Crossing the international border of Brunei and Malaysia.
14.05.2012 - 18.05.2012
From Serasa to Labuan, May 17th 2012
So there, in front of the stairs, I waited for bus 33 to Serasa International Ferry Terminal to come. My bus from BSB was about to leave. As the engine started, I saw a flash of smile in front of me. The driver whom I thought was harsh, was waving at me with a big smile. Bye, bye, I waved my hand back.
The man who checked my ticket sat back on a plastic stool.
"What time will the bus come?" I asked him in Indonesian (or Malay).
"Won't it be too late to catch the 7:30 ferry?"
"People usually take the 7:15 bus to get on the 7:30 ferry. That couple is also going to Labuan." He pointed at a Western couple who had been in the same bus with me. They were having breakfast on the sidewalk across the terminal.
This man's accent was undeniable Javanese. "You are Indonesian, aren't you?" I asked.
"Yeah, I am." He didn't ask me whether I was too. I assume he already understood through my accent, which is equally undeniable un-Malay.
Thinking that there's still 10 minutes before the bus comes, I decided to find breakfast as I had been in a great hurry this morning and had no time for one. My hotel's rate was included with breakfast, but they only serve breakfast at 7:00 the earliest.
I went into a restaurant that looked pretty local, meaning not expensive. A variety of martabak was on the menu. I picked up for "Martabak Polos" which was the cheapest item, 0.7 BND. Why martabak? Because it's the most practical meal to take away and eat on the ferry.
The waitress replied instead, "Dari Indon ya?"
"Kalau polos, tidak ada isinya." She explained that 'polos' meant 'no fillings'. I wonder, why has she to ask where I'm from to give that explanation? Furthermore, being from Indonesia, the more reason I understand what 'polos' means. Ah, anyway...
I told her that 'no filings' was what I wanted. What I didn't tell her was that 'no fillings' is healthier plus financially efficient.
Suddenly the Javanese bus-ticket-man stormed in. "The bus has come!"
It was still 7:10.
"Are you ordering something?" he asked.
"Yes... I am... "
"You dine in or take away?"
"No problem then. We can wait. If you dine in, there won't be time."
The waitress got out and cried to the bus driver asking him to wait.
"Please hurry," I begged the waitress.
A minute later I saw a man from the kitchen bringing something in a plastic bag. I assumed it was my meal, so I ran to the table, grabbed it, and ran out from the restaurant towards my bus-in-waiting. Right when I lifted my foot to step on the bus, I realized that the plastic bag was light and nearly empty. I squeezed... ooops! There's only a small plastic of gravy but no martabak.
"A moment, please!" I cried to the Javanese man and ran back to the restaurant.
"Your martabak isn't ready yet," said the waitress. Apparently I had ran out so fast that she had no time to tell me.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," I said to the driver as I got back on the bus. I always feel bad when I keep someone waiting. Yesterday, on the way to Seria, I kept the whole bus waiting for me. Today that happens again. Ah.
As our bus moved, a lady bus attendant moved along the aisle requiring for the bus fare. "Two dollars." I heard her tell a fellow passenger in English.
When she came to my side, I asked, "Isn't it close to the ferry terminal? Why does it cost 2 dollars, whereas from Bandar up to here cost only 1 dollar?"
She said nothing.
I showed her my tiny ticket which had a stamp on the back. She made a quick look at it, and then exchanged my 5 BND bill with four of 1 BND bills. Oh, so it's 1 dollar after all.
Right as the ferry terminal came into sight, I jumped off the bus and ran as fast as I could into the building. 7:25, you know! No time for pictures!
"Your passport, please. 17 dollars," said the man at the ticket booth.
I stretched my arm for my camera backpack. My camera backpack is a flipside model. I keep all valuable stuffs, such as passport, inside there. Ooops!! What's this yellowish thing dripping down?
Oh, no! My martabak gravy has burst out! Apparently the plastic bag couldn't stand the heat of the hot gravy. Making matters worse, the plastic bag I tied up to my backpack had been rubbing severely against my backpack as I ran in full speed.
I pushed my backpack aside along with the drips of martabak gravy and let the Western couple behind me move forward to get their tickets. With great haste I rubbed the porcelain white floor with a piece of tissue. I laid my passport on the booth table, and then stretched out for my purse. "Here you are."
The ticket man held my bills in his hands, looked at them, and then looked at me. "Seventeen dollars."
"Yes, seventeen dollars."
