"One Day Rodney, We'll be Millionaires..."

Dumai Travel Blog

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As the ferry crawled the final distance into the dock in Dumai I checked out of the window to see what kind of place I’d pitched up in this time. I was greeted by sprawling industrial docklands dotted with spindly chimneys belching out flame and black smoke. It was a scene reminiscent of those news pictures, ubiquitous in gulf war TV coverage, of burning oilfields in Iraq. I sincerely hoped this was not an omen of what I was to expect in the rest of the country.

There was another tourist on board, a lanky English guy named Alex, 19 and headed for University in Manchester come September. He had made it half way around the world via Eastern Europe, the Trans-Siberian Express, China and South East Asia. This kind of thing continually bewilders me. I think back to when I was 19; there is just no way I would have been mentally prepared for a journey like that and I certainly wouldn’t have been venturing into Sumatra on my own.         

Anyway, as the only two whiteys on board we decided to negotiate immigration together. Jumping off the ferry we dodged through hordes of diminutive dockside locals hawking, loading, unloading, shoving, shouting and generally making a fine impression of being very busy indeed. Being the final passengers off the boat we ended up at the back of a lengthy queue waiting to conduct immigration formalities.

However, after only a minute or so, a policeman appeared, spotted us and shouted “Visa?” We nodded our affirmation and he led us past the lengthy queue of Indonesians and Malays to pay for our Visas in a separate office. This preferential treatment for Western tourists at border crossings always makes me feel a little guilty, but then what am I going to do? Tell the border police trying to help me that I’d rather wait in line for hours? I think not.

There’s a lot of conflicting information floating around about visas for Indonesia. I had taken the word of an old guy selling ferry tickets in Melaka that I would not need a return or onwards ticket to prove I would be able to leave Indonesia after entering. As it turned out, this was correct. I dunno about other nationalities but as Brits both Alex and I were warmly welcomed into the country and weren’t asked for return/onward tickets or proof of funds. Money talks and 25 dollars, in partnership with our little maroon passports, clearly spoke persuasively, speeding us through the system with only smiles and cursory bag checks for our trouble.  

With no map of Dumai (take note Lonely Planet) and no real alternative, Alex and I placed ourselves into the hands of a tout who had continually hassled us throughout the visa process. He took us to a place to buy bus tickets, probably earning himself a healthy commission at our expense. However as we were immediate millionaires in Indonesian Rupia (18,000 to the UK Pound - woo!) we weren't too fussed. Dumai isn’t pretty, but then it’s a busy oil port, it isn’t meant to be. After only a few hours, a meal and a swift mooch around the dusty, uneven city streets, we boarded a bus to the Western town of Bukitinggi, glad to be moving, and with yet another new country to explore.       

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