The long slow wait for the long slow boat to Bintan


I admit, I’ve been spoiled. When travelling to another country by ferry, I’ve been accustomed to the speed and efficiency of the Hong Kong-Macau ferry. You’d turn up at the terminal and usually be in a boat in less than an hour. And in Singapore, the efficiency of the airport is second to none. Maybe everyone you need to run an efficient transport hub went to work at the airport, and there was nobody left to figure out the ferry port.

The main hall of the terminal was just a mess of people, vaguely queuing in every direction at once. It was poorly signposted, so it took us about 20 minutes to figure out how to check in and drop off luggage. Then we joined the main queue, a line that barely moved, sometimes branching off or merging with another line, until the scrum of the ticketing check. After somebody compares passport to face, everyone went through a single X-ray machine. (There are two machines, but because it’s a holiday weekend and there’s lots of extra travellers, they’d switched the second one off. The work of a genius. A sadistic genius.

Behind us, a proper fight broke out. What better place to have a shouting/shoving match than a crowded mass-transit hub, complete with slightly grumpy security, ready to kick off? I kept La Serpiente looking in the opposite direction.

After the x-ray, another long wait. There were 8 different immigration officials, but the ones to the far left got no love – the boss man kept the queue of passengers back and didn’t direct them to the leftmost immigration desks, just adding to the congestion.

I shouldn’t complain. After all this, our ferry was half an hour late in leaving Singapore, so what was the rush? And when we got to Bintan and endured a ten minute tantrum from La Serpiente because she couldn’t clamber over the seats in the transfer bus, and finally arrived at the hotel, then we were truly stuck, because we arrived at noon and couldn’t check in until three. The moral of all this is, never try to be early. And avoid the ferry.


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