The last day (Yogyakarta, Indonesia)


It’s our final day in Indonesia. Tomorrow morning we will leave for the long 23 hour journey to the Gold Coast via Kuala Lumpur. So we do what has become our favourite thing: walk. We’ve become accustomed to walking on roads clogged with scooters and cars. To saying “no thank you” to becak drivers who cannot believe anyone would actually want to walk here. And to playing Frogger when we want to cross the road.



We eat lumpia (Indonesian spring rolls) and mini terang bulan (fresh cooked crumpets) on the street from kaki lima.


We go to our fifth and final movie in Indonesia, finally succumbing to Mission Impossible, which is the only English-language movie we haven’t yet seen while here in Indonesia. Yes, we are a bit obsessed with the cinemas. I doubt many travelers have seen seven movies in a month in Thailand, five in a fortnight in Malaysia and now five in a month in Indonesia (it would have been more but there were not many English-language films showing here). It’s becoming something of a thing for us to watch movies on South-East Asia’s magical big screens with the superb picture quality, true surround sound and huge comfortable seats.


We stop at a very strange shop that sells all sorts of random items from kitchen cooking utensils to ropes. But what is most interesting is the array of rain coats on display. The mannequins are almost scary in their number, poses and attire. It’s like rain coats are a fashion accessory. But the display works. It draws us into the shop and Paul even buys a very funny outfit that is white with rainbow stripes.




But it is the sights and sounds of Indonesia’s busy city streets that have been the hero of this trip. Last time I saw lots of rice paddies and farming life. This time Paul and I have focused our adventures on the cities and their hectic streets. The contrast between modern and traditional, rich and poor has been stark. It’s noisy, dusty, dirty and (at times) confusing. But we both loved it so much we are planning our return.

Best of Yogya (Central Java, Indonesia)

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After starting the day with the buffet breakfast at the hotel (probably our first breakfast in a week) and a few hours work we head out on foot at midday to walk Yogya. It’s our second last day in Indonesia and we still have much we want to see. Not famous sights; just Indonesia.

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The warung are all changing now from morning to evening shift. This multiple use of the same space is so fascinating to me. In the morning someone sells breakfast. Then they pack up their gas stoves, food and plastic chairs to make way for the person who sells food in the afternoon and evening. In some places it’s just a matter of packing up a kaki lima and walking away. In others the whole warung tarp is removed and packed away in the cart. The street is swept and then the morning shift leaves on foot, with loaded scooters or in a waiting becak.

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Loaded scooters are a common sight here. They carry everything from baskets of rubbish or coconuts to gas cookers and food to little boxes in which coals are burned to cook satay. I wonder whether you’d get away with it at home. And I also wonder why motorbike panniers and boxes are so expensive at home when they seem to make quite functional ones here, which are probably a fraction of the price (I cannot see an Indonesian food vendor paying upwards of 2,000,000IDR [$AU200] for a set of pannier boxes). Not even the metal ones.

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We cross the railway line and walk under a car bridge. The street art on the pillars is fantastic. I love it.

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Buskers play music on a street corner. I observe that traditional island nations seem to have a similar sound in their traditional music. It’s something high pitched and hollow. In Caribbean music the steel drum makes the sound and here it’s the xylophone-like instrument. I can’t put my finger on it but I can hear it when I am around this music. It’s festive and catchy but kind of relaxing at the same time.

Sop daging

We stop at an outdoor shop and buy Paul a nice 40L pack with which we get a free two-man tent. I also buy a hiking hammock and a new pair of sunglasses. Then we eat our fill of sop daging (meat soup) at a small warung. It’s served differently to the soto we’ve been eating because the rice is next to the soup.


We continue our wanderings and end up at Tempo Gelato on the tourist street. It is delicious and cool on such a hot day. We’ve walked more than 5km (3 miles) to get here so are quite ready for a treat. Interestingly, almost everyone in the shop is Indonesian. This is despite some bloggers and observers saying that places like this are only for tourists. I think there is probably a growing middle class here in Indonesia. Because there are not enough tourists for places like this to survive on the tourist trade alone. But even if Indonesian people do not come here often, the population is probably large enough to sustain relatively more expensive shops like this even if one quarter of the population only comes once a year. A medium ice cream (three scoops) costs 40,000IDR ($AU4). So it’s the same price as a movie ticket or two servings of nasi ayam goreng (rice with fried chicken) at a warung.


