My first ever experience of long haul travel

Lufty Jumbo Jet

I am writing this from my hotel room in Jakarta where I have been based all week. I’ve never been outside Europe before, so this was my first time travelling long distance. Well, I say that. In order to avoid air fares, once, as a family, we drove to Austria. That was a pretty long journey in terms of time, but this was long in both time and distance.

This created the prospect of jetlag, which is something I’ve never experienced before. The journey went well, but it was rather overshadowed by an incident at the end which I shall elaborate on in a few paragraphs.

I had to make my way to Heathrow in order to set off properly. I arrived at Victoria on my season ticket, so it didn’t have a variable cost to it. I bought a ticket that would take me to Heathrow via the Heathrow Express. This entailed having to travel a few stops round the circle line in order to get to Paddington. I got on the underground fine but when I came to transfer to the mainline, my ticket wouldn’t let me through the barrier. Upon asking a member of staff, I was told that my ticket was not valid for the underground. Given that the ticket did not have the words “not via underground” on it and that I got on fine at Victoria, I was convinced that the staff member was incorrect. Anyway, she wouldn’t let me through and insisted that I go to a window to buy a second ticket. There wasn’t anyone at the window and I couldn’t attract any attention. Eventually, I went back to the barrier and another member of staff let me through.

Arriving at Heathrow, I quickly realised that it didn’t work in the same way as any other airport I have ever been to. I was really quite confused as there was no clear information as to where one had to queue. Eventually I had to resort to desperation and ask someone. I was directed to the business class check-in and they took my luggage and gave me my boarding passes.

I wasn’t able to find the business class lounge so I settled for the normal departure lounge, which was really quite noisy and chaotic. One of the theological topics I want to look at in some detail is that of “hell” – where I’m not convinced the traditionalist view is really the biblical view. So I tentatively hold to an opinion that is known as “annihilationism.” However, if there is a hell on earth, it is the departure lounge at Heathrow terminal 3.

This was my first time ever travelling business class. There was some unpleasant talk by the departure gate by some snobs who thought that this made them in some way inherently better than those who were travelling economy. Don’t let me ever become that kind of person.

We were served dinner and then they turned the lights down. The seats could be turned to a flat position and we were provided with blankets so you could effectively turn your seat into a very small bed. Thankfully, as I’m short, the length didn’t bother me as much as it some of those over 6 feet tall. Ignoring the advice I was given to reset my watch as soon as I got on the plane, I treated it like a normal bedtime. If I had reset my watch, I’d have had to get up 2 hours later. So by the time I woke up, we were over the Bay of Bengal, about 2 hours out from Singapore.

Our transfer wasn’t as painful as expected. We were simply directed to go about two-thirds of the way round the airport (probably so we could get some nice views). We had a little time to kill but were able to go into one of the club lounges (though the name was not clear, and I wouldn’t have found it without help). The last leg of the journey was in 1st class, though I didn’t think it was as good as business class. There was an unnecessary amount of legroom and there was no in-flight entertainment (ok, the journey was only just over an hour and a half), but who am I to complain? I wasn’t paying for it.

We got to Jakarta in good time and had to get our visas on arrival. You pay 25 US dollars and fill in a little form. This was the first time I had ever got my passport stamped. Travelling within the EU, they don’t tend to do it, as we’re all one big family (complete with arguments, foibles and the odd black sheep).

There was a bit of queue but we got through OK. Then it was off to baggage reclaim. My colleague picked up his bag very quickly. I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Until finally…..

A sign came round the carousel saying “last bag” – mine had not come! What was I supposed to do? I thought it was a myth that bags were lost in transit. I know luggage gets damaged but I’ve never before come across a verified story of someone having their language lost by an airline. I made my way to a lost luggage desk where they spoke reasonable English (sorry, I didn’t have time to learn to any of the Indonesian languages before departure). I gave them a description of the bag and copies of my boarding passes.

After getting a reference number for the claim, I was advised to go to my hotel and the bag would be forwarded on. The trouble was, Singapore airport had no record of it having passed through their hands. If it did arrive, it would be about 1am, so I would go and see the concierge in the morning.

By the time I left, I was pretty much the last person out. I was waved through customs without any interrogation at all, as I was cutting a pretty lonely figure with just a small bag on my back. Thankfully, a car was waiting for me and I was whisked off to my hotel.

I can say I’ve now experienced jetlag but it’s not really what I was expecting. I thought that the way I’d managed my sleep and clock changes were ok, so I effectively got up really late on Sunday morning and went to bed early. Yet the next couple of days were mostly ok, except for the occasional “wave” of extreme tiredness that struck at apparently random times. For example, I’d wake up fine and have breakfast, only to come over all sleepy at about 9:30. Then I’d pick up after an hour and start to nod off around 3pm. But by 5pm, I’d be raring to go.

Update

The bag finally arrived at my hotel on Tuesday night. There was no label on it except for one saying “British Airways – priority world”. The proper luggage tag was gone, as was the padlock that I had put on the zip. The padlock was only one that came with the bag and the key was fairly generic-looking. So I suspect someone picked the lock to look inside for valuables. Finding only clothes, they decided to put it back. Of course, this is only speculation. I have no firm evidence to support this hypothesis, although none of the facts contradict it.

I’ve definitely learned some lessons from this, not least that you should always pack spare socks and underwear in your hand luggage! With that cheery mental image, I bid you adieu.

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2 responses to “My first ever experience of long haul travel

  1. Sunnyace

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