“I wanna go home,” I gasped to Josh as I sat on a park bench, trying to catch my breath, fight back tears, and see through the spots in my blacked-out vision.
We had been looking forward to our weekend trip to the city of Bogor since we finally had a Saturday off work, but now it was a mere two hours after arriving and I was ready to leave. The plan had been to spend Saturday night in a hotel so that we could see more of the city Sunday morning before taking the train back later that afternoon.
This was our first time taking the train, and we did not realize that we would spend the whole train ride standing up and crammed into a crowded carriage. And there was a lot of waiting at the train stations when we had to change lines. Overall, it took us about four hours to get to Bogor, and our bodies were sore and stiff from the journey.
Because we didn’t anticipate the long travel time, we ended up traveling right through lunchtime, so that we were both ravenous when we arrived in Bogor. After getting off the train, we decided to go straight to the Botanical Gardens–Bogor’s main attraction–and make our way to the restaurant there.
Right away, I was floored by how bad the pollution was–worse than Tangerang, worse than Jakarta, worse than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. The air was thick with smoke and exhaust from the heavy traffic, and I had trouble breathing from the start. It didn’t help that there were massive crowds everywhere, which made me feel even more anxious. The gardens were big, though, so I figured that the smog wouldn’t be so thick once we go there.
The gardens were directly by the train station, but we had to walk for almost thirty minutes around the outside just to find the entrance.
After we paid the entry fee and passed through the gates of the Botanical Gardens, I could tell that the air wasn’t any better. Josh and I were both hungry to the point of being weak, so we found the restaurant on a map and headed there.
The giant hill we had to climb as we wove our way to the other side of the gardens almost finished us off, and I think the only thing that kept us going was the knowledge that we would soon be sitting down to order food. Finally, we arrived at the restaurant, only to discover that they were closed for a private event that night.
And that was when I made my declaration–I was not willing to stay in Bogor any longer. I wanted to find food and then hop on the train home again. It had been a rough day, and I wanted to take a shower and sleep in my own bed. Luckily, Josh was fully supportive of the plan–he could tell that I was in bad shape, and I think the hours of travel and lack of food were wearing on him, too.
And that was when the day finally started to get better. Now that I knew we were going home, my mood lifted and I knew I could power through the dizziness in order to get back. We headed toward the exit, and that was when I started to appreciate the massive trees that surrounded us. There was definitely some beauty to be discovered in this place, and we would come back again to see it.
When we got to the nearest restaurant, we immediately went in and sat down. The only item on the menu that was vegetarian was a side order of French fries, so I ordered two of them. When they arrived, cold and soggy, it was the best darn meal I could ever remember. My strength returned, my spirits lifted, and now I was starting to appreciate the day for what it was: a learning experience.
With renewed energy, we pranced to the train station, excited to get home and shower off the day’s grime. We had plenty of time on the ride home to reflect on what went wrong and how we can make our next trip better, and now I’m looking forward to going back prepared.
Next time, we will start our journey earlier in the day so that we don’t end up skipping lunch (and I’ll remember to pack snacks, as I usually do for any trip I go on). This is also the last time I’ll travel in Indonesia without a pollution mask. Plus, traveling will be easier now that we know what to expect of the city and of train travel.
Fortunately, Indonesia is cheap enough that our failed weekend trip ended up being a very affordable mistake. We each paid about a dollar for our train tickets, and the gardens cost us each another dollar. Dinner was our biggest expense, and it was still cheaper than what we would have paid if we’d stayed at home and eaten at our usual weekend restaurant.
I know I am lucky to have these travel opportunities, and while this particular trip wasn’t entirely a success, it was a nice trial run, and I feel I have learned from it. Now I can’t wait to go back and apply my new knowledge!
*All photos in this post were taken by the wonderful Josh, who miraculously put up with me being a hot mess in Bogor!