I was looking forward to leaving the big, sprawling city of Jakarta to spend some time in the Indonesian countryside. We were all in the lobby ready to leave by 07.00 as we had a train to catch to Purwokerto City some 4 hours and 50 minutes away.
It seemed to take forever to pass through the suburbs of Jakarta, but once clear, the train put on a reasonable turn of speed.
The train had to cross a mountain range and this is when we first experienced some heavy, but brief, rain showers.
After eating lunch on board, we arrived at Purwokerto just as another tropical thunderstorm broke. As luck would have it, our carriage was just clear of the platform canopy, so we got absolutely soaked getting off the train… but, as the rain was warm, it didn’t matter much.
We still hadn’t reached our destination of Pangandaran… that was still a longish trip by mini-bus away. It rained heavily on and off during the transfer and was still raining very heavily on arrival at the hotel.
Most of us were hot, still wet through and very thirsty. So, when we realised that there was a little cafe across the road out the back of the hotel, that overlooked the beach and water, and that it sold cold beer, then there was no debate as to where we would go next! All but three of us ended up having our dinner there as well. Two large bottles of Bintang beer and a plate of special fried rice with a fried egg on top cost the princely sum of AUD14.
And that was the view! The rickety old jetty (I use the word loosely!) partly obscures a fishing fleet tied up just beyond. And the horizon? – there was none, it was lost in the rain. We hoped for better weather on the morrow!
And next morning the rain had cleared and the resort’s swimming pool looked very enticing, but, some time in it had to wait until later in the day. We had this part of West Java to explore first. Our first stop for the day was at a home business where the family worked together to make krupuk, a product we know as rice or prawn crackers. The whole manufacturing process was fascinating to watch.
On getting out of our vehicle, we were met by the sight of small flexible woven split bamboo trays covered in little circles of extruded goo. We were to find out later what these were made from. They were laid out to the edge of the road to dry in the sun.
One of us wasn’t looking where he was going and began trudging across the drying trays. The neat little circles stuck to the underneath of his sandals like chewing gum. It wasn’t the entry the group wanted to be remembered for!
We went into a largely open building where the actual making of the goo took place. A wooden tank was being filled with water, a fish slurry and tapioca flour.
This was stirred by a guy with a large wooden paddle.
While this was happening, a fire was rekindled under two 200 litre discarded gasoline drums filled with water. The fire was fed with rice husks. Nothing is wasted in this subsistence culture. And there are no Occupational, Health and Safety rules here… just plain old ‘be careful’, and take responsibility for your actions.
As the water in the drums began to boil, a large plastic tube was introduced into the tank. Steam everywhere. In such a hot, humid climate this was doubly hot, sweaty work!
The steam heated and cooked the slurry which was constantly moved around in the trough by the young man. This part of the process took about 20 minutes.
After this initial cooking, the gelatinous goo was extruded onto the perforated trays we saw drying in the sun as we arrived.
After drying, the pieces are fried at a relatively low temperature in a large wok filled with cooking oil. They are then tossed into a much larger wok, filled with hotter oil, to finish off the cooking. The hot oil puffs the crackers up into the familiar tasty crisp we know. The heat for these two cooking processes was also generated from a fire fed with rice husks.
The cooked crackers are then put into long, narrow plastic bags and tied shut. This little family business produced two kinds of krupuk, a white one and a yellow one.
The routine of this little guy’s normal day was somewhat changed by our arrival. He seemed somewhat bemused… but we had enjoyed our visit to his family. Seeing people work so hard to make a living, makes you feel very grateful for our lifestyle.
More of our explorations anon
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