Tuesday , August 9 2022

Random thoughts of (many) airports lounges



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It seems that by mid June I will have taken 89 flights, or one every six days, for 18 months. One of the less exciting aspects of my work (using squat toilets and wearing the same dirty clothes for the days is on top of that too).

But it gives me plenty of time to think, and observe. My airport experiences have deviated from the common to all the tragic.

Don Mueang, the aircraft budget airport in Bangkok that I usually fly through, is terrible. Our overcrowding, the variety of food available is very limited, the news stand and the non-duty offerings are very small, our old and old gates are often left by aircraft, meaning you penetrate back and forth regularly. The only highlight is a reasonably sized children's play area.

Terminal 2 at Jekarta's Soekarno-Hatta airport is not well behind. It's suffering from a brand new 3 terminal, a brand new 3 (you'll love T3 if you're counting steps). But terminal 2 is aging and has limited food and non-duty options.

I'm pretty confident that a recently announced plan to make T2 is a terminal only for the budget – by halving the number of registration counters, removing the toll-free and removing the air conditioning (remember, Jakarta temperature is hovering permanently between 28 -32 degrees) will make it the worst terminal in Southeast Asia. I am very confident in predicting that I will never try to fly from T2 again.

The third worst place goes to Dhaka airport, which is chaotic, with few shops selling anything you ever want to buy, and protects walking around with machine guns add frisson We can do without it.

The best experience? Singapore, hands down. Everything works.

Phnom Penh airport is relatively modern, the ATM is all distributing US dollars (no one seems to use the local currency) but loses points because of visa procedures t on arrival. If you do not have a passport size photo and $ US35 ($ 50), prepare to stay around for a while.

Kuala Lumpur is more than useful, but also from the best airports, I put Chiang Rai third. It's small, old, chaotic and food and shopping options are not very good. But the one of those issues isn't important. He has an old school charm, it's a gateway to a very beautiful part of Thailand that more people should visit, and it's small enough that everything is sorted out with little fuss.

But good or bad, airports are places where divisions and reach occur, where people are grieving or elated. And, on two occasions, they've been places where I've seen people who have suffered trauma hard to escape.

I remember landing in the city of Palu Indonesia a few days after the earthquake and tsunami arrived in the region. The destruction was visible from the sky. The cracks were prominent on the runway and the final building was partially demolished.

The locals, many of whom were seriously injured, tried to go on any flight out desperately.

I had never seen anything like it, and I hope I will never do it again. At the end of a week there, like hundreds of others, I spent more than 24 hours at the airport trying to fly out.

The 7am journey I have booked was taken by a group of passengers who were due to be on a flight the previous day. The backlog that the airlines had to clear was huge, and the staff did it without computer systems that worked fine.

Like hundreds of others, I slept on the airfield to try my luck the next day. My bed was a concrete slab outside a broken toilet block, my base tape, an unused body bag that a rescue team had given me.

After being thrown back again for a commercial tour, a friendly airport officer took me to a small charter plane, a seat for the small town of Mamuju, just down the coast. I was very lucky and very grateful.

Before that Mataram, the capital of Lombok, where I arrived the morning after an earthquake struck. There is something surreal about walking in through a hall after damaging a scene of chaos and hundreds of locals and tourists trying to flee.

I remember a horror on the face of a woman I had given up to interview. The first thing he said to me, after hearing my accent, was that a counter to help Australia a little over that way. '; I've just arrived, I'm not leaving, I said.

These are the times I remember when I was stuck when traveling.

James Massola is the southeast Asian correspondent, located in Jakarta. Previously he was chief political correspondent to the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in Canberra. He has been in the Walkley and Quills final three times.

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