It seems that while traveling, I always find myself in crazy situations (read about them here) and I have learned to expect the worst and hope for the best. When I went to India – where I’ve heard countless stories from travellers – I was prepared for the worst. However, nothing terrible happened to me there – okay, I ended up in the hospital but for me that’s not too bad. After surviving India – the most chaotic and unpredictable country of all – having no bad experiences I thought that perhaps, finally, my travel luck was turning around.
When I arrived to Indonesia I was feeling up on my luck – but still wary that something might be creeping around the corner.
I flew into Jakarta – a city that has cheap flights into the country but isn’t worth spending a single second in. Wanting to make the most of my time in the country I decided to head out straight away to a more desirable city – like Yogyakarta.
From the airport, I headed straight to the train station and upon arrival it was packed with people. While I was waiting to buy a ticket, I struck up a conversation with a local in the line next to me. Asking him if it was always this busy, he told me that it was a holiday and everyone in the country was traveling this week. Uh oh!
The man I talked to was in a line that was moving much faster than mine. He said that he would ask about a train ticket to Yogyakarta for me when he got to the ticket counter. Sure enough, he reached the ticket counter by the time I had only inched about one foot forward in my line. He came back to meet me with the bad news that all the train tickets to Yogyakarta were sold out.
I really didn’t want to spend my valuable time in Indonesia stuck in a city that I had only heard bad things about. At this point, I decided to stay in the line and see if there were any other possibilities – any place other than Jakarta.
When I eventually reached the ticket counter I acted naive and asked for a ticket to Yogyakarta – knowing that there wasn’t. Of course, I was denied. I continued by asking if there was any other train, at any other time in, in any other class. Nope.
So I asked if there was any train anywhere else. Anywhere!?
You could tell that the woman at the counter wanted me to move on so that she could help the million other people in line – but I needed a ticket out of there. It was clear that I wasn’t budging until until I was on a train heading out of Jakarta. Frustrated, the woman behind the ticket counter looked at me and said, “So you want to go to Yogyakarta tonight?”
“Okay, just one moment.”
And then she left. A few minutes later she came back and handed me a first-class ticket to Yogyakarta leaving that night. I couldn’t believe it!
I went and found my friend that I had made in line and he also couldn’t comprehend how I had managed to get a ticket for a “sold-out” train. Phew- I was lucky!
We had a lot of time to spare before the trains were leaving so my new friend invited me to hang out with him and his buddies. They were all very friendly and shared snacks and water with me while we talked. I was already liking this place.
When I got on my train, I was pleasantly surprised with the good quality of them. It was a night train so I curled up and fell asleep.
When I arrived in Yogyakarta in the morning, I went straight to the ticket counter. I bought a ticket for a few days later to my next destination – Malang – before they could sell out. I had learned from my mistakes.
Fast-forward a few days later when my time in Yogyakarta came to an end. I went to the train station a couple of hours early just to guarantee that I would catch my train. I was taking a night train so it didn’t leave until about midnight. I sat at the train station reading my book until the time came to board.
As the train rolled up I double checked the time on my ticket – right on schedule. Before getting on, I still made sure to double check with a staff member – just to be safe ( a good thing to do while traveling). They looked at my ticket and confirmed that this was my train so I got on and found my designated seat.
I curled up and fell asleep.
A couple of hours into the train ride a stranger woke me up. He told me that I was sitting in his seat. I was a little out of it since I had just been in a deep slumber, but I pulled out my ticket and double checked it. I was in the right seat so I showed him my ticket. However, he took one look at my ticket and told me that I was on the wrong train.
At this point it was 2 a.m. and I had no idea where I was heading. Needless to say, I was freaking out.
The man didn’t speak much English so he went and got a train attendant to help me. The train attendant didn’t speak English either.
The whole car was now staring at me.
The train attendant told me – in broken English – to follow him. So I had to grab my huge backpack and walk shamefully down the aisle, car after car to the back of the train.
When I got the back of the train, I was let into the employee area and had to wait there until they could find someone who spoke English. When they finally did they told me that I was on the wrong train and had to get off.
Uhhh…excuse me? Did they not realize that I was a solo, female who had no idea where I was and couldn’t speak the language? This would have been one thing if it was the middle of the day, but it was 2 a.m!
I asked them if this train was also heading to Malang and they said that it wasn’t. Great. So every moment that I stayed on the train I was getting farther and farther away from my destination.
I tried to explain to them that I had asked a train worker before getting on the train if this was the right one and that they had told me yes. I didn’t just sneak onto the train – I had bought a ticket so it wasn’t fair to just kick me off.
However, none of my explaining seemed to matter. They told me that when we got to the next stop I would have to get off. I didn’t really know what to do at this point. I had no idea where we were in the country. What would happen once I got off the train?
I was getting frustrated by the lack of help that I was receiving. Did nobody care about my safety? At this point there were about four employees back there with me but no one offered a solution other than kicking me off the train in a foreign city in the middle of the night. I asked to speak with the train engineer.
When he came out I decided that it was time to put on the water works. It was a fine line between faking it and them being sincere. Ideally, I wouldn’t want to cry in front of strangers – but I also didn’t want to be kicked off the train at 2 am! I needed them to see me for the sweet, vulnerable, girl that I was – right?
He didn’t speak any English but I told my story anyway through the use of hand gestures and dramatically changing tones. Anyway, the waterworks didn’t really seem to work with him. I was defeated.
When he left one girl sat down with me and she started speaking English to me. Finally!
We were able to have a whole (broken) conversation about the situation. I managed to find out from her that this train was in fact heading to Malang! What a relief!
Yet, this was also very frustrating. If this train was going to Malang couldn’t I just stay on? The spot where I was sitting in the employee area was obviously free. I was happy to pay them for an extra ticket just so that I could stay on. But nope – I had to get off.
However, they eventually started helping me and figured out that there was another train heading to Malang that would arrive at the next station thirty minutes after us. I would have to get off there and buy a ticket for that train. I reluctantly agreed – but not before making them double checked that there were still seats available – and there were.
At this point I was just happy to be heading to Malang – instead of some dark alley somewhere.
When this was all decided I finally took a deep breath and relaxed a bit. The girl that spoke English was so sweet and she brought me some snacks to eat. Her and her friend sat down and chatted with me. I didn’t understand why they were being so nice to me – I felt like I had just been acting like a crazy person.
Then they asked to take a selfie with me. Oh gosh. It was 3 a.m., I was exhausted, and had just been crying – I looked like a hot mess. I didn’t want to be rude though so I said yes – and now that beautiful shot of me is up on their Instagram.
When we got to the next stop I was no longer hangry and the girls had cheered me up. Apparently the train conductor also wanted to go to lunch with me in Malang – I don’t know why since he couldn’t speak any English – that and I just basically yelled at him. Maybe I’m just not very scary when I’m mad.
When I got off the train they had someone escort me to the ticket booth to buy the proper ticket. Then they walked me to the waiting room and handed me off to the security guard to look after me and make sure that I got on the right train. I felt like a lost child.
When the train did pull up the security guard told me to follow him and he walked me right to my seat. All of the escorting felt a bit ridiculous – but I was happy to have a peace of mind knowing that I was on the right train.
I curled up and fell asleep.