Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 10 June 2010 • Itinerary
tanjung setia & pahawang island
Traveled in April, 2010
Born and raised in Lampung doesn’t make me an expert on it. In fact, I am far from being one. I spent the first 13 years of my life in Bandar Lampung, the capital city of Lampung province, at the southern tip of Sumatera Island. But on holidays, my parents used to take the whole family to Jakarta, Bandung, Bali, or Padang. Never to the other parts of Lampung, for instance the Pahawang Island and Tanjung Setia. So, now is the time to explore this province, which houses, surprisingly, jaw-dropping natural sceneries!
We did not have our itinerary laid out. We only had several names of recommended beaches by friends and websites. And we finally managed to visit two places: Pahawang Islands in the South Lampung and Tanjung Setia Beach in the West Lampung.
A free trip? There must be a catch
To be honest, I had no idea that our group was gonna grow to be 7 girls, all in one car that Mumun and I rented. I knew that Maya, Mumun’s college friend who now resides in Bandar Lampung, was gonna come with us. I thought her husband, Aji, was gonna come also, but it turned out that he had to stay in the city for work. Apparently, Aji connected us to this NGO called Mitra Bentala that’s based in Bandar Lampung, that got us a smooth entrance to the Pahawang Islands. (Here’s a bit about them http://starwrite.biz/search/mitra+bentala)
You see, this NGO has been doing a lot of mangrove growing and maintaining them to preserve the islands and prevent shore abrasion. Lately, they’ve developed a commercial service, that is, arranging tours to the islands (and I had no idea about this until I was told about it so much later in the trip).
I take it that because of Aji’s connection, they took us there for free. They would’ve charged tourists IDR 500,000 / pax for a package consisting of max 5 people for a 2D1N trip. Well, for us, the price to pay is that we had to take Putri, one of their officers who acted as a guide as well, along with fully made up 3 nieces of another officer with us to the islands… without prior notice. As surprised as I was, I just went along with what people were already planning.
Finally see the sea!
And so, off we went to Pahawang Islands, with Mumun behind the wheels. We left Bandar Lampung at about 1 pm, going to southwest direction, passing by Teluk Betung district, Lempasing beach among others, and arrived at the Ketapang portaboutan hour later.
We parked our car in one of the locals’ garage, and paid IDR 20,000 later on when we went back home. I’m not sure if that is the “published” rate or a discount rate because Putri and her NGO is a regular there.
A wooden boat crossed us all to the main Pahawang Island for about an hour. It felt so nice to meet the waters again! Man, that was the first time I hit the sea after 8 months! I couldn’t care less what the others were chattering about, I was sitting at the front deck, chattering with my old friend the sea. I put my hands out of the boat, tried to touch the water, but too bad my arms aren’t long enough, so all I could feel was the sprinkles of water. That quite did it 🙂
The water was so clear, that when we almost got to the jetty of Pahawang Island, we could see white jellyfishes swimming around our boat! Oh it was such a beautiful sight! We came there at the right season, I guess.
And looking up ahead, a view of village houses was welcoming us to the island.
Local’s kindness and snorkeling trip
Putri, our Mitra Bentala guide, took us to Mimi’s house. Mimi, a chummy nickname for ‘mother’ that Putri gave to this old lady, cooks for Putri’s guests to this island regularly, and provides lodging in her next door house, which is occupied by her son in daily basis. Because the next-door house was still locked and her son wasn’t home, Mimi let us change and use her bathroom while she and Putri arranged our meals for dinner and the next day.
Our boat was ready at the dock to take us to Little Pahawang Island, about 10 minutes of crossing. The boat rent actually costs IDR 300,000 for the whole day, about 10-12 hours ‘til sunset. Unfortunately we arrived at the island kinda late, at 3 PM. So, we had to pay the whole price for only 3 hours usage. Good thing that the other guests were pitching in as well.
The boat docked on the Little Pahawang shore, and we walked about 7 minutes to the appointed site for snorkeling, following Putri’s path. On the way there we saw a dead jellyfish stranded on the beach. Putri encouraged us to touch it and convinced us that the bell (that is the round part of it on the top) isn’t poisonous. She touched it first, and then we took our turns. It’s actually soft and slimy! And the slime didn’t rinse off easily.
