I checked the weather. Fine today and tomorrow and showers Wednesday onwards. It has to be timed to perfection. Visa just about to expire; a good reason to get out of comfort zone.
No room for error when bad weather can mean being stranded with a potential overstay on an island that is only reached by boat. The only flight off the island goes to Jakarta.
I just didn’t want to be stranded on an island with an overstay because the monsoonal weather decided to play up. Traveling does require some synchronisation with the weather and to factor in what could happen if a storm blows in. The hurricanes in Fiji eventually ran out of breath but it still posed a threat to this part of the world.
The treacherous waves of the Strait of Malacca took down a boat of 11 Indonesians only last month. They were washed up on the shores of Malaysia.
I lingered outside the bank, killing time, before the ferry left in the afternoon. The clouds were brewing.
The security guys outside the bank offered me a chair. Then a copper joined us when a very sexy hooker walked past us. She was with a Singaporean. “One hundred Singapore dollars is her rate,” said one of the banking staff. Even the copper agreed it was a bit on the expensive side.
I didn’t want to leave this relaxed place where the rules of human interaction were distorted by the remoteness of the island and it’s own rich culture.
I asked around with my best Indonesian accent, Immigrassi? Stamped out of the country, it was just too easy. The officer was waiting for me to tell him something like, “What, you are letting me out of the country.”
The boat ride to Johor would take 3 hours today, said the deck hand. “Waves too big, need to go slow.” Normally it only takes two hours to Johor.
As the boat departed, police were boarding their own boat moored next to ours. “Fucking pigs,” said the deck hand. “They always want money for eating.” He gave them a nicely aimed middle finger as our boat roared into action.
For most of the trip I was out the back, holding on for my dear life and chain smoking as the boat rode the waves. Bintan had that Heart of Darkness feel to it. It was like going up a river with triple jungle canopy and finding a lost tribe.
“They are our ancestors,” say Joy, a male tour guide who is also is a flight attendant for Malaysia airlines. He was in Bitan for the weekend for a festival. He said flying was safer than travelling by boat. “You need to consider many things when a boat goes down. First, keep your clothes on to stay warm. Second, don’t flash the palm of your hand, it will attract the big fish…” He said he learned all this at flight attentant training school.
He said there was a big tunnel that was recently discovered in Eastern Malaysia that made it’s way to Thailand. “But we can’t talk about that, it might upset the Thais.” I never bothered to ask him about what happened to that Malaysia Airlines plane that went down. I just wasn’t prepared for that answer after his spiel on water survival skills and ancient tunnels.
Only last week, the seas were riding high, said the deck hand. “Everyone was out the back vomiting.” You really don’t need to speak Indonesian to get on with the men. It’s either slutty talk , or slagging off the police, and they’ll adopt you as their own.
The ferry moved into quieter waters. Singapore to the left and Malaysia to the right. I was back in the land of ‘no one gives a fuck who you are’.
Singapore media has reported that there might be a terrorist attack on the weekend in Kuala Lumpur.
I’m back with my misfits, and we don’t give a fuck what the Singaporeans think.
Just don’t believe the hype.
Now I remember writing that same sentence when moments later a bomb did go off. I better show some reservation even if it’s for superstition sake.