I asked people at the hotel and restaurant, even ojek drivers and street stall vendors about what to see in Banyuwangi. Every one of them told me to hike Ijen volcano, which I did yesterday. It seemed like there was nothing else to see in Banyuwangi. I was wrong.
Check out a shorter version of this story on Steller!
I spent the entire morning searching for places to visit in Banyuwangi, but couldn’t find anything interesting. Everything was so far from where I was and required at least a night spent around the area. I needed to get back to catch the train to Surabaya tonight.
I called a taxi to take me to the nearest beach. The driver recommended a local beach, Boom beach, just 20 minutes drive from the hotel.After days of exploring and venturing out alone, the idea of not doing anything made me feel uneasy. So I had no other choice, but to check it out. On the ride to the beach, I saw parks, monuments and fishermen bay. I got so excited suddenly when I realised that the places were just around the beach entrance. I guess these kinds of destinations won’t be found on travel apps because they are not meant to be tourist attractions. They are normal, everyday, local scenery. As the taxi stopped, I was surprised to see what I think was a volcano in a distance. My taxi driver told me that it’s Ijen and I was like, “So close?!” He laughed and said, “It just looks close.”
Boom beach is a black sand beach. There was a stretch of resting place rented for Rp 20,000 an hour. I was approached by the friendly care-taker who talked to me about random stuff that afternoon. He told me about how the local government has been doing a really good job in bringing back turtles to the beach. Just two days ago they released over 300 hatchlings. He said he aimed to released 2000 hatchlings by the end of the year! He was so happy about it and told me about the humps along the beach that I should not walk on because of the hundreds of “baby turtles” sleeping underneath. He also told me he would come to the beach at mid-night to ask tourists to leave. Turtles are really shy to lay eggs when there are people around.
A lot more can be done, though. The beach was full of cigarette butts. Geez, smokers, get it together. Don’t be selfish.
After spending an hour or so around the beach, I decided to walk back to the area I saw from the taxi. So on my way walking around the area, I saw a fisherman drying his catch under the sun, fishermen resting in their boats and drying their fishing nets, and locals flying kites and hanging out by the park. The afternoon stroll was so enjoyable and I took a lot of pictures.
By the way, the taxi driver did not ask for payment when he dropped me at the beach. Instead he gave me his phone number and told me to call him when I’m done with whatever I do at the beach. He was surprised to find me at the park a few kilo meters from the beach. He kept asking me why I would walk under the hot sun. But the weather was really great. I liked it. Plus, it was the most exciting part of the day. I asked him what to eat for lunch there and he brought me to the local’s favourite food stall, Pondok Rujak Soto. We couldn’t find seats at first, but people were so nice to squeeze in for us. I bet they looked at how confused I was, standing while hugging my bag, looking for seats. Rujak Soto is a combination of my favourite Indonesian dishes. It literally puts together lontong, soto ayam and gado-gado. Gosh, it was amazing. I finished it so fast.
After lunch I decided to get back to the hotel to get some rest. I also needed to pack. But I couldn’t stay for so long in the hotel. Although my train was at 10 pm, if I stayed longer than 5 pm, the hotel would charge me another night. No way. I’d better spend the rest of the afternoon and evening at the train station. But when I reached the train station, it was like an abandoned part of town. No one was there. The next train that would leave the station was at 8 pm. I guess it was nap time for all the food stall owners and staff at the ticket counter. Fortunately though, there was a wi-fi service costing Rp 1,000 for 2 hours. The connection was not bad at all. It was worth the $0.10.
By dinner time, people has started to wait for the ticket counter to reopen and I was getting hungry. The street stalls finally had their lights on. I had POP Mie and Tora Bika Cappuccino mix for dinner, probably my favourite duo. While enjoying dinner, I talked to a guy who turned out to know a lot about NTU! He said his daughter tried to apply to the university but was not successful. Fortunately, it turned out well for her because she is now working at a petroleum company after graduating from local university not far from home. It was nice to have this kind of talk with strangers. Not long after he left, the stall owner asked if it was okay for her to close her stall. She needed to wake up early tomorrow morning for Sahur. Wow! I forgot tomorrow is the start of Ramadan. She welcomed me to stay longer, since I was sitting outside of her stall. I spent some time to wish my muslim friends for a blessed Ramadan.