Monday, 28 November 2011

Hotel Accommodation Bali New Years Eve

Trying to find accommodation in Kuta, Bali 5 weeks before New Years Eve was a bit of a mission over the weekend even though I was staying on the island. I will be back next month for 2 nights over New Years eve and I wanted to be in Kuta where the most fun can be had and it's the most lively spot. However, after checking over 30 hotels, guest houses, travel lodges, losemen, villas, backpackers both on line and walking into different places I was met with full over the seasonal period or you need to book online or we only have rooms if you are staying 3 or more nights.

It seems that all of Bali's hotels have already been booked up from the 23rd December to the 2nd January.

 The days of walking into a hotel in Bali over Christmas seem to be disappearing. 60,000 rooms apparently have been built around Bali in various forms of lodgings so believing everything was full took some time. Asian Rooms, Wotif and Agoda all had hotels available but I don't want to pay 4 million a night upwards and even a local Bali hotel search site had a warning to book different times than the dates I wanted.

Now this is not to say that all hotels will be full if you just arrive but the price will hurt I think and if you are planning to just turn up, be prepared to do some leg work and spend some time finding a room. Poppies 1 is almost full, therefore I will make the assumption Poppies 2, Legion and then into Seminyak is also filling up fast.

Still I eventually found rooms and have some great rooms for a higher than normal price but they will do and they look wonderful. You will know more in January. But for now....

is not the nicest message you want to hear when planning New Year in Paradise. 

Air Asia Indonesia

I seem to write a lot about Air Asia, now that every one can fly but I guess that is because something always happens when I do fly with them, good or bad but still it happens, however on this occasion I thought I would bring the world up to speed with what has been happening down our neck of the woods Air Asia
Last week all Air Asia Indonesia flights from Jakarta were moved to the highly polished and badly signed Terminal 3 at the airport, which has to be ultimately the best thing that could have happened. Why? well mainly it is simply the nicest part of the airport and the newest and shiniest part.

Now in Indonesia you can fly from different airports to different places in Asia but hardly anywhere inside the country.
From Jakarta you can fly to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore internationally yet only to Yogyakarta and Bali no more than 6 times a day. Thats it there is no other route from Jakarta to Medan or Makassar, but just the 2 destinations. I guess that the other routes are not profitable so they withdrew the service.
The prices for flights are dependent on the season, time of flight and the promotion Air Asia is having.

As a low cost airline they are just that. Professional but cheap. Nothing wrong with the planes but the crews look tired and in need of a break and the ground staff at times lack any kind of desire to help. But again thats not always true as I have received so great help and service from the people working for the airline.

So Terminal 3, is a vast new terminal and big and airy and quite nice to relax in before your flight.

The terminal has been changed now so that there is an international departure check in and a domestic check in. All self scan and if you need to check luggage in then there are open desks. It is really simple to do and if there is any issues someone will help you.
Through the sliding doors you enter into another vast space where there is GM Baki, JCO, Circle K, some ATMs etc and a few screens telling you all the flights are late. You can either go to the arrival gate and wait for people or go up the escalator to the departure lounges and shop in the massively over priced and useless Keris (they have large pieces of luggage for sale, not sure how you get that on the plane), an overpriced book store, some small restaurants, a typical airport Starbucks high on smiles, low on cleaning tables and not much else. There are more screens here and there still not telling you much.
The tannoy is equally as bad as the place is not designed for the use of a sound system acoustically but it still gets its fair share of usage.
To the left is the international lounge which is all behind glass and screens and to the right domestic departures. You pay your 40,000 idr to leave just before you go into the departure lounge. Forget what the ticket states for the departure gate, there is only one way down to the aircraft. The screens inside do not tell you anything about your flight and the only tannoy announcements you hear are for someone to board the flight to Singapore. However boarding the plane is simple, easy and hassle free.

Coming back into the airport the arrivals is of course on the ground floor and you have to walk to the building from the aircraft. This huge cave of a building is soul less and empty of life when you walk through it and the conveyor for your luggage is signed but never moves quickly.
To leave you just walk straight and thats it. Security might glance at you but nothing more. Walk past the restaurant with the live music welcoming you to Jakarta and then follow the signs to the exit. In true Indonesian style only one set of exit doors will be operational and then head into the chaos that exists outside all terminals at Jakarta airport. Taxis and Buses and people trying to sell you taxi bus or other vehicle rides.

