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On the Train to Merak

A young Indonesian woman tried to lure me back to her home on the train from Jakarta to Merak, for what purpose was the question.

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The platforms at Jakarta’s Kota station flow around the restrooms, which are positioned in the middle of them like giant stones in a river. To get around these obstacles passengers must walk on a narrow span between their outer walls and the three foot drop to the tracks below. This is where she got me.

“Where are you going?” a young woman asked as she blocked my path.

“Over there,” I replied, indicating the other end of the platform.

“No, where are you going to, on the train?”


“I’m going that way too.”

She kind of swayed as she talked, stumbling a step towards me then back again, a step to the side, then a step back to lean against the wall.

“I’m still so fucking drunk. Last night I drink so much shit,” she informed me.

I looked her over:

Around 20 years old, a round, slightly pudgy face, bright lip stick and makeup liberally applied, not so tall, high heel shoes, tight jeans, huge breasts protruding from a low cut blouse, slightly plump. Nobody could say that she wasn’t appealing — and she knew it. She was overtly sexual with a slinky way of moving and a way of fluttering her eyelids while peering up at me with a sly grin. The other women I’d talked to in Indonesia up to that point were often friendly and responsive though rather formal, comfortably distant, and very modest. This girl was busting out all over the place in a multitude of ways. The contrast made me curious. And I must say that as she was trying to close the gap between us by any means necessary this momentary intrigue found an easy outlet.

She seemed to be fighting hard to maintain my attention, bringing up random crap each time I made to carry on with my walk. I figured it was a routine set-up, and coolly glanced to my left and right. Nobody seemed to be paying us any attention. I made to walk away just in case.

“Where are you from?” she rapidly spat out, almost lunging to halt my escape.


“Yes, I know America. That’s near Europe, right?”

“Yeah, you can say that. Are you from Jakarta?”

“No, I’m from a place between here and Merak.”

“Why are you in Jakarta?”

“I come every weekend to go to clubs. Do you like clubs?”

I lied, for some reason.

An announcement went out that our train was about to arrive.

“Let me see your ticket.”

I showed her.

“I will help you find your seat and then we will sit together. I will change my seat with someone.”

What could I do? One doesn’t chose their seat companions on train journeys. I tried to lose her in the crowd leading to the rapidly slowing train but she clung on. I could have just told her to go away, and would not have been any worse off for it. She would have just given me some contrived pouty face and pretended to be hurt, but I wouldn’t have felt bad — occasionally disengaging a hussy is one of the inevitable moves of travel. But the curiosity kept me from breaking away — and I can’t say that I really minded the attention. I was still feeling out Indonesia and wanted to see what her graft was, or perhaps I really had nothing more interesting to be doing.

My only objective in countries where I’m not working on a formal assignment or a book is simply to walk around talking with people — collecting information, anecdotes, and experiences to write about. Even though I was more than likely being baited for something nefarious, I had to admit that this girl satisfied this objective. If nothing else I could ask her questions about the places we passed by on the train and turn her into something of a guide.

I got on the train and found my seat. A young woman made to take the seat adjacent to mine but my companion had already occupied it. I was hoping for an eviction, but the occupier would not be moved. They traded seats. The train then began rolling and I looked at the passengers around us, still unable to shake the notion that the girl sitting next to me may have been working with others. The seats on this train were arranged in sets of two booths facing each other. Across the aisle was a family; in the seats opposite mine were two very modest looking young women in traditional Muslim clothing.

“You like tattoo? I like tattoo too,” my pursuer asked. She then paused for a moment before adding, “I like boys with tattoos,” with a wry smile, a rise of the eyebrows, and a flutter of the long, fake eyelashes. She then showed me a picture of some local dude on her phone posing with his arms splayed out and wrists cocked in like a rapper who had a couple black tattoos on his arms. “See him, he is my friend, he has tattoos.”

I nodded.

“I like your tattoos,” she continued. “Do you have tattoos everywhere?”

“Pretty much.”

“Do you have tattoos everywhere?” She asked again with added emphasis on the last word, a questioning rise of her eyebrows, and an intentionally conspicuous glance at my crotch.

“I want to see.” [Eyebrows rise, eyelashes flutter.]

