This is the first post regarding my recently-concluded trip to the Indonesian capital — Jakarta.
A few months back, I was nominated for an enablement by my then manager in Software Lab Services. It was a training on IBM FileNet P8 4.5 Java API Programming. I thought it would be the usual training to be held in the Learning Services area of IBM Plaza.
I was wrong.
As I read the spreadsheet and looked for the training ID to check the schedule, the location column caught my attention. Jakarta. I thought I was being fooled my vision so I read the whole row again. Jakarta.
I’m going to Jakarta! I’m finally going out of the Philippines for the very first time!
Getting to the point of me finally going to Jakarta was a roller coaster ride to say the least. I enrolled in on-line Indonesian lessons since there are only a few English speakers in Indonesia. I prepared my travel request forms and have them approved. The training was postponed numerous times before finally having a set date. Three days before my scheduled flight, I was informed that I won’t be going to the training anymore due to some problems with the travel form approvals. On Friday last week, I already sent an e-mail to IBM Education in Indonesia stating that I am canceling my slot for the training. Five minutes after that e-mail, I was informed that I’d be going after all.I was booked for a 7 AM flight to Jakarta. Which airline? Asia’s first, Philippine Airlines. My sister told me the night before that she’d be picking me up so I can spend the night in her condominium so that she and her boyfriend could bring me to the airport. Yey!
Being a first time international flier, I have little idea of what to do. I instinctively went straight to the luggage check in counter. I looked for the counter with a Jakarta sign and queued up. The line was quite long but waiting for my turn was bearable.
I was a little worried because I didn’t have US Dollars with me. I need US Dollars so I can exchange them for Indonesian Rupiahs when I arrive in Jakarta. I was sure that only a few would accept the Philippine Peso in Jakarta. The help desk told me that the money changers open at around 6:30 – not good. I have to board at least 20 minutes before the flight. Thank goodness Allied Bank opened at around 6 AM. I bought $155.
Right after having some money exchanged, I headed to the immigration where I spent a lot of time waiting. Goodness, couldn’t they speed up the process? It was almost 6:30 when I got past immigration. I made a dash to the gate where the plane to Jakarta is.
You can just imagine how relieved I was when I finally got into the airplane. I placed my backpack in the overhead bin and sat down. First thing I did? I checked out the magazines in front of me. One magazine, Fiesta, was for the in-flight duty free store, the other was the Mabuhay magazine.
We took off a few minutes past 7 o’clock. Being a morning flight, they served breakfast immediately after the seat belt lights went off. I got the Chicken Adobo meal. It came with bread, fruits, and ensaymada.
After three hours, the plane landed in Changi Airport in Singapore. Goodness, that airport is leagues ahead of NAIA. For one, it looks very clean and well kept.
Within an hour, we were asked to board the plane again. It was a shame since they asked us to board a minute after I started using the internet station, haha. I was able to update my Twitter and Facebook though.
After settling down, an arrival/departure card and customs declaration form were given to the passengers. I filled it up as soon as it was given to me. Snacks were also distributed immediately.
The flight from Singapore to Jakarta took around an hour and fifteen minutes. Pretty quick, eh? I’m guessing that the distance between Singapore and Jakarta is the same as the distance between Metro Manila and Davao City. We arrived on time, 12:30 PM Jakarta time.
I couldn’t remember if I asked for a transfer service from the airport to Mandarin Oriental so I had to boot up my laptop and check. Also, I exchanged $100 for its Indonesian Rupiah equivalent. When I checked the travel request form and saw that I didn’t have a transfer service reservation, I went to the Silver Bird booth and inquired how much it would cost for them to bring me to the hotel. They gave me options, including an S-Class Mercedes Benz, but I opted for the cheapest one which was a Toyota Kijang, also known as Innova here in the Philippines. I paid 261,000 IdR for the service inclusive of the toll fees. By the way, Silver Bird is a taxi company under the Blue Bird Group. The Blue Bird Group is the most trusted name in transportation in Indonesia.
When I got into the taxi, I was surprised to see that the steering wheel was on the right side. I thought Indonesia was a left-hand drive country. The driver of the taxi was very friendly. He knew little English, I knew little Indonesian. Thank God for hand gestures and pseudo-sign language! Initially, he thought I was Indonesian. He spoke to me in Bahasa so I responded by saying “Saya tidak mengerti.” – a phrase that I’d be using quite a lot during my entire stay in Jakarta since I’m always mistaken for a local. He asked some questions just to avoid having some dead air. The trip from the airport to Mandarin Oriental was around 45 minutes.
I arrived in Mandarin Oriental when it was about 2:50 PM. The security checks there were very strict! In EDSA Shangri-la, they just check the trunk of the car. In Mandarin Oriental Jakarta, they check the trunk of the car, the inside of the car including the glove compartment, and then they scan the belongings of a person, letting them pass through a luggage scanner.
The staff of Mandarin Oriental Jakarta were very friendly. Each of them remembered my name! I seriously don’t know how but whenever I pass by they would greet me by my name. The way they welcomed me was nice, providing me with a cool wet towel and a glass of iced tea.
While they were processing my reservation, I asked Seren, the receptionist, for a room with a good view of the Monumen Selamat Datang. She gladly considered my request and after processing my reservation, she accompanied me to my room. To my surprise, my room was located on the 23rd floor fronting the roundabout. She toured me around the suite and chatted with me for a bit before leaving. The room was oozing with luxury! Every bit and piece in the room were of good quality.
That’s it for now. This entry became a long one! I’ll be posting a second entry about my 6-day stay in Jakarta.