• On the Road
  • 18/01/10 – Across Flores – Indonesia

    After 7 hours ride by bus I am finally at Ende. What means “the end” in German. Surprisingly, the bus made all the way from Ruteng to Ende in little more than 6 hours. It is about 136 km in straight line, but 260 on a curvy road up and down mountains. At the end of the journey I felt broken. I hit myself at least five times against the window due to the fast driving. For sure it was impossible to sleep. On the way I said goodbye to my beloved moustache-friend Miguel “El Chato” after an amazing week together.

    Today I embark in another Pelni trip across to Timor. I am getting closer and closer to Australia, but still I haven’t found a vessel to sail across Asia and Oceania.

     

  • On the Road
  • 17/12/01 – Ferry Batam Jakarta

    If you are following this blog and you have read the previous posts, you might have notice that getting a ticket to the ferry was kind of an adventure. It reminded me of a roll game asking here and there to get to solve the quest.

    To travel from Batam to Jakarta, there are also cheap flights which is the option most of the people is going to suggest you to take. Cheaper and faster. The ferry takes 28h so if you are not afraid of flights, or travelling overland and seas like me, you should be really willing to have an adventure if you go for this option

    Long story short, if you ever think about taking this ferry here I tell you how to avoid struggling as I do. You can purchase the ticket online at www.pelni.co.id where also you can see the schedule for the following two months. If you prefer to buy it once in the Island, the only vendor I found was Paris Travel Agency at Nagoya just on the other side of the avenue from the BCA Bank and Nite and day Batam Hotel. They will charge you a little commission plus 4% if you pay with credit card.

    The boat departs from Batu Ampar, wich is not far from Nagoya. It is probably the only non-ferry terminal in the Island, but more a cargo ships harbour. Nearby there is nothing more than a dirty cafeteria. So, if you want to bring something on board consider buying it in advance.

    You will have to arrive to the port 2 hours in advance and the control to get into the boat is very simple, I even doubt they pay to much attention at what you are carrying with you.

    Once on board the ferry is very basic, pretty much rooms are distributed by class in different decks.

    Economic are bunkbeds in a big common hall, Second and first class however have different options between sharing a room with 8, 6 ,4 or having a private one. Toilets are nasty dirty. People do not flush or flush does not work. I had the guts to have a shower, but a college I met on board at the end did only washed his face.

    There is very basic food at the canteen and live music during lunch, dinner and at night time. There is no alcohol for sale in board and food won’t be much more than some rice with a piece of fish or chicken and a little slice of fruit.

    As activities, there is only one terrace and a little shop where to get a coffee or some snacks for two times what you would have pay out of the vessel and a fitness room with broken machines and a table tennis in good conditions.

    The journey is long so prepare yourself some activities to entertain along the way.

  • On the Road
  • 17/11/29 – Batam – Indonesia

    After all the struggles to get the ticket to Jakarta which was my main reason to stop in this Island I decided to visit few of the sightseeing here.

    Since the very first moment I get out of customs I saw Batam as a dirty crappy place. Roads aren’t in good conditions, there is rubbish all around. It was indeed a big contrast when coming from Singapore 20km away. Might be the fact that I wasn’t in a good mood after not receiving a visa I can extend or just the though of coming back to a place like Cambodia, but I didn’t react well to the first taxi drivers that started annoying me once I get out from the terminal. Even, here, in my western education, I found them much more unpolite. It was not the “Taxi, Sir” from the other ASEAN countries. Here they clap hands and make noises as if they where calling a dog. What make it worst is that even ignoring theme, they will follow and approach with that same attitude. Do they think I am deft or blind? If so, why they keep annoying me?

    Not to mention, but there are no proper taxis, it is just regular people with their car trying to get some extra money, and for sure, me as western, I was a good piece. They behave was not that intensive with other locals.

    People didn’t help me much to get all the way to the main town, neither to find anything I might be looking for as you may have read in the previous post. Still I get to meet good people that did their best to help.

    From the bus between ports on different sides of the Island, I could see it wasn’t very developed in terms of infrastructure. Most of the buildings as well were in need of a restoration or at least to be repaint.

    Nagoya didn’t appeal me at all. Smelly, with muddy bad roads, trash on the side roads, and old crumbly buildings. I found my self in the bars and pubs area to find out that all the bars had dark windows and ladies at the entrance. In one of those particular moments, the only non-locals I came across where three Spanish guys from Murcia coming out from one of the pubs saying that this was the paradise. After them three young ladies where saying goodbye from the door of the bar.

    The hotels I visited where not very clean, but very cheap if I compare them to the ones in Singapore, but expensive regarding the rest of the ASEAN.

