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Day #14: To Bali

Didn’t get a chance to write last night. So, I’m a day behind now… will post all about our trip to Bali tonight.

This morning started early with us leaving the hotel a little before 5am. We arrived at Singapore’s Changi International Airport. Today, we were flying on Garuda Indonesia, which 1) has a certain surreal quality to the concept of doing so and 2) yet is slated to become a member of Delta’s SkyTeam Alliance in March, 2014.

In any case, we found the check-in, boarding, and flight to Jakarta to all be more-or-less what one would expect of a national flag carrier. Actually, Garuda Indonesia was recently named as having the world’s Best Economy Class by SkyTrax. I can even sort of see why (aside from the diagram telling customers to not squat on the toilet seat when taking a pee or a shit) given the in-flight entertainment, specialized service for kids (e.g., toys, baby food, etc.), and included hot (and edible) meals even on really short flights.

In contrast, Garuda’s hub in Jakarta leaves a bit to be desired. The airport is nice enough looking. And, it seems to look like and function as a modern, international airport. But, it isn’t/doesn’t!

On the one hand, the visa-on-arrival, immigration, and customs process was fairly straightforward (having done that before). On the other hand, it was a little unclear whether or not we were supposed to claim our luggage/stroller in Jakarta and “bag drop” before going on to our Bali flight (which is the procedure in the USA). However, we understood everyone to be telling us it was “checked through.” So, we went with that and expected to never see our luggage again.

The real confusion for us started in trying to figure out the gate for our departing flight. We were on Garuda #408 leaving at 10:05 (though our boarding pass said “boarding” was at 9:45). Our boarding pass—printed hours earlier in Singapore—said we were leaving from Gate F5. When we asked to confirm this location it sounded like people were saying that is Gate “A5,” which sent us scrambling for a terminal/gate that we couldn’t locate. The situation spiraled downward as we kept asking for directions to “Gate A5,” and we kept getting directions to places with no signs saying “A” anything. This was all made worse by the fact that the monitors didn’t seem to show our flight. Instead, we only saw a Garuda flight #404 to Bali leaving around 9:45.

Frustrated, I returned to the Garuda Executive lounge for the 3rd time and played the part of the prototypical “Ugly American” in a foreign place:

Me: Does our flight leave from Gate A5 or F5? Do you understand me? A or F? A as in Apple… F as in Fu…err… Fruit? Your monitors don’t seem to show our flight, we’re supposed to be boarding in 20 minutes.

Agent: A5.

Me: Do you mean Gate 5? Gate FFFFFFF5?

Agent: Yes.

So, off we went to Gate F5. Security let us through, which is a good sign. We then proceeded to Gate F5, which listed no flights on its destination board. WTF? Yet there was a gate agent checking tickets to allow people into the waiting area. Presumably they were waiting for some flight. Why not ours? Sure enough, she looked at our ticket, put a sticker on it, and let us through to the packed waiting room too. Once there, we discovered people waiting for Flight 404 to Bali and for some other flight sitting in the same waiting room. Again, WTF? Think about it: who would put two nearly identical flights—two different planes going to the same destination around the same time with nearly identical flight numbers—at the same gate?

Answer: Garuda Indonesia in Jakarta. It turns out that lots of flights wait in this gate in order to enter a jet bridge only to go down a flight of stairs to the tarmac and board a bus. However, the bus doesn’t take you “out” to a plane parked somewhere away from the terminal. No, it merely drives you to another gate at which point you climb back up a flight of stairs and proceed down another jet bridge to board your plane.

Why this fandango? I have no earthly idea. They made some announcements in two languages: 1) obviously not English and 2) not understandable English. We had no idea. So, we just kept trying to board flights until they finally allowed us to go on the aforementioned bus/flight, which happily landed in Bali.

Oh, and did I mention we were any hour or so late in leaving for no obvious or particular reason? Thankfully, once aboard the airplane our hour and a half flight to Bali was pleasant (good meal, plush toy, decent inflight entertainment). To be fair, I’m sure we would have been less stressed by the Jakarta airport experience had we had more rest the night before and more time between flights that morning.

At least we got another country out of it: Indonesia (Java)

Our arrival (including the luggage!) and transfer in Bali went smoothly. We’re staying at the Courtyard by Marriott Nusa Dua, which might be the nicest Marriott Courtyard in the world (though we’ve generally found that Courtyards overseas aren’t the drab, cookie cutter establishments found in business parks throughout the USA). The public areas are especially attractive; the room is relatively spacious and nice enough.

Best looking Courtyard by Marriott ever? Maybe.

Best looking Courtyard by Marriott ever? Maybe.

We spent the balance of the afternoon in the pool. We then had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, where we met a nice waiter (Adi) who worked for five years on Carnival’s cruise ships out of Florida. Adi gave up that work in order to spend time at home with his wife and two kids (including a 3 year old daughter who shares Emerson’s birthday). Good dinner; great guy.

On coming back to our room, Libby spent some time working on the laptop, and I pretty much just passed out. The jet lag, lack of sleep, and illness had all finally caught up to me.

Today’s box score: +2 countries (Indonesia, Java; Indonesia, Lesser Sunda Islands)

One Response to “Day #14: To Bali”

  1. Mom and Dad says:

    You might be interested to know that Garuda’s lack of clarity extends to the flight status reports on their website. I spent many fruitless minutes trying obvious and traditional methods to retrieve your arrival time with absolutely no luck. Truthfully, I’m still not quite sure how I correctly connected with the right information! Ah well, you arrived safely and that’s all that matters! Much love to all of you!

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