Bandung To Bali XX – ke Mana Mana? – 20 May 1973

BBXX - Ke Mana Mana? - 20 May 1973

BBXX – Ke Mana Mana?

Like us, the bags and cases sit in an untidy, but expectant, group in the lobby.

Dad is on the phone at the reception desk.

“Ke mana mana? Untuk tujuh orang, untuk pergi ke Bandung,” he explains again and asks two or three times, “Di mana dia? Seberapa jauh dia?”

The morning stretches into lunchtime. Even Matt tires of going up and down in the lift.

We play card games with the new packs from the aeroplane. Gin rummy and patience.

Even Dad gives in to our restlessness. Curvy bottles of Coca-Cola and long empty glasses decorate the low glass tables.

Hungry and “ratty” from too much Coca Cola, Mum scolds Matt to keep his feet off the chairs

“Well” says Dad, “I don’t know when the bus will be here. Something about another driver. Let’s have lunch.”

We have to wait, there is nothing else to do.

The staff in the otherwise bare restaurant, buzz into life.

The tiny waitress sparkles and giggles over Dad’s command of the menu as he orders for us.

This is our first sit up meal – as we’ve been ‘out of whack’ and not very hungry Dad says – because of the time difference.

“Jet lag,” says Tony.

Baskets of pink and green krupuk come first – so light and delicious they stick and prickle my tongue and the roof of my mouth before melting to nothing.

A platter of satay, with small bowls of sauces and spices, garnished with flowers, is set with reverence in the middle of the table.

“Very spicy that one” the waitress points to the deep red-brown oil topped paste.

“Pedas sekali!” Dad squints at us with a grin.

“Can I try some?”

“It’ll burn your mouth out Matt,” Mum cautions

“Rendang,” says Tony.

“Wooaaah” Matt puffs out his cheeks and his eyes water, his red face looking more red every moment.

Every part of the platter is clean in minutes.

Dad says we kids are like a pack of locusts.

“Any drinks?” says the petite waitress.

“No more Coca Cola,” says Mum. “lemonade.”

“Lemonade?” asks Dad searching for the word in Indonesian.

“No lemonade Pak, Seven-Up?”

“Seven Seven-Ups” says Matt.

“Tidak tujuh,” says Dad to the waitress, “Empat ‘Seven-Up’. Satu bir – and what do you want darling?”

“I’ll have a beer,” Mum sparks up,“Dua bir terima kasih.” She decides after what she’s been through the nursing mothers’ association can go hang.

“Dua Bintang Bir?” A round of ‘terima kasih bunya’ follows and the drinks arrive with great ceremony.

The Seven Ups in their dark green bottles, the beer with cold beads of water running down their sides.

It is a complete surprise to pour from the dark green bottle and see the contents are clear lemonade.

“Why’s it called Seven Up?” I consult Tony. He is quiet for a minute, but just shakes his head. I never find out why Seven Up is called Seven Up when it is just lemonade.

Then there is rice – gold and oily, chicken so moist it breaks apart on my fork, crispy vegetables and the crunch of nuts.

“Enak,” Dad declares on our behalf.

Lunch – the most delicious lunch ever – is over too soon.

Still no bus.

Dad sits down and records the details of the bill into a small red book. He converts the rupiahs to dollars by dividing by 40. The Coca Cola is more expensive than the beer.

After another phone call Dad tells us the bus will be here at four o’clock. He is on the phone for some time – he nods and tuts and shakes his head.

“What did they say?” Mum sees the drawn look on his face.

“The first driver ran over someone on the way this morning” Dad voices to Mum.

“What? Ran over someone?,” Mum imagines police, ambulances, statements, standing by the roadside, tow trucks.

“They’ve got another driver, I think they said –  I don’t know – they said he’s on his way.”

“Well I hope this driver’s better than the one they were going to send us,” Mum sighs in resignation. The sympathetic reception staff give the room key back so Bart can sleep. Johnny is dozey too.

“Can we go down the street again Dad?” says Matt.

Dad reckons the bus might come and there’ll be no-one to meet him, but sitting about seems wasteful.

“Come on then”.

We walk all the way back to the main road we drove in on. Most of the little shops are shuttered closed against the heat of the day.

But the traffic bears on as hurried as ever. The noise and pollution is intense. There is nowhere to walk and nowhere to cross the road. We walk around a wide block and return no wiser but much hotter and thirsty.


