Summer Vacation on Java – Part 1

The 2019/2020 school year is well under way here, having started on July 29th. Summer is beginning to feel like a distant memory. The rhythms of a scheduled week are a welcome comfort and the busyness of living with a close community, building friendships is fulfilling. God continues to amaze me in how he teaches and exhorts me through the lives of and relationship with those around me.

Yet, I promised details about our summer trip in Java and although it may be two months late, here is the beginning of those updates. Starting with how we travelled:

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It is both surreal and familiarly comfortable to have visitors from Canada. This June M’s dad and step-mom joined us for almost three weeks. They joined us in the everyday life (non-school days) while Mark finished up in the office and then we traveled by train to the city of Bandung, about 150 km southeast from Jakarta and then further on to Yogyakarta, the cultural hub of the island.

TRAIN:

We chose the train because it guaranteed no traffic delays (the ride was just over 3 hours, compared to 3-6 hours in a car), a little more freedom in movement (and toilet usage) and we could see a lot of scenery.  We paid a little extra for Priority class seating (350.000 IDR or about $33 CD) for the first leg, which means there were screens in the seat backs just like an airplane, food service and a food and drink area at the back of the car. 

I booked our tickets through Traveloka a local online travel booking service. This was very user friendly. I’m actually not sure how else I would have booked, other than calling the train station and my Indonesian is not that good yet.

During the trip, I could not stop staring out the window, there was so much to see. Even through the city areas, it was so interesting to see the life that goes on around the tracks. There are no high fences or signs discouraging you to stay away. Life happens right next to these tracks.

At times the populated areas thinned out and we could see more and more rice fields. Gradually, the land became more mountainous and the train weaved through the foothills of larger volcanic mountains nearby. 

From Bandung to Yogjakarta we took the train again, a 7 hour journey this time. The landscape was similar, a little more mountainous, but the same beautiful country. 

This time we were able to turn two seats so that four people could face each other. This was a nice way to travel with the kids. We did not have video screens to occupy us this time, so it was games and reading and of course looking out the windows.

CAR:

From the first train station we used Blue Bird Taxi. Our villa was a little outside of town, so it was more difficult to get a taxi from there than what we’re used to. The first afternoon we booked a Grab car for 4 hours (something you can do through the app). Our driver turned out to be very kind and helpful as well as speaking decent English. We offered him a similar rate to what we would have paid through the app, but it was all cash in pocket for him and we knew we were getting a good driver. It worked out great!

Bandung sits in a valley between volcanos, so what may look like a quick drive, can take quite a while as you navigate up and down and around all the hills.

In Jogja (as Yogyakarta is known) we had a similar experience with a Grab driver, booking for a shorter period the first day and then hiring the same driver for the rest of our time there. 

We’ve kept these driver’s numbers so that if we ever return, we can hopefully call them and hire them again.

Our first night in Jogja was not quite as smooth as hiring a driver for the day, although that would have made things much easier. 

Grab could not enter the train station parking lot, so we had to exit the station and wait on the side of the road with all of our bags until out driver came. (We chose Grab, instead of the taxi company monopolizing the station, because of the reliable pricing. ) Then we squeezed all six of us and our luggage into the car which brought us to a restaurant for dinner. After dinner we had to order a new car and perform the same stunt. Our destination was a grocery store not too far from where we were. The first driver to show up, decided he didn’t want the fare after all and left. So we waited for another then packed ourselves in. Then we walked through a mall (still with our luggage) to find a grocery store to stock up on food for the next few days before heading to the AirBnB we had booked. After this we again had to wait on the side of the street for a driver to pick us up. This happened to be in the centre of all the evening fun, and the street was very packed. We waited for quite a while as the driver struggled through traffic to meet us. At this point we were getting pretty good at packing six people and our luggage into a small van.

In hindsight, we should have took our Airbnb host’s recommendation to hire a driver for the few hours that we were out, if only for the fact that we had luggage to carry around with us.

It is definitely different getting used to travelling without our own vehicle!

How did we get all the way back home? Take a 10 hour train ride? No way! We took a 1 hour flight back to Jakarta.

A note of warning for those planning to fly into Halim Airport in Jakarta an issue to be aware of is the airport’s monopoly on taxi’s. No matter how large the taxi, we discovered that they will not take more than four passengers. (Perhaps they’d allow you to squeeze a fifth in.) We had to take two taxis for the six of us.

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