Tracing the exotic Banyuwangi

Banyuwangi, known as a transit point between Bali and mainland Java, is set to spread its wings and begins promoting itself as a new tourist icon in East Java.

The town’s tagline — Banyuwangi (Sunrise of Java) — aims endear it to tourists but with enough time, the town, located on the eastern tip of East Java, promises more than just a memorable sunrise.

The choices are plenty, from climbing up to the Ijen crater to walking through coffee plantations. Culture-seekers would enjoy a trip down memory lane at Kampung Inggrisan hamlet or the Using village, which have the town’s signature dishes on offer and performances of traditional dances.

Those who like to feel the sand beneath their feet should head to Banyuwangi’s Plengkung beach, which is known as a surfing paradise, Tabuhan Island is a perfect diving location with its beautiful coral reefs and rare turtles can be seen laying their eggs at Sukamade Beach.

However, if time is not on your side, take a look at the list of places below you could explore during a three-day stay.

Red Island Beach
Merpati and Wings Air fly to Banyuwangi. If you take Wings Air’s flight, you will arrive in town at around 10 a.m.

You can go straight to the Red Island Beach, known locally as Pulau Merah in Grajagan district which is about 48 kilometers (km) from the airport, but if you go there from the town, the trip stretches to 70 km or about one-and-a-half-hour by car.

At the beach, with a coastline that stretches for 3 km, if you want to learn to surf a local instructor is available at the rate of Rp 50,000 (US$5.15) a day and surf board rental is Rp 30,000.

The magnificent sunset is the beach’s other attraction.

“The sunset here is so beautiful. The red reflection on the sea is exotic, even compared to sunset at Kuta Beach, Bali,” said Rakih, a surfing instructor who is also a fisherman.
Using community gather around their homes. (JP/Wahyoe Boediwardhana)
Using community gather around their homes. (JP/Wahyoe Boediwardhana)

Tourists can rent private cottages that are splashed around the beach, whole others prefer to stay at villagers’ houses, with a rate of Rp 100,000 to Rp 150,000 per room.

You could also hire a nearby housewife to cook for you at the rate of Rp 50,000 for three meals.

“But you have to buy the cooking ingredients,” said Pariyah, a resident who used to cook for foreign tourists.

Kampung Inggrisan and Using tourist village

The next morning, a visit to Inggrisan and Using tourist village can enlighten you of the town’s heritage.

A historical building complex can be found in the kampung, located on Jl. Diponegoro. Twenty-two army families now live in the complex, which was first constructed by the people of Blambangan Kingdom (1736-1757) during the kingdom’s second ruler, Prince Danuningrat.

Visitors must first report to the kampung’s chief or met a resident, Yono Saputro, who is also a lecturer.

Yono said historically, the building was used to house English traders, making the place known as Inggrisan. In Indonesian, English is called Inggris.

The complex was also called Lodge, but by residents, the name was changed into Loji and the field located up front is called Tegal Loji (Tegal Lodge) due to its close proximity to the lodge.

The complex was changed into Dutch hands in 1811 following the London conference and the building complex was made into the Dutch military headquarters and later became the Japanese police headquarters.

Despite its historical significance, the complex still stood the test of time despite a lack of proper care.

“We have requested to the army’s headquarters to manage the historical building but the process is very slow,” said Banyuwangi Regent Abdullah Azwar Anas.

Meanwhile, tourists can get up close with Banyuwangi’s natives, who are better known as Wong Using, and watch their daily routines.

The Using community are believed to be direct descendants of the Blambangan Kingdom, regarded as the last Hindu kingdom in Java.

Unlike the Tengger tribe living around Mount Bromo, the Using community opened up to the surrounding people and even to tourists.

Some tourists stay at their houses for a very reasonable rate while some times, they are only asked to buy food in return.

Visitors can learn about the community’s art, customs and culture, which they continue to uphold to the present day, including traditional performances, such as Gandrung and Seblang dances, performed at the stage at the center of the village.

Not far from the village, around 6 km away, people can explore the coffee plantations.

A food stall selling Banyuwangi’s signature Sego Tempong rice dish. (JP/Wahyoe Boediwardhana)
A food stall selling Banyuwangi’s signature Sego Tempong rice dish. (JP/Wahyoe Boediwardhana)

For those wanting to taste the town’s real flavor, there are plenty of fantastic dishes to choose for. A favorite is Sego Tempong, a rice dish.

The name tempong means slap as the rice is served with mixed vegetables — such as spinach, steam eggplant and tofu — and a spicy sauce, which might make you feel like you have been slapped in the face.

Across town, there are four good food stalls that sell the dish — they are usually named after its owners: Mbak Nah (Jl. MT Hariyono), Mbok Untung (Jl. Imam Bonjol), Mbah Sum (Jl. Ahmad Yani) and Bik Yup (Jl. K. Hasyim Asyari).

The price is so modest, with a portion of the rice dish with fried fish or chicken costing just Rp 7,000.

Ijen crater
Mount Ijen’s crater. (JP/Indra Harsaputra)
Mount Ijen’s crater. (JP/Indra Harsaputra)

For those who into adventure, a trip to the Mount Ijen crater is a must.

At night, tourists go to the crater and watch the so-called blue flare — a bluish fire which seeps through the sulfur mine.

Apart from the beautiful panorama that one of the world’s largest craters offers, visitors can also see the sulfur men — the traditional miners who dig for solid sulfur and carry it down the mountain’s slopes.

Mt. Ijen is a unique attraction. It is one of the few volcanoes in the country that has a crater lake and the Ijen cratervis is easily accessed by motor vehicle.

At its peak, a green crater can be observed at a height of 2,368 meters above sea level, with a total area of 5.5 hectares and caldera walls 300 to 500 meters high. The lake’s water, totaling 200 million cubic meters in volume, can reach 200 degrees centigrade. With a depth of 200 meters, the lake is so acidic that it can dissolve clothes and human fingers.

At the crack of dawn, enjoy the sun rises while you watch the place wake up — as the miners go back to their routines — will leave a memory that stays forever.
Travel notes

•From Surabaya, you can reach Banyuwangi by plane, bus or train. If you take the train or a plane, it is better to rent a car to pick you up at Blimbingsari Airport or the train station.

•There are two direct flights — Wings Air and Merpati Airlines — to Banyuwangi’s Blimbingsari Airport from the main Juanda International Airport in Sidoarjo. A ticket is around Rp 350,000 to Rp 500,000 and the trip takes about 40-minutes.

•It takes seven hours overland, either by bus from Purabaya terminal in Madiun or Gubeng train station in Surabaya.

•If you come from Bali, it is a two-and-a-half hour trip overland and cross over by ferry for around 40-minute ride.

•Renting a car for 24-hour costs around Rp 250,000 to Rp 300,000 without fuel. The driver’s fee, which is around Rp 125,000, is negotiable.

•Finding accommodation is not hard, there is plenty from motels to cottages, with ranging from Rp 160,000 to Rp 550,000 per night.

•If you want to hire a tour guide to get around, the going rate is Rp 100,000 a day.

Source News :

— Wahyoe Boediwardhana

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