The International Steam Pages
The Java Experience Tour in July/August 2009
The Real Java Sugar Steam Loco Tour 2010
While the proposals below for 2009 are history, you should click here for information about the 2010 tour.
The sugar mills of Java have what must be the one of the largest collections and certainly the most varied of working stationary steam engines in the world. At the same time the mills still use around 40 steam locomotives within the mill area and, in a few cases, to the surrounding fields. I have run an annual tour to Java for many years principally for the steam locomotives attached to these mills although latterly I have set aside time for mill visits. In 2006, for the first time, I ran a tour specially for members and friends of the International Stationary Steam Engine Society. In 2008, I organised a tour that offered the best of all possible worlds to see steam power in Java. We satisfied an amazing variety of interests, the group of 20 included those who wanted simply to see as many steam locomotives (dead or alive) as possible, those who were dedicated steam photographers and those whose main interest was the stationary steam engines as well as ‘middle of the road’ enthusiasts who simply wanted the kind of steam experience which is still possible only in Java. For good measure, we threw in a charter on the Cepu Forest Railway and the two major steam locomotive museums in Jakarta and Ambarawa, including no less than three special trains at the latter.
Building on this, the 2009 tour will omit a few of the marginal mill operations and instead offer other visits of a more ‘normal’ tourist nature. I believe that this will appeal to those enthusiasts whose partners might want to come along to share in the enjoyment.
If we have sufficient numbers (minimum 13) to justify a second bus, then this will allow us to offer, as we did in 2008, alternative programmes on some days. The intention is that this would allow some participants to follow a more fully railway orientated schedule and should this happen then experienced Java hand John Raby will be in charge of this side of things. We learned in 2008 that it is not necessary for the party to divide anything like evenly as switching luggage to the less full bus frees up extra seats.
Details of 2008 operations are to be found on http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/trains/java08.htm and there is a loco list on http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/trains/javalist.htm.
There is detailed information on the mill engines on http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/mills/javaequip.htm and illustrations of them appear on my CD-ROM Gula Java and http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/mills/javamill00.htm.
I estimate that the cost of the land arrangements will be (about) £1650 per person. Note that the internal flight from Surabaya to Jakarta on the final day would not be included although some airlines will allow ‘open jaw’ arrangements so participants could fly out from Surabaya. This is 10% more than we charged in 2008, not just because the tour includes an extra day in Jakarta (the most expensive city in Indonesia), but also because, apart from significant local inflation, the pound has recently lost nearly 10% of its value against the Indonesian rupiah. The price is based on the exchange rate at the beginning of September 2008 and will only be changed if the value of the pound declines further by more than 5%.
The price quoted includes:
The minimum party size will be six. The day out at Cepu is expensive by Java standards and we need at least eight people to operate it. A deposit of GBP 100 per person will secure a place on the tour. Should the minimum number not be reached by 20th April 2009, then the tour will be cancelled. The early date has to be specified because traditionally flights booked after this time from Europe have been significantly more expensive. Conversely, the earlier we are able to confirm the tour before this date then the better the likely flight availability and price.
(Anyone specifically interested in the railway-orientated option should book to secure a place on the tour specifying this. Should this option not run, this deposit will be fully refundable.)
For more information on the tour please email . the email address is not a link, you will have to retype the address.
Itinerary for the Java Experience Tour
Friday July 24th
Saturday July 25th
Sunday July 26th
Monday July 27th
Tuesday July 28th
Wednesday July 29th
Thursday July 30th
Friday July 31st
Saturday August 1st
Sunday August 2nd
Monday August 3rd
Tuesday August 4th
Wednesday August 5th
Thursday August 6th
Friday August 7th
Saturday August 8th
Sunday August 9th
Monday August 10th
Tuesday August 11th
Wednesday August 12th
Thursday August 13th
Post tour options:
I strongly recommend extending your stay and travelling back to Jakarta in stages. For instance, first take the afternoon train from Surabaya to Yogya (or Solo). Enjoy a day sightseeing in this popular tourist centre then take the train up to Bandung in the West Java highlands. In addition to its well known attractions of Dutch ‘Art Deco’ buildings, not far away there are hot springs at Cipanas (Garut). The train ride down to Jakarta offers some spectacular bridges in attractive scenery with an arrival time at Gambir station ideal for late afternoon and evening flights. If there is sufficient interest than this will be offered as an escorted tour extension.
For those who are interested in seeing more of the many out of use or preserved steam locomotives then we can offer advice on how to travel independently back to Jakarta. It will require the best part of a week.
More videos (external links)
DVDs of Java Sugar Steam:
About travelling in Java...
I am scathing about the 'Lonely Planet effect', I have been quietly running tours to Java for over 15 years in which time our regular destinations have remained 'unspoiled'. The peoples of Java are uniquely hospitable, helpful and friendly and I respect them and their traditional lifestyle. Apart from paying for what is now an official agro-tourism programme in the sugar mills, this tour will continue my policy of taking the sugar mills as we find them and not turning them into a circus.
This tour is designed for the kind of person who says 'normally I don't join tour groups but....'. It is quite intensive but not at the expense of being 'fun'.
Over the years many people have extended their visits with me to travel independently afterwards and I can offer practical advice, Java is not a difficult destination despite what the media implies. By the same token, I have always welcomed independent travellers who wish to join the tour for activities like the Ambarawa and Cepu special trains.
Java is equatorial, it will be hot outdoors in the daytime, but not excessively humid as sugar cane is harvested in the dry season. The evenings will be pleasantly warm. Every few years we seem to get a slightly wet 'dry season', this is most likely to affect the Ambarawa area which is inland and in the hills, but there is no need to bring a rain coat!.
Hotels will be 'good local' as opposed to 'international', all with air-conditioning (except in Bandungan which is a hill station and Bromo where you will need a good jersey) with en-suite facilities including western toilet, normally with a hot shower or even a bath.
Breakfasts will be a mixture of local and continental. Lunches will be simple rice or noodle dishes. Dinners will be substantial Chinese style meals.
Bottled water and international soft drinks are readily available. Finding cold beer is now a major logistic exercise. If you enjoy a stronger tipple from time to time, best bring your own.
The tour is definitely 'non-smoking' and if (unlike me) you have a mobile phone, it should be kept switched off in public.
For more information on the tour please email . The email address is not a link, you will have to retype the address.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson