Day 29: Surabaya, Java

We left Labuan Bajo, Flores on a plane and landed in the port city of Surabaya, East Java an hour and a half later. Surabaya is Indonesia’s second largest city with a population of about 3.5 million in the city and more than 10 million if you include its suburbs.

We arrived in the afternoon and it started to pour while we were in a taxi headed to our hotel. It was the rainy season after all. We were glad to be inside.

Here’s what Lonely Planet said about the city: “… initial impressions aren’t likely to be great. Polluted, congested and business-driven, Surabaya isn’t a pedestrian-friendly city. Just crossing the eight-lane highways that rampage through the centre is a challenge in itself, and against the calm of rural East Java, it is pandemonium writ large.”

I should’ve taken this as a sign of things to come.

The city has 33 mega malls. Our hotel was about 10 minutes walk from one of these malls. We hadn’t been to a mall since we left Sydney. So the next day, Elina and I were going to just hang out there (it was very hot outside and malls of course are air conditioned), while Paul went to visit the “mud volcano” about an hour south.

The “mud volcano”, or Sidoarjo mud flow south of Surabaya was caused either by the drilling of a natural gas well or a distant earthquake.

Read more about it in Wikipedia

So when Paul left to catch the train to see the “mud volcano”, Elina and I went to walk the 10 minutes to the nearest mall. As mentioned in the Lonely Planet, Surabaya isn’t pedestrian friendly. We seemed to be the only few people walking. Everyone else was in a car or on the back of a motorbike. It was also very hot.

View from our hotel.

As we held hands to cross a one way road of about 3 lanes of traffic — well, lanes don’t really matter in Asia as no one actually stays in their lanes and both cars and motorbikes weave in and out of traffic lanes — I got hit by a car.

I held my hand out to say stop but the driver obviously wasn’t looking my direction and I was literally front and centre of the car. The hand I had held out to say stop was now on the car hood/bonnet and still it didn’t stop. So I got pushed and fell on my bum and back. It was scary. There were cars still zipping around and as I fell I was looking around for Elina, who was ahead of me and didn’t get hit.

Thank god the car was going only about 20khm/hr or I would’ve been more seriously hurt. The car did stop after I fell (yes, I was worried it might run over me) and the driver got out after I got up. My ankle felt grazed and the hand I used to stop my fall felt a bit sore, but I was otherwise OK.

I was, of course, angry but mindful of not being over the top angry as this was Asia and one isn’t supposed to show too much emotion. Yes, he did get out of his car and say sorry.

I was shaken up. And Elina of course was really concerned and also shaken. I was very, very careful after that with crossing the roads as we had to cross another 6 to 8 lane road to get to the mall. I’m OK but still very wary of crossing roads in Asia.

Night time in Surabaya.

That same day, we had tickets to get on a train headed to Yogyakarta (pronounced Jogjakarta or Jogja for short). Elina and I barely made it back to the hotel before it started to bucket down with rain. And I mean bucket down.

The thing was, Paul was nowhere in sight. He still hadn’t returned to the hotel from his excursion to the mud volcano. We were going to just walk to the train station, but with all this rain, we’d now have to take a taxi. The concierge at the hotel suggested that we needed a good 30 minutes to ensure we would make it to our train on time. This was because Surabaya has one way roads and we’d have to circumvent the train station in order to actually get there.

We waited 5 minutes past the time the concierge said we should go before we put our bags in the taxi without Paul. I was super stressed. My anxiety was pretty full on at this point. It was horrendous weather outside and Paul wasn’t there. What was I supposed to do? We’d already paid for the train tickets to Yogya and booked accommodation there.

Earlier, I’d mentioned to Paul that if he was late and didn’t show up, that we’d meet him at the train station and he had his train ticket. So knowing that, I asked the hotel to store his bag and wrote him a note.

A mere 20 metres from the hotel in our taxi I spotted Paul crossing the road heading back to the hotel. I wound the window down and screamed his name. He saw me and looked at me like “what the hell was I doing in a taxi without him?”

I asked the taxi to stop and wait while Paul ran back to get his bag – all this while it was still bucketing down with rain. He finally hopped into the taxi, soaked. Another 100 metres and Paul asks me if I had his small backpack — the one with his computer in it. I said no, I had left both his bags at the hotel.

#!* Expletives #@! We asked the cab to turn around back to the hotel. Paul was livid. He said the lady at the hotel told him that I had his small backpack. Talk about STRESSFUL. I can’t tell you how stressful this was. It was awful.

Anyway, here’s some photos of the flooded streets on which our taxi inched its way toward the train station along with other cars and taxis trying to get to the train station. Yep, more stress and anxiety as we wondered whether we’d even make it on the train.

Well folks, we did make it. The train was late. But Paul was soaked as he waded into the ankle-deep rain to pull our bags out of the back of the taxi. Once we were on the train, he changed out of his wet clothes and shoes.

It took 5 hours by train to get to Yogya from Surabaya and we arrived at our guesthouse at 10pm, tired and ready for bed after much needed hot showers.