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

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fueled by H8

Tuesday's bacon was made of cow. Wednesday's bacon was made of chicken. Followed up the omelette with a double helping of yummy nasi lemak, and chose not to read the local rag after the first story I read on Tues had been one of those "no, Malaysia and Indonesia will not be declaring war, of course not" stories. So here I sat, on my last day in Malaysia with a flight to Indonesia that afternoon.

I spent a while reading up on the procedures for arrival at Bali airport, especially the visa process. Pretty much every word written about it on the internet is a bona fide horror story. Bali opened a new international terminal late last year but despite this, or in fact because of it, loads of reviews on airlinequality.com and the like were all full of NO NO NO AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL tales of sweaty time consuming woe. I was not looking forward to this at all.

Ended up not bothering with a quick HOHO trip to the aviary, rather I just chilled, blogged, watched CNBC, and lost my wallet and passport. Which wasn't particularly pleasing, but I remembered - after having packed both my bags to the brim - that I'd been carting them round in the bottom of my rucksack all the time. Sigh.

I had a few ringgit left, no US dollars, and no Indonesian rupiah. I needed USD for the visa and IDR for tipping. And I had 3 hours til my flight. Checked out of the hotel, into the flight right there in KL Sentral train station. Missed the every-20-minutes service by 20 seconds or so, so hung around fretting and getting itchy (the mosquito bite on my hand didn't help with that). Journey to the airport was sound, though I snobbishly shuddered at the advert for KLIA2, "the world's biggest dedicated low cost carrier terminal".

KUL entry was a breeze. Immigration, security, all very very simple and quick. My gate was H8, as if in some kinda nudge, wink, fight club way the world understood me - the first words I'd seen on the magazine waiting for me in my KL hotel room had been "magnificently miserable", y'know. Anyway I got my bearings and set off on a currency hunt. The nearest stall told me they can't give currency off credit or debit cards, only cash. Well, I didn't have anything like the cash required to get what I needed for Bali. He said terminal C - a monorail ride away, oh noes! - would sort me out.

Well. Sort of. First I tried the "we dispense various currencies" ATMs which didn't accept Visa or MasterCard. Then I went to a change counter, who said they too were cash only. The ATM around the corner had some guy using it, for ages, and ages, until he finished and told me it was out of service now. Thanks mate. Found another one, and had my debit card refused twice. So I ended up getting a cash advance on a credit card, in a foreign currency, in order to immediately exchange it all at airport rates to two other foreign currencies. What a fucking costly palaver. However, I was now a MILLIONAIRE thanks to the bonkers Indonesian exchange rate.

Monorail back to the H gates didn't cheer me up much, and the positive effect of getting into the lounge for a quick 10 minute ice cream break was countered by the fact there was no booze. Mind, I'd faffed so much that before I knew it the plane was boarding. Stress levels rose again as the guy in front of me loudly complained "bullshit!" when gate security found and confiscated his bottle of water. Are the rules so hard to follow? He'd already been through terminal security with the same restrictions ffhs!

MH853 KUL-DPS. Gate H8 was crowded so I set about wielding my Cathay card to get on quicker, and hey presto it worked - I was on second of the whole economy cabin. Got a very nice greeting from the crew and took my seat - well, I call it a seat, the legroom was so small I may as well have been standing, and during the flight the reclining guy in front of me did so with such a judder he almost broke my fucking jaw. But as with the flight from Paris, the entertainment system was excellent, streets ahead of anything I've seen on short haul economy apart from Air New Zealand. Even has a USB socket for plugging your own stuff in (though, sadly, not for charging it). Not that I took advantage - for a start, I couldn't find the headphone socket, but mostly I was just interested in starting one of the two books I'd brought with me - the one that just came out about the story of the Brixton Academy. I did not expect to get a full 214 pages through it on a 3hr flight.

Having failed to have any beer on the first Malaysia airlines flight, I finally had some on here. Though I've no idea what - I asked for beer, and got around 100ml poured into a plastic glass, without the rest of the can to follow. The same happened later. I estimate I had about a 3rd of a pint, like it was kölsch in Köln, except it wasn't, it was warm crap stuff. Whatever. I also estimate that 13 hours is the longest I've gone without beer on any airline, even the cheapo carriers where you have to pay I normally fork out (though, as I type, I've just declined to do so on ValuAir VF242 DPS-SIN). The food was some spicy fish deal, without any discernible spice. The meal kit came with a spoon, but no food which required it ever materialised, which made me feel a bit "where's Paul?" from. Friday the 13th part 2. Seriously, where does he go? What was the spoon for? Are they linked?

