Edging closer to Singapore from Indonesia but ever so slowly on this boat trip from hell, part 2…
Still trying to escape Indonesia and you may remember that the fast jetfoil boat from Jakarta to Singapore should only take 20 hours.
Boat trip from hell background
In part 1 of the boat trip from hell, the dangerously laden jetfoil leaves Jakarta on the scheduled 20-hour journey. Although, after 18 long hours, the ferry makes an unscheduled stop to Bangka Island for the night, which is only the halfway mark, before leaving again the following morning.
Overnighting in Tanjung Pinang, the ceaseless journey to Singapore is dragging out to an endless third day. Tensions are running high and tempers flaring…
Day 3 – Tanjung Pinang, Bintan Island to Batam Island
On the third morning since leaving Jakarta with visas expiring a couple of days ago, we are at the mercy of officials and bribes. The other worry is about incurring fines.
Locals think this is hilariously funny and I cannot understand why. Maybe they laugh from nervousness…
Complete frustration and confusion await as no one knows the right ferry to take for the next part of this perpetual awful journey. A ferry trip that should have only taken 20 hours to arrive at the ever-elusive Singapore and it is 3 days late.
Traipsing around ticket booths, a smart boat advertises a quick journey of only 1.5 hours to Singapore. Could this be? Joy at last?
The joy is short-lived as buying tickets become another disaster.
Needing a boarding pass before immigration would stamp our passports to exit Indonesia, the ticket agent demands $25 Singapore dollars each for the short ride (a lot of money back in 1998). Regardless of the price, the problem is that we only have Indonesian currency.
Of course, he then tries to rip us off by feigning ignorance of exchange rates and instead wants to charge double the amount each in Indonesian Rupiah.
Arguing for half an hour, finally, we lead him to a Money Changer window and point out the correct rate.
With precious minutes ticking by, our ferry slowly pulls away from the wharf, leaving us behind – we wave goodbye!
The following scene is bedlam with screaming, shouting, and chaos. Exhausted after 3 days of eating Pop Mie (2-minute noodles) and the saga of the Telaga Express ferry, furious and depressed, we almost give up but still have to get off this island. Even the immigration officer stormed off in a huff with his stamp pad!
Telaga Punggur, Batam Island
Bumping into a local we met a couple of months ago when first arriving on the island, he advises taking the half-hour ferry to Batam Island. The ticket price is minuscule. From there, it’s a piece of cake to get to Singapore.
Such a short trip, well organised, and not over-crowded like our last ferry trip. Everything is a blur as exhaustion overcomes clarity but finally, Singapore is now in sight.
Sekupang, Batam Island
Two taxi rides and around 27 kilometres later crossing Batam Island, we arrive at bustling Sekupang for the next and hopefully, the final leg of this never-ending journey.
Indulge first in a face splash with cold water and sit down to some Pop Mie, just for a change.
Very civilised for this final chapter – hopefully. Another ferry ride to go and edging ever so close to Singapore, on this painfully slow journey.
Mentally preparing for the final segment of this 3-day saga, search for another ferry. Finding yet another ferry, this one is definitely bound directly for Singapore – no detours or days at sea.
This uneventful trip skimming across the becalmed Singapore Strait, only takes 45-minutes and tickets are not expensive.
Not believing the drama and stress of the past 3 awful and exhausting days, settle into our seats and head for Singapore. (The above map also displays Marina Bay Sands but this only opened in 2010 not there in 1998.)
Zombie-like from lack of sleep for several days and smelling rancid, we wait another couple of hours. The joys of hooking up with other travellers along the way, which is not the norm as I much prefer traveller solo or as a couple.
Finally arriving, we share a minibus with the other travellers from the ferry trip, to Bencoolen House to collapse in a real bed.
Surprisingly, this accommodation is still open in 2021 – a sign of a good business? Basic, clean, and not over-priced, which is all that is needed right now.
Singapore is only a brief stop-over to renew visas, gather our thoughts, and prepare our minds for the next month of travelling but more importantly, for a little respite, especially away from haggling street hawkers.
Briefly in Singapore
Visiting Singapore several times since this 1998 trip, I am always pleasantly surprised at how clean and orderly the majority of the island is – especially after travelling through Indonesia for a couple of months. There is no comparison. For a start, things run on time in Singapore and after experiencing the last 3 days of trauma on the ferry, Singapore is much more civilised – almost like stepping out of the Stone Age.
Delicious food abounds and I don’t fall ill from what I eat either as with food in Indonesia. Sadly, exorbitant prices in Singapore burn any traveller’s pocket, so stay only a brief couple of days to plan the next brave escape.
Where to, you ask? Back to Indonesia!
Kalimantan this time. I hear this island of the Indonesian archipelago is not a popular destination in 1998. Could this be an omen? Will travelling through this island be as slow and painful as the past several days?
Comb the streets of Singapore for over a day, trying to find out information on Kalimantan and how to reach this island. Remember this is 1998, with only limited or no information, no internet or mobile phone at your fingertips but still, we persist in this quest.
Discover that Sempati Airlines ceased operations earlier this year in May and Merpati Airlines is closed – not sure whether Merpati’s closure is temporary or permanent. Without other flight options, contemplation of another ferry trip looms…
Can reaching Kalimantan by ferry be worse than the past several days travelling from Jakarta to Singapore?