Getting There Ain’t Easy

Since Jason and his family don’t have a car here in Bandung, they must rely on public transportation or good old “sole” power to get anywhere or else they spring for a taxi.  It wouldn’t seem like that big a deal except for the fact that you can’t just step outside of the house and walk to the curb to catch a bus. Their apartment is down a bunch of twisty, narrow alleys in a kampung in Bandung.  A taxi will only come so far and then they have to walk the rest of the way because otherwise the taxi will either get stuck in the narrow passages or won’t be able to turn around.  Buses don’t run down here.  You have to walk out to a main road to find them.  When we want to go grocery shopping, here is our typical trip.

First we head out the door and start down the narrow alleys until we get to a wider alley.

After that first big turn, we head straight for a little ways, past folks sitting on small porches or on benches and past a tiny kiosk until we come to a larger square.  It’s here where a taxi usually drops us off.

We turn right and head up the next alley.  Usually there is a group of young boys playing a  lively game of soccer and we wait for them to notice us and temporarily stop play for us to pass.

The end of this alley opens up to an intersection, which we cross and then we start up another hill, past the language school that Laura and Jason are attending.

Language School

  It’s uphill some more until we finally come to the corner of a main road where we wait to catch an “angkut”, which is a mini-van that is the economy public bus used to get around town.  You see these green vans all over.  They have small bench seats along each side of the van and we squeeze in wherever we can find a spot.  Sometimes these can really get crowded and you get to know your fellow passengers up close and personal very quickly.

The angkut tears down the road, swerving as needed to avoid the many motorcycles that are weaving in and out of the traffic.  Along the way, passengers will yell out when they want to be left off and the van will come to a stop and everyone shifts to let the person crawl over them to get to the open doorway.

Depending on which grocery store we are going to, we either take the angkut right up to the entrance of the shopping area OR we get off fairly close and then navigate the treacherous walk the rest of the way.  I say “treacherous” because the sidewalks are either non-existent or else in very bad repair.  Many choose to walk on the side of the roads but that in itself is quite scary with cars, vans, and motorcycles careening past, tooting their horns at you and at each other.  Jason told me that the penalties are quite stiff if a vehicle hits a pedestrian and that, in the past,other drivers would punish the driver who hit the pedestrian.  Now, however, this driver revenge is highly frowned upon by the government and hopefully that practice is falling by the wayside.  Either way, the story didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.  I’ve yet to see any pedestrian crossings and have been terrified when I’ve had to cross any busy roads.

Coming back from the grocery store, laden with bags, we usually get a taxi.  Jason negotiates the price with the driver and then we crawl into the back seat.  Forget buckling up.  Quite often the seatbelts don’t work.  I just try to look at the scenery and pray for safe travels back.

Now doesn’t that make you appreciate being able to just step into your garage, which is probably attached to your house, get into your car, and then drive maybe 5 minutes on nicely paved roads with clearly marked traffic signs and lanes to a grocery store where you can load up on goodies and then cart them out to the car, put them in the trunk and head on home, pulling right into your driveway?   I think one of the first things I’m going to do when I get home is hug the hood of my Pontiac Vibe (after I hug the Commander and the dog, of course).

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Hot Flashed Funk

  • Ease of getting anywhere and good roads are one of the things I appreciate most after my experiences, so I know what you mean!

    Oh, and the ability to use a credit card in seconds instead of it taking 10 – 30 minutes.

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