Biking it into the hills and staying with a local family in Cemoro Lawang, Java.
Cemoro Lawang is a tiny mountain hamlet in East Java. With a negligible local population it would remain largely unnoticed if it weren’t for its giant neighbour, Mount Bromo, standing watch over the village and attracting visitors from all over the world. Despite Bromo’s fame, the village of Cemoro Lawang has managed to remain a quiet, peaceful place: one where locals go about their daily lives among the visitors – as opposed to changing their lives to accommodate them.
There are many homestays in the region – homes which local people have opened up to guests. Indonesia seems to have more homestay options than other countries in SE Asia: I stayed with a family in Sumatra last time I was there too. Immersing yourself in the kindness of your host family is by far the best way to really appreciate the culture and understand how locals live. Not to mention being ridiculously cheap; my room cost just 100,000 rupiah (£4) a night.
Once the sun sets at 6pm there isn’t much to do in the village. At a neighbouring temple a little girl was practicing a beautiful, hypnotic Hindu prayer that could be heard all over the area. I hung out with the family for a bit, huddling over their fire and drinking Kopi, Indonesian coffee. I joked around with my host, Senoyo, while his wife, Sutari, told us off for making the coffee wrong. There was a look in his eyes that really reminded me of someone I knew but I couldn’t think who. Maybe he just had a good aura, and I felt at home as soon as I entered his.
Cemoro Lawang is the gateway to Mount Bromo and can be reached by public minibus from Probolinggo Bus Terminal for 35,000 rupiah. If you are coming from bus from Surabaya DO NOT get off before the terminal. Many buses will stop at a tourist office and try and get you to buy the bus from there. It’s a scam, demand to be taken to Probolinggo bus station itself.
Minibuses leave when full but I didn’t want to wait – plus I prefer travelling by motorbike. I negotiated a price with a random guy at the bus station and the one hour ride to Cemoro Lewang on the back of a bike cost me 80,000. Could have maybe got it down to 65,000 but I would have gladly paid 100,000 in the end. The journey is spectacular: lush green valleys and huge cliffs all around you. If you’re travelling solo I highly recommend travelling by bike whenever possible. Check out this short vid to get an idea of the scenery.
Don’t even bother looking online for rooms in Cemoro Lawang before you arrive. The only ones listed will be bigger generic options which are extremely overpriced. (The Indah Hotel beside the little house I’m staying in charges seven times what I’m paying.) I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a room due to the Yadnya Kasada festival happening but it was perfectly fine. There are lots of homestays here so you will get a room no problem.
As you would expect, it’s simple accommodation: mine was a padlocked room with a shared bathroom, (the possibility of) hot water and a stack of blankets. Ceromo Lawang is 2,217 metres above sea level (machu pichu is 2,430 metres) so it is COLD at night. While the temperature down below at Probolinggo may be above 30 degrees, it drops to near freezing up here at night. Pack accordingly. Electricity only comes on after about 6pm at night so don’t forget to charge your camera overnight.
My homestay was called Budi Jaya, run by Pemilik Senoyo. (Tel: 085 234 420 651). Pay him a visit and tell him I said hello!