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Introduction

Blitar - Kelud volcano lava dome

Blitar - Kelud volcano lava dome

© theo1006

Blitar is a quiet town in East Java with approximately 150,000 inhabitants. All Indonesians know it as the birth- and burial place of Ir Soekarno, the father of the Republic of Indonesia. Blitar deserves to be better known among foreign tourists, for it has something to offer for various interests. Close to the town is located the Penataran temple complex, dating at least from the 12th century AD. There are a cave adventure and several unspoilt beaches south of town. An hour's drive to the north lies scenic and active Kelud Volcano. For those who like to roam the countryside, there are seven lesser Hindu temples as well as several sites of historic and scenic interest to be sought out.

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Sights and Activities

Candi Penataran

Candi Penataran is a former Hindu temple complex and the largest in East-Java, situated south of Kelud volcano at 450 m elevation. On the 1.3 ha grounds the remains of a score large and small structures have been found. It is fortunate that many of them are dated. Thereby it is known that site was already in use at the time of the Kediri kingdom (1135-1222 AD) and buildings have been added throughout the reign of the Majapahit kings (1294-1429 AD). Like of the Trowulan ruins, it was Raffles who first ordered an investigation of the Penataran site, he visited it accompanied by a Dr Horsfield in 1815. A partial restauration was effected in 1917 and 1918.

The main buildings to see are:

  • The bale agung, considered to have been a meeting place. It lies on the left of the entrance and only a base with floor remains, 1.5 m high. The pillars and roof likely were made of wood.
  • The pendopo teras, where ceremonies and offerings took place. This also now consists of a base only, the sides being elaborately decorated with reliefs of edifying stories (next tip). The pendopo is dated 1297 Saka (1375 AD).
The Year Number Temple

The Year Number Temple

© theo1006

  • The so-called Year Number Temple (Candi Angka Tahun) is the most completely restored temple. It derives its name from the year, 1291 Saka (1369 AD), on its lintel.. It is also called Candi Brawijaya, because the East-Java Brawijaya divison of the army has adopted it as their symbol.
  • The Candi Naga or 'dragons temple', named after the dragons or snakes which decorate the upper edge of the temple body, the roof is missing. The snakes are supported by effigies of what may be kings, nine of them. This temple may have served the same function as Pura Kehen in Bangli (Bali) and Pura Taman Sari in Klungkung (Bali), viz. for storing sacred objects or for sanctifying objects belonging to the king.
  • The Candi Induk or main temple. This originally stood within a walled space, but the (probably brick) walls have disappeared. Three levels or storeys have been restored, but the roof could only be partly assembled and stands at your left when you face the main stairs. The walls of the three storeys are decorated with scenes from the Kresnayana and Ramayana tales.
  • When you have reached the back of the compound, a short walk down to the right leads to the Kolam Berangka or 'dated pool'. This bathing place carries the year 1337 Saka (1415 AD).

Other Sights and Activities

  • Istana Gebang - Parental home of the late president Soekarno. Address: Jalan Sultan Agung
  • Makam Bung Karno - Mausoleum of the late president Soekarno. Address: Jalan Slamet Riyadi
  • Penataran museum - Museum of artefacts from the Hindu era, adjacent to the Penataran temple complex. Address: Jalan Penataran 11, Penataran village, Nglegok district, Hours: Mondays closed, Fridays from 8:00am to 11:00am, other days 8:00am to 2:00pm, Price: A voluntary donation.
  • Blitar - Goa Embultuk

    Blitar - Goa Embultuk

    © theo1006

Embultuk cave - A great underground river adventure! About 1.5 kilometres long with several rapids, wide vaults, deep pools. No wonder that before leaving the guide asks whether one can swim. One has to bring swim-wear and beach shoes. Walking barefoot on the rock bottom hurts, and shoes that fit loosely one may loose in sucking mud. For photo’s bring a waterproof camera; don't risk your ordinary camera in this cave! As the water comes from the surface, it is not quite clean; the river carries driftwood and coconuts. One enters where the river surfaces and one walks upstream. The location where the river goes underground is not easily accessible. Certainly not by following the cave farther upstream, because then one has to crawl and dive. So the tour ends when progress is no more possible and one returns the same way. That farthest room, 1.5 km from the entrance, is home to bats and shrimps. A historical note: In this selfsame cave people hid when – after general Suharto took power – the military hunted alleged communists. Address: Tumpakkepuh village, Bakung district, Blitar regency, Price: Guide with stormking lamp charged IDR 25, 000 in April 2010

