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25 – Ferry to Klang, Malaysia

Submitted by on September 6, 2018 – 12:32 pm
Tuktuk to Banda Aceh - 01 - 7512

Thursday, September 6, 2018
4:30 a.m. Room ?, d’Spark Hotel
Klang, Malaysia

(60 RM/$15 US per night; single room; small but well-appointed, modern, clean; boutique style hotel; A/C; TV; WiFi; nice private bathroom; kettle; instant coffee; bottled water; soap, shampoo, towel supplied;)

Much of my fiddling with the trailer and the rain cover. turned out to be unnecessary, at least for this trip. I realized that since I had put my computer, camera gear, and electronics in my Osprey daypack, I would have to pretty much just lay the daypack down on top of the trailer and strap it there. And I can’t do that with the rain cover. on the trailer. The rain cover covers up all the possible attachment points for straps. That is another modification I plan to make someday. So I ended up riding from Kisaran to the ferry dock in Tanjungbalai with no rain cover on the trailer.

My comfortable seat on the fast ferry from Tanjungbalai to Klang. On a previous trip, I was on a much larger and older ferry. It was more interesting because it had different levels, and it was possible to go out on deck in the open air and even down into the bowels of the ship and have coffee with the crew. But this was a more modern boat, and we were all sealed inside a passenger compartment with no possibility of going outside or anywhere else. The trip to Klang took about five hours.

And then when I got to the dock, I realized that my trailer – as empty as it was – was so light that I didn’t really need to leave the wheels on it. The baggage handlers would routinely lift and carry bags that were both much larger and much heavier, so there was no advantage to leaving the tow arm and the wheels on the trailer. The baggage handler would probably just pick it up and carry it anyway, I realized. So at the last minute, I made the decision to remove the wheels and the tow arm and place them inside the trailer bag, as the whole trailer was designed to function. I quite enjoyed doing that because it displays the most unique aspects of this trailer – the way it transforms from a bicycle trailer to a simple bag in just a couple of minutes. The crowd of men watching me were certainly appreciative. They literally oohed and aahed as I popped off the wheels, removed the axles, placed the wheels inside the trailer and then zipped it closed. Some of them called over their friends and pointed at the now simple piece of luggage and described how it could transform into a bicycle trailer. I felt like a magician performing a magic trick.

A fishing boat on the river. I took this picture through the window of the ferry.

I felt justified in my decision to remove the wheels when a baggage handler finally turned up to deal with my bike and bag, and he just hoisted the trailer to his shoulder and marched off. He didn’t even bother with the shoulder strap, which I had deliberately attached for him. I had to smile at that because in the long email that I am currently writing to Radical Design about the trailer, one point I made is that the shoulder strap is kind of useless. It looks good and useful in their promotional video because the trailer in the video is almost completely empty. The actor hoists the trailer over his shoulder with the strap and walks around to demonstrate how it works. But when the trailer has a full load of gear inside it, it is far too heavy for the shoulder strap to be of any use. It cuts into your shoulder like a knife and is very uncomfortable if not painful.

It’s interesting when design meets the real world. Most of this trailer’s design and structure is built around this ability to move the wheels to the rear of the trailer and use it as wheelable luggage. And it is also specifically designed to transform from a bicycle trailer to a piece of luggage by removing the wheels completely and placing them inside the bag. But I’ve noticed that when people interact with the trailer, it doesn’t always work out that way. Yesterday, for example, when I arrived at my hotel in Klang, a promotional video would have had me move the trailer’s wheels to the rear axle holes and proudly roll it down the hallway to my room. But in reality, I didn’t bother. I simply unhooked the trailer and rolled it down the hallway just as it was. With the wheels in the middle position on the trailer, I had to bend over a little bit as I walked, but that was no problem. After all, my room was perhaps thirty meters down the hallway at most. Rolling the trailer down that hallway while bent over a little bit was far less effort than moving the wheels to the rear position and then, the next morning, moving them back again to the middle position. If I had to walk the trailer a couple hundred meters or more, then it would make sense. But most of the time, in my experience, you don’t have to roll the trailer very far to get to your room in a hotel, and it’s easier to just leave the wheels where they are. In one of their promotional videos, Radical Design shows a guy bringing his trailer to a grocery store. And he moves the wheels to the rear position so he can walk through the grocery store with the trailer behind him. That makes sense, but it also makes no sense because, to be honest, the trailer is too large to conveniently wheel around a grocery store. You’re certainly not going to do that in Asia where there isn’t even enough room for a human to walk down the aisles. It’s true that this trailer would be a great thing to have in Canada for trips to the grocery store, but chances are that you’d just leave the trailer attached to your bike outside. You’d go into the store and get your groceries using a basket or a grocery cart – which they provide anyway – and then you’d bring your groceries outside and load them into your trailer just like you would load them into the trunk of your car. And in any event, when the guy did the grocery store demo, he was working with a completely empty trailer. So it was easy for him to manipulate it as he changed the wheel position. When you are touring, you are trying to manhandle a very heavy object, and moving the wheels takes a lot more effort as you have to lift one side of the trailer off the ground several times during the process.