To get to the jetty, around which we were going to snorkel, we passed a territory own by a German called Mr. Joe, which was closed for public. He’s said to have had some contribution to the preservation of the islands and occasionally would bring foreign tourists as well to the sites.
On the side of the jetty, there’s sorta like a pond, in which they breed sea cucumbers (in Indonesian it’s called tripang). Sea cucumbers usually live in the bottom of the deeper part of the sea. But the NGO people put some in the pond so that visitors can see them easily, and they said it’s not gonna do any harm to the disgusting-looking creatures to be moved to the shallow part of the water.
Mumun loved the sea cucumbers, for reasons that I cannot comprehend till now… I had to force myself – and by others – to just poke that nasty-looking living thing. Euughhh.. When you lift it out of the water, put them on your hands, it’s puffed and immediately spurts water out from a small hole on one of its ends. I have no idea what hole that is. And its body deflated as water leaks out of it more and more. Putri told us to put it back in the water again when it’s getting flatter. Oh I love sea cucumbers.. when they’re down in the water and out of sight like that.
Alrighty, now it’s time to get down to business: snorkeling!
With a help of a cord from Putri, I can tie my snorkel to my mask and use them again, since the clip was broken in my Belitung trip about a year ago. But it seemed like there’s something wrong with the snorkel because I had to clear out the water again and again. However, I can still enjoy the view underwater.
It’s quite nice down there, there are a lot of healthy corals, various kinds and colors of fishes, schools of fishes, although I’ve seen most of these kinds in my previous snorkeling trips. But it was certainly great to be back in the waters again! In my new tankini, too! Ha!
Jellyfishes were swimming around as well. I failed taking closer and clearer pictures of them because I was too afraid to come closer. Although Putri told us that it’s safe to even pat them on the bell, Mumun and I didn’t wanna risk it turning heads down and suddenly sting us. So we just played it safe.
A little knowledge I gained from this trip was that one of the causes of corals’ damage is because it’s being consumed by those creatures that look like starfish with thorns. It is the crown of thorn starfish.
So these thorny starfishes have to be cleared out of the water and… well.. crushed to death, in order to save the corals. When we finished snorkeling, one of our boatmen showed us how it’s done.
And Putri looked like she enjoyed beating the creature to death. Hm, this could be a useful way to let out your anger.
If only the day wasn’t getting dark, we would’ve taken more time exploring other spots around the island, and maybe hang a bit in the gazebo on the jetty, just relaxing and admiring the natural beauty and peace surrounding us. Oh, if only… Instead, it was almost 6 pm and the sun was setting, so we had to walk back to our boat and back to Pahawang Island.
Counting the minutes on the island
Call me ungrateful, but I didn’t enjoy my night on the island. Yawn… It’s not that I can’t tolerate village life, but I just thought that the place wasn’t special enough to spend the whole night at. I couldn’t help thinking that if only we weren’t attached to anyone, we could just went straight back to Bandar Lampung and roam about in the city. In Pahawang, we would’ve done that too, but even the locals didn’t recommend it because we weren’t equipped with flashlights and everything. So all we did that night after washing up and dinner was chit chatting in a gazebo near the port and sipping some hot drinks. Zzzz….
Leaving Pahawang Island
There was an option of snorkeling in another spot in the next morning. But the way Putri described it kinda put me off. She said what we’d see there is quite similar with the spot in Little Pahawang Island. So I’d rather head back to Bandar Lampung and from there on to Tanjung Setia in the west. Mumun was open for either option, thankfully.
So, after breakfast we had a little tour to another part of shore. There’s this kind of cement jetty there, which surface was about 1 cm below the sea surface in that morning, and high tide was just coming in. On the jetty, you can turn around and behold a gorgeous view of rows of coconut trees and hills on the Pahawang Island. Combined with the view of clear water, it was a postcard view!
The name “Pahawang” itself derived from “Mpok Awang”. Awang is a Chinese descendant princess from Batavia (now known as Jakarta) whose family migrated to this island. She’s buried on the highland, in between the two hills on that island and her grave is considered to be sacred. I don’t know why. But that’s what the locals said.