This flight was also my first equator crossing of 4 on this holiday. It was only after crossing it that I realised I should have gone to the loo at the right time, and both flushed it and drained a sink just to watch the amazing HONEST TRUE FACT that water going down a hole somehow gives a flying fuck whereabouts it is on the planet*. (note to Mike Wood: that's a genuine footnote)

Indonesian border entry cards had been handed out at the gate in Kuala Lumpur. They are pretty extensive, and terrifying. There's a lot they don't like, and drug dealers get killed in a very stern red font. Despite all baggage desk staff so far telling me I'd need proof that I had a ticket out of the country I was about to enter, it once again failed to happen, at immigration in either Kuala Lumpur or Denpasar. Also I read somewhere that in the list of prohibited items for import was "reading material in Chinese". Really?

Not that I had anything to concern me in legal terms, but honestly the reviews of Bali airport were not making me look forward to my arrival. I was one of the last to get off cos I didn't see the point in hurrying (I rarely do), but I did think it was likely to add to my delay. So, deep breath, ...

Walked off into a nice air conditioned terminal, airy, and not very crowded. No hawkers or scammers offering VIP escort service. Visa on arrival desk queue was minimal and for fucks sake I've just spilt milk on my iPad. Hang on. There. Right. Yes, got to the desk and saw that you can actually pay in loads of currencies, not just USD, so I hadn't needed such a faff at KL (I'm off to the USA in August anyway so the spare won't go to waste). I had been confused by how quite a few people had turned up not knowing it was even required, and being directed to the ATMs. Who travels without knowing the entry requirements for where they're going??

Next, baggage: again, no sign of the scammers, only a well signed desk offering the official porter service for 5000 IDR (that's a mere 25 of your earth pence - I told you the exchange rate was bonkers). No one hassling people to take it, or pay more. MH853's bags were already on the carousel and mine was right there as I walked up to it. Picked it up and strolled up to immigration. A breeze. They were fast and chatting amongst themselves and waving people through. Lastly, customs. Some luggage spot checks but I didn't get that treatment. And then, out landside. A few taxi touts but mostly prearranged transport with names on cards. One guy shouted "yes boss, taxi!" at me but I just ignored him, found the guy with my name on his card, gave him my bag and away we went. Up 2 levels and into the car park, then a short drive to the hotel. I was in my room taking a photo of the pool from the balcony 40 minutes from stepping off the plane.

So, what the fuck are all these reviews talking about? They each specifically mention that they are recent, in the new but unfinished terminal (and yes, it isn't finished), but I experienced not one single hint of any of the bad stuff mentioned, and saw no one else suffering it either. What gives? I genuinely don't understand,and actually was a bit pissed off about all the disinformation. I know bad news travels faster than good, but, really, this is ridiculous. I will leave a review myself, but it's a bit lonely to be one word against many. Can it really have got so much better so quickly?

My hotel was lovely. The staff had all greeted me by name, the porter taking my bag while the receptionist checked me in and another girl gave me a welcome drink. The view was great and, as luck would have it, I'd arrived just after their weekly mosquito fogging, so the dengue fever could hold off a little bit. Chucked the TV on, of course, and there were a million channels including 3 movie ones. And CNBC. Everything in the mini bar was under a quid, including the beer. There was wifi in the room.

So, it was now 8pm. What with such an arduous journey, and the jet lag from changing timezone from MYT (GMT+8) to CIT (GMT+8), I thought I'd have a quick lie down before a night cap at the bar. Obviously, then, I slept for 11 hours. And it was wonderful.

* in 1992, in the first month or so of uni, my flat had a big argument about this and resolved to put it to the test. We filled up the 5 sinks in our shared bathroom and let them get very very still by leaving them an hour or so. Then we pulled all 5 plugs. 2 went down clockwise, 2 anti-clockwise, and one kinda didn't spin at all but just seemed to drain straight. SCIENCE.


auswomble said...


Unknown said...

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