Bailing on Bali

Ubud and Singapore, Wednesday 6 June 2012

Whether or not I’d be well enough to get on my scheduled plane for Singapore was a matter or hot debate. Despite the need for me to be within close range of a bathroom at all times, I was also exhausted. Packing, travelling to the airport, negotiating security, boarding a plane, the flight, and then doing everything in reverse at the other end might have been more than I could manage.

However, getting to Singapore had three significant advantages. First, the water quality there is first class. I’d be able to take a shower without fear of contracting something, let alone drink it.

Second, the medical care available in Singapore is also first class. If it reached the stage where I needed to be hospitalised–quite a real prospect owing to dehydration–then I’d prefer it were in Singapore than in Bali.

Finally, if I decided that all hope for the rest of the trip was lost and that I needed to return to the UK, it would be far easier from Singapore, where there are direct flights to London.

Singapore it was.

I’m not sure that I really packed my bags, more tossed my possessions into a collection of suitable receptacles and hoped that the airline wouldn’t ask too many questions. I checked in online, asked the hotel to arrange transport to the airport for me, mustered a collection of plastic bags, and went back to bed for 90 minutes.

The hotel receptionist called me at 11:30 to check out, and I was in the cab by about 11:45. When the driver found out that my flight was at 14:00 (actually it was 14:15, but never mind) he entered into some minor panic and declared that he hoped I made my flight. I sat there looking at him doe-eyed: things had been arranged between him and the hotel receptionist, I’d been focused on not seeing my breakfast a second time around that day.

Apparently, it takes longer to get from the hotel to Denpasar airport than the hotel receptionist had reckoned. How was I to know how long it would take at all? And we had to hope that there weren’t any accidents, road works, or general delays because the public felt like it.

I spent the majority of that journey clutching my sickbag with white knuckles, sweating. Whether it was the illness, his driving, or fear I don’t know; probably a combination of all three. Naturally, we were caught behind every slow-moving vehicle where there wasn’t the sliver of a passing point that any Indonesian driver worth her or his salt would have slipped into in a flash. And there was an accident.

A bus had plunged over the central reservation and into what could charitably be called a ditch, but more accurately referred to as a stonking great hole.

Thought that you’d seen rubbernecking on the M25? Nope, nothing like this. People had stopped and were surrounding the accident site–clearly with no thought for their own safety nor the needs of the emergency services or the crash victims–in order to observe. An accident had become a spectator sport. It was worse than a day at the chariots in Ancient Rome.

When we’d finally negotiated the police, the spectators, the stopped cars, the slow-moving cars, and the cars that actually needed to be places, the airport was still about 30 minutes’ drive and it was well past 12:30.

This guy drove like a demon and we rocked up at Denpasar airport at about 13:10. Once I’d paid him, I needed to heave myself and my bags from the drop-off zone to the international terminal. That should be easy, yes? You jump out of the car, grab a trolley, and fly through the doors.

Well not quite. Not at Denpasar. It’s at least a five minute walk from the drop-off zone to the terminal entrance. At this point, I felt as if I were Odysseus and the gods were trying me. Why did it have to be so far? But, there was no time for lamentation, I had a plane to catch.

When I crawled through the international departures terminal door I was faced with a security line where we were expected to produce our tickets. It seems as if the team at Bali hasn’t quite caught up with the idea of e-tickets and paperless travel. I scrambled around to find my iPhone, still residing in its trusty sock, and pulled up the British Airways app where my name and flight number were listed. Thank heavens these dudes accepted that, otherwise I would have wanted to roll over right there.

Unfortunately, it didn’t get much better. At Denpasar, it doesn’t matter if you’ve checked in online, you still have to queue with everyone else who hasn’t in order to check in again and deposit your bags. It’s a far cry from the nifty Qantas terminals where you print your boarding pass and send your bags on their merry way yourself.

This becomes entirely ridiculous when the computer system has failed and every single person has to be checked in by hand, their boarding cards and luggage handling labels written by hand, and the plane manifest reconciled by hand. It’s even worse when the ground crew aren’t communicating with passengers and passengers are becoming increasingly distressed and frustrated as the flight departure time is approaching and there is no sign of movement in the queue.

Jetstar’s customer service has a great deal to answer for here.

Meanwhile, I’m practically on my knees, desperate for a drink, and wondering what would happen if I needed to run to the loo. The various scenarios that passed through my head became increasingly outlandish until I realised that I was finally at the front of the queue.

From there, I had to pass my exit fee (why do tickets say that they are inclusive of all taxes and fees, when airports are able to add on that sneaky extra?), negotiate immigration, and board the plane. I went straight to the gate and straight onto the plane. It was well past 14:15.

I was far from the last passenger to board but anything after that is a complete haze. All that I cared about was that I was heading to Singapore. Eventually. Somehow. I slept for most of the flight, punctuated only by the gentleman sitting across the aisle from me who lost his temper because he couldn’t have any fried rice. Really? It’s worth losing your temper over the unavailability of some rice and egg?

Wonders will never cease.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.