I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about inter-island ferry rides.
In particular, the ferry ride between Penang and Langkawi Island, Malaysia.
After spending a week on Malaysia’s Langkawi Island, I decided I’d travel via ferry over to the island of Penang. I’m completely aware that yes, arguably taking a plane would have been faster and not that much more expensive, but I’ve taken a lot of planes recently, and I was in the mood for a nautical adventure.
When disclosing my sea-travel plans over dinner one night to others at the hostel in Langkawi, however, I received an array of daunting responses – apparently this ferry ride was THE worst transport experience EVER:
“People just puking everywhere; well over half the boat was puking, I’d say. It was like a rollercoaster in slow motion. If you do go, make sure you sit in the back of the boat, otherwise you’ll vomit for SURE, even with medication for motion sickness… Really, it’s probably best you just look into taking a flight.”
This sounded worse than the treacherous and draining overnight 24-hour ferry trek between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, Fiji, which I’d purposely avoided during my time there.
One girl ranted for a solid five minutes about reportedly getting bedbugs after taking this ferry ride.
“Really?” I asked, “did they get into your luggage, or where?”
“No, I found one in my bra,” she responded, clearly distressed. “But it definitely came from that boat!”
“Lucky bedbug,” sneered one of the girl’s male friends seated at the table with us.
“Ughhhh oh my god, shut uppp!!”
*For the record – this was the same girl with the questionable story about a crocodile sighting earlier that same day, so in either case I figured I’d take whatever she said with a grain of salt…
Maybe I just got really lucky. Perhaps they had taken the ferry ride in the midst of a violent storm. Or, maybe the route from Penang to Langkawi endures significantly more turbulence than the route from Langkawi to Penang.
I don’t know.
I went into the journey expecting the absolute worst: sickness and filth everywhere; incessant vomiting; nothing but flea-ridden old mattresses to sit on; the dank essence of human anguish and despair lingering in the musty, unventilated air…
At check-in, I was given a slip of paper with my seat number – #41 – oh they give you an assigned seat? That’s nice. I prayed it was towards the back.
Instead, seat #41 was actually near the very front of the boat. This made me a smidge nervous. At least it was a window seat. It’ll be okay, this is why I didn’t eat much lunch today…
As soon the boat began to depart from the jetty, I couldn’t help but notice half the passengers begin to switch seats – in particular those situated near the front, migrating way towards the back. The cautious American couple previously seated in front of me, neck pillows in tow, seemed the most urgent.
Uh oh, perhaps they heard the same stories…
Suddenly the boat lurched forward, sending the bow upwards and then down with an adrenaline-surging WOOSH. My heart and stomach leaped into my chest for a millisecond. I held onto my seat for dear life. I would have closed my eyes, if it weren’t for the spectacular views out the window…
But then there was nothing. I’d been told this ferry felt like a haphazardous speed boat.
Is this the correct vessel?
I looked outside. Smooth, smooth seas, as far as the eye could see…
Maybe we just haven’t gotten far enough out yet, I thought to myself. The massive, vomit-inducing waves were in more remote areas, surely.
“The Jungle Book” DVD began to play on a large flat screen TV up front. Some of the passengers lay down on entire rows to themselves and fell asleep.
A faint rumbling sound caught my attention. Oh no…
Alas, nope, no one was retching. Just somebody snoring in back, likely lulled into a deep, deep slumber by the boat’s gentle side-to-side rocking motion, which I’d barely noticed up until that point.
Was this seriously the same boat ride?
Between the movie and the excellent exterior scenery, my entertainment involved observing the drowsy man in the seat in front of me, who nodded off and on, snapping awake every few minutes after slumping down too far to the side. A reddish-brown insect causally climbed up over his shoulder onto the headrest in front of me.
Oh dear, I thought, is that the bedbug? From what I knew about bedbugs, this creature appeared a bit too big, but I felt disconcerted anyways. Until it flew away.
Bedbugs don’t fly, do they?
I’m still not entirely certain what that thing was, but due to my lack of bites, I’m going to trust it was not in fact a bedbug… Thank freaking goodness.
Apparently there was a party in the water at the George Town, Penang jetty… Balloons everywhere!
So yeah, by the end of three lackadaisical hours and two DVDs, I was ready to be off the boat. But overall? I thought it was a genuinely pleasant journey.
Would it likely have been much worse filled to capacity in hurricane-like conditions? No doubt.
Again, I’m pretty sure I got EXTREMELY lucky. But hey, no complaints here!