Train vs. Bus in when Traveling in Indonesia

Trip Start Nov 17, 2009
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Trip End Sep 05, 2010


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Where I stayed
Bladok's Losmen

Flag of Indonesia  , Yogyakarta ,
Thursday, January 14, 2010

WW and I left Pangandaran Beach on a 6:15 AM bus to Sidareja, where it was our plan to catch a Business Class train back to Jogjakarta. A couple of old Dutch expats who hung out at a Pangandaran café and pined for Heineken ("Zere is sumzing zey poot in dees Bintang zat deesagrees wid me") said there was a morning Business Class train there to Jogja.  They disagreed passionately about the time it departed, so we resolved to get there early.

And early it was.  Our bus left Pangandaran at 6:15 and arrived in Sidareja at 7:30. The train schedule said our train would depart at 12:27.  So we headed out for breakfast and stumbled into the wrong place with delicious results.

It was a Padang restaurant.  For those who do not know what Padang food (named after a city in Sumatra) is, the food is prepared in advance off site and brought to the restaurant, where it is displayed in a glass case.  Food prep is ongoing throughout the day.  The customer points at what s/he wants and it is served to them—at room temperature—and each item costs about 5000 rupiah (about 50 cents) per individual serving.

WM cannot get his head around eating food prepared hours ago and cooled, thus generally avoids Padang food.  In this case there was no sign indicating Padang food, and no telltale glass case in the front.

Anyway, we sit down and a woman comes out looking confused.  We ask if there is breakfast, and her husband answers—as men generally do—with many important and puffy words, none of which are familiar to WM, and no head nodding or head shaking cues that are helpful in extending the fluency of WM's communication skills in Bahasa Backpacker.

Then she says “Chicken? Rice?” in Bahasa Indonesian and we say “OK”.  She brings us each a large plate of rice, then a fried tempe mix with what looked like green vegetables (turned out to be all chiles), and a bowl of coconut milk broth with two half chicken breasts, a hardboiled egg (may have been a duck egg) and tofu.  It was a huge amount of food.

At that point WW noticed a glass case in the corner, and suggested that the woman was preparing Padang food for later in the day.  So we may be the only travelers you ever heard of that ate piping hot Padang food, and it was terrific, although attention must be paid to separate the tempe from at least most of the chiles.  Free hot tea, two cups of coffee, whole meal cost $1.75 each.

Then back to the train station where, thanks to our breakfast break, our wait was reduced to 4 hours.  Until noon we were the only bule in the station, which resulted in a horde of schoolchildren 8-10 years old racing up to “Hello Mister” us.  WM played English word games with them, and the adults lurked nearby, eavesdropping for their free English lesson.

Then we took turns Wandering in the local market across from the station, with a couple of pics below.

When given the choice of bus or train, ALWAYS take the Business or Executive Class train.  NEVER take the Economy class train (in the US livestock travel better, hell, at least they get their own pens).

Indonesian bus drivers seem to be on better terms with Allah than WM and WW are with Jesus.  They drive in a manner which suggests that they are in one gigantic hurry to meet Him.   WM and WW always sit in the back when traveling by bus. The back door is kept open for breeze, the leg room is greater, and if there ever is an accident we are at the farthest possible point from impact.

Conversely, locomotive engineers have an arrival and departure schedule to keep, no traffic to interfere, and no slow moving vehicles to pass going up mountain curves.  It is a lot more leisurely experience, similar in cost, and feels safer.

We took Business Class, 50,000 rupiah each (US$5) for a four hour train trip.  No potholes, no swerving to avoid livestock, non-smoking, comfortable seating, meal and beverage service (not free) offered.  The windows cranked open at the option of the traveler, and the breeze made the temp quite agreeable.  If we had sprung the extra $$$ for Executive Class we would have gotten A/C, a movie, free meal and beverage, and individual reclining seats.

Economy Class looks squalid.  Tickets are sold irrespective of seat space.  There are often four people in the same size seat WW and I shared, and even more standing in the aisles and hanging out the open train doors.  All men are smoking (constantly) and, while the windows opened, there were men with heads hanging out the windows trying to get a cooler breath. (Who knew that in this steamy tropical clime, the cool air would be outside the train in the midday sun?)  There are many ways a Wanderer can economize when traveling in Indonesia.  Train travel is the absolute worst choice to save a dollar or two.

We arrive in Jogja on time, and walk through the touts back to Losmen Bladok, chieck in, and take a cool swim in their very nice pool.  It is the evening of Wednesday 13 January, and we leave Indonesia on Friday morning flying direct from Jogja to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia –our 60 day Indonesia visa being close to expiration.  (I suspect WW has a shopping day planned tomorrow.)

Enough of WM’s yammering. Enjoy the pics.
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