Like almost everything else in Java, riding the train was an experience. A very small portion of people in Java speak English and there are very few tourists from around the world. By this time, Jordan and I were used to being starred at by the locals as if we were celebrities. We were used to not knowing what was going on until we lucked out with an English speaker passing by. The train was no exception.
We had to buy the train tickets in the IndoMarket. These are all over Indonesia, so we easily could have bought our ticket from Borobudur to Jakarta while we were in Bali. We, however, decided to wait until we were in Java because there was a market around the corner from us there. We would have to take an hour taxi to the train station from Borobudur to catch our train.
When we got to the counter at IndoMarket, we did the usual miming dance with the cashier to figure out that we needed to go to a machine by the door to purchase the ticket. The machine did not want to take our money, however, so we reserved our place and figured we’d be paying cash at the station. When we got back to our place, Jordan watched a video online about how to buy the train ticket, and found we must have missed a step. We should have paid for it at the market with the cashier.
The next day, Jordan went back to the market to pay for the train tickets. He brought the reservation ticket up to the cashier that was printed out from the machine the day before. The cashier communicated to Jordan that the ticket had expired, and Jordan needed to make a new reservation at the machine before he could pay for the ticket. Luckily the machine stored our passport and phone numbers and all our information, because we hadn’t brought that with us today. (We really should have our passport numbers memorized by now.)
As Jordan was at the cash register paying for the tickets, I went outside to wait. Jordan said everyone in the line was talking to each other in Bahasa and started laughing, seemingly at him. A man asked Jordan if he spoke any Bahasa and when Jordan said no, the man laughed.
The day of our train ride, we ordered a Grab from our air bnb. (Grab is the Asian Uber.) The Grab car couldn’t find our place, so we messaged him we would meet him at the bus station. We almost ran the two blocks to the bus station, picking our way through the morning market fruits and vegetables spread out on blankets on the ground. Since we left the Air bnb, we didn’t have wifi to communicate with our driver. We stood in the bus station, eyes wide with hope that he would show up. I’m usually a worry wart, so I was the nervous one this morning.
Finally, our driver does show up, slowly making his way through the market to get us. We hop in his car and hope he can drive us to the station fast enough to catch our train.
Our driver must have known we had a train to catch based on our destination. He skillfully zoomed along these back country roads like I used to weave through traffic in LA when I was fed up with driving and just wanted to get home. This man maneuvered his big car around scooters, other cars, bicycles with food carts on the back, women walking on the side of the road carrying impossible loads of grasses or vegetable baskets on their heads, and school children on their way to school. The drive was that much harder to make because of all the school traffic. Every little village we drove through had so much going on while the children in uniforms tried to make their way to school.
We had to stop at a petrol station to fill up along the way. Jordan and I sat in the back of the car glancing at our watches while watching the scooter lines of cars fill up. The kid in the school uniform would hop off the back and patiently wait while the dad would talk to the pump person filling the scooter. Older school kids would hop off their bikes, open the seat, take their backpack out and stand awkwardly while their scooters were being filled.
We made it to the train station with maybe 15 minutes to spare. We poured thank yous on our driver as we put our packs on and ran out of the car towards the station. We found a line of people scanning tickets, so we jumped in and followed suit. Once scanned, we could go through the turn style and sit on one of the plastic garden chairs while we waited for our train. We made it.
The only thing left to figure out was which train to get on. We landed on grabbing the first train going in the right direction toward Jakarta. All the announcements are in Bahasa but Jakarta is still Jakarta in their language. We found our car number and seats and got settled in for the 6 hour train ride to the capital.
We had to get a first class train because we had reserved our tickets so late that was all that was available. The tickets were $25 each instead of $17 each on a lower class. Our car had blasting air conditioning, and a squat toilet right outside. You haven’t tried a squat toilet until you’ve tried a squat toilet on a rocking train, I tell you what.