Never in my life I imagined doing a road trip to Bali, until pandemic happened. Hubbie has always wanted to do road trip to Java which I always refused. My motto is if we can fly why should we bother driving and spending hours and hours sitting inside a car. When pandemic broke followed by countries shutting down border one after another, our Government also followed the trend and imposed something like a lock down.
Our family was doing not too bad on staying at home and not going anywhere that year. We were somewhat paranoid and we also just came back from Iceland. Compare to others who haven’t gone on holiday at all that year, we were the lucky ones who managed to have one just before. We went for a short glamping getaway to Lembang in Trizara Resort with a lot of precaution. Come January 2021, we come to realization that covid is not going to go away soon and we have to adapt to stay sane. And that means we need a break and have a holiday. Flying is not an option because children below 12 years old were not allowed to fly and the risk of catching Covid at the airport and on the plane is not small either. Plus we were paranoid period. Our option is road trip and as Hubbie has always wanted to do road trip, we thought Let’s do Bali. Surely driving to Bali is less harder than driving thru Iceland snow storm lol.
So if you open Google Map, the distance between Jakarta to Ubud Bali is 1,185 km and it requires 19 hour driving non-stop. Obviously we are not going to drive non-stop as Hubbie is the solo driver. We would break the journey into 2 nights to reach Bali. Java Toll Road is simple and a straightforward road. However the toll road stopped in Probolinggo and from there on, you had to continue through Pantura Road to reach Ketapang Ferry Port in Banyuwangi. We have accommodation booked for Bali only and decided to wing it for the road trip part.
D-day! We left our house around 9am (later than what we planned lol) and drive to Semarang with a stop for lunch in Purwakarta to eat their famous Sate Maranggi. Jakarta-Semarang is 6.5 hours driving and after many stops we reached Semarang around 6pm. We were already hungry, so we drove to Gombel to have dinner in Alam Indah Restaurant. Gombel area is situated in the upper part of Semarang where you can see a beautiful view of Semarang city lights at night. We stayed the night at Novotel Hotel.
We checked out around 9am after breakfast and continue driving to Situbondo. We took a break at a Rest Area outside Surabaya which has a mosque for Friday prayer and Restaurant for lunch. Pantura road was busy as usual with a lot of trucks. It was already 8pm when we reached Situbondo, so we decided to stay in the area instead of pressing thru to Banyuwangi which was still 2 hours away. We stayed the night in Rosali Hotel, 20km away from Pasir Putih Situbondo. Rosali Hotel is a complex of hotel room and villa surrounded by a large garden.
After breakfast in Rosali Hotel, we drove to Ketapang ferry port (around 2 hours) and take the ferry to Gilimanuk (30 minutes). We had lunch in Gilimanuk and continue driving to Ubud (3.5 hours) where we have booking for Villa Kayu Manis in Sayan.
Today is Nyepi Day so we cannot go outside out villa and asked to remain quiet. Hotel is still providing the usual service. So we had our breakfast, lunch and dinner inside our Villa.
Bali is still very quiet because this is still Nyepi Holiday but we are already allowed to continue normal activity and go out.
Check Out Villa Kayu Manis and move to Karma Kandara
Day at the Beach
Check out in the afternoon and drive back to Gilimanuk to cross to Banyuwangi. We stayed in Kokoon Hotel, a new Hotel situated in the center of the city. It was already dark when we get to Banyuwangi so we went straight for dinner in Pesona Seafood Restaurant. This place has really good food! The seafood was fresh and tasty. It’s not super cheap but average for seafood prices in Indonesia.
We’re going to explore Banyuwangi. Visiting Pantai Boom and Baluran National Park. Pantai Boom, located only 2km away from the city center, is a famous place to see sunrise and a hang out place for local people. Pantai Boom has many instagramable spots, one of them is the spiral bridge. There is also eco adventure park and harbour. Once a year there is a popular dance festival “Gandrung Sewu” attended by at least a thousand dancers.
From Pantai Boom we stopped to buy sego bungkus for lunch at Baluran National Park.
The Baluran National Park is known as the African Savannah of Java. The savannah (Zona Bekol) turns brown in the dry season and the park is surrounded on one side by the sea and ringed by hills and Ijen volcano. You can expect to see buffalo, antelope, monkeys and peacock roaming in the savannah. The best time to visit the National Park is either in the morning or close to sunset time.
We left the park before dark and stay the night in Goya Hotel Probolinggo. There are not many good hotel option in Probolinggo. Situbondo is actually a better chooce to spend the night.
Check out Hotel and drive to Surabaya to have lunch in Layar Seafood Restaurant and dessert at legendary Zangrandi. Both Restaurants are one of Surabaya culinary legend. From there we continue to Semarang and stay the night there.
As this is the last day of our Road Trip, we took time to do morning walk in Semarang Old Town, my favourite area of the city.
If you are in Semarang, don’t miss visiting Semarang Old Town (Kota Lama Semarang). Kota Lama is a cultural heritage area where we can see many old and historic buildings from the Dutch Era. At that moment, the area was the center of government. The architecture of the buildings is in European style with large main doors and windows, decorative elements, and high ceilings. There are some interesting spots to visit such as Blenduk Church, Taman Srigunting, Jiwasraya Insurance Building, Outdetrap Building, Semarang Art Gallery, De Spiegel, Marba, and so on.
For those who like walking, strolling around the corners of Kota Lama is very interesting to do since you can walk comfortably in the pedestrian area. You can also take a regular tour organized by a touring community. On a weekend evening, you can enjoy the atmosphere of Car Free Night along Jl. Lt. Gen. Suprapto.
From Semarang we drive thru toll road to Cirebon and stop in the rest area Heritage KM 260B. The rest area was once a sugar mill factory and now converted into rest area which has various restaurants and shops.
We took another stop in Cirebon to eat Mie Koclok. Most places only start selling Mie Koclok for dinner but Mie Koclok Pak Rasita is one of the few who open for lunch. From Cirebon we drive back to Jakarta (around 3 hours) and arrive before dark.
Tips, What to Know and Prepare
- As Hubbie is the solo driver and I don’t have a valid driving license, we take a break every 2-2.5 hours to ensure he’s not sleepy or tired. We have plenty of drink and snacks in the car.
- We were traveling during pandemic time so we are extra discipline with hygiene. We carried disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer and installed air purifier in the car.
- We carefully chose Hotels which practices good Covid 19 Health Protocol and take extra careful when we eat out for lunch and dinner
- Semarang is actually not an ideal stop in term of distance from Jakarta. If we were to re-do the trip, I would leave home earlier and stay the first night in Surabaya and the second night in Banyuwangi so we can cross to Bali in the morning.
- Banyuwangi has a lot of major attractions and is worth to stay for more than just 1 day . We couldn’t go to Ijen on this visit and only finally went on our second visit. Even then we still haven’t explored the small islands and the beaches there. So if you are doing road trip like us, allocate at least 3 days for Banyuwangi.
- Situbondo area is interesting and famous for their beach (Pasir Putih). We stayed in Rosali Hotel, which I highly recommend but if you want to stay in the beach front location you can stay in Utama Raya Cottage. They have a big rest area and we went there for dinner on our way back to Probolinggo. We should’ve just stayed the night in Situbondo instead of Probolinggo because the hotel choices in Probolinggo is more limited.