Part Two of our day in Ambarawa- The Railway Museum

Ambarawa Railway Museum

Our second stop in Ambarawa was the Railway Museum.  Built in 1873, it’s one of the only places in the world that still has an operational steam engine.   The train now is just for tourists and runs a short, nine kilometer track to the next town and back.  We had hoped to take a little ride, but we visited on Saturday not knowing that Sunday is the only day the train runs.

Amabarawa Train Museum

The museum has a long hall that lists historical facts about the railway in Indonesia with plenty of photos of past presidents and dignitaries on trains.  There is also, of course, an abundance of vintage trains to play on and cabooses for posing.

Everybody on a cabooseAmbarawa Railway MuseumI-heart-Ambarawa600

Our friend Clark who works with us and also lives in our building joined us for the trip.  He and Joel were nice enough to pose for me on the scales.

Clark & Joel at Ambarawa Railway Museum

This family asked Clark if he would be in their photo and he happily obliged.  One of the little girls started to cry and the man said, “She’s just crying because your nose is too pointy.”  We got a good laugh out of that one.

Clark making friendsRene & Patricia at Ambarawa Railway Museum

We were also traveling with our friends Rene and Patricia who also happen to live in our building.  Patricia’s mother and son Raymond live in Ambarawa and they met us at the Railway Museum.   Patricia was the one who organized our tour at the prison and saved us with her Indonesian when the security guard attempted to turn us away.   We were lucky to be able to travel with someone so much knowledge of the area!

Family portrait at Ambarawa Railway MuseumEngine-Yellow600Ambarawa Railway Museum Ambarawa Railway Museum Ambarawa Railway Museum Ambarawa Railway Museum Train in the rice paddies Ambarawa Indonesia

As I mentioned before we were told that they only offer rides on Sundays, so we were a little surprised that we saw one of the trains out for a spin after we left.  With the age of the steam engines, I assume it takes some time to get them oiled up for service and they probably need a dry run without the pressure of passengers.

Ambarawa Railway MuseumAmbarawa Railway Museum

On the way out we saw this petite, smiley woman selling jamu- Indonesian traditional medicine.  I tried jamu once before and apparently my Indonesian palette isn’t mature enough to enjoy the ground herb concoction .  I wasn’t in the market for any jamu, but the woman was nice enough to let me snap a quick portrait regardless.



Day trip to Ambarawa


Our first glimpse of what looked to be an abandoned Dutch fort came on our way back from our Christmas trip to Jogja.   Our van had been winding through the jungle for about five hours when we came upon a vast area of rice paddies and Joel spotted some buildings in the distance.  The structures looked like collapsing ruins so we assumed that they must be abandoned.  Wanting to investigate when we got home, Joel wrote down the name of the town we were in, Ambarawa.  We thought if we came back by ourselves we could explore freely.  How wrong we were.




After some Googling, we learned that the buildings were indeed built by the Dutch in 1838 and called Benteng (Fort) Willem.  It was used as an internment camp by the Japanese to hold 15,000 Europeans during WW2.  Our friend Patricia is from Ambarawa so we asked her about Benteng Willem and to our surprise it is far from abandoned.   The compound is part of a military complex with lots of administrative buildings, homes and even a still functioning prison.  Patricia contacted someone at the prison and arranged for us to tour the areas with the abandoned buildings.  When we arrived we were told by the military personnel that there were no tours and Patricia had to let them know that we had prearranged access.  Thank goodness she’s a local!  Joel and I certainly do not have the Indonesian language skills to have conveyed that message.  It was definitely worth our while, as the grounds and buildings were intriguing and have retained some semblance of their original beauty despite their decrepit state.


Joel and our friend Clark that joined us ventured up these stairs to find that the building was pretty fully inhabited and the tenants were less than pleased to see tourists.  After that run in we all stayed downstairs.


After Benteng Willem we visited Ambarawa’s train museum.  Photos from there and of our whole traveling crew up soon!