It becomes even more complicated when other people interact with my trailer as both a trailer and as luggage. Once I had removed the wheels and put them inside and attached the shoulder strap, the trailer bag sat there on the ground as a pretty convenient piece of luggage. And since I’m familiar with it as a trailer and as luggage, I’d deal with it in a certain way. I knew which way was up. I knew how to pick it up. But the baggage handler was approaching it for the first time, and he had a lot of difficulty just picking it up off the ground. When it lies flat, there is no easy way to get your fingers under it to get purchase. There are various straps and things, but they aren’t obvious to a man used to dealing with suitcases with handles or boxes with ropes tied around them. So this poor guy fumbled quite a bit as he tried to pick it up. I had to help him.

 

(I shot this video clip out of the window on my ferry to Klang.)

And when I saw my trailer at different stages of the loading and unloading process, I saw that people had trouble with it. At the dock, they tried to set it on its edge and lean it against a wall so that it takes up less space. I would normally leave it lying flat on the ground because that is its normal orientation for me. That’s how I pack it and how I move it around and access the interior. But these guys wanted to stand it upright like a suitcase. And it’s not designed to do that, and it kept toppling over. Plus, I noticed that it wants to go upside down. It has a thick metal frame around the edges and then a soft bag attached to that frame. The baggage handlers would naturally grip the metal frame on the edges to carry it, and it wanted to flip over so that the contents would be hanging down from the frame. It had a kind of twisting energy. It wanted to go upside down. So when I saw it being removed from the boat when we arrived in Klang, I saw that the men had it upside down. And, as baggage handlers do, they threw it ten feet through the air from the boat to the dock. And it went through the air upside down and landed on what is its top. And then the men at the dock grabbed it and dragged it across the cement upside down. It was horrible to watch, and I wondered if I shouldn’t have left the wheels on. But considering how rough they were, it’s possible that the wheels themselves would suffer a lot of damage. They’d probably not have bothered to wheel the trailer at all. They’d just pick it up and throw it, and then it would land on its wheels and perhaps twist them and break spokes, etc. And watching how they handled the trailer, I was actually glad that I had left the rain cover off even for the trip on the ferry. The rain cover would normally cover the top of the trailer bag and leave the bottom exposed. But these guys ended up flipping it over, so as the trailer was dragged across the ground, it would have been scraping and tearing up the rain cover. My bike was handled with the same lack of care. It was not so much wheeled from the ferry to the luggage cart on shore as thrown. It was the last thing to be removed from the ferry, and they simply dumped the bike on top of everything else. This all reinforced my oft-stated maxim that more damage is done to a touring bike in transit on airplanes and boats and buses then ever is done while riding it. My bike and pannier racks have lots of battle scars, but they are almost all the result of being on planes and buses and trucks and boats.

