After leaving Bromo, we took a minibus back to Probolinggo so we could get ourselves to Kawa Ijen, volcano number two. On the minibus, we picked up a third traveler again, this time a Belgian who was backpacking Indonesia for 6 weeks by the name of Sam. Now, when you're traveling to Ijen, you have two choices on where to base yourself, Banyuwangi (which is where the ferry to Bali is) or Sempol Village. Because our next destination was Bali, we decided to choose the Banyuwangi path so we could store our bags somewhere. This trip required us to visit the Probolinggo bus station and after asking probably five people, we found a local bus to Banyuwangi. The bus cost pennies probably because of the amount of stops it took. The door was ajar the entire trip so people could literally just jump out and on. It was chaotic, bumpy, and took a painful six hours. The man in front of us was probably the most interesting on the bus. This man was a Beta fish fighter for a job. He had gone somewhere to buy bags of Beta fish and he handheld the plastic bags the entire six hours to Banyuwangi. [We stumbled across his fish stand in the city the next day. haha].
Because of our obvious exhaustion from the sunrise hike and six hours of bus, we decided to put Ijen off a day and spend the next day catching up on sleep and exploring Banyuwangi. Most hotels and travel agencies in Banyuwangi can arrange Ijen tours. The tours drive you at midnight to the start of the hike where you are met with a miner guide.
Anyways, the day before the hike, as we wandered the city, it became very clear that Banyuwangi did not see many tourists as people seemed generally surprised by us wandering around the city. We explored the local marketplaces, parks, beaches, piers, and listened to the call to prayer echo through the streets. The locals all over the city were so friendly and quite a few took random selfies with us for no apparent reason [ clearly we're so beautiful ha ha ]. The indoor fresh food marketplace had so many interesting individuals. We chatted with some locals, one of which was a fourteen year old boy who no longer attended school because his teacher had passed away. Instead of finding a new school, he decided to help run a shop in the marketplace.
We also found an abundance of men selling all sorts of raw gemstones that were ready to be set in jewelry. Most men in Banyuwangi interestingly wore an assortment of giant gemstone rings, bracelets, and necklaces. One lady selling garlic and fruit gave zero fucks and was clipping her toenails on top of her goods. In another stall, chickens were essentially slaughtered and chopped before us on tabletops. It is truly enlightening to see how different marketplaces are around the world and this one had so much charm.
Later, by chance, we even came across a random parade of tremendously costumed locals. They came marching down the street while strutting along on horses. A local child came up to me and said, "Ladyboys" while pointing at the parade marchers. I guess you will notice that regardless if you glance at my photos below though, haha.
Something interesting I noticed about East Java was the abundance of birdcages outside houses. Because of this, crickets were sold on many street corners. Additionally, we came across a motorbike chicken seller who dyed his baby chickens Easter egg colors. What the actual fuck? Well, when in Rome, right? Why not play with them?
I honestly think Banyuwangi was my favorite day of the ten day trip because it was an authentic experience and not touristic whatsoever. The people were real/genuine and not hungry to sell us things - their charm was contagious. For example, as we were wandering by the seaside, a local fisherman invited the three of us into his living room, gave us some snacks, and befriended us. He told us about the area, his life as a fisherman, and introduced us to his nine month pregnant wife (who gave birth the next day). In America, I cannot imagine a random person just inviting someone in their house off the street for a snack. It was moments like that which provide me with copious amounts of wanderlust. Traveling and discovering the warmhearted humans of the world are what makes the world so interesting to me and keeps me going.