Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 4 January 2011 • Itinerary
It all started from my friend Vindhya, who craved for a train ride. Yes, a train ride. She didn’t mind any destination, as long as it’s reachable by train from Jakarta (which means on Java Island because the track doesn’t stretch out of the island). And to spice up the trip, I added a challenge to it: the whole budget must be IDR 500,000 / person or less, and Vindhya agreed.
So on a Friday night we went to the train station, open a Java map, point a destination with eyes closed, and buy the tickets. My index finger happened to land on Malang. Unfortunately the train had left in the afternoon. We could take a train to Yogyakarta and then continue by bus to Malang, but that would take too much time, while we were only on a weekend getaway trip. So we agreed on changing the destination. We took a train to Yogyakarta, then continue with another short train trip to the nearest possible city from Malang, that is Solo.
Note: though it’s only a weekend trip, we surely went on a quite long culinary trip, so I’m saving that part of story for an entry next week.
Keraton Surakarta / Keraton Solo
There must be a reason why this city has 2 names, Surakarta and Solo. All I know is that I’m always confused on which one to use when telling about it to you guys. Anyways, this historical palace was founded first in 1744, the complete name is Keraton Surakarta Hadiningrat. Now a large part of the palace holds a function as a museum as well.
Entrance fee was IDR 8,000 / person, and you have to pay another IDR 3,500 for taking pictures inside (per camera). And then you have to take off your shoes or sandals and leave them guarded at the entrance. Walk around with bare feet, including on the unpaved area.
If you’re not on a budget challenge trip like us, I recommend you to hire a guide so that you fully understand what you’re looking at on the museum displays. I don’t think there’s a fix price for a guide’s service, but later on I found out IDR 20,000 – 50,000 is acceptable.
There are certain areas that you’re not allowed to step on. I tried my luck once just to get a better perspective in my photo, and a guard clapped his hands and give me a sign to step off. Wow, I thought nobody saw, and this guard was standing far away, like, probably 20 meters from where I was and seemingly busy with other visitors. Whoa.. mystical, you think?
A Stroll on Slamet Riyadhi street
After our food fiesta at Galabo, we meant to look for Taman Sri Wedari (Sri Wedari Park) where, according to Lonely Planet, there should be traditional performances like dances or puppet show every night. Unfortunately, there was no complete address and asking people on the street didn’t help either. The closest direction that we could sort of follow was to walk down the Slamet Riyadhi street in the opposite direction of the PGS market / Galabo. So that’s what we did, in the hope of finding the park at some point of the street.
The walk was endless because it was a very very very very long street. We finally gave up after walking about an hour, but it was interesting to see unpredicted things that we probably wouldn’t even notice if we passed by the street by car or other means of transportation.
For a start, the traffic light has bicycle signs! I’ve never seen that anywhere else before.
And then, we noticed there’s a prison at one of the street corners. Yes, people, a PRISON, on one of the business districts in the city. I know it’s not fair to judge prisoners as bad people who we’re supposed to be scared of, but.. I can’t lie, it did give us some kind of eerie feelings walking past by it. Our minds played tricks on us, maybe we’ve been watching too much movies with prisoners breaking out of jail, that we chose to cross the street and walk at the other side. Stupid, I know..
Slamet Riyadi may be a busy street in the day, but at night there was so little life on it. Stores and shop houses were closed, lights were out, only a small number of kiosks were still open. Ojeks and becaks were standing in corners, offering their services, and teenagers were hanging out some convenience stores.
Giving up to find the Sri Wedari park, we took a becak ride back to our hotel for IDR 12,000.
For a trip which destination was determined just before the train ticket booth, definitely we didn’t make any hotel reservation. Upon our arrival to Solo, Vindhya got some info via text messages (or was it twitter?) that there are a lot of budget hotels around the Solo Balapan train station.
Walking out of the station’s gate, it was a question of turning to the right or left. Hm, the left side seemed to be busier, so Vindhya insisted we should go that direction. And she made the right decision. Less than 10 meters we saw this Hotel Djayakarta on the left side of the road, where we later stayed.
The rooms were clean enough, the staff was friendly. There were 2 kinds of rooms we could choose from, both with private bathroom, the one with AC and the one with a fan, and we chose the one with fan because it has its own veranda facing a garden, and the weather was cool anyway (it’s an old Dutch colonial building which is usually cooler). And the greatest thing is the rate was only IDR 75,000 / room / night. Yeeha!
