Millions of Indonesians flock home for Eid al-Fitr
Workers travel by train, motorbike, car, and now navy warship as they rush to get home to see their families

Indonesia is observing one of the world's largest temporary human migrations as millions of workers pack their bags and embark on a long, grueling journey to their hometowns for Lebaran - known globally as Eid al-Fitr.

Some travel by car, many more by motorbike, while others are going home this year by military warship, laid on to stop the thousands of fatal accidents that occur each year.

The massive surge of travellers is known as Mudik - or pulang kampung (homecoming) - in the world's most populous Muslim nation, and is an opportunity for relatives scattered thousands of kilometers from their homes to return and congregate as family.

There, the workers - mostly unskilled laborers, such as maids and those in construction - ask for forgiveness from parents, in-laws and other elders.

Many return to children they have had to leave behind - sometimes for months on end - while they have been earning a wage to support them.

Purnama Sari, a 23-year-old mother, told Anadolu Agency this week that she will have to travel for 8 hours by bus to meet her 4-year-old daughter in her village in Madiun, East Java.

"I migrated to the city more than 3 years ago, and since then have never celebrated Eid with my family," she says.

She said that she gets terrible travel sickness as the bus is so full she often has to stand for the entire journey.

"I believe in the proverb 'painful earlier, happy after'," she says.

The annual return causes massive traffic jams in major cities - roads jammed by thousands of dangerously overladen motorbikes and cars, their occupants sweating under the fierce Indonesian sun in kilometer-long tail backs, desperate to get home.

This year the movement is expected to peak from July 13 to 16; four days prior to Eid, which is estimated to fall July 17.

The Ministry of Transport has predicted the number of passengers using various modes of transport will reach 20 million.

Around 1.6 million people are estimated to travel by car and 2 million will travel by motorbike - all excited to be returning home, while also full of trepidation at the danger on the roads.

According to the ministry, thousands of road accidents happen every Mudik, with 578 people dying last year alone.

Father-of-two Muhammad Sodiq told Anadolu Agency that this year he will take the train to see his daughters because the roads are so dangerous.

"I used to go by motorbike, but now do not dare because the stakes are too high," said Sodiq, who has worked as a tailor in Semarang, Central Java, for five years.

He said it takes him five hours to reach his remote village in Bojonegoro, East Java.

"All the while I just look forward to the treat of seeing my wife and children," he says, a beam forming on his face.

"I have brought souvenirs for them, some new clothes, and bags," he says, lifting his left arm to wave two pink bags in the air.

Indonesian Navy Spokesperson First Admiral Manahan Simorangkir told Anadolu Agency that to curb fatalities and ease congestion it has laid on two warships - Surabaya and Banda Aceh - to transport migrants from Jakarta to other big cities on Java Island.

"Mudik by motorcycle, where people often take along their wives and children on the back while also transporting bags, is very risky and prone to accidents," said Simorangkir.

He underlines that it's much safer to get a ride on a warship "as it’s free and people can bring their motorcycles on board."

Simorangkir said each ship - which takes between 30 and 15 hours to make each journey - is capable of carrying 1,000 motorcycles and around 1,500 people. The journey home is long and tiresome, but Sodiq says it is worth it.

"Celebrating Eid in the village is the perfect antidote to a year of tiredness in the city," the 40-year old says.

He adds that eating traditional dishes such as "Ketupat” (a dumpling made from rice packed inside a diamond-shaped container woven from palm leaf) and "opor” (chicken curry) with his family is what he most misses.

"Eating with them makes every morsel more delicious."

Last Modified: 2015-07-14 11:46:06
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