In central Java, Yogyakarta – or Jogja, as it’s commonly known – takes centre-stage.
But we’d read that nearby Surakarta, or Solo (what is it with the Javanese and their unrelated nicknames?) was less westernised and more compelling, so we set our course that way instead.
Peter heroically took charge of the hotel booking and stumbled upon the Alana Solo which appeared unfeasibly swanky yet inexplicably fit our budget. And so, for £23 per night, we found ourselves in a room that looked like this:
The train to Malang contained only economy benches, and departed from Banyuwangi at 5am.
Perhaps this is why it’s such an underused route. Even The Man In Seat 61, international train journey guru, failed to recommend or even make Indonesian tourists aware of its existence. We found it merely through casual googling and the desire to traverse Java by rail.
We had arrived in Banyuwangi by ferry late in the afternoon and immediately bought our onward train tickets at the cavernous, leaky rail terminus. It was entirely empty: perhaps not surprising since they only had two trains a day; one arriving, one leaving. A cleaner ushered us into the information booth where we purchased a chit from a lady concerned we wouldn’t be happy with economy (not that there was an alternative), and then traipsed across the hall to get our tickets printed. The journey would take eight hours, and we had paid £3.50 each.
What to do in Bali?
Before arrival, we had vaguely discussed visiting one of the Gilis. These are a trio of islands, technically belonging to Lombok, the next big island to the east, itself much-touted for its beauty. One is practically untouched, one is party-central, one has Goldilocks-status with some infrastructure but no bars, and all are famous for their beaches and sunsets. But after our disappointment with Ubud, and neither Peter nor I being overly bothered with beaches, they fell from favour.
So where to go?
Now if any of you have been thinking “this is all very nice Robyn, but where’s the “flash” part of your flashpacking? This just sounds like slightly more civilised backpacking to me”, then my answer to you would be two-fold. Firstly, as far as I’m concerned, that’s what flashpacking is, to be honest. And secondly: you make a good point. Let’s get a bit flashier, shall we?
Enter Malaysian Airlines. Did you know that they offer us poor cattle-class plebs the opportunity to upgrade our experience without turning up to the airport in high heels and hoping for the best? Instead, you can bid to fly business class. I originally only chose Malaysian because they were so inexpensive: just £200 to fly economy from Tokyo to Bali, a 7 + 3 hour flight with a 6-hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur. They’re clearly struggling in the aftermath of MH71 and MH370. This bidding gimmick is presumably their way to try and drum up some new custom, and I was happy to bite!