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Trip Report A train ride through Java

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Firstly, a big thank you to all who contributed to the planning process for our time in Java, especially to marmot whose advice, as always proved invaluable. I will provide a full trip report on our blog eventually. In the meantime, a few thoughts and observations which may assist others planning a visit to Java

TRAINS

Travelling by train in Indonesia is a breeze. Easy to book tickets online from outside the country, www.seat61.com , as always proved a great source of info. We travelled from Jakarta to Bandung (3 hours) and Bandung to Yogyakarta (8 hours) and finally Yogyakarta to Malang (8 hours). Trains departed and arrived on time ( a refreshing change from my years of commuting by trainin the UK!).

The first two journeys we booked online (at a premium). In reality we could have easily got seats just by turning up at the station on the day. With online bookings you just tap your email res. no. Into one of the machines in the station and out pops your ticket with seat assignment.

For two of the three journeys we experienced arctic like air-con - take something warm! The last, the air-con wasn't working so it was like sitting in an oven! We booked Executif class! are old but carriages spacious and reasonably comfortable seats. Decent food is available at seat which can be ordered as soon as you get on the train.

JAKARTA is a city that I wouldn't want to visit for a second time. We probably chose the wrong area but it was dirty, run down and had the worst traffic of anywhere I have visited in Asia. To be fair, my impressions of the place were not enhanced by the fact that I managed to trip whilst dodging a motorbike when crossing a very busy road and injure my knee!

BANDUNG is a pleasant enough town but there isn't a whole lot going on. Most people seem to visit for the outlet shopping ( don't bother!!) and a the volcano close by (more of that later). We were lucky enough to get invited to a cultural evening by the Bandung tourism authority and so enjoyed an open top bus tour of the city ( through its choking traffic!) follow by music, dance and local food at avenue on the outskirts of the city. Great fun. They a re clearly very keen to attract foreign tourist to their city.

YOGYAKARTA was a lot different from what I expected. Very busy, although we did hit it at a weekend and during Ramadan. Maliboro is the main drag and is overrun with souvenir and batik shops. We spent a couple of night here either side of our trip to Borbodur. One of the few places where a bottle of Bintang was readily accessible.

Beer, wine and spirits is hard to find in many places and impossible in some following a crack down on its sale. Simply not available in any supermarket or 711. Hotels general stock it - at a price. A couple of areas in Yogyakarta and Bandung have bars and restaurants where it is sold as normal. When visiting a couple of 7-11s for some water I did get old ladies sidling up to me and whispering " you want beer". When I replied "yes, desperately" she pulled out a couple of cold ones hidden behind the diets coke!

BOROBODUR was simply breathtaking, if a lot smaller than I had envisaged. Watching the dawn break over the volcanoes accross the valley was very special.

We stayed at the Manohara hotel in the grounds of Borobodur which afforded all day access to the temple ( or so we thought). We visited in the late afternoon hoping to see the sunset but the guards tried to kick us out saying that we didn't have the right ticket for sunset. We just took our time leaving and managed to see the sun set.

We had to buy additional tickets for dawn ( 220k INR - more for non residents ) but it was well worth it as the sunrise was spectacular. Before , during and after dawn we were treated to the songs of the muzzenin calling the faithful to prayer at high volume through the loudspeaker towers surrounding the temple. It did detract from the experience somewhat. Entrance tickets for dawn are only available from the hotel an numbers are limited to 100. I would guest 50-6 we're there with us. Definitely the best time to visit.

We spent a couple more nights in Borobodur at Cempaka Villas, a nice place, decent rooms laid out around a central courtyard. It was new so staff, though friendly, did there best but we're pretty hopeless. Breakfast was a shambles but they seemed great a arranging tours! Main problem is that it was smack bang in the middle of 4 mosques all competing for the loudest praying/singing/ music at 3. 4 and 5 am.

It is a nice town in which to spend a few days, some great bike trips out into the countryside and the people are so very friendly and welcoming. We were stopping every 5 mins to chat with someone or other. Not sure whether it was because of Ramadan but the hotels and restaurants seemed to be empty most of the time we were there.

By our last day we were suffering the effects of sleep deprivation - and I am a very early riser. This is an issue which would continue to dog our travels in Java during Ramadan.

We got a taxi from Yogyakarta to Boroabodur for a couple of hundred and returned by local bus which was easy, quick, cheap and fun and 20k INR - the bus system in Yogyakarta seems remarkably efficinet and easy to use.

All for now but will return with the next instalment re Malang, Bromo and Ijen soon.

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