Road Trip to Heaven: A Memoir

Road Trip to Heaven
Ghina Falah

I’ve always been fond of road trips. I did many road trips throughout my life, but the one I remembered the most was my road trip to Bangka and Belitung when I was in high school. I remembered my father woke us all up from our nap to announce that we’re going to Bangka and Belitung. It was very sudden but nevertheless, we packed. Two days later, the trip began. We went to Bangka and Belitung via car, because dad hated trips by airplanes. To go there, we had to pass through Jambi and Palembang, and then we had to go to Tanjung Api Api harbor which was a 2 hours ride from Palembang, and from Tanjung Api Api we’d have to go to Muntok which was a 3 hours sail.

When we were riding for Jambi, it was quite boring because well, we only got acres of palm oil plantation to stare at. Me and my sisters slept the whole Pekanbaru – Jambi trip away. When we woke up, we’re already in Palembang. We stayed there at my dad’s employee stay. It was empty because everyone went home to see their families. We rested for two days there. After the rest, we left Palembang in the evening to go to the harbor and we arrived just in time for us to board the ferry boat. There was an interesting thing happened at the boat, a bit scary too. The ferry boat that we got in was a small one, so they didn’t have a sleeping room for the passenger. Everyone gathered and did their waiting in the passenger hall. When it was late and everybody was sleeping, a baby cried. The baby was crying very violently and didn’t showed any sign that the cries would recede. The mother didn’t knew what to do, she tried to fed her baby and gave the baby toys but the baby just won’t stop crying. Everyone at that point had started waking up because of the cries. There was something wrong about the cries. My mother told me that the baby saw something supernatural. It was late at night, we were at the sea and babies can see what adults can’t. Someone called for the crew who was a regular at handling that kind of situation and soon enough, the baby stopped crying.

We arrived in Muntok at one and went straight for food. Thankfully, my dad had booked an interconnecting room for us in a hotel via an online application, so we could eat in peace. When we arrived at the hotel, we didn’t go straight to bed and was arranging our schedule instead. Dad didn’t told us how long we were going to be in Bangka and when will we left for Belitung. We were very excited about the beaches in Bangka and Belitung. Back home in Pekanbaru, we don’t have beaches, we only have rivers, ugly and dirty one at that too. Once the schedule was set, we finally went to bed (though I can barely sleep). The next morning, after breakfast, we went straight to Parai Tenggiri beach, the only beach we visited that has a resort near it. It was rain season when we went to Bangka, so our first day there was very gloomy. The beach was still beautiful, nevertheless. The beach smelled a lot like coconut because there were a lot of coconut trees in there. It was also very empty and quiet, there were no people selling food nearby, restaurants that sell seafood from the beach. It was a simple and beautiful beach. We only spent about thirty minutes in there because it was really dark, we were afraid it would rain and we couldn’t get to tour the second destination.

It did rained when we were on our way for the next beach, but as soon as we got there, the rain stopped. The sun was shining again for our afternoon swim at Teluk Uber beach. The beach, to my surprise, was also deserted. There were only two families and us. But, this time, there were a lot of sellers. The beach smelled like that after-the-rain smell. The whole scenery was beautiful and was tinted orange and red-ish from the sun. It was very serene. We swam and surfed until the sun is almost down. We got out and bathed in the nearby public bathroom. When we were folding our clothes, I could feel like something was missing, but I couldn’t figure what it was and just shrugged the thoughts away. Since we’re in Bangka, we wouldn’t miss on Bangka traditional delicacy. So, after the swim, we went to Koba noodle, a noodle dish native to Bangka. However, Google maps weren’t functioning properly and we got lost three times. It said that we have arrived at our destination, three times, and none of those three places was the restaurant. My dad asked some locals around for direction and we weren’t lost anymore. The restaurant was a traditional one and it was very crowded. I had hoped it would taste like regular noodle dish I’ve tasted before, what was served in front of me was instead a fish broth noodle. I didn’t liked it, I should’ve known that a place filled with beaches will be selling a lot of seafood dishes. The broth was really fishy, so fishy it tasted bitter in my mouth. It looked appetizing but the taste just threw me off, I’m not a big fan of fish. But, the rest of my family liked it (they were quite an adventurous eater) and it wasn’t bitter to them, which I found very weird. I, of course, couldn’t finish the whole meal.

That night, I went to the nearby food court for some food, because I didn’t finish my meal earlier. My mom accompanied me and we got to a Ketoprak stall. I remembered it tasted very good, better than what we had back in Jakarta near our house. Mom said it’s because they were using cashew nuts instead of regular nuts like in Jakarta. Very funny, who would’ve thought that I’d find the most delicious Ketoprak far away in Bangka, not in Jakarta, where it originated. When it’s bedtime, I couldn’t sleep. I was daydreaming (or nightdreaming) and then I realized what was missing. I was missing my old class uniform. It was a t-shirt that we call a uniform, we wore it a lot together and I went through some memorable times with it. I was sad, but glad at the same time because it wasn’t the new t-shirt that was gone. I think I left it near the sink at the public bathroom and forgot to take it.

At morning, everyone was already up but me. Their expression was sad, almost like sulking. I already knew what was going on, dad must’ve gotten a call from his boss in Palembang, so I assume we were to get back to Pekanbaru soon. This happened often when we were on holiday together, but this time dad said it was very urgent. We had to go back tomorrow. So we spent the last day visiting the furthest beach from our hotel and shopping for souvenirs at a famous local souvenirs shop. Romodong beach was very popular for its ‘gate entrance’. Right before you get to the beach, you’ll see two big stones shaped like a gate entrance. People said it was natural and not man-made. The beach was not crowded too, like the other two we’ve visited. The salty smell is very strong at Romodong beach. The water was crystal clear and there were a lot of beautiful stones and corals near the beach. We could see another beach across from Romodong beach too!

I was sad when we left the beach to go to the souvenirs shop, we haven’t even gone to Belitung, yet. I was the most excited for that. I wanted to see what I really looked like because of Laskar Pelangi movie. But, Alas! Life goes on. We bought a lot at the souvenir shop, the shop was called LCK and a lot of tourists shopped there. My mom got a fresh shrimp paste, me and my sisters bought a lot of fish and prawn crackers and t-shirts that says Bangka multiple times on it, dad got a Gonggong snail, a crispily fried snail, a snack native to Bangka. Bangka has been kind for the last three days we were there, we didn’t explore much but this trip will be in my memory forever, I lost a dear possession of mine, but oh well, what to be done about it. Road trips are always very memorable since you spent more time on the road that makes you appreciate the journey and the process of arriving to a destination.

Illustration credit: Calvin Liang

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