The bike ride from my hotel in Kisaran to the ferry dock was in keeping with the overall trip around Sumatra – it was much harder than I expected. I knew from Google Maps that the trip was about twenty-four kilometers, and since this was to be all of the riding for the day other than less than one kilometer to get to my hotel in Klang, I wasn’t that worried about it. However, I should have been. I was lucky in that the skies were perfectly clear and there wasn’t even a hint of rain. However, it had rained heavily during the night – as it almost always does – and the road was a non-stop series of mud- and water-filled potholes. The road I had to follow was in pretty rough shape, and I banged and crashed and splashed through huge puddles almost the entire way. Despite the early hour, there was also heavy traffic, and I often couldn’t weave around the expanses of mud. I had to go right through them as I was forced to keep to a straight line.

Time also seemed to get away from me. I thought I had plenty of time to get to the ferry dock by nine. However, I guess all the various stages started to add up. Bringing my bike and gear down from my room in Kisaran took longer than normal because I had completely changed how I packed, and that meant fiddling around with straps and bungee cords and other things. Then, when I saw that the door at Al’s bird shop was open, I pulled in. My plan was not to stop. But when I saw the door was open, it seemed rude to just ride right by without saying hello and goodbye one last time. However, as usual, it was only Al’s wife that was up and working. Al was still in bed and asleep. Before I could stop her, Al’s wife was yelling at Al that the “bule” was here. I’m the bule – the foreigner. It’s funny that despite knowing these people for well over a year and communicating with them a lot and spending a lot of time with them, they don’t know me by my name. I’m the bule. I don’t mean that as a criticism. I don’t know Al’s wife’s name either off the top of my head. I wouldn’t know how to address her at all. I’d be scared of saying something disrespectful or impolite.

I was kicking myself about stopping at Al’s place now, because I was stuck. I had to sit in a chair and wait until Al got himself out of bed and made himself presentable. This took what felt like a long time, and Al’s wife hovered around me, and if I hadn’t drawn a firm line in the sand, she would have made me tea and breakfast and a packed lunch – none of which I wanted. Al finally showed up, and I made my goodbyes and departure as short as possible. I didn’t want to waste any more time.

My route to the ferry dock also took me right by the travel agent office. My instructions were to text them when I got to the dock, but I didn’t think it would hurt to pop my head in the door and let them know that I was on my way. That didn’t take long, but it was another short delay, and as I cycled the rest of the way, I realized that time was getting short. I did not have tons of time as I imagined I did.

Things got more challenging once I arrived at the main road going from Tanjungbalai to the ferry dock. That whole area is a beehive of fishing boats and fish warehouses and markets. And nothing gets crazier than a narrow road at an Indonesian fish market. I found myself in a stifling jam of transport trucks, motorcycles, and tricycles. I’ve been to this area many times on my various trips, and it is a fascinating place to explore. But when you are just focused on getting through it and past it to the dock, it’s a difficult hurdle. I was breathing in clouds of black exhaust while the market men were shouting greetings and running up to me and high-fiving me and grabbing the trailer wheels to pinch them and playing with the brake levers and handlebars and the Hulk. It was all a bit overwhelming.

My hope was that when I finally arrived at the ferry dock, things would go smoothly. I had paid a premium price for my ticket by buying it at a travel agent instead of directly. And part of the extra fee goes towards a person meeting me at the dock and helping me through the formalities. A problem with a system like this in general – on a theoretical level – is that approached as a customer, there are two aspects. One, is that you need things to get done. You need the services you paid for. For example, I needed this staff member to give me my passport, give me my ticket, get my luggage checked in and onto the ferry, and to assist me in navigating the formalities. But, as a customer, I also need the KNOWLEDGE that these things are being done. It’s not enough that this staff member eventually gets my luggage on the ferry. I also need the reassurance and the information that he’s doing it or will do it. And that’s where things in Asia generally fall apart. I think there is a different mindset to that of a person from the West.

I’ve noticed this trend over the years. When I go to the dentist or doctor, for example, I want the dentist or doctor to treat me properly. But I also want to know what he’s doing. I want it explained to me on some level. But Asians generally don’t care to know. They just assume the authority figure has it under control. In fact, questioning the authority figure is seen as an insult. If you ask your dentist a question about the filling you are getting, it is seen as insulting. You are expected to just sit there and assume that everything is under control. And I definitely have the opposite mindset. So I can’t just sit on a chair at the ferry dock and wait and do nothing. Maybe things under control. Maybe everything has been taken care of. Maybe things are happening somewhere. But I don’t know that. So I can’t relax. I stress out. Maybe the travel agent staff knows that there is a system in place and eventually my bicycle will be taken care of. But I don’t know that. I don’t know anything. All I see is my bicycle and trailer bag sitting out in the parking lot in the middle of nowhere, baking in the hot sun. I can’t just leave them there and walk away.