Gunung Kelud after the 2014 eruption

Gunung Kelud after the 2014 eruption

© theo1006

  • Kelud volcano - A scenic volcano with an eventful history. Administratively it belongs to Kediri regency. It can be reached by car, both from Blitar and from Kediri. Since the February 13th 2014 eruption, a lake has replaced the lava dome inside the crater and the scorched crater is slowly turning green again. Address: 30 kilometres north of Blitar., Price: Foreign visitors: IDR 25, 000
  • Tambakrejo beach - The largest and most popular beach south of Blitar, but actually a fishermen's village and harbour between two estuaries. If you walk west and manage to cross the river, there is a stretch of deserted sandy beach. Address: Tambakrejo villiage, Wonotirto district, 35 kilometres from Blitar.
  • Pehpulo beach - Also referred to as 'Pasir Putih Sumbersih' (White Sand of Sumbersih). In a bay a couple of 100 metres wide, no habitation nearby and no food stalls. Accessed by a 'rabat' road, i.e. two concrete strips. Address: Sumbersih village, Panggungrejo district, 45 kilometres southeast from Blitar
  • Pangi beach - A sandy beach in a deep bay of 200 metres wide. On walking distance (1.5 kilometres) from Embultuk cave or 4 kilometres from the cave by car, but you have to walk the last 300 metres anyhow. A few houses and a warung nearby. As a bonus a fresh water shower at the western end.
  • Candi Simping - This Hindu temple was inaugurated in 1321 AD to celebrate the deïfication of the first king of Majapahit, Raden Wijaya. Some 40 years later it was damaged by an earthquake and restored. But nowadays only the base remains. In the compound an attempt to restore the top and a lot of loose blocks. Address: Sumberjati village, Kademangan district, 7 kilometres due south of Blitar
  • Candi Gambar Wetan - Located in Gambar Wetan plantation on the southern slopes of Kelud volcano. The remains of the temple seem to have been reassembled haphazardly. But the drive to get there - north from Penataran temple across a checkdam - offers interesting views. Address: Gambar Wetan plantation, Nglegok village
Sawentar Temple

Sawentar Temple

© theo1006

  • Candi Sawentar - Sawentar temple, locally also referred to as Candi Cungkup - was discovered in 1915. The temple now stands in a dugout, the base had been covered by sand from Kelud volcano. It was restored to it's present condition in 1992-3. The top could not be reconstructed, an attempt stands at the side. The temple is remarkably devoid of sculptures, it looks as if it was left half finished. A pair of wooden doors originally closed the entrance to the inner chamber, as can be seen from the bearings in the threshold. A seal on the ceiling inside proves that Candi Sawentar was built in the Majapahit era, a more precise dating has been impossible. The function of the temple is supposed to have been as a place of worship. Indeed, in our time followers of the Hindu religion still come here to pray. From the similarity of Candi Sawentar with Candi Kidal near Malang, it may also be inferred that Candi Sawentar was built during the Singhasari dynasty, preceding Majapahit. Address: Sawentar village, Garum district, 15 kilometres east of Blitar.
  • Candi Kotes - Kotes temple consists of two sites, Candi Kotes I and Candi Kotes II, a short walk apart. Of both temples just an andesit base remains plus several altars. These probably were covered with a roof made of wood, because there are some footing stones for wood pillars but not enough blocks for a bigger stone structure lying around. Both bases carry a date in Javanese script, 1223 Saka (1301 AD) and 1222 Saka (1300 AD) respectively. This would agree with the story that king Vijaya, the founder of Majapahit kingdom, went in exile here when his rule was challenged by a rebel named Jayakatwang. The temples would have been a gift to the local population in reconnaissance of their support. Another source states that they are monuments in memory of an aide to the king who died here. Maybe both explanations contain some truth. Address: Kotes village, Gandusari district, 20 kilometres northeast of Blitar via Garum and Sukosewu village.
  • Candi Watu Tumpuk - . The site is close to the market of Pagerwojo village.]Watutumpuk, or in Javanese Selotumpuk, means 'heap of stones'. It is an apt name for these ruins; the stones have been haphazardly heaped together to the semblance of the original temple. Reliefs of a kala head and partial human figures give some indication what it may have looked like. According to an Indonesian source on the internet, the temple was destroyed in 1965 by vandals who hated it (1965 being the year of Suharto's coup and suppression of leftist organizations!). But locals still take care of the site and its elevated location makes the trip worthwhile for the views. Address: Pagerwojo village, Kesamben district, 45 kilometres east of Blitar
Lintel of Plumbangan Gate, year 1312 Saka

