Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Train Ride Out of Jakarta

For my Christmas break this year, I decided to visit Indonesia. Many colleagues of mine from both Korea and India had sung their praises for the captivating beauty of Bali in particular, and after reading some social media posts on the area, I felt compelled to also visit. What's not to love - culture, warm climate, inexpensive, and a direct flight from Seoul. 
Prior to heading over to Bali, I wanted to check out two UNESCO World Heritage sites on Java - Borobudur and Prambanan. My flight into Jakarta also enabled me to make an overnight visit to a former colleague.
Very early the next morning, a taxi arrived ahead of schedule to take me to the train station. In the 45 minute stretch to the station, we drove past some USA familiars such as ACE Hardware, KFC, a few Starbucks, as well as South Korea's Lotte Mart and France's Carrefour. The city did have some tall buildings, but houses were much more plentiful than in Seoul, where high-rises were the norm for most dwellings. Crosses that were so pervasive in the Seoul skyline were replaced with minarets. Motorcycles were quite common on the road, along with cars and a few rickshaws.  In the section of the toll-heavy road we took, I saw no ambling cows, a bit less garbage, and not the horn-honking culture of India.   

Just as in the railway stations of India, porters were plentiful, deftly carrying heavy luggage, including brightly colored Hello Kitty and Frozen pieces. The station was active, but not the crowded beehive of commerce to which I had become accustomed at various Indian train stations. Unlike India though, my train actually left on schedule. The train coach was air conditioned. clean-ish, and only had two seats on each side. Within a short time, the taller, more modern city buildings were replaced by shacks and more run-down houses. 
Laundry of many colors hung from clotheslines - some very close to the train tracks. I wondered how clean the clothes would be after so many trains passed by them as they tried to dry in the humid weather. Graffiti-covered walls provided a bit of a barrier to some dwellings, but many of the corrugated tin shacks came right up to the tracks. Some kids standing on improvised bamboo porches waved as the train rolled past. Uniformed railway workers stood erect and rather idle-looking at the doorways of the many smaller rail stations. 

Motorbikes and a few cars quickly multiplied at the crossing gates, patiently idling until the train went on through. It was obvious that such waiting was common.
Gradually, buildings became less frequent and gave way to the Java countryside. 

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