Slinging my inexplicably heavy pack on to my back, I turtled my way to the jetty to purchase my ferry ticket for the crossing to Medan in Indonesia. The original plan had been to take the ferry from Melaka but after being told about the terrible roads and buses in Indonesia the advice was to make up the distance in Malaysia, for this reason I had travelled back to Georgetown.
I arrived at the jetty and was greeted by smiles and invited to it down and relax. “One ticket to Medan please”. It was at this juncture that everything started to unravel. Unfortunately the ferry, the one to Medan, that has been going for yonks had been discontinued. The previous day. The woman behind the counter asked why I hadn’t telephoned; I explained that I would not telephone to find out if the service that had been running since forever was suddenly going to stop running the very day that I was wishing to take it. She helpfully advised me that if I wanted to take the ferry I should go to Melaka, it was still running from there.
My other option was to fly from Penang airport. Many flights leave daily and the best bet was to get to the airport and get on the next flight. I trundled off to the bus station and waited for the bus. The bus took about one hour to get to the airport and I kept falling asleep, my head lolling from side to side and jerking awake much to the amusement of several of the passengers.
Once inside the terminal I made a list of all the flights to Medan and the prices. Sriwijaya Airways was the next t leave and they assured me I could make the flight. I handed over the credit card …………..declined. Twice. Cursing I asked if I could book it online, did they take phone payment. No to both.
I thanked them and picked up my bags. And then the fun really started. “Where are you going madam?” I looked at her blankly because I really wasn’t sure what she wanted me to reply. “You have to pay for the ticket”. I explained that as she had just seen my card had been declined. “You have to pay cash” “if I had cash I would have paid cash already” I explained. “You cannot leave”.
She then called in her manager who started asking me why I didn’t want to travel. I tried to explain that I did want to travel, but my card had been declined. “Why did you book ticket if don’t want to travel?” “I DO want to travel but my card has been declined” “why change mind?” I felt like I was talking to a very stupid four year old.
Then they called in the bigger honcho, a big rubber faced, salivary pig of a man. He managed to squeeze his revolting person in front of me and began yelling at me. “You have committed fraud, where is money, you must pay now. We have issued ticket and you have to pay for ticket” “I am leaving Malaysia, I have no cash and my card was declined. You won’t take a phone payment, what can I do?” Then all three of them were standing around me and the ghastly manager threatened to call the police. “But why?” I really couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. The ticket was a hand written slip, and if they had to have payment once it was issued why didn’t they wait for the payment until they issued it.
I tried to get them to understand that I did want to fly but my card, through no fault of my own, had been declined. They couldn’t understand this and I was very tired and frustrated and now terrified they were going to call the police. I had flashes of Banged Up Abroad going through my head. Asian police are not known for their even-handed, fair treatment of foreigners.
“Give us cash.” “I don’t have any cash”. I felt like I was going round in circles. “What do you have?” Now here I blame my mother. Having had it drilled into me as a child that you never tell lies, I find it very difficult to tell lies. Honesty is just my default setting. “I only have 50ringgit” “give it to me” I was outraged, what was I supposed to do? I had to find a room for the night, get back to Georgetown, eat, get back to the airport. The evil pig didn’t give a shit.
In my less than normal state I had totally forgotten about my travellers cheques. Having calmed down marginally and talked to my mum, I went and changed them into ringgits. I went back to the desk to be informed that the flight was now closed but they would put me on the flight the next day.
I was very forlorn and stressed on the bus back to Georgetown but my mood improved when I was able to get a bed at Old Penang Guesthouse and talk to some friendly faces that I recognised from before. They explained that this was a regular scam that they pull and that made me feel marginally better.
I decided to check my ticket. In my confusion at the airport I hadn’t done it. They had not changed the date or issued a new ticket and the big red VOID across the bottom made my heart sink.
The next day at the airport I decided to purchase another, much cheaper ticket with Air Asia. My flight left on time and I had a very pleasant experience with them. I have never been more relieved to leave a country and after this really hope it is a very long time before I have to step foot in Malaysia again.
But its all ok because LOOK where I am now…………………………………Paradise!