A travel horror story from Iamisaid.
Travelling Across Indonesia Plans.
A close friend who once lived and worked at a remote end of Indonesia, reared fish over there for export till he contracted a life threathening respiratory disease and was forced to abandon his business, recently suggested that the two of us make an all-round trip of the Indonesian Archipelago.
I am all for it. We are at the planning stage.
However, as with any journey into the "unknown", it would be in the best interest for our safety and preparation to know which territory is less safe and needs us to be more careful so that we return home in one piece. Hence, the reason for this article and you would understand the purpose by the time you finish reading it.
Dumai Horror Story
Take Dumai as an example. On route to Pekan Baru last year, my experience at Dumai, a town located on the east coast of Sumatra, made me vow that I would never go that way again. I was traveling with an Indonesian who is a native of Bukit Tinggi. Even his accompaniment was of little help at Dumai, in Riau province.
What happened at Dumai?
Before we arrived at Dumai, my Indonesian friend advised me not to speak Bahasa Indonesia to anyone while we made our way through the terminal. He had a point because that way I would not get engaged in conversation that might lead me into unnecessary trouble. Exceptions of course being the Immigration and Customs officers and only if the need arise.
I had barely alighted from the ferry and I was confronted by two bag porters. They wished to carry my laptop and bag. (I have made it a habit to travel as light as possible.) I shook my head to decline their offer. These two men left only to be replaced by others. So as it was, me shaking my head for as long as it lasted till I reached the Immigration booth. That was mild in comparison with what was soon to befall on me.
I was cleared by the Immigration without any problem. Good.
As I made my way out from the building, I had to face several hecklers from Travel and Hotel agencies. Still mild.
What happened the moment as I stepped out of the building could be described as a war zone.
Cab drivers, more bag porters and more excursion promoters swarmed around me. It was like the way celebrities get hassled by media reporters. A celebrity? I am not.
My laptop shoulder strap was grabbed. My bag was grabbed. Oh heavens! NO, NO, please not my laptop. I was shoved and the men milled around me and were yelling. During all this commotion, I was pulled away by someone who grabbed me by my right shirt sleeve. Then someone else held my left arm, like as though he was doing me a good deed, as he pulled me away to the the left, away from the man on my right who had not let loose his clutch on my sleeve. In the process of all this, the man who held my right shirt sleeve, had my shirt torn.
I could see that my Indonesian friend too was in a similar mess with the "Welcome to Dumai" crowd. With him facing the same predicament, he could not give me any assistance.
After my shirt was torn, they became more subdued. One of them pretended to patch the tear as he briskly stroked the torn fabric back into position. He stroked more than was required as he moved his hands to other areas of my body. I stepped away from him.
I stood immobile for a few moments, tried as best as I could to regain my composure, my eyes darted back and forth, while I thought of a way to get past all this without anymore hassles.
When my Indonesian friend freed himself and rejoined me we gave each other that "can't believe this" facial gesture.
Finally, we made it out of the terminal compound and not without haggling with two cab drivers on the fare.
We were driven to a ticket office in town that provides road transport to Pekan Baru. Initially, everything looked above board while we discussed fare price and directions until this man walked right up to us.
The salesgirl said that this man is the person who would drive us to Pekan Baru. The fare was paid. I had to request that a ticket be given. The ticket was given but in a rather suspiscious manner. I did not give it further attention as there was too much on my mind.
The driver told us to wait at that sales office till 5:30 p.m. His vehicle was still at the terminal as he needed to search for additional passengers to make his trip profitable.
We sat on a bench like obedient school children till it went past 5:30. The salesgirl had left and was replaced by someone else.
6:00 p.m. and still no sight of our driver.
We realised that we were cheated. Neither the sales office accepted responsibility nor did the driver arrive.
We were forced to stay the night at Dumai because it was not a good idea to travel at night to Pekan Baru - some 4 hours by road.
That was my first trip en route Dumai and it was definitely the last.
Places to Avoid?
Indonesia being such a "potpourri" of cultures, traditions and such like, I think that it might benefit readers by sharing our personal experiences, knowledge or advice.
A collation of personal experiences would certainly help whoever travels or has plans to travel to new locations in Indonesia.