Monday, May 19, 2008

Shit, I've become one of them

Last trip to Batam, an island in my homecountry.
We all went together by ferry and had our Batam colleague arrange for a nice hotel in front of Nagoya Hill.

Strangely, I felt increasingly worry to bring my family to Batam. Afraid of Taxi drivers' cheating on us, afraid of being bullied when bargaining things, afraid of being harassed whenever failed to buy after a row of price dispute, afraid of not able to protect my family when things bad happened there. In short I felt like going to travel to a No-mans-land where law ceased to exist.

This is exactly what every of my Singaporean friends expressed each time I suggested them to go visit my homecountry. Shit. How can I got this feeling too?

When the boat arrived at Batam, we're all rushing up to the immigration checkpoint including me.
I can bet there were more Singaporeans than others alighting from the ship and flocking the Batam imigration check. But albeit being famous for orderly queuing for everything, these people rushed in, cut queue, some even walk to the front creating bottleneck just in front of the immigration desk.

What the immigration officer did? Nothing. Pretending not seeing, pretending they're the most important person--too important to handle such small matter as "keeping the queue in order".
Bloody Indonesian Bureaucrats! So typical! huh

No specific separation for Indonesian passports. Unlike in other countries, Homecoming greetings are everywhere in Immigration checks, special desks allocated for Home Passport holders giving them the comfort and warm feeling of going home.

Here in Indonesia?? Yeah, go back to sleep and dream again! Unless you're a high Govt Official, dont crave for such luxury!

After joining in the act of hypocrisy with other passengers (yeah hypocrisy, remembering how we'd just obediently queued to board the ship at Singapore's Harbourfront!), I finally reached outside.

Taxi time.
No orderly turn for passengers pickup, No certainty on the tariff, No Officials in charge ensuring the convenience of passangers, in fact No Specific Marks on some vehicles to know that they are TAXIS!!

WTF. I got into the taxi, telling the driver of our destination in Bahasa, he came up with a price, I bargained 2/3 and got the deal.

I brought my family around after checking in and a short nap in the hotel. We had no choice but using the taxis, most of them are illegal ones.

My wife and I're all in alert and unease during the journey, so many news of passengers being robbed or kidnapped in Taxis that we heard. Shit, this supposed to be my homecountry giving me a safe feeling of being home yet I was terrified to death?

Even when we had an evening walk and passed by a group of people doing nothing but chatting on the corner of the street that insecure feeling risen up. It's easy to get harassed and ended up with fight when passing by a group of youngsters in Indonesian streets.
Something we never encountered in Singapore.

After sometime, we managed to get used to the chaotic rhythm of Batam. Til came time to go back.

Fiscal booth at Batam Center. I forgot to prepare the copy of passport to apply free fiscal for us. The officer said he needed one and then pointed to a copy booth just 1.5 m in front of Fiscal office. "You go there to make the photocopy first", he said.

Ok. I thought this is part of the procedure.
Judging from the small size of that fiscal office, thus disabling them to put THEIR copy machine inside, that copying booth must have been theirs. I suspected... wrongly.

After a very nice conversation by the keeper, I was asked to pay a ridiculous price of 5000 rupiahs for every piece of copy I made. WTF?! How can copying expensive?? Moreover passports have 2 pages, each can be copied into only 1 (one) piece of A4 size paper. Yet after the A4 result cut into 2 i have to pay for 2 pages?? Not to mention the ridiculous price of 5000 rupiahs per piece???

This is a fuckin' common things done by many Indonesians entrepreneurs. Cheating!
No information on the price anywhere in that booth, making their "prospective targets" thought price would be a normal 500 rupiahs per page. Sweet talk done by the keeper in the beginning, so that the 'target' forgot to ask any details and straight away handed over the docs for copying.

Once the docs in the hand of the keeper, expect nothing but being his cash-cow!!

Half-heartedly and cursing hard, I paid the cost as he fixed.
Back to the fuckin' fiscal office with a black mood, I look at the Fiscal guy in the eye and said "Did you know their practice?". Yes, he said.

"Then why in the first place did you recommend them?!"
"Well, I was just informing you there's a copying service there. But yes, it's better not to use them due to their unreasonable pricing. Sorry didnt tell you earlier. Just dont use them next time!", He said.

WTF! Only now that you said that!
feel like wanting to punch his face!

Finally reached Harbourfront. A cool and comfortably-airconned immigration checkpoint, with an orderly mannered-queuing procedures (with some passengers whose faces looked familiar, yup they're the queue jumpers in Batam Center when we arrived at Batam!), efficient and responsive--when the queue was long, a senior officer directly assigned 3 more desks to be opened.

Outside, there was a minicab waiting in the taxi stand. We almost got in when the driver politely told that he'll go by a fix price that's higher than normal taxi. If we're okay with then he'll proceed. Upon hearing my refusal, he politely pointed another taxi queue while telling that we can get into regular cab in there. That's very kind of him.

My mind flew by to our experience with Batam taxi.. where we're cheated for a short distance with a very expensive price..

Darn.. Why somehow I felt relieved and at home when we arrived back in Singapore.

Shit... sounds like I've become one of them!