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Medan, Indonesia

Written on: Sunday May 4th, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

Not a massive amount to tell of this place, but a few funny stories that accompanied it. Medan is the capital of northern Sumatra and its third largest city but didn?t offer a great deal. Arriving in the city reminded both myself and another English guy named Ben, who I?d met on the ferry over, of Mandalay in Burma - dirty, sweltering and thronging with people. Ben wasn?t the only Westerner on the 6 hour ferry ride over from Penang, there was quite a collection of us, all of whom stuck together once arriving on Indonesian soil and headed to the friendly Angel 2 guesthouse. There was Denis, a 29 year old Belgium who I?m happy to say has considerably less hair than me; Wesley, a 24 year old, pony-tailed Brazilian, who has been travelling for over a year and a half; Ben as mentioned above who hails from Devon; a German shaven-haired lesbian who didn?t really talk to any of us, and then a reunion with Bert and Rachel who Rob and I had met whilst staying in Kuala Lumpur, and Esther and Joanne, the two Dutch girls I had first travelled with on the Jungle Railway to Taman Negara. It was from these two that I heard one of the most ridiculous travelling stories so far. Good on them for having the courage at just 18 and 19 years of age to embark on travelling to some of the lesser visited places on the Earth, but through their innocence and lack of knowledge of things that I suppose you only learn about by making mistakes they, since the last time I saw them in Taman Negara had been on quite a trip. In less than two weeks, instead of coming with the Mexicans and I on the three day jungle hike in Taman Negara they spent just the day there and then took a train straight down to Singapore where they took a flight immediately to Medan. Being in Indonesia they had to purchase a 30 day visa. They visited just one other place outside of Medan then took a ferry to Penang, a bus up in to Thailand and a ferry over to Ko Phi Phi. Here?s the crazy part; Esther who seemed to be the decision maker in this duo thought that if they didn?t make it back for their return flight to Singapore they, through whatever logic I?m not sure, would be billed further for missing their flight. So they took a bus all the way back to Penang, then the same ferry that I was on back to Medan, where as they only had single-entry visas from before meant that they had to purchase new 30-day visas to stay only one night before their return flight to Singapore flew out the next day. It gets even stupider as then on the same day they were due to land in Singapore they were scheduled to fly to Sydney, staying there for just 3 days before flying on to New Zealand. No doubt I?m sure I?ll probably see them in a month or so in Bali where they will probably arrive by rowing boat. The other story was nowhere near as entertaining, especially not for many of the people on the ferry with me who, not that I knew a thing about it as I slept through most of the trip, were out on the top deck of the boat throwing up because of the rough journey over the Straits of Malacca. Maybe I?ve inherited sea-legs from my Dad?s stint in the Navy as although the boat was rising and falling on some pretty big waves at times I didn?t find it was all that bad. What could have turned out fatal was the air-conditioning system which at the beginning of the journey had the boat cooled to such chilling temperatures that everybody was pulling out fleeces, jackets and blankets from their bags, decided to over-heat and catch fire leading to smoke billowing out from its vents half-way across the Straits. Thankfully he danger of the whole boat catching fire was quelled, but this meant the end of the cooling system which for a short time was comforting, but by the time we reached Indonesia meant the ship was now like a furnace, with everybody attempting to shed as many clothes as they possibly could. Shame there wasn?t a team of Russian blonde cheerleaders on board really.