Header image courtesy of Shenny Fierdha
The idyllic charm of Malang, East Java, has been a magnet for both domestic and international travellers for years. Whether you are craving for a bowl of authentic warm meatball soup ‘bakwan Malang’, or simply wanting to enjoy the city’s cold climate, there is always a good reason to go. If Texas has a saying that goes, “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” then Malang can proudly say, “Everything’s prettier in Malang.” Although it is not an official saying, everything in Malang is beautiful—just take a look at Kampung Tridi and Kampung Warna-Warni Jodipan, two kampongs painted in multiple bright colours that provide instagrammable backgrounds for your photos.
Merely 20 kilometres away from Malang, or 45 minutes by car, another city called Batu is ready to fascinate you. It used to be a part of Malang regency for a long time, before officially becoming an independent city in 2001. Its places of interest include a transportation museum known as Museum Angkut and Batu Secret Zoo. If you are visiting Malang or Batu, you better go to both cities for a complete travelling experience. Here is our backpacker’s guide to exploring Malang and Batu.
These colourful and thematic kampongs were once slum areas, but today they are among the city’s tourist-packed destinations thanks to their multi-coloured appearance. Kampung Tridi and Kampung Warna-Warni Jodipan are actually neighbours and there is a glass bridge connecting the two kampongs. The bridge, that passes over the Brantas river, is the tourists’ favourite spot to take pictures.
Nothing is black or white here as everything—the walls, roofs, even streets—is literally painted in red, yellow, green, blue, and other vibrant hues. Three-dimensional images of cartoon characters and superheroes decorate the walls, making the overall atmosphere joyous and playful. Rows of rainbow umbrellas, which are hung on wires above the streets, provide some shade for everyone walking below.
There are two ‘alun-alun’ or city squares in Malang, and one of them is Alun-Alun Merdeka Malang. This green open space right in the heart of the city features tall shady trees, a dancing fountain, playgrounds, and a lot of street eats. Satisfy your hunger with ready-to-eat snacks such as chewy balls made of tapioca starch and smothered in savoury peanut sauce ‘pentol’, fried tofu sliced in half and stuffed with shrimp paste ‘tahu petis’, and more. Make some room in your stomach for a bowl of hearty ‘bakwan Malang’—a traditional soup consisted of meatballs and noodles.
Some top-rated restaurants are scattered around Alun-Alun Merdeka Malang, only minutes by foot. Depot Rawon Nguling offers ‘rawon’ which is a beef black soup originating from East Java, while Rumah Makan Gloria serves Chinese ‘cwie mie’ noodles.
Jawa Timur (Jatim) Park I, II, III are three family-friendly amusement parks in Batu and each has its own theme. Jatim Park I is an 11-hectares-wide amusement park that boasts dozens of fun rides, namely Superman Coaster and Sky Swinger. It also has a six-storey interactive museum about the human body and how it works called Museum Tubuh Bagong.
Jatim Park II is all about the animal kingdom with its Batu Secret Zoo as the park’s highlight. The 14-hectare zoo has hundreds of animals and is a home to a number of exotic white lions. Next to the zoo is Museum Satwa, a wildlife museum that displays preserved animals and fossils.
Last but not least, Jatim Park III covers an area of 16 hectares and features a famous Jurassic-themed attraction, Dino Park. In addition, it has a special zone called The Legend Star that shows wax figures of the world’s top celebrities and politicians, as well as replicas of popular international landmarks including the White House (US) and Taj Mahal (India).
In Indonesian, ‘angkut’ means to transport, and thus the museum’s name speaks for itself. Museum Angkut—another tourist attraction of Jatim Park Group—is a museum that houses a massive collection of cars, aeroplanes, and other modes of transportation in Batu. The vehicles are grouped in different thematic sections such as Runway 27 that exhibits aircraft of various models and sizes, also Gangster Town which showcases classic American cars lined up on an NYC-like street during the mafia era.
Just like Malang, Batu also has a public square worth visiting known as Alun-Alun Batu. Strategically situated in the middle of the city, you cannot possibly miss this green open space. Giant statues shaped like three apples stand near Alun-Alun Batu’s entrance, representing the city’s number one commodity. Meanwhile, dozens of pushcarts and stalls selling street foods can be found right across the street. Some of the delicious delights are Hong Kong-style egg waffle, also traditional sticky rice dish topped with grated coconut and soybean powder—‘ketan kelapa bubuk kedelai’.
Most foods in Malang and Batu are very cheap, starting from IDR 10,000 per meal. You will find the cities’ delicacies everywhere—from well-established restaurants, public squares or alun-alun (of course!), to humble kiosks on the streets.
The easiest way to get to Malang is by air, as there are direct flights from several cities in Indonesia to Malang. You can also catch a train from Stasiun Pasar Senen or Stasiun Gambir in Jakarta and stop at Stasiun Malang Kota Lama or Stasiun Malang Kota Baru. To continue your journey to Batu, you can book an online taxi. If you are feeling adventurous, just rent a motorcycle for IDR 70,000 per 24 hours.
While you are in Malang, you can stay at Sufelir Room Hostel Syariah in Lowokwaru district for IDR50,000 per night, or Homestay K10 Syariah also in Lowokwaru district for IDR 60,000 per night. In Batu, you can stay at Kos Harian Sugih Waras in Junrejo district for IDR 50,000 per night, or Sahabat Backpacker in Ngaglik subdistrict for IDR 85,000 per night.