Monday, November 14, 2011

To Java, East, from Bali

The last post ended on Oktober 27th, on Ubud, Bali, just before we left for Java. We had the presence of mind to ask what the price for the bemos is we would need to get to Gilimanuk, where the ferry crosses to Banyuwangi on Java, and the driver, maybe because he's one of the few honest ones, maybe because he couln't profit from us directly, told us the real price: Bemo Ubud to Batubulan and Bemo Batubulan to Ubung Rp. 10 000 each. From Ubung, a bus goes to Gilimanuk for Rp25k. This may be a good strategy to find out the real price of transport, but we have heard tourist prices even then.

On the 28th, a Thursday, I believe (ups, a Friday. Rest of post edited and dates corrected), we then went to the bemo terminal of Ubud, and were offered Rp150k directly to Ubung, or R80k to Batubulan. Great. We insisted for a long time, but in the end had to pay Rp30k for the both of us to Batubulan, and then the driver didn't even get us all the way, but foisted us off on another bemo somewhere in the middle. There we luckily met Ayu, a local girl going to Gilimanuk to meet up with a friend of hers, who took us under her wings. The travel from there on went well, with Ayu interceding for us whenever the price was not right, both with the drivers and the hawkers coming onto the bus to sell food - mostly fried tofu with hot peppers and soy sauce, or peanuts boiled in salt water. The bus to Gilimanuk got pretty crowded, and it was not comfortable at all travelling with our backpacks in the way all the time, often on our laps, but the countryside, which started to exist in western Bali (as opposed to the settlements everywhere in central), was pretty. No a/c, so it got hot again, but all windows and doors were kept open all the time -- try to sit right behind a door in such a bus. There seems to be no inappropriate time to smoke in Indonesia (also no inappropriate age, today we saw a vendor selling cigs to 12 year olds), so people will smoke next to you on the bus. This is not so much of a problem because of the air circulating through the windows.

We got to Gilimanuk late in the afternoon, said our farewells to Ayu, and crossed the street to the ferry harbour, where the prices for crossing are listed, Rp6000, no haggling, thankfully. The crossing itself was uneventful, apart from Made, who talked to us in broken English. It seems his name means "second son" in Bahasa Bali, or alternately "sixth son", or "tenth son", as there are four names that go through cycles: Putu, Made, Nyoman, Ketut.

In Banyuwangi, a tour agent told us the way to a cheap hotel "700m" (closer to 1.5km) away, where we got a room with bathroom for Rp40k - in fact, this is the cheapest room we've had (up to now, Nov 14th!), and certainly one of the best. Yay for not being in a tourist-frequented region. Settled in, went out for a walk, and immediately were invited by Rika, who was on her way to pick up her son, to visit her home, where we spent the evening trying to communicate with her and later her neighbor, Waia. Apart from the language inadequacies, it was rather tiring because both largely insisted on talking to me through Doro : "And your Boyfriend, what is his name?", ".. what will he do?" and so on. Still, they tried to teach us some bahasa indonesia, and we reciprocated with inggris and jerman.

Later that evening we dined at a local Warung, where no one spoke an English word. The meal involved a lot of smiling at each other, and us stammering out the few sentences of Indonesian we had just written down, with mixed success: We only understood answers that could be communicated by "yes", "no" or signs.

On the 29th, Saturday, we hiked to the train station (stasiun kareta api), allegedly 3km from the hotel, in truth right past the ferry harbour. There, we noticed that, somehow, all clocks in Banyuwangi seem to be an hour late. This, of course, meant we had passed into another time zone from Bali to Java, which our guidebook neglects to mention... Luckily, the direction of time change meant we were two hours early instead of one, so we proceeded to have breakfast and drink coffee with the group of people sitting around a mobile stand in front of the train station, comunicating much the same as the day before. 

At least good coffee is available everywhere in Indonesia. A word of caution on Indonesian drinks (minuman) though: everything will be sweetened, unless you specifically request otherwise. Ordering kopi or  kopi susu will get you sweetened black or white (the "susu") coffee, the powder still in the glass, and our first fruit juice on Bali, the mango one, included a gratitious amount of chocolate syrup, though sugar syrup is more common for drinks. We were told to order Kopi tawa (English 'w') if we wanted it unsweetened, but in Central Java, this just confuses the poeple, and a translation site just gave me kopi hitam or kopi pahit. I'll try that next time.

Well, that's all for now, in my ongoing effort to juggle being on an interesting country where I'm trying to get up with the sun (6am is our best mark, yet) and writing about it. Time is short, as you can see: I'm writing this from Pekalongan, on the north coast of Central Java. Still a lot to catch up...

All the best from here!

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