Thankfully I managed the very early start required to sort out a last few chores before saying cheerio to the 75 Travellers Inn and hit the road on an especially sweltery morning bound for the ferry pier. Looking at the throng of fellow passengers, I had my first impression of Indonesian people, not so different from the Malays, they shared a common ancestry after all. It was a vague benefit now that they also share essentially the same language too, though English is so widely spoken in Malaysia that it was only now that I would have to seriously tackle it. Fortunately its also considered to be one of the easiest lingos to learn in the world, with no definite or indefinite article, no gender, no plural form, not even any tenses. Written in the Latin script courtesy of the Dutch and reputedly easy to pronounce, I wondered how far I would be able to get into it.
The ferry left maybe an hour late, in a way compensated for by gaining an hour with another time zone change back the way. It didnt hang around either, the ferry really was extremely fast as we rolled queasily from side to side, dodging merchantmen and trawlers, unfortunately catching up with a deterioration in the weather too. Entry into Indonesia could have bene worse. Certainly despite the queues and general sense of shabbiness I strolled immigration and customs, the only real hurdle being the predictable touts and "officials" of dubious credibility. I surprised myself at how immediate and instinctive I switched back into blanking mode, I just completely ignored all attempts at trying to sway me in one direction or the other. Unfortunately there was a scam here to which I had been forewarned by the guidebook. The bus to which I was sceptically directed should have been inclusive of my ferry ticket but sure enough, money was demanded of me. It was only 70p and I made a point of telling the guy that I knew his game, but ended up paying it in the end for the sake of facility. I could have snubbed them on point of principle but would have probably just landed myself with a long wait for the rival minibus, known variously as Opelets or Bemos here, to fill up. I had expected to arrive in Medan around half 1 that day and yet it wasnt until 6pm that I had to fight off the fatigue in search of a bed. There were more than a few surreptitious "guides" and rickshaw hopefulls to contend with and paining at finding the first 2 joints full amidst constant beckoning calls of "Hello mister!", I eventually took a chance on a local boy who transpired to be bona fide. The dive I ended up at was at least cheap if nothing else, I splashed out on one of the better rooms for 1 pound 50, quickly to discover that it was simply too hot to wear a shirt here, the reputedly non-existent mosquito population was out in force, and the "showers" were the Mandi type where you just spooned water over your head. The toilets were also so narrow you could barely struggle to get in them over a pail of water, and there was no sink in which to shave. A subsequent early foray around the locality revealed more overfriendly itinerants including a guy wanting to practice French, diabolical traffic and noise pollution and a shopping centre which reassured me that no, I had not just gone back in time to the Malaysia of 30 years ago. There were glaring open holes in the pavements, squalid alleyways reminiscent of India, alongside modern traffic light systems and a spectacular pristine mosque belting out the muezzins call. But an ATM accepted my card OK and I found a passable restaurant even if it was showing prayers on TV. Whilst the other incarcerates at the guesthouse watched a pirate 20p DVD, I just got into a book and savoured my first Bintang beer after loosing off a mosquito coil. Hello Indonesia.