Bali and Yogyakarta? Been there and done that. If you are in search of a new experience, there is a charming city that is off the beaten path but still not too far from Jakarta. Can you guess the name of this little gem?
It’s Malang. This fascinating city is a melange of culture, nature and cuisine. It is the second-largest city in East Java but still retains its small-town feel and charm. Malang is an hour’s flight from Jakarta or a two-hour drive from Surabaya. It is a modern city that still embraces its history and traditions. It’s easy and fun to explore Malang. I suggest renting a car to visit some of the temples not too far from the city centre.
Nature lovers can choose from beaches and mountains. In south Malang, about a two- or three-hour drive from downtown, is a string of beaches. Balekambang Beach is probably the most popular of the beaches. It is most famous for the Hindu temple, Amerta Jati, located on Ismoyo Island, just off the beach. It is a sight not to be missed. I savoured a fantastic sunrise there, the sky changing from dark to an explosion of oranges and reds. Beautiful! Still in south Malang are a number of other beaches that can steal your heart, like Bajulmati, Ngliyep and Goa Cina.
From the beach we head up Mount Bromo. This iconic mountain majestically looms over the countryside, a plume of sulphurous smoke crowning its peak. Bromo is an active volcano and is situated in Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. It is about a 90-minute drive from Malang but you will have to go by Jeep because that is the only kind of car allowed in the national park. Most visitors began the trek up Bromo in the dark so they can reach the peak in time to catch the sunrise. The sunrise starts around 05.30 am and is an unforgettable sight not likely to be forgotten, with views of Mount Batok and Mount Semeru. Not to be missed while exploring Bromo are Pasir Berbisik and Bukit Teletubies.
You can also visit Batu, a 30-minute drive from Malang. With cool, fresh weather, Batu is home to theme parks, museums and a zoo, such as Jawa Timur Park 1 & Human Body Museum; Jawa Timur Park 2, Batu Secret Zoo, Museum Satwa; Museum Angkut making it the perfect destination for a family getaway.
Malang has an abundance of quality cuisine, making the city popular with foodies. You can start at Toko Oen, a restaurant with colonial flavour. Eating at Toko Oen is like entering a time capsule. The food, however, is timeless. I ordered the Ox Tongue Steak, my absolute favourite dish on the Toko Oen menu, with Oen’s Special Ice Cream, a true homemade treat, for dessert. I left Toko Oen Malang and went in search of Batanghari Street. This small street, really an alleyway, is home to what is said to be the best meatballs in Malang. The famous Bakso President, opened since 1977. Bakso President has an extensive menu but the most popular items are Bakso Biasa, Bakso Urat, Bakso Telur), Bakso Bakar, Bakso Goreng and Bakso Udang. If you still have room for noodles, drop by Depot Pangsit Mie Bromo Pojok on Pattimura Street. They serve a variety of noodle dishes, but you have to save room for their unique dessert, Es Campur Artistik.
Text and Photos by Priscilla Picauly