1-25 Jogja: The Lies of Google Maps and Pushy Rickshaw Drivers

The view from the train window.

We took a train from Jember, in the southeast corner of Java, to Jogjakarta (Jogja) in the central south of Java. Of course, the train route ran through Surabaya, in the northeast corner, which meant we did a nice big V of train rides. It was fun to see the beautiful countryside and the train was comfortable. Even Jason had enough legroom.

We arrived in Jogja a bit after 10 pm. We’d booked a hostel that google maps told us was near the train station, specifically so that we could walk from the train station to the hostel and back to the train station 2 days later. We set off, after refusing several taxis and rickshaws, by following the map on Jason’s phone.

Half an hour later, we were in the right area. So, we start looking around for the hotel. We see a few swank hotels, cheek-by-jowl with some super run down places, but nothing in the sweet spot of “cheap,” “safe,” and “clean.” We keep walking, thinking maybe the addresses are just a little off. Since we are carrying our hiking bags and looking a wee bit lost, we have become prime targets for rickshaw drivers. (Seriously, they are like vulture around carrion when they see people carrying baggage.)

We politely and firmly declined several more offers and continued walking. We pass a gentleman in a parking lot. We keep walking. The gentleman from the parking lot jumps on his rickshaw, bikes down the block and swings around so that he meets us at the corner. He starts asking where we are going and saying, “cheap, cheap” more times than a hungry baby bird. Since we are now lost, we figured we should at least ask directions. He looks at the address and starts shaking his head. It is, “Long way. Long way. No walking. Long way.” When we didn’t immediately agree to his offer, he started in on a different line, “Cheap place, very close. I take you. Very close. Very cheap. My brother give you good price.”

We were walking around in there, except darker. 

Now, had he said something that translated to, “Are you lost? Can I help point you in the right direction or give you a ride?” We might have said, “Umm, yes please. We are lost.” And then when he said, “That’s is very far away, you are better off getting a ride. Or maybe you’d like to go someplace closer, its cheap and clean. My brother runs it,” I might have believed him. But since his come on was, “cheap, cheap” and “You come. You ride,” you can’t blame me for being skeptical of his motives.

We said politely no, and then more forcefully no and then we just walked away. We headed back up the block where the rest of the vultures were napping in their rickshaws. Like sharks smelling blood, they started hawking, too. We ignored them and kept moving.

The foyer of the hotel.  We made it eventually.

After a few more minutes and an attempted phone call to the hotel, we ducked into a parking lot with a security guard. We showed the address to the security guard and asked direction. He hadn’t a clue, but it gave us a minute of breathing space and another chance to call. Still no answer at the hotel.

We left the parking lot and walked into one of the swank hotels. (One of the less swank, I might point out.) We asked at the hotel desk where our hotel was. He pulled out and map and pointed to the other end of the city. We asked him to call a taxi.

The taxi came and very politely asked where we were going. We showed him the address, he nodded and took us straight there, without any hassling.

Maybe I should be more trusting of strangers when they tell me that the hotel is “Long way. No walking. Long way.” But I can’t help but think it is a conflict of interests when someone who has been hawking hard then tells me the only option is in his rickshaw.

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