Alarms? Who needs 'em. Neither of mine woke me up on Sunday, because I awoke before them, at about 0330 local time in Jakarta - that is to say, 2130 Saturday night UK time. Figured I might as well get up early and onto an earlier bus than I'd originally requested: 5am it is. I've done the hop, I've done the skip, it's time to jump home.
The hotel room's shower was the most powerful I've ever used, proper invigorating and easy to get the temperature right. I almost felt human when I left the room, though the lack of air conditioning in the corridor and reception was kinda unpleasant.
Anyway. Fine. I'm in business class. That's not a bad thing, and to be honest it's probably for the best that I didn't upgrade, financially. So through security (again) I go, and immigration. There's still virtually no-one around, and after a bit of a walk I find myself at the entrance to the first class lounge. Damn it. Round the corner to business I go, a long lounge with only 3 other passengers in it.
First things first I grab some breakfast. I'm pretty hungry, and the food looks pretty great. There's a varied selection of things so I get two plates: sausage, rice, potatoes and veg followed by egg and rice puffs and some dumpling things. I opt not to try "chicken porridge". It's all pretty nice, as is the diet coke I wash it down with. There's no self-pour alcohol and besides, it's probably a bit too early, don't you think?
With no-one around I explore a bit. It becomes apparent that actually this lounge is better than the first class one. There's loads more to do: a cinema room, some reflexology foot massagers, smoking and prayer rooms, a big balcony area with more food, a creche area, more variety of seating, etc. I sit down and have my feet pummelled for 15 minutes in "sports recovery" mode and y'know what, they really do feel great afterwards.
What I should be doing is blogging Saturday. I start, but stop fairly soon because by 0710 or so I'm fidgety and anyway the lounge is now actually moderately busy. I go for a wander toward the gate, wondering why on earth a brand new terminal in a hot country's airport doesn't bloody have air conditioning. What it does have, though, are fans in each pillar which blast out cold air in your face if you walk too close. Also a statue of WRATH.
I learn another Indonesian word: "eksekutif" means "executive". And I wonder what a "reconciliation room" is.
The plane is at the gate. Lots of shops are closed. The departure boards only list the flight as having a destination of Singapore, not London, which seems like it would confuse less experienced travellers. There's a sign at the gate saying people going to Heathrow need to have their bags go through yet more stringent security due to UK government requirements, but this turns out to be bullshit.
Once boarding starts, they announce it's for business class only right now. Loads of people thrust forwards and get turned away one by one. A few of us make it through and I'm down the airbridge, turn left, and at seat 6A. Hang on. This seat... it looks cramped, and a bit tatty. What's going on? I'm actually pretty underwhelmed - at first glance it seems like a worse seat than on the previous flight, the only benefit being having no-one next to me.
But, once I've settled in I think nah, I'm wrong: this is decent. The TV screen is closer, there is less forward room and my feet have to cramp quite close together into the cubby hole, but the table next to me is great and I will very much enjoy having no seat mates. The table doesn't come out of an arm rest and the power sockets and remote are all much more convenient to reach. Yeah, this'll do nicely actually.
I do have phenomenal curtain envy though. Why did I put myself in the first row of business class? Now I can spend the whole damn flight staring at the curtain between me and first class, wishing I'd managed to score an upgrade. Fucking first world wanker woe is me, how will I get over this. Oh, champagne? That might help. It is almost 8am after all.
The monitor welcomes me to flight GA826. The man on the tannoy welcomes us all to flight GA806. This is flight GA86 to Singapore and onward to London. The first little bounce is only going to take about an hour and a quarter, and Singapore is an hour ahead of Jakarta. I don't really understand how that is, considering it's further east, but whatever.
There's reasons we fly a short bounce to Singapore first: apparently, Jakarta airport's runway can't actually deal with a fully loaded 777 so it has to take off far from fully fuelled. Thus they sell this as a service to Singapore in its own right, plus Singapore to London, as well as the fully through service. Being such a quick first leg I'm not expecting much service but in fact there's a decent breakfast choice, orders for which are taken before take-off..
I realise on all previous flights I've never looked at the inflight magazines, so I have a quick browse through. They're all rubbish. Time to plane spot a bit instead.
It's not the name of a pub. It's a butterfly garden. A greenhouse full of butterflies. Airside.
Singapore airport also has a cinema, a 24 hour food hall, a hotel, a rooftop bar with botanical garden and live music, etc etc. The corridors with shops are spacious and the whole airport is just so much my favourite in the world I think I should go visit expat Alex just so I can spend more time there. I mean it'd be nice to see Alex too, of course.
Anyway anyway anyway. That wasn't actually what I was here for. I wanted to pop into the lounge, just to sample it but also to try and finish and upload my blog post. It was a bit of a trek, but the receptionist was very welcoming and told me the flight would be announced so no need to worry.
I grabbed a drink and typed furiously, only managing to reach a little way through the Melbourne airport experience before the announcement came. Damn it. Upon leaving the lounge I'm given really confusing advice on how to get back to gate B9: apparently I can walk the wrong way first, then get the monorail, in order to get there quicker? This seems ridiculous so I just walk, fast enough to break a proper sweat.
Back at the gate there's more baggage security. I've been x-rayed 3 times already today, bloody hell. After emptying all my pockets into a tray I ask if I need take off my watch and am told no; the machine beeps alarmingly when I walk through, but not when I do it again without the watch. God damn it!
The gate area is crowded but boarding starts immediately and at 1138 I'm back in 6A. There's new crew, all smiles, and I'd love a champagne thanks. My pad is getting pretty frayed, and I only now notice the comedy list of potential uses printed on the inside rear over.
Then chicken with asparagus and potato. It's nice, but not quite as spectacular as that stuff on the Melbourne to Jakarta leg. What helps is that the champagne keeps getting refilled without me asking.
Cheese and port go together well, especially now that the port is actually port and not dessert wine.
Oxtail soup arrives first, looking a bit different to the same choice on Saturday's flight but tasting every bit as delicious.
Garuda's best food in the air is fish. Hands down. This is cod, and is totally delicious.