Photo: courtesy of Vindhya
The rate exclude breakfast, but they serve hot tea each afternoon and morning, isn’t that lovely? We had the tea with some cakes we bought impulsively and enjoyed the drizzling afternoon on that veranda, it was perfect leisure.
The location is quite strategic. It’s so close to the train station, and you can just hop out of the gate and find several choices of food for the whole day.
Jl. Monginsidi no 104 – 106
Phone : 62 271 646013
After breakfast on Sunday morning, we decided to look around a little bit. And we checked out this other hotel across ours, just to see what kind of deals they offer. Turns out, they have quite similar rates with Djayakarta, but the building was less unique.
Jl. Monginsidi no 97 (Balapan)
Phone: 62 271 637557, 639064
Through the air or on the tracks
Solo has its own airport, the Adi Sumarmo Wiryokusumo Airport / Surakarta Airport (SOC). You can fly to Solo from numerous places in Indonesia. And it has 2 train stations, the Solo Balapan and Jebres stations.
On this trip, we took the train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta’s Lempuyangan train station. It was the Ekonomi class train, costing IDR 35,000 / pax, departed at about 9 pm and arrived at about 8 am the next day. And then after breakfast on Malioboro Street, we took the Parameks train from Jogjakarta train station, IDR 9,000 / pax. It has dedicated coaches for female passengers! I bet this is to avoid any possible sexual harassment to happen.
The train left at 10.35 am and arrived at Solo Balapan Station at a quarter to noon. (We could stop at Jebres Station as well, but we chose Solo Balapan because we needed to look for an affordable room that’s said to be plenty around the Solo Balapan station.)
Ekonomi class is obviously the cheapest, and it doesn’t have a mercy on you when all seats are sold out. You still have to pay the same amount of money that’s called the standing ticket, meaning you can either stand the whole way to the last station, or sit wherever there is space on the floor, or hope that an angel would give up their seat for you.
I had been on an Ekonomi train ride about a decade ago, so I kinda forgot how awful it was like. Seriously, Ipin and I had to go back and forth the coaches to find a decent space on the floor to sit on, we even naively hoped for an empty seat. Passengers weren’t all being nice to us. A man even offered us to sit on his lap, that pervert! And from their comments when seeing us wandering around looking for a spot to sit, it’s obvious that they knew we weren’t very familiar with the Ekonomi class train. Maybe it was because of my shiny red sneakers?
Tips when taking the Ekonomi class:
– keep your stuff close to you (I’m told that there are a lot of pickpockets, that’s why I never got my camera out, hence no picture of the inside of the train)
– keep your bags where you can see them. If it’s a backpack, carry it in front of you, not on your back
– It would be wise to have some kind of mat (could be your daily newspaper, or your old yoga mat) for you to sit on, just to keep your pants clean
– Or wear old pants or a pair that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty
– There’s no AC, so a fan might really come handy to keep you cool, especially if you’re taking the daylight schedule
– Ladies, you better cover up. I don’t recommend wearing shorts or tank tops without an outer wear
On Asphalt Road
From Jakarta, and I believe from many other cities on Java as well, Solo can also be reached by cars and buses. When we just arrived at Solo Balapan station, we were gonna buy tickets back to Jakarta. Too bad they were all sold out except the standing tickets, which we swore not to take ever again, and the Eksekutif class which were out of our budget. So, travel cars or buses were our next choices.
Advised by our hotel staff, we went by becak to the Tirtonadi Bus Terminal. We meant to book bus tickets, but we were sort of intimidated by the situation in the terminal, where not-so-friendly looking men semi-forced us to buy tickets from their agents. And turns out, the bus that my friends recommended, the Rosalia Indah, didn’t have a ticket counter in that terminal, so we decided to take a travel car instead.
Here is where you could get the tickets or contact them, which I found out later:
Phone 62 271 – 825173
http://rosalia-indah.com/ (website in Indonesian)
Address: Jl. Raya Solo – Sragen Km. 7,5
Palur, Jaten, Karanganyar
Oh and you’re charged IDR 2,000 / person entering the terminal.
– Travel cars
So we went to the ticketing offices, which were very close to the terminal, only IDR 5,000 by becak. Honestly I forgot what the address was, but on the payment receipt it’s written: Komplek Travel Gilingan. There were lots and lots of kiosks offering their travel cars services, a very homogeneous market, with the same price range between companies. We finally chose the Rapi Tour & Travel because their kiosk and the staff seemed the most bona fide (a judgment that we regretted later on). Phone: 62 271 723299 or 702259.