The problems began right from the start. I had been told a half dozen times to simply text Indah (the woman’s name) at the travel agency when I arrived at the dock. Even this kind of bothered me because I didn’t know why this was necessary. It’s not like there would be a thousand foreigners showing up at the ferry dock on a bicycle that morning. There might be one foreigner a year passing through this particular dock. So if there was a staff member at the dock, they’d just see me. It’s not a big place. Why couldn’t this staff member keep an eye out for a six-foot white dude on a bicycle and when he shows up, go help him?

The terminal building at the Tanjungbalai ferry dock.

Plus, I had stopped at the travel agency on my way and spoken to Indah. She was at the office and sitting at the desk. And so she knew that my arrival at the ferry dock was imminent. In fact, she responded to my drop-in visit with what seemed like annoyance. She kind of flapped her hand at me and grimaced and repeated that I should text her when I got to the dock. With all of this going on, I expected a bit of fast action. However, when I took out my phone and sent her the “I’m here” message on Facebook Messenger, there was no reply for a very long time. Nothing. I could see on my phone that she hadn’t even viewed the message yet. I waited for twenty minutes in the baking sun, and I got no reply. I realized that I could call her through Facebook Messenger, and I did that. But even though her phone was now ringing, she didn’t answer. And she still hadn’t seen my messages. I was super-annoyed, to be frank. All this time, I had been crouched in a patch of shade – the closest bit of shade where I could be and still keep my bicycle and bag in view. There was a big shaded roof with seats where passengers could sit, but I couldn’t go there because I couldn’t leave my bike and luggage unattended.

Finally, Indah replied and said. “yes, just wait for my member to call your name.”

This made no sense to me because how would anyone call my name? There was no intercom system. And even if there were, why do that? I’m standing right there. I’m like the Jolly Green Giant except white. Why do I have to wait for twenty minutes for Indah to see my message and then stand there listening for someone calling out my name. Why couldn’t this staff member just see me and come help me?

I waited and waited and waited longer, and finally some young man – a kid practically – came up to me and handed me my passport with a ferry ticket and a departure card sort of half-filled out with all incorrect information. And this kid didn’t speak any English at all. And he was unable to switch gears to use Google Translate to communicate or find someone who could speak English. I had no idea what he was saying, and I wrote a message to Indah telling her that.

Indah wrote back, “just calm down so that my members take care of everything.”

These situations are always kind of unsettling. I’ve done this enough that I KNOW that this is normal. I knew that taking a ferry to Malaysia from a local dock would be chaotic. As a somewhat experienced person, I should be able to take it in stride. It’s not like this was my first rodeo. But looking at me at the dock in Tanjungbalai, you’d think I’d never taken a local boat in Asia before. I was stressed out and freaking out internally.

The problem here was that the “members” were not doing anything that I could see. He had handed me my passport and a ticket, and then did nothing else. I couldn’t see how that helped me in any way. I was glad to get my passport back, but they were the ones who had taken it from me in the first place, and they had done nothing with it. It’s not like I had a departure stamp from immigration. It was in the same condition as when I gave it to them, so why did they even take it from me if all they did was meet me at the dock and hand it back?

All I could make out from the young kid was that he wanted me to go sit down. But I couldn’t do that. I kept pointing at my bicycle and my luggage. I couldn’t leave it there. It was just out in the parking lot and any thief could just make off with it. I wrote to Indah again, as this was my only way forward, and I told her about the bicycle and bag and I asked her if I needed to go through customs or check it in somewhere.

She wrote back, “the matter is let my members talk to immigration people and take care of everything.”

