Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bonus Train to Solo

Buying our tickets just two days before a Friday departure we had to choose between the most expensive Eksecutif seats on an train whose timings did not quite suit us OR less comfortable seats on an Ekonomi train with perfect timing but an arrival in Solo (Surakarta) at an alternate station. Both trains had AC. So we took the Ekonomi and received two bonuses: we made some new friends on the train and got to ride Solo's new Bus Rapid Transit line - named Batik Solo Trans - from Purwosari Station to city center.

The configuration of the seats on the train put us face to face with a quiet young Indonesian couple traveling from Surabaya (their home) to Bandung, some 12 hours away where his job is. He is 26 and she is 23. They don't have any children but plan to start soon are certain they will have exactly three. He works for a business that sells bathroom floor mats. Sun-Ling chatted with them quite a bit although their English was limited. Helps to have an English-Indonesian dictionary on your tablet.

As our "compartment" was tight, I moved across the aisle next to Yussef, a Muslim from Surabaya who learned his very good English while working as a "migrant worker" in Saudi Arabia as bus driver for a multinational company. He is 31 years old and has a daughter by his first wife (divorced) and a son by his second wife. Although currently unemployed, he has "ambitions". Maybe he will work abroad again in Dubai or Bahrain. He also has ambitions for a better Indonesia. On his bucket list: to touch snow. Yussef is a good guy I wish him well.

Sun-Ling had found the Batik Solo Trans bus line info online and it worked to perfection. A covered walkway led right from the station exit to the covered elevated bus stop. And before we had a chance to study the route map a bus pulled up. After the other passengers got on, we were standing at the edge of platform looking at the conductor with the familiar feeling one gets in a foreign country when you need to interact with someone and it seems that there is not enough common language. However when I said "Do you go to the Novotel", emphasis on Novotel, both the conductor and the driver exclaimed "Novotel yes!" with smiles of relief so we squeezed on the bus also smiling with relief.

The flat fare was 4,500 rupiah each, about 35 cents. After 2 kms the conductor pointed to us and said Novotel and we got off at the next stop. Smiles all around even from our fellow passengers on the small-for-BRT bus where we had frightened and partially squashed a young child with our humongous backpacks. Not kidding. [Note that we actually stayed at the Ibis next to the Novotel.]

New friends on the train to Solo (Surakarta), Central Java, Indonesia

On the train to Solo (Surakarta), Central Java, Indonesia

Solo (Surakarta), Central Java, Indonesia

4 comments:

Crash Eddy said...

OK, I have Google Maps recording your track. Transit button seems not to work, at least for Indonesia trains, but I know where you are had you traveled roads.

Crash Eddy said...

Holy cow! Be sure your backpacks are clean. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/17/indonesia-executes-drug-convicts_n_6494240.html

Sun-Ling said...

@Ed, can you share a link of the map you are making, so our other readers can see? Thanks! We'll guard our bags extra vigilantly.

Crash Eddy said...

http://goo.gl/tEbPVm with white transit
track. I missed that track when I posted that transit button doesn't work, it does. I'll see how long I can keep it going then start an appendage map.