Saturday, March 4, 2023

Paradise Awaits: Hong Kong to Jakarta to Bali

As a new day dawned, we boarded the Cathay Pacific flight CX777 that had repeatedly disappeared from our American Airlines itinerary through automated gates without a hint of a problem. Well, maybe just a hint of one as our boarding passes set off alarms, but an employee quickly overrode them, and on down the jetway we plodded.

This five-hour flight was the sixth one of our seven-flight outbound itinerary (SEA-JFK-LAX-HND-SGN-HKG-CKG-DPS), and we were both feeling surprisingly well-rested, especially after our overnight Regal Airport Hotel stay at HKG.

What better to order on CX than fruit followed by Dim Sum for a second breakfast?

Tasty? Yes.

The trip flew by, so to speak, and we landed at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta a International Airport (CGK) ready to face the bureaucracy. We had health information filled out on a glitchy government app, we had photos and hard copies of the e-visas we’d bought online for $35 each, and we had a QR code confirming we’d completed our customs declaration forms online.

We first endured one of the longest walks we’ve ever had between the plane and immigration, easily 15-20 minutes, even with some moving sidewalks. Nobody asked to see the app or our record of vaccinations, and the inspection of our e-visas on passports only took a couple of minutes. Our advance planning enabled us to skip two long lines, but we still had to wait in the e-visa immigration line for a half hour or more.  A number of people in front of us were sent back to other queues, but we fortunately made it. Did we mention the airport was hot and humid?

Then it was through customs instantly with our QR code, and onward to security to enter the domestic departures terminal. We stopped to withdraw 2,250,000 Indonesian Rupiah from an ATM, the maximum allowable if you choose the right machine, one that dispenses 100,000 Rupiah banknotes. That impressive number, reminiscent of the Zimbabwean bills we picked up years ago, equals about US $163. We decided to have that handy in case we want to pay cash for a car and driver during our stay. There’s nothing like a bunch of 100,000 IDR banknotes stuffed in your wallet to make you feel rich.

Here we share a secret. Not knowing how exhausted we’d be at this point, we had successfully bid for a business class upgrade  on Garuda Airlines that included lounge access for our multi-hour layover. Garuda is a SkyTeam member and we have no status with that alliance. Just as Kathy’s late brother used to jokingly say “We can buy our way out of this,” we decided to buy our way into this.

The lounge offered one major benefit: it was air conditioned down to the low 70s, easily 10 degrees F cooler than the rest of the airport. The food had little attraction for us, and our fellow travelers seemed noisy and happy.

This included a man nearby talking loudly on his speaker phone for at least an hour, and two youngsters riding hither and yon on their battery-powered rollaboards. An employee walked around every so often to loudly announce imminent departures -at least that’s what we presumed he was saying. Once most other passengers had departed, the sudden lack of noise made us realize how loud it had been. Still, it was cool!

Our original flight had been canceled,  and we boarded Garuda’s venerable A330 after 6:30 PM. It was roomy and business class was lightly light loaded.

Shortly after takeoff on our two- hour CGK-DPS flight, we spotted a beautiful sunset, always a propitious sign. “Red light at night, sailor’s delight.

Our dinner, wrapped in foil and plastic, was uninspiring, and alcohol was not available, Indonesia being a predominantly Muslim country.

The crew members were lovely, as has been every Indonesian we’ve met so far. That included “Suka,” I Wayan Sukayasa, the hotel-arranged diver who conveyed us to our ultimate destination, the Conrad Bali. Yes, four days of flying seven flights on five airlines, punctuated by two transit hotel stays and a total of 16,008 miles flown (as calculated on Webflyer), and we’d arrived.

The Conrad Bali? That deserves its own post.

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