Day 1 (January 31, 2004)

Only got to bed around 4.30am, we had so much work to do with 4 projects on the run last week, getting up again at around 8.30am, time for a shower and to shave my head before Claire’s mother arrived to pick up the lovely George and whisk him back to his own holiday destination on the sunny north shore.

David arrived around 11am, lovely boy had agreed to take us out to the airport.

Everything was pretty stress free at the airport, security has been stepped up significantly, with luggage screening even before you can check at the desk.

The plane (we flew on Garuda Indonesia) was delayed about 30 minutes, so we had an extended browse through the duty free stuff, I spotted a very nice leather wallet to replace my currently age tattered one, but decided not to buy it, instead seeing what I can get in Bali. Grabbed an icecream and enjoyed that while strolling along with rushed looking business folk streaing around us.

The plane was okay – an Airbus A330-300 – and we were in window seats, not stuck in one of the middle 4 seats, which would be super-homax, especially if you were in fact in the middle 2 of those. The service was pretty good, nothing seemed to be a problem. Didn’t want to drink too much on the flight, so I vicariously enjoyed a group of girl’s take far too much advantage of the free booze. Glazed (perhaps even slightly crossed) eyes, getting lost on the journey back from (very frequent) toilet breaks.

I’ll have to put further thought into a theory that has occurred to me about the compulsion to alcohol that seems to go hand in hand with air travel, what with the duty free shopping & the open bar on the plane and all, especially odd when considered alongside the fact that alcohol can seriously worsen jetlag.

We had a brief stopover in Brisbane, a city which I hadn’t previously visited. The security here is a significant step up from Auckland, even though everyone on the flight had already been screened getting on the plane, we were all now screened for a second time getting off. I was given a sheet of multi-lingual legalese to read before being scanned for explosives with a sniffer-doohickey, thankfully I left all my dynamite in my other pants.

Stuck in Brisbane with enough time to get bored, so I had a pork steamed bun, it was pretty bad, then jumped back onto the plane.

I guess the second leg, covering a greater distance, called for greater speed & altitude, where we’d previously been cruising at around 25,000ft we now powered up to 40,000ft (and 905km/h groundspeed). It’s lucky the plane wasn’t made out of air, I don’t know how long I could handle -55°C, I wonder what the wind chill value would be at that speed.

Anyway, another meal, poor Claire had ordered vegetarian when we booked our tickets, and the mean buggers took this to mean vegan, so while I got cheesecake, she got some crappy fruit, luckily I’m very nice, and shared mine with here.

Vegans are idiots.

The most supercool part of the flight came as it started to get dark – and we fkew icer (and through, sort of) a very active electrical storm, watching fork lightning dancing in the clouds & feeling like some of it was barely metres away. Of course, at 40,000 feet you don’t have anything to give much sense of scale, so the most intense bolt, which felt like it was maybe a metre in front of the wing, may have been 10km away.

Impressive and cool nonetheless.

We had a couple of movies to watch, Runaway Jury & something forgetable (I honestly don’t remember what is was).

My first impression as we flew into Bali, with lightning still providing a fine backdrop, was one of surprise at the scale of things, I don’t know exactly what I expectedm but it wasn’t the vast sea of lights that I got.

Stepping off the plane into the heat & humidity of the airport was a bit of a shock after enjoying airconditioning for 10 hours (and enjoying Auckland’s reasonably mild climate year round), it was still about 28°C at 9.30pm – 3 hours after sunset.

Queues for arrivals were so long as to be entirely unacceptable, we waited for about an hour, and starting in a queue with maybe 30 people in front of us, this is some significantly slow rubber stamping. To make things worse, there were clusters of staff behind the arrivals desks doing nothing. There was one guy stamping passports in our area, and 6 people sitting around. This is apalling for a country which is currently suffering an economic downturn (thanks to filthy fucker muslims bombing night clubs, if you don’t recall), with such a heavy reliance on tourist dollars, you’d think they’d make this just a little bit easier.

Once through that terrible example of awful service (or fantastic example of awful service, I suppose) customs was exceptionally quick, after grabbing our bags, and avoiding all the porters (a harbinger of things to come with several ports trying to grab my case, initially from where it was waiting for me, later from my hand), there was no queueing, and almost no pause through the customers process.

Outside to search through a sea of signs, looking for our names wasn’t an easy task when everyone got so excited and started moving around and thrusting towards us (with a barrier in the way this might sound worse than it was), finally Claire spotted it, and we went with our driver, who was very nice and friendly, to his van, to be whisked the short distance to our hotel. Claire suggested that I should tip him 5,000, but the smallest I had was 10,000, and Claire thought this would be too much.

The roads were crazy. Full of scooters (which are everywhere) & crazy drivers. People seem to make their own speed limits, and only use lane markings as a rough guide.

The Nathan Hotel (pronounced nut’arn), and more friendly service, it had started to rain on the drive, and before the van had pulled to a stop two Nathan Hotel staff were at our door with umbrellas.

Inside, and this place is seriously nice, especially considering what it (isn’t) costing us. Lovely pool, stone facing everywhere, and a very tidy room with much more aircon power than the room would dictate.

We planned on going for a wander around after dropping our stuff off, but a couple of minutes of flicking through the weird TV availalable and we were dozing on the bed.

IntroDay 2