En route

When Mood Music
2006-08-25 17:16:00

The lunghi and I are currently in Singapore’s Changi airport. What a change from Sumatra! I take back what I said about Sumatra being a bit organised in comparison to India, at least as far as Medan airport is concerned.

Medan Moanings

  • Motorbike rickshaws (becak, where the passengers are carried in a two-person sidecar, with an optional third passenger on the bike’s pillion seat) aren’t allowed into the airport, so I was deposited (admittedly having been warned before the journey started) about 200 metres from the entrance to the terminal building.
  • Even though I was heading towards the terminal, other becak drivers tried to get my custom.
  • At the terminal, baggage is X-rayed before you can get too far in. However the X-rayers didn’t put the right sticker on my bag, so (instead of rechecking them), a baggage hauler just put a new sticker on my bag at the check-in desk.
  • At check-in, I was told that because I hadn’t used the Singapore to Medan part of my ticket, Singapore Airlines’ system had dumped my reservation for the Medan to Singapore flight. It took twenty minutes, a lot of discussion and the intervention of a supervisor to allow me to re-exist: my vegan food for that journey (admittedly only an hour) could not be provided.
  • After checking in, I was told to go to ‘fiscal control’. I did but was then told first to go to pay my airport tax (75,000 rupiah).
  • Then I could do go to the first part of fiscal control, hand in a bit of paper with my name and other details and be pointed in the direction of fiscal control part 2.
  • After that I could go through immigrasi, be questioned further and only after that could I go to the departure lounge.

I’m sure they have the space to funnel travellers so that they go to the right steps in the proper sequence without having to be sent from place to place. I don’t mind extra security precautions but I can’t stand inefficiency in these people-handling systems. It leads to more problems and delays as confused people who don’t speak the local language do incorrect things and jam the place up. And surely to goodness tax can be collected with the cost of the ticket. (Just checked – I did pay a tax as part of my ticket cost. GRRRR. However, everyone [Indonesians and others, flying internally or internationally] had to pay it.) It felt as if they wanted to detain me past my visa’s expiry so that they could then detain me even longer. Maybe I’m just paranoid but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.

By contrast, Changi is wonderful. I know it’s a monument to capitalism, but it’s a clean, organised, low-stress, polite and efficient one.

  • They provide free-to-use (for 15-minute slots – and it’s no problem to click and get another 15 minutes) PCs with FAST connections so I can, for example, moan at you all and check whether the UK hand luggage restrictions are still in place. (They are, so I’m going to have more adventures with speedpost in Calcutta.)
  • They also have a voice-over-internet-protocol phone system so you can make really cheap international calls. I used this facility to try to find out why my cellphone’s been playing silly buggers. Oops: my fault – my bill for August is already too large so Poseurphone have blocked all out-going transmissions until I pay them.) So I won’t be buying that Palm-enabled cellphone just yet, even though it comes with a free basic Palm PDA.
  • They have a large and clean food court with all sorts of cuisines, even Subway!
  • They even have employees who clean the dust from plant leaves.
  • It has a bookshop.

The lunghi and I love it. I used the PCs to check up on my phone account and was told that my account had been ‘closed’. I swore and was then guided by a couple of friendly and helpful technicians to the nearly free phones (a five-minute call to the UK cost under S$3, so less than 1 pound).

The technicians are X-ray machine technicians. They don’t have much to do but when there is a fault, they MUST fix it within 15 minutes – or install the spare while they fix the original one. Again, I like this.

OK, vastly overdue time to stop waffling, delve into a book and wait for another few hours.

Whatever time-zone we might be in right now, see you even sooner, spacecats!

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