JAKARTA: The annual rush to be home for Hari Raya or Eidul Fitri celebration next week has begun in majority Muslim countries the world over.
In Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim nation – over 15 million people are expected to travel by rail, road, air and sea across the archipelago.
The extraordinary surge in volume is severely taxing Indonesia’s outdated infrastructure.
Four-year-old Gega is all set for his first train ride home to celebrate Eidul Fitri – marking the end of Ramadan.
But Gega has no seat for the 15-hour journey.
Gega’s father, Nasrul said: “We’ll sit on the floor. I’ll bring newspapers, so I can use it with my son.”
Mr Nasrul and his son will sit by the door for the journey from Jakarta to east Java; so too will tens of thousands of other passengers.
The doorway is actually premium space, because it catches the wind in the non-air con coach. But it’s also the most dangerous place.
The cheapest way to travel for the Eid celebration is by train. It costs just $5 from Jakarta to Jogjakarta in central Java – which is about 500 km away.
But there’s no guarantee there will be seats along the journey.
Limited seats on the executive coach were sold out one and a half months ago.
To meet the high demand, more coaches and schedules have been added for the economy train service.
Ignasius Jonan, President Director of Indonesian Railways, said: “Tickets for the economy class are sold at 150 per cent capacity. For example, a 100-seat coach will take in 150 passengers. So 100 people get seats; 50 will stand.”
It’s a similar situation at the Jakarta harbour. Passengers battle to be the first to get on board in order to secure the best spot for journeys that will take days.
There’s an extensive sea route that serves the archipelago that cost as little as US$50.
For those who can’t afford air travel, taking to the seas is certainly the best option.
“To get cheap air tickets, I need to book early. But I don’t have to rush for the ship… I can enjoy the scenery, so I’m happy taking the ship,” said one Indonesian.
More than 15 million Indonesians will be travelling across the country during the week leading to Eidul Fitri. About half of them will be travelling out of Jakarta. That’s about two thirds of the capital’s population.
Most of them will be driving. Travelling time is expected to double as roads will be choked with vehicles.
Last year 311 people died in traffic accidents – mostly involving motorcyclists. This has prompted calls from authorities for motorcyclists to leave their 2-wheelers at home or load them up on the train.
No matter how challenging it would be, it seems nothing can stop Indonesians from making their way home in time to celebrate Eidul Fitri with their family.