Seven weeks full of joyful anticipation came to a gutting halt when Lombok, Indonesia’s volcanic Mount Rinjani started erupting. All flights were cancelled on each of the days leading up to our departure date, and we knew that we had to act fast to ensure that our two week getaway did not fall out of reach. After many hours of frustrating research, I found that affordable last-minute options were limited. On an impulse, I booked three flights to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. I figured that my friends would be willing to make the journey to Java in the hopes of reaching Bali by sea; I was right.
The sheer size and organized chaos of Jakarta intimidated the hell out of us, to say the least, and left us concerned with how easy it would be to get out and begin our journey East. Fortunately, the friendliest people in all of Jakarta, the employees at the Old Batavia Capsule hostel, sorted us out with details on where to catch the train heading Southeast to our first stop: Jogyakarta (also spelled Yogyakarta). Jakarta does have a complex metro system, but I found it easier just to pay for a taxi- it cost less than $5.00 between the three of us traveling together. However, for those on a tight budget, the underground will do. You will need to purchase a travel card at the counter (which requires a 10,000 IDR deposit) and top it up for a grand total of under $2.00. Use the self-explanatory network map to find your way to Gambir 1 Station on the Blue number 2 line and head to the ticket counter.
Oftentimes, gestures are a perfectly acceptable and nearly fool-proof method of communication. Other times, though, our lack of inter-language communicational skills causes misunderstandings. We thought we were buying an economy ticket priced at $13.00; in fact, we accidentally purchased a higher standard of car (or so we can only assume now) for $35.00 each. Although the train was old and not much to look at from the outside, the interior was surprisingly comfortable and spacious. It even offered air conditioning as a respite from the brutal summer heat.
The nine hour journey did not, unfortunately, include complimentary water or snacks. We’d had a piece of toast on the run from our hostel to the early morning train, but were well on our way to being hangry (anger caused by hunger) by 11:00. Our nutrition-deprived bodies ventured throughout the train in search of the dining car after a few hours, but were (again, unfortunately) not met with a single vegetarian option. This is perhaps the most vital piece of advice that I can offer to both my fellow vegetarians and those with sensitive tummies who choose to undertake this course: pack water, pack snacks.
As long as you adhere to that rule- or sleep through the entire day-lit journey like my friend did- you are all clear to gaze out the windows and take in the scenic countryside. While you may not be too impressed by the sun-scorched fields immediately surrounding Jakarta’s extensive “suburb” network, a few hours of patience paves the way for gorgeous green rainforest, terraced rice fields, and colorful little villages. The hours spent in transit provide an added layer of visual travel experience that one cannot get when flying at 30,000 feet.