Solo to Yogyakarta (Central Java, Indonesia)

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We were going to pre-book our train tickets from Solo to Yogyakarta yesterday afternoon but the man at the ticket counter tells us not to. It will be much cheaper for us to buy the tickets on the day. It turns out that he is correct. Pre-booked economy class tickets are 120,000IDR ($AU12) but on-the-day local train tickets are just 8,000IDR ($AU0.80). And the only differences between the two are that (1) seats are not allocated on the local train, (2) there are no charging points on the local train and (3) the local train takes 65 minutes instead of 55 to make the journey. In all other respects, the local train is just as comfortable and efficient as the other trains.
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Solo is the starting point for this particular train. Everyone who was on board the train alights as we board. There’s nothing particularly significant about this process except that it is efficient and fast.
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One really cool thing they do have here in Indonesia at the railway stations that we don’t have at home are porters. They wear numbered uniform t-shirts and will carry your heavy luggage onto the train and place it in the overhead rack for you. I haven’t used the service because we don’t have much luggage but it is definitely popular with little old ladies who always seem to have large cardboard boxes with them.
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We arrive in Yogyakarta around lunch time and take a taxi to our guest house. It’s tucked away in the far south-western corner of the city and is too far to walk. We have learned that taxis use meters here while becaks require time haggling and even then we rarely get the becak cheaper than a taxi so we might as well enjoy the comfort of air conditioning. We’re too early for our room so we leave our gear and go out for a delicious lunch of soto daging (meat soup) at a local warung (food stall). It’s absolutely delicious and next time I come I will eat much more soto because it is always boiled for a long time, making it far safer than some stuff.

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Paul really wants a massage but we don’t want to walk all the way to the tourist area where we know there are two places. There’s a sign saying that 400m past our hostel there is a massage place for men. We decide to give it a go. At first the place seems legitimate. There’s some clean looking men in a nice looking office. We are taken into some clean rooms for our massage and body scrub. And that’s pretty much where legitimacy ends. The massage is good but the wandering hands are a disturbing. We both decline the extra services on offer, pay and leave. It’s always a risk when getting a massage … and all you can do is say “no thank you” and move on.

We return to our very lovely guesthouse and I spend a few hours sitting in the courtyard working while Paul catches up on Facebook. Then we head out for a long walk into the city, which is about 2.5km (1.5 miles) away. I enjoy these night time walks. The air is cooler, there’s always something to see and it gets us out and about.

We find a legitimate massage place on the tourist street and settle in for 90 minutes of pure blissful reflexology. I sleep almost the whole way through the foot, hand and shoulder massage. It’s a relaxed and restful sleep … the kind that is almost a trance as you feel everything that is happening to you but can’t open your eyes.

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Our next stop is Nanamia. This is an Italian restaurant on the tourist street that came highly recommended by our host at our previous guesthouse here in Yogyakarta. It was amazing. All I’ve been craving the past week is fresh clean food with fresh clean flavours. Indonesian food is delicious but the flavours are a complex mix of sweet, salty and sour, and everything is served with rice, which I actually quite dislike. The food I am used to at home is flavoured by vegetables, meat, garden herbs, salt and pepper. While I use a lot of fresh herbs in my cooking, I don’t use many spices. And I eat a lot of salads at home topped with a drizzle of balsamic or yoghurt. While food is an important part of travel, I have reached a point where I could almost kill someone for something fresh. And here, at Nanamia I find exactly what I am looking for. We risk the Insalata Mediterannea because I have read that this restaurant uses bottled water to wash their salads. We also eat home baked paninis with onion, tomato, beef mince and mozzarella cheese. It is amazing! Never has a sandwich tasted this good. It’s exactly what I have been craving. And the price is not outrageous either. The sandwich costs 31,000IRD ($AU3) while a portion of ayam goreng at the Alun Alun Kidul costs between 20,000-25,000IDR ($AU2-2.50). Yes, it’s about 150% the cost of the other meal but in real terms it’s great value. I am happy for the whole walk home.

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