Lintel of Plumbangan Gate, year 1312 Saka

© theo1006

  • Candi Plumbangan - Candi Plumbangan is not really a temple but a gate. It must have given access to a walled precinct, but none of this remains. The gate has been restored in colonial times and the site is well kept. On the lintel of the gate can be seen the year 1312 Saka (1390 AD), which would date it when Wikramawardana had succeeded Ayam Wuruk to the throne of Majapahit. However, at the entrance of the site stands a prasasti (stela) that is much older. This carries the year 1042 Saka (1120 AD), when Bameswara ruled the kingdom of Kediri. The inscription declares that the Buddhist community of Plumbangan was perdikan, i.e. exempt from paying tax to the king. One can only admire the scholars who deciphered the almost illegible lettering. The word perdikan has the same root as modern Indonesian merdeka = freedom. Address: Plumbangan village, Doko district, 25 kilometres east of Blitar.
  • Historic Site Rambut Monte - The route from Blitar via Wlingi, Selorejo and Batu to Malang is the longer one, but the most scenic. The road winds between two volcanoes, active Gunung Kelud and dormant Gunung Kawi. The site Rambut Monte is a convenient stop in the pass between the two. Of the Majapahit era temple remains only a heap of stones. Next to it is a lake with crystal clear water, fed by a spring. That source must must be the reason why the temple was built here. Swimming with the fish not allowed, but there is a swimming pool if you feel like it - the pool sides are slippery and the bottom muddy. Address: Krisik village, Gandusari district, 15 kilometres from Wlingi at 500 metres east of the road.
Relief at  Mleri Museum

Relief at Mleri Museum

© theo1006

  • Historic site Mleri - The historic site (Kekunaan in Indonesian) Mleri is also referred to as Candi Mleri, but this is a misnomer. It is not a temple, but a royal burial ground, more precisely it is thought to be the place of the pendharmaan (deification) of the third king of the Singhasari kingdom, Visnuvarddhana. That would date it back to 1280 AD. But very likely the site was in use earlier. A prasasti (stela) carries the year 1144 Saka (1222 AD), and on the backside of a statue of the god Durga is carved the year 1102 Saka (1180 AD). So there is no temple here, but various andesit statues and reliefs standing around and kept inside the small office. Traditional Javanese still come here to pray for a blessing. Some believe that the 'white tiger' statue comes to life on certain nights. Address: Bagelenan village, Srengat district, about 10 kilometres west of Blitar near the Bagelenan mosque.
  • Nyunyur lake - Telaga Nyunyur or Waduk Nyunyur is an artificial lake fed by the runoff from Kelud volcano, located about 1 kilometre off the scenic road from Wlingi to Selorejo. Next to the dam is a shady picnic site with a modest warung. The elongated lake with a footpath along each side remains a green and cool oasis on a hot day. Address: Nyunyur plantation, Soso village, Gandusari district, 10 kilometres north of Wlingi.
  • The Trisula monument -

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Getting There

By Train

Trains from Yogyakarta to Malang and v.v. stop at Blitar. Usually there are four trains daily in each direction. For schedules consult the official PJKA website, in Indonesian, or the Tiket.com website in English. Tikets can be prebooked at most railway stations and on both websites. For the PJKA website you need an account at an Indonesian bank, on the Tiket.com website you can use a foreign credit card but pay a charge.

