The next few posts chronicle our travels overland from Jakarta along the northern coast of Java to Semarang, up to Jepara and finally down to Yogajakarta. Our photos are really in no particular order and we weren’t able to take our cameras out as much as we would have liked, but we believe they will give you a good feel for what a great place Java is to experience.
Jakarta, Indonesia seemed to be a different planet compared to Singapore. A 45 minute flight took us from the orderly Singapore to the chaotic vibe of Jakarta. We’ve learned to embrace change during our travels, and this was certainly a change. Yes, it may have taken a bit more haggling to get a metered taxi, the traffic was absolutely insane and the layer of smog probably rivaled what you all saw in Hong Kong on the news this week, but for whatever reason, we live for this stuff. It was exciting to be somewhere very foreign again and to ask ourselves, what do we do next?Our first goal after we checked into our place was to negotiate the streets of Jakarta making our way to the transportation hub of Gambir Station. From the train station we would decided where to go next based on the train time tables. We knew we wanted to go overland across Java to Yogajakarta. We settled on the route less traveled by tourists by taking the train along the northern part to Java towards Semarang.As much as we were oddly enjoying the Jakarta craziness, we decide to leave the next morning to Pekalongan. We had the rest of the day to settle into urban Indonesia, how else? By eating, of course. Indonesian food rocks, at least in my opinion. Half of the items on local menus come with peanut sauce, the other half of the items are placed on a pile of fried rice, what’s not to like about that? Gado Gado (fried tofu, steamed cabbage rolls, green beans, boiled egg and peanut sauce) Chicken Satay (you know this one), Nasi Goreng (fried rice, fried chicken, egg) are all good eats, no question.Pekalongan was a bit of a random first stop. We actually got questioned by the train ticket lady, a woman we met in the morning while we had a doughnut and a coffee, a man sitting next us on the train, and a train station guy after we got off the train. They all asked, “Are you sure Pekalongan is your stop?” Uh yeah, it is the “Batik City” isn’t it? We quickly learned most traveler’s are not lured by wax dipped and dyed cotton. After we got out of the little train station we were suddenly greeted by what we would soon become very accustomed to, pointing and laughing.
Everything we did… or didn’t do was absolutely hilarious to the locals. We each boarded a Becak (indonesian bicycle rickshaw) to make our way through the streets of town to the only hotel in town, The Nirvana. On our way to Nirvana the laughing and pointing continued, we smiled and gave our best parade waves as if we were in one of those vintage convertibles at a state fair.According to our Department of State website, we are to keep a very low profile if we must travel in Indonesia. Hmm, after our “grand entrance” I think we failed. The rest of our stay we carried nothing with us, hats on, long pants, t-shirts, you know, low profile. Not so much. We ended up not really seeing any batik. Due to our typical lack of planing around holidays, nearly every shop was closed. We made our way to the waterfront area and found where the whole town’s population was. There was a festival going on with live music. We kept towards the back of the assembly and partially blocked by a tree to watch a Javanese pop band. Suddenly we heard laughter coming through the speakers, followed by the now familiar pointing coming from the band members. Next thing we know, a thousand eyeballs are staring right at us while the band leader instructs the crowd to say “I love you” in syncopation. Strike 2 on the whole low profile thing. Several woman wanted Meggan to get on stage and sing something. Clearly I don’t even look like I can sing, hence no requests for me to take the stage. To avoid strike 3, Meggan declined the offer for her 15 minutes of fame. We spent a few hours chatting with all the people hanging out in the park for their holiday. The people here are absolutely wonderful, we had a blast. Have we mentioned how much we love to travel? Experiences like these are priceless.