Jakarta to Surabaya
Trip Start Apr 30, 2004
88Trip End Jan 28, 2005
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Where I stayed
checked out and walked a mile to Gambir train station. It's still quite early (7.30am) and at the far end of the station, where we first enter, the filthy floor is strewn with tiny, rag clothed children and their mothers, fast asleep. They are skin thin and all black from dirt. Seeing children of similar ages to Joe, Tom, Finn, Holly, Poppy, Gabe, Louis and Breesha existing like this, is a hammer to the heart. It's an all too common sight, but never any less shocking.
The platforms are crammed with people, nowhere near as packed though, as the trains that shoot staight through the station while we wait. We don't get many train surfers, on the IOM Steam Railway, so it was some sight, seeing hundreds of people sat on the domed roof, shouting, whistling and waving as they sped by. The trains were so absolutely packed, they looked like people magnets that had been dropped into a box of people and pulled out again.
The 10 hour train to Surabaya is comfortable, with reclining seats, but the aircon is icy.
Our last view of Jakarta is of the vast slums on the outskirts, a sea of corrugated iron only broken by the occassional glimmering slver miranet of a mosque. Due to circumstances, we haven't given Jakarta the attention it possibly deserves but I have to say we won't be rushing back.
The northern train route across Java turns out to be flat, fertile and fairly featureless. Endless rice paddies dotted with tiny, very basic sun shelters, with colourful flags on long sticks distinguishing one from another.
At Surabaya station, the train was greeted by the bizarre sight of a man playing a large electric organ on the platform. It made me think of Dad, who used to have a similar organ when we were small. I had visions of him sat playing as people jump off the electric tram at Laxey Station (don't dismis the idea straight away Dad, it could be a goer).
The usual routine of searching for accomodation, dropping our backpacks and finding a meal, goes like a dream and by 11pm, despite the noise of the TV in reception, that's what we were having.
Expenses (16,500 rupiah / pound): Breakfast 6000, crisps 3000, taxi 10000, dinner 133,000, accomodation 87500
Sun Aug 08 - Day 98
The Hotel Paviljoen occupies a large, spacious, old colonial villa. It's clean, well run and has friendly helpful staff. The rooms surround a lovely garden courtyard, containing two large trees, ferns and lots of shrubbery. Lets not get caried away, it's no Raffles, but it's very pleasant.
Our room is large, tiled throughout and with its own Mandi. No, I didn't pay for something extra, down here a bathroom is called a mandi. In fact a mandi is a lrage water tank with a plastic scoop, the water in the tank is kept clean, you stand by the side and scoop the water over yourself. Don't by shares in mandi, it's not going to catch on.
Outside each room is a table and two chairs, the table always has glasses and a flask of tea (it's tea colour). Breakfast is free, consisting of 2 slices of thin wite bread each and a small container of marg and pineapple jam. No expenses spent. But the courtyard in the morning is sunny and alive with birdsong.
We catch a local battered bus to the area around Tanjung Perak Harbour. A man attempting, but failing miserably to make music with a wooden, lidless box with 3 strings tied across the top, walks up and down the aisle between stops. He's also wailing, it's not good but the relief of him stopping to pass round his cup means he does OK and jumps off. He's immediately replaced by a boy of about 10, who has a small piece of wood with 2 bottle tops either side, loosely fixed so they sort of rattle. He taps this against his leg while softly singing. He's much better than the first act but people have used their coins and he doesn't fare so well.
Surabaya, with a population of 2.4 million is the second largest city in Indonesia, and the capital of East Java. It also has an enormous port and is home to the Indonesia Navy.
Near the harbour there are scores of small travel agents selling all manner of ferry trips. After a couple of hours back and forth we surface with two tickets to Flores. PT Prima Vista run a ship between Surabaya and Kupang on Timor, stopping at Flores on the way. It leaves Tuesday at 7pm.
Becak's are everywhere in Srabaya, three wheeled, pedal powered, people carriers. The back half where the driver sits is bicycle, the front 2 wheeled section is a canopy covered double seat. Often brightly painted and adorned with bells and bits, they are built to receive Indonesian body frames. It was a tight fit, the welding was working overtime.