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Eat

  • Depot Pacific - Middle-of-the-road Chinese-Indonesian restaurant. Good food at low prices. Located a few paces from Hotel Tugu. Address: Jalan Merdeka 161, Phone: +62.342.806 324
  • Waroeng Mak Nyak - A garden restaurant where you can see the dishes prepared in the half open kitchen. Traditional as well as innovative Indonesian food and drinks, reasonably priced. Address: Jalan Ir. Soekarno 184 (near Makam Bung Karno), Phone: +62.342.779 3000

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Sleep

Hotel Tugu Blitar - Core of the hotel is a former government building dating from 1850. Showpiece is the Sang Fajar Suite, where the late president Soekarno used to stay. If you can't afford that room, you can still pose for a picture with his hat and walking stick. Excellent eclectic restaurant, very amiable English and Dutch speaking staff. No pool. Address: Jalan Merdeka 173, on walking distance from the railway staion, Phone: +62.342.801 766, Price: From IDR 185, 000 in 2010

Hotel Patria Garden - The 'garden' consists of a long strip of land, decorated Balinese style; at the back one is far from the noise of the street and can still park in front of one 's room. Similarly decorated is the open breakfast room, serving an excellent buffet breakfast. Only the bathrooms are a far cry from those in Bali. Address: Jalan Batanghari 1, Sukorejo (1.5 kilometres from the railway station), Phone: +62.342.807 222, Price: From IDR 250, 000

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet is becoming more widely used in Indonesia, and warung Internet (warnet) - Internet cafés - are emerging everywhere. A lot of restaurants and cafés in big cities normally have wireless internet available for free. Internet connection speed in Indonesia varies between ISP and location. Prices vary considerably, and as usual you tend to get what you pay for, but you'll usually be looking at around Rp3,000 to Rp5,000 per hour with faster access than from your own mobile phone. In large cities, there are free WiFi hotspots in many shopping malls, McDonald restaurants, Starbucks cafes, 7 Eleven convenience stores, and in some restaurants and bars. Some hotels provide free hotspots in the lobby and/or in their restaurants and even in your rooms.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

You can use 112 as an emergency number through mobile phones. Other numbers include 110 (police), 113 (fire) and 118 (ambulance).
The international phone code is 62.

If you have GSM cellular phone, ask your local provider about "roaming agreement/facility" with local GSM operators in Indonesia (i.e.: PT Indosat, PT Telkomsel, PT XL Axiata). The cheapest way is buying a local SIM card, which would be much cheaper to call and especially use internet compared to your own cell phone's sim card.

The Indonesian mobile phone market is heavily competitive and prices are low: you can pick up a prepaid SIM card for less than Rp 10,000 and calls may cost as little as Rp 300 a minute to some other countries using certain carriers (subject to the usual host of restrictions). SMS (text message) service is generally very cheap, with local SMS as low as Rp129-165, and international SMS for Rp400-600. Indonesia is also the world's largest market for used phones, and basic models start from Rp 150,000, with used ones being even cheaper.

Post

Pos Indonesia provides the postal service in Indonesia. Pos Indonesia is government-owned and offers services ranging from sending letters and packages to money transfers (usually to remote areas which have no bank branch/ATM nearby) and selling postcards and stamps. Sending a postcards, letter or parcel is relatively expensive, but fairly reliable. It takes several days at least to send it within Indonesia, at least a week internationally. It is recommended to send letters from a Pos Indonesia branch, not by putting it inside orange mailbox (called Bis Surat) in the roadside, because some of the mailboxes are in very bad condition and aren't checked regularly by Pos Indonesia. Opening times of post offices usually tend to follow general business hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm (sometimes shorter hours on Fridays), Saturdays from 8:00am to 1:00pm, closed on Sundays. Bigger cities, tourist areas and central post offices tend to keep longer hours, into the evenings.

Private postal services based in Indonesia include CV Titipan Kilat (CV TIKI), Jalur Nugraha Ekaputra (JNE), Caraka, and RPX. There are also foreign postal services that have branches in Indonesia, including DHL, TNT, UPS, and FedEx.

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This is version 114. Last edited at 21:21 on Nov 5, 19 by theo1006. 3 articles link to this page.

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