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Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

Feeling increasingly confident about my regular routes through Semarang, I decided to try taking an angkot (public minivan) again.  This time my van was much more full of people and much less full of fruit, so all the passengers played a rousing game of “guess the foreigner’s age.”  Since everyone was guessing numbers in the 20s, I rather liked that game.

Midway through the ride, however, the van stopped.  As in the engine quit.  I figured the engine stalled or something since we were going uphill and had just pulled over to let someone off.  But instead of restarting the vehicle, the driver got out and stood on the side of the road, beside the minivan.  Turns out we were out of gas, nowhere near a gas station.  What to do?  Easy!  Just wait a couple minutes for some guy to come along with an old plastic bottle full of gasoline and pour it on in.

You see, Indonesia has gas stations like any other country I’ve been to.  But they also have random people who sell plastic bottles of gas on the side of the road.  Sometimes these plastic bottles are old drinking water bottles they have saved and refilled with fuel.  This phenomenon has made it onto my “accidents waiting to happen” list.

And as long as I’m talking about fuel, I’ll also mention that the school driver who takes me to and from campus each weekday occasionally stops to refuel when I’m in the car.  He always goes to a real gas station…  aaaaaand he always leaves the car running while he pumps gas.  This kinda freaked me out the first time he did it, but a friend later told me that newer cars have safer spark plugs or something so it’s really not a safety hazard like it used to be.  I’m going to choose to believe that.  Otherwise that means I’m on the “accidents waiting to happen” list.

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Made a day trip to Yogyakarta recently to accompany my university’s English student club on an outing to meet ano013ther English student club at a different university.  The other chaperone and I split after the formalities of the morning introductions to enjoy the tourist and shopping attractions that Yogya has to offer, and met up with my friend Amber (another English Language Fellow) in the process.  Yogyakarta has dokars (horse-drawn carriages)  as a form of public transportation, although these are mainly in the touristy areas.  Semarang does not have these as a regular form of transport, plus I’d never ridden in a horse buggy, so I wanted to try one.  And we did!  It cost about $2.50 for four adults to ride about 25 minutes from one part of Yogyakarta to another.  What a fun way to get around!

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coming up on another dokar

In other transportation news… today I called a taxi company to send a taxi to my house (taxis don’t regularly patrol my housing complex, so I have to call for one to come rather than standing on the street to wave one down).  When the taxi pulled up he had a big goofy grin on his face.  I thought it was a little odd, but then again, I find a lot of things in Indonesia a little odd, so I didn’t think much of it.  I got in the taxi.

Driver:  S2?  (The name of my gym.)
Me:  You know?
Driver: Yes.  I took you there yesterday.

So I’ve now had the same taxi driver twice.  In a city of 1.5 million people I think that’s noteworthy.

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Semarang has a few options for public transportation.  For my first 7 weeks here I have been taking taxis everywhere because 1) they run 24 hours a day, 2) the driver can take me directly to my destination, and 3) that’s the only form of public transport I knew how to use.  However, I live on the edge of the city, so most taxi rides cost me $2 – $2.50 per trip.  This starts to add up on a day-to-day basis.

007Another option available is the angkot, little mini-van-like buses that are typically bright orange.
PROS:
– only 50 cents per ride
– they run on established routes
CONS:
– no route maps exist, so you have to know the streets (printed on the back of the angkot) or where you are going so you get off at the right spot
– no time tables whatsoever (so an angkot driver might stop for a cigarette break, a bathroom break, a lunch break, etc. during your ride)
– angkot drivers in Semarang are said to be rude, especially to women.

unloading the melons from the inside

unloading melons from the angkot

This weekend I decided to try my first angkot.  When one pulled over for me I confirmed that he was indeed going by my housing complex, then got in the front seat as instructed.  It turns out the back was full of 3 or 4 other passengers and a whole bunch of fruit.  Mainly melons.  We drove a few blocks and then pulled over at a little road side market.  All the passengers and the driver proceeded to unload the fruit for the elderly woman who was planning to sell them.

unloading melons - that's the driver in sunglasses

unloading melons - that's the driver in sunglasses

Once the little van was empty we continued on our merry way.  Also, the driver was not rude to me in the least.  In fact, he chatted with me for most of the ride, asking the typical questions I get when first meeting an Indonesian (Where are you from?  How long have you been in Indonesia?  What do you do in Semarang?  Are you married?  Etc.)

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