At about 8 am, Mumun, Maya, and I left the other girls and Putri in the island, joined other people on the public boat. One of the passengers even had his motorcycle on the boat! Never underestimate the power of a wooden boat… LOL.
Back to the city and on to the next trip
In about two hours time, we dropped Maya back to her house because she wasn’t going with us to the next destination, and got ourselves back to my parents’ house. There, a hired driver was already waiting for us. You see, my dad wouldn’t let us drive to Tanjung Setia ourselves because it’s a 5-6 hours drive through narrow bendy roads between tropical forests among speedy trucks and containers. Well, it does sound a bit intimidating, plus when I’m home in Lampung, I’m back being their baby daughter ^_^
After a delicious home cooked lunch, Mumun, Tikno the driver and I started our trip to the west. There are actually a lot of beaches on the west, east, and south of Lampung province, so why did we pick Tanjung Setia as our destination? Well, it was one of the recommended names we heard, and the distance and road condition made sense. We were also interested to see Teluk Kiluan, more to the south of Bandar Lampung, but locals said that it would be a hard core journey and requires a 4WD and an experienced off-road driver. Whew! Next time, then.
I never thought that I would be awed so much by Lampung’s nature. And I wasn’t even at the Tanjung Setia beach, yet. Being in a ride on narrow asphalt road in between tropical forests with its dense trees and big leaves was awesome! Sun ray was beaming on us through the gaps of leaves.
This area turned out to be a part of the Bukit Barisan National Park, and there’s this Elephant Park hidden in the mountains, which entrance we passed by. Then it was foggy on higher parts of the land, which were cooler. Wow, it’s been a long time since I saw fog!
That was the beautiful part of the ride. There’s also a dangerous part. The forest asphalt road is two-way, and some trucks are a bit wider than the half part of the road, and it’s a shoulder-less road. Lucky that our car is a regular city car size, so that it fit tightly with the huge truck when we pass by them. I could imagine how a hassle it would be when huge trucks pass by each other. There are also some sections of the road which are shouldered with cliffs! I don’t know the statistics of traffic accidents there, but judging from my experiences as a passenger in various public transportation in this country, drivers here have very high skill of driving, not to mention the guts. I wonder how would the surfers (who are mostly from developed countries with high standard of road safety) feel when passing through these roads on their way to Tanjung Setia.. Must be a one-of-a-kind experience for them.
One more thing that you should pay attention to is animals crossing the road, or just relaxing there in the middle, probably absorbing heat from the asphalt to warm up their bodies. Cows, goats, cats, dogs, chickens, even lizards, I saw them all on the road. And you better not risk being a jerk by committing a hit & run, ‘cos if you don’t go fast enough, locals might go and catch you, and you have to pay for their animals (this applies to cows, goats, and possible dogs, cats, and chickens). And a cow, for example, can cost you about IDR 5 mils! That’s about USD 500 in today’s rate.
Put the dangers aside, unless if you were an adrenaline junkie, there are natural views that you can definitely enjoy along the road. Clear blue sky, rice paddies, curvy roads between hills, and mountains, ocean, rivers, and greeneries in the distance are such a sight for sore eyes and a treat for tired butts from sitting in the car too long.
A distance that we could’ve traveled in 5 hours became 6,5 hours due to a roadwork. Mud on the asphalt was making it slippery, and a huge container truck, which carried tons of motorbikes, had a problem in making a sharp turn, that made it have to stop and wait for the road to be cleared. Other vehicles were lining up behind it, including ours. Mumun spent the 1,5 hrs in the stopping car by sleeping in the back seat, while I failed to do the same thing and tried to enjoy my magazine reading and conversed with our driver. Talk about boredom! All for a visit to Tanjung Setia, yeah!
The halt, and later our search for the lodge we wanted, made us late for a sunset view by the sea. We kinda saw it from inside the car, and even so, I could see how pretty it was. Smears of orangey sky surrounded the setting sun over the horizon.
We arrived at the Karang Nyimbor hotel at about 7 pm, so we couldn’t do much that night. We just had dinner at the open aired café, sat next to the surfer dudes table. Andy and Ari, the couple who owns the hotel, were very friendly and introduced us to the other guests.
