Catherine posted the scoop on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, even translating boardroom talk into pirate lingo–impressive, but for some honest to goodness pirate talk, head to the Straits of Malacca. Pirates still sail the waters here, wrecking havoc by capturing crews, taking over ships, and stealing their goods. The goods might be three million dollars of diesel fuel, for example. Just in case you’re a bit fuzzy about where this is exactly, (I even looked it up to be clear and I used to live in the region), here’s a map. The Sraits of Malacca is the stretch of water between Sumatra in Indonesia and the west coast of Malaysia. Singapore is at one end of it.
Marilyn Terrell, chief researcher for National Geographic Traveler, sent us a link to a National Geographic magazine article that details the history of and the current practice of honest-to-goodness pirates in this part of the world. It’s a fascinating read made more interesting by the account of the writer Peter Gwin who travels to where the pirates are. He interviews various players along the way, starting with one who is in jail. The pirate, like many other pirates, is from Batam, Indonesia. This is where Peter Gwin’s journey takes him, until he eventually learns, first-hand, the ropes of pirate living–part of it involves a karaoke bar.
I’ve been to Batam, Indonesia. At the time, it was a popular quick getaway from Singapore because of it had a decent resort hotel and a golf course. The school where I taught had a three-day retreat here. When I was at the retreat bonding with co-workers, I had no idea pirates were making their thievery plans close to where people recreate. I’ve also been to the west coast of Malaysia near to where pirates roam. Malacca is one of my most favorite towns, one I’d love to go back to and I recommend without reservations. My husband did say that Medan in Sumatra, also close to the straits, is, to paraphrase, “the armpit of hell.” He went there on a school trip with high schoolers. The night before their return flight, all 20 kids, plus the other chaparone got food poisoning. It was a real barf fest. Sorry, but it’s true.
When I read this article about the Straits of Malaysia and pirates, it reminded me about how little one can know about where one lives and travels sometimes. There are so many different realties. My version of Singapore and travel to the places near it, was mostly the clean cut version, although I could go on about some of the seamier details. Most of the time, however, I was busy with my job and with friends during the week. Holidays and weekend travel was a chance to unwind and have a bit of adventure–safe adventure. If I walked by a pirate, I wouldn’t have noticed.
If you have a notion to head through this part of the world, keep your eyes open. If you’re traveling through on the water, stay off of tankers. And if you get stopped by a pirate, refer to Catherine’s post. Maybe talking like one will help.
The photo is a montage created by Tarky7 and posted on Flikr today. The decription talks about Talk Like a Pirate Day and Modern piracy.