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Majestic: Mt. Bromo from the Pananjakan area. The East Java mountain has inspired several commercial products.
An automobile manufacturer from Munich, Germany, finally produced a limited edition of the BMW Individual 7 series. The luxury cars, totaling only five, were specially designed after their creator was inspired by the beauty of Mount Bromo in Probolinggo regency, East Java.
Learning about the launch of BMW’s latest design from the media, Helmer Becker, 40, a citizen of Nuremberg, Germany, was immediately interested to visit Mt. Bromo with his wife, Nina, 37.
“I’m a BMW enthusiast and always keep up to date on the newest models. After reading the interior and exterior concept of the latest series, I decided to go and see Mt. Bromo, and this is my first visit,” he said, showing several photos he had taken to The Jakarta Post a few weeks ago. “I like watching the sunrise; it’s a splendid spectacle.”
The designer of the BMW Individual 7 series was Didit Hediprasetyo, an Indonesian fashion designer now living in Paris. He was the first Asian to design the birth of new BMW series. A graduate of the Parson school of design in New York and Paris and winner of the 2006 Silver Thimble Award, Didit is now on a par with Versace or Giorgio Armani, both of whom previously produced designs for BMW.
The success of the man, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Fashion Design in 2007, in designing the BMW series has not only brought him international fame but has also introduced the beauty of Mt. Bromo to the world. However, not all visitors to the mountain were aware of the news.
“I’ve just heard it from you,” said Steven Wang, a tourist from South Korea, who was savoring rawon rice, a typical East Javanese dish, with boiled beef and spicy sauce, at a restaurant in the Bromo area. Steven paused to try to browse some information on his iPhone but failed due to poor Internet access at the high altitude.
Fried tempeh and salted duck eggs served at the table consoled him, though. “Mt. Bromo is indeed very remarkable. It has gorgeous scenery and the food here is so delicious that the tastes linger,” said Steve.
According to the website lonelyplanet.com, Mt. Bromo is in the top three of the world’s best for climbers using no porters, after Mt. Elbrus in Russia and Mt. Olympus in Greece. It beats Mt. Fuji in Japan and Mt. Sinai in Egypt. Among the world’s top 10 are Jebel Toubkal in Morocco, the Matterhorn in Switzerland,
Table Mountain in South Africa, Ben Nevis in Scotland and Half Dome in the US.
Public transportation: Horsemen cross the sandy “desert” area at Mt. Bromo.
The cultural and religious rituals observed by the Bromo people also inspired the launch of the Argo Bromo Anggrek train as the prized carrier of state railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia, being the only train with special coaches and facilities not found on other express trains.
The executive train with a capacity of 400 seats and luxury facilities, such as a mini bar and karaoke parlor, was launched on Sept. 24, 1997. Operating in Railway Region VIII of Surabaya, the train travels at speeds of between 70 and 120 kilometers per hour, covering the distance from Gambir Station in Jakarta to Pasarturi Station in Surabaya (725 kilometers) in less than 10 hours.
Mt. Bromo’s splendor also motivated Sigit Pramono, a board member with PT Bank Central Asia (BCA), to establish an annual music festival called Jazz Gunung (Mountain Jazz), which now attracts a considerable number of local and foreign tourists. “Pak Sigit actually has the ambition of introducing Mt. Bromo to the world. He often brings his guests here by helicopter to view the mountain panoramas,” Purwadi, a Java Banana Hotel staffer, told the Post.
Java Banana is one of the hotels in the Bromo zone managed by Sigit Pramono. Providing services at various rates from Rp 750,000 (US$79) on up to Rp 5 million per day, the hotel is mostly frequented by foreign tourists, almost half of whom come from the Netherlands and France.
Apart from its comfort, the hotel has a photo gallery presenting pictures taken by Sigit. In 2009, he started a project to record Bromo’s history entitled “The Majestic Mystical Mountain”. “Some of Pak Sigit’s pictures are purchased by foreign guests as souvenirs of Mt. Bromo,” added Purwadi, who manages the gallery.
As a jazz buff, Sigit, along with artists such as Butet Kartaredjasa and Djaduk Ferianto, first organized Jazz Gunung in 2009. The fourth concert, which took place on July 6-7, presented a number of jazz musicians including Tompi, Glenn Fredly, the Ring Fire Project featuring Djaduk Ferianto, Dewa Budjana and Slamet Gundono, Iga Mawarni, Benny & Barry Likumahua, the Damarwangi-Banyuwangi Art Group, Gondho Jazz Trio-Surabaya and the Muchi Choir Yogyakarta, led by Kartaredjasa.
A Bromo tourist guide, Cahyono, says many foreign tourists have troubles finding toilets in the Mt. Bromo tourism zone, as most are at a distance of around 700 meters away. “Bromo’s toilets are unique and almost hidden or almost level with the expanse of sand below, but they’re hard to access,” Purwadi explained.
Opened in 2008 with a total area of 20 square meters, the restrooms were built in the form of bunkers to respect the Hindu beliefs of the local Tengger ethnic group, who regard Bromo as a sacred place. Visitors have to go down five steps to find three bathrooms for women and three for men. A mushola, or prayer hall for Muslims, is also available nearby.
Executive director of the Indonesian Consumer Foundation (YLKI), Tulus Abadi, said the government should build more public toilet facilities in the main tourist area and several other locations. “In general, the conditions of the public washrooms in several urban and tourist zones are very poor with limited access,” he pointed out, adding that no charges should be imposed for using such facilities, which should be regarded as part of the government’s public service.
Probolinggo Regent Hasan Aminuddin promised to improve the public toilets in the Mt. Bromo zone. “We will prioritize the restoration and installation of facilities and the development of village tourism in the Bromo area to draw a lot more tourists,” he assured.
Green tourism: Tourists pick strawberries in a garden at Ngadisari village, Probolinggo.
One of the villages under development is Seruni hamlet in Ngadisari village, Sukapura district, where tourists can view the Bromo landscape as well as Tengger communal houses, enjoy typical aron (parboiled) rice, traditional snacks, and be entertained by locals performing Tengger reog (mask) and jathilan (bamboo horse) dances.
“Development of this tourist village began after Bromo erupted last year.
So far, we’ve been promoting this village to enable tourists to closely observe the daily activities of the Tengger community,” said the head of the Probolinggo Tourism Office, Tutug Edi Utomo.
Ngadisari village head Supoyo Supoharjo said the tourist village had originally been initiated in 2004, but the local government only built the supporting infrastructure in 2007. “We invite tourists to visit Teletubbies Hill. The name of course derives from the children’s TV series to describe the beauty of the hill,” he revealed.
Supoyo claimed that 10,686 tourists had visited Seruni hamlet so far. “The more visitors that come here, the better for the local economy. Quite a number of Tengger people have even returned to the village to manage guesthouses,” he added.
— Photos by JP/Indra Harsaputra