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Java has a good network of trains and they are by far the easiest and most comfortable methods of transport. We were going to head east from Yogyakarta to Surabaya. From there we would move on to Mount Bromo and then to Banyuwangi where we would cross to Bali on the ferry.
You can buy a ticket online at www.tiket.com or at any Indomart store. Once ordered you are given a booking reference which is entered into the computes at the train stations from 12 hours before your trip to print your tickets.
We were advised to arrive at the train station an hour before the departure to ensure we had enough time to print tickets and avoid the rush. We did this and found that we would have been fine arriving later.
We were in Executive Class which offered comfortable reclining chairs and plenty of legroom. Toilets on the train are squat toilets in every class which can be tricky with a train jolting!
After just under five hours we arrived in Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia. Our daughter was having a mini-meltdown with her backpack as we left the busy station and were swarmed by the unofficial taxi drivers. Dad haggled well with one of these though and we ended up with a good price to our hotel.
As we were only using Surabaya as a stopover for a couple of days we decided to up our accommodation budget a little with a two-bedroom apartment at Novotel Surabaya which had a very nice swimming pool! The following day we spent the morning in the pool and the afternoon in a massive shopping mall watching the locals get their retail fix.
We had planned on visiting Mt. Bromo and taking the kids to the smoking crater. Unfortunately, Bromo had decided to start erupting a couple of days prior to us arriving in Surabaya. The government had imposed a 2.5km area around the crater as a no-go area because of ash and they suspected that the smoke coming from the volcano may be a warning of further activity. The hostel we had reserved confirmed that there was only one view point open to the public now. While we wanted to see Bromo, and it would have been fantastic to see the smoke bellowing out of it we didn’t want to put the kids in unnecessary danger so we made the hard decision to skip Bromo and head onwards to Banyuwangi before catching the ferry to Bali.
So it was that two days after a five-hour train trip we were back on the train for the seven-hour journey from Surabaya to Banyuwangi. When we arrived we were tired and jaded and felt a bit travel sick. We had fortunately decided not to take the ferry immediately but to stay in a Banyuwangi guesthouse for a night. We chose Pepitos Guesthouse and had a simple family room for the night. The toilet was the best part about it as it had no sink! There was just a tap jutting out of the wall underneath the shower! After a meal at the local Bounty restaurant we settled in for the night and a much needed sleep.
The guesthouse provided a traditional Indonesian breakfast of Nasi Goreng for us all. Dad took advantage to the barber’s shop next to the guesthouse and had a super cheap (63p) haircut. Then we were on the move again. A taxi took us to the ferry port. We had to fill out some details on a form before buying our tickets (£1.25 for the four of us to cross!!) and making our way onto the next ferry. We didn’t have to wait long. A ferry leaves every thirty minutes all day. As we sat on a bench near the back of the ferry loud music started playing and we set off for Gilimanuk in Bali.