Our Wrong Airport Story

A few years ago, my girlfriend Zara and I went on holiday to Jakarta, Indonesia, to visit my parents.

Whilst planning our trip, we booked a mid-holiday visit to Bal for two things; my friends Alberto and Inseon's wedding, and we were meeting Zara's childhood best friend, Lauren, and her fiancée Thomas, who live in Australia.

Zara has a degree in tourism, and she used to work as a travel agent, so naturally, she insisted on booking the Jakarta-to-Bali flights.

So we sat in the kitchen, before we left, booked the flights, and had a couple of drinks to celebrate.

Fast forward to having spent almost a week in Jakarta, it was nearly time for us to make our way to Bali.

In Jakarta, the staple taxi service is called Blue Bird. Pretty standard Hyundais and Toyotas carting people around town for very cheap. The upgrade, Silver Bird, took the much-quicker toll roads and chauffeured you around the city in a Mercedes Benz.
That only cost about £10, compared to the usual £4, well worth it for a comfortable trip to the airport.

And well worth it to make sure you get there on time, especially  in the Big Durian, which is well known for its crazy traffic.

We arrived to find we were at the local/ domestic terminal. People there aren't used to tourists, you can tell the whole place is not set up for visitors from outside the country; the desks are cheaper-looking, the lights are those crappy plastic-dirty long lights you get in old schools, it's smaller, there's no Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts (two franchises that dominate places that Westerners can be seen.) Oh, and nobody speaks English. 

Good job that back then, I had a really basic grip of Bahasa Indonesia. 

Well, good enough to realise that the girl behind the desk wasn't confiming with me that we were going to Denpasar, the Bali airport, and was instead saying "Balikpapan."


Here's our conversation, fully translated into English:

Her: "Balkipapan?"
Me:"No, Denpasar in Bali."
Her: "this ticket is for Balikpapan"
Me: "in Kalimantan?"
"Yeah, look here." She said, pointing at the ticket.

She was right. We were off to the land of Orangutans. 


We should have suspected something was off when we got to that terminal; the flights from Jakarta to Bali are from a really swanky AirAsia terminal.

Zara didn't have a clue at this point, so I turned to her and told her that the tickets were wrong.

You can imagine how that went. You can imagine what was going through her head, too. 

We spent money on those tickets. 
They're to the wrong place. 
We might not make the wedding. 
We might not see Lauren.

Understandably, she burst into tears, sobbing and saying sorry. 

For a second, I decided it might be a good idea to go with the flow. 

"Shall we just go to Balikpapan? I mean, we have the tickets".

That didn't go down well.

"No, babe!" Zara shouted. "We've got a wedding to go to and I promised Lauren we'd meet her!".

I walked off straight away, prompting Zara to walk with me back to the ticket office to buy a ticket to BALI this time and not BALIKPAPAN (Easy mistake to make, from the first four letters) and this time, I was going to order the tickets. 

As we're walking from the check-in desks to the ticket office, she's still crying, loud sobs as she walks.

It's drawing attention to us.

The taxi drivers that wait outside the airport to ask people arriving into town if they want a taxi, were looking concerned at Zara, crying, then me, storming ahead. 


Weary that a white knight local gent might step in, I noticed this and hung back.

"Babe, it looks like I've just hit you or something, please stop crying!" I said out of the side of my mouth.

I looked like I'd just given her a dig in the ribs. 

Well, judging by the faces of the full pavement's worth of taxi guys I did. They stared at me and I didn't know where to put myself, while my crying girlfriend slowly followed me past their judgy, nosy faces.

We finally made it to the ticket office in one piece and managed to get on the next flight to Bali, so we only had to wait 4 hours. 

So it all worked out in the end, even though it cost us the price of two full tickets. 

We did still end up staying in the crap terminal, that by midday, only had chips left across all of its restaurants (and only a few beers, too).

But this short story has a moral, as not everyone would be as lucky as us:

Get the airport right when you book tickets!

If getting there wasn't bad enough, we had to cancel our flights back to Jakarta because just days earlier, a pilot crashed a plane of the same airline having had too much speed in his system!

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