The province of East Java, extending from Mt. Luwu in the west all the way to the Bali Straits, yields rich rewards to those willing to put a bit of extra effort. This is Java's most varied province, and it consists some of the island's most splendid scenery. From sleepy ports to thundering volcanoes, from ancient temples to vast wildlife reserves, East Java offers supreme chances to get off the beaten tourist track. The Majapahit dynasty based in and around East Java, began the foundations of an empire that was to dominate the entire Indonesian archipelago, the Malay peninsula and part of the Philippines, also establishing profitable trade relations with China, Cambodia, Siam, Burma and Vietnam. As power in Central Java declined in the 10th century, powerful kingdoms rose in East Java to fill the power space. Between 1055 and 1222, the kingdom of Kediri prospered and expanded. During the reign of King Airlangga both East Java and Bali enjoyed a profitable trade with the nearby islands, directly relating to a period of artistic development and mastery. Parts of the Mahabarata epic were translated and re-interpreted to conform closer to an East Javanese philosophy and view of life, and it was from this era that East Java inherited much of its treasure of temple art. Today the open air amphitheatre at Pandaan tells some of the stories of this glorious past, with performances against an impressive backdrop of distant volcanoes, capturing the spirit of the province's culture and scenery. East Java's claim to fame in modern history is its vanguard role in the struggle for independence against colonial forces in 1945. Little of the Majapahit Empire's former glory still stands in East Java, however, with the exception of temple ruins and some archaeological discoveries. Nevertheless, East Java has a variety of attractions, ranging from temple sites to beautiful, unspoiled beaches, awesome volcanoes, picturesque highland lakes, colourful marine gardens and fantastic wildlife reserves. Magnificent mountain scenery includes the crater and legendary sea of sand at Mount Bromo, the "sulphur mountain"s of Welirang and the rugged Ijen Plateau. The island of Madura, famous for its bull races, is also part of the province and has its own traditions and even a different language. The provincial capital, Surabaya is second in size, population and commerce only to Jakarta. It is also the most industrialized province in the nation with a strong economy based on agriculture, fishery, oil industries, coffee, mangoes and apples.
Up until 20th century, the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya was the largest and most important seaport in the archipelago. It still ranks second ( after Jakarta's Tanjung Priok ) with more than 400 years of colourful history behind it. Surabaya is known as a city of heroes because of the momentous first battle of the revolution in November 1945. Although the local rebels were driven out by the better equipped British troops, they inflicted heavy casualties and proved that independence could be fought for. The most interesting areas of the city are old Arab and Chinese quarters not far from the harbour ( Tomb of Sunan Ampel, Hong Tik Hian Temple, Red Bridge, Heroes Monument ).
Measuring some 160 km in length and about 40 across at its widest point, Madura supports a population of close to 2.3 million inhabitants, most of whom are farmers or fishermen. Although the island is a part of the province of East Java, it is home to a completely separate ethnic group, which has its own language and customs. Renowned over the centuries for their sailing prowess, the Madurese are a tough, high spirited people, whose character appears well suited to the harsh climate and dry landscape. Madura's most famous attraction is the annual bull racing ( kerapan sapi ), which takes place after harvest season, during the dry season in August and September. These exciting and colourful tournaments consist of a race between two pairs of bulls, each team pulling a rider and sled. Following a series of heats, which take place in different parts of the island for some weeks, the highlight of the season occurs when the finals are held in Pamekasan, Madura's capital. Given the central role played by the bull in rural Madura, it is easy to understand the general eagerness for bull racing. Bulls that show racing potential are exempted from the toughest work, and lead a pampered life in comfortable stables. A champion brings great honour upon the owner and even his whole village.
The most popular and well known of East Java's tourist attractions is undoubtedly Mount Bromo. The pre-dawn departure and trek across the mountain's famous 'sand sea', to watch the sunrise at the crater rim, has become something of a ritual, enacted daily by people of every nationality. Bromo is actually just one crater in the vast, 800 km2 Tengger massif, which forms the largest of East Java's five main volcanic ranges. The Tengger Range is one of eight official nature reserves in East Java and centres around the peaks of Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru. Most of the area is more than 2000 metres above sea level, Mount Semeru itself being Java's highest mountain at 3,676m Bromo has gained its reputation partly because of its unique location and partly through the reverence shown to it by the local inhabitants. The steep slopes of active volcanoes Semeru and Bromo have been home of the Tenggerese people for several hundred years. The only group of people on the island who are Hindu, they are believed to be descendants of the Hindu-Buddhist Majapahit kingdom that fell in the 15th century. As Islam swept trough Java, Hindu priests and aristocrats fled to Bali, Blambangan and the Tengger highlands. Today, the Tenggerese maintain a unique form of Hinduism mixed with animism and live as farmers working the productive farmland on the slopes of Bromo.
The Ijen plateau lies in the centre of the Ijen Merapi-Maelang Reserve, which extends over much of the mountainous region directly west of Banyuwangi and borders on the Baluran National Park in the north east. The volcanic cone of Ijen dominates the landscape at the eastern end of Java. Crater of Ijen is filled by a spectacular turquoise blue lake, its surface streaked in wind-blown patterns of yellow sulphur (and is without doubt among the most impressive of East Java's natural wonders ) . Kawah Ijen is the world's largest highly acidic lake and is the site of a labour-intensive sulphur mining operation in which sulphur-laden baskets are hand-carried from the crater floor. Many other post-caldera cones and craters are located within the caldera or along its rim.
A privately owned plantation with an elevation of 450-750 m above sea level, on the slope of Mt. Merapi covering a 2.500 acres of land producing coffee, rubber, cocoa and spices. Cloves begin as flowers on the clove tree, cinnamon is ground bark, pepper grown on vines and nutmeg like golf-ball size pears hanging on broad leafed trees, are to be seen. Touring the plantation is a trip through a vast, exotic spice machine process which ends with neat packages ready for export.