scammed on the first day

despite working in aviation – or maybe because i work in aviation – turbulences distress me. and the flight to surabaya was turbulent. it must have been like an hour into the flight, just as the food cart passed by, when the plane swayed a little and the ‘fasten your seatbelt’ sign flickers on. if not for KH’s jovial attitude, i would have been a nervous wreck.

despite all that, the plane landed on time. before we knew it, we were on a damri bus to purabaya, and from there, to probolinggo. the guy at the airport tourist info counter told us that the last bust to cemoro lawang left at 4pm and by our calculations, we should be able to make it there via a close shave.

the bus dropped us in front of an agent’s office in probolinggo – and a tout by the name of anton told us that the bus would be at 4.30pm. while waiting, we offered us a tour to ijen – a crater lake about 6 hours away from probolinggo. we declined, citing that we wanted to spend more time in bromo.

there is nothing to see in bromo besides mt bromo – he tells us – and that can be done in just one morning. you will be bored.

i took out my guide and told him of the other places around the volcano.

they’re all closed – says anton – volcanic activity, closed to public.

KH and i were stunned for awhile. anton proceed to tell us about the ijen crater. the tour is not cheap either. 400,000Rp for a two day gig, minus park entrance fees. my mental calculations told me that it might be worth considering. one thing led to another, we gave him half the deposit for the ijen trip the next day.

hours later, we learnt that the bromo tengger semeru national park was in fact open. all of it. even the places he said were closed. there is a warning going around about mount semeru being particularly dangerous at this time of the year, yes. but everything else was open. the neighbour mountains. the plains ad savannahs. the lakes. all open.

we called anton from the guesthouse. we wanted the cancel ijen and wanted our money back. anton refused our calls. our guesthouse owner spoke to him and said there was no way of canceling the trip. recalculating our expenses again later that night, KH and i decided to forgo what we lost to anton, stay in cemoro lawang, and stay on course as planned, to explore the bromo tengger semeru national park.

both KH and i have heard of a number of scams there it come to probolinggo. if you are heading there, you should really be very careful of what people say to get you to sign up for their tours. we also heard from one of the people in cemoro lawang that the bus station is also a haunt for pick pockets and snatch thieves. despite what the travel brochure says, probolinggo has few things that would interest the traveller and even if you do stay, it might not be worth the danger posed in this cowboy town. the tout that got to us is anton from makhota travel and tours. his shop is in a tiny shoplot where the patas bus is likely to drop you off if you’re transferring to cemoro lawang. i’m not so angry about the package itself. i’m sure ijen is a beautiful place. it is the fact that he lied to us, and then refused our calls that really got to me.


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