We watch the goings on outside the ice cream shop window. A man with a whistle is working hard to park motorbikes. The shop is busy and he has to keep moving double parked bikes around to get everyone in and out. A bus does a u-turn on the narrow street, causing traffic mayhem and the man with the whistle helps with control. He works hard and probably doesn’t even earn enough in a day to buy ice cream from this shop. It’s a stark contrast between the economic classes that exist here. He is wearing old dirty jeans and ill-fitting shirt while the locals dining here have clean pressed clothes and modern hair styles. But you can’t begrudge the haves from enjoying themselves either because our being poor will not help the impoverished any more than using a knife to cut your hand will help heal an injured person heal more quickly. So everyone tips the man with the whistle so he can make his income because if they didn’t come to this shop then he wouldn’t have bikes to park and tips to earn either.


We stop for a foot reflexology session to take us from day to night. Then we decide to have one last sate ayam (chicken satay) for our trip. Paul came not liking satay sauce and is leaving as quite a fan. Sitting in the little warung I am struck by how normal the rhythms of travel here in Indonesia have become. It’s a country that is almost as far removed from our home as is possible but we are now moving here with ease and even using more frequent phrases of Bahasa Indonesia.


We are now on the far southern end of Malioboro Street and our hotel is on the north so we take in the famous street again.




I pose for photos with owls, a cartoon cat and some scary mummies. You just drop some money into their box and they will let you post in the photo. It’s an interesting way to make a bit of money and, being a fan of street performers and buskers, I don’t mind obliging. The mummies are particularly good.



Malioboro Street is as crowded as ever. Food vendors set up stalls or push their kaki lima or push bicycles with gas stoves or cooking coals down the street banging on wooden bells. Horses and carriages line the road waiting for fares and becak drivers hassle everyone who walks past. You do reach a point where you want to scream, “If I wanted a becak I would have taken one already” but you don’t because you know they are just desperate for a fare so I hold my tongue. There’s loads of t-shirts and bags and hats and trinkets for sale here, with regular shops still open behind.


And then our walk is done. We pass the famous monument in the middle of the road at the head of Malioboro Street, turn right and walk the final few blocks to our hotel. It’s been a fantastic 9 hours on foot covering about 16km (10 miles) of Yogya’s best sights, sounds and tastes.

Yogyakarta (Central Java, Indonesia)

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We wake to the sound of the bird singing in its cage next to our bedroom. It’s so peaceful. There are no mosques here in this area so we don’t have the 4am wake-up call that has become the norm here in Indonesia (a very unpleasant and intrusive wake-up call I must say). At first I can’t even put a finger on why I enjoy waking up here at Joglo Arun home stay. But Paul is the one who notices that it’s the birdsong waking us instead of the mosque. We enjoy our final morning here and decide to make this our go-to place to stay in Yogyakarta.

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But we are checking out to change hotels. See, we had pre-booked three nights of luxury at the Novotel Yogyakarta because we found a 50% off deal. This means we can stay in a four-star hotel for the same money we would usually spend on a powered camping site in Australia. And I don’t believe that one should only rough it when traveling to the developing world: a touch of affordable luxury is allowed. And what luxury it will be. We get a huge room on the fifth floor with a view of the city and a huge comfortable king-size bed and movie channels on the television. While I love the home stay, I certainly am not complaining about spending the final three nights of our time in Indonesia in such luxury.

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We’ve not explored this northern side of Yogyakarta yet. So we drop our gear and set off on foot to see what we find. Our first top is lunch on the street. We pass a few soto (soup) sellers but none of their pots are bubbling away so I err on the side of caution (I learned a big lesson in Semarang). But this seller has a crowd, a row of tables on the footpath Bangkok-style and the pot is bubbling away with steam rising from it. For 22,000IDR ($AU2.20) we each get a big bowl of delicious soto and Paul gets a hot sweet Indonesian-style beer glass of tea served with a straw.

The roads here are far busier than in the city’s south and scooters are neatly lined all over the footpath. We check out some outdoor shops to see whether we can find Paul a backpack (he has been using my hiking pack and wants his own). There are some nice ones in the Eiger shop but they don’t have zips in the lid so we pass on them. There are a few other outdoor shops selling packs but not all look legitimate (Deuter would never allow a pack out of their factory with dodgy stitching and I take a photo of another pack to check it online and find that this model down not exist on any company website). If the price for the knock offs was cheap as chips it would be okay but the prices are over $AU100 so we skip for now. There is another outdoor shop we can try. And otherwise we’ll buy one of the cheap local brands because we do need a bag to get our excess luggage home.

