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Goodbye Bali, Hello Thailand

SINGAPORE | Sunday, 18 November 2007 | Views [1885]

Sunrise over Changi Airport

Sunrise over Changi Airport

I left Bali late on Thursday evening and flew to Singapore. I had heard about the wonders of Changi airport -- reclining chairs for naps, a rooftop pool and gym, free internet, free movies, great shopping, good food -- and figured it wouldn't be a bad place for a 6 hour layover in the middle of the night.

However, I didn't realize that my low cost carrier (Jetstar) would not transfer my baggage, leaving me with my baggage and no boarding pass, effectively barred from the wonders inside the terminal until the check-in desk opened two hours before my flight. I was stranded in the public area outside of the terminal, looking for ways to amuse myself between 1 am and 5 am. Most of the seats were taken by weary travelers draped over their luggage, and only one cafe remained open.  Trying to keep myself awake, I wandered around and eventually discovered the shadowy "Viewing Mall" on the second floor, where there was a view of the dark tarmac.

As I pushed my baggage cart around, I made friends with an airport employee named Michael. We ended up talking for about an hour, and he seemed in no hurry to return to work. His parents are from Sumatra, but he was born in Singapore. He told me about his Australian wife who had just left him to become a yoga instructor in the Canary Islands. He is Muslim, she is Catholic, so he had to keep the marriage a secret from his family who would not have approved. He also told me quite a bit about Singapore until around 3 am, I started yawning in his face, and he left me to take a little nap on the lovely hard plastic chairs. Earplugs helped block out the snoring from the guy a few rows down, and the shrieking of the teenage kids who had come to spend the night hanging out in the airport.  I was out cold for a couple of hours, and woke up with a start around 5 am, just in time to stand in line to check my bag.

Finally, exhausted, I boarded the plane to Phuket, filled to the brim. I was seated around two groups of lads, one French, the other English, both acting laddish in distinctly French and English ways, excited for their boys-only holidays. I felt old, but quite okay with this - it seems far too exhausting to be in the party-party backpacking set.

I'm probably the only person in the world to come to Phuket and not go anywhere near the coast. I am a bit overwhelmed by all the different beaches in Phuket and anyway, am more interested in the islands and coastline south in Krabi province.

My plan is to use Phuket town as a stopover en route to the islands since it is close to the ferry port. It's the administrative and commercial center of the island, a real working city with a few glimmers of beauty in the old Portuguese architecture and a stunning temple. It actually fits my purposes perfectly as a sort of transition zone between Bali and Thailand. I wasn't quite ready to be in Thailand when I arrived and need to get things like contact lens solution and a new SIM card (if anyone wants the novelty of calling or texting me, email and I'll send the number).

After breakfast on my first day, I felt revived and started walking in the general direction of the coast, thinking that the ferry terminal couldn't be far away. I thought I could feel the seabreeze, and so I walked in the direction of the wind. And walked and walked and walked. I ended up in a residential neighborhood where I imagine few visitors tread since everyone looked at me with curiousity, and was especially friendly. When I stopped to buy a bottle of water, the cost was a fraction of the price in the city center. I finally gave up since it was high noon and scorching and I did not feel like having a repeat of my heat exhaustion experience.

I made my sweaty way back to the hotel and spent a lovely lazy afternoon vegging out in the air-conditioning in front of my cable TV which played old episodes of "ER" and "Designing Women" (except it was the same episode over and over again). My stomach was not so happy with me, so I decided to stay an extra day before moving on, and somehow that day is already over and it's time to pack my bags again.

I'm leaving tomorrow on a ferry to Koh Phi Phi, the island of "The Beach" (as in Leonardo DiCaprio) fame. Everything I read about Phi Phi bemoans the development of the island which was supposed to be protected land, so I'm going to try to stay on a more remote part of the island, Ao Toh Ko on the east side, at a rustic place with lots of rave reviews on Travelfish.com. Let's hope it's not like in "The Beach"...

I'll report in a few days when I am back near internet access.

Tags: airports, changi airport, in transit, jet star, layovers, singapore

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