It's a big city, with traffic and pollution to match. There are substantial six lane, one way highways, interconnected by a myriad of old town roads and alleyways. We sample them all on our ride back to the Paviljoen. The becaks are very manouverable, and the drivers pay no heed to traffic lights or one way systems. The pace is slow, allowing time to absorb all the sights, sounds and smells of the place.
We're back in the world of waving, smiling and people shouting 'Hello Mister' and 'Love you Missy'.
A change of rooms at the hotel means, smaller, cheaper and further away from reception and the TV. Ten minutes walk away is the enormous Tungjungan Plaza, a shoppers and diners paradise. A huge choice of eateries with a variety of prices to match. Fast and cheap internet is also available. It's safe to walk to in the dark, the only dangerous part is crossing the six lane race track road. This was easily the most difficult road to cross so far. Hold hands and edge across, a lane ata a time, hoping the interweaving mopeds spot you. We were taught at school to 'Always use the green cross code' by an over muscular man in a cape and tights (the green cross code man wore that, not our teacher). If you used it here, with the unrelenting traffic, you'd be dead before you got across.
With our mosquito net set up, and a few rogue ones flip flopped, I enter Mandi before bed.
Expenses: Accom 66000, lunch 95000, phrasebbok 69000, internet 48000, supermarket 22500, tea 15000, bus 2600, charity 1600, becak 10000, boat tickets Surabaya to Flores, 1st class 700,000
Mon Aug 9th - Day 99
A slow and easy morning, is followed by lunch at the Plaza. We give in to the Pizza Hut temptation, they have a help yourself salad bar, which we feel would be good for us, nutritionally. Oh, they also sell big, fat, cheesy pizzas. There's a definite logistical skill to getting the maximum amount of salad into a bowl. I took the approach of building a green pepper and lettuce perimeter ring fence, which gave me extra depth and support for the central mound. Rene opted to fill and squash, fill and squash, with lettuce and sweetcorn at the base and the bulky potato salad and croutons on top of the pile. We couldn't pick a winner. With the bowl in one hand and a large plate places upside down over the mound, they are swiftly inverted leaving the bowl empty and the salad spreading slowly across the plate. A 15000 (95p) monster salad bargain. While we were eating, a Chinese woman, obviously a professional salad bowl filler, returned to her seat with an incredible pile, top hatesque. Only our British Isles reserve stopped us from standing and applauding.
We squash into a Becak for the ride to the Pelni ferry Office, to double check information. The driver was either and old looking 70 year old or a youing looking 90 year old, it's hard to tell. It's a tough job in the heat and smog, especially on small inclines where they have to jump off and push, we'd jump off and help but we're too tightly packed to move.
We take a walk and see monuments and old buildings, but its scorchio so we board another becak and head back. The young driver gets completely lost and stops four times to ask directions. Every road and alleyway we didn't see yesterday, we ride down today. It was great, the 15 minute ride took 45 minutes.
Later, sat outside our room, I'm joined by a Chinese man, whoses also staying at the hotel. Rene's inside, under the mossy net reading. He's about 60 and works in Singapore for a Japanese petro chemical firm. He's single and from what he tells me, spends his weekend and holidays travelling round S.E.Asia in search of sex. He's amgry because the manager, who he's obviosly asked, wouldn't allow him to bring a prostitute back to his room. He tells me all this, very matter of factly, as if talking about sport. I've told him I'm married, but he still tells me which bar to go to and how much it will be. I ask him if he's worried about HIV and AIDS, 'condoms' was his reply, which I suppose is something. He chain smoked and chain hoiked and he gave me the creeps. The only thing about him that made me smile was his name, which no word of a lie was, Kock Chong Pat. As he left on his lechorous nocturnal hunt, I silently hoped no desperate young local girl would fall prey to Kock's cock tonight.
Expenses: Accom 66000, lunch 56000, becak 20000, internet 16000, dinner 100000, cake 23000