Saturday 9 November 2013
First class on the KM Sirimau
2.1 million is only part of the price of two first class tickets from Kijang near Singapore to Tajung Priok in Jakarta. There's also the guilt...
That lofty-sounding sum allowed us to have our own cabin for the 46 hour journey with a shower, air con, satellite TV and all meals included in a dedicated dining room. Just for us - as there were no other first class passengers on the ship. The fact is that with budget airlines flying the same distance in hours for the same price (about £55 each), there's no real demand for the service.
Everyone else on board was in Ekonomi class - which means sleeping in the bowels of the ship's many roach-infested decks, or outside, or even in the lifeboats. I found a certification plaque stating that the capacity of the ship is 969 persons. But there's no way that's adhered to. For one, there's no way they could possibly know how many people are actually on board anyway - the ship goes on a 14 day circular voyage stopping in over a dozen ports. How can they possibly ensure that people have bought tickets for their whole journey? And it's packed.
We'd initially aimed to take Pelni's weekly service on the semi-famous KM Kelud going directly from Batam across from Singapore directly to Jakarta in just over 29 hours. It's a big ship, and always sails full. However, it's currently out of service... So the other option was the smaller KM Sirimau, which runs from a more distant island from Singapore and stops somewhere en route to Jakarta - taking close to 2 days. If it was on time! But as it's picking up the slack from the Kelud - it was even more late and even more packed! The Sirimau nearly sank a couple of months ago in Jakarta's harbour, and I did bear that in mind at times like when it listed heavily in ports when the crowds ran to the sides or when it suddenly broke down and began to drift in the sea without power for half an hour in the middle of nowhere. At least I got to see straight down in to the clear blue sea to see giant jellyfish and sea creatures when we were drifting - looking at the positive side of it...
Some staff at Kijang port took us under their wing and made sure we got on board in a comfy way - which was nice. But even watching the scrum of people ramming onto the ship as the throngs desperately forced their way ahead to find better sleeping spots was a spectacle. As we waited in the pilot's office, we saw a person brought into the room in a stretcher - having passed out in the heaving crowd awaiting boarding.
But we got on, and went to the office to upgrade our Ekonomi tickets (all you can buy on shore - as they're unlimited...) and were soon the lone residents of the short and empty first class cabin corridor. I'm glad I'd thought ahead and brought a can of "Hit!" bug spray - pretty potent stuff. After fuming out the room - we had a pretty comfy space. Which was good for _us_ at least. Kept thinking of the Titanic movie with the first class passengers depicted as insensitive snobs ignorant of the poor protagonist heroes down below. Hmm. Oh well - it was comfy, and we made it just fine...
Ty believed this journey would be romantic! The cockroaches, men staring, plumes of cigarette smoke and people laying everywhere and anywhere on the boat was an interesting take on romance. However, although it was not the kind of 1st class cabin you may conjure up whilst day dreaming about sailing around the world's largest archipelago, it was home for two days and two nights and fairly comfy once it had been bug bombed. Plus we made it, albeit in an unconventional way! Even some of the Indonesians we spoke to about the journey thought we were a bit bonkers.