The island is one of the hundred islands of Thousand Islands propping up from the Java Sea. It is merely some 20 kilometers north of Jakarta, making it a popular getaway for city dwellers.
As days always start early for islanders, it must start early for its eager visitors as well. The only ferry that connects the island and the city departs at 7 a.m. once a day.
“Please arrive by 6:30 a.m. sharp so that we won’t miss the boat,” the travel agent, from whom I bought a package for two, said the day earlier.
On that day, my companion and I left home at dawn and arrived at the designated time under a grayish dawn sky at the meeting point – a petrol station inside the fish market in Muara Angke, North Jakarta. The travel agent was still on his way.
The fresh morning dew mixed with the strong odor of the fish market, which certainly needed some major scrubbing and washing, entered our lungs and filled our hearts with the question “Is this trip worth the pain of smelling this?”
When he finally arrived, we were ushered to a simple jetty, which was a concrete platform for the boat to dock. There is no building, roof, or any sign. The boat master quickly helped us get on board.
The boat was made of wood, painted in white. It had two decks, upper and lower. The upper part of the upper deck was left open to form windows.
Most tourists opted for the upper deck, so by the time we climbed up, one-third of the upper-deck was already filled. The ceiling was just slightly more than one meter high. So, we crunched to the back to find some room, but there were no seats. It was an empty carpeted-room. We were supposed to sit on the floor.
“This is Indonesian culture. Traditionally, we like to sit on the floor. In the past, we do everything on the floor, including eating,” I explained to my companion, a first time visitor to Indonesia.
Once the smell subsided, I thanked the human’s extraordinary adaptive body and I took in the morning skyline. The sun rose slowly, initially with an orange tint on the grayish sky. Only then we were told the boat might leave at 7:30 something.
“Why is there this additional ‘something’ there? Don’t they have a fixed time to depart,” my perplexed companion asked.
They don’t. I later found out that the departure time ranged from 6 a.m. during holiday seasons, when the ferry filled much quicker, to 7:30 something.
By the time the last passengers boarded, the sun had blasted at full force and put Jakarta’s skyscrapers and warehouses into clear view.
Around three hours later, when the color turned to clear turquoise, the sight of the island appeared. First was the smaller sibling, called Tidung Kecil, then the bigger one, Tidung Besar. Tidung Besar houses the jetty, lodgings and other amenities, while Tidung kecil is mostly mangrove forest.
Once arrived, the fun began. Snorkel, cycle, swim, lay on the beach – up to you. We chose the big game first: snorkeling. It can be done around the island, or visitors can rent a boat to go to neighboring islands said to be offering better coral. We took the smaller wooden boat out to Payung Island.
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