Tawau to Tarakan

I intended to stay but a night in Tawau. It was intended just to be a layover on my way to Tarakan.  I arrived, got a room and booked a flight.

The next day I popped a few immodium and went to the airport and was advised that I needed a visa for Indonesia.  I was in Indonesia in May and no visa was required.  It turns out that visa requirements vary based on the port of entry.  Strange.  The airline rebooked my flight and I killed Sunday cleaning up pictures.

20140929-20140929_121149_Lorong Shamrock 1Yesterday, Monday, I went down to the Indonesian Consulate to get a visa.  There were about 40 people sitting around who had been there for hours.  I will cut this short, I got my application form and then discovered that I also needed to have a ticket out.  I went to the ferry dock to buy a ticket I would not use from Indonesia back to Malaysia but was advised that they are only sold in Malaysia.  Great.  Next stop a travel agency who booked a flight for me from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur for no cost, they would just cancel the flight in a few hours.  They wouldn’t take any money at all for their services.  Awesome.

Back at the consulate, i presented my form, paid my fees, got my picture taken and received a visa within half an hour.  By now it was almost noon and there were no lines.  Back to the ferry dock/fish market.

I asked a boy with a “Superman is Dead” hat if I could take his picture.  He proudly 20140929-20140929_130110_Jalan Kelapaposed.  A friend of his solicited one ringgit, I gave them each a piece of gum.  They followed me around the market as I took pictures of massive ray heads, half a tuna cleanly cut its tail skyward and other miscellany and oddities.  Every vendor was very friendly and wanted to know where I was from, they guessed Spain, Germany, England, Canada and other large countries populated by white people.  I hadn’t seen a caucasian in days.  I took out my phone to show a map indicating where Panama was and one of the guys saw a picture of a large breasted, young, beautiful Philippino girl I had been dating.  I was now a rock star.  Everybody wanted me to take a picture of them or their produce.  We all ended up smiling and laughing, knuckle punching, fisting, thumbs upping or waving for the next two hours.

The boat ride from Tawau, Malaysia to Toraken, Indonesia was about three hours and cost 130 ringgit.  Visa on arrival is good for 30 days and  was $25 in May, is now $35.  A sixty day visa, which must be acquired before entry costs $50.

Tuesday, September 30

The airline wanted $100 to change the date of my flight forward one day.  The full fare was $69.  They also wanted me at the airport at 7:30 in the morning, three hours before departure at an airport with around three gates.  I decided just to take the ferry.  The fare is 130 ringgit, must be purchased before 11 and the ferry leaves at 11:30.

I went up top and hung out with random people for a while.  This was the luggage deck, the airconditioned cabin with spacious seats was below.  I was offered cigarettes, water, rice, fish, sticky rice with fish, soy milk, water, coffee candy, people asked to pose with me for pictures. No communication in English but a lot of laughs.

We pulled into Tarakan and I exited through the fore hatch walked the length of the boat on a narrow passage jumped a meter over water while holding three bags filled with $3,000 worth of electronics and up to the dock where suspiciously aggressive motorbike people offered to take me to a hotel.  I walked several hundred meters down the dock toward shore, cleared immigration and customs and walked out front.  Some guy offered to take me to a hotel that was only 100,000 a night for 50,000 riyad.  The hotel was obviously a dump and there is no way a ride could possibly cost $5 in a town of this size.  I walked a bit and enquired and found a small hotel near the pier.  I was leaving first thing in the morning, so damn near anything would do, but this place had no internet, which was required for research on how to continue this trip and the room was un-air-conditioned and musty.

The owner was kind enough to give me a bottle of water and direct me to the Dynasty Hotel and pay my cab fare as I didn’t have any Indonesian money.  To no surprise the fare amounted to 7,000 ryad, about $0.70.  The hotel was nice, the room was large and comfortable and internet worked great.  I found a guy who spoke English who tried to arrange a package dive tour through his friend for two million ryad.  I wasn’t going to sign up with an unknown entity without checking out references on the web or seeing the boat and gear and besides his boat didn’t leave until Friday and I wanted to get out of here.  He took my refusal graciously and told me to take a ferry in the morning to Tanjung Selor and from there take a minibus towards Tanjung Redeb and to tell the driver I wanted to be let off at Tanjung Batu on the way.  Without telling him, he wouldn’t stop. From Tanjung Batu buy a ticket on the ferry to Maratua Island.   This all sounded pretty straight forward.

Next order of business, get internet on the phone.  Gotta have internet, I book hotels, check flights, give directions to taxis and of course post stuff on CrackBook. That was mindless 120,000 riyad later ($12) I had a SIM and a 4 GB.

Next order of business?  Eat.  I was directed “Rumah Makaw Derawan” to eat. Now keep in mind that this was done without speaking a word of English.  I drew a picture of a fish and pantomimed eating.  The clerk wrote down this name, pointed down the street and raised two fingers.  So it was “two far”.  Wasn’t two blocks.  Wasn’t two hundred meters.  It turned out to be two kilometers.  The food was awesome, the staff was great, everybody had a good time as we amused each other.  A dish of fish, a dish of shrimp, a dish of veggies and meat, a bowl of rice I didn’t eat and three iced coffees came to 130,000 riyad ($13).

On the way back I walked past a Power Distribution Unit and Telecom Patch Panel in a small room on the main street with the outside door wide open and no one around.

Have some more pictures.


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