INDONESIA

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
1
16
118
Trip End Feb 18, 2007


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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Saturday, November 26, 2005

Whilst in Singapore, we decided to do a Day trip to the nearby Indonesian island of Bintan. It's quite weird how you can go from super first world Singapore, to an extremely third world Indonesian island, in little over an hour by boat.

Now, we had been warned, but we didn't expect it to be this bad:- As soon as we stepped off the ferry, we were hassled by dozens of men wanting to be our guide. This time, our usual trick of "we don't speak any English!", didn't get rid of one of the more persistent ones and he followed us around everywhere. Well actually, when we saw how narrow, confusing and dirty the streets were in this town, the tables were turned and we actually ended up following him.

We are quite used to being stared at now, especially after China, but this placed topped it all. As we walked around, practically every single head, from every single shop or food stall, turned around and starred at us and we could frequently hear people shouting something at us. Our intruder guide actually turned out to be quite useful in the end, as he shouted something back to them and then they left us alone.
Overall, it was a good, but slightly unnerving experience, being the centre of attention in such a busy, dirty, poor place which sees hardly any westerners and where almost nobody speaks any English. We couldn't even rest and take refuge in a cafe, bar or restaurant as there weren't any. We followed our guide and looked around the smelly market place and the wooden waterside part of town which is built up on stilts. After this, we decided to head back to the port and take the early boat back to civilisation.

Before getting on the boat, Marc bought an innocent souvenir, a bottle of beer, to take back to Singapore. This was still enough to upset the strict Singapore customs. As they x-ray all your baggage on the way in to the country, the security officer found this whole bottle of beer in Marc's bag and told him that he had to go to see customs to pay tax on it.

At the customs office, Marc opened his bag and pulled out the small bottle of beer, to the amusement of the officers who are used to people being caught with far more substantial hauls. Marc told the officers that he wasn't paying 3 dollars tax, for a bottle of beer that he'd already paid tax on and that they could keep it. After this, the duty officers agreed with Marc that the law was ridiculous and told him that he could sit down at their desk and drink it. They said that they couldn't just let us go because they check your tax receipts on the way out. Marc declined the offer of drinking it there, so in the end they wrote him out a tax receipt for just a dollar. It was quite funny. Apparently, you are not allowed duty free allowances in Singapore, if you've just been abroad on a day trip.

Next we leave the rule obsessed country of Singapore and head over to another rule obsessed country, Brunei.
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Comments

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