A visit to the shipyards on Karimun island


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Just finished some original recipe from KFC and now it’s time to try to recall the day’s events. It was a long day, and one, strangely, I found myself dreading. Here I was, going to a new place, totally on my own, and I was apprehensive. Maybe it was because I hadn’t really researched where I was going, but good information about Karimun is difficult to find. It was also because I was taking a domestic ferry (something new) and having to negotiate transport once I arrived in the main city, Tanjung Balai.

My day officially started at 5:30 am, but I had been awake since 3:30, mostly because of a very hyperactive cat. It was after midnight when I crashed. Suffice it to say I did not get much sleep.

I had prepared some iced coffee for the morning but I didn’t want to consume any food because I would be taking two 1 hour and 45 minute ferry rides across open water. It’s basically a two-hour trip to Karimun, which lies due east of Batam. The island has an apparently thriving main city and a new fuel transport facility rapidly taking shape. That’s where I was going.

Last night, on my nightly walk, I went to Harbour Bay to buy a ticket for the 7:15 am ferry. The office was closed as it was after 5:30. So I set the alarm for 5:30, allowing me plenty of time to get ready and then walk to the terminal. You have to buy your ticket at least 30 minutes before departure.

AS I planned, I started to walk to the ferry terminal at about 6 am. It was very muggy and soon it began to rain , hard. I found shelter but couldn’t flag down a taxi and it looked like the rain was going to last for awhile. I began to think maybe I shouldn’t go, making excuses. About then, a taxi did stop, and I was early for the ticket purchase.

The round-trip ticket was Rp170,000, or about $15. Not bad for four hours of travel. My fear of being sick never materialized. The ferry was large, and fast, and there was very little turbulence going to Karimun and little going back. In fact, I slept most of the way on both trips. There was a light passenger load both ways.

When I arrived in Tanjung Balai, I was, of course, immediately accosted by the local taxi drivers. I needed one, but how to choose? I just walked through the initial crowd and singled out one guy for no apparent reason. He turned out to be a good, if somewhat fast, driver.

We negotiated a price, well we sort of negotiated a price. I showed him where I was going (always write it down) and he initially said 150,000. I wasn’t sure if that was for one-way or round-trip. Then it became 400,000. Let’s go, I said, figuring to get help on the other end.

It was about a 30-minute drive, first through narrow city streets lined with shophouses, the bottom floors selling pretty much what you see in Batam. Maybe a little less sophisticated because Karimun doesn’t get the Singapore shopping crowd that Batam gets. Once out of the city it was mostly low forest brush, an occasional work site, and winding roads.

Our destination was a developing fuel storage area for movement of fuels around the world. Singapore has a huge area with these massive tanks but has run out of land, even with its land reclamation efforts. The Karimun site had numerous tanks in various stages of construction, with retaining outer walls also being constructed. The company I was visiting is responsible for just one portion of this project – fabrication and installation of hundreds of meters of pipe that connect the mainland with the dock where the ships load and unload.

For this, I had to wear my new “personal protection equipment” or PPE in the industry. The gear includes a helmet, goggles, heavy boots and coveralls. This was provided by my client, because I will need this equipment in order to walk on the various work sites. Trouble was, the size 11 boots I asked for fit more like size 14s. And the XL coverall was meant for someone about 8 inches shorter than I am. But I carried all this, except for the coveralls, in a plastic bag all the way to Karimun, which turned out to be a good thing.

The interview and walk around the site were interesting, and I’m sure will make a nice second installment of the McLen Tales (as told my Ken Anderberg) series.

My driver had waited for me, and armed with new information from my host, I negotiated a fee of Rp350,000 for the round trip. Apparently, the price pleased my driver, as he personally escorted me through the terminal maze (no English signage) and brought me to the waiting area. Nice service. (BTW, if you haven’t noticed, the taxi fare was more than twice the ferry fare.)

Found a seat with legroom on the ride back and slept most of the way, satisfied that I had overcome my earlier fears.

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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