East Java and Madura – Fat Boy and a Dragon

Travel south from here, parallel to the river past the new Heroes Monument,

To see how Surabaya has expanded. From Jl. Tunjungan, the main shopping street, turn left down Jl. Pemuda to see the former Dutch Governor’s Mansion. This stood at what was then the new centre of colonial Surabaya, constructed after the turn of the century, and is now a major hotel district. There is a centuries – old statue of King Kertanegara (died 1292) enshrined in a small park directly opposite – called Joko Dolog but affectionately known as the “fat boy.” from here, continue south through fashioonable suburbs to the Surabaya Zoo – home of many exotic species, including the famous a Komodo Dragon.”

Beer Drinking Bulls: Most visitors, eager to escape Surabaya’s heat and bustle, head for the cool and inviting hills to the south of the city, but a few also cross the narrow straits to the neighbouring island of Madura – particularly during August or September, time of the exciting annual bull races It’s a strange sport, this karapan sapi. According to the Madurese, it began long ago when plow team was pitted against plow team over the length of a rice field. Today’s racing bulls are never used for plowing, but are specially bred; they represent a considerable source of regional pride. Only bulls of a certain standart (condition, weight, colour) may be entered and they are judged according to appearances as well as speed. In August, district and regency heats are held all over Madura and East java, building up to the gorund finale in September in Pamekasan, the island’s capital.

The main event is a thundering sprint down a 100 metres field lined by throngs of screaming spectors. fed on a special diet of beer, eggs and chili peppers, these huge and normally slow moving creatures attain speeds of over 50 kph (nearly 30 mph). Some half crazed spectators consider it good sport to stand at the end of the track, directly in the parth of the onrushing bulls. Accidents do occur.

The Madurese have long enjoyed a reputation for toughness, and Madura’s dry limestone terrain may account for this. The major industries here are fishing, tobacco growing and salt panning. The southern coastal fishing villages exude a solid but slightly jaded Mediterranean air. There are some good beaches here and to the east, where a modest palace at Sumenep has a small museum and an important library of manuscripts attached.

A quest for antiquities can be one of the great joys of the East Java. And even if old stone leave you cold, you’ll be on the trail to some beautiful and remote country side here, with ne’ver a tour bus in sight. One of the best bases for temple tripping (or explorations of any sort) is the delightful mountain resort of Tretes just 55 kms (35 miles) south of Surabaya.

The air here is fresh, the nights are cool and the mountain scenery is superb. Walk or ride on horseback in the morning to one of three valley waterfalls in the vicinity. Then spend the afternon by a bracing springbed swimming pool orcurled up with a good book and a huge pot of tea or coffee. More active souls will perhaps want to hike up Mt. Arjuna (3,340 metres/10,950 feet) behind Tretes, through lush montane casuarina forest, or across the Lalijiwa Plateau along a well worn path to neighbouring Mt. Welirang, where sulphur is collected by villagers from hissing fumeroles.

This area is also studded with ancient monuments, beginning with Candi Jawi, just by the main road 7 kms (4 miles) below Tretes. This slender Buddhist shrine was completed around 1300, and is one of several funerary temples dedicated to King Kertanegara, who died in 1292, of the Singasari dynasty.

Candi Jawi overlooks Mt. Penanggungan to the north – a perfect cone surrounded on four sides by smaller peaks and regarded, because of its shape, as a replica of the holy mountain, Mahameru. Penanggungan is littered with dozens of terraced sanctauries, meditation grottoes and sacred pools – about 81 sites in all (most of which are on the mountain’s northern and western faces).

The most accessible and charming of these is Belahan, a bathing pool situated at Penanggungan’s eastern foot, that is thought to be the burial site of King Airlangga (died 1049). The pool is reached by a dirt road from the main Surabaya’s highway, only a few minutes’ drive north of Pandaan.

–> Read Also : East Java and Madura – Traces of The Past

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