Public transport, birthday celebrations & the kindness of strangers
02.02.2013 - 03.02.2013
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Travelling with a hangover is never easy, even more so when one is not exactly sure how it’s done and knowing the station staff won’t know much English. Our plan was to catch the train to Bogor so we head down to Jakarta’s main train station. One of the station employees tells us that the train to Bogor doesn’t run from there and we’d have to go to the next station along the line (it turns out this is correct). So while we’re waiting for a cab to take us there he very persistently tries to offer a mini bus instead - $40 he says. We’re pretty sure the trains are really cheap here so we firmly decline. After a lot of frigging around with this guy we finally get a cab to the next station and buy our tickets – 90 cents each! So the first train comes along – it’s packed! The next even more so, some don’t even have the doors closed and people are sitting with their legs hanging out. Anyway this local bloke I’d started talking to says he’s going to go in the other direction to the start of the line and get on there so he’ll have a seat and we’re welcome to come with him. We (and our hangovers) jump at the chance. Sure enough once the train gets to the end of the line he tells us to quickly grab a seat before the rush pours in. This is just a local commuter train and Bogor is at the end of the line, it’s an hour trip. The trains are clean and comfortable, air-conditioned and also have additional ceiling fans on the ceiling (Metro take note). The men are very polite too, all women getting on are offered a seat. When we get to Bogor everyone gets out and we’re at a platform the other side from the main station. There are no connecting walkways or underpasses, everyone just climbs through adjacent trains until you get to the station entrance.
We get out onto the main street to get a cab to our hotel. It’s complete pandemonium of people, traffic and local shuttle buses but no cabs. (We find out later that cabs are rare in Bogor.) So after a while we start walking up the road to the next intersection in the hope of finding a cab. Trudy has booked a hotel for my birthday the following day and we have no idea where it is. So with no luck hailing a cab at the next intersection we ask some girls walking by for directions. An older lady who was using an ATM overhears and asks where we’re going. “I know where that is”, she says and she and her husband offer to drive us there. 50 metres later we pull into our hotel. We had been virtually standing outside of it but they were a very lovely couple wanting to help out strangers to their town. Their help was greatly appreciated.
Trudy has booked us into a lovely old Dutch hotel overlooking the Bogor Botanical Gardens. A lovely way to spend my birthday. Thanks honey! We’ve also been blessed with the weather so far. Jakarta was in a flooded state of emergency the week before we arrived but we haven’t had rain since we got here. Bogor is even known as the city of rain but we arrive to another clear day and tomorrow turns out to be a glorious day as well.
The next day we spend in the botanical gardens, known as Kebun Raya. These were developed by Sir Stamford Raffles, were expanded further by the Dutch and also contain the Summer Presidential Palace. The gardens are simply world class. Bogor has long been the retreat of the Jakarta elites and this is still the case to this day. We were visiting on a Sunday and this is the day that families head out to the gardens. People were doing what they do the world over, picnicking, playing ball games and generally just enjoying themselves.
There were also a couple of groups of school students, who were obviously doing an English project for school, who bailed us up a couple of times and proceeded to interview us. Aside from asking us about ourselves they also quizzed us on Indonesia and were overjoyed whenever we said something nice about their country. This was a lot of fun.
And of course we had the usual collection of groupies just wanting to pose for photos.
On the way home we dropped into one of Bogor’s shopping malls. It was packed but we were there in time for a little dangdut show. Dangut is sort of a meld of pop and traditional music and is very popular in Indonesia. It is also sometimes controversially raunchy by Indonesian standards.