group members, a couple from Ukraine who had also flown in from Singapore. To think my bus ride from Surabaya to Problinggo was intense… Add in darkness, twisty mountain roads, and a package of ritz crackers you bought from a convenience store where the guy followed you around and said you looked like Justin Bieber and you are in for the ride of your life. Seriously, I’ll say it again. Who needs roller coasters when you’ve got indonesian drivers?

I was perched on the edge of the front seat, my sweaty butt cheeks clenching on for my dear life as we shot through the black, foggy night. As usual we seemed to be spending more time in the lane with opposing traffic than our own. Apparently since our driver was having to pass so many other vehicles, he figured it would make more sense just to drive in the other lane, only jutting back to the proper side when a set of bright lights popped around the corner.

As we climbed higher and higher, the temperature dropped, the fog thickened and eventually the sky started spitting rain. Of course the road narrowed down as well to the equivalent of one and a half lanes. The solution to this, was not slowing down, of course, but giving a “courtesy honk” when going around sharp turns to let anyone know they should vacate the road or be run down. I get carsick very easily, but apparently bone tingling adrenaline and the kind of fear for your life that puts a permanent grin on your face is the best cure for motion sickness you can get.

About an hour an a half later I gingerly set foot on solid ground in what appeared to be a giant cloud. For the first time in a long time, I felt cold. It was genuinely freezing out.  The small town I was staying in, Cemoro Lawang, rests at 7,274 feet (2,217 m) above sea level and I felt fantastic. There were several locals walking around selling “Bromo Hats” and scarves to those foolish enough not to realize it could actually get cold in South East Asia. Not wanting one was not something they understood.

An old man hobbled out and showed me where my room was. It was very bare; pretty much two rock hard beds, a blanket, and decorated with the Nazi insignia. No creepy crawlies though, so that was a plus!  The communal bathroom was worse than the worst outhouses I have ever seen.  I would have taken a picture, but I tried to spend the absolute least amount of time possible in the general vicinity so I’m lacking in that area. I’m pretty sure just seeing the state of these bathrooms was the inciting incident in my digestive issues for the next couple weeks. It was at this point my bowels just seized up, and my body stubbornly decided it would just rather not go.

Being that it was only 8:30 PM, and I was quite hungry, I grabbed the cheapest meal I have possibly ever had in my life (10,000 Rupiah or 1 USD for a plate of Mee Goreng) and wandered around. I found a café with WiFi, sipped some ginger tea, and finally got a message to my girlfriend that I had indeed made it to Indonesia and have yet to die by stabbing or firy car crash. Keyword: YET.

There wasn’t any power outlets in my room to charge my phone so I resisted my usual temptation to to look at LOLCATS for hours and I headed back to my room. I failed to get any real itinerary for the tour so I took a guess that the scribbled looking 3:00 on my receipt was a time. What time? I had no clue. I knew we had to get up early to take a jeep up a neighboring mountain to see the 5 AM sunrise so I set my alarm for 2:40 AM.

Ending my first day in Indonesia, I climbed into bed, curled up with my jackets and tried to fall asleep. In just a few short hours I would be climbing up the edge and looking into the bowels of the earth, staring into the mouth of the active volcano Mount Bromo. I was just about to pass into a dreamland I expected to be full of mullets when I felt something scratch between my legs. My eyes opened wide for a moment but then I remembered. That’s just the money I had forgotten to take out of my underpants.

Stay tuned for more posts on my trip to Mount Bromo, Mount Ijen, and Bali. There will be a lot more photos I promise. It’s hard to take photos at night in the fog and I’d rather not blind an already reckless driver with a flash.



“Mount” Faber and Henderson Waves

I was testing out a few things on my Canon T2i (550D) so I thought I’d make something of it. The self-recorded footage was filmed on my iPhone 4S. Read more below.


Singapore is not known for its green areas. This is quite obvious. Do a simple image search for Singapore and you’ll find skyline after skyline of tall, fancy buildings or a Merlion vomiting water into Marina Bay. With an entire country’s landmass roughly 3.5 times the size of Washington D.C., almost all the land has been converted from lush rainforests and thriving mangroves into the concrete and steel playgrounds of 21st century robot-people. In fact, according to the all knowing source, Wikipedia,  Singapore has grown in size from 581.5 square km in the 1960s, to 723.2 square km today. That means over  one fifth of Singapore’s current land has been stolen from the ocean! Within twenty years that figure may grow further by another 100 square km. Just give it thousand years or so and you’ll have kangaroos hopping over from Australia.

With only 5% of island remaining forest and woodlands, I decided to check out one of the few areas I haven’t seen yet. Ironically, it’s perhaps the easiest to get to.


Why this is even called a “mount”, I don’t know. Comparing it with some others that are justly given the title of Mount make it seem quite insignificant. Mount Everest, Mount Fuji, Mount McKinley, Mount Kilimanjaro: All awesome mountains you would be lucky to climb. Mount Faber however, is barely a hill stretching a measly 105 meters (344 ft) into the sky. Calling Mount Faber a mountain is kinda like saying McDonalds has healthy options or Lindsey Lohan is an upstanding member of society.

I started from the VivoCity side, and not being very tall, it took me less than twenty minutes to get to the top. While that sounds quite easy, the term “no sweat” belongs nowhere near Singapore. It looked as if I had just decided to walk through a sprinkler with my clothes on. Faber Point had some decent views, but trees blocked a majority of what could have been seen. Of all the times to not chop down a few trees, this is it?

