As our time in Singapore came to an end, Amanda and I made our way to the airport to fly to Bali. We had already checked in online for our Air Asia flight and printed our tickets, but apparently we still needed to go to the Air Asia counter for document verification. Only then could we proceed through a checkpoint that seemed to be just to make sure we had done the document verification.
We made our way through the airport hallways until we came upon some shops, where I bought a sleep mask and earplugs (after two nights in a dorm at the hostel in Singapore, I decided the US$8 was well worth the investment) and we tried to spend the rest of our Singapore dollars on tissues (for all the bathrooms that don’t provide toilet paper).
When we got to the passport check, the agent asked where my exit card was. The form I had filled out when entering the country got ripped into two parts, one that they kept, the other they slipped into my passport. I must’ve taken it out at some point, although I knew it was in my bag somewhere, I just couldn’t find it. Luckily she said it was an easy fix, took me over to the immigration and customs desk where I filled out another form and got stamped out. Crisis averted.
The Singapore airport is set up so that there are separate security screening lines for about every two gates. Somehow they haven’t realized their profit potential if they would just put a vending machine at the gate so we could purchase overpriced water, but at least there was a water fountain on the other side.
We waited for our delayed plane, and when they finally called us to board, Amanda realized she had misplaced her boarding pass somewhere in the 20 yards between the gate agent who checked our tickets and the seats we were sitting in. She went back to the gate agent, who told her “don’t worry about it” and then we tried to board. I was let in but Amanda was not. They asked her to wait before consulting with the other gate agent. Finally they escorted her onto the plane and told every flight attendant that she had lost her boarding pass, to which they responded “Ooooh! Ookaaayyy!” in a voice normally reserved for toddlers. Maybe they thought there was something mentally wrong with her if she lost her boarding pass.
I flew Air Asia a few times last year, from Macau to Kuala Lumpur and from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, and both flights were just what I would expect in the US or Europe from someone like Southwest or EasyJet, pretty uneventful. Not the case with our flight from Singapore to Bali. It was like being on a party bus. Someone had music playing almost the entire time, and the flight attendants didn’t seem to care. There were little kids running up and down the aisle and jumping around in their seats with no concern from even their parents. At one point we looked over and saw a mother changing her 5 year old kid’s clothing. A few passengers argued about their seats, even though Air Asia does assign seats, so they only had to read their ticket to determine who actually belonged in those seats. When the flight attendants made announcements, no one quieted down. When the plane landed, passengers almost immediately started getting up and taking their bags out of the overhead bins, even though we were still taxiing off the runway, and again the flight attendants didn’t seem bothered enough to even tell people to sit down. The whole flight felt chaotic and noisy, and all Amanda and I could do was laugh.
Finally off the plane, it was then time to get our Indonesia visa on arrival, which is only available at certain airports. We stood in line to pay our US$25 (you could pay in Indonesian Rupiah, US dollars, or Euros) and were badgered by men who offered to get us to the front of the line for a US$20 fee. It baffled me that they were somehow allowed by the government officials to make money off of cutting people in line. We saw a few people take this offer, but not many. After paying for the visa, we had to wait in another line to have our passport checked and stamped and have the visa pasted into our passports. The same guys reappeared offering the line-cutting services again, but we continued to ignore them. The whole process of paying for our visas and getting our passports checked took at least an hour. Between that and the delayed flight, I was almost surprised that our ride to the hotel was still outside waiting for us.
The ride from the airport to our hotel in Ubud took about an hour and 15 minutes, despite how close it looks on a map. I’ve seen crazy drivers in various countries, but this may have been the worst. The driver was constantly changing lanes and swerving around other cars, motorcycles and pedestrians trying to cross the street. We saw other vehicles driving in a similarly perilous way, and several times we thought we might collide with a bus, run over a motorcycle, or scrape against a wall. Everyone honked to let other vehicles know they were nearby or passing or, it seemed, as a way to push the other vehicle to move or go faster. It was enough horn honking to make a New Yorker cringe. Amanda and I tried to keep talking to each other the whole way to distract ourselves from what felt like looming disaster, but somehow never witnessed or became a part of any accidents. (We would soon learn to get used to this crazy style of driving throughout Indonesia, and by the end of our two weeks, the number of times we cringed or restrained a scream greatly dwindled.) We were very relieved when we finally made it to our hotel surrounded by palm trees and colorful lotus flowers, and began to focus on our excitement about exploring a new country.
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