As an internationally known place for holidays, obviously Bali has its own international airport. Nothing fancy, don’t expect anything like Singapore’s Changi Airport or Bangkok’s Svarnabhumi. You also take flights to this airport if you’re flying from other provinces in Indonesia.
An alternative way to get there, and of course cheaper, is like what Mumun and I did on December 2008. Mind you, we left from Jakarta.
- Jakarta - Surabaya
To really cut down budget, we took business class, which only provided fan, and the seats were non-reclining. Mumun initiatively slept on newspapers ‘mattress’ on the floor and so I slept on the seat with my legs out stretched. Wow, she’s one adventurous girl! And apparently there are many other passengers who sleep like her.
The ticket on a high season like this was Rp 200,000 / pax, and you can rent a pillow for Rp 3,000 – just wait for the pillow man to walk your way carrying a pile of rectangular pillows and rent as many as you’d need for a comfy sleep.
- Surabaya - Banyuwangi
We had to hop on another train from Surabaya to Banyuwangi, which is the furthest east town of East Java, from where we’re gonna take a ferry to Bali. BUT.. (oh Lord it’s tiring even only explaining this route.. but hey it’s fun to experience..!!) the train to Banyuwangi does not leave from Pasar Turi station. We had to take angkot (minibus public transportation) to another station called Gubeng.
While I was absent-mindedly waiting for a sign from God on where we should hop off, Mumun actively asked a girl in the angkot for direction. Luckily she was friendly enough and very very helpful. She has the typical pretty Javanese girl manners. Very polite and seems naïve. And very lucky for us, she was actually heading to Gubeng station to work! So we just hopped off where she did, and took another angkot with the N code which was only a few minutes drive from Gubeng. The whole way from Pasar Turi to Gubeng only took about half an hour time and cost about Rp 9,000.
Warning: huge backpacks might be a hassle to carry in angkot, so try to hop in empty one, sit in front by the driver, or near the open door at the back side.
If you’re not in the mood for any difficulties, you could always take a cab down to Gubeng. Some say it’d cost about Rp 30,000 but I’m not really sure.
After a simple breakfast of rice + tempe (aka fermented soybean patty) + chilli condiment at one of the station’s eateries, which cost only Rp 8,500, we got on our train at about 9am.
- Banyuwangi - Denpasar
The train departed at 9am from Surabaya’s Gubeng station and arrived at Banyuwangi at 3pm. Phewh..!! My butt felt flat after sitting soooo many hours on trains.
Now, this train ticket we bought in Jakarta (via a travel bureau) as a package with the PJKA bus and ferry ticket. So as soon as hopping off the train, we directly went to the station’s parking lot where a PJKA bus is waiting for passengers. Showed our tickets to the bus staff (they wear uniforms), hopped on, waited until the bus is full, and a 5 minutes drive to the harbour followed.
The bus had to go back and forth to pick up all the passengers. While waiting for everyone getting picked up, I just had to have my very late lunch at the harbour. A Rp 4,000 worth of box of rice and fried noodle with fried egg shreds were enough for me. Anything to keep headache away..!!
The ferry trip was only about half an hour, we arrived at Gilimanuk harbour, Bali, at about 7pm. Playing movie charade on the ferry dock was extremely fun, especially after hours and hours sitting on trains, we were so easily amused.. haha. We hopped on the bus directly after the ferry docked. We were afraid that we’d miss the bus, but luckily the driver was showing us the way from ferry to bus. In this kinda situation, asking for direction is highly suggested.
The bus then took us to a counter, still in the harbour area, where some staff checked our IDs. I take it that Bali is taking more precautious procedures, considering the bombings.
From there, our 4 hours trip to Denpasar bus station was all good. I thought Bondy was supposed to pick us up, but he couldn’t because he only had a motorcycle and it was raining where he was at, Kerobokan. Our options were to take the angkot, the ojek, or taxi. Considering that it was midnight and better not get wet from the rain, we took a taxi – after having our Rp 8,000 worth of midnite supper (fried noodle + mineral water) at one of the eateries in the station. The fee to Kerobokan was Rp 70,000, the driver didn’t wanna use the argometer. Taking ojek wouldn’t be so much cheaper anyway because there were two of us, which means we’d have to take two ojeks.
THE WAY BACK (to Jakarta)
The lowest price for air-conditioned bus that we could get around peak season like that was Rp 150,000 /pax from Denpasar, Bali to Surabaya, East Java. We left Denpasar at about 6.30 pm from their only bus station.
We were kinda doomed when the bus was broken (I forgot what was wrong) at a rural part somewhere, and the passengers had to wait sitting around the road. Mumun, Edo and I even fell asleep at a warung bench across the street.
A healthy bus of the same coachline came about 2 hours later from Denpasar as the replacement. So tired and bored, I slept all the way and next thing I knew we were crossing the Bali strait and arrived at Bungursari bus station, Surabaya, at 7am.
WHERE ELSE TO STAY IN BALI
If you’re not as lucky as we were, you might have to go find a hotel or hostel. The most known area for providing so many choices of hostels is called Poppies Lane. It’s located just around Kuta and Legian. Hostels, restaurants, cafes, clothing stores, used-books stores, even salons and tattoo parlors are all provided at Poppies area.
Your very own Hard Rock Hotel is located on Kuta Beach street, facing the Kuta beach, obviously. This spot has sort of became the landmark of Kuta, as well as the Kuta beach McDonald’s. It’s so likely that people would make these spots as their rendezvous points or just a mark when telling directions to go somewhere.
Bali isn’t really known for its food. But it’s surely known for the roasted pork that even Anthony Bourdain loved. However, we didn’t try it at all.
What I did have that’s originally from Bali were mixed rice, betutu chicken, and fish satay. Being an island, Bali offers a lot of seafood places and I really recommend you to indulge yourself on the fresh fishes, squids, crabs, oysters, oh just everything that you could!
A QUICK VISIT TO MALANG
Then we all went to meet Nanang on our way to Malang. Not knowing that he was gonna be abducted by us, Nanang merely prepared any money whatsoever. We kinda forced him to park his motorcycle somewhere, joined us in Tiva’s car, and headed for Malang.
Malang is a highland town about an hour drive from Surabaya. It’s still got old preserved dutch buildings and areas which makes it feel relaxing and cool. Fahrur, another college friend of ours who had gone back living in Malang met up with us and then another updating lunch took place.
The old restaurant & pastry shop called Toko Oen is best known for its ice cream, and off we went there. Nina, yup, another college friend of ours met us there for a scoop or two. It was almost 4 already, so we had to rush back to Surabaya for our train.
The trip back to Surabaya was quite thrilling because of the sudden rain. We had to rush and yet had to be careful so the car tires didn’t slip. And finally we got at the station just about time, err.. about a few minutes early (or maybe it was the train that was late.. haha.. typical Indonesian).