Ferry to Pulau Bintan

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  , Riau,
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Travel always has inherent challenges.  Often these come in form of language or infrastructure, but Singapore showed me that even in a modern, English-speaking country, things don't always come smoothly.  In fact, it's probably because Singapore seems so "easy" that we had a little trouble.  Our guide book just casually mentioned an Indonesian island near Singapore that we decided we'd check out.  We didn't go talk to a travel agent, or look it up online, or do any kind of hasty research, because we could just ask a cab driver how to get to the ferry station, buy a ticket, and figure it all out upon arrival.  There was no concern that a miscommunication would lead to an overnight bus to a Vietnamese border town or a late-night drop-off in some tiny village.  It's Singapore.  It's Western.  It's that easy.

So we bought ferry tickets, and we did not, in fact, end up on a bus to nowhere.  We did find ourselves on the "local" side of the island, a.k.a. where we would be relieved of our luggage and our kidneys.  Bintan island is very strictly segregated: locals in a traditional town in the south, foreigners on the resorts in the north.  The two sites are only 50 kms apart, but they are also separated by armed guards, Do Not Enter signs, manicured hedges, and a 1000% price difference. 

So we found out upon arrival that we probably wanted to be in the north (side note: we had originally purchased a ferry ticket to that side, but changed because of some faulty information - in English).  We were all a bit frustrated, some of us more than others.  So we spent a night in a "resort" on the south side, then hired a car the next morning to head north.  We were able to buy some groceries before leaving town, which was nice since cokes and bottled water were $6 at the real resorts.  Admittedly, I am spoiled by the combination of convenience and low cost provided by Thailand, so I found the price gouging, a.k.a. prison raping, particularly painful.  But considering the seclusion and the amenities, the prices weren't awful.  So we were driving buy golf courses and walking on the beach just a few waking hours after the mix-up, so it wasn't too bad.
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