The next morning, we had interesting conversations with some of the surfer dudes while breakfasting. They’re from diverse countries, it turns out. Some are from Australia, South Africa, and US. It’s amazing, at least for me, that these people came to Indonesia specifically to get to Tanjung Setia, while most people in the world would know Indonesia only for Bali (many are even unaware that a country such Indonesia existed although they know about Bali). Maybe it’s because they were looking for a warmer water to surf at, and, Mumun heard that Tanjung Setia pipes are categorized as intermediate as in difficulty level, an option for those who wanna take the next step in surfing. The reefs underneath can be sharp in certain areas causing starches especially coming up on shore. Swimming boots are handy.
While waiting for Mumun to get ready with her snorkeling gears, I climbed up the watch tower to take pictures of the ocean for you people. Darn, I can so imagine how nice it is to just sit there reading a book, or better yet, take a nap, with the wind blowing and accompanied by the sound of waves…
Since Mumun and I don’t surf, we could only snorkel in the waters. Unfortunately, we barely saw fish or other sea creatures underwater at Tanjung Setia beach. It probably had something to do with the current, I’m not sure, because Ari, who came snorkeling with us, said that she once saw fishes when snorkeling around there.
She offered us to go further north, where there should be more beauties underwater. However, we were awfully limited by time, since we had to be back in Bandar Lampung by 5 pm. So we had to turn down the offer. Hey, there’s always a next time, right? There are so many points at Lampung’s beaches that we haven’t explored. So, there’s gotta be a next trip here to Tanjung Setia and around!
Oh, and be prepared with booties if you don’t want your feet got hurt by the stones and corals on the beach. My fins obviously were no help.
After about an hour trying to catch some fisheries (fish sceneries.. hahaha) and failed miserably, we walked back to the hotel through the path outside the hotels area, which we passed by the night before by car. We passed by some Tanjung Setia villagers and I think they threw some funny stare at us, Indonesian girls, who were only wearing our bathing suites and only a little bit more cover-up. It wasn’t really a harassing stare, more like an “it’s not proper to show so much skin”.
Free lunch and time to go
A shower was very refreshing in such a humid and hot weather. That’s what I had before having lunch. A bowl of fish with coconut-milk mixed with tomato soup and steamed rice was what we savored that noon. There wasn’t many guests present in the café because some were watching a surf DVD, some were lazing on the watch tower, and some have just gone to the airport with their surf boards.
The Way Back to Bandar Lampung
When passing through Kota Agung, a city about 2 hours from Bandar Lampung, I noticed how blue the sky was. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed that kind of view in Jakarta. So refreshing!
About 5 hours later we arrived in Bandar Lampung, stopping by at Kemuning disctrict to have some meal (only Mumun and the driver, cos I was saving my tummy for Mom’s cooking), and dropping off Ari, who was tagging along with us to do some grocery shopping for her hotel.
After having some meal at home, it was time to repack our bags, and then went to my friend Desi’s house to return the car. I was best best friends with Desi in junior high, and it’s been years since our last meet. So we had our last ride with that rental car, this time with Desi, to a pempek eatery, and updated some gossips while munching on the favorite food of mine.
Overall, I loved this trip. I loved how I finally saw other parts of Lampung, other than Bandar Lampung where I grew up and the route from Bakauheni Port or from Radin Inten II Airport to my parents’ house. I loved that Lampung, quite an underdog province in tourism, actually offers marvelous natural views and has actually been discovered by international visitors. What I didn’t love is that I didn’t have enough time to explore a lot more of it, not even the beaches. So I guess that’s just one reason why I should go back there again someday. Not so long from now, I hope. Who wants to tag along?
My most favorite food from Lampung since I was little was pempek. It’s claimed to be South Sumatra’s original, that’s why all over Indonesia pempek is known as ‘pempek Palembang’ (Palembang being South Sumatera’s capital city). However, long time ago Lampung was a part of South Sumatera. So, not a wonder that they have the same food specialty.
Anyhoo, in case you’re wondering what pempek is made of, well, the very basic ingredients are sago and fish (the fish originally being belida, but now many kinds of other fish are used as well). Ang the best way to eat pempek is to dip it into the sauce called cuka or cuko, that’s made of vinegar (to which cuka is translated to), mixed with brown sugar, chilli pepper, etc. Oh hey, it even has a Wikipedia page on it. Just click here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pempek) .
