Monday, October 6, 2008

Pit Stop in Banjar

From Jakarta I wanted to go to the beach town of Pangandaran. The guidebook said to catch a train to Banjar and then a local bus to Pangandaran. On asking to buy a ticket to Banjar I was told I would have to go to Bandung and then buy a new ticket to Banjar.

I was early for my train but could not figure out how to tell where a train was going. I was told which track my train would depart from but just had to ask someone each time a train came in on that track. My train was at least 45 minutes late and I almost got on a few trains before mine came. Even though this was confusing it was sort of interesting to watch the things going on at the station. A bunch of men would gather at the end of the platform each time a train would come in. As the train arrived at the station the men would run along with the train hopping into the different cars. I never figure out what was going on until I got on my train but it seems these men were porters and would help people with bags. One of these men helped me find my seat on the correct train and when he wanted a tip I finally figured it out he was a porter.

I arrived in Bandung a little after noon and was surprised that the train to Banjar was not until 4. I was also surprised at the cost of the ticket at 200,000 Rupiahs. Being concerned about money I was watching every 1,000 Rupiah.

I had 4 hours to kill in Bandung so walked a little around the town but walking around with a heavy backpack on a hot day is not really what I consider fun. I found a somewhat clean shady spot on the sidewalk and just had a seat. I bought some food from a guy that walks around carrying these 2 big box looking things with a stick in-between them over his shoulder. I am not really sure what it was but it did have sate sauce on it and was OK. He waited until I finished and returned his dish prior to picking up his boxes and moving on. While I was setting there a couple of guys stopped and tried to talk to me but since I don’t speak any Indonesian and they spoke very little English this did not go far. They really just wanted money from me and I did understand that when one kept saying he was hungry. They earned money by playing a guitar and singing. I did not give them any money even though they tried to sing a couple of songs in English or at least I think they were trying to sing in English. They said one song was a Rolling Stones song and the other was Metallica but even though I have heard a lot of songs by these groups they never sounded anything like one I had heard before. Even though we could not talk we exchanged phone numbers and I have got a couple of text messages from them that has been in pretty good English.

I walked a little bit more after my new friends went to go make some money and did see the following painted on the side of a building. Very Dutch and something very dear to my heart Beer.

Well I wasted enough time and it was about time for my train so back to the station. The train station is rather different than any other train station I think I have been to. It has a number of tracks but there is no under or overpass and it also does not really have platforms so the trains are about 3 or 4 feet above where you stand. They push these moveable stairs next to the train cars and if the train is standing still you have to walk through the trains to get from track to track. I thought I might miss my train because they seemed to keep moving one train back and forth so I was not able to pass through for a few minutes but it finally stopped and made it to the track that my train was leaving from without a problem.

The landscape between Bandung and Banjar is suppose to be really pretty but since my train left at 4 I only got to enjoy about an hour and a half before the sun went down. I think they really need to change the time zone for Java the Sun comes up around 5 and sets around 5:30.

I arrived in Banjar about 9 PM and I hate getting somewhere after dark. I had to ask people if this was Banjar and when someone finally understood and said yes I grabbed my bag and jumped off the train. When I say jumped off the train I really mean it this time. I talked about there was no platform in Bandung well this was also the case in Banjar. They had the moveable stairs but none of them were pushed up to the cars. I tossed down my bags and jumped the 3 or 4 feet down trying to miss my bags.

Once on the ground I needed to get to the bus station. The guidebook did not have any map of the city and not really any help with knowing the direction of the bus station. A guy kept offering me a ride to the bus station and so we agreed on a price and he told me there would be a bus ever 15 minutes or so. I think I paid too much for the ride and it was on a Becak, which is a 3-wheeled bike like a rickshaw but where the passenger is in front of the rider.

On arriving at the bus station he took me up to a van with the sign of Pangandaran in the window. I was told I was the only passenger and they wanted 300,000 Rupiah. I said no and decided I would just try and find a hotel. The Becak driver wanted to take me to a hotel but since I felt he had already overcharged me and lied to me I did not want to go anywhere with him. The guidebook said there where hotels in the town but did not list any so I started walking down the street back in what I thought was the direction of the train station. Did I say I hate coming into a new town after dark.

I stopped and ask someone about a hotel and he pointed me this way and that way so went on walking and once I figured I had made a mistake I asked someone else. I asked one place and bought a bottle of water and they pointed me back in the direction that I had come so I started to walk that way and a guy came out that spoke pretty good English and offered to give me a ride. I did not really want a ride but I accepted it and he borrowed a motorbike and took me to a cheap hotel. It seems the hotel was full so we went to another hotel, which also appeared to be full so off to a 3rd hotel with no room. Then we went back to the first hotel I never understood why but I still didn’t get a room. We hopped back on the motorbike and went to what I was told was the only other hotel around and was a bit out of town. When we got to the hotel they did not seem to want to show me the room because they said it was not very nice and did not have AC and again this is all from this stranger that I met on the street since he is the only one that seems to speak any English. I did not think the room was worth what they were asking even if it was not much but hey it was a room. I asked the guy what I owed him for taking me all over town and he told me nothing. I did get him to take 10,000 Rupiah, which was half what the Becak driver had charged me.

We exchanged names and phone numbers and he told me if I wanted a ride to the bus station tomorrow I should give him a call. I called Dadang the following morning and he came and took me to the bus station. I tried to give him 10,000 Rupiah but he would not take it but he at least allowed me to buy him breakfast while waiting for the bus. Dadang is a schoolteacher and teaches computers and the internet. We have also exchanged a number of text messages since and he offered to help me again if I was going to pass through Banjar again.

I knew that Ramadan had just ended but did not know that the end of Ramadan is a big holiday for Indonesians. It is normal for them to return to where they are original from on the week following Ramadan and it was the reason all the hotels in Banjar were full.

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