When options are not in your favor, you just have to ask for help. Preferably from somebody who speaks English.
After realizing we had a very slim chance of taking the train back to Jakarta, The Hubby and I had to quickly think of Option B. What if we took the bus? But where do we book our tickets?
The first thing that came to mind: travel agency! When you’re used to DIY’ing your trips, reaching out to a travel agency seems to be an unnecessary and more expensive step. But in a place where we didn’t know anyone, we were willing to bend our own rules, even just this once.
So to find our English-speaking travel agent in Yogyakarta, we headed for Jalan Sosrowijayan, better known as the Backpackers’ Street.
We found Mr. T’s travel agency set up in front of an Internet shop. It had a huge sign that said “Travel to…” and underneath, a list of the top destinations in Indonesia. When he saw us wandering the street, he smiled at us like a long lost friend.
“You want to go Jakarta? Why now? It’s holiday!”
After explaining our predicament, Mr. T made a call. At the end of his swift and very emphatic conversation, he beamed at us and said: “Yes. You can go to Jakarta tomorrow but not by bus. No more bus tomorrow. Just mini-bus. At 5pm. Okay?” Okay! It turned out that riding the mini-bus was cheaper than taking the train. But it took 3-4 hours longer. We were to pay for our tickets in another travel agency, which was, incidentally, nearer our hotel.
Mr. T also offered us his Borobudur and Prambanan tour leaving at 5am the next day. This was just fine as we couldn’t imagine trusting anyone else. His prices were relatively lower than the other travel agencies we’ve seen online: 70,000IDR/person (or roughly 8USD) including breakfast.
“Will we see a beautiful view of Borobudur at sunrise?” I asked.
“You will see a beautiful view of Borobudur in the early morning!” he said with a twinkle in his eye. At least he was honest.
After paying for the tour, we decided to go back to our hotel. Suddenly, a boisterous voice boomed from out of nowhere.
“Maybe you have some time? Would you like to see how Batik is made?”
We turn to the owner of the voice: a stout, mustached man wearing a white shirt, baggy pants and slippers. He was smiling at us with great sincerity.
“I’m Tom. And you are?”
A penny for your tout?
Hubby and I have somehow convinced ourselves that we are tout-proof; that no matter how hard they try, touts can never penetrate our force field. We have gotten so skillful at dodging them that we can smell them from a mile away.
But Tom is different. He was friendly, charming and was never pushy. Before we knew it, we were following him through the maze of his neighborhood where, according to him, one of the best Batik shops can be found. As we walked through the narrow streets, he greeted his neigbors like he was the mayor, and everyone greeted him back. They seemed to genuinely like him.
When we finally reached the Batik shop, that’s when we realized that Tom was an agent of some sort. He led us to the “workshop” where two women were working, gave us some plastic chairs to sit on, and proceeded to explain to us the art of Batik-making.
Batik-making, a traditional technique of painting cloth using a manual wax-resist dyeing technique, is Yogyakarta’s pride and joy. Patterns are varied and some so intricate that it takes weeks and sometimes even months to finish a piece.
“Batik artists are usually women because they are more patient,” Tom says with a smile.
I was overwhelmed with all the batik paintings that surrounded the shop. I couldn’t imagine the amount of time, effort and patience poured into each piece.
I waited for Tom’s sales pitch. But it never came. I admired him for that. He may have been a tout but not to us. I think he liked us too much.
When we finally chose two small pieces, one depicting geckos and the other, turtles, Tom nodded his approval:
“Gecko means good luck, and turtle means long life. You will have a long life with good luck back in the Philippines!”
For $16 apiece, that was definitely a steal.
We bid farewell to Tom and headed back to our hotel, feeling as if a heavy burden was lifted off our shoulders. Tomorrow, we will see “the beautiful view of Borobudur in the early morning.”
I swear my feet itched a little in anticipation.
To be continued…
We recommend Chattour, Jl. Sosrowijayan 41, Yogyakarta
Tel: (0274) 828-8240, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next: Indonesia: Borobudur at Last