Triumph and Troubles in Java
Trip Start May 20, 2010
195Trip End Sep 05, 2011
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Where I stayed
Day : 105
Temperature : 33 degrees
Weather : Sunny, humid
We arrived in Jakarta on our Lion Air flight at around 10pm, jumped into a Bluebird Taxi, and made our way to the Jalan Jaksa area of Jakarta. The hotel which we had picked from our Lonely Planet thankfully had a room available. Finally after 18 hours of travelling at around 12.30am we were both in a comfy bed heading for dreamland.
Our main task for the following day was to try to extend our Indonesian visa. We woke up not so bright and breezy at 7 am ready for the task ahead. After much confusion with the driver regarding the location of the office (as a result of a printing error on the map in our trusty bible!) we arrived at the Central Immigration Office in Jakarta at 8.30am.
We dutifully paid the fees, filled the forms, and smiled ever so politely as we were sent from office to office to office, and were told to take a seat for the umpteenth time....and still nobody could tell us whether we would need to return in one day or in 5 days to collect our passports as had been the procedure in other offices we'd enquired in.
Finally, after over 3 hours of waiting we suprisingly emerged triumphant, with a little stamp in each of our passports which allowed us to stay in the country until the 8th of September. We quickly headed back to our hotel, checked out, grabbed some food, and headed to the Kalideres bus terminal to catch a bus to Labuan on the west coast....and that's when the nightmare began!
As soon as we got out of the taxi the mobs of touts arrived. "where you go?", "come here!", "you go this way!"....we were surrounded, they grabbed us by the arms, pulling us this way and that. Although this was extremely annoying we weren't too concerned at this point since we have had plenty of experience over the years of travelling with persistant touts.
We found a bus going to our destination, hopped on board, squeezed into the grubby seats and paid our 100,000 Rp fee. Then things started to deteriorate. Several hawkers boarded the bus selling food and drink, which of couse none of the locals bought because they were fasting. We were prime targets. The sellers encroached right into our personal space with their faces inches away from ours. Food was shoved into our laps as we were "encouraged" to buy. They wouldn't take no for an answer and their demeanor was becoming more and more aggressive. The group of men sitting immediately behind us all joined in, and together they laughed and jeered. Our clothing, sunglasses, bags and watches were all eyed up. Just as one hawker left, another man approached us demanded we pay 500,000Rp! Again, his behaviour was intimidating and aggressive as he towered over us only inches away, clearly without any friendly intentions. We pleaded ignorance claiming we didn't understand and finally he left. A third man approached from the group of men behind. He asked for money for food in the same way. We avoided making eye contact and shook our heads. He continued to lean over the seats, laughing and jeering with his friends who all seemed to be in on the "let's get the foreigners" affair. We were starting to feel extremely uncomfortable.
The bus conductor, who had also been part of the group of men brought his mobile phone to us, telling us we had a phonecall. We refused to take the phone from him. He pushed the phone our way. We refused to take it. The mob behind us continued to talk about us. Five minutes later, another phonecall for us. This time I took the phone....it was a guide looking for business. I firmly but politely refused and handed the phone back. The mob continued to talk about us. At one stop a man boarded the bus, had a quiet word with a local who was sitting next to Kevin, pulled him out of his seat and pushed him down the aisle and then sat in the seat next to Kevin. The local man who had been sitting next to Kevin didn't argue! A few minutes later we were given the hard sell on guiding services. Again, we tried to keep conversation to a minimal and declined. The guide gave up and left. The mob continued to jeer and laugh. We were constantly harassed for hours.
Finally, we neared Labuan 2 hours late just after darkness had fallen. The bus pulled into a petrol station and we were told to get off. We were completely confused as this clearly wasn't a bus station, or Labuan town...we were in the middle of nowhere. As the doors on the bus opened, half a dozen men jumped on the bus and ran towards us shouting. They crowded around us, pushing and shoving, and we sat startled as we had no idea what was going on. We somehow managed to get off the bus with our bags as the new mob followed. They were joined by more men on motorbikes. It then struck us that we had been deliberately dropped off out of town, so we would be forced to take a ride with these men on their motorbikes at a complete rip-off price!
We pushed our way passed and walked off down the street in the middle of the night, with no clear idea of what to do. The mob continued to harass us and they circled us on their motorbikes. I managed to hail down a passing truck and plead with him to take us to Carita, but the mob descended on him and warned him off....he clearly didn't wan't trouble so he drove off. We found a stall at the side of the road and moved into the light. We took out our phone to call the hotel but there was no reception. Even the local women in the roadside stall joined in the laughing and joking. We walked off down the street. By this point I was very frightened and Kevin was definitely worried. The group of men continued to circle us on their bikes, shouting at us, and at one point started pushing Kevin.
We found another minibus that wasn't in use, and asked for the driver. He finally agreed to take us to Carita, but for a price of 100,000 Rp, when it should have been 10,000. At this point we didn't care, we were definitely feeling targeted and threatened. We jumped in the minibus with our bags. Two other local men also jumped in, and this did nothing to appease my fear. We were driving off in the middle of the night...there were 3 of them and 2 of us! Thankfully they did take us to Carita and dropped us off at our hotel without any fuss, but by the time we arrived I was on the verge of tears. Six hours of constant harassment was all I could take. We have never, ever, felt this threatened when we have been travelling in the past.
We checked in to the hotel, grabbed some food, headed back to our room, locked the door and slept soundly. Thank goodness our ordeal was over!
We had come to Carita to see if we could join a group going to the Krakatau volcano. Unfortunately it became obvious the following morning that the hotels in Carita were deserted and the area was dead. We would have to charter a boat and ths was going to cost well over £100 which is too much for our meagre budget. In addition, Krakatau was sleeping, and was not even letting out a puff of smoke. Perhaps it would have been different if the monster was spewing lava and belching out towers of smoke, but we decided to give the volcano a miss this time, and we decided to head back to Jakarta.
We caught a school bus which was filled with local children and headed north. This was a much more pleasant experience than the previous day, as the kids tried to chat to us using their English phrasebook. From Cilegon we boarded a bus to Jakarta. As it happened, the bus went through a town close to the airport. A quick decision was made and we jumped off the bus, hailed a taxi, and headed to the airport. We went to the nearest ticket office and asked for the next available ticket on the next available flight going to anywhere!
So, here we are, about to board a Garuda Indonesia flight!! Yikes!!! Not a good time to mention Garuda's safety record!! So, if you don't hear from us again, it was nice knowing you all! :-) xx