The boat from Penang to Medan, crossing the Strait of Malacca, takes six hours. It’s fairly small, old but in good repair, and rather loud. The passenger deck is dark and crowded with seats, but only 10% full. It’s refrigerated and drafty. We got invited upstairs to the pilot cabin (“kaptan”) and could watch them navigate, and sit outside under a plastic tarp. The sea was choppy and the boat was rolling; some passengers were vomiting into plastic bags. I caught some sleep.
USD 25 got us a 30-day visa to Indonesia. The visa officer was smiling brightly, good start. This is a Muslim country and Muezzins can be heard calling to prayers in the city, but she wore no veil. The bus ride from the harbor to downtown takes very long; the roads are better than their reputation but packed with nhonking cars. We passed a slum, and there is garbage in the water and at the roadside. Goodbye Malaysia.
The weight of the mighty euro got us checked into Garuda Plaza Hotel, a top-end western hotel with all the amenities. One euro buys 15,000 Indonesian rupees, and one million rupees (about 67 euro) is the most one can get from an ATM; the double room cost 16 euro.