Saturday, November 14, 2009


1. Port Semayang was just 15 mins away from our hotel, Novotel Hotel. We were advised to arrive at 4 pm, for ship departure at 9 pm. We got there before 4 pm. After paying for car parking fee (why?) at the port gate, it was a short drive to the wharf. After checking our tickets at the ramp, we were waved in. We drove the Pajero up the ramp of KM Kirana and was directed to park the car in the 3rd level of the 3 decks for vehicles. The vehicle decks were in the lower section of the ship.

2. After picking up our bags, we made our way through the passenger sections of the ship. From the 3rd level car deck, we stepped into a big open space filled with double-decker beds stacked side by side to each other. We climbed the staircase along the wall to reach the next level. It was another big open space stacked with double-decker bunks. They were still mostly empty. Up the spiral staircase to the next level we entered a performance hall. The hall had rows of seats that looked like airline seats (but they really need some thorough cleaning) facing a small stage. Out of the hall, we scaled a steep flight of steps to the next level and found one of the uniformed staff who could help us with our room.

3. We were allocated a room between VIP 07 and VIP 09, presumably it was VIP 08. The number plate on the door had disappeared. In the room was a double-decker bed and enough space at the side to seat two of us on the floor. Cantilevered from the wall was an old TV set that could only be switched off by pulling the plug. As I was lighter, I volunteered for the upper bunk, to keep the CG low.

4. There was a canteen at the stern of the ship. It could seat a couple of hundreds of people. As it had a TV playing all the time, there were always people in the canteen. It filled up during meal times. Here we had these 4 canteen staffs who were very keen to pose for our pictures.

5. KM Kirana set sail at about 7 pm, 2 hrs ahead of departure time. With the prospects of having to spend more than 40 hrs on board the ship, we started to think of ways to make ourselves more comfortable. We went to the car to pick up Yeow Pheng's director chairs. Soon, we were comfortably seated in our cubicle, reading our books, with an improvised table in the middle. We lamented that we should have brought a couple of bottles of wine along.

6. Before we went to bed, we took a stroll around the ship. The ship was fairly full. They were nearly all local Indonesians. Many slept in their double-decker bunks; males and females not separated. Quite a number slept along the corridors on mattresses which we suspected must have been rented from the ship. There were always people outside the cabins and in the canteens puffing their cigarettes. We observed that practically all male Indonesians smoke; but few females. Without exception, we did not see anyone smoking inside the cabins. Still, the canteen and the space outside the cabins were always full of smokers. We avoided these areas.

7. I slept well the first night on board the ship, only to be woken up by the rolls of the ship. I guessed it must be approaching Batu Lichin, where KM Kirana was to make a 3 hrs transit stop. It was about 7.30 am. More people came on board but few disembarked. By now, the ship was really quite full. There were also more families, more children, who came on board from Batu Lichin. We guessed they could well be about 1000 passengers on board, now all heading for Surabaya.

8. We spent most part of the day reading: Yeow Pheng reading his Bible while I tried to finish Naipaul's Among the Believers. Our favorite spots were the sun-deck, the highest point of the ship for passengers and our room. Here, we could avoid the smokers and the cigarette smog. On the sun-deck, it was easy to fall asleep with the cool wind blowing.

9. Two female singers sang for the passengers, in the afternoon and at night, in the performance hall. Music was loud and we could hear it clearly in our room. Still, there were passengers lying down and sleeping on the floor of the hall while singers sang, completely oblivious to what was going on.

10. Life on the board KM Kirana was very basic, especially for the Indonesians. Except for a handful in the VIP rooms (like ours), they all slept in bunk beds side by side each other, male and female regardless. Many slept along corridors, or any open space; some with mattresses, some not. They queued up for the meals and they were given food in styrofoam boxes (we too), which was always rice, few pieces of vegetables and either a piece of chicken or fish. When awake, they spent most of their time chit-chatting with their friends or their family members.

11. Must admit that I felt somewhat uneasy on the board the ships. We were stared at wherever we went, as we were the only 2 foreigners and we must be like men from outer space to some, wondering where we came from. They were friendly and they returned a smile when I smiled at them or a greeting when I said hello.

12. Sunset was beautiful on board the ship. I woke up the next morning at 5 am to specially see sunrise. I was not disappointed. It was a very colourful sky, but the sun hid behind the clouds.

13. At about 11 am, we started to see more ships passing us. We reckoned we must be nearing Surabaya. At about 12 pm, we passed many ships in the anchorage and approached the assigned berth for the ship. It was a conventional cargo berth. In the distance was a statue at the waterfront. We could not figure what it was from where we were but it looked like a soldier. On the right was the port of Surabaya and the left the island of Madura and a long bridge linked Madura to the mainland of Java.

14. By 12.30 passengers gathered to get out of the ship via the vehicle ramp. We waited for the passengers to clear before driving our car out. It was straightforward - down the ramp onto the wharf, through the port area and in minutes we were out on public roads.

16. We had lunch at Carrefour and then stopped by Sheraton. At 1.7 m Rps, Sheraton was beyond our budget. We decided to try Mercure. It was a very presentable hotel and at 800 000 Rps we could afford it. After checking in, Yeow Pheng and I had a dip in the hotel pool and a massage before dinner.

17. We met Yeow Peng's friends, husband Moesa and wife Bing Bing, for dinner at Bon Ami. Located in what looked like a colonial building, it had excellent ambience and served wonderful Indonesian food. The place was packed.

18. After dinner, Moesa, Yeow Pheng and I adjourned to the coffee house of Mercure to discuss our next day's trip to Mt Bromo. Seated in front of me, one table away, were 3 Indonesians with a lady in discussion. One of them, with the rear facing me, looked familiar when I had a chance to see his profile. I walked casually passed the table and had a closer look at him. He had aged a little but still easily recognisable. I went forward to say hello to him and he confirmed he was indeed Pak Bimo, brigade commander of the Kostrad Brigade that I had a joint exercise with under Ex Safkar Indopura, when I was commanding the 3rd Singapore Infantry Brigade, back in 1989. It was 20 years ago. We exchanged greetings and I left him my contact details. What a coincidence!

19. It was also a strange coincidence that Moesa and Bing Bing stayed next door to Mercure. We didn't know that when we booked the room.

20. With additional information provided by Moesa and Bing Bing, we are off to stay the night at Mt Bromo and see sunrise the next morning, and thereafter off to Bali.


  1. Interesting sharings. The sun deck looks alike a good place to chill out and fall asleep. hee...