    As I learnt later, this Island is considered a touristic spot. I don’t know why, though. It seems that in the north there are nice beaches and there is a ferry boat to go to nearby paradise-picture Islands. It is rainy season now, so not the good time to be here maybe.

    There are no many sightseeing in the Island, and probably the mayor attraction for tourists are the resorts themselves. In Batam Center and Nagoya, there are several malls where most of the people hang around.

    As it is cultural here, the market takes place in a market square and along the nearby streets. Shop tenants compete in prices and product, while motorbikes collapse the walking area.

    There are several mosques and temples, however I just visited some of them in my walk between Nagoya and Batam Center.

    The two biggest ones I visited there are not far from each other. The buddhist temple of Maha Vihara Duta Matreya is in between both settlements. It is a big concrete building that could have perfectly been a stocking if it weren’t because of the sculptures and symbols.

    The Mosque of Batam is located in Batam Center and the square in front of it make it visible from the distance. Its style repeats the common style for the temples in the regions, but in a bigger size and dividing the roof with different levels.

    Definitively, this stop was pretty much forced and if not completely unnecessary unless you are looking for cheap prostitution or to chill inside the resorts.

  • On the Road
  • 17/11/27 – from Singapore to Batam – Indonesia

    After a last night out and a chilling day in Singapore it was time to continue to Indonesia. There are plenty ferries that travel from Singapore to Batam, an Island just 20km. away.

    Singapore to Batam

    The ferries depart from Harbourfront, the same place where is the monorail to go to Sentosa Island. As there are many ferries, I just bought a ticket as I arrived. As my plan is to connect to go to Jakarta, I asked the vending lady which port was the more appropriated. There are several possible destinations in the Island – Batam Center, Harbour bay and Sekupang. She suggested me to go to Sekupang. And I did so. Why shouldn’t I trust her?

    However, if you are planning to do the same take the one to Harbour bay.

    Customs is easy going and friendly and the journey doesn’t take more than one hour. Once in Sekupang, as European we do not need visa. However, I had red that to be able to extend the visa is necessary to ask for a special visa on arrival. I did ask so to the lady at the customs, and she friendly told me that there is not such a possibility of extension. I did ask if there is not a way I can get a visa on arrival that I can extend afterwards, and she answered me “no possible extension”. I decided that insisting will not take me anywhere.

    Finding a ferry to Jakarta

    Once with the stamp on my passport and out of customs I started asking where could I find a ferry to Jakarta. Some people told me that there was no ferry to Jakarta from Batam, then someone directed me to a travel agency. They told me that it was not until Wednesday. I said ok and asked them if they could sell me one ticket. They said no and told me that I need to buy it at Batam Centre.

    I manage my way to get the Trans Batam bus to Batam Central where once again I started asking. The same story repeated. Some people didn’t know about the existance of such ferry, others informed me that it wasn’t until Wednesday and after asking in all ferries agencies I was addressed to go to Nagoya Hill Mall.

     

    As I had time I decided to continue the research the following day and then first find a hostel or hotel and had dinner I look for a place next to the mall.

    The next day I keep on asking at the mall. Here it was at the currency exchange shops where you buy the ferry tickets. Some denied me a ticket as I was not Indonesian – I think they thought I was willing to go to Singapore. Other told me that just to Singapore. Finally, someone told me to go directly to the departing port, Batu Ampar. Near Harbour Bay.

    A nice guy drove me all the way to harbour for free when I was asking how to go there. Once there, at the basic police control to the harbour, they told me that I there is no one selling tickets on the Harbour. The police offered to sell me one. He was about to buy it online and there is where I get the website of the company. www.pelni.co.id. Also, they told me that I can buy it at a travel agency in Nagoya called Paris.

    I turned back and at the agency, after checking the prices and finding that online you have to buy the ticket at least 3 days before the departing day I got my second-class ticket to Jakarta. Now I only have to wait.

    Conclusion

    What I learnt is that if you are traveling overland to Indonesia from Malaysia, you can go from Melaka to Medan or from Singapore to Batam and there connect to Jakarta. The ferry company from Batam to Jakarta is Pelni www.pelni.co.id At their site you can check the schedules just for the following one or two months and buy the tickets with more than 3 days from departure.

    The ferry to Jakarta departs at 13:00 from Batu Ampar which is next to Harbour Bay, so you can even get a morning ferry from Singapore to Batam Harbour Bay and connect to the ferry to Jakarta. You would just need to arrive to the harbour at Batu Ampar 2 hours in advance.

    And the most important. If you come across an ignorant at customs that do not know that Indonesia has a special visa you can extend, insist or turn back and go with another customs agent. To be continue