Monday May 18, 2009, 5 km (3 miles) – Total so far: 232 km (144 miles)

On this our second last day of the trip, we had 4 options to get to to Surabaya city where would catch our flight back home the day after. Frankly I haven’t really figured out the best way to do this till today. Sometimes the best thing to do was to let things be. We had the whole day to get to Surabaya. Question was how much did we want to ride and tolerate a traffic choked highway? And how much would the alternatives of a minivan, taxi, bus or train cost?

The train was the fastest, if not the cheapest. Rp 4500 / 45 cents for the human and Rp 5000 / 50 cents for the bike. 2.5 hrs to cover 90 kms. Funny how the bicycle is held in higher regard. These were the official prices and we were issued tickets for both.

Paul thought that this was very unlike me, leaving things to the last minute. In fact, he was quite miffed at my lack of interest in finding a way to Surabaya. After checking out, I rode a slow 9 kmp/h only to stop at the Tugu Hotel to use it’s 5 star bathroom on the way to the station. Miffed or not, when the porcelain bus comes a calling, the GPS in my head and cramps in the bowels both locked on to the Tugu instantly.

Relieved, I came out to find Paul still clipped into his pedals and waiting to take off on a 2 minute time trial to the station. We still had 20 minutes to spare and it was great that today was a day for the solutions to find me.

Siti (bless her heart) at the City Hub Hotel checked and gave me the train schedules within 10 minutes of me asking, handled all our phone messages the past 2 days, and stepped out to bid us goodbye this morning. What a gem, all of 18 years old, who has 12 hour working days.

I had reservations for a nice final hotel stay in Indonesia’s 2nd largest city. It would be nice to get there early and get to see some of Surabaya. Paul agreed wholeheartedly when I mentioned ‘bike shop, bike box’ as a pre dinner activity.

Surprisingly spotless station at Malang

It turned out that taking the train was the best option. While it was not the Orient Express, it seemed to be passing the traffic choked roads into this city of 3 million people at warp speed. Then the rains started and there was a rush to close the windows resulting in more suffocation, as you know when the temperatures dip a little all the manly folk will light up. Not that they weren’t lighted up before.

The cast of notable characters on the ride, besides ourselves, were a karaoke man, a couple of teen MC Hammer wannabes, the one legged guy and an endless stream of hawkers peddling snacks, drinks, soft toys, school notebooks (the battery-less kind) and newspapers.

Even before the train pulled out of Malang Station, the karaoke man was jostling for space with our bicycles. Set up a speaker, plugged in a mike and started his rendition of squealing whatever. Some hawkers would place their wares on your lap and walk away, a soft sell tactic. They would then return and collect whatever they could not sell. The most interesting item was a honey bee (bees intact) male enhancement potion in a dirty bottle. The label had a woman with a big smile on her face. No sale. The snack peddlers had consistent sales throughout, but the one legged guy collected the most in one fell swoop and sat out side the reeking toilet to tally his takings.

We got out at the end of the line, Kota Semut (City of Ants, I wonder why?) Station, and out into a mass of people, rickshaws, motorcycles, and everything else from 2 to 16 wheels with well working horns. Amazingly the Ibis Hotel was a mere 2 kms away. I recognised it’s pink 10 storey ‘tower’ through the drizzle and we rode a very wet riverside road to get there. Locked the bikes in the employees parking zone and checked in with dripping panniers. Once we acquire the bike boxes this evening, the bikes will be stealthily rescued from their basement prison, brought up by the rear cargo lifts and snuck into our rooms to be packed in carpeted, air conditioned comfort. I know of no other way.

The rain came down in buckets again at dinner time. So much for eating at the open air food carts that throng the main road at Chinatown. There were none. We had a good recommendation from the Graha Sepeda bike shop for a nearby eatery before heading back across town in a taxi to our hotel.

With my bike safely cocooned in cardboard, I headed out at 11 pm to walk the wet streets in search of dinner # 2. The pickings were slim but I managed to find a Muslim noodle stall that was still open. There was a line of taxis parked nearby, a sign that the food must be good or cheap. They were both. 55 cents a bowl plus steaming hot Java coffee. Incredible.

Hauntingly wet in Surabaya's Chinatown


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