We all gather again in the lobby and anticipate the arrival of the now legendary bus and its driver.

We are not disappointed. A white minibus careers into the hotel forecourt, tipping perilously on one side, brakes, stops. Out of the van jumps a thin, dishevelled man who almost flattens the poor hotel bellboy who wobbles like a goal umpire.

The driver stares wildly about him without seeming to take us in, as we stare back at him. His thin singlet is stained with dirt and sweat.

‘Pak Power?’ he collides into Dad and then sights our luggage and descends upon it, taking as much as can be managed by one small person. The pig falls from its vantage point atop the cases and rolls haplessly onto the oil stained concrete.

Dad tries to calm the eager driver  “Lambat, lambat” he suggests.

The sound of a pale white, red headed & bearded man speaking Indonesian startles the agitated man so much that he stops, bags balanced, tottering for a moment.

The driver startles and unloads the full story in a torrent of emotion. Dad tries to follow the story from the driver as he flies between the bus and the pile of luggage. Mum hovers behind dad trying to follow the translation.

“Some-one jumped out in front of the last driver …. He wasn’t driving fast… they weren’t hurt.”

Dad tries another tack to slow the driver’s frenetic darting to and fro. “How far is it to Bandung?” “How long will it take to drive?”

“Is he able to drive?” Mum interjects in between this, “Are we seriously going to put our five children in this bus?”

Matt is already in the bus. Johnny is pulling at Mum, “Go on the bus mum? C’n I go-on the bus mum?”

The driver springs back to the cab to bring out papers for dad to sign. Even the hotel staff look anxious.

Dad finally sees mum and Bart on board and takes his seat up the front with the driver, both feet pressed tensely to the floor. “Have we got everything? Kids? All the bags?” He checks through the Jetset bag “Passports, wallet.” “Right” Finally we are off.

The feverish driver looks back at us and gives a maniacal grin over his shoulder.

The driver intends from the outset to make up for any lost time. Like a man with a day to live and a lifetime wasted he takes the bus hurtling back through the side streets and lanes onto the main road.

His head darts back and forth to pick a moment in the endless stream of traffic and he takes it – lurching into the great mass of vehicles.

Like Dad I pay no attention to the city as it thins out into the suburbs but steadfastly watch the road ahead.

The column of traffic moves like a school of fish through a current. Small fish; bemos and motorbikes with young bare headed riders, dive and swim teasingly around slow dark cars and us in our white bus.

This doesn’t deter our driver. He elbows his way into the line of vehicles, head and chin eagerly thrust out, he is determined that our bus will lead the column.

I wake up clammy.

The boys sleep. Dad keeps his post and impresses on the driver how important it is to try to drive carefully. “Tidak cepat,” he reminds him.

Away from the competition of the city traffic the driver makes his contest with the road.

From the tight controlled shoal of Jakarta we sway and lurch now on an open sea, with every tiny detail on the road reflected in the movement of the bus.

The occasional light from a house or another car or the brief flash of the bus headlights, tell me that we are climbing into a dark wet forest.

The bus strains and groans through its gears on the mountain.

The pass winds us through a steep wall of rock to one side and falls away into an infinite black slope to our right.

Dark, wet branches brush the window as we jolt forward and now we are going down. My ears pop and all my senses return – I hear the rain, a solid drum of water and I smell the deep earthy smell of the mountain. Now and then I can see colour; a red flower, a flash of emerald.


Some more phrases. If native speakers would like to suggest alternatives I’d be pleased to know them.

Ke mana mana?                     (From) where to where?

Untuk tujuh orang                 For seven people

untuk pergi ke Bandung       (For) to go to Bandung

Di mana dia?                           Where is he?

Seberapa jauh dia?                How far (away) is he?

Krupuk                                     Prawn crackers

Rendang is a spicy meat dish which originated from the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia

Pedas sekali!                          Very hot  / spicy

Bir                                              Beer

Enak!                                        Delicious

Lambat Lambat                     Slowly

Tidak cepat                             Not fast

4 thoughts on “Bandung To Bali XX – ke Mana Mana? – 20 May 1973

      • Besides my mother tongue which is Romanian, I manage to get by in English, French and Spanish (plus a few German words remnants from my childhood spent in a region with German influence).


      • Well that puts most of us English speakers (mono-linguists) to shame. If pushed I can get by a little in French but I’ve never been confident speaking another language, apart from Indonesian which I learnt as a child (but have since lost).


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