A common perception of Madura is one of stubborness, coarseness and fiery tempers. A temperament to match the island’s arid climate. Historically it has had an uneasy relationship with Java, and tensions are still evident on either side of the Suramadu Bridge.
Whilst visitors will most likely not experience this enmity they should notice a stark contrast nevertheless. Colourful batik clothing is everywhere and many women are resplendent in vibrant sarongs and kelambi (blouses). Although Bahasa Indonesia is spoken widely, Madurese is the lingua franca and serves as the gateway into a unique culture of which the indigenous population is rightly proud. Picturesque mosques dot the landscape and colourful street art adorns many nooks and crannies.
In short, stepping onto Madura is akin to stepping through a portal to some alternate dimension which is not quite Indonesia. This self-contained, brusque nature manifests itself in an extremely friendly welcome. There is not much in the way of shyness: An impromptu chat on a bus, an invitation for coffee or the offer of a bike ride will make strangers feel at home. It may well be tinged with curiosity – not many people visit Madura, after all – but never intrusive.
Accommodation tends to be at the pricier end of the budget spectrum. Although prices are liable to change they are correct at the time of writing.
- In Bangkalan, Hotel Ningrat (Jl. KH Mohamad Kholil) is the only choice to speak of. Expect to pay 310,000IDR for an ensuite room. It’s a 5km, 20,000R angkot ride from the bus drop-off point at Tangkel. Call +62 31 3095388.
- Sumenep has slightly more choice. Hotel Utami Sumekar (Jl. Trunojoyo) is a good central option, with ensuite rooms from 160,000IDR including breakfast. It’s a 45-minute walk from Terminal Bus Antar on the town’s outskirts or a 20-minute ride on a becak rickshaw. Call +62 328 672221.
- Visitors to Pamekasan should try Ramayan Hotel (Jl. Niaga). Ensuite rooms cost 210,000R and there are plentiful food stalls and sights within easy walking distance. Call +62 324 324575.
- Pick of the bunch in Sampang is Hotel Trunjoyo (Jl. Rajawali). With ensuites from 150,000R, the hotel is a five-minute minute walk from Bus Terminal Sampang.
For a tasty regional specialty, try rujak, a salad dish mixing vegetables with peanut sauces, cassava chips and subtle spices. Find it at roadside stalls and watch it made from scratch using the traditional flat Indonesian mortar and pestle.
There are many warungs around the football stadium in Bangkalan, with a bowl of mie goreng, above, typically costing 20,000R.
There are many warungs dotted around the football stadium in Bangkalan, with a bowl of mie goreng, above, typically costing 20,000R. The setting is typical of food markets the world over and, for the first-timer at least, is perhaps best experienced by picking an eatery that hold the most superficial appeal–the colour of the stools or the smell or cleanliness, say–and seeing what’s what. As is the way with such things, patrons will eventually find their favourite spots and thus, is a bond forged ‘twixt diner and stallholder.
Visitors familiar with Indonesia will know full-well the effortless talent that goes into food preparation and the ease with which even the simplest meal can provide glimpses of the divine.
In Sumenep Pondok Salero (Jl. Tunojoyo), pictured left, offers fine, cheap Padang-style food while the stalls down Jn. Sedulang deliver piping hot sate with peanut sauce for 15,000R. Those looking for bakso should visit Warung Galipat on Jl. KH Wahid Hasyim. Amble down bustling Jl. Niaga in Pamekasan for street eats, cafes and wandering minstrels with guitars. Some tasty offerings in Sampang can be found opposite the general hospital on Jl. Rajawali.
(Bahasa Editor: If you want a takeaway, use the word ‘bungkus’. For example, to ask for fried rice to go you could say, ‘Tolong, saya ingin nasi goreng bungkus’. Don’t forget, the Bahasa word for food is ‘makanan’ and drink is ‘minuman’.)