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Yogyakarta to Semarang


Though my original plan had been to rise habitually early in prospect of enforced departure today, the beer compromised me until 12 noon checkout time that day, unfortunately an indulgence I would later regret in Semarang. Semarang was a northern coastal city which though Central Java's provincial capital would not normally feature on most itineraries. My propensity for thoroughness though was further qualified in learning that my required flight to Borneo was significantly cheaper from there than Yogya, in the inexplicable absence of any air connection from Indonesia's nearby second city Surabaya. Suffice to say that the supposedly easy 3 hour bus hop north proved uncomfortable and convoluted, and in the darkness I even became convinced at one point that Semarang had somehow managed to slip by me, I thought I was headed on an Indonesian first a motorway for Surabaya after all. It was another complication to get into town from the unusually deserted and remote terminal, and though a Bemo finally did me a big favour in accosting me in lieu of more elusive city buses, I had found a despairing inability to understand a single word uttered by the locals. Doubtless some spoke still mysterious Javanese to me, but my Bahasa enquiries also singularly struggled to cut the mix. For the sake of facility I requested the main post office knowing it to be central, and immediately regretted not having afforded this city a day upon arrival, encountering colonial vestiges even surpassing those of Jakarta. A pristine whitewashed church was superb in its contrasting large dome and square towers, and other architectural relics dotted around a monoblock and canal lined locale redeemed my difficult arrival with unprecedented character. It was no good in the dark though, bag laden and supremely sweaty and smelly as I was, and it was another timely refuge in finding a small Padang restaurant showing the Asia Cup. Tonight was the final, a long awaited appointment which I managed to catch on the worlds dodgiest portable TV, imparting at least the correct result. In a temperamental match of unexpected marvels Iraq verses the seasoned Saudis, the fairytale was excellently realised in Iraq playing the pants off their neighbours to lift the cup courtesy of a late free header.

By the time I retraced a hitherto open net cafe the supposed 24 hour joint was closed, and so more pointless sweaty weighed down wanderings found no better alternative than writing over a few very hard to come by beers. One problem which I at least had managed to forego was the late hunt for a hotel. With my flight the next day departing uncomfortably early, there was one easy solution in making sure I didnt miss it (again), I simply wouldnt sleep. Hardcore. Though certainly tourists were a relative unknown here, I now found myself grumpy nonetheless at the persistent annoying culture of being pestered by bands of guitar wielding buskers in their constant assault of buses and restaurants, and the local transport officionados also thought they knew money when they saw it.

In traipsing around town that night in a fruitless search for anything resembling a bar or coffee shop, a valuable insight was gleaned into the lives of these pavement peddlers, as I witnessed the Becak boys slumbering in their chariots just as they typically did in daytime. Apparently without homes or even beds to go to, it brought a new sense of realisation that in this fast developing country many still lived very humble lives earning a pittance. Out of the many rudimentary foodstalls I encountered, the only one offering beer was the only one to endure the night, and I witnessed more unlikely insights into how every night these stalls had to be dismantled and carted away, a lot of work for doubtless a paltry gain. A stroke of luck blessed me in later finding the aforementioned brace of Padang restaurants still open, and so curry rice at 4am was deemed acceptable for the want of better alternatives. I sat it out until 5am and then loaded up once more in search of a taxi, a rare indulgence justified by its assured efficiency in getting me to the airport unhindered.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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