Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 23 November 2009 • Itinerary
“Why would such beautiful girls own a junk car like this?” That was the comment a bus river gave us on our first break down, a day before the road trip.
It broke down before the trip across Java all the way to Bali? uh-oh… That was what we were suppose to think.
But all we can think of was: Us? Finally? Beautiful? Hahahaha…
And with a comment like that from a total stranger and a big laugh to start with, we knew that it was going to be a memorable journey. We just knew it… and we were right!
Mumun (behind the wheel): “Sally, why are we doing this road trip?”
Sally (doodling in the back seat): “Because we vowed to?”
It all started as a vow me and Sally made a few years back. We pledged to do road trip around Jawa and Bali and possibly Lombok before 2010. We didn’t know how we would do it… but we’ll figure it out, we thought. We didn’t have a car back then, but now with Puspita around -our Brazilian VW Kombi shared by 5 people- we decided why not? Like all ‘stupid’ trips, we headed on the road with only 3 days of preparation. The perk of my job now, and having friends that work as freelancers, is that I can have loooong vacations when everyone else isn’t having one too.
We wanted to fill Puspita up, also to have more people chip in the budget hehehehe… Thus me, Sally, my navigator Tari, a college student on vacation which happen to be one of the owners, and Sally’s navigator, Aji the other freelancer, a die hard fan of Puspita. So I’m hitting the clutch and… grek… grek… trying to put in the first gear… and stepping on the gas pedal!
Rise and try to shine!
It’s extraordinary that we were ready that SUNDAY morning, by 7.30 am, which was already later then our agenda. Heavy sleepers like us despise the Sunday sun! It’s Sunday morning people, you know how it is right? But we have to start the trip since we know for sure that Puspita would reach destinations a tad bit later then other usual cars.
First destination: Semarang – Capital of Central Java.
Java is a small island for a road trip but very dense, thus showing you so many things in a small span of time. We took the famous Pantura trail which stands for Pantai Utara or north beach. It’s the main road for vehicles heading east especially for passenger busses and trucks delivering goods. It’s flat and wider than other trails. I’m not kidding when I say BUS AND TRUCK DRIVERS ARE CRAZY ON THE ROAD!!! They seriously have ‘great’ precision, despite those big behinds of theirs. And by great I mean sometimes they are really great, sometimes… not so lucky. And seeing them come so close to you vehicle on the road, you would think they’re more lucky then they’re suppose to. I was the day driver, the safe driver, because trucks and busses usually travel at night. Sally is the true bus driver on this journey, she kicks ass on the road, even for a car like Puspita day or night.
Pantura shows you many faces of north of Java. Since this island is pretty dense, a city probably pops ups every 2 hours. Each town, including those not on the Pantura trail, has their own slogan that they are very proud of… and some are just less understandable even for Indonesians like us?! For instance, Indramayu has a slogan Remaja which is an abbreviation of Relijius, Maju Mandiri dan Sejahtera or religious, progressively independent and prosperous. OK?! But remaja literally means… teenagers. Ah the city with a young heart indeed!! Hahahaha…
You would know when you’re entering a city. These slogans will be on the huge gates to welcome and send you off.
A famous sight on the road that is well known, especially for Indonesians, are the writings on the back of the trucks. They’re really funny or extremely cheesy and usually it’s a hint of the drivers aspiration, as one might say. Surprisingly we found a very optimistic English motto which I totally agree with. Not sure what spiderman has to do with anything?
Another familiar sight is the people asking for your donation with fishnets held out on the road. I’m no fan of these people because they really slow you down, but hey they believe in a good cause.
Puspita understands well what traveling is all about. You have to stop along the way and smell the ambience of the surroundings for a while. With her you to have to make a pit stop because the Kombi needs some cooling down. More reason to taste a cool glass of orange juice… also to take a peak at our map. And it’s so uncommon for girls to drive through Java let alone a Kombi, you get hit on by truck drivers or their navigators all along the way hehehe…
This day was all about trying out the car. Compared to the first time we bought the car, Puspita was fab! It was also to get the hang of the trip, the company and the fun of leaving Jakarta, the most dense city of all… Along the trip, the ambience changes a lot. From driving besides the shores, the smell of fish and salt once and in a while, rice paddys as far as the eye can see, boats, busses, villages, and transitions of the becak shape. If you happen to stop a lot and talk to the locals, you would also know that they have different accent that gradually changes towards the east. Soo much to see..
This was the first day track of Pantura: Jakarta – Cikampek – Indramayu – Cirebon – Tegal – Pekalongan – Kendal – Semarang. Total hours on the road: 12 hours.
By nightfall we arrived at Semarang. We were welcomed but Lawang Sewu, the famous building from the colonial days, which was lit moderately to have that romantic feeling to it. We couldn’t enter it, it was for another time we thought. We were tired, hungry and clueless on where to sleep. But the night is young and so were we *cough*. So first things first! We stopped at a restaurant that looked pretty established, Bandeng Juwana, to enjoy a hint taste of the city. We then got online to and searched our need for A BED to rest the head and calves from such a heavy clutch.
We eventually found a place to stay. It was a guesthouse of the IKIP Institution. We can’t really recommend this place because of various unimportant reasons. But we’ll try to find an alternative for you soon enough. Once we had a smell of a pillow, we were ready to snooze… . Nothing to see yet, but was pretty tired. Tomorrow definitely! We’ll get up really early in the morning to see so much.
To be continued…
One great thing about traveling is tasting food on the road. First restaurant we stopped by was the Utama (means: Priority) restaurant on KM 21. Just some random restaurant. The food was not bad at all! The buffet provided many traditional foods. Pick your choice, eat, and pay later. Just remember what you ate and try not to lie when paying 😉 Restaurants are relatively cheap on this road because their customers are truck and bus drivers which have a lower ability to pay.
Tip: how to choose a restaurant? Try picking the one with a lot of trucks in front of it, or for a more guaranteed taste, a restaurant with more cars in it.
When I say we see interesting things on the road, one of them was seeing a guy having a meal with a rifle by his side!!! Hey? Now outside there was only one truck that was supposed to contain cigarettes… but… who knows… it must have been made of gold.
Bandeng Juwana, located not far from the Lawang Sewu junction. It had a huge supply of local food and snacks for you to buy on the first floor and a restaurant on the second. Now don’t be fooled about the establishment because the food was awesome! Semarang is well know for it’s soft bone Bandeng fish. And in this restaurant most of the menu was made of it and taste great. They’ve got the Bandeng souped, fried, grilled, steamed, mixed with other ingredients, and served with all sorts of style. Although in so many styles, they pretty much cooked the Bandeng in the Indonesian way and according to our native tongue. So still a great eat to try. It was so delish that we ate there again the next night!
Dishes can cost about Rp 12,000 per dish, some with rice included.
Again, to get to Semarang on the Pantura trail is: Jakarta – Cikampek – Indramayu – Cirebon – Tegal – Pekalongan – Kendal – Semarang.
Total hours on the road: 12 hours.
This can be reached less with a standard healthy car. But who want’s that when we’ve got a great VW?
For a whole day we spent about:
Food: 45000/3 people
Dinner: 50000/3 people
In total: 345,000 rupiah for 3 people.