On our last night, we managed to indulge ourselves in a plate of various kinds of pempek (Gosh, remembering it makes my mouth water). We ate and gossiped at one of the many pempek eateries on Salim Batubara Street. The eateries are named with numbers, such as “Pempek 56”, “Pempek 91”, and so forth. I don’t have a favorite like most Lampung people do because I think they’re all delicious! And there are also other pempek eateries other than on this street, such as the “Pempek 123” on Sudirman Street, known with its even more killing cuka (read: very hot, be careful with your weak tummy).
Oh and don’t forget. Other than the basic fried pempek, there’s also now grilled pempek (fried = goreng, grilled = panggang). The fillings for the fried ones vary from egg yolk, papaya, or none, and the grilled one is usually filled with chili dried shrimps. Oh I need to call my Mom now, asking her to send me a box of pempek from Lampung, I cannot take this yearning anymore..!! * drama-queen mode detected *
And yes, these pempek eateries provide to-go service. They provide these boxes made of bamboo called besek, in which they’ll put the boiled pempek (they are boiled before they’re fried or grilled) covered with flour. The flour is to keep them from going bad. And if they’re not to be eaten in more than a day, you better keep them in the fridge.
One piece of pempek costs varies, but the average is about IDR 3,000. You can get cheaper ones and even bigger in size in other places, but they’re probably made of mostly sago and some don’t even use fish.
Chips: fish, shrimp, or banana
While Desi and I were updating on gossips, Mumun took her time choosing various kinds of chips in the restaurant, which are mostly fish or shrimp flavored. A particular kind of chips is called kemplang, which is also fish flavored. Try dipping these chips in cuko. I know I love it.
Another favorite cracker is keripik pisang (banana chips), also sold in these eateries. The most famous brand of banana chips is SUSENO. I forgot where their own outlet is located, but you can get them even in Gelael Supermarket, which is in the same building as the famous KFC on Sudirman Street. There you can also get other kinds of snack, such as lempok durian.
The mysterious Seruit
I’ve heard about this dish, seruit, since I was in junior high in Bandar Lampung, but never got to see it, let alone taste it, until today. That’s because there’s really no eatery in any form that sells it. It’s only made at home by native Lampung people occasionally. Since my parents aren’t originally from Lampung, so we’ve never had it served on our dinner table.
Even so, quite often I heard my native friends told me about how delish seruit tastes, which were usually made by their grandmas or aunts in family gatherings. It’s said to be made of crushed fish mixed with chili, terasi (condiment made from pounded and fermented shrimp or small fish), tempoyak (salty condiment made of fermented durian), or mango. Hm, this dish sounds challenging to the taste bud.. I have to find my way to have seruit next time I’m going to Lampung! I bet you would too! I mean, one of the ways to get to know the people of a place is from their food, right?
Karang Nyimbor is a lodging owned by Andy, an American guy, and his wife Ari, Indonesian. It’s located right on the Karang Nyimbor point at Tanjung Setia, a hotel and camp for surfers from around the world. You can get the complete info from here
We failed to reserve a room by email and telephone from home, so we gambled for a room by knocking on the hotel’s gate and ask if they’ve still got one for us and one for our driver. Lucky for us, there were even options of a room with and without air conditioner. We picked the one with AC, which cost us IDR 200,000 / night / pax over the one with fan, which would cost IDR 140,000 / night / pax.
This surfers camp provides a common room with a DVD player where guests, which are mostly surfers, can learn some surfing theories from DVDs. It’s also got pool tables, ping pong table, etc. Unlike us, who stayed there only for a night, these dudes usually stay there for at least 2 weeks. Some even stay there for months. Oh if only I could do such a thing! Lazing around for months by the beach… life’s a beach, indeed..
Don’t expect a diverse community here. All these guys do is surf in the morning, talk about surfing during breakfast, watch surfing DVDs at noon, nap and rest and lunch, go surfing again in the afternoon and then talk about surfing over dinner.
Karang Nyimbor is only one of many hotels at Tanjung Setia. You can check out others here complete with the agent’s contact number and email address.
Lampung’s tourism hasn’t been well developed, so public transportations to get to these beaches isn’t so easy to get. However, these hotels provide pick up service to Lampung’s airport, which is located about 5 hours from there.