The problem, again, was that her members weren’t doing anything and a lot of time had passed. I finally took matters into my own hands and I went to stand beside my bike and I flagged down an official looking luggage carrier. I’d seen these guys going up to all the other passengers and loading their suitcases onto dollies and trucking them away. So why not me? In short order, my bag was hoisted to a shoulder and then the “members” rejoined me and he started wheeling my bicycle. We got to the entrance to the main building where I knew immigration was located, but they wouldn’t let me in. They kept shouting something about a boarding pass. And it turned out that there was a little ticket window beside the entrance, and I was expected to hand over 60,000 rupiah for a boarding pass. I don’t know why it was called a boarding pass. It was really the same thing as an airport terminal fee.

I was annoyed at this because I assumed that my 500,000 rupiah covered all the necessary fees. That’s certainly how it was explained to me. So why was this 60,000-rupiah fee being sprung on me at the last second? The “members” didn’t seem to know anything about it. Luckily, I had tons of leftover rupiah, so I could pay it. But what if I was a normal person and had carefully monitored my cash so that I had just enough left to get me through the departure? Most people would have spent all their rupiah or exchanged it for another currency by then.

But I had no choice, and I paid for the boarding pass. Then I was allowed inside, and I went to the immigration desk. Again, the members didn’t do anything. I was doing everything, and I had to deal with immigration just like I always do. That was a bit of a circus, as always, as my guy appeared to be mystified by my passport and visa and he called over other guys and they all put their heads together and talked at length and argued. None of them seemed to have any idea what to do. When this was settled, they found that none of them had a working pen to fill out the necessary forms. And at some point, he needed to staple one piece of paper to another and he didn’t have a stapler. Here, finally, the members came into his own, and he whipped out a little stapler from his man purse (a very popular item here) and handed it to the immigration official. The official stapled the papers and gave it back. I guess I had paid 500,000 rupiah for that staple.

I was then told by the immigration officer to go sit down in one of the nearby plastic chairs. The travel agent staff dude (the “members”) had already disappeared, and I never saw him again. I didn’t know where my bicycle was. I didn’t know where the trailer bag was. I had no receipts for them. I had filled out no papers. There were no luggage tags. I had paid nothing. They had just disappeared. I didn’t even know what time the ferry was supposed to leave or what I had to do next, if anything. I was particularly confused because I was now inside a building in a plastic chair near the immigration desk. But through the window, I could still see a hundred people – the other passengers – sitting in the chairs outside under the roof. Why were they out there and I was in here? Was I supposed to be out there? Were they supposed to be in here? Why weren’t they going through immigration? It was all a mystery.

After some time, an official of some type appeared and began shouting. People got up and lined up in front of a desk at the door. To get into this line, I had to go back out past immigration again, which made no sense, but that was the least of my worries. When I got to the desk, I saw that they had a passenger manifest, and they checked the list against my passport and then waved me ahead.

As I walked down the dock toward the ferry, I was joined by the man who had carried my bag away. This made sense to me because he was expecting some money at some point. He didn’t want to let me out of his sight. I was still expecting to also have to pay for my luggage in general, but there was nothing between me and the boat – no desk or office or official. However, when we reached a turn in the dock, my luggage carrier stopped me and pointed at a large, fat man who was sitting on a piece of wood and chewing slowly. He was dressed in normal civilian clothes and looked the same as any of the hundreds of people at the dock. I had no idea what anyone was saying, but it didn’t really matter. If someone was talking to me, it meant they wanted money. That’s the only reason anyone would talk to me at this dock. So I mentally made the connection between this man and my bicycle and bag, which I could see were still sitting on the dock beside the ferry. They had not been loaded yet. And this was probably a ploy to make sure that I paid. My bicycle was not going on the boat until I paid the fat man.

As I said, I couldn’t understand what they were talking about, but I assumed it was my luggage. And I heard the figure of 50,000 rupiah. After a question or two from me, I concluded that I was supposed to give this fat man 50,000 rupiah. I did so, and the second I handed over the money, my luggage carrier dashed off and started the process of loading my bike and bag on the ferry. I followed, and another luggage carrier kind of inserted himself ahead of me and slowed me down, partially blocking my way. This was to allow enough time for me to hand over more cash to the luggage handler who had been helping me. I knew from previous trips through this dock that the luggage handlers expect a tip of a certain amount per item they carry. I had no idea what the going rate was for a bicycle, but I had 30,000 rupiah in a convenient spot, and I handed that to the man. He seemed pleased with the amount, and he announced “Tiga puluh” to the other men. That means thirty in Indonesian, so he was telling them that I had given him 30,000 rupiah.

