Indonesia is a country of many islands. For that reason, traveling around Indonesia requires the usage of some kind of maritime transportation from time to time. The usual tourist-way for traveling longer distances is usually as follows:
Being approached by someone from a “travel agency” or a “tourist information” booth. Aligning on the destination and means of travel. Being surprised by the announced price. Trying to walk away to get more time for consideration. Suddenly price drops significantly. Return to booth. Making a small down payment. Getting a very shady, handwritten receipt with the details of the journey.
And then later on, you are being collected by a driver at your accommodation, pay the rest to the driver and off it goes.
If a boat is involved, the driver usually takes part of the money you paid and hands it to the boat operator in exchange for a ticket. At least, that is what we experienced so far. Except for one journey, which was different.
It included a public ferry (sometimes referred to as “slow boat”). Yet, our driver dropped us off at a kind of waiting area a bit away from the ferry terminal. He introduced us to some of his “colleagues” and then left. We did not observe any kind of money-hand-over. We started to wonder how our shady, handwritten receipt was going to magically turn into ferry tickets. It was glorious!
After a while, a guy with an umbrella enters the stage (it was raining heavily when we arrived). We were told to follow him. Follow the umbrella – like in a big travel group, except it was just the two of us. We walk straight to the ferry at a very leisurely pace. In front of the ferry is an employee with a clipboard, who fills in the manifest and checks the tickets. Our guy with the umbrella walks straight to him, gives him a firm handshake and we just walk right past him into the ferry. No ticket. No names in the manifest. Nothing.
A quick eye could see that the handshake transferred ownership of one neatly folded 50.000 rupee bill (a little bit more than half the price of one ticket).