Sunday, 10 August 2014

A Journey across Java by Train

After saying goodbye to Malaysia, Angela and I were bound for the biggest archipelago, the largest Islamic community, and the fourth-most populated country in the world. Indonesia would be our first foray into the southern hemisphere, meaning we'd be travelling during the cooler "winter" period, quite a relief after being in places like Thailand and Vietnam during their hottest, most humid months. Being this close to the equator, it would still be pretty warm, but way more bearable than most of the places we've been to.

Indonesia is a huge country, and since we were low on time and money, we'd only be seeing a few of its 18'000 islands. We took a plane from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta, the big, smelly capital that Lonely Planet describes as "a colossal metropolis with all the problems of a city vastly overstretched; it won't grab your attention for long unless you're a mad shopper or ├╝ber-urbanite." Other travellers we met did not put it in the best light either, so we decided not to stay very long, instead getting straight on a train to Bandung, before catching another train halfway across the island of Java, to the city of Yogyakarta. Java has about 120 million people - that's more than a third of the population of the USA - crammed into an area about half the size of Great Britain, making it the most highly populated island in the world. We were expecting it to be highly urbanised, which I'm sure large parts of it are, but actually we passed a lot of very quiet countryside and farmland, including some bright-green paddy fields carved into the feet of docile volcanoes. It made for a very pleasant train ride, and a great introduction to this massive, varied country.

Our route by plane from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta, then by train to Yogyakarta via Bandung.
At Kuala Lumpur Airport.
Flying over the Java Sea.
Within a couple of hours, our first few Indonesian islands came into view.
Then we reached the marshy coastline of Java.
Flying over the urban sprawl of Jakarta.
Once landed, we passed through customs and immigration before taking a bus into the city.

We went straight to the train station to book a ticket to Bandung.
While waiting for our train to leave, we had our first Indonesian meal: Mie Goreng, or fried yellow noodles with egg and chicken. We'd tried this a few times in Malaysia, but so far it's tasted much better here.
Waiting at the train platform with Jakarta's skyline in the background.
During our evening train ride to Bandung, I did some writing...
...while Angela read some comics.
We arrived in Bandung late at night, and found a hotel near the train station.
The next morning, we were up early to catch another train, this one to Yogyakarta. The journey would take around eight hours.
We passed through some dusty suburbs of Bandung..,

...then our train pulled out into lush, verdant countryside.

We must have passed thousands of farmers working the fields.

We'd pass lots of train-crossings where drivers would congregate in the hundreds while they waited for us to pass.

Passing a school.
More beautiful paddy fields.

Close to Yogyarkta, the land became flatter, and the farms were covered in piles of burning waste-matter.
We arrived in Yogyakarta in the late afternoon, and took a taxi to our hotel.
Our hotel had a swimming pool at the top, overlooking the city.
Exploring our neighbourhood by night.
We found a nice restaurant where we ate some mushroom-and-pepper chicken...
...and nasi paprika ayam, or "paprika chicken rice."

So far, we're enjoying Indonesia a lot. It's not as traveller-friendly as other countries we've been to, with a low level of English and not as many convenient shops or travel agencies to help you make travel or sightseeing arrangements. But the people are very smiley and friendly, and so far we've seen some beautiful scenery. In the next blogpost I'll talk more about our explorations of Yogyakarta, famous as the spiritual and cultural hub of Java.

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