Java Banana

November 1, 2014 frvtravel

Outside of Bali, Mt Bromo’s steaming volcanic crater and massive caldera in East Java, is one of Indonesia’s most popular tourist destinations, both for it’s outstanding natural beauty and for it being as close to the Gates of Hell as you can get, and as usual Thomas Jones finds the best beds around.

Text by Thomas Jones

One thing that’s never hard to find at the crater of the volcano is accommodation with plenty of guesthouses and backpacker’s hostels all over the place offering cheap beds and cheap food. What is hard to find, however, is something with a bit of luxury to make the stay and the cold all that more enjoyable with great food and stylish surroundings more befitting the discerning traveller. Java Banana is the only place in the area that fits the bill.
Java Banana is a new place, having only opened its doors in 2008, and, constructed using natural wood and stone, it has a distinctly alpine feel, which considering its mountain environment, is only fitting. Located three kilometres from the crater rim, it is distinctly peaceful and it offers massive views down the valleys on the north side of the mountain. Perched as it is in a steep valley the views are stupendous, and are there for all to see from each of the resort’s rooms. The beautifully kept gardens are filled with sculptures, pine trees and a seemingly endless array of apricot-coloured trumpet flowers.

The 50 rooms, suites and lodges are extremely comfortable and, most importantly, warm, a necessary thing at this height when the nighttime temperatures can drop to 6 degrees C. Cable TV, hot showers and soft and comfortable beds along with safety boxes and full amenities. For groups seeking a more communal atmosphere there is a special lodge with six bunks for up to nine adults that is equipped with a large communal living room, cable TV, dining table, kitchenette and a warm cozy fireplace. Perfect for family holidays or for those fun-filled corporate team-building exercises.

Despite being situated at around 2,000 metres above sea level, the temperature tends to hover around the 14-18 degree mark in the daytime (that’s Celcius) so it never really gets too cold during the day. At night, however, it can drop as low as 6 degrees and it definitely requires a good jacket, long pants and socks.

Click to view slideshow.

The highlight of a trip to Bromo is to witness the famous sunrise, and for us this involved waking up at the ungodly hour of 3.30am in the cold and bracing pre-morning air, grabbing a quick coffee, before heading off in a Land Cruiser to take the 45-minute drive down into the crater and up the other side to the top of the 2,770-metre-high Mt Mount Penanjakan, the best vantage point in the park. It was freezing up there and our jackets, gloves and wooly hats were well appreciated. (Read more about that on page xxx of this edition).

After hanging around the and doing the touristy things we were dropped off at the hotel around 8 o’clock, leaving us plenty of time to enjoy the hotel’s facilities. First things first, we went straight to the restaurant to enjoy a hearty breakfast and a few cups of coffee. The restaurant has a wide selection of tasty Asian and Western dishes and it was here that we took all our meals, surrounded in a huge selection of large format photos taken by Sigit Pramono, one of Indonesia’s leading landscape photographers, from across Indonesia from Sumatra to Papua, and from Sulawesi to Sumba: a fascinating representation of the myriad peoples and landscapes that have shaped this country.

After a few hour’s sleep to make up for the unnatural wake-up time, we reconvened in the café cum art gallery, to sit by the fire, drink coffee before moving onto the hard stuff, play some backgammon and generally while away the afternoon in as chilled-out a way as possible. The café has a great selection of food and drink and is filled with even more of Pramono’s photography, along with contemporary sculpture from other renown artists. Here, however, the images are devoted to Mt. Bromo and have been taken over many years, offering a much broader perspective on the surrounding landscape and its ever changing ways. At 2,000 metres above sea level, this must make it the highest art gallery in the country, and with the relaxed vibe, with a light undercurrent of jazz playing in the background, it’s a beautiful way to appreciate both the subtleties and drama that the images convey about the landscape.

If you are here in June, you will have the added privilege of attending Jazz Gunung, a two-day jazz festival held in a natural hillside amphitheatre on the Java Banana grounds. Musicians from Indonesia and across the globe come and bring a bit of magic to the already wonderful mountain surroundings through the afternoons and into a star-filled night.

Java Banana
Mt Bromo, East Java
Tel: +62 (0)335-541-193
www.java-banana.com
www.jazzgunung.com

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