Semarang to Solo (Central Java, Indonesia)

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It’s time to leave Semarang and keep traveling for our final week in Indonesia. Last night we said goodbye to my family at dinner and now we are at the train station waiting to go to Solo. Semarang Ponccol Station is the economy station and is in a beautiful colonial building.

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It doesn’t take long for our train to arrive. Our seats are in carriage 1 but the train doesn’t fully fit on the platform so we have to walk down the tracks quite a distance to get on board. It’s something we are becoming quite used to now. It’s funny how quickly the unfamiliar becomes familiar.

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Outside men wash a train on another track.

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The journey to Solo is about three hours long. It takes us past farms and villages. It’s dry here right now and this makes it look different to the lush green landscape of the wet season.

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The first thing I notice about Solo are the becak. They are different here to any we’ve seen so far. Rather than having rounded wheel arches, here they are a distinctive shape. The sun shades on the becak are also higher than they were in Semarang. Had we not been to the transport museum back in Batu I might not have noticed these subtle differences.

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While I am talking about transport, there are also lots of cycle couriers here in Solo. I find it amazing that anyone can ride like this. And the rider is probably a thin older man who nourishes his body on little more than rice and a small quantity of chicken and vegetables or maybe tempeh or tofu. And that’s before we start talking about the brakes on these bikes: mechanical.

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Tea pots bubble away on the street. Many are unattended. They sit on clay or tin pots filled with burning wood or coals. Unlike the tea pots in Yogyakarta, which were squat (wide and low), these are tall and narrow. I don’t know whether this water is for tea sellers or for making safe drinking water for residents. But it is a common sight.

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Bananas are also packed differently here. I’ve not seen this anywhere else so far; though it might just be that I didn’t notice.

It’s a 3km (2 mile) walk from the station to our hotel. It’s not the most picturesque place to walk being fairly dirty and hot. But it gives us a chance to see the city and stretch our legs. Our hotel is nice enough. We’ve booked into a boutique Muslim hotel in what seems to be a particularly poor area. The air conditioning works and the internet signal is strong so I can settle in for an afternoon of work.

At night we explore the area a little. Paul had already been out while I was working and spent over an hour looking for a supermarket only to walk around without success (there was a supermarket nearby but he didn’t see it). We look for a massage relying on Google Maps. The places listed on Google don’t exist but we find another place. We get taken up a flight of stairs and left in two rooms as far from each other as is possible. The “massage table” is covered with a prickly fabric, the lights are off and there is an ashtray with smoked cigarettes on a table. I am reminded of the uncomfortable massage we endured in Thailand that was actually a front for a brothel. I tell Paul that we are leaving. He is so desperate for a massage that he actually considers staying and just telling the masseuse “no”. But I’m not having a bar of it. I win and we leave. Later we’ll laugh about this. But for now I just feel a bit gross.

Welcome to Solo.

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