On The Train Around Indonesia, Feb 4-11, 2018
The train trip around Indonesia was not in my calendar this year. Well at least not early in the year. The opportunity came when I joined the NGO I am active with for a benchmarking visit to both Jakarta and Bandung. Not that I did not have anything to do within the weeks but since I would be already in Indonesia I decided to do ‘Around Indonesia By Train’. I chose major cities Bandung, Yogjakarta, and Surabaya as my pit stops. The first thing I did was to suggest and persuade the team to take the train to Bandung from Jakarta. Knowing that I am a season train traveller the team agreed with me. I informed them that the new service is not what it used to be years ago. The clincher that the journey or route would be a scenic one. With that my train brain worked overtime planning the trip. Once I got the dates I had to decide how many days for the whole adventure. Bandung, Yogjakarta and Surabaya are renown cities with their own histories and culture. Since I have not been to Yogjakarta and Surabaya I decided to stay for 4 days each in both cities. Thus, cumulatively, making it an eleven days Indonesian adventure from Jan 31 to Feb 11.
I started with the flight tickets first. With the fare for the Red Bird already at the high end and wanting a better luggage capacity I opted for my current favourite airline, Malindo Air, to fly in and out of Jakarta. Once done I did a research how how to book Indonesian train tickets online. My first stop was of course the Kereta Api Indonesia official site https://kai.id/ where I can get to search all the train fares and their schedules. However when I tried to purchase using my plastics, credit card, their payment gateway refused me. I tried several times to no avail. Another search and I found tiket.com and I flew with it buying our tickets as shared below. The one mistake I made was booking in haste the Argo Bromo Anggerek night express instead of day. I wanted to do a day trip around Indonesia to see the country. Well Allah prevails as always as it was a blessing for us. Always look on the bright side Ghaz he he he. I also helped to purchase the train tickets for the rest of the team members.
With the the tickets in the bag I started to research and book our accommodations in Yogjakarta and Surabaya. The accommodations in Jakarta and Bandung were done and handled by my NGO. My criteria for accommodation were firstly those near the train station, conducive for tourists with intention to walk the cities, and centre of the town.
Busy with other things that I needed to get done before the trip I asked Mar to plan for our excursion in Yogjakarta and Surabaya.
|Feb 2, 2018||Jakarta Gambir (1030)||Bandung (1339)||Argo Parahyangan (24)/Ex||EKS-1 / 7A 7B 7C|
|Feb 4, 2018||Bandung (0830)||Yogyakarta Tugu (1552)||Argo Wilis/Ex||EKS-1 / 6C 6D 7A|
|Feb 7, 2018||Yogyakarta Tugu (0645)||Surabaya Gubeng (1137)||Sancaka/Ex||EKS-1 / 2C 2D 3A|
|Feb 10, 2018||Surabaya Pasar Turi (2000)||Jakarta Gambir (11/2 0500)||Argo Bromo Anggrek/Ex||EKS-1 / 5A 5B 6A|
Since this is about my experience on Indonesian train and not our benchmarking visits I will start on the first train ride from Jakarta Gambir to Bandung.
Feb 2, 2018, Jakarta Gambir (1030) - Bandung (1339), Agro Parahyangan, EKS-1 / 7A 7B 7C
Quite frankly this route had been very much anticipated as so many people told me it is going to be one of the best route going through high terrain passing gorges with bridges with no siding. Scary and beautiful at the same time.
We arrived at Jakarta Gambir station with ample time for us to have breakfast before the scheduled departure at 10.30 am. Before that we printed our tickets first. When you buy and book your tickets through whatever channels available you will be given a ticket voucher with the a barcode and number. The first thing you need to do once you arrive at the station is to go to one of the kiosks available to scan you barcode and print your tickets.
We chose Dunkin Donuts as the place to lepak as it was the one that familiar to us as well as there is a wifi connection for us social media animals. I could not remember how many thousands rupiah I had to pay for coffees and donuts but enough to root us there for hours. Dishing out thousands of rupiah became a norm for me then, We decide to stay there a bit longer and to check in at around 9.45am.
The platform was on level 2 where we waiting for our train. Few minutes later our train came in from Bandung and knowing the drill I quickly moved towards the locomotive to take few pictures. Before I had taken a few of the station. Being a commuter train station as well there were a bit of morning activities at the station. The train duly shunted and the locomotive was reconnected at the other end to pull us out towards Bandung. So we were ready to board and started the confusion for me. We were to be in Executive 1 coach and logic and normal convention say our should be at the front so I waled to the front and indeed the cleaner told me it should be Executive 1. Mar and I we already inside with our luggage stowed when we were informed that the coach was not Executive 1 as they have rearranged it. Now since I was taking pictures before Sam boarded separately and join the rest of the team thinking she was inside the right coach. After moving to the ride coach which was in the middle next to the buffet car, a blessing actually, I walked to the front looking for Sam.