There was no reserved seating on this ferry, and it was not the type of ferry I was hoping for. Rather than a large boat with an outside deck, it was quite narrow and streamlined with an enclosed passenger cabin – much like an airplane – and there was no way to go outside to enjoy the scenery and take pictures. The best I could do was sit in my seat and take pictures through the window. On the positive side, the ferry was not crowded, and I had a full set of three large seats to myself. Also on the positive side, the air conditioning was set to a comfortable level. It was not set to ice cold as it usually is on public transportation in Asia. Finally, on the positive side, though there was a TV at the front and it was hooked up to karaoke tracks, the speakers at the back where I was sitting didn’t seem to be working. So I didn’t have to put up with any kind of screaming noise for the duration of the five-hour journey.

As always, there was a great deal of economic activity on the boat. Most of the people on board were Indonesians going to Malaysia for work or for a holiday or to go to a hospital, and a range of men went back and forth on this ferry to offer services like selling SIM cards, changing money, arranging transportation, and, as I learned later, lending “show” money. This practice of lending show money was a mystery to me at first. I saw it happening all around me, but I didn’t understand what was going on. What I saw was a group of jovial men roaming around the ferry and handing out large stacks of Indonesian currency to people. This made no sense to me because we were going to Malaysia. If these people were changing money, wouldn’t they get Malaysian ringgit? Also, the jovial men never got anything in return. They simply counted out a few million rupiah, handed it to passengers, and the passengers gave them nothing in return. All that happened was that the jovial men wrote something down in a notebook. If this was a transaction, I had no idea what was being bought or sold.

It wasn’t until I posted a picture on Facebook and talked about this that I got an answer. My friend Al from Kisaran said that for an Indonesian to go to Malaysia on a ferry, they have to prove to the Malaysian immigration official that they have enough money to support themselves for the duration of their visit. They are serious about this because large numbers of Indonesians go to Malaysia to work illegally. Therefore, an informal market of short-term moneylenders has sprung up. These jovial men were lending the Indonesian passengers a few million rupiah in cash just for a few hours. These people would show this money to the immigration officials, and then they would return the money along with a fee.

I don’t know what the fee structure would be. Nor do I know if these jovial men worked for a company or if this was considered legal. However, I did see it in action on the Malaysian side. While I was waiting in line at immigration, I saw a man ahead of me suddenly dig into the two back pockets of his pants and pull out two large stacks of cash. He waved them through the air to show the money to the immigration official and then put it on the counter. The immigration official never touched the money or counted it, but I guess it was sufficient proof that this man had enough money for his trip.

This was all very logical, and I was so happy when Al supplied the answer to this mystery. However, it didn’t answer all my questions. For one thing, it’s pretty clear that the Malaysian officials would know what was going on. They aren’t dummies. Plus, I saw all the jovial men get off the ferry and walk right into the immigration building and past all the immigration officials. They clearly had an official status of some kind. We passengers were herded into a waiting room where we had to sit in seats and wait to be called. But these men simply strolled into the building. And they were carrying knapsacks that were clearly heavy and packed with all kinds of stuff, and they showed them to the Malaysian officials. They were all familiar with each other, and it was clear that everyone knew what they were doing on the ferries. Given that, why do the Malaysian officials let it happen? Why even bother going through the farce of asking for proof of sufficient funds when they know full well that those sufficient funds – the stacks of Indonesian currency – were just a short term loan?

