The Big Durian

 In Trips

I was at the airport very early for my flight to The Big Durian… I did not manage to get any sleep during my night in Hong Kong, most likely because I slept on the way over for about 10 hours of the 16 hour flight. 

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No I don’t have a drinking problem…

I went to bed around midnight and decided to watch a movie but just couldn’t sleep… So I decided to empty the remainder of the minibar and start writing a blog post about the previous days. In the end I stayed up till I received my wake up call at 5.45am.

I went down to reception and finished the paperwork for the bill and requested a taxi. The city was dead quiet and taxi driver got me to the airport in 19 mins!

If you have never been to HKG airport then you will have no clue about the sheer size of it, it is HUGE!! But despite its size it is so well organised and efficient so I had no trouble to find the Cathay Pacific check in desk.

As I was very early and had not managed to call Cathay before my flight to arrange a seat, I asked the lady if there still was a chance to get an exit row seat on this flight. And would you believe it, after a quick call, she confirmed a seat at the back of the bus, seat 59A!

My boarding pass was accompanied by an invitation to any of the Cathay Pacific business class lounges, which would be a great place to spend some time before heading to the gate. But first I had to pass through security and I was hoping I would get a stamp in my brand new passport, but unfortunately they don’t stamp it… All you are left with is a tiny piece of paper that proves you are eligible to stay in HKG till a certain date.

The Big Durian - Lionell Travels - Copyright All Rights Reserved © 2015

Try to find your gate here…

Once you get through security there are up to 530 gates! At least that is what the signs said… Imagine getting lost here haha! My flight would depart from gate 47 and the closest lounge to that gate was The Bridge at gate 35.

It took a while before I found it, but eventually I was greeted by very friendly staff who asked if I wanted to take a shower before having breakfast. Did I already smell? I took a shower before leaving the hotel so I went to the breakfast area.

You enter the breakfast area by walking through a lounge seating area where it was pretty quiet. Then you walk around the corner and reach a huge room with tables and seats, this part of the lounge was about half full. I decided to take a seat close to the buffet and soon I picked up a familiar smell, the smell of fresh dimsum!!

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Oh my, fresh pork and mushroom dimsum with lots of sambal, now that is what I like for breakfast as I did not get a chance in Hong Kong city to eat any. There were so good that I ended up eating close to 30… The chef noticed and he smiled. I still had an apetite so decided to end breakfast with a couple of freshly baked croissants…

During breakfast I wrote a long post about the travels of my previous days and soon enough it was 8.30am and boarding would start in 15 mins. Everything packed into my trolley and off I went to gate 47… Euh flight to Brisbane? This can’t be right, back to the information board, crap flight delayed! Expected at 10.25am… You dumbass! I made a rookie mistake, always check the departure information board in the lounge so you save yourself time and effort!

The Big Durian - Lionell Travels - Copyright All Rights Reserved © 2015

Green tea latte

Oh well that was beyond my control and I decided to get myseld a green tea latte at Starbucks and kill the remaining time by finishing up the blog post. Time flew by and when I decided to check the departure info again, I noticed the gate number was finally showing, it had changed to 31 which meant walking to the other end of the terminal…

The big difference to boarding a plane here is how organised it all works with 2 queues for either first/business and economy and everyone is disciplined and stays in line. It didn’t take long to get on board and find my seat.

First impression of the Cathay Pacific crew? Friendly, smiling, caring, helpful and they all seemed to love their job! The main purser even came to personally greet me as a frequent flyer and asked me if I needed anything, even though I was not a member of the CX Marco Polo club.

I was given some juice and only minutes after when breakfast service began, I was attended by another stewardess: “Good morning mister Jansen, how are you? What would you like to have for breakfast this morning, an omelet with chicken sausage, fresh fruit and yoghurt or chicken & rice?”

What a difference to the service on AA where tou get barked at “pasta or chicken?!” without any smile or emotion on their face… I am sorry American Airlines, I love your loyalty program (till the changes of 2016 kick in) and the shitload of miles I am earning with this trip, but your staff sometimes… Of course there are exceptions but most of the times that is not air crew.

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Tasteful breakfast

Oh and the breakfast, even though it might look like nothing on the picture, was very tasteful! Way better than any other I had onboard these past couple of days. After breakfast service I put my seat back and somehow managed to fall asleep until the landing gear hit the runway of Jakarta International airport.

The crew greeted me by my name again, wished me a safe onwards journey and said their goodbye. Once I got off the plane I immediately got into the immigration area, at first I thought I could stay in the transfer area but after asking around there was nothing there and they told me to clear immigration as the check in desk for my next flight would only open at 7pm! I walked around clueless as I didn’t know where to go first and asked an immigration officer where I needed to go and he said I didn’t require a VOA (Visa On Arrival) and should just go to the immigration desk.

There I was asked the usual questions and replied I was in transit to my next destination and without any further questioning my passport got stamped and I could walk down the hallway towards the exit. Your passport will get checked again to make sure you had it stamped and then just follow the signs to the exit… The first thing that hit me was the heat and humidity, even the locals were puffing and sweating, it was 32 degrees outside! It didn’t take long before my shirt was drenched in sweat, ieuw!!

I didn’t manage to stay out long in this heat and decided to head back in where there was a bit of airco… I checked the signs and all of a sudden the flight I required popped up on the list so I decided to go through security, hoping to be able to check in. But unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way, because the check in desk would only open at 7pm! Damn it, that’s another 4 hours of waiting!

So there I was… stuck on another steel bench with crappy wifi. Oh well, suck it up and go on. It always funny when you are in a foreign country, that the foreigners in that country somehow get in touch with each other as I bumped into 3 business men from Australia who were in the same position as me. They wanted to get out of the secured area in order to get something to eat and drink… After asking a security officer, the 4 of us were allowed out, woohoo freedom!

Later that afternoon I exchanged some of the Hong Kong Dollars I had to the local currency so I could get myself a drink and around 5.30pm I decided to go back through security as the counter number for the check in was showing on the display. Things were starting to fall into place after all, check in would open at 6.30pm and while I sat there waiting I realised that I could use my OneWorld Sapphire status to check in at the business class desk. First one in line, check!

As soon as check in started, I asked if it would be possible to get an exit row seat on tonights flight and I got a smile back which confirmed it! No luggage to check in, and I was handed 4 boarding passes for all upcoming flights, a voucher to get me into the lounge and a leaflet explaining the rules and guidelines of exit row seats.

I was a happy camper and couldn’t wait to get into the shower at the lounge. All I had to do was ask the waiter for a towel…

“I’m very sorry sir, we just brought all towels to the laundry.”
“OK, how am I supposed to dry myself after the shower?”
“If you want we’ll give you a pack of paper towels?”

I just started laughing, seriously what the hell is going on during this trip… Imagine being almost 2 meters tall, you know how many of those tiny paper towels it takes before you’re dry? A whole pack hahaha!

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“Bitterballen” in Jakarta…

Feeling all refreshed, I went into the lounge area… Not the best lounge I’ve seen on this trip, the variety of food and drinks was minimal and there was no alcohol served because Indonesia is partly Muslim country, no offence to them at all, if it’s their rules, just obey the local culture and what comes with it. I had a couple of small snacks and made sure to stay hydrated with plenty of water and juice.

All I had to do now was sit back and relax, enjoy my time here and later on head to gate D7 for my flight to the land of the Rising Sun!

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