Banyuwangi, The Sunrise Of Java

Located on the eastern-most edge of the island of Java, just across the island of Bali, lies the town of Banyuwangi. Its busy port, Ketapang, serves regular ferries that ply daily between Bali and Java carrying passengers, cars and buses, as well as trucks laden with all sorts of goods to and from Java.

Being the east-most city on Java, this is where the dawn first rises in the morning throwing its welcoming rays over Java, this lush green but also most densely populated island. Not yet quite popular as a tourist destination, the regency of Banyuwangi, in fact, hides many secret gems, from looming mountains, natural game reserves to rolling surge of waves, that are the dream of surfers all over the world. Here also live the Osing ethnic sub-group, believed to speak the oldest Javanese language from which evolved Java’s most sophisticated civilization over the centuries.

Banyuwangi, East Java
Banyuwangi, East Java (Source : liputan1.com)

Banyuwangi Regency extends over an area of 5,800 sq. km, comprising southern beaches brushed by the Indian Ocean, to impressive Mt. Raung that stands at 3,282 m and Mt. Merapi at 2,800 m above sea level. To its north is the Regency of Situbondo, while the Regencies of Jember and Bondowoso lie to its west, and to its east is the island of Bali.

Besides being the largest regency on Java, Banyuwangi is also the largest fish producer of the province of East Java, with the town of Muncar by the Bali Strait, its main fishing wharf. Banyuwangi is also known for its banana crops. Almost all gardens in this district boast trees that produce luscious bananas.

Because of the close proximity here between the islands Bali and Java and for centuries being a busy trading port, the exchange of many cultural influences in Banyuwangi is unavoidable. Here the kingdom of Blambangan was once its most greatest kingdom, showing a fusion between the cultures of Java and Bali, mixed with that of the island of Madura, as well as absorbing Malay, Eropean, Chinese influences and traces of ancient roots from the ancient Osing Jawa people. Some typical Banyuwangi dances that are infused with these multi-cultural influences are: the gandrung dance, barong kemiren, seblang, janger, rengganis, hadrah kunthulan, patrol, mocopatan pacul goang, jaranan butho, barong, kebo-keboan, angklung caruk, and gedhogan. These are shown during the annual Banyuwangi Etno Carnival where most of the ethnic dances are performed for locals and visitors to enjoy.

Welcome to Banyuwangi
Welcome to Banyuwangi (Source : banyuwangiwisata.biz)

Banyuwangi literally means Aromatic Water, which is associated with the local legend, the story goes that once upon a time a king abducted the wife of his own prime minister. When the minister came to know about it he went into a rage and stabbed his wife. But before she died, she vowed that as proof that she had always remained faithful to her husband the water of the river where her blood flowed would exude an aromatic perfume, which indeed it did. The prime minister, who dearly loved his wife, regretted the murder for the rest of his life.

The town of Banyuwangi is the gateway to your explorations to watch wild animals roam freely in the reserve of Alas Purwo, the oldest game reserve on Java, go trekking through the savannahs of Baluran, or find secluded and untouched beaches at Pulau Merah or G-Land, and travel to Sukamade Beach where turtles come to hatch their eggs. Mountain climbers can hike up from Banyuwangi to the stunning Ijen Crater and be amazed by blue flames that spring out among the yellow sulphurous rocks, cut and gathered manually by traditional miners.

ACTIVITIES

Besides beautiful nature and cultural attractions, Banyuwangi also offers its special cuisine. Try the rujak soto, which is a fusion between Surabaya’s wellknown rujak cingur and soto babat. The taste of rujak cingur with its shrimp paste covered in soto soup, provides a taste all its own. This meal usually comes with a local drink of ice cold temulawak.

Other dishes to try are: sego tempong, sego cawuk, sate kalak, pecel pitik, sambel lucu, jangan kelor, jangan kesrut, jangan pakis, jangan bobohan, jangan jawar, jangan leroban, uyah asem pitik, pindang koyong, bothok simbukan, pecel thotol, and lak-lak. While as accompanying drink try the sweet drinks of secang, selasih, ronde, and angsle, that you can order either ice cold or piping hot.

Banyuwangi offers a large variety of handicrafts and souvenirs that can easily compete with those in Yogyakarta or Bali. Look for these in the many traditional markets, or find them in shopping centers like Vionata, Banyuwangi Plaza, Giant Supermarket, Kalisari Genteng, Bernardi, Roxy, and others. 

While art shops, batik galleries, and shops for handicrafts and souvenirs are the following:

  • Pelangi, Jalan Letkol Ngurah Rai 16, Banyuwangi and Jalan Gajah Mada 3, Banyuwangi
  • Ardial, Basuki Rahmat 115, Banyuwangi
  • Sanggar Genjah Arum, Kemiren, Glajah, Banyuwangi
  • Masnur (wood carving), Jalan Nusa Indah 57, Banyuwangi
  • Amphibious (knives), Jalan Kerinci No. 11, Banyuwangi
  • Kejaya Handicraft, Kejaya, Tambong, Kabat, Banyuwangi
  • Bamboo Handicraft, Gintangan, Rogojampi, Banyuwangi

Banyuwangi offers a  number of accommodation options, depending on whether you wish to stay in town or near National Parks.

Start your journey across Banyuwangi by climbing up the Ijen volcano right to its crater and be amazed at how miners work the yellow sulphurous rocks, and carry these heavy loads on their shoulders. Be at the foot of the mountain just after midnight and climb to the Ijen crater to watch the mesmerizing blue flames of liquid sulphur spark out of the crater. See how traditional miners risk their lives daily by carrying heavy sulphur rocks in baskets up and down the crater.

Then take time for a safari ride through the savannahs of the Baluran National Park where you can watch the Java banteng, deer, wild monkeys and peacocks or even leopards roam free across the grassland. There is also Bama Beach where you can go snorkeling or take a lazy a boat ride through thick mangrove forests.

Or explore the wild nature of Alas Purwo National Park or the Meru Betiri National Parkhelp baby turtles take their first steps to the ocean at the beach of Sukamade, or join surfers at Pulau Merah Beach even if you are a beginner. Professionals should ride the challenging world-renowned barrels of G-Land. Regular international surfing competitions are held at both beaches.

Banyuwangi tourism, East Java
Banyuwangi tourism, East Java (Source : umkmbanyuwangi.com)

Those enjoying visiting plantations, visit the coffee plantation at Bayu Lor. While Kali Klatak plantation produces coffee, rubber and cloves.

Banyuwangi also has pilgrimage sites visited by congregations from different religions. Every Friday the tomb of Maqom Waliullah Datuh Abdurahim bin Abubakar bin Bauzir is crowded with Muslim pilgrims. While Balinese and Javanese Hindus frequent the temple of Pura Agung Blambangan at Muncar. On the other hand, Chinese visit the Hoo Tong Bio temple at Karangrejo, said to have been built in 1768. And at the Museum of Blambangan you will find a collection of historic artifacts if you are interested to study the history of this ancient kingdom.

When in Banyuwangi, taste its delicious cuisine, and buy some of their handicraft, especially batik cloths that you can find at Virdes, bamboo handicrafts in the vilage of Desa Gintangan, woven cloths in the village of Kemiran, iron blades are made at Singotrunan, woodcarvings at Masnus, crafts made from banana fiber at the village of Kemiren, and doll-making at Tukang Kayu.

GET THERE

The city of Banyuwangi is located around 239 km east of Surabaya, capital of the province of East Java. You can travel to Banyuwangi by car or by train.

Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya is connected directly from abroad by a number of international airlines. You can then connect on Garuda Indonesia or Lion Air flights from Surabaya to Banyuwangi’s Blimbingsari airport. There are also daily flights from Bali to Banyuwangi.

If you wish to travel overland from Bali, catch the ferry at Gilimanuk port, on the western tip of Bali which sails to the port of Ketapang at Banyuwangi. You can of course, also travel by car from Surabaya or any other large city in East Java to Banyuwangi.

To visit the many attractions around Banyuwangi it is best to rent a car at the airport or through your hotel or travel agent. Best make sure to have a sturdy and comfortable vehicle especially when you plan to visit mountain regions or savannahs, although generally speaking, roads around here are good.

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