I had decided that I would like to spend a little bit of time on East Java and check out one of Indonesia's most famous volcanoes, Mt. Bromo. It's a constantly smoldering crater that draws in hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, foreign and local alike. It’s relatively easy to reach by Indonesian standards, being only a few hours away from the sprawling city of Surabaya and connected by good roads.
I flew into Surabaya from Kuala Lumpur, then took a bus to the bus station and from there I took an ojek (motorcycle taxi) to my guesthouse. Normally I love ojeks because they're cheap, and its more fun being on the back of bike! But I didn't like one so much. Of course he told me he knew where my guesthouse was and then 15 minutes later we’re stopping random people in the street to ask for directions. I even had the address and a map with its location saved on my phone and he still couldn’t figure out where it was! It was humorous at first, but after almost an hour of driving around I was about ready to strangle this guy. Eventually after combing through half the streets in the town we stumble upon it, and surprise surprise, he wants extra money for all the extra driving time. Pretty standard for Asia. Somehow its not his fault for telling me he knows where the place is when he actually has no clue. Being the softie that I am I ended up tossing him a some more rupiah (so it cost $4 instead of 2.50), ate some fried rice + duck (cost well under a dollar) and crashed hard.
I didn’t really want to wake up early that morning and catch the bus to Bromo, so I decided to sleep in and see what there was to do in Surabaya. As it turns out, not a lot! I told the lady running the place that I wanted to go to the submarine museum. She called a cab for me, but she must have misheard me as I got dropped off halfway across town at the cigarette museum, possibly the most boring museum I’ve ever been to! They only had photos to look at, with no captions, half of which were of people in the family that own the place. The only interesting thing is the viewing room where you can watch the people making the cigarettes from up above, but they don’t let you take photos, and there is still nowhere explaining how the cigarette made! So I left after 15 minutes having learned absolutely nothing. But before I could leave I was asked to do a survey wondering how I felt about the cigarette museum and Surabaya as a city in general. Ha! I felt too bad to put straight 1’s down the board (out of 5), so I settled for mostly 3’s and got the hell out of there.
I didn’t really know where I was, but I also had nowhere to be, so I decided I’d just wander around this part of town. This area certainly does not see white people very often. Lots of young people waving and shouting "Hey Mister!" which sounds kind of funny and outdated, but that's the greeting they learn around here! Then there's also the whispering and pointing in the background, bule, bule (boo lay), which means white foreigner. It reminded me of China without the full on staring. But I had fun meandering through the narrow alleyways and surprising people here and there with my presence. Plus I was quite popular with little kids, with my big camera and all.
After a while I got too hot and took a taxi to the big mall to grab a drink and relish in the air conditioning. After that I tried heading to the arab market, but it was already shutting down when I arrived. Back to wandering. I attempting to walk the 3 or 4 km home with no map, only with the knowledge that I needed to go south and east. This ended up as one might have expected, with me considerably lost somewhere in Surabaya. At this point it was dark, but I was not giving up just yet. Plus along the way I did get invited to join groups of people having coffee no less than three times, which was kind of nice. Indonesians love their instant coffee! All you need is some hot water, coffee packets, and a table and chairs and boom! You have a coffee shop! None of them knew if I was anywhere near my guesthouse though.
I kept walking and soon enough it started raining, and now I was the only person in the streets, cruising around in my shiny new heavy duty poncho. It was a full length black poncho and I like to think it makes me look like some sort of ninja. People were probably suspecting I had some sort of mental deficiency. A girl who could speak English came up to me and asked me if I was lost. I told her that I was completely lost, but I was enjoying being lost. She gave me a weird look, then ran back inside and quickly dead-bolted her door. Hmm. Eventually the rain got harder and I was ready to give up but there were no taxis anymore! Finally a man took pity on me and told me to hop on the back of his motorbike where he dropped me off at the nearest taxi stand. As suspected I was nowhere even close to where I lived!
But I made it back safe and sound, went to town on some nasi goreng, and got ready to get to Bromo the next day.