By Tan Yi Hui
Pasuruan, East Java, Indonesia
Forget Jakarta or Bali. There are many other stones to look under in the world's largest archipelago nation of Indonesia.
Take East Java, with rolling mountains and smouldering peaks that will enchant even the most seasoned backpacker.
Head out to the Pasuruan regency - about 60km to the east of Surabaya - along the Surabaya-Malang highway. The journey takes roughly over an hour by bus or train. Taxi rides cost about S$15.
Along the way, treat the kids to a wildlife experience at Taman Safari Indonesia II, located at Jatiarjo village on the slope of Mount Arjuno. Spanning 160ha of nature reserve, animal attractions at the safari include tigers, wild buffaloes, komodo dragons and rhinoceroses.
Recreational activities range from games to animal rides and camps. The admission fee is S$9 per head.
Pasuruan is also the western gateway to Mount Bromo, the main attraction in East Java. It is a dusty grey scape of eerie volcanic plains and smouldering craters.
Singaporean Michael Immanuel Santana, 27, who visited the area with his wife on a day trip, says of the summit view: 'It was awesome.'
The IT consultant recommends a two- day-one-night family trip, which is what they would do if they were to go again with their two sons, aged four and one.
For more sightseeing, visit nearby Tretes, a scenic mountain resort area surrounded by lush greenery and waterfalls. There are restaurants, hotels and bungalows, as well as camping ground facilities.
With its ancient history and rich culture, the island of Java also has much to offer in terms of archaeological sights. For a blast from the past, check out Jawi temple, an ancient relic of Hinduism and Buddhism built in AD1300.
Getting there: Take a two-hour flight to Surabaya (S$323) and travel by train, bus or taxi along the Surabaya-Malang highway for an hour.
Stay at: Tretes Raya Hotel And Resort (from S$75), Inna Tretes Hotel (from S$76), Bromo Cottages Tosari (from S$152)
Cost: About S$1,800 for a family of four, for three days and two nights.
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This article is first published in The Straits Times on August 19, 2008.