Week 5 | West Java
We spent some of the most beautiful moments of our life on a train. And that’s also how this story begins, with a train.
Argo Wilis train, 11.25, carriage number 5. Leaving behind Yogyakarta, going towards Bandung. Almost 8 hours in front of us to spend on the tracks. We booked this trip at the very last moment, as we did almost every time since this journey started. It just gives us more freedom. Indonesian trains are amazing: they offer just the perfect space between the seats, pillows, all the seats are in the same direction of travel and the price is good too. It’s almost a pity to privilege the flight over this. And also, there’s an additional bonus: the view.
Travelling on a train gives you something that other means of transport don’t: it allows you to benefit of a view that would be impossible to enjoy otherwise. Travelling on a train allows you to follow tracks that lead straight to a painting’s intrigue. Harry Potter used to reach Hogwarts on a train too, there must be a reason for that ;-).
The almost-eight-hours on the train flow smoothly. The kids slept half of the time and this allowed us to work and also to enjoy a rare (very rare) moment of silence. You almost forget that silence exists when you’re parenting such young children. Silence. Amen to that.
I’ve always been particularly sensitive to train trips. The first time I took a train by myself - desperately running to not let it run away - I learned a lot. (In particular I learnt that a train doesn’t depart leaving the passengers on the binary, for example). I arrived to Paris on a train, during that August in 2011, where a young man was waiting for me wearing a shirt, a jacket and his best perfume. On a train, I watched for the first time Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain, a movie that keeps leaving impressions on how I live life. On a TGV train leaving from Paris Gare de Lyon we decided it was time to become a family of three. On a Vietnamese Golden Train carrying us from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang we saw the South China Sea.
If you’re not afraid of long trips, trains are the best way to travel on Java island. Just make sure you bring some food with you (I’ve been the only one purchasing a Nasi Goreng on board, enjoying the euphoria of the most pasty chicken of the world).
Bandung is not often signalled on travel guides. Apparently it doesn’t offer to the westerners something special for their chinese touring. This is exactly why we decided to devote it our time, 3 days in total. We heard that someone named it “the Indonesian Paris”: that’s definitely a reason for us to visit. Stepping outside of the touristic tracks allows you to understand what’s the real thing that brings a country to life.
Bandung is well known for being a shopping paradise. There are wide streets where you can find outlet malls on your left and on your right. For instance, Cihampelas is well known for denim jeans. Then there are Dago, Jalan Riau and the same old bunch of scooters lining up at the traffic lights, that animate the city with sounds and lights, the soundtrack of the Asian South East.
We spent a whole day at the Floating Market, which we discovered being nothing more than a space dedicated to entertainment, who’s vibe has nothing to do with the real Floating Market in Bangkok kind of vibe. But still, it’s worth to have a look around if you are in Bandung. We took a walk in the street food stands and the Rainbow Garden, a huge garden covered in beautiful flowers. We almost risked a photoshoot in traditional japanese clothing (if you’re wondering how does Japan fit in all of this it’s exactly what I’m doing too. An attraction for tourists, I guess, as there were several across the park). A real experience. We went back to our hotel’s room satisfied
Not as satisfied as we were the following day, anyway. After a walk through the shopping area we found a spot where we could take a photoshoot in typical indonesian clothing. Our english level is good enough for culinary survival and a “let’s have a laugh together”, same goes for the indonesians. Half an hour later we were all dressed up in sarong, batik tissues and colonial accessories striking a pose in the perfect indonesian setting saying “cheese”. Super kitsch, but super cool. I can’t wait to print those pictures and hang them on the wall of our home (whenever and wherever we’ll have a home again). For now, it’s all saved in jpeg files. We had so much fun and the photographer had to give a lot of candies to Teo to make sure that 1. he would stay still and 2. he wouldn’t use the pottery cups as garage for his mini cars risking to break them (the cups, not the cars. Of course).
