Monday, August 23, 2010

In Transit: Cambodia to Bali, Indonesia

I woke up bright and early this morning to get myself ready and make sure I didn't leave anything behind. By 6 a.m. I was downstairs with all my stuff paying out my hotel bill ($25 for the full four nights plus two days of breakfast, I love this!).

Today, my tuk-tuk driver was not late, thank goodness. I decided to use the guy that took me around Angkor yesterday, Sahd, since I felt like I could trust him after a whole eight hours of hanging out and small talk.

The drive to the airport in a tuk-tuk at 6 a.m. is about 25 minutes and cost $5. I got to the airport just before AirAsia opened their counters because they are adamant about not opening until exactly two hours before the flight takes off. 

While I was getting my ticket I saw a sign posted saying that, as of seven days before, Malaysia no longer offers Visa on Arrival... I panicked a bit, but no one asked me for my visa information like they did when I went to Vietnam. I gave them $10 to check my bag because I have decided that it's just not worth it to try to take it on the plane with me.

Then I walked over to go through security, but before I could do that there is yet another counter to go to. You have to pay a fee at the airport to leave. It's one of those things that in most Western countries they've begun incorporating into the flight costs so most people don't realize they're paying it. 

I remember having to do this in The Philippines; It cost something like $15. 

Well to leave Cambodia through an airport, friends, it costs $25. They even give you a ticket breaking it down:

  • Passenger flight charge: $20
  • Security fee: $2.75
  • VAT charge: $2.75
Seriously? It's not even 7 a.m. and I've already spent $40. By the time I get my breakfast and coffee I've spent another $7.

Luckily, the one and only restaurant also has free Wifi so I was able to frantically search the Malaysian immigration Web site to find that they revoked Visa on Arrival for several countries, but the USA isn't one of them.

With a sigh of relief and thought to myself that there are a lot of advantages that come with being an American and some of the small things we take for granted.

The flight, of course, went off without a hitch. I find Air Asia to be very organized, which is nice. I got through Malaysian immigration in about 20 minutes, changed a $20 bill over to Ringgit and then went straight to McD's to get some grub. After three weeks of nothing but rice or noodles and your typical Asian fare, I wanted a cheeseburger.

I honestly think Taiwan is this strange phenomenon where McDonald's actually tastes good, because the burger I had at KLIA was TERRRRRRRRRIBLE.

Going through immigration and security again I got really confused. They put you through immigration before security. Most other large airports do security first and so for a moment there I thought they just weren't going to do an actual security check save for the few random people they picked off here and there.

I was mistaken. It's just after immigration.

I did some quick browsing around a bookstore but since I only had like $10RM on me I couldn't really buy anything. Eventually I broke down and traded another $20 bill so that I could get some coffee and water and steal electricity while I used the free Internet. 

Because Air Asia is based out of KLIA they essentially have the entire International terminal. There were a good 12 flights going out that were Air Asia. It was kind of madness as well, because it's one of those setups where you have to walk out on the tarmac to get to your plane. 

This wouldn't usually be an issue, but the tarmac for each plane isn't directly outside of the gate. You have to walk halfway around the building in some cases.

People were getting confused about which plane was theirs. Honestly, the airline did everything they should have to let people know where they were supposed to be, even going as far as to label things, but travelers are often stupid and just go with the herd like cattle rather than paying attention to where they need to be.

Those are the people I generally try to avoid. 

Once we arrived in Bali, I realized it was a dumb idea to change that other $20 bill to Ringgit because I didn't have the necessary $25 to pay for my visa... and there weren't any ATMs on the side of the terminal before immigration. Whoops.

Luckily they were nice enough to allow me (and half the other people coming in) to leave my passport with the immigration official and go through to get to an ATM that was just on the other side.

I pulled out $1,000,000 Rupiah (ahem, $110), paid my visa charge, went through immigration without a hitch, collected my bag and stood in the ridiculously long customs line. 

You have to put your bag through the screening machine whether you're declaring anything or not and they had multiple drug dogs going through and sniffing around on everyone. It was a little intense.

Usually once you get through immigration you're pretty much done. I've never seen anywhere be so strict on customs enforcement.

Per the Lonely Planet's suggestion, I opted not to immediately hop in one of the many cabs waiting at the curb. Instead I walked across the airport parking lot, through the vehicle exit toll and a couple hundred meters further to catch a nice Blue Bird group cab. 

Along the way I was harassed by several motorbike drivers and one cabbie got really pissed when I told him I knew I could get my cab for half the price if I walked outside the airport. He argued with me and even followed me for a bit telling me I was wrong and stupid. I'm not sure why he thought this would make me want to get into his cab.

My cab driver, however, was really nice, helped me with my bags and used the meter which only got up to just over $18,000 Rupiah. I gave him $20,000 Rupiah, told him to keep the change and he seemed pleased. I liked him a lot better. (Mind you I only saved like $2 or $3 for my efforts... I've become a little penny pincher.)

Once in Kuta, I could tell what everyone meant by it being a party place. It was only about 8 p.m. and everyone was walking around tipsy and dressed to impress. I, however, was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and sweating through it all after humping it through the airport parking lot for all of five minutes. 

Pathetic, I know. 

I went to six or seven different guesthouses all who said they were full and I started to worry that I might end up in some fancy expensive place because everything is full. Once I finally found the budget place the LP had suggested I was tired and just hoped they had a room open after all.

My LP was printed in March of this year so it's only a few months old and I would expect the information to be up-to-date. According to them this guesthouse should cost $30,000 Rupiah per night with fan and cold water. 

It did have a fan (that was so high up and slow it was ineffectual). It did have a cold water shower (that even I, at 5'4", had to stoop down to get under. It also had alarmingly disgusting bedsheets and reeked of some sort of bug spray or some chemical that certainly kills things.

It also apparently had a price that had doubled since the LP listed the place.

Either way, at this point I was exhausted and sick of carrying my backpack (a mere 12 kilos but still a pain in the neck, literally). I took the grungy room and swore to myself I would find somewhere better the next day.

After an unreasonably priced Mexican dinner (I didn't feel like shopping around, I just wanted food and to go to bed) and a stiff margarita, I took a shower and passed out. 

Thirteen hours of travel is rough.

I'm fairly certain this has been the most expensive day of my entire trip so far which is funny considering I was in two of the cheapest countries on my agenda.

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