Day 212: A First Class Experience

Wed. 13th March 2013

Yes, there actually is room for both of us as well as the daypacks and backpacks1There is no let up today as the alarm goes off at 5:30am. We are off to catch the train to Yogyakarta (or Jojakarta of Jogja as the locals seem to call it – but not to be confused with Jakarta, the Indonesian capital which is in the north of Java) and then on to the nearby town of Borobudur. Fortunately, the hotel starts serving breakfast at 6am and so we are able to grab a bite to eat (and much needed coffee) before checking out and hailing a taxi to take us to the station.

Yesterday, we had a bit of an adventure finding the station in order to buy our tickets. As so often happens, it all started out deceptively easily. We had purposefully selected a hotel that was in walking distance of Gubeng station – which we knew to be the right station for trains to Yogyakarta. And we could see by the signs (and by the GPS on our phones) that the local bus had dropped us off right opposite the station.

The right side of the station for those travelling first class!However, by the time we had dropped our bags off at the hotel and re-emerged to go exploring it had started raining (heavily) and things turned out to be not quite so simple. At the ticket counter, it transpired that this side of the station was for Economy (3rd) class tickets only. The train we wanted only had Business (2nd) and Executive (1st) class carriages and so we needed tickets from the other side of the station.

It wasn’t at all obvious how to get there. We couldn’t go through the station as you aren’t allowed on the platforms without a ticket. Through sign language, we established that we would have to go around. But which way? Neither left nor right was obvious – there were no signs – and of course we had to get over the train tracks at some point. Whilst we did get lucky with our first choice (turning left), it was a long way around and we did provide much amusement to the locals as we trudged around in the pouring rain in our plastic ponchos and trying to dodge the worst of the puddles.

First class travel Java styleThank goodness we weren’t doing that this morning, up against the ticking clock of the train departure. Yesterday’s experience made today’s decision to take a taxi to the station an easy one – and this was born out by the fare of £1 for the trip (including 20p for the station entrance fee). Our 1st class ticket was only a little more than that for 2nd class and only cost R200k (£13.50) each – for a 5 hour train journey. You really can travel very cheaply here in Indonesia.

Sophisticated isn't the word!The comparison with trains in the UK is an obvious one to make. Clearly it is so much cheaper than at home but we also got – access to the ‘Executive’ lounge (well, a room that was a little less busy than the rest of the platform) at the station; reserved seats that were comfy(ish); and an air conditioned carriage (so cold, I had to get my fleece out of backpack). All in all, much better than I have experienced in the UK sometimes. Even better the train actually left bang on time and arrived on time. The only slightly jarring note were the loos which comprised a hole in the floor through which you could see the tracks rushing by.

Its not quite so smooth when we get to Yogyakarta station – there’s no sign of (and no signs to) any buses and we only find taxis waiting by the station exit. Still, the map on our phone says that there is a bus station marked ‘Buses to Borobudur’ less than 1km and so we start walking. When we get to the place on the map, there is no sign of a bus station and we are just wondering what to do about it when a local bus pulls up. Despite the mismatch in languages, I establish with the driver that he is going to (one of the) main bus stations and from there we can get the bus to Borobudur.

More colourful than buses in the UKWe must be getting the hang of Java buses now as we find it easy, quick(ish) and (very) cheap to cover the 45km to Borobudur. It is way past 1pm by the time we get there though and we are hot, sweaty and tired. Breakfast was a long time ago and so when a local offers to drive us in his tuk-tuk to our hotel for R10k ($0.70) we jump at the chance. It turns out that his tuk-tuk is actually a bici-taxi powered by a motorbike. These bici-taxis have just enough space for 2 passengers squeezed in side by side in the front bench seat. So, we were well and truly wedged in with our daypacks on our laps and backpacks between our knees as we putter off down the road.

Sunset at the Saraswati Hotel in BorobudurBorobudur town seems to exist solely for the purpose of supporting the tourist trade around the temple – albeit it is a temple that seems to be in most guides list of top 10 ancient temples (e.g. Listverse here, or Neatorama here). There are a few hotels, stalls selling tat or lunches to the tourists and not a lot else. Our hotel is nice enough but a bit bland and a walk around the ‘town’ establishes that there are no restaurants and so we will be eating in the hotel tonight. The meal is about twice as expensive as we’ve been used to – but still cheap by UK standards.

As we are here to see the temple, we want to do it properly – to have a first class experience, if you will. The advice in Lonely Planet and on Wikitravel is to take the sunrise tour. Although it means yet another early start tomorrow, we sign up for it and vow that it will be our last for the foreseeable future. And people say that the First Class way is the easy way!

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One Response to Day 212: A First Class Experience

  1. Gavin says:

    Still reading – keep it up!
    Borobudur reminds me of a Bill Bailey sketch about his travels there – can’t find the sketch but he does mention the place


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