Day 655: Monty Python’s Floating Circus


ROLL UP! ROLL UP! For one day only: the magnificent, the hilarious, the intrinsically fascinating BLOKE WHO’S NOT FROM AROUND HERE!

Yes, I get stared at a lot.  Usually because I’m walking down the street babbling inanely to my camera, but mostly because I’m as whiter than a late-era Michael Jackson and I have the most unusual mutation on my 16th chromosome that makes my hair a most ridiculous shade of red.

I guess there’s a point (usually when you reach India) when you stop seeing it as rude, but you know like, sometimes, you just really want to – you know – scratch your arse?  Or maybe adjust yourself after a night’s kip?  What if doing so resulted in gales of laughter from the stalls?  I better explain.

Yesterday, after fighting Jakarta and losing miserably (and then winning by default) I was in no mood for caring nor indeed sharing.  The first on board the ship, I monopolised an entire cushioned pew designed for four to myself.  Knowing there were no beds on board and also knowing I was going to spent the next two nights sweating like Shergar on this floating cockroach farm there was no way on God’s Green Earth I was going to be scrunched up in a ball and then spending the following day attempting to get the crick out of my neck.  So I spread myself and my bags out across the bench, stuck my earphones into my lugholes and proceeded to ignore anybody and everybody who may or may not have some kind of objection to my selfish behaviour.

For its excellent position by the window and the telly, I had picked the bench on the very front row of the ship, which was great for keeping an eye on my stuff, not so good if I was hoping not to be gawked at by the 100+ other passengers for the subsequent 36 hours.  Yup, I was the only Johnny Foreigner onboard and boy did they let me know it.  I sat up, everybody laughed.  I laid down, everybody laughed.  I got up to go to the toilet, everybody laughed.  I reckon I could have told a couple of mother-in-law jokes in Yiddish and everyone would have laughed.
I took this all in good humour, I guess it’s all part of the experience, but there is a difference between people laughing with you and people laughing at you, is there not?

I should possibly tell you something about the ferry itself.  Man I thought I had been transported back to Africa.  No air-con (just an open window to keep things cool), plastic on the benches which was marvellously attuned to stick to sweaty human skin like superglue, people sleeping on the floor on bits of cardboard (I could have been back on the Sissiwani) and the aforementioned cockroach infestation.  BIG ONES.  Like, really big.

I managed to kill about 17 of the little feckers (much to the delight of my captive audience) but did wake up a few times in the night and have to pick one off my face or out of my hair.

But unlike the Sissiwani (almost exactly one year ago, pop-pickers!) at least there was a telly on board, which meant I got to watch half of The Gods Must Be Crazy and nearly all of The Frighteners.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch the Merseyside Derby and see Everton well and truly trounce – going down! – Liverpool 2-0.

But you can’t have everything.  I just enjoyed the fact despite everything that the red half of the city had a much worse day than me.

Day 669: One Hell of a Halloween


I left the Mariott with a spring in my step.  I had my book back and I had plenty of time to get to the train station, even considering the gridlock nightmare that is driving in Jakarta.  But there was a problem.  Two weeks ago when I was last here in Jakarta, Barclay’s bank, in their infinite wisdom cancelled my debit card (it would seem I’ve been abroad too long).  After much kerfuffle, I managed to get it unblocked and told them in my best Monty Python voice to never do it again.

So I need to take out money for the train fare this morning, and what happens?  Seven different ATM machines turn me down.  Oh you’ve GOT to be kidding me.  I get to the station and try to pay on Visa, but (of course) they don’t take Visa because THE ONLY PLACES THAT TAKE VISA OUTSIDE THE WEST ARE GOLF COURSES.

So I want to get on wi-fi to call Barclay’s via Skype, but the owners of the station café make me buy a can of Coke before they let me have the password.  They look bemused when I leave the can on the counter as I frantically call up telephone banking.

Here’s the conversation:

Just a couple of security questions, sir… what’s your date of birth?

I gave it.

And what’s your mother’s maiden name?

I gave that too.

I’m sorry, sir, but that information is incorrect.

I roll my eyes – here we go.

No it’s not.  I share the account with my dad – you must be looking at his details.  Seriously – do I sound seventy years old??

I’m sorry sir, but you did not answer the questions correctly.

Yes I did.  You asked for MY date of birth and MY mother’s maiden name.

I then gave them my dad’s DOB and my grandmother’s maiden name for good measure.

I’m sorry sir I can’t help you.

I’m just about to have a nervous breakdown… the train leaves in less than five minutes and this bitch is seriously wrecking my Sunday morning head.  I grow angry and tell her, in no uncertain terms, that it is a joint account and I have every right to conduct telephone banking especially when I’m on the other side of the bleedin’ planet and I need the frickin’ ATM to frickin’ well work.  It’s not my fault if she’s looking at the wrong information screen.

What’s your card number again?

I give it. Again.

Oh.  Sorry, yeah, you’re right.

I hold my tongue, fighting an overwhelming desire to make a childish noise in the manner of the professors from History Today.

What seems to be the problem?

The ATMs here in Jakarta won’t give me any money.

Oh, that’s because all international ATMs are down for servicing. They’ll be back up in an hour.

The train leaves in three minutes.


I run about the station asking if anyone will change my emergency dollars.  A guy in a little phone shop agrees and gives me a lousy rate, but sod it, the seconds are ticking down, I’ve got a date in Bali and I don’t want to keep her waiting another day.  I thrust my newly-acquired Rupiahs at the counter lady and I jump on the train as it is moving out of the station.


Big shake on the box-car moving…

The wonderful train journey across the northern coast of Java took me from Jakarta to the eastern port town of Surabaya, but it simply wasn’t eastern enough for my liking – I needed to get to the wonderfully named port town of Banyuwangi for the ferry to Bali.  But by the time I reached Surabaya it was already getting dark.  I clambered aboard a clapped-out old coach and paid my dues: could I get there today?  No chance… how does 4am suit you?  Ah, sod it, I knew the ferries ran all night, so I was happy to give it a red hot go.  It would have been a slightly more pleasant trip if I didn’t have to change coaches in some random down in the middle of the night (I was half asleep).  At 5pm the bus, an hour late, pulled into the Banyuwangi ferry terminal.

Hee hee.


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