From there I ran into some giant demon spider that was apparently on vacation from guarding King Tut’s tomb and quickly head down to Henderson Waves.  Connecting Mount Faber to Telok Blangah Hill, over Henderson road a hundred or so feet below, the footbridge is perhaps more impressive than the mountain itself. One side of the bridge moves up and down with its metal supports to create some sort of wave that Mr. LeVan, my high school calculus teacher, would be very disappointed I didn’t know. Unfortunately, to get the best angle to view the actual wave pattern you would have to go deep into the bushes and undergrowth where there was probably a family of monkeys and their pet spiders all too eager to make real good friends with my body.

On the other side of the waves, you can check out the Stream Garden, the Terrace Garden, and then the Forest Walk. The Forest Walk is over a kilometer of metal walkways which carry you above the forest floor into the canopy. These take you all the way down to Alexandra Arch, where you can either hop on a bus, or continue the Southern Ridges trail through Hort Park and Kent Ridge Park.

While not very remote, and hardly a hike, it was a nice break from the rest of the city, and extremely easy to get to. If you don’t feel like sweating up the million stairs to the top, you can grab the cable car from Sentosa Island or HarbourFront up to Mount Faber. You can even stuff your face on top at a restaurant to reward your lazy ass.

However, If you’re looking for something a bit wilder or  authentic feeling you may not be very impressed. Instead, I would check out Pulau Ubun, MacRitchie Reservoir, or Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Even better yet, get the hell out of Singapore.

Want to go?

  • How to get there: The Merang Trail to Mount Faber starts at the bus station opposite VivoCity. There’s an exit from the HarbourFront MRT station that puts you in the exact right spot. You can also start from Alexandra Road. Find Alexandra Arch and head up the metal walkways.
  • Distance: 2.98 km (1-1.5 hours depending on how fast you are and how many ants you take pictures of.)
  • Hours: 24/7. It’s even lit up from 7PM to 7AM if you’ve got a bad case of “It’s 3AM and I want to go for a walk”.
  • More Info: Download a Map (PDF), or check out the official site for more info.

Rude Monkeys

I’m not sure where to start here, since I’ve been slacking quite hard here on the updates. One overarching constant however has been the shocking absolute disrespect from the monkeys here.

Within the last week, I’ve basically done the two hikes possible here in Singapore. Both times, my good friend Autumn and I have encountered some cute looking monkeys. All we wanted, was to take a few innocent pictures and stare deep past their hazel monkey eyes in to their monkey souls, but every time we tried to get close they get all whiney about it and try to attack us. Well, by us I mean mainly Autumn.

You see, Autumn has this amazing long blonde hair, which apparently has never been seen in this land of jet black hair and brown eyes. My only guess is that to Asians, her hair looks like liquid gold, birthing baby phoenix babies which fly around her head singing the songs of sirens. While a piercing stare is an every day occurrence in Autumn’s Singaporean residence, the call of the baby phoenix siren is just too powerful for the monkeys (and some creepy men) to merely gaze; they just can’t help but try to get a piece of her golden locks.  And like a spoiled child that has his favorite pet pony taken away, anger ensues from the withholding.

If anything, Singapore needs to step up it’s game and really invest some money into this epidemic of unruly tree-beasts with opposable toes.  While I’m no expert, I’m sure there’s someone out there who could figure out whether it’s a couple sessions of anger management, social interaction classes, or just a few basic lessons in modeling poses that the monkeys need to really fit into the modern Singapore. The forests  are coming down, monkeys. It’s your choice whether you are going to stay in that high tree of yours as it topples to the concrete, or brush up your social skills and make a few coins on the street posing with a few idiotic tourists (and a couple insane expats).


If I get put down by a couple of hit-monkeys in the middle of the night, you know who to blame.

Fall Colors

This past weekend, my brother, Shawn, and I headed up north to the Mat-Su Valley to go hiking and check out the fall colors. South-central Alaska is being hammered right now by three weeks of (pretty much) non-stop rain. So much that the fish have spread their wings and started to swim up the water filled streets (no joke!). We had nothing better to do and Shawn had a couple extra days off, so we decided to go anyway. Amazingly, nearly every time we stepped outside the rain would stop and we even had a couple bouts of blue sky and sunlight. You are welcome, Alaska.

On our way up Thursday, we stopped to do a quick five-mile hike up to Russian Falls. For a second, I almost felt sorry for the fish trying to jump up the torrent of water. But then I remembered that they are vastly inferior creatures.



Friday we hiked nine miles out and back to Reed Lakes near Palmer. The day started out nice and blue skied, but the clouds of course rolled in and eventually started to sprinkle. What we didn’t know, was by the time we got to the upper lake, we would be standing more than knee-deep in snow. BONUS: Punching through the snow and discovering you were indeed walking over (and now in) a snow-covered creek.


Saturday, our dad joined us for a hike up to Eska Falls. It was an amazingly beautiful day. The sun poked through the clouds every so often, lighting up the orange and red shrubbery against the black mountain like good old-fashioned thanksgiving day witch burning. They did those, right?


We headed back home on Sunday, stopping in Girdwood to hike out to the hand tram 100 feet over a raging river below. I’ll tell ya what, if I ran out to that thing every day, and pulled myself and that insanely heavy cart over the river and back, I’d probably look like Popeye in… I’d say three days. I know what you’re thinking, three days is pretty quick, right? Well yes, but if you combine how freakin’ HARD it was to pull that thing across, with the physical godliness I’m at already, three days sounds about right. Right?

To see the full album from the weekend, click here.