Who needs brakes when you have a horn?!

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Phew… what a long two days we have had!! We left Bali on the 1st bound for Java and having already bought our tickets this was our plan: get a shuttle bus from Ubud to the bus terminal in Denpassar, pick-up our tickets from the counter, get on the coach at 3pm, enjoy a lovely 18 hour bus ride over to Java, get dropped off at the shiny new bus terminal in Yogyakarta, get a taxi to our guesthouse. Hmmm… things didn't go quite according to plan though, but don’t worry we made it here safe and sound. So we managed to get all the way to the shuttle bus without a hitch, however when we get off and tried to collect out tickets we got pounced on by touts. And I literally mean pounced on! They were trying to pull our bags off our back; the driver of the shuttle bus had to come over and explain that we already had our tickets and that we wouldn’t be buying anything off them. So once we had our tickets we headed over to the waiting area, which was basically just a big tin shed. It was packed with people and we were acutely aware that we were the only Western people there, but it was okay because there was a TV showing an Indonesian programme called Bread and Love, so we settled down to watch that and no-one seemed any the wiser that we couldn’t understand a word of it. We did have a bit of a fright when we saw a guy nearly get beaten to a pulp by three touts when he refused to let them carry his bag for him; they seemed genuinely shocked that he wanted to carry his own bag and it almost came to blows when he wouldn’t pay the touts any money. It was a stark reminder that we are completely out of our comfort-zone over here and we really have no idea of how the world works outside of our little bubble at home.

Next we had to figure out which was our coach. There were dozens of buses coming in and out of the terminal and no-one was able to help us because they didn’t speak English, the closest we got a couple of people saying 'later, later’ and pointing to one of the buses. Well we managed to finally get on our coach and all we could do was pray that we were on the right one. Our coach was really nice and came with reclining seats, feet rests, air-con and a toilet (more about that later), so we felt like we were traveling in the lap of luxury! There was also a TV which played non-stop Indonesian karaoke videos at an ear-shattering volume, which tried our best to sing along to although we tired of it after the 4 hour mark. The drive through the country was beautiful and we now really feel like we have traveled the length and breadth of Bali. At about 7pm we came to the ferry crossing over to Java and this was where the fun and games really started. It became apparent that not many tourists do this kind of trip through to Java because no-one (and I mean no-one) could speak a word of English. As soon as we got to the ferry terminal the bus was flooded with people selling food and drinks and we had no idea what was going on. Then suddenly all the passengers got off the bus and we were the only ones left on it. We tried to ask the driver if we should get off but he just smiled at us blankly and kept saying ‘Indonesia, Indonesia’. So we decided to stay on the bus and not get off it unless we really had to; the bus driver seemed quite happy with that and he drove us on to the ferry. About this time I was bursting for the loo so I decided to use the one on the bus, considering how nice the rest of the bus was I figured it would be okay. Oh how wrong I was! Now I understand that while I’m in Asia I will have to use an Asian toilet and I don’t have a problem with that at all. However this was an Asian toilet with a leaky wash-hose and the water from the tank had swished around while we were driving so the floor had flooded and considering that this was my first encounter with an Asian toilet, I didn’t quite know what to do. But hey it’s all part of the traveling experience and I have lived to tell the tale so I am happy with that!

We then decided to get out of the bus and go for a look around the ferry; it is a very sobering experience to suddenly be in the cultural minority and we got stared, pointed and laughed at wherever we went. Especially when we got fleeced into paying £3.50 for two cheap-arsed Pot Noodles at the food stall; even the woman behind the counter was shaking her head and laughing at us while we handed her the money. Back on the bus we arrived in Java and set out on the long drive to Yogyakarta. It was shame to be driving through a new country for the first time at night because we couldn’t really see much of the scenery, but we could immediately sense how different Java is to Bali. Coming from a Hindu country to a Muslim country the style of housing, the clothing, the places of worship were all so different and we were really looking forward to seeing Java in the daylight. The next 12 hours went by in a blur of horn-beeping, broken sleep and freezing under the air-con vent. I know I have said it before but the style of driving in Indonesia is crazy; people only use the brakes in absolute dire emergencies, they beep at everything including dogs, trees and especially mopeds, they overtake anything that moves and light roadside fires to warn you of broken-down vehicles. Although at first it feels like you are taking your life into your hands, after a while you get used to it and realize that the vehicles are actually just like fish weaving in and out of each other… it shouldn’t work, but it just does. Having bought ourselves the world’s most expensive Pot Noodles, we were quite surprised when we pulled over at about 9pm and where given a free meal at a roadside café…. Little Chef it wasn’t, but there were tons of prawn crackers and tea so we gladly tucked in.

We woke up at about 7am and cuddled down under our blankets thinking that we had another hour or so to go before we arrived in Yogykarta. However, ten minutes later the bus pulled over at an office on the side of the road and everyone piled out. We sat there quite content thinking: ‘Hmm I wonder why all these people are getting off the bus in the middle of nowhere, oh well we’re staying on until Yogykarta’.  When the bus driver got back on the bus he seemed quite shocked to see us still sitting in our seats and starting signaling that we needed to get off. We were shaking our heads, trying to tell him that we were going to Yogya’s main bus terminal and pointing at our map. In the end someone had to come and translate between us and the driver and we found out that the bus wasn’t going to the bus terminal at all; it was stopping here, in the middle of nowhere, on the side of some little street on the outskirts of the city. At that precise moment complete and utter panic set in. We had literally just woken up and now we were being dumped, along with our bags, outside of the city center and we didn’t even know the name of road we were on. But we had forgotten one thing… this is Asia and there are taxi drivers on every single corner. So we ended up getting a taxi mini-bus to our guesthouse and, feeling pretty peeved, we bargained hard, got a good price and didn’t back down when the driver tried to overcharge us! Finally booked into our guest-house we fell asleep for the rest of the day and got some great food in the evening at a local warung… thank god for warungs, they can cheer you up no end!       
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