I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


So it was on Saturday that I woke up nice and early, with plenty of time to grab breakfast, a shower, and pack before the cab that there really was no excuse for me being 5 minutes late at reception. Nor was there any real excuse for me to cause such confusion about my minibar consumption that they sent someone to my room to count the number of missing diet cokes and sprites (drinks, not faeries), and print out three different bills. Oops.

Airport checkin opens 2 hours before my 1045 flight. We're leaving the hotel at 0845, though I am only 3km away. All the reviews from Australians on airlinequality.com still fresh in my mind, I know they exaggerated (to put it kindly) for the arrival process but departure sounded utterly dismal. So, deep breath as we turn the final corner to the terminal and...

Right. No chaos at kerbside. No queues, no one is doing security outside. Just inside the terminal building there's a queue of... one person for the x-ray. My bag is labelled as having been scanned and I'm through. There are a fair few people milling around at sundry checkin desks but no queues anything like as bad as, say, Paris, or Heathrow, or Kuala Lumpur, or, ...

Check-in for my flight is open and there's two desks, processing people plenty quickly enough. I get my boarding pass, as it seems my half-assed attempt to check in online hadn't scuppered anything. The next obstacle - the insanely hard to spot desk where you have to pay your departure fees - was right there, basically blocking the way to immigration. Paid my dues after being shunted around to an empty desk despite being happy to wait behind the one person in front of me. Got my receipt and handed it, my passport, and my departure card to an immigration official with whom I exchanged a tut and rolling of eyes, the both of us having been briefly delayed by the couple in front of me - the bloke hadn't filled out his departure form and they told him to piss off and fill it out. He insisted he didn't need to. I'm not sure arguing with the immigration officials about the immigration procedures was really too good an idea, but after they'd shooed him away three times and waved me forward I stepped up, only for him to block my way by jumping across to the next desk, cos he seemed convince THAT member of staff would be more likely to let him not abide by the fucking law. Arrogance and stupid alive and well in Denpasar airport.

Er, anyway, one more bag x-ray and... I'm through. I'm through. In fact, I've been to a deli counter and bought a diet coke, sat down, got my pad out, and looked at the time. From being dropped off in my cab to ensconced airside - after, it bears repeating: two security checks, check in, departure tax, and immigration - has taken me 18 minutes.

Dear reviewers on airlinequality.com: WHAT THE LIVING FUCK ARE YOU ON ABOUT?

Anyway. It's, like, 0910. I've ages to kill. There are two lounges but I'm not entitled to visit any of them, since I'm flying a *gasp* low cost carrier to Singapore. It's actually affiliated with, or owned by, Jetstar, who are themselves part of Qantas, but I don't fancy trying to explain that a Cathay Pacific gold card should let me in a shared lounge because I happen to understand the arcane corporate structure of the airline I am patronising. So I just wander, up and down, topping up my rage by checking out the other review facts, like there being not enough seats for customers in the departure area (there are, for the whole 90 minutes I'm there, easily plenty of seats for every departing aircraft, and more to spare). I walk around, stare at the electronics and do some currency arithmetic which brings a flutter to the heart as I find a MacBook Air for £600. But I don't need a MacBook Air. No, really.

Because data roaming was free in Indonesia I could also get embroiled in a late night (GMT) argument on a secret AFC Wimbledon messageboard about whether Wimbledon FC could possibly have played Manchester United in the FA cup in 2007, and whether Amazon are a profitable company or not. Huh.

The fact that there's a currency with the code PHP made me shiver, briefly. And, just as I was about to pull the trigger on a can of San Miguel, the "get thee to the gate" call came.

Tertiary security at the gate was even more of a joke than the chicken crossing the road on Friday, about as effective as the time I managed to get a full bottle of gin into a footy match despite having my bag searched. And then, boarding. Took my seat, which was just a regular one - being a budget airline I could have paid more for an exit row, or even more for a front row, but I hadn't bothered. Good move in the end, as the seat had more pitch than Malaysia Airlines economy. I had prebooked my meal though, and an attendant came up and addressed me by name, taking my order. More nasi lemak, please!

Take off was delayed a bit as they announced some paperwork was required to cope with the 8 people who hadn't shown up at checkin. And then there was some chaos and 8 people arrived, seemingly oblivious to their tardiness.

The nasi lemak gave me the hot food hiccups. That's pretty good going for budget airline food! And so, I crossed the equator south to north, again not bothering to do SCIENCE in the loos. And for the second flight of the trip I had no beer. Maybe I would arrive in Sydney feeling sober, alert, fresh...?

70% of the passengers were up on their feet, overhead bins open etc, way before the seatbelt sign was off. Rules schmules. I wasn't in a hurry - window seat, and 7 hours til my next flight, I wasn't sure what I was going to do, or what the possibilities were really. I grabbed some airport wifi and received a mail from kayak.co.uk telling me which carousel my flight's bags would be on, which I thought was superb service. Got my bag and the strap had broke. On my brand new "this is for travelling the world with" holdall. Sigh. I should have taken it off, but, still. Boo. BOO.

