Boat to Jakarta

The smell of the boat was horrible.  It was late at night. I hadn’t slept much and I was getting shoved around like a small leaf in a storm. It was a big, old, smelly boat with almost 2000 people, all trying to get out. There I was in the middle of the crowd with my dad, a suitcase and a backpack. Instead of everybody lining up in an orderly line, they all pushed and squeezed to get out. There was a feeling that if anything went wrong, I might be crushed or drowned.

It was 10pm and I was exhausted from the 30 hour boat trip from Singapore to Jakarta. Of all the problems we endured during our travels around the world, this was by far the most unpleasant.

Bottle neck

Getting in the boat was difficult, sleeping in beds infested with cockroaches was hard and when we arrived we were locked in the bottom deck, even the emergency exits were locked. On the bottom deck, there was only one door from which everybody had to get out.

I was angry. I was angry at the people pushing me. I was angry at the people who designed the boat and I was angry at the people organising the whole thing. There were mostly Indonesian people on board and somehow Indonesians seem to always be happy with everything. But in my anger, I hardly noticed that.  It actually made me even more mad.

When we exited the boat, I was so relieved. I finally had a breath of fresh air and there was an Indonesian friend waiting for us with a car. When we arrived at his house, I felt like our 50 day trip all the way from Britain, was almost over and that we would soon be in Bali, but then I got sick. I caught something on that dirty boat that made me not able to eat without it all coming out again two minutes later. Luckily I recovered very quickly and by the time we left Jakarta I was completely fine.

But when I look back now, I wish that my dad had payed a bit more to go 2nd class instead of 3rd. Had I been on second class I might not have been ill and would have felt happier on the boat, most importantly we would not have risked being locked up at the very bottom of the boat. Even though some people were smiling, it doesn’t justify what was happening.


I realised that sometimes people see bad things happening but don’t do anything about it. I so wish that someone could change the practice of locking the emergency exits and find better ways to control a mass of people. Crowds can be more organised when getting in and out of boats. Maybe it is possible to all queue up in line and still smile and still be happy.


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