Mudik, or Pulang Kampung, is an Indonesian term for the activity where migrants or migrant workers return to their hometown or village during major holidays. Mudik is identical to the annual homecoming tradition that occurs ahead of major religious holidays, especially Lebaran (Eid al-Fitr). Although the mudik homecoming travel prior of lebaran took place throughout most of Indonesian urban centers, the highlight is on the nation's largest urban agglomeration; Greater Jakarta, as millions of Jakartans exit the city by various means of transportation, causing mass exodus from the city, overwhelming train stations and airports and also clogging highways, especially the Trans-Java toll road and Java's Northern Coast Road.
The motivation of this homecoming tradition is of course to visit one's family, especially their parents. However, people might insist and sought to come to their hometown during this certain period of mudik season, to attend a rare opportunity; to gather with members of extended family, the seldomly seen relatives that normally scattered in other cities, other provinces or even overseas.
Mudik for Eid al-Fitr, or its similar traditions, exists in countries with Muslim majorities, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Other similar annual homecoming traditions are also observable in various parts of the world, including Chinese New Year in China, Thai Songkran, Christmas in Europe, Divali in India and American Thanksgiving, where family members are expected to come home during this specific holidays.
The term mudik in Indonesian came the word mudik which means "to sail or to travel to udik (upstream, inland) by the river". The terms relates to the river system; udik or hulu (upstream) in contrast to hilir (downstream), thus the term "hulu-hilir" and "hilir-mudik" is common to describe the relations between upstream or source and downstream or estuary. The term mudik or udik is also found in local Indonesian languages, including Malay, Minang, Betawi, Sundanese and Javanese languages.
The tradition to visit hometown, home village or family's ancestral home is not a new tradition in Indonesian history. Manuscripts dated from Majapahit period describes that the nobles and royalties are often travel from the capital city in Trowulan to their ancestral land, in order to honor and appease the ancestral spirit. In Balinese tradition, Hindu Balinese people came home to their hometown or their home village during Galungan and Kuningan sacred days, as they believed it marks the time when the ancestral spirits visit their descendant in mortal world.
In most parts of Indonesia where Islam is the majority, the homecoming or mudik tradition most often conducted in the month of Ramadhan, between a week to several days prior to Lebaran (Eid al-Fitr). Nevertheless, other ethnics such as Madurese are known to conducted their mudik tradition prior to Eid al-Adha instead. While Indonesian Christians might travel to their hometown prior to Christmas.
The term mudik to coin the specific homecoming activity, start to enter common Indonesians vocabulary since 1970s. It is suggested that in 1970s, during the start of Suharto's centralized New Order regime, the prominence of Jakarta as the center of nation's politics, administrative and economic activities has prompted massive urbanization, where the population of rural Javanese villages flocked and migrated to Jakarta and surrounding areas (Greater Jakarta) seeking jobs and economic opportunities. Majority of the migrants came from rural Javanese areas, nevertheless, Jakarta also attracted migrants from all over Indonesia. These newcomer migrants, that still nurture their links to their hometowns in rural Java or other corners in Indonesia, are those who actively involved in the annual mudik travel.
Outside of Java, Mudik homecoming is also significantly observable in Sumatra, especially in West Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra corridors, where numbers of migrant workers, especially Minang perantauan (migrant) returned to their hometown to celebrate Idul Fitri.
The government of Indonesia provides additional transportation to handle the massive surge of travellers in several days prior and after the lebaran. In 2013 there are around 30 million people travelling to their hometowns during lebaran holiday, brought and spend the total sum of money around 90 trillion rupiah (around US$9 billion) from main urban centers to rural areas, pulsing economic opportunities and business from the city to the villages. The numbers of Indonesians that took mudik or pulang kampung travel is quite tremendous, the numbers is slightly equal with the whole population of Malaysia hit the road altogether, causing massive traffic jams and a sudden rise of demand and volume of intercity transportation.
The demands for train and airplane tickets usually spiked since a month or two prior to Lebaran holidays, prompting unusually higher cost for tickets in highly sought days of departure. Some airlines might add extra flights or operate larger airplanes to deal with the surge of travel demand. Indonesian train operator, Kereta Api Indonesia, usually might offer additional train trips or introduce longer train with more cars in order to meet the demand. The private operators of intercity and interprovince buses are usually charge higher ticket cost during this mudik travel period.
The heaviest burden faced in mudik is the provision of transportation systems as simultaneously the number of people using public transport or vehicle via the existing road network so that often resulted in passengers/users of the trip to face congestion and travel delays.
The impact is indeed tremendous as millions of buses, cars and motorcycles jam the roads and highways, causing kilometres of traffic jams each year. The annual massive congestion usually occurs along Trans-Java toll road and Java's Northern Coast Road.
The mudik travellers took various mode of transportation to reach their hometowns. Some of them might even ride a motorcycle for mudik. Although it might be done for short range of travel, the police and authority has discourage this practice. Citing that motorcycle is not suitable for mid to long range mudik travel, and potentially dangerous. Large numbers of mudik accidents involved motorcyclist. To reduce the motorcyclist mudik travellers, the government tried to lure motorcyclist away from mudik travel by offering mudik gratis or free mudik program. The program offer motorcyclist free service to send their motorcycles via railways, trucks or ships to their towns separately, while they travel with other mode of transportation instead. Despite initial success to reduce mudik motorcyclist in 2014 and 2015, the numbers of mudik motorcyclist spiked in 2016 to 5.6 million motorcycles.
The sudden exodus of large numbers of migrant workers — most of them are low-skilled labours, domestic helpers, and those who work in service sectors — has created a void in Jakarta and other major cities' daily activities, as numbers of business, services, establishments, warung and restaurants are closed for Lebaran holidays. The sudden loss of occupants after Mudik is also observable on relatively empty Jakarta streets during Lebaran, which normally suffers clogged traffic. Additionally, the wealthier classes — whom do not participate in mudik travel, often go to local hotels or overseas to accommodate the absence of their domestic servants, drivers, and even security guards.
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