I woke up at 3 am. Again. I was soooooo over the whole jet lag thing. I tried to go back to sleep for 30 minutes, but I had to be dressed and outta the house by 6:20am, to catch my boat ride to Indonesia.
I arrive at the boat station right as they’re opening. I had pre-purchased my ticket, but had to pick it up from the BatamFast ticket counter, and was told I needed to be there at 6:40, an hour before my boat left to make my way through immigration. I am one of the first ones in the immigration line, and I walk up, and hand the gentleman my passport. He asks me for my immigration form. I tell him it’s in there. It wasn’t.
Internally, I started to have a minor freak out. I don’t lose things. Especially not important documents that show when I came in and out of the country. The man picks up a phone, and an older man walks out of an office, takes my passport and instructs me to follow him.
“This is it. This is where they take me to jail for the rest of my life and I never see my family again.”
He shuts the door behind us.
He asks me where I have just come from, and I said I was in Bangkok yesterday. He gets on a computer and starts feverishly typing. I’m sitting there smiling like an idiot. They can’t take you to jail forever if you’re smiling, right? He types away, picks up a phone and says something in a language I can’t understand and then looks up at me.
“It’s been a good run Avery. This is where it all ends.”
He grabs a stamp, pushes it on two different documents, hands me my passport and a new immigration card, and tells me not to lose this one. I apologize for taking up his time, and thank him profusely for helping me. I walk through immigration and proceed to wait 20 minutes for my boat. I text Berg to tell him what happened and he was surprised they actually let me leave. I think it’s honestly because it was early and the man at immigration didn’t have anything else to do, which has furthered my neurotic need to always be early for everything.
My boat arrived 10 minutes early, I boarded with 5 other passengers (one a cyclist ex-pat from Philly named David) and we took off. I’d love to tell you an exhilarating story, but basically I looked at rigs while typing notes on my iPhone and listening to bad music from the 90’s (Britney Spears and Mandy Moore mash up anyone?). I arrive at my gate, purchase a Visa for $17 and get my $3 returned to me in Rupiah. The Indonesian Rupiah is an interesting currency because it’s easy to be come a millionaire. $100 (USD) equals $1,000,000 Rupiah. So when I went to exchange my currency, I went from having $200 in my pocket, to $2,000,000 Rupiah. I kinda wanted to “make it rain” (if you don’t know what this means, it means you’re over 40, don’t listen to rap music, or you’re classier than I am, but even so- Google it [also, for the record I just like the hand motion of making it rain, I’ve never actually done it]), but didn’t know how that action would translate, or if it would just cause some one to rob me later in the day, so I refrained.
I knew that after a busy first week of traveling, I was going to want to do something a little lower key and relaxed, so I planned a beautiful day at the spa, and 9 holes of golf at a golf resort on the island. The gentleman from the Tempat Senang (the spa) picked up myself and two Singaporeans right outside the customs gate loaded us into a very clean Toyota Sequoia and whisked us on a scenic but quick drive up to the resort.
As we drove up, I knew that my research had paid off. The “resort” was actually nine small villas on a hill over looking a golf course (that was not part of the spa). It as jungle-y and quiet and perfect. Bustame, my check in guide, brought me up the stairs and into the open-air atrium to go over my choices of spa treatments for the day. A sweet girl snuck in and provided me with a hot and cold washcloth and some chrysanthemum tea to sip on while I made my decision and also order what I would like for lunch. I decided to go with a Balinese massage, a yellow Lurlur body scrub and a cucumber and honey facial. And as if she had a magic button that knew I was ready, Via, my spa lady (I don’t know what else to call her), swept me away to my villa and spa room.
Via was tiny. A 5’0” Indonesian woman, she couldn’t have been more than 22 years old. I instantly loved her. The way she said “excuse me *2 second pause* miss” with her accent just cracked me up. The staff here was absolutely incredible. If you ever have the chance to go to Batam Islands, please make sure you spend at least one day Tempat Senang. The spa treatments were the best I’ve had, and professional in every way. There was an outdoor shower attached that was just phenomenal. If I hadn’t seen other people arriving, I would have thought I was in the jungle alone. It was absolute perfection.
After I finished my spa facial, I replaced their beautiful sarongs with my own clothes and headed up to the dining room for lunch. Right as I crossed the threshold into the covered outdoor eating area, the sky opened up and the thunder started rolling. This meant no golf for me (but it also meant a spectacular rain storm that I got to play in, so I was okay with that). My original plan had been to stay in the Treehouse Villa at Tempat Senang overnight, however I knew that back in Singapore they were going to happy hour and dinner, so I made the call to get back on the ferry and join Berg and co. for some fun (remember, I have a serious case of FOMO). The driver dropped me back off at the ferry station and I took a catnap on the ride back over to Singapore.
