bus. Hotel Nuri 7,000 Rp ($8.50). Next day booked a train to Jakarta--one day in the backpacker heaven of Yogya was enough. Travelled 'business' class (only available) but in reality it was the same as 'economi', 11,000 Rp ($13.50), depart 8.30am and 9 hours of bliss and once again took videos sitting at the back and also great pics and flicks of the vendors and busking bands who just about filled the carriages. The vendors shouting 'pop-mee, pop-mee, pop-mee' (instant noodles), 'kofi, kofi, kofi'', 'nasi, nasi, nasi', (rice in a banana leaf), 'minum, minum, minum, (drink) 'aqua, aqua, aqua, (water) or it sounds more like 'aquack-quack-quackq-quacka!' Then there are all the other vendors selling anytime you can think of--from sunglasses and peanuts to religious books--walking thru the carriage, muttering their sales pitch quietly like a prayer, depositing items in passenger's laps (even the sleeping ones) and then collecting 99.99% of them on the return their way back. And the passengers never complain even though they might be woken up by the amount of stuff being heaped onto them--you rarely hear a complaint or a harsh word in Indonesia--live and let live. This was how it was on all classes of trains in Indonesia and it was an incredible experience to travel like this and reminded me of my train hopping in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania when the Berlin Wall came down. Fulfilling a long-time 'nostalgia' then for the hobo days of the great depression, an experience beyond my reach in that I was born too late (and in Eire, not America) and such freedom is only possible these days in riding the trains of the so called third world.
Aug 10 2009: Arrived in Jakarta as the sun was setting into the smog and walked all the way from the station to the Jalan Jaksa area and after some difficulty I found a dirty dive to sleep the night--one night was enough and next day went to try and find a train west to the port of Merak but had no luck there. A scary looking little fella asked me if I wanted to accompany him to the bus station and we got a bus 15,000rp and I paid his ticket.
Two hours on the bus and then by ferry for Sumatra and another two busses to Bandarlampung. Both of these busses operated scams: Outside the ferry terminal there was a line of beautiful modern coaches and well dressed touts to match, cajoling the people to step aboard while the busses revved up and beeped their big air-horns and flashed their headlights (like brassy whores, flashing their eyes to tempt the unwary) and as soon as each bus was full and we thought we were on our way the noise and action stopped and we were all bundled off and into a bus behind that was more like a rusty old box of broken windows on wheels. The interior was a mess of tin and plywood patches and it looked as though some crazed wild animal had run amok in there, taking bites out of the seats and exposing the filthy stuffing that was hanging out of everything! I watched these bus touts acting out the same scam over and over as they quickly filled and emptied their busses as passengers alighted from the ferries. However, as usual, nobody complained.
The second bus: I hopped on and paid for a fake ticket - not the first time in Indonesia, it's a common scam operated by thieves all over the terminals. Just as the bus pulled out the real man came aboard and demanded the fare. 'STOP THE BUS!' I jumped out and ran back along the road to the terminal and found the scammer about to board another bus. I gave his head a bang against the bus and, in the ensuing struggle to get into his pockets his baggy pants fell down (I doubt my poor Irish mother would understand this!) I shook out the pockets and retrieved my bundle of rupiahs and threw the rest of the cash (and his pants) into the wind to blow about the terminal.
Cruel? I am not a violent person and I must admit I felt a bit sorry for the thief as I jumped onto another bus and looked back - he didn't know what to do with his hands - whether to hold his sore head or cover his wedding tackle!
I stayed a night in Bandarlampung and next morning caught the only train to Palambang--same style as the Java trains but unbearably overcrowded, slow, dirty and HOT! The 'spray & wipe' has only half caught on in Indonesia--plenty of spray but no wipe and everything is coated in filth for want of a little scrub. Bathrooms, hand basins, light switches, door handles etc.. Even on the trains--the employees will walk the length of the train with a BIG bottle of spray, kick open each toilet door and just spray regardless of any squatting occupier! The spray does little for the unbearable smell that wafts out through the carriages.
Very little freedom of movement on that Sumatran train and some really mean and aggressive officials too. The 13 hour journey cost 16,000rp. Met up with some uni students and spent the night with them at the Palambang University campus. The place was absolutely infested with mosquitos, probably due to the waterlogged and dirty toilets and open drains that ran around the campus courtyard. I've never taken protection against malaria and the irony was that some of the students left us to spend the night with a colleague in hospital who had a serious dose of the disease. They said malaria was very common at the uni--it didn't seem to occur to them it may be due to the mosquito infestation. I left with my million bites and lumps for the port early next morning on the back of a motorbike. Before leaving at 6 am hundreds of kids arrived and started chanting their lessons--the noise was incredible and it seems the Uni was also a junior high school.
At the port there was a karaoke competition in full swing even at that early hour--women of all ages and all happy and laughing and wearing the headscarf. They were all giggles like a gang of school kids and hysterical with laughter when one lady fell through her chair. They had a big entertainment hall with a stage right there in the port office and a large video screen with the film clip and lyrics on display. They wanted me to sing and even though I declined they gave me one of the snack boxes that were on