While the Madurese are Indonesia’s third largest ethnic group, Madura itself has no more than 4 million, giving it almost the same area and population as Bali. Likewise, it’s located immediately to the east of Java. There are plenty of lovely beaches and — here, but not in Bali — you can have them all to yourself.
There’s another page on this blog with historical, cultural and travel information about Madura. This is just a few extra megs of low quality home video : ) The first is a day trip we took to one of the smaller islands off of east Madura. The other two document village life in Bangkalan and Sampang, on the west side of the island.
Madura is like a puzzle with four pieces — Bangkalan, Sampang, Pamekasan and Sumenep. (Actually Sumenep is itself a puzzle, with dozens of smaller islands stretching almost to Bali.) Madurese (not too far from Javanese) is spoken in Madura and it’s Muslim. We know that much. Beyond that you kind of have to connect the dots yourself. Perhaps because it lacks a political existence few people seem to concern themselves with either the past or the future of Madura.
Cursed with poor soil, the Madurese have always been the traveling type. So you’ll find them all over Indonesia, including many doctors and lawyers, as well as tradesman and small business owners. Being Madurese in a place like Surabaya, Jakarta or Denpasar might be like being Mexican from Texas. Yes, you’re got some interesting roots, but so does everybody else in this country. For the most part people wouldn’t get it and that would be fine.
If you Google the BPMIGAS map of oil and gas blocks around here, you’ll see that — unlike the rest of greater Java — the island of Madura is entirely obscured . In fact, the Indonesian government has pinned its hopes on projects like Santos’ in Sampang and Husky’s in Sumenep, to reduce dependence of the foreign oil (which it heavily subsidizes to fuel its zoom-happy populace).
But despite that and the bridge, batik tradition, unique architecture, emerald rice terraces fringed with bamboo, awesome seascapes — all of it — you get the sense nothing’s really going on in Madura. Perfect for a semi-adventurous vacation — since sand, sun and sea are hard to ruin — but with this sense that the potential is simply much greater.
Sampang is a fair example. Before it was making international headlines for a Sunni-Shi’ite blood feud (270 refugees whose village was burned still in limbo more than month later), it was already the poorest regency of East Java with only 32 doctors for almost a million people.
Sampang is where you’ll find the rustic cottages and lovely gardens of the Camplong Beach Hotel. Oil and gas operations are visible as night as a massive torches out at sea.