The Mystical Blue Flame in Surabaya

Embarking my foot to see the one among two in the whole wide world, ‘volcanic blue flame’ is not that easy as I expected. It all started when I’m searching for the unique thing I could experience in Indonesia. One thing that captured my attention is the blue flame at Mount Ijen which located 266 KM from Surabaya. When I Google and looked at the picture of Mount Ijen and attractions in Surabaya, I immediately hooked to this place. I set my mind and body to visit Surabaya.

And so, for my trip to Surabaya for 4 days 3 nights, my plan is simple. Spend 2 days for Mount Ijen and Mount Bromo and I will spend the rest of my trip at Surabaya. Here is my detailed story on how it all started.

Day 1 

The flight to Surabaya took around 3 hours from Kuala Lumpur. When I safely landed at Juanda International Airport, Surabaya, I immediately grab a taxi to take me to Gubeng train station. My plan next is to go to Banyuwangi as this is where Mount Ijen located. Train depart based on its schedule so plan your time accordingly. The trains are mainly used by the locals as this is the cheapest and the easiest mean of transportation. Expect a crowd of people. To avoid a problem, book ahead your ticket from Gubeng Station to Banyuwangi Baru Station. Oh! Did I already mention you that this will take around 8 hours? Along the journey, the train’s crew will occasionally sell drinks and hot cup noodles if you are thirsty or hungry. Although it took a long way, I still found it interesting. Being able to communicate with the locals, understanding their way of life and how humble they are open a different perspective from me towards them as a whole.

Gubeng Train Station in Surabaya

But, if you prefer a different route then this, there will always an alternative option available. The quickest way to Mount Ijen from Surabaya is to take a domestic flight from Juanda International Airport to Banyuwangi International Airport which will take only approximately 50 minutes. 

Leaving from Gubeng Station at 2 pm local times, I arrive at Banyuwangi Baru Station around 9 pm. After having a quick dinner, I check in at a guest house as my hiking to Mount Ijen will start later at 1 am. 

Day 2 

Having a short 2 hours sleep is definitely not enough. But, because the urge to see the blue flame up close in front of my eyes really excite me. I woke up at 12 am to get ready and my guide pick me up at the guest house around 1 am. It took one hour drive to the base of the crater from Banyuwangi and the hike start at around 2 am.

You can buy some refreshment here

All I can say is climbing Kawah Ijen is not an easy hike nor it’s a difficult feat to do. However, some level of fitness is still required. I still remember seeing two or three hikers giving up and forced to return due to lack of stamina. The hardest part is the first hour as the path which is wide but climbs up a steep slope. The last 30 minutes to the top are fairly the easiest as the path is flattened for a smooth trek. However, trek to base of the crater lead another 1 hour can be dangerous as the path down is steep and slippery. We reached the crater rim at 3 am and spent 1 hour descending to base of the crater to see the blue flames. Then, we spent another 1 1/2 hour making our way back up to the crater rim for sunrise at 5.30 am. Along the trek, however, your view will sometimes get hindered by a very dense smoke coming from the active volcanic activities.  

The most gruesome part was the long descent and ascent from the crater rim to the base of the crater. There will be a flock of tourists plus local’s sulfur miners who will use the path to the base of the crater and so, please go slow and watch for your steps. Safely arrive at the base of the crater, well, did I see the blue flame? During my visit there, the sulfur smoke is dense and the whole blue flame is not as what I expected to be. I’m having a real hard time to capture it on camera although I knew the flame was definitely there. At some times, the blue fire would emerge out from the dense smoke and that is the only time I can see it. Feeling exhausted from the climb and the dense smoke, I climb up to the crater rim and take a nap.

Crater rim
Blue flame in Kawah Ijen (Ijen Crater)

As the sun rose above the horizon, the sky transformed the whole view from pitch black into a glimpse of heaven. It is one of the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen.  

Sunrise at Mount ijen

We went down around 7.30 am and my next plan is to go to Mount Bromo. But first, I will need to reach Probolinggo. Luckily there are several trains from Banyuwangi to Probolinggo which will take approximately 5 hours. I caught a train at 9 am and arrive at Probolinggo at around 2 pm. From there, I took a small minivan called Bemo to bring me up to Cemoro Lawang, the base town for Mount Bromo. I successfully reached Cemoro Lawang on the same day, allowing myself to rest a little overnight before another sunrise climb to Mount Bromo.   

Day 3 

Mount Bromo is a 2300-meter high volcano and the most famous volcanoes in Indonesia. The number of tourists that came here every year proves this point. To see a sunrise in Mount Bromo is fairly easy compared to Mount Ijen as there are a lot of tours offering their package for you.

The best viewpoints to see sunrise are on Gunung Penanjakan. The tour guide that I hired will bring me to the viewpoints via a jeep. From there, I need to climb a staircase for 15 minutes and experience a magical sunrise over Mount Bromo.   

The crowd in Gunung Penanjakan
Sunrise at Mount Bromo

After sunrise, I prepared the drive down towards the Bromo crater. There will be many jeeps around here and traffic jams are common so the drive down can take quite some time. The jeep will take me to the foot of Mount Bromo. To get to the actual crater, I have to walk 15 minutes crossing the ‘sea of sand’. From here you also have an option to either hire a horse for this small walk.

‘Sea of sand’

The crowds who take the stairs to view the crater was insane. Another 10 minutes’ climb up the stairs and I’m already on the top to admire the crater. Every minute, there will be a white smoke spews out from the volcanic crater.  

Mount Bromo crater

After the wonderful scenic view in Mount Bromo, my next stop is going to Surabaya since I have a flight first thing in the morning. My tour guide is kind enough to drop me at Probolinggo train station (with additional fees). From there I took a train from Probolinggo station to Surabaya station which took around 2 hours’ journey. I arrived at Surabaya around 3 pm and check in at the nearby hotel.

I have an ample time to go around Surabaya to see what it offers. Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia after Jakarta. And with that, this city will be packed with a traffic jam here and there. It is the most important parts of Indonesia historically and there is quite a range of interesting attractions that make it all worth it to spend time here. One more thing is Surabaya is actually a port and with that in mind you can enjoy seeing vistas across the water or walking along the waterfront.  

I finish wandering the city and took a rest before flight tomorrow back to Kuala Lumpur.

Day 4 

Going back to Kuala Lumpur always make me glad to have this trip. It is quite tiring, but it feels worth it. To learn something new and valuable will make me wiser even for an inch. Thank you and goodbye Surabaya. .

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