Bean n Bob's Big Adventure travel blog

Rice paddy from the train.

More rural scenery on the plains between Jakarta and Bandung. There was...

The train chugs along...

A post-harvest paddy, with brown stubble.

The green of the young rice shoots is brilliant, like no other...

A view of Mt. Merpati(?), from the northern square within the Kraton,...

The train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta in west-central Java, is called the Tak Saka, the first named train we've traveled on. We arrived at the station at 7:30 for an 8:15 departure, grabbed a breakfast to go, and went up to the platform to wait. At 8:40 an announcement came over the loudspeaker, and everyone on the platform rushed from track 3 to track 4, leaving us standing alone. We wondered if our train had been switched, but when we asked, they told us no, still track 3. At 8:45, two men wearing train station overshirts came up, said "Jogja?" (the shortened way of saying Yogyakarta), asked to see our tickets, and then grabbed our bags, saying "there! there!" running back down the train on track four. We hurried along with them, dashing into the second to last car, and they deposited our bags in the overhead bins. Then it became a money thing. They cornered us in our seats and held out their hands, whining and cocking their heads to the side. I gave them all the money I had in my pocket, about $4, and they still pleaded until we told them we had no more money. Then we sat around on the train for another 20 minutes until it rolled east. I am afraid this entry is going to be a litany of one scam or mishap after another, but it has become fascinating and constantly irritating to me, so that's what I'm writing about.

We napped and read on the train, watching miles and miles of rice paddies and villages go by, mountains rising in the distance, people in conical woven hats bent over in the fields. I walked to the last car, which had a generator for the A/C and an open door, to take pictures, leaning my head out into the sticky heat, waving at children and men passing by. We arrived in Yogya at about 4:30 p.m., then went to the guidebook-recommended Superman Hostel. The room was pretty bad, but about normal for us ($4.50), until sewage began pouring out of the drain in the bathroom. They gave us a new room, which had a roof that was falling apart, raining rotted wood shavings on us, and mushrooms growing in the bathroom. We escaped out a back alley and found another place with A/C and a clean bed for $15, but even here the shower won't turn off, so there's water running 24 hours a day. But we were able to sleep in until 10:30, comfortably. We wandered the streets today, looking for the artisans' market, but it was all tourist junk, and we had three different guys try the same scam on us - strike up a conversation, talk about America a bit (one even asked about the election), then tell us about this "government art exhibit," nearby with 24, or 75, or 175 artists on display, batik, top quality, not the "Coka Cola" art in the street market. We went with one, and the man there showed us how batik was made, they served us tea ("It is our custom!") and taught us about different types of material used in the art. But we weren't buying, so after learning what we wanted, we ducked out. Remarkably similar to the tailor tricks in Bangkok ("This is the last day...we close in one hour, so you can't go away and come back...these artists will be in art competition in Singapore - tomorrow!...all students...we don't care so much about the money, what is important is that the artists' names make it to your country, they become known.")

Later on, another guy drew us a map to the "government art center" and we walked down the street debating whether to go. I stopped suddenly at a corner, where we were supposed to turn, and saw him out of the corner of my eye, hiding behind a market stall. Curious, we walked down the street and saw him lurking behind us, about 20 meters back, and another guy who we hadn't seen before a bit closer. As we drew closer to the alley where the "art center" was located, the original guy called out to a becak driver sleeping in front of us, and he jumped up and walked ahead of us to point us down the right alley (where there was a sign saying "batik art centre"). We shook him off, and the second guy followed us to the end of the street and then tried to get us to come back, but we escaped. How could they be so obvious? we were thinking, but then again we got taken in big time in Bangkok.

So another day in a polluted SEA city, missing Sumatra. Here the artists seem more adept at their scams, and we are feeling more and more on guard. It is tiring having nearly everyone watching, staring, saying hello, and the friendly people have the same hello as the scammers - "where are you going?" Nonetheless, I have to admit taking a certain enjoyment in being aware of the scam and being able to watch it this time...

Tomorrow we are doing a tour to the Hindu and Buddhist temples of Borobudur and Padadang(?), up at 5 a.m. to catch the sunrise. Then maybe one more day in Jogja, and on to Bali, somehow, some way. We are hoping the train runs there, as we have sworn off the long-distance buses.

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