Mythical. Surreal. Fashionable. Time and time again, I had come across the impressionistic Indonesian city during my work, and the more I heard about it, the more I felt a calling. I had called upon my old-time travel partner Inez to see if she was up to task, but as I pestered, I began to sense upon an underlying feeling that she didn’t want to go anywhere with me. Determined not to make isolation the death of me, I pressed on, and began traveling, not as a tourist in the real sense. As much as I could, I’d stay off the beaten track, and into the monotony and routine of the locals, turning back into the commercial traps now and then just to make sure I was still safe. But Indonesia eluded me – for all my globe trekking adventures, this was one place I wasn’t quite willing to come alone. Yet, the call remained seductive. From an early age, some of my greatest friends, relationships and acquaintances had hailed from this generous nation, and I wanted to, if it makes any sense, feel close to them again.
The opportunity was denied until one Monday afternoon when Titus and I began What’s App-ing, as friends do, about where each of us would like to hop to next. As a frequent flyer himself, he struggled with finding the right travel companion. The cold hard truth of the matter is that many of the “male-on-male persuasion” are indeed girls when it comes to these things, preferring the safe, “eye candy guaranteed” urbanity of Bangkok and Taipei. For me, my money-saving, penny-pinching, dole-squeezing schemes meant that I was financially set for a long hibernation but the pressures of finding a job were creeping up. With the both of us appearing to have the same philosophy when it came to traveling, we’d always talk about doing some place together but with my former employers’ penchant for last-minute notifications, he’d usually find me jetting off before anything concrete’s set. I suppose the conditions were right this time.
I had discovered that Titus was a sergeant major when it comes to travel planning. He was ruthless, regimental and needed everything to go to a tee, which was to be honest, initially annoying, but I quickly accepted that since we’d be gone for only three days, timing was of the essence. While Indonesia AirAsia was initially our first choice with its seemingly superior schedules, we quickly established that Silkair overall had better value, and was cheaper as well. The hotel was supposed to be my thing, but when he saw that I wanted to stay in a hotel just because it had Andy’s Indonesian name in it, he quickly took over the reins and booked something else instead.
In the days leading up to the trip, my laptop finally gave way – the motherboard and graphics card was “cooked”, allegedly, but this piece of bad news was overshadowed by the fact that my life’s turn of events was coming around with not just one job interview request, but four.
At the airport.
Lunch. This milk tea was sooo good.
Laksa. Mmmm… If it had a splice of cockles, it’d be perfect.
Silkair MI 196
Singapore – Bandung
From the offset, Silkair disappointed at every turn. Non-existence was the name of the game as they were nowhere to be found when passengers entered the aircraft (they were in the galley doing something, but obviously too busy to assign even one crew to greet the incoming passengers), and they continued their absence and silence for a whole thirty minutes with no sign they were even bothered. In thirty minutes, Air China’s crew in a similar situation would’ve come down the aisle to offer apologies and drinks, but that was too much to expect from the regional wing of Singapore Airlines. After a whole agonizing thirty minutes, there was a robotic and unsympathetic welcome announcement with no apologies nor explanation for the delay, screens down for the safety video, as we pushed back and taxiied to the runway.
The flight itself was nothing eventful. The crew did what they have to do (I am really appalled by the lack of service and enthusiasm displayed by the crew. I mean, if the crew is so uninterested, it’s no wonder people think Silkair’s a budget airline. Hell, even Jetstar, Tiger and AirAsia’s crew are loads better) – serve meals, duty free… I mean, the crew seriously looked like they were doing passengers a favor instead of the other way round. The crew on the return flight was no better either. The leading stewardess behaved like a restaurant manager, and refused to serve any Economy Class passenger except to offer them the following reply, “I’ll get my colleague to attend to you” before walking purposefully walking down the aisle, conscious to avoid any eye contact and beyond the curtain.
The Business Class mini cabin.
Where we belong.
Legroom. A lot less generous than even Air China’s A321.
Cathay Pacific A340
Welcome to Bandung.
I love alighting by stairs.
Scenes from the return flight:
Silkair MI 195
Bandung – Singapore
Dropping in our luggage (not check-in, we already performed online check-in)
Merpati COMAC MA 60. Yup, it’s Chinese made.
Our aircraft approaches.
Indonesia AirAsia leaves for Kuala Lumpur.
Boarding… by stairs!
This is vile.
The conclusion is inevitable – Silkair is no great way to fly. Crews on both flights demonstrated an overall lack of interest, provided the most basic of duties and were not emotionally invested to even provide an ounce of basic courtesy. I hesitate to fly Silkair, and am unlikely to do so unless they’re the cheapest option, and fortunately, they’re not often the most affordable option.