Monday, December 10, 2012

On the rail: Jakarta to Yogyakarta by Train

Birthdays are best celebrated with families and friends, with cakes and ice creams with colorful balloons and flowers… and booze for others. I have done that for the past 29 years of my life. And it’s not that I’m tired doing it, it’s just I want to mark my life turning 30 into something different – celebrating it alone, miles away from my loved ones, no fussy celebration – just a moment, must say, a week of self discovering of how I lived my life, in 30 years.  

This is one lame excuse I came up for my solo trip to Indonesia. Honestly, I booked my tickets by mistake – and it was too late when I realized the dates. That’s one problem when you’re in a hurry securing tickets from a seat sale (11-11-11), and doing it at work, when you’re strictly prohibited to access any non-work related sites. Well, a thousand peso round trip ticket to Indonesia on my 30th birthday is not that bad after all.

Nov 12, 2012
NAIA Terminal 3
After my crazy stunt in Bangkok last September, I had to triple check my money before I left my boarding house. Even J had to counter check it, just to make sure I have everything essential I need before I leave the country. Haha.

Well, it seems to me that I begun to love having airport mishaps. While in NAIA, I unknowingly left my passport at the check in counter. I comfortably sat in the food court area, enjoying the barely-there WIFI connection, when I heard my name, echoing in every corner of the airport… the voice was telling me to get my passport at the Cebu Pacific help desk. Tsk. Tsk.

Touchdown: Jakarta Airport (Soekarno-Hatta International Airport) 

Much has been said about the hassle passing through the Immigration in Indonesia – I have read numerous horrible stories about Pinoy travelers being harassed, extorted and worst, suspected to be drug couriers in the country. Just days before my trip, I read one blogger who had yet another untoward Immigration experience in Surabaya. Almost make me backed out from my birthday plans.

Taking things seriously, I made a very detailed itinerary just in case an IO would dare asked the why’s and where’s of my travel. Usually, I travel with my flip flops, but this time, I dressed up properly complete with my shoes on. Paranoid lang. Sleepy and exhausted, I tried to look fresh and respectable in front of the IO – only for him to glance at me in less than a second, checked my passport – and viola! It got stamped – no single word from the officer. *Sigh*

After withdrawing money from the ATM (I used an RCBC My Wallet Visa card), I decided to stay overnight in the airport – and waited for Damri Bus to take me to the Gambir Railway Station the next morning. 

Nov. 13, 2012
Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta
Jakarta doesn’t have MTR or BTS. DAMRI bus transports passengers from the airport to the city. I’m not sure what time they operate but I was able to ride one at around 530am. (20,000 IDR to Gambir Station).

In less than an hour, I reached the Gambir Railway station. It looked a little unkempt from the outside. You wouldn’t even think it’s a railway station – but it appeared different inside. I went straight to the ticket counter, having a very detailed itinerary made it easy for me to tell them my preferred train time – 8am. Destination: Yogyakarta (they call it Jogja). I got an ekslusif class ticket for 355,000IDR. During the planning stage of this trip, I thought of getting an overnight train to save one night accommodation, but nothing interests me in Jakarta – so I decided took the first train of the day.

Gambir Railway Station

One can fly from Jakarta to Jogja, cheaper than taking the train, especially if you get the chance to book it on a seat sale. But train rides can be exciting too. It’s my first time to experience a non-economy class seat. Travel time from Jakarta to Jogja is 8hrs. Can be longer if you take economy train.

After securing my ticket, I had my first Indonesian meal, or should I say, Asian meal – Nasi Goreng it is.

If you have plenty of time and energy, you check out the famous site few steps away from the station – MONAS, Jakarta's National Monument. I saw it on my way to the station while inside DAMRI bus, so I didn’t bother checking it up close.

While waiting for my train, an old couple approached me for some help. They were trying to use their new Smartphone, same unit as mine. They might have seen me using my phone so they asked me to help them out. I had a hard time fixing it, because all are written in Bahasa and they thought I’m Indonesian – actually, it has been always like that for my entire trip. Haha. But I speak no Bahasa, apart from Terima Kasih (thank you) and Sama Sama (Your welcome) which I practiced before leaving Philippines. Good thing they know how to speak in English, as the lady was a retired teacher in Jakarta. They told me they had an emergency call to make. I offered my phone but they declined. After some time, the phone got fix, and they were able to make a call. They were suppose to take Air Asia flight from Jakarta to Jogja, but some reasons, they missed the flight and left some of their luggage in the airport and decided to take the train instead.  Their son owns a travel tour company in Jogja and they also have a guesthouse in Malioboro-  area (the backpackers area in Jogja).

It was a good thing, I guess that there was no economy class ticket available – or else, I'd miss the comfort offered in the ekslusif class. Oh well, it’s not every day that I get to travel in an exclusive class. Comfortable seats, bigger leg room – and on top of that – I had these seats all for myself.  Tired from my flight, I dozed off to sleep before the train could ever leave the station.

outside the railway station, view from my seat

There are two outlets exclusively available for you, next to your seats, in case you wanted to recharge your gadgets while inside the train. Exactly what I needed – but they have different sockets – the round ones. I wasn’t aware of this – I mean, none among my research mentioned about the different socket – Haha.

We arrived at Jogja a little past three in the afternoon. Again, I was with the same old couple I met back in Gambir station – we were in the same coach. Their son fetched them in the railway station – he was introduced to me and he started asking me about my stay and my plans in Jogja. He owns a travel tour, I remember.

Jogja station is just a five minute walk away from the famous Malioboro St. So we walked and we talked. They offered me their guesthouse. At first, I thought it was for free. Haha. They gave me a discount, from 60,000IDR to 50,000IDR for a night – just right for my budget. But instinct held me back from accepting the very tempting offer.  I just told them I have reservations already at Anda Losmen – kahit wala. I was about to say EDU Hostel para social ang dating, I didn’t know why Anda Losmen came out first. They didn’t insist though, about the guest house because they knew that Anda Losmen has cheaper rates than theirs. But just before we separate our ways, he presented another offer – a temple tour for free – their gesture in return for helping his parents – ahh... Isn’t that sweet! I had no plans joining any temple tours, because I want to do it myself – I have a very detailed information how to get to and fro from those temples, I’m pretty sure I won’t get lost. But a free transport tour – made me think twice. And I think it’ll be a crime not to say yes. Haha.

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