After I made certain everyone was at their right place I be my train lover self again. I walked the platform taking photos. While doing so I notice the attendant and station supervisor standing nearby and I started a conversation about the train and being train traveller in general. They were glad to earn what I was about to do in the next ten days. When I was capturing the locomotive before there I noticed a premier, like our SK coach in Malaysia, coach was attached as well. I enquired form the supervisor about it. Later I found out it was carrying CIMB Niaga executives. For few millions rupiah everyone can rent the coach. Well, not like KTMB. JNK can make plans to rent one in the future ha ha ha.
Inside the Executive coach was nice complete with a set of power socket for each seating pair. If you had boarded the old Inka coach of Express Rakyat you will feel the same and better. In this case the view form where you are seating will be 360 degrees view. As a recommendation the best seats to book are rows 5,6,7 and 8. As for the coach it would be the one in the middle or further far back. The reason being you can capture the locomotive and most part of the train at corners or bends. Since our Executive 1 that supposed to be just behind the loco that was rearranged to be in the middle was a blessing from Allah.
The train, Argo Parahyangan to Bandung departed the station on schedule. After a preliminary video shots I walked towards my team two coaches in front of me. We were separated because I bought my tickets earlier and I did for the team a week later. The were excited and I anticipated an enjoyable journey experience for them.
The first station the train stopped was Bekasi (1055), one of the other major train commuter stations. As usual I jumped out to take photos. Dr Edzan and Has joined me and we had a photo shot with Bekasi as the background. When the train blew it horns we jumped back on the train.
Finding that there were doing fie I walked back towards the buffet car and as my practise I stayed there for a while taking photos of the outside. The cafe was small with part of it an engine room or sometime that has the ticket conductors (TC’s) room. The counter was in the middle and two cubicle for customers to sit and it. One of them was occupied by my team already. I did not join them as I would not want to miss a good scenery.
After a while my team left the cafe and I followed suit a few minuted later. Back at my seat I felt tired and very sleepy. I woke up for suboh at 4.30 am, took my bath and stayed awake in my room. So I decided to dozz off for awhile and reminded Mar who sat next to me to wake me up when the journey got interesting. She knew what I meant. I could not remember how long was I asleep but as soon as Mar woke me up I was in action and the train just starting to manoeuvre through the high plain. It was around noon, began one of the most beautiful train journey for me. Glued to the window my camera clicking away at will and at time I captured videos using my iPhone. I was as excited as I was when I was four year old taking my first train ride from Kuala Lipis to Palekbang. The train snaked through the mountain where at times up and down the valley. Both sides of the track were beautiful and if I wanted to choose which one is better it is on the right of the train moving towards Bandung. I had the good fortune of having a wide clean glass window and it was a wide angle view for me. Unfortunately, Sam got the worse of the glass similar to the like we had on Malaysian trains. The journey lasted for few hours where you will be looking down a valley with green paddy field across the plain with high mountains as the background. A river valley with terracing paddy fields on each side creating a green and beautiful feeling. Like you walking up a natural green steps. As the train turned you will be expecting even better view than before and you will not be disappointed. Especially when you have a view of a beautiful kampung down the valley that would want to make you to break your journey to spend a day of two among the kampung folks. Worse still when you are feeling envious of the folks to have a place like that for a home.
The paddy fields were another things to admire and be amazed about. The terraces were beautifully crafted as an art on earth with the ingenuity of their water systems going down the fields. Some could be seen close to the track. All these while I thought the terraced paddy fields were done like the paddy fields in Malaysia. On closer look I discovered they were dug in making natural dividers (batas) for each terraces and fields. Not like in Malaysia where we create the batas by piling up mud or earth. Thus, the terraces were really beautiful crafted. Although the train just flew away passing small stations but these stations worth the attention as most of them high on the mountain, small and cute.
At 6 minutes to 1 pm the train entered the only tunnel along the route. Not a long one but enough to give you a sense how high was the place.
One of the longest open bridge appeared at around 1306. Another exhilarating view for you and to add to the excitement you will be looking directly down.
At 1319 we came down into Cimahi. We were informed later the reason the name of the places in Bandung or even Indonesia start with Ci. Ci means water, not necessary river but any body or flowing water signifying the place is around or has water flowing into it. Cimahi was the last station before Bandung.
We arrived at Bandung on schedule something that I truly appreciate. Not like the train company that I know that always late making their slogan ON TIME EVERY TIME a big fat joke. To view the rest of the photos click here if you are my FB friend.