The main taxi company for T3 seems to be Diamond, and I cant use them. Gading again seem to be there, cant trust them either. White Horse premium is pushed and pushed but they are way too expensive. So you sit and wait for a normal cab (Blue Bird, gamya, Express etc) while the taxi people push and shout at each other to gain service. Its a mess. And as it is T3 it is a way from the main terminals so there are fewer taxis.
There is a bus to T1 or 2 and that runs every 5-10 minutes and from T2 you can get a bus into the city to Blok M or Gambir railway station.

The taxi ride into the city is metered and you have to pay a surcharge to different zoned parts of the city as well as the tolls which is 12,000 at Pluit.

Despite my moaning, T3 is the nicer of terminals and is more relaxed and clean and cool than T1 or 2 and I ultimately do enjoy flying with Air Asia as they do what they say on the tin, they fly people in the air through Asia.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

5 Star hotels Jakarta

The best thing about working is looking forward to not working and this week has to be no exception to that rule. I have been busy and not really stopped all week and so knowing the weekend was on its way was the best thing to look forward to.
Despite the normal duty of working Saturday morning, I was eager to get there and therefore eager to leave. Taxi booked for 1pm and then to the city for fun and to relax. 

On Sunday last week someone from the maintenance department in the apartments paid a call telling me that water was leaking from my bathroom into the corridor below and that someone needed to come and fix it. So without too much fuss it was arranged for a visit on Monday and then to be repaired on Tuesday. As normal, nothing ever goes to plan so the visit never happened on the Monday and then on Tuesday 2 scruffy looking men knocked on the door armed with a bucket and a hello mister and proceeded into the bathroom and with the door closed behind sweated and sorted the bathroom floor out. An hour later, they left the bathroom and went away leaving a lot of mess, dust and dirt for me to sort out and the shine taken off the floor. I suspect the bill will arrive soon for their company. It can wait to be paid. Still no one has called since about leaking water so they must have done the trick.

The taxi booked for Saturday unsurprisingly never arrived and so seeing it was such a hot and dry day I wandered away from work to look for a taxi, which eventually I found. We sped at great speed despite the traffic into the city and to Plaza Senayan where I was meeting my Fiancee.
Currently in the city and country are the SEA games or the South East Asia games, a bit like the commonwealth games only more so and so the traffic and amount of buses has increased dramatically as have the lack of taxis free. Still after getting to the Plaza, we go and eat in the food court. Fat Burgers are now my favourite burger of choice in the city as the one I had was great. 

From there we headed back in a taxi to my overnight stay at one of cities finest hotels. The Hotel Mulia.  A hotel of luxury and riches and a price to go with it. After getting through security tighter and more controlled than the international airport here, we were greeted and shown to reception and checked in.
I have been in grand hotels before and 5 star ones across the world but Hotel Mulia stands apart so far, for me, although like the Hotel Boroburdur the entrance and commotion was strangely the same. Lots of people stood about waiting for cars and taxis, lots of cars and taxis and noise and staff in smart uniforms trying to help everyone. 
Getting our room key we then proceeded to the elevator lobby (8 in total) got in one and then had to insert the room key to get the elevator to move as they have clever security there. 
We were on the 33rd floor although I suggest it was not more than the 7th floor as the numbering was odd and strange. 
Still hotel rooms are hotel rooms thats for sure and so this was not to be any different except it was. The room was huge and was spacious yet full of big furniture and plush furnishings. 
The view was looking south east over the city and that was amazing. 

The best thing apart from the big bed and free fruit was the bath and the endless supply of hot water. I have missed deep bath tubs ad long baths thats for sure. 

For a change it was nice to stay in luxury and enjoy the facilities offered by the hotel. In the evening we went out to FX mall for food and some shopping and then headed  back to the room.