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We see a busy shop where it’s almost impossible to get inside due to the parked scooters. Naturally we have to check it out. Downstairs is a grocery shop with all the usual products and also lots of over-ripe fruit and vegetables (a problem of being in the tropics is that everything ripens quickly). Upstairs we find heaps and heaps of clothes on racks. I love how many shops here in Indonesia are like indoor markets … obviously this is the layout that shoppers are most comfortable with. There are loads and loads of children’s clothes at very cheap prices and we have lots of children in our lives so they are getting clothes as gifts this trip. Actually, there are also lots of cheap adult clothes that I like as well. T-shirts here are particularly funky and the quality is better than at home for the same price. I resist the urge to buy but only because there is a Matahari right next door to our hotel and I know they have awesome t-shirts there.

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We drop our shopping at the hotel and head back out in the opposite direction for a walk and to find some dinner. I love walking at night looking at the lights and action. Tonight I threaten Paul that I might leave him for this hot hard hunk with the big belly. Haha. Paul doesn’t seem too concerned about his status as my partner though.

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On the way home we pass a reflexology place. We are encouraged by the “no sex” signs because that means we are unlikely to have any embarrassing advances. We ask for 45 minutes reflexology. Paul’s is okay but my guy is hopeless. He has no idea what he is doing and just spends almost the entire 45 minutes digging his fingers into my calf muscles and shins as he does effleurage up and down my leg. I endure the horrible massage hoping it will end soon. I ask him a few times to be less strong but he will then ease off for a stroke then punish me by going harder. If he knew what he was doing like my physio does it would be okay. But he’s just an amateur who tells me to relax when he’s causing me so much pain I am jumping from my seat and about to punch him. The only reason I don’t get up is because I don’t want to disturb Paul who is snoring next to me. At least it only cost 45,000IDR ($AU4.50). And I’ve had more good reflexology treatments here in Indonesia than bad.

We retire to our very nice hotel room after our 6km (4 mile) night walk. I crash out pretty quickly in comfort.

Beaches of Yogyakarta (Central Java, Indonesia)

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I decide that we need to rent a scooter for a day and see some of the beaches near Yogyakarta. After-all, you can’t come to an island and not see a beach or two. I’ve been hesitant about renting a scooter so far on this trip because Paul is not a motorcyclist and has never shown any real interest in jumping on the back of my motorbike at home. But I think I would be disappointed if we didn’t spend a day scooting around. And the guesthouse we are staying at organises scooter hire for 50,000IDR ($AU5) a day. So why not.

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We are only about 5km into our adventure when trouble strikes. I hit an uneven patch of road and hear the unmistakable sound of a flat rear tyre. It’s not a good start to the day but, fortunately, there is always someone around who has a little tyre repair shop. All you need to do is look for a sign that says tambal ban. So Paul jumps off to walk as I ride back through the village (fortunately we are in a village) to find such a sign.

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Watching the man repair our tyre is an interesting experience of itself. There are no glue patches here. Just good old fashioned Indonesian ingenuity. The guy takes the tyre out and uses a bucket to find the hole. Then he sticks a match stick through the hole to mark it while he checks the tyre for the cause of the puncture. To patch the hole the guy selects a small piece of rubber from a pile on a table and then uses this contraption to weld the new rubber to the old. It’s fascinating and takes all of a quarter hour for him to complete the repair. Cost: 7,000IDR ($AU0.70).

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Disaster averted we set off south again looking for some beaches. Our first stop is Pantai Samas. It’s a long black sand beach with huge waves crashing in rows to the beach. There’s a high drop at the edge of the beach just before the water and we can see from the way the fishing boats are anchored that the water must come up over this edge when the tide is high.

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The colourful fishing boats look small compared with the epic waves in the ocean and I can only imagine how brave the men who work them must be.

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After a short walk along the gusty beach we ride a few kilometers west to Pantai Goa Cemara. This popular-looking beach is guarded by shady trees that protect visitors from the searing sun. It’s a black sand beach too, being on the same stretch of coast as Pantai Samas. Fishing boats line the waterfront and fishermen mend nets in the little village area about 50m from the sea shore. There are lots of local tourists here taking selfies and relaxing in the shade. You cannot swim at the beach because the rips are too strong and the waves dump heavily into the sand. But it is lovely and cool away from the city with a strong wind blowing.