Since our homebase is in Jakarta, we have two options to go to Lampung; via air or land.
– take the plane from Soekarno Hatta Int’l Airport to Radin Inten II Airport
– take the DAMRI bus from Gambir train station (located in Central Jakarta), which crosses the Sunda Strait with us in it, and halt at Bandar Lampung’s train station
Actually there are other coach services that can take you to Lampung from Jakarta as well, but I’ve been using DAMRI service since a decade ago, so I’m not really updated on the other services.
Anyhoo, if you’re taking the DAMRI bus, you can buy the ticket D-5 at the soonest. The ticket booth is near where the buses are parked, outside the station’s building. An executive bus seat costs IDR 144,000 / pax. There’s also the economy class, which I forgot the ticket price, but I’m sure it’s more than IDR 100,000 / pax.
This coach line has three departure times everyday: 10 AM, 9 PM, and 10 PM. The trip straight to Bandar Lampung starting from this point, takes about 8 hours. That consists of about 1,5 to 2 hours from Gambir to Merak ferry port in Banten province (at a west tip of Java island) + 2 to 4 hours of crossing the strait, depends on the availability and speed of the ship + 1,5 to 2 hours from Lampung’s Bakauheni ferry port to the Bandar Lampung train station as the terminal. That’s the art of traveling around Indonesia, nothing is 100% predictable. You can stretch the timeline from zero to infinite hours. Especially in long vacation period, the waiting line can be a bit longer, hence more unpredictable time span. Challenging, eh?
If you choose to take the faster and easier way, take the plane. Nowadays, Garuda Indonesia, Batavia, Merpati, and Sriwijaya airlines provide flights from Soekarno-Hatta airport to Lampung. Prices range from IDR 200,000 to IDR 500,000 on normal days (not peak seasons).
I rarely take the plane to Lampung because, well, it’s more expensive, and besides, I’m used to taking the bus even from Bandung to Lampung (that’s 4 hours added). And I’m still not really over the irony that it takes a lot less time up in the air (about 40 minutes from take off to landing) than it is on land (2 hours from my place in Jakarta to Soekarno-Hatta airport + 1 hour from Radin Inten II airport to my parents’ house in Bandar Lampung).
However, on the trip on early April this year, we missed the last tickets of DAMRI bus because we were leaving on a 3-day weekend, a favorite time for people to travel. So we had to take the plane, the Merpati Airlines, bought the tickets online at http://www.merpati.co.id/ for IDR 220,000 / pax (warning: don’t be fooled by the numbers in price table, it’s usually added with taxes, administration fee, n’ all that jazz – and that applies to all sorts of airlines, not just Merpati).
As for our way back to Jakarta, I hurriedly asked my Dad to buy the DAMRI tickets for us in Bandar Lampung. Nope, you can not buy Bandar Lampung-Jakarta tickets from Jakarta and vice versa. (I have a gut feeling that they’re gonna have an online ticketing system sooner or later, though).
Our flight from Soekarno-Hatta airport to Lampung went smoothly.. in the air. It was TWO HOURS delayed from the initial schedule, after all the hassle we went through in the mad traffic and heat of Jakarta just to get to the airport. And all the compensation we got was a Hoka Hoka Bento dinner package. Gosh, airlines need to start to value passengers’ time waaaayyyy more than with just a box of rice and fried dumplings.
One way from Jakarta to Lampung by Merpati Airlines = IDR 220,000 / pax
IDR 250,000 / day (12 hrs for the first day, 24 hrs for any day following)
And we rented a car for 3 days, so the total was IDR 750,000
About IDR 300,000
at Pahawang Islands = IDR 300,000 / boat
One way from Bandar Lampung to Jakarta = IDR 144,000 / pax, executive class
For a car park at Ketapang Port = IDR 20,000
Boatman = IDR 20,000
Pempek = about IDR 3,000 / piece
Rice + chicken + veggies + iced tea at stops on our way to and from Tanjung Setia = about IDR 10,000 / pax
Karang Nyimbor in Tanjung Setia = IDR 200,000 / pax / night for room with AC
So, my own spending in total (considering that some allocations are divided by 2 or more people) was about IDR 1,050,000.