Episode 1 - Escaping the Red Menace
Greetings from Bali. I originally planned this trip back in January, around a get-together that was scheduled for Ubud next week. At the time I planned out the trip, it seemed that I would have plenty of time to spend in the area, so a bit of "spec. creep" happened and I ended up adding a dive trip to North Sulawesi on to the time in Ubud. Well, as many of you now, stuff happened, and the GTG is off.
I considered changing my plans, but the North Sulawesi part came together so well I decided to stick with the arrangements. Then, of course, Bangkok turned into a Southeast Asian Sarajevo, and leaving town for at least a little while started looking like a really good idea. Not that there was any sign of trouble where I live. When I popped down to the convenience store on Saturday to get a few things, it all looked so normal, it was almost surreal, knowing what was happening a few kilometers away.
There was a bit of nail-biting Saturday night. My flight this morning was at 6;15, which
meant getting to the airport around 4:30. I wondered if, with everything going on, I would be able to get a taxi to the airport. But when I got out from my building there were two taxis waiting at the traffic light outside my place, so I was in a cab and on my way in no time. On the way to the expressway, we pass the Ratchada night clubs, where it seemed lots of people were just finishing up their night out. Again, surrealy normal.
We whizzed to the airport - after all, it was 4:00 am on a Sunday morning. We flew
through the three army checkpoints to the terminal, where there weren't many people, except at the Air Asia counter for my flight! Not much of a queue at immigration either. I had just enough time to pop into the King Power lounge and drink some water (MichaelBKK's tip for healthy flying: drink one liter of water before boarding).
This was the longest Air Asia flight I've ever taken, at four-plus hours. I bought some more water but passed on the food, although it did look good. I paid for a 'hot' seat when I booked the flight and took an aisle seat in the first row so I would be the first off the plane in Bali. I'm not sure if you saw the news, but Indonesia had decided that they would fingerprint and photograph everyone who got a Visa on Arrival, starting with Bali. Unfortunately, it seems they didn't put much thought or planning into this. It turned out they didn't have nearly enough equipment to handle the load, and it was taking as long as four hours for people to get through immigration, so the project was dropped after less than two weeks. Air Asia is one of the first international flights to arrive at mid-day, so immigration was deserted when I got there, and was through to baggage claim in just a few minutes. A driver from my local agent is waiting to take me to the hotel.
I'm just staying here in Bali one night, then catching another early morning flight to Manado tomorrow. I'm staying at the Bali Rani hotel, which in the southern part of Kuta about 15 minutes from the airport. It seems okay for the price and location, but nothing special.
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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the GTG
Episode 1 - Escaping the Red Menace