If getting there is half the fun, riding the train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta must surely be the victor when facing off against those cool, calculating, mostly on-time, smooth, and, last but not least, speedy airplanes rocketing between the two points. But all kidding aside, as long as you have the eight or nine hours to lavish on the journey (the schedule calls it 7h35, but let’s just call a spade a spade), the train really can be an eye-opening, beautiful journey.
Splurge for "Eksekutif" class. No, really, don’t even debate it.
There is such a thing as an economy class, but the fastest trains are kitted out as all cars being Eksekutif (after a bit of time in Indonesia – or Malaysia, for that matter – you are sure appreciate their no-nonsense approach to spelling), which means nicer seats, air-conditioning, and probably something intangible that just doesn’t quite come to mind. Figure around 350,000 IDR (25 USD), since you will probably book online and therefore have to pay a small service fee. True, airfares start at not much more than this on the likes of AirAsia and their ilk, but where’s the fun in that?
Open the curtains and get gazing
Since the train leaves from Gambir Station, which is right in the middle of Jakarta, the view for the first 45 minutes or so may not bring you much spiritual growth nor a soaring sense of emotional fulfillment, but once the shanties clear, the view opens up to very nice, vast expanses, with homes dotting the landscape here and there. No power lines reaching many of these homesteads, which is a sure sign of a simpler way of life.
Into the central highlands of Java you will glide
Most of the middle portion of the journey is taken up by heading into the highlands, and eventually crossing over to the south side of Java. (Although this is primarily and east to west journey, Jakarta is on the north shore of Java, and Yogyakarta is on the south.) Lush portraits scroll by as you idly stare out the window. If you are the type that gets distracted by boisterous guffaws, incessant mobile phone noises, and movies being played on the big TV at the front of the car, then you may want to bring your own soundtrack to further boost your personal serenity index. But, all in all, it really isn’t such a bad crowd.
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Very decent food, at reasonable prices
Soon after the 8:00 am train departs the station (which may be at 8:00, or 8:30, or somewhere thereabouts), a train attendant will come through with a breakfast menu. Lunch is also available later on in the dining car. You can eat there, or they will happily bring your food back to your seat for you. Figure around 30,000 IDR (2 USD) for a rice plate with some meat and other Indonesian goodies.
The slow life: a synopsis
Once you’ve accepted that the train is going to take about twice as long as riding a bus between the two cities, it’s pretty much all good news from there. Excellent views, comfortable seats, meal service, and more introspection time than you can shake a stick at.
Train info: The two departures that leave between 8.00 am and 9.00 am are recommended for speed and comfort, with the 8am departure being best. Buy your tickets at www.tiket.com, and be sure to arrive at the station at least one hour early to print the voucher using your online reservation number. You can also pre-print the voucher before the day of departure – ask your hotel for more information.
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