Sadly our package did not include breakfast so as it was being a 5 star place, I paid for the breakfast which I have to say was on the whole very good. As the hotel caters for lots of Chinese and Japanese there was simply plenty of Japanese food available for breakfast, as well as the normal Indonesian stuff. The western option was OK, not as good as the Borobordur but still waffles and syrup, dragon fruit and 6 different types of cheese helped fill me up!! Coffee was refilled slowly but it was refilled. The breakfast room was brimming with people and we got there early! and it seemed very busy all the time. Well worth the 400,000 rupiah for 2 that I paid.

Eventually time ran out and so we had to check out and leave and head out back into the city. I cant complain. It was a freebie and instead of forking out something close to $300 USD for the stay, I just had to pay for the breakfast and taxis. Now that is great news. 

For more details on the hotel click here and an  in depth review here

Pouring with rain, from the hotel we were heading into the JCC or Jakarta Convention Center which is next to the hotel and massive in size. Because of the Asian games the place was gridlocked but we eventually got to the JCC and then to find someone who was carrying something very important of mine.

In order to get married, I have to prove my age and this has to be done through my original birth certificate. This is or rather was in England. Luckily my Auntie Pat lives next door to a woman who works for Bath University and the University was part of an European Education fair in the city so through mum and my auntie and a wonderful woman called Sally, I am now reunited with my birth certificate, now I need to careful not to lose it!!!
I was also spoilt by mother to some chocolates from Marks and Spencer, new clothes, English Crisps and from Sally a big jar of Marmite which is simply great. Thank you. Smiles abound we said our farewells to Sally and headed then to Thamrin to get some cheap bedding in the Java Department store and then home to the apartment for the rest of the day.

All in all it has been a fantastic weekend full of surprises and fun and treats and luxury. Roll on Bali in a couple of weeks....

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Remembrance Sunday

Next Sunday will be for everyone English, Remembrance Sunday, which is preceded by Armistice Day or 11 November, the day when the Great War ended in 1918. The war to end all wars was the first global world war, engulfing millions, displacing millions and sadly ending the lives of millions. A war that is responsible in some way for many historical events since.

One of the most poignant symbols after the war was the humble poppy. The poppy was a flowering plant which would grow and flower in the war torn battlefields of Belgium (Flanders) where there was some of the worst fighting and then amongst the war graves until it became an iconic and globally known image of the war.

It is worn and used by many countries around the world to help people show their respect to the people who served, fought and died in the first world war and all conflicts since, including current theatres of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In England, Remembrance Sunday is a day when people stop and pay their respects through laying wreaths of poppies and also holding 2 minutes silence at 11am. London comes to a standstill as the government, the royal family and  many veterans of all major conflicts march past the Cenotaph (a war memorial) and lay wreaths there. Also across the country, people lay wreaths at their local war memorial where ever they live.

This act of remembrance is also conducted through out the world where ever there is a war grave and over this week these war graves will also have poppies wreaths laid. At sea as well, wreaths of poppies are ceremoniously placed into the ocean.

In Indonesia, I am sure the Dutch will be laying wreaths in the war graves at Menteng Pulo or Ancol and other places throughout the country. The main war grave for England its Commonwealth nations is in Ambon and going there is not really advised at the moment.

For more information about the Ambon British war grave click here.

For me, I will paying my respects both on November 11 at 11 am  for the end of the Great War and then on  Sunday again at 11am to pay my respects to those men and service women who have fought and died in order to defend my freedom.

Even though there are no survivors of the Great War left now and the veterans of World War 2 are fading into glory, every day there are countless people fighting in far flung corners of the globe trying to bring peace and freedom to many. Whilst we may not agree with the politics or the reasons why the soldiers there are doing their jobs with determination and care they should not be forgotten or dismissed. Every nation has its soldiers somewhere trying to bring peace to another nation. If in doubt click this. Indonesia for example has nearly 2000 personnel working for the United Nations Peace Keeping Force where as the UK has 450. However the UK is currently involved in 7 major conflicts in various roles through the world which involves thousands of people risking their lives day in and day out.

I hope they are kept safe and do their job as they were trained to do and they all come home to the heroes welcome they deserve, fit and well.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
by John McCrae, May 1915

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.     
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.