– the going back home story
We paid IDR 160,000 / pax, leaving from Solo at 3ish PM (the car picks up all the passengers to each one’s home/hotel), and scheduled to arrive in Jakarta (also to each one’s home/hotel) before the sun rise. In fact, I got home at 10 AM * grumble grumble grumble *
The trouble was that after picking up Vindhya and me, they still had to pick up some other passenger somewhere near Yogyakarta! Well, the route does go through Yogyakarta (probably the outer ring road, I’m not so sure), but to reach this guy’s house we had to go a little out of the route, hence more time. Zzzzz….
The car had AC, no problem there. What became a problem was, that they were supposed to have only 10 passengers, so that the extra driver (they needed to change shifts to avoid sleeping while driving) could fit as well. Turns out, the tickets were sold to 11 passengers, leaving no seat for the extra driver. So what happened was he sat on the floor between my seat and the door, making my ride so uncomfortable the whole night long cos I couldn’t really change positions of my legs. Plus, we didn’t get the seats that we had booked for, because when they picked us up the seats were occupied by other passengers. When we demanded our booked seats, that Javanese ‘relax, everything is the same, don’t sweat the small stuff’ attitude of theirs made us feel we’d be such annoying brats to demand what was promised to us further. So, fine, we took the empty seats, and that’s what happened. Well, no more Ms. Nice Girl next time!
Anyhoo, the ride was as the usual, fast and furious.. I mean, you better sleep so as not to be frightened. We stopped for a supper at Kebumen, and the food were really really cheap. A moderate portion of fried noodle plus a fried egg and veggies only cost me IDR 5,000!
We arrived in Jakarta safe and sound the next morning. But it was Monday, traffic getting in the city after sunrise was simply hellish. It would take ages for them to get everyone to their homes, so they put some of us, who head to the similar direction, in a cab that they paid for.
It was so easy finding becak anywhere in Solo, it might just be their main public transportation. Of course there are taxis, ojeks, and angkots, but becaks are very uniquely Javanese, and they’re cheap, but you might not want to haggle so low considering that they’re using human being’s energy to get that vehicle moving. I know I wouldn’t.
Sometimes, when you’ve found a becak driver that you like, perhaps for his service or his friendliness, you could keep him to drive you around all day to various places. You could ask him to wait for you at each place you’re stopping. Of course you should pay him more for waiting fee.
– Djayakarta Hotel : IDR 75,000 / room / night
– Ekonomi train Jakarta – Yogyakarta : IDR 35,000
– Becak from Lempuyangan train station to Malioboro street in Yogyakarta: IDR 13,000
– Parameks train Yogyakarta – Solo: IDR 9,000
– Travel car Solo – Jakarta : IDR 160,000
There isn’t really a fix rate for becak, but here are some references for your haggling:
– from Pasar Klewer to PGS : IDR 5,000
– from Djayakarta Hotel (Solo Balapan) to Tirtonadi bus terminal and then to the travel agents and Klewer Market : IDR 43,000
– from Djayakarta Hotel (Solo Balapan) to Serabi Notosuman on Widuran street: DIR 10,000
(note: Vindhya and I, put together add up to about 110 kg – and your weight matters to the price)
Food & Bev:
– 2 portions of gudeg & 1 dawet for breakfast in Yogyakarta: IDR 35,000
– tengkleng soup at Pasar Klewer : IDR 15,000 / portion ( this was the most expensive food we had in this trip )
– es dawet at Pasar Klewer: IDR 3,000/ portion
– sate buntal : IDR 12,000 / portion
– complete dinner at Bestik Harjo, Galabo : IDR 43,000
– nasi liwet Solo Bu Darto IDR 5,000
– 14 pieces of Serabi Notosuman IDR 27,000
– bakso Alex IDR 8,000 / portion
– KFC IDR 21,000
– Dinner at Kebumen on our way back to Jakarta IDR 5,000
– Keraton Surakarta entrance fee IDR 8,000, camera fee IDR 3,500
All these plus some other stuff like buying a local magazine, toilet tickets, and bottled water.
At the end, we managed to ‘win’ the challenge. Vindhya still had IDR 11,000 left, and me IDR 15,000 from the total budget of IDR 500,000 / person. Wow. Fun can actually be so cheap!
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