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We decide to head East towards Pantai Parangtritis, which is the famous tourist beach of Yogyakarta. While we have been told by people that it is not worth visiting due to the black sand, we have plenty of white sand beaches at home so black sand is something different. And, besides, Paul’s backside is numb and his thigh muscles sore from gripping the bike (a reflection on my riding perhaps?) so I don’t want to go too far further east in search of white sand.

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Pantai Parangtritis is actually quite a cool place to visit. It has a huge sign announcing our arrival.

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You can rent a quad bike for 5,000IDR ($AU5) for a small or 10,000IDR ($AU10) for a large bike for 25 minutes. We don’t play on the quad bikes but they do make an interesting addition to the beachscape.

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You can also take a pony cart ride along the beach if you are so inclined.

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Or simply rent an umbrella and carpet to relax on. These beach umbrellas won’t blow away either because they flimsy plastic pole has been replaced with a thick heavy log that the lady renting the umbrella has to work hard to dig deep into the sand.

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Instead of renting a quad bike, horse or umbrella we take a walk down the beach towards the cliffs at it’s eastern boundary. It’s a lovely place to take a stroll and I could definitely see myself doing some running here if time allowed.

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As we walk, we take in the small details of this beach. Like the patterns the water leaves on the sand.

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The way the crabs leave tracks in the sand.

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And I use my new macro phone camera lens to capture the coloured granules that make up the apparently black sand on the beach.

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We stay at the beach for an hour or two before getting back on the scooter to ride home. I take a scenic route through the mountains, much to the disappointment of Paul’s backside and thigh muscles. This is what I love doing here in Indonesia the most: riding on the quiet mountain and country roads.
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It’s peaceful compared with the noisy cities and there’s a different pace of life. Men use small old petrol powered saws to mill timber by the roadside. They carry firewood on their backs to fuel the kitchen stove. Women work in the rice fields, their backs bent as they plant the seedlings that will become food. It’s hard physical labour and I can see why the average life expectancy here in Indonesia is only 70 years; not the 82 years that we expect to live in Australia.

Then the traffic increases and we are back in Yogyakarta again. It’s amazing how one minute you can be cruising along and then next it’s all action stations and concentration. We find our guesthouse easily and without incident, drop off the scooter and head out for our nightly walk to the (legitimate) massage place and Nanamia where we ate last night. I can report that the spaghetti bolognaise is as delicious as the sandwich was.

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.

Movies and more movies (Solo, Indonesia)

I think we are both feeling a bit weary from our travels. We’ve seen a lot and had many impressions. Java is constant noise and dust and people. It’s fun and wonderful but everyone gets tired. And when I get tired, I chose to rest. And what better way to rest than to go to the cinema.

Around lunch time we head out to the Paragon Mall. There’s a XXI cinema here showing some English language movies. We choose Hitman: Agent 47. I don’t know what it’s about but suspect (correctly it turns out) that it is based on the computer game with the same name. The seats are comfortable, the popcorn delicious and the movie is fast-paced and entertaining. To be honest, I quite enjoy the simplicity of this action thriller with the smooth calm assassin in his blood red tie and mysterious black coat.

There is a sports store at Paragon Mall amd it has a sale. I find a nice pair of running shoes in my size for a good price and also get a running shirt and shorts. If I’m going to be serious about sticking to my training and fitness regime I should have more than one running outfit. Besides, Paul says I will look hot in it … Haha.
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We return to the hotel and I do a bit more work before we take a taxi to The Park Mall at Solo Baru. No Escape is playing at 9:25pm in the Premiere class theatre. My cousins have told us their friends went to Premiere class in Solo Baru and that it was an amazing cinema. They weren’t wrong. For 50,000IDR ($AU5) we are treated to reclining seats and blankets as we watch the movie with full loud surround sound. Usually Premiere class costs 100,000IDR ($AU10) and regular tickets range from 40,000-60,000IDR ($AU4-6) so this is a particularly cheap price, even for Indonesia.

No Escape is not a movie you should watch if you are traveling South East Asia. We had no idea what to expect. In fact, I thought it was going to be some terrible Owen Wilson comedy. But it isn’t. It’s powerful, hard-hitting and scary. We both were so affected by the cinematography and story-telling that we were on edge for the whole 4.5km (3 mile) midnight walk back to our hotel (we didn’t see any taxis or becaks except those in which the driver was sleeping). Not that we needed to be on edge; it’s just that a good movie will ensnare you in its emotion.

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.