"Seventeen dollars..." He drew my bills back to me.
Ooops! That's twelve dollars! I opened my purse again just to realize that I only had 7 dollars left. Wǒ méiyǒu qián! Zhēn de! Zhēn de! I don't have money! I told you!
"Can I use Malaysian Ringgit?"
And I said to myself, "Que sera que sera!" Meaning, how I would survive in Kuala Lumpur by weekend will be next to care about. One thing for sure, I still have one more day to survive in Brunei.
Confused? Today is just a day-trip to Labuan. I will need to pay the bus fare from this ferry terminal back to BSB. I am not hoping to meet a Chinese lady that would pay for my fare again, am I? Tonight I will have dinner back in Brunei. No one has promised to treat me. Tomorrow afternoon, before I fly to Kuala Lumpur, I still have to by myself lunch with Brunei money. If I add 5 Brunei dollars to the 12 Brunei dollars in the ticket-man's hand, I would only have 2 dollars left. That's exactly enough to bring me back to BSB until I meet a money changer. But that's just too risky. What if I need something urgently, I'd be penniless. Zero. Oh ya! I'm going to Temburong tomorrow! I will need to pay for the boat! Ah... why does money finish so quickly in Brunei?
Therefore, I better take my Kuala Lumpur budget and say que sera sera. Being penniless in Kuala Lumpur does not seem as worse as being so in Brunei. Brunei, oh Brunei...
"Itu..." said a woman while pointing at the plastic bag in my hand while I turned away from the ticket booth. "Plastiknya pecah ya?"
I looked downwards. Ooops! My martabak gravy! It was dripping again. A waste bin stood in front of me. I wanted to throw away just the gravy and keep the martabak. But in a split of a second, the view of the immigration check point flashed in my mind. It had been a stupid thing of me not to calculate the cash I had, whilst I actually knew how much the ferry ticket cost. It would be double stupid being held at the immigration check point just because of a piece of "Martabak Polos". No way. I threw the whole thing away. "Ah, buang saja semuanya," I mumbled to the woman. Hahahaha, she laughed.
7:30!! I ran towards "Keberangkatan Antarbangsa", the international departure. A long queue lined ahead. Is this for the next ferry? But the sign above said "7:30" and I could see passengers getting on the ferry. "Hah, whatever," I said to myself. "Whatever time it's going to leave, there is a ferry to get onto."
The check point was divided into two: Brunei Passport Holders and Foreign Passport Holders. However, there were only a few passengers on the Brunei Passport side. Soon there was nobody. A man in uniform behind the counter signaled the passengers on my line to move to the Brunei Passport side. Huah! That's makes the process faster. Thank you, Sir!
Stummm! Done! I'm officially crossing the border of 2 Moslem countries. Everyone walked with ease towards the ferry entrance, except me. Ferry, ferry, don't you leave me!
The ferry was more than half empty. The ferry, Seri Anna, was bigger than the hydrofoil I took in Vietnam. The seats? Nearly equal, except there are no seat numbers here. I took a seat by the window, as always, second row from the front. Hmmm... I think... the seat on Vietnam's hydrofoil from Saigon to Vung Tau was softer. However still, the most significant difference is that this ferry smells gasoline. Being not 'hydro', of course it smells gasoline, you would say. I bet not everyone can endure a two-and-a-half-hours journey with gasoline smell like this.
I slammed my back and made a deep sigh. "Midori... Midori..." I said to myself. "Who would want to make a crazy irrational trip like this with you?"
"No one," I answered myself.
Across the wall next to me was a clock. 7:40 it said. I turned to the window. It doesn't seem that we are moving. We aren't moving yet? So...? The 7:30 ferry has left and this is the... what time ferry?
Before I finished questioning and wondering, I felt myself moving. Yes!
Scenery speaking, nothing special at all. The float from Saigon to Vung Tau and forth was much more interesting. Nevertheless, that didn't lessen my excitement. This is the first time I cross an international border on sea. Last time I crossed the border of Vietnam and Cambodia through Mekong River. No matter how vast Mekong River was, a river is a river, sea is sea. You see? Who among my friends can share such a silly excitement? Now I'm crossing over the border of Brunei and Malaysia through South China Sea. My next dream, cross through East China Sea from Shanghai to Osaka, by ship. Crossing a border in the air on an aircraft, to me is like possessing a missing link. I was in A, and suddenly I'm in B. What happened between A and B?
Here's a picture of the ferry, Seri Anna. Labuan, here I am!