We leave Bandung extremely satisfied. We didn’t have great expectations but it’s been a delightful surprise. We are ready to jump on a train again to reach the last indonesian destination, heading towards “Terima Kasih” and “Selamat Pagi”. We are unconscious of the fact that we’re about to see the most beautiful landscapes. Bandung - Jakarta route has offered quite a stunning view, vertiginously hanging on the most amazing rice fields. It’s very thrilling. If you want to shoot a movie about Indonesia please start from here, landscapes are so terrific you cannot believe your eyes. It’s a three-hour route that makes your eyes sparkle.
We arrive in Jakarta in the afternoon. As soon as you leave behind the station you already perceive the atmosphere of the big city. Life starts being vertical: tall buildings, glass structures, taxi, big cars and car horns. Welcome to the capital.
We share with the driver the address of our next stop: The Westin Jakarta, Gama Tower. Our hotel occupies the last 20 floors of the highest skyscraper in Indonesia. After sleeping in the rice fields, in a straw bungalow, in an ancient colonial property and in a small village of the indonesian suburbs we’ll spend three days on the 63° floor, looking over the Indonesian capital.
Westin chain is among the family friendly ones, perhaps the most family friendly of them all. They welcomed us like this: Clarissa and Hannah guided us to our room where we were welcomed with a video on the tv screen showing all our pictures and music, is there a better way to start a stay? It’s been a whole month of travelling for the four of us. This life in our bubble around the world is rich of meetings, greetings, people, cultures, facetime with the grannies and messages. In the evening, when we go to sleep (knowing that the sun is still up in Italy) it’s still the four of us. When we get out of home in the morning and embark for our adventures in cars, trains, planes, packing and unpacking our suitcases and walking endlessly, it’s still the four of us.
When we checked in our room in Westin Hotel Jakarta with that video on the tv screen watching our old pictures, we really felt moved. During this first month of travelling, no one has ever been so hospital to us, so beautiful. There’s a little tent for the kids in the room right in front of those huge windows on Jakarta. Two bears, two books (with Teo being at his happiest) and a lot of cookies (with Lia being at her happiest).
We explore the hotel, a paradise suspended on one of the biggest asian south east metropolis. Gym, pool, spa, relax areas: they all offer an incredible view. And of course the gem: one of the best breakfast we’ve ever had. Staying here is the best way to end our journey in Indonesia. The view is so beautiful from the high floors of this hotel to make it very difficult to get back to earth.
We dedicate a whole day to discover the city being aware of the fact that it would be worth to have more time in order to fully appreciate it. We decide to check one of the most characteristic areas: we reach Fatahillah Square, a crazy charming square where you can rent bikes and straw hats, perfect for a stroll on two wheels. On the square you can find the main museums of the capital: Jakarta History Museum, Wayang Museum (dedicated to dolls) and Fine Art and Ceramics Museums. Also, you can find a hidden gem from the colonial time: Café Batavia - historic location, definitely to not be missed if you’re around. Just walking through the door brings you to early 20th century. We drink something while the kids eat some amazing tomato spaghetti, which are to our surprise very easy to find in Indonesia.
During the last tour of the neighborhood we bump into a lovely guitar serenade on the square. That music floats in our ears. It’s Dari Mata, by Jaz. It’s going to be the official soundtrack of this incredible first month. How to say goodbye to this amazing country? We decided to spend the last evening hours immersed in the pool on the 50th floor. We ordered room service and then we packed our suitcases again, with a broken heart - I would’ve never wanted to leave Westin Jakarta. But tomorrow we’re going towards new things, flying to a real asiatic diamond.
Terima Kasih Indonesia, Terima Kasih Indonesian people. You have been a great discovery for us. Thank you for welcoming us so warmly. The color of the flowers in Bali, at every corner. The long long road trips offering to us the most beautiful landscapes. The sound of the voices whispering “Sama sama”. Nasi Goreng. The crazy amount of selfies all together. The kids. Oh, the kids. From Bali island to Jakarta’s skyscrapers.
Dari Mata, as the song says. From the eyes. It’s with our eyes that we experienced the most incredible perceptions.
Sampai jumpa lagi. See you soon.
With a Lot of Love. #miljiansgotojava
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