I’ve gone through this ferry dock a few times now, and it always strikes me as interesting. Right away, you get the contrast between sometimes chaotic Indonesia and sometimes efficient Malaysia. The Malaysians certainly see themselves as more efficient and more knowledgeable when it comes to proper behavior. Rather than let the Indonesians enter the building and line up at the immigration counters, they treat the Indonesians like children. At least it seemed that way to me. They made all of us wait in separate waiting rooms, and they made us wait a fairly long time. I think this is done deliberately to get everyone to calm down and relax. Then an official comes out and scans the crowds and picks people individually one by one to get up and stand in a line. They then allow this group to go into the immigration area, where they are directed again to form lines at each one, and they are almost physically marched to the right spot and told where to stand and where to wait. The assumption seemed to be that if they just let the Indonesians handle themselves, the whole crowd would rush the counters and create chaos. Instead, they treat them like schoolchildren and practically hold their hands and physically walk them to where they want them to be.

When it was my turn, I found myself in a line-up for a counter with a female immigration officer. I hate to say it, but my heart sank a little bit. Fairly or not, I can’t help but think that female immigration officers are more strict than men. Every time I end up with a female officer, I get interrogated and treated rather harshly. My assumption is that they feel they have to act tougher than the men in order to get respect as women. This has happened so regularly to me that now when I have a choice, I always choose counters with male officers. The women always seem to have a chip on their shoulder, and this female officer was no exception. She looked at my passport very closely and she asked me a lot of questions about who I was and where I had been and what I was doing. She also asked me odd questions. She asked me how many passports I had. Did I have two or one? I said I only had one. But then she kept asking me about my second passport, almost as if she was suspicious and was trying to trick me into an admission. I finally seemed to get on her good side when I mentioned that I had been on a bike tour of Indonesia, and that my bicycle was on the ferry with me. This made her happy because my being on the ferry now made sense to her. Not many foreigners come through this port, but she surely would have learned over time that foreign cyclists gravitate towards using a ferry. This is a story that would make sense to her, especially when I explained that I was going to Kuala Lumpur to fix this or that broken part on my bicycle. Everything I said had the ring of truth because it was true but also because it made sense. It explained why a foreigner would be on this ferry and not on a modern jet at the airport.

Just barely enough space in my boutique hotel room for my trailer and bicycle.

Once I got through Immigration, I went to the rather simple baggage claim area. To my surprise, I was asked to pay thirty ringgit for my baggage. That was ten ringgit for my bicycle and then twenty ringgit for my bag. They even weighed my bag to come up with this figure. It was all very official, and they gave me receipts. It was very strange to be paying for my luggage AFTER the journey was over. However, as they explained it to me, that is the system here. You pay for your checked baggage on this ferry in Malaysia regardless of which direction you are traveling. You are never supposed to pay anything in Indonesia. That leads to the conclusion that the fat man on the dock in Indonesia was just a scammer. And that made sense to me. At least the amount I was scammed only amounted to a few dollars.

At the d’Spark hotel in Klang, Malaysia.

I took a couple of minutes to take out the wheels and reattach them to the trailer, and then I rode my bike the short distance to the Klang train station. There, I was happy to learn that I was able to take my bike on the train to Kuala Lumpur. I will do that today, and I hope it goes well, though I am worried about the trailer being allowed on board. I didn’t dare ask, and I made sure to keep my bike and trailer hidden from view when I approached the ticket window. I didn’t want them to reject me right from the start. Then I rode to the d’Spark Hotel. It was not at the spot where Google Maps said it was, but it was close by, and I spotted it. Unfortunately, my room reservation through Agoda had not shown up in their system. But they had a single room available, and they gave it to me.

It’s a very small but very nice room. The brochure calls d’Spark a boutique hotel, and I get that. By boutique, they mean it is not grand. It is small and efficient but with touches that make it worth the trade-off in size. The attached bathroom is very nice with a hot water heater and nice fittings. It is also behind a wall of frosted glass and looks very boutiquey. There is a TV on the wall and an air conditioner. The bed is nice. There is also a kettle with a complimentary packet of instant coffee. I spent a very pleasant evening, night, and morning here. In fact, I got out of bed at three a.m. this morning deliberately just so that I could be awake longer to enjoy the benefits of this room. There’s no point sleeping here. I can save my sleeping for when I am in the hot and noisy and dirty hostel in Kuala Lumpur. I’d rather be awake and enjoying the nice room that I paid for.

24 - Trapped Among Trucks and a Birdsong Competition
26 - KTM Komuter Train to Kuala Lumpur

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