Indonesian public transport

 

A month in Indonesia had made us lazy. With a private driver costing barely £30 per day and cross-island 3-hour transfers in comfortable air-conditioned taxis typically £20, anyone travelling on more than a shoestring budget can avoid the alternative (when it exists) of a gruelling trip on a long-distance bus.

There's no shortage of options for the 17 km journey from Yogyakarta to the 9th-century Hindu temples of Prambanan. Shuttle buses take tourists several times  a day, and a metered taxi costs around £4. But it was our final day in Indonesia and I had decided that a ride on a local bus was long overdue.

We duly found the correct bus stop, paid our 20p fare and sat down to wait for the 1A bus. We waited. And waited. Despite the platform attendant assuring us that the buses came every 15 minutes, it was half an hour before a crowded bus pulled up. The cheery conductor made a signal to tell us it was full and the bus left. "Another 10 minutes," our attendant said in a sympathetic voice. 20 minutes later another crowded bus came and left, and we came to the belated realisation that we had a choice of a visit to a 9th-century temple or an afternoon at a sweaty bus stop.

Less than 40 minutes in a taxi and £3.60 later (there was no quibble about refunding our unused bus tickets) we were passing through the special Foreigners' Entrance Gate at Prambanan. We still had three hours until sunset - long enough to negotiate the ever-present menace of selfie sticks along with the regular requests for photos with local tourists. The temple complex itself is compact, with the vast majority of visitors staying near the main building. We wandered up to the Candi Sewu temple, also part of the Prambanan site but around 10 minutes' walk away, and despite it being only marginally less impressive than the main site, it was deserted. It was here that we spent most of our time, exploring the inner chambers, admiring the intricate stone work and playing with the camera in the late afternoon light.

 While agencies in Yogyakarta make a big deal of selling sunset tours to Prambanan, by the time the sun actually goes down the crowds have mostly left and the staff are busy closing the site. Without any transport arranged we lingered until most people had left and then walked out to the road, determined once again to find that elusive 1A bus. We even waved away the offer of a motorbike ride back into town; it was our final evening and we weren't going to leave Indonesia without at least one bus ride.

With some helpful pointing from local shop owners we finally found the 1A bus stop, and this time the conductor had mercy and opened the doors to allow two very grateful foreigners to squeeze into the crowded bus. For 30 minutes we hung on as a group of young ladies (student teachers from Surabaya, it turns out) interrogated us about our experiences and impressions of Indonesia, and gave us stern warnings not to fall for the many scams aimed at foreign tourists.

On the outskirts of town we were abruptly told to leave the bus and wait for a connecting service, which we were told would stop right outside our hotel. We waited, and waited, and waited. 40 minutes later we got back onto another 1A bus, realising that the 20-minute walk from the terminus would have been by far the most sensible option. The bus soon hit the Yogyakarta traffic, and the final kilometre took over 30 minutes to negotiate. Stepping out into the warm evening, we were pleased that we could tick the Indonesian bus ride off our list. In this case at least, once is certainly enough.

You can get Bali included as a stopover on your round the world here