My flight to Australia was a completely separate booking, so I had to go landside. I'd filled out my landing card with "not applicable - in transit" for my address in Singapore, and once through customs - where I was explicitly told I had to go through the red "something to declare" channel - I headed straight to the departures level and looked for the BA desks. There was a sign saying that early check in is possible in a different aisle, from 1430. It was 1350, my flight was at 2000.

Found the early desks, with a bit of a queue and no one yet manning them, of course. Had a brief loiter, then out of boredom walked up to the printed out notice on a nearby desk to read it. It said what times and what flights the desks dealt with, but also, tantalisingly, "business and first class passengers should go to the premium check in lounge". Well, I happened to be stood right next to that, so I waltzed up. Got escorted to the BA desk, sat down, and given a sweet. Checked in by two people, had the lounge situation explained to me (namely, that they also weren't open yet) and waved through the super fast track lane. The folk in front of me were having their bags scanned so I waited behind them, or would have, but the guy just waved me past and straight to the staff and crew immigration line. An almost indiscernible eyebrow was raised as she searched for my entry stamp and saw it had today's date on it.

Singapore airport does special 2 hour bus tours of the city throughout the day, but you have to secure your space at least an hour beforehand. This meant the only one I could possibly do was the 4pm. What's more, the desk for it is in terminal 3 and I was in terminal 1. So this meant a monorail trip, woohoo!

The 4pm trip was fully booked. Back on the monorail and a quick look at the closed lounges, then a wander. This airport is amazing. It has a free cinema, swimming pool, food market, cactus garden, rain forest, hotel, ... it's an astonishing place. I went to the rooftop cactus garden and bar, took a couple of photos but it was brutally hot, doubled as the smoking area, and the bar had some guy doing covers on a guitar, Too soon, too soon.

Back inside, the lounges were open. Plural. The BA and Qantas lounges are next to one another, and I know from flyertalk that the Qantas one is better. Nonetheless I wanted to try both, so went to the BA one first. Second person in there, I served myself some champagne and took a horrific pair of selfies to display just how out of place the scruffy bastard with a pub crawl t-shirt and shorts was in this place. Stuffed myself with a few munchies from the buffet too, and had a couple of energetic conversations on Facebook messenger. Kept loading up with various kinds of fuel: champers, cheese, electricity for the gadgets. I love spending time in empty airport lounges.

Headed off to the Qantas one after a while. Much more crowded since a Qantas flight was actually taking off fairly soon, right near the entrance is a bar. Not a self service fridge of beer, but a bar with a barman and with stools. So I took my position and stayed there for 3 beers and one bourbon - which he really was not happy about serving me - while not one single other person sat at the bar for any longer than it took for them to retrieve their drinks. Maybe I really was the only solo traveller that day? Some lads asked specifically for a stubby beer instead of having it in a glass, but the only stubbies were light beers.

Dear lord, the calorie count was getting so so high, way higher than any day so far. As was the drunkenness. Mind you I must've burnt a few calories too with the crazily long walk the monorail trip had involved.

Lester put a Wurzels song in my head when I told him what I was drinking. "I am a Tiger drinker, ..."

Went back to the BA lounge for more champagne, and so I could overhear 4 loud simultaneous skype conversations. Tried to remember when the last time I'd been this lounge was, even though by now I was struggling to remember what country I'd started the day in without consulting my pad (blogging my holidays involves living like I'm Guy Pearce in Memento, except without the self harm). I think it was 2008? Had a brief chat with James as I realised it was parkrun o'clock back home, and then went to the gate.

Was very early at the gate, but strolled on at my leisure thanks to the business class boarding pass. My seat was the first aisle seat in the cabin, as with Malaysia chosen specifically so I wouldn't have to clamber over anyone nor be clambered over myself. BA business class is so so much nicer since I last flew it, making it a bona fide shame that I'd got too pissed to really enjoy it. Had a champagne anyway, and started to watch Luther S3. The amenity kit was rubbish, the seat was good, I don't remember what I ate, ... the flight is a bit of a blur really. I crossed the equator for the third time and it's perfectly possible my head started to spin in the opposite direction.

The lights went off quite early - it's an 8pm departure, 7am arrival, taking only 8 hours so the best plan, and what most people do, is ignore the food and entertainment and just sleep. In my stupid haze I insisted on trying to watch stuff and stay awake, meaning in the end I had 2 hours of dreadful quality sleep, wolfed down the breakfast (pig bacon!), and arrived in Sydney feeling shattered, hungover, dehydrated, sweaty, and various other ropey adjectives. What's more, I know from experience rather than hearsay that early morning arrivals at Sydney really ARE chaos and take forever to process, as about a hundred long haul flights arrive within 10 minutes of one another. It felt like it was going to be a challenge just to not pass out while queuing for immigration/customs/quarantine, and if the Nothing To Declare camera crew were around I was not looking fit for my debut Aussie TV appearance...


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