I kind of laughed at the inquiry and looked at the girl sitting across from me who was cloistered beneath a tightly pinned up hijab and a simple, violet tinted robe. She was about the same age as the girl who was asking about my pecker and seemed to have been her diametric opposite. From the way she looked across at us I had a feeling that she could understand what we were saying. I looked at the other people sitting around us. They were not pretending that they were not watching. I began feeling embarrassed, but not for myself.

“Maybe you could come and see where I live,” my pursuer continued. “I can show you my bedroom.”

“Where would I stay?”

“In my bedroom. . . With me.” [Eyebrows rise, eyelashes flutter.]

“So your mother wouldn’t mind you bringing some strange foreign man home to stay with you in your room?”

“Not at all. I think my mother will like you very much.”

She then set out to prove the normalcy of her request by showing me multitudes of selfies on her phone of undressed dudes in bed with her. She told me a little about them. There seemed to have been dozens, many were foreigners. One was an Iranian that she claimed was later executed because of a drug offense. “He was very nice, but the police, they kill him. The night before he die he called my cellphone but I didn’t pick up. I feel very bad now.” I could not prove the veracity of this story, but given Indonesia’s record of summary executions I couldn’t absolutely refute it. One thing that was for sure was that she was very keen to point out the Spongebob Squarepants sheets that were on her bed. She still lived at home.

Oddly, something about this revelation made me begin doubting my initial impression of her and what she was doing — maybe she really was an honest slut? A reactionary against conservative values of chastity and modesty? A cultural rebel shifting the tides of tradition?

She then noticed the ring on my finger.

“Oh, you are married?” she observed, but didn’t seem too put off. She then feverishly flipped through the photos on her phone, stopping abruptly when she landed on a photo of a darker skinned Indonesian man who was probably in his mid-30s, undressed and in bed with her. See, he is married too.” She then did the flutter thing with her eyelashes again and whispered, “I don’t mind,” before letting out a mischievous cackle: “I am too bad!”

This was either an extremely typical situation where a local Asian girl tries to seduce a foreign man with the allure of sex for the purpose of money/ gifts/ extortion/ robbery or an extremely atypical situation where a young Asian girl tries to pick up a random foreigner for the fun of it. Though experience has taught me that even in the most extreme cases of the later the pick up doesn’t look anything like this.

The best case scenario would be getting taking to her family’s home, being well greeted and served all kinds of hospitality, and then, when the time was right, be served a sob story about how her family direly needs money for something. I would either be locked-in at that point and made to feel obligated to help with the monetary problem or be served an ultimatum where I could get what was being put on offer if I helped. All other scenarios get worse from here.

I suddenly felt self aware. I glanced around the train compartment to see if the nearby passengers were still watching. They were. We were the in-ride entertainment. Fuck, I was looking very much like that guy we see everywhere in Asia — the sexually blighted, insecure, ugly fuck who thinks the girl really likes him.

You really want to believe that you were signaled out for your good looks. Or, failing that, for your appearance of wealth and good standing. You want to believe that the person raising her eyebrows and fluttering her eyelashes at you is the one that you always knew was out there, the one who can see just how special you really are. You want to believe that you are the exception, that all the other honey-potted fools who were laid waste to before you were merely suckers and what you’re experiencing is the real thing. But then, in a moment of clarity, you look at your reflection in the window of the train and see the same bald, bearded, and funny looking fellow that everybody else does.

I stopped talking to her. She tried to lay her head on my shoulder. I bounced it off. The train was coming to her stop.

“Do you want to get off?” She asked. The innuendo may have been intentional.


She then stood up. Her waist was at eye level and she kind of hovered her hips in front of me. Her fly was down. That too may have been intentional.

I shook my head.

She gave me the pouty face and pretended to be hurt, which was perhaps the inevitable way that this would end. She got off the train without looking back.

When the train began rolling again the passengers around me seemed to awkwardly be avoiding eye contact, as though they were embarrassed. I looked at the girl in full hijab sitting across from me who had watched and seemed to have understood everything.

“What did you think of that girl?” I asked.

Her exact response:

“I think she is very pervert.”

Filed under: Indonesia, Love/ Relationships/ Sex, Train Travel

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3706 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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