Road Trip: Getting into Bali

With Malang behind, it was the time to go further east, and eventually get into our final destination: Bali. From Malang to Bali, we needed three days to make it there. First day was Malang to Jember, then Jember to Banyuwangi, and ultimately, Banyuwangi - Ubud.

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Jember

Looking at Google Maps, I shuddered. Malang to Banyuwangi is 300 km road trip. Well, 300 km everyday won’t do me any good. In this road trip, the only one who drive is me. So, nope, didn’t want to.

Hence Jember. It was like the stepping stone for us to get to Banyuwangi. Malang to Jember is only 180 km, and Jember to Banyuwangi is 120 km, so it’s easier for my body and my sanity. So, there was no special reason or anything we want to do or see specifically in Jember.

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Looking at the map, the road we were going to take is a mountain pass on the slope of Mt. Semeru. Mt. Semeru is the highest volcano in Java, so I was pretty excited to see her. I was disappointed though. She was nowhere to be seen, maybe it was because the Mt. Bromo eruption. Also, the mountain pass didn’t offer me any beautiful scenery.

Even so, I like Jember better than Malang though. From the beginning when we enter the city, I know I’ll like it more than Malang. Here’s why:

  1. No traffic jam!
  2. Wide, well maintained roads
  3. Not so crowded

Well, nothing too crazy about our stay in Jember. We just spend a night rest, then went forward the following day.

Banyuwangi

Banyuwangi (specifically Ketapang) is the crossing point from Java to Bali. Banyuwangi itself is a cool little city. It’s clean, calm, and nice. It’s also not crowded. You could guess what I feel about Banyuwangi.

DayThree

After spend the afternoon in Banyuwangi, we went directly to Ketapang, where the ferry harbor is. Our accomodation was just north of the harbor. When we passed the harbor, I said that this is going to be easy, to cross the strait. Why? The queue for the ferry was basically nonexistent, so we were very optimistic for tomorrow morning.

Boy, how wrong could we be. At first we planned to go to the harbor at 7 AM, but due to situation, we were going at 6:30 AM. Couldn’t be more grateful about that. At 6:30 AM, the queue for the ferry was like, around 2 km already. Only Odin know how long we’ll queue if we went at 7 AM.

That day was December 24th, the start of the holiday for Indonesian, so naturally it’s going to be crowded. And we underestimated it. Sun Tzu once said,

Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.

That’s how disastrous if we missed one, just one element of those statement. We knew ourselves, but we underestimated our enemy, and we paid the price: 2 km of queue.

Anyway, it was 11:30 AM, we finally went inside the ship’s belly. Phew. So, what was that, like, 5 hours of queueing? Thankfully there were some guys selling some foods. I ended up buying two Bakpaos (Baozi) from a vendor. The price? IDR 2,000 a piece. Ha! Not satisfied though, still hungry. I bought something to eat again. This time, it was a rice with some omelette, noodles, and tempe. Not good, but for IDR 6,000 and hell a lot of rice, what more could you ask? I like the rice though.

After some 30 minutes of crossing, we arrived in Gilimanuk, Bali. There’s a curious event there before we left the harbor. There were two checkpoints in the harbor. Everyone that leaves the harbor must be checked. First, it was a checkpoint for driving license and vehicle document. Second, it was a checkpoint for our ID cards. Curious, right? Why did we need to be checked? It’s not like we’re crossing a border or something.

Gilimanuk to Ubud

From the harbor there are two road going into the heart of Bali. First, the southern road that goes directly to Denpasar, and second, the norther road that goes to Singaraja, the old capital of Bali, then one can go south through the central highland to Denpasar.

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I chose the northern one. Couple considerations:

  1. Southern road is too mainstream. Everyone goes there, which means a crowded road and heavy traffic.
  2. Central highland. I love mountains.

This one didn’t disappoint. The road was soooo calm, there were basically no traffic at all. The road condition was also really good. It was like 70 km without traffic. When we entered Singaraja, it was when the traffic became more apparent. Still calmer than Malang though. Well, I guess after seeing Malang, everywhere else looks good now.

In Singaraja, we found an appealing dish. It’s a Sio Bak, Chinese roasted pork belly. The name is Sio Bak Babi Khe Lok, in Jalan Surapati, Singaraja, Bali. Just put that name into Google Maps, it will return the exact location.

The dish didn’t disappoint. It’s sooo delicious!

DayThree

Several things I noticed when first entering Bali from Java.

First, there are a lot, I mean A LOT of food stalls that put “Pork” sign in front of their shops. This is unheard of in the rest of Indonesian region. Bali is the only province where Muslim is not the majority. The majority of Balinese are Hindu, so there’s no such thing as abstinence of pork. Well, I’m starting to like this place.

Second, which is related to the first point, I noticed that the majority of bakso stalls here don’t sell the usual bakso: beef bakso. Instead, they sell chicken bakso. Cows in Hindu are sacred animals, so naturally they don’t sell beef bakso.

Alright, so back to the journey to Ubud. After Singaraja, we went southbound through the central highland of Bali. This was the highlight of the Gilimanuk - Ubud trip. The air was cold, the scenery was astonishing, perfect. When we cross the central highland, the weather was so clear, I could see the magnificent Mt. Agung and Mt. Batur in the east. That time, I vowed that I will be back in a couple days to see them again.

Anyway, about 80 km later from Singaraja, we arrived at Ubud. First impression: nothing special, just like any other small town in Indonesia. Granted I hadn’t saw the downtown, as our homestay was in the outskirt of the town. So, I guess I’ll see it later. I got a lot of time to do that, as we decided to stay in Ubud for five nights.

With Ubud as our base for exploring Bali, next we will explore the Ubud downtown, then the other Balinese towns like Bedugul, Kuta, etc.