WEDNESDAY, 22 APRIL – SINGAPORE TO TANJUNG PINANG.

We left the Why Not crashpad at 7:30 a.m. and walked down to Finger Pier. Barry stayed behind at the crash pad as he was planning to head up North for a few days. At Finger Pier, we bought speedboat tickets to Batam Island where we cleared Singapore customs. The trip to Batam, which is in Indonesia (see map) took about 40 minutes and we were aboard a brand new, high-speed ferry complete with aircraft type seats and videos, so we passed the time watching Beverly Hills Cop 2.

At the port on Batam, we passed through Indonesian customs without a question and then changed our remaining Singapore dollars into Indonesian Rupiah¹. Outside the terminal, we shrugged off the taxi drivers offering to take us into Nagoya (the island’s main town) for 10 Singapore dollars and walked down a road a bit until a taxi stopped and offered to take us for 1000 Rupiah each: local price. 

Nagoya was a half-built, dismal place and we stopped there only long after changing money and negotiating a local price fare in a taxi over to Kabil on the southern coast of the Island.

In Kabil, we bought tickets for Bintam Island on a local boat. Speedboats ferry wealthy Chinese businessmen and their harlots across in 10 minutes for 10,000 Rupiah each, but the slow boat was almost as fast and would take us there for R3,000. We threw our gear onto a ramshackle canoe which ferried us out to the old wooden boat, then we sat on the bow deck as we crossed the straight to Bintam. The sun was brilliant upon the turquoise water and stacks of pure white thunderclouds towered in the sky. The port on Bintam consisted of a wooden jetty jutting out from a row of pole houses built above the water’s edge and, behind the houses, the bus station was simply a large tree.

We bought tickets for Tanjung Pinang and waited for half an hour for the bus to lurch out of town and into the jungle. It poured with rain during the 2-hour trip but was fine again by the time we reached Tanjung Pinang. We walked down to Bong’s Homestay which had been recommended to us.

We found a money changer and changed our last remaining Sterling cash (£40.00) and a £100.00 traveller’s cheque which gave us the large sum of 410,000 Rupiah. At the boat dock, we were told that the next ferry over to Pekanbaru in Sumatra wouldn’t leave for 3 days so we elected to fly with Merpati Airlines. The man in the office said they were closed so I would have to wait until 8 a.m. the next morning to get our tickets. That evening we dined alfresco at the local night market.

¹The Indonesian currency is called the Rupiah (pronounced ‘roo-pia”) from a Sanskrit word meaning “silver.”

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