By Hollie Gilbert (Semester 4/Feb 1997)
Here are a few things to watch out for when travelling on the city buses around Yogya. Once you know how the pickpockets operate, you’ll have a much better chance of hanging onto your money. The following information may vary from copet to copet, but this is how I view them to work, and unfortunately I had it tried on me several times.
Firstly, they work in groups. Be wary if you see several young ‘student looking’ guys get on at once, and watch where they sit. From my experience they gradually move to the seats around you as they become vacant. Don’t make the mistake of feeling safer when the bus is crowded, as it just makes their job easier. I found that the Indonesians just watch you being operated on, probably because they’re scared stiff. So once they’ve surrounded you, they’ll begin to be very interested in where you’re going (more so than normal) eg they may tell you that the stop for Jl Malioboro is coming up, or they’ll stand up where they think you’re getting off. As soon as you look like getting off the bus, they’ll make their move, which usually consists jostling you and getting in your way. They’re very sneaky (that’s their job) so you won’t know what’s going on. I’ve had a piece of cardboard shoved in my face to act as a distracter while their hand (or someone else’s) was in my bag.
Sometimes it appears like they’re trying to help you get off the bus, or they’ll apologise if you suspect something. Once you realise what’s going on, scream ‘copet’ and push your way off. Don’t be afraid to be strong, after all they are trying to steal your money. Always carry your bag or pack on your front, and the best way to carry money is in a pouch around your neck, under your shirt. Preferably not a bumbag as hands wander there too.
I always try to sit near the front of the bus, closest to the door if possible, however I was still a victim sitting in the seat closest to the front door. Just take note of who’s on the bus when you get on, and don’t sit near a group of guys if it can be avoided. Also, if a guy asks you to sit down (ie instead of him taking the seat) I’d remain standing ?just to be sure. Watch eye movements too as they’ll stare pretty obviously at your bag. One time after I realised that there were 5 pickpockets on the bus surrounding me, I jumped up and stood on the bottom step calling for the driver to stop ? which can take a while. Jalur 2 seems to be one of the worst buses.
Don’t be afraid to ride on the buses as I’ve learnt a lot from watching things and ‘experiencing’ the Yogya buses, but just be aware. Thankfully nothing of mine was actually taken, but it could’ve easily been the first time because 1 didn’t know what was going on. Hopefully now you’ll know what to look out for.
One more thing, friends of mine were professionally pick pocketed on the night bus home from Bali. They had a lot of valuable stuff taken and their bags were filled with bottles of water so that they wouldn’t notice the weight difference immediately. So just be wary on the big tourist buses too. Enjoy your time in Yogya, and hang on to those wallets.