Jember’s fashion carnival has plenty of local and overseas admirers.
While enjoying this fanfare is highly recommended, there are other sides of the city that tourists should be familiar with, especially when their visit does not coincide with the carnival or when the event is over and one is looking for other things to do.
What to ride
Although cars are everywhere on the streets of Jember, the majority of its residents use motorcycles or becak (pedicabs) to get around.
The option to rent a car or a motorcycle were there during my recent visit there, but I found that the best way to explore the small city was to use the service of pedicabs.
Jember has a taxi service, but I found that the long periods I spent waiting for one suggested that the fleets are small in numbers. If you still prefer to use a taxi service, book several hours in advance and do prepare a backup plan if the cab fails to arrive at the designated time.
Pedicabs, on the other hand, are very easy to spot. The becak drivers I encountered during my 3 nights in town were all very nice and friendly.
Most of them were even too shy to mention their fare and preferred that I give them the first price.
The ones in Jember train station, however, were more aggressive and might test your bargaining skills. Nevertheless, there are limits to bargaining and it is just fair that they get a good price for their hard work, so do have a heart.
The average fare starts at Rp 15,000 (US$1.31) per adult from Jember’s train station to one destination in town.
During the peak days of JFC, the fare increases a bit but still within reasonable limits.
The wonderful thing about becak rides in Jember is, not only did I find it to be safe and the best transportation to enjoy Jember’s nice cool air at night, but also most of the time the driver was willing to go several places, even wait on you, hence you will get a great value for money.
Pedicabs win during the JFC as well, because at that time cars are blocked from entering many roads.
Where to hang out
According to local Novy Natalia, the hip spots to be these days are the Jember’s alun-alun (open public plaza) and the area near Jember University with lots of road cafes and food stalls.
The stalls offer various fares from local and traditional East Javanese and Indonesian foods to western inspired dishes in lesehan style, where visitors sit on the walkway-covered with a carpet or other materials- instead of the usual chairs or seats.
According to her, these humble establishments, whose majority of patrons are university students, stay open until around 3 in the morning on weekend nights.
What to eat
On my first night of exploring in Jember, my becak driver recommended to me Jember’s most famous bakso (meatballs with clear soup): Bakso Solo Sampurna on Jl. Diponogero 83.
I found his recommendation to be spot on. A bowl of Bakso Solo Sampurna was only Rp 11,000 with the option of savoring it with lontong rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves. Another bonus is the scrumptious fried wontons sold at the same establishment.
Where to go
It will take about 1 or 2 hours from Jember to reach the outskirt areas in which plenty of tourism attractions are located. These include the Meru Betiri national park, beaches, mountains and the turtle conservation area at Sukamade.
Jember is neighbor to plenty of beaches with the most popular being Pantai Tanjung Papuma beach, also known as Pantai Pasir Putih Malikan -the white sand beach.
This beach is said to have been famous since 1920 during the Dutch reign. Europeans and the Dutch in particular are said to visit the beach to relax.
Rizky, a tour guide, told me that another beach called Pantai Nanggelan, was even more beautiful than Papuma.
But he also said that reaching the secluded Nanggelan beach is a much harder task than reaching Papuma.
Rembangan, which is located in higher ground, offers fresh and cool air and a terrific city lights view at night. A visit to the coffee plantation in this area is also an option but visitors must do it during working days.
Last but not least, travelers, your next hop from this carnival city can include an adventurous trip to the breathtaking Ijen Crater the Bromo Mountain for its magical sunrise.
What to bring home
Head to Jl. Gajah Mada where lots of shops sell around more or less the same culinary souvenirs that are said to be Jember’s signature snacks.
Suwar-suwir, fermented cassava cut into small shapes and sometimes mixed with chocolate flavoring, used to be the favorite.
However, this snack’s popularity is currently shadowed by Prol Tape, a cake made from fermented cassava.
Prol Tape can come in its original flavor or topped with cheese.