I arrived at the ferry station around 5 pm, and took a taxi back to Berg’s house to shower (my hair was a knotted mess from the best head massage of my life) and get ready for the evening. It was still sunny and wonderful at this time. Berg got home around 6, and we walked out to get a cab to take us to a place called “Pump Room” which is a predominantly ex-pat bar that’s about a 5 minute drive from his house. The moment we stood on the street trying to hail a cab, the sky opened up. AND I HAD JUST STRAIGHTENED MY HAIR. It takes us a few minutes, but we find a cab (I love it because they have a red or green lights on top to tell you if they’re wired or if they’re available- makes taxi spotting so easy!). We head to Pump Room and meet another guy who went to Texas Tech named Jake (I knew his sister-in-law), Chad, and Chad’s wife Tara. I have a cider, and immediately realize that I’m starting to get that jet-laggy feeling where you get hot and clam-y and feel like you’re going to vomit for absolutely no reason. I switch to water because there is no way I’m going to miss out on the meal I had been looking forward to- fish head curry soup.
We finish up at Pump Room, and take two taxis to a place in a predominately Indian part of town called Banana Leaf. I will preface this by saying, this was not my favorite restaurant by a long shot, and if I were in Singapore again, I would not go here (that was the consensus among the rest of the group that didn’t pick the place, so it wasn’t just me who thought this). We arrive and are seated at a table inside, because now it’s a torrential downpour.
I do not feel well at this point, but I know fish head curry is in my future and I want it so bad I’m salivating. So I order some coffee to wake me up, and let the guys order. Are you ready for our spread? It was intense. Fish head curry, butter chicken with garlic naan, mutton curry, tika masala, palak paneer (which is like a spinach with cottage cheese) and Gobi aloo (a cauliflower dish). One thing I did like about Banana Leaf, is that instead of plates, all of your food is put on, what else, a banana leaf. They dished us up some rice and veggies, and then brought out our spread. That’s when I knew; I was on the verge of ruining not only my dinner, but also everyone else’s. My stomach churned, and I could feel the color going out of my face. It was a rare occasion, I had nothing to say. I was petrified that if I opened my mouth, only foul things would come out, and I’m not talking about words.
Chad’s wife must have noticed, because she said, “you don’t look like you feel well.” That was an understatement. I reiterated that I didn’t feel so hot, but it wasn’t because of the food, it was pure exhaustion. They all nodded their heads, because they too fully understand the physical and mental anguish of a 14-hour time difference. It’s brutal on your body.
I wanted to eat all that food so badly, but I knew at that moment that if I stuffed my face, it was going to be bad news bears. Jake was sitting next to me and was the only one at the table that eats fish head curry, and it is customary there, that if you eat it, you must also eat the eyeball of the fish. Now, let it be noted that from the day I sprouted teeth until the day I have dentures, I will eat and try anything once. I get excited to try new things; it gives me a rush of excitement. I was NOT afraid to eat the eyeball. But my churning stomach was telling me different, and I was mortified that the rest of the table thought I was being a sissy for not immediately chomping down on the little guy’s face.
The thought of eating anything made me feel light headed, but I took some bread and dipped it into the curry. It was divine. I didn’t know exactly how to go at the little guy, so Jake took the reigns, and portioned out some fish on my plate. I tasted it and really enjoyed it. He offered me the eyeball.
There were now 4 sets of eyeballs on me. Of course I wanted the eyeball, but with the pressure of people watching me eat, and my stomach doing summersaults, I thought old Blondie was gonna blow. I balked a little bit, gagged, and then put his eye socket into my mouth. (Phrases I thought I’d never say “then put his eye socket into my mouth”) There were tiny bones around his eye, but otherwise it was delicious. And I didn’t barf. But I still felt like death was looming over me.
We had to take two cabs home, because 1) there were too many people and 2) we were going different directions. Berg and I let Chad, Tara and Jake take one taxi, hoping we’ll find another quickly. It’s POURING DOWN rain. Not just a drizzle, but big fat stinging rain. We see two available cabs blatantly pass us and then we realize what is going on.
As I’ve said before, many people in Asia are racists, and the Chinese and Singaporeans are not the biggest fans of Indian people. We waited for 5 minutes under the canopy after getting passed by free cabs that wouldn’t take our business, so we decided to walk up about 5 blocks to the main street. By the time we get to the main street, we are both soaked to the bone. My hair was so curly; you’d never known I put 12 lbs. of product into it just a few hours before. We stood out in the rain for 10 more minutes, to no avail. I also needed to go to the ladies room, so you can imagine how helpful I am (standing there like a broken record talking about how I must use the toilet immediately).
Every cab that passes us is now occupied, and the downpour has turned into a monsoon. We are a block from a bus stop, so we decide we will learn how to take the bus (I don’t think either of us have had to ride a bus out of necessity before, so there was extra pressure to not screw it up). Berg has now wandered off to learn how to ride the bus, and I am standing out in the rain, trying to use a Jedi Mind trick to get a cab to appear. Something worked, because about 45 minutes after our whole monsoon ordeal, a taxi arrived. I think we freaked the driver out with how excited we were to see him. He got us back to Berg’s house in one sopping we piece, and we went our respective ways, and went to sleep.