So the morning began later than we were planning, as we had a 9:15am flight, CX777 A343 to Jakarta. We were going to Jakarta for a friend's wedding, and then seemingly like 50% of the wedding guests who flew to Indonesia, it was onward to Bali for Christmas and the rest of the week. In our 17 months living in Australia, we made some amazing friends, one of whom was getting married, and another who would be at the wedding from Sydney. It was going to be a great time.
We caught the 7:30 bus instead of the 7am bus to the airport from Discovery Bay. On the bus, I saw a pilot with his name tag on, Les Dean. Normally, pilots on the Discovery Bay bus do not wear their full uniform, or certainly do not board in full uniform, instead putting on the dressing during the 25 minute ride to Hong Kong International. Ironic, because he would later be the captain of CX777 to Jakarta.
For the first time, Hong Kong airport was a zoo. Normally, I assess upon entering, do I take the online check-in line, or the Marco-Polo line, depending on length, and how many appear to know what they are doing. This time it did not matter, both lines were insane and no one seemed to have a clue what was happening. We chose Marco-Polo line, and just did check-in at 8:55 at which point they still had not called it, but they had called other flights afterwards. That was bizarre too, unless our flight was delayed.
Once past immigration and onto security, we gave them the late speech and we were able to use the crew line, and catch the train to gate 68. Also, we had to pick up A$500 for our wedding gift red packet to the happy couple. Which we did, and we made it to the plane, that had all appearances of us being the tardy bastards holding everyone up. Except in the back cabin it was empty. Accordingly, the flight had been delayed for two reasons as stated during a boarding announcement, the check-in fiasco, and waiting for connecting passengers.
This gave us a chance to settle in the very worn A343 cabin and I took some snaps:
All pictures of flight CX777:
But low and behold who is boarding the plane, it is one of our senior managers. Not just any, but the kind which can bump into you at the hospital and start asking about work. And his seat was right by the potties. Ugh, we ducked while he made himself at home and crossed our fingers he would not have to find his way back to the end of the plane.
A little over thirty minutes late, we began our pushback, nothing special, but there was an ANA Panda following us to the primary departure runway, here is a cute snap:
During the taxi, the guy behind me had his tray table break, which reminded me of the movie Final Destination, I could only hope that this flight had a happier ending.
Take off was relatively smooth. This was my first flight in the A343, and I really wanted to judge the takeoff and climb, especially in reading the forum here, and in pictures the engines on the plane seem relatively small in relation to the aircraft body. The takeoff seemed fine, but there was a definitely difference in the climb out. I had plenty of time to take lots of pictures of Discovery Bay and HK Disneyland without having to rush.
The flight went pretty smooth--there were some pocket of bumps along the way. Landing took us along the coast of Java Island, and then on into Jakarta airport where it was raining a bit.
After visa on arrival and immigration, we reached baggage claim and there was some excitement there. While in line for nothing to declare, there was some screaming like a girl from the front of the line. Then a lot of commotion, and for some reason, everyone rushed to see what was happening, and finally about eight security personal were literally carrying a man who was screaming for his life and shoved him into the customs office. The office door was no more than a few meters from us, and popped open again this time with a lot of yelling. The man who was carried in, his face now bloodied, was shouting at a more senior person. The lady in front of us said she saw packets taped to the man's side, but I did not see that. I was more concerned with how in the sixty seconds from him being carried past us, to the door popping back open, his face was so bloodied. It did confirm right away that this was not Knott's Berry Farm we had chosen for our holiday destination. After that, we cleared "Nothing to Declare" and found our way to the hotel car.
That afternoon and evening we met up with some friends from Australia, and enjoyed the sounds of the Philipino lounge band at the Hyatt. Also, there is a Japanese restaurant in the Hyatt which is amazing--highly recommended. The next day, we had planned to go sightseeing, but the car was going to pick us up at 2pm to go to the wedding, which we would be doing something with until midnight.
So all we did was explore the many shopping centers near the hotel. I did find it curious that there is a GAP in Jakarta, but not one in Hong Kong. Oh well, at least I could pick up some cheap t-shirts while in Jakarta. The wedding was huge--well the wedding itself was in a church in a leafy suburb of Jakarta, still large. But the reception was huge, almost 1200 people. I had 87 at mine for comparison. It was a grand time, and the next day we found our way back to Jakarta airport for the trip to Bali.
Pictures of Jakarta:
Picture of the happy couple:
When I was working with the travel agent for the ticket from Jakarta to Bali, she had quoted me HK$5200 for 2 in economy class from Jakarta to Bali. She said first class would be HK$5890 for 2. I opted for first, after all, we were traveling on Christmas Eve!
For those who have not flown Garuda first class, you are in for a treat. Seriously a treat. They greet you at the entrance and take away your bags. You give them your itinerary and 30,000RP each, then they wisk you away to the sharp business class lounge. Later, they find you in the lounge and give you your boarding pass, baggage tags, etc.... The lounge was nice with good apron views and good food.
A View from the Lounge:
At boarding they call you, and act like you are extremely late for the flight. Everyone in a uniform yelling at you, "Garuda 408, please hurry!" Until you arrive on the plane and realize that the nice Persian family also in the lounge has not arrived yet either. They board about 10 minutes later. This was a nicely refurbished 737-300, and the service was impecable. I cannot say I am so surprised as ASEAN countries really have mastered airline service--though I still thought Garuda was in some financial difficulties. I hoped I helped with our two business class seats, they certainly earned my respect.
Pushback and taxi were quick and smooth. They don't do the taxi into position and hold in Jakarta, instead, you are swung around like a loop on a race track and then full speed on a straight away into the sky. Here are some pictures:
All pictures of GA408:
A sparcely painted Merpati 737:
Liftoff, with castoffs or Hajj charters below:
The flight was relatively smooth even though most of it was flown through clouds. However, on the way into Bali, the clouds started to break up which provided some nice views on landing. The service in the flight was really great--from attention to food, no complaints. Except an article in Newsweek provided by the airline which essentially stated that flying on Garuda or other domestic Indonesian carriers is extremely dangerous. This proved to not to be the case. Here are some landing shots.
Landing in Bali is unique. It appears that you can mingle with the international passengers, but really you can. Then upon leaving the baggage claim, you need only to prove which bag is yours with the claim stubs and you are on your way. We met our friend who landed an hour before us from Hong Kong directly and rode to the Grand Hyatt. What a lovely hotel. The next five days in Bali were amazing, for me, it was quite different when I last went to Bali in 1985 on a family holiday when I was nine years old.
Here are some Bali pictures:
All Pictures of Bali:
Hotel Room View:
Pissing down rain (first two days):
Japanese Woman in a Bikini:
Then the trip had come to an end, and it was time to go. We scooted off to the airport and found the Cathay check-in. At check-in, they had an offer for for US$250pp you could upgrade to business class, which we took, because it is Christmas time. We did not have enough time to enjoy the lounge, but went around to browse before going to the gate. The plane, a 744, was already boarding as CX784 to Hong Kong. We found our way to the upper deck and took our seats. Right away, we knew we made the right decision.
The taxi to takeoff showed some interesting visitors on ground at DPS, carrying what I can only speculate as Russian holiday goers (there were lots of Russians at the Grand Hyatt). Take a look:
All Pictures of CX784:
Upper Deck & Cockpit:
Taxi was smooth, and after a takeoff roll of what seemed no longer than a few hundred feet we were in the air. This was the last picture I took because it became dark while in flight, and I wanted to enjoy the business class seat. Here is the take off:
Turning on for departure:
Bye, bye, Bali: