One small step for me, one big step for my life.
You may or may not know, but I did a diploma in fashion technology over the winter months (I know we don’t have winter, but it’s an indication, you know?). To be honest, I initially signed up because of pure desperation (I struggled to find jobs for nearly a year), only during the course of the lesson, did I realize that I genuinely liked fashion. And while informative and exhilirating, it did little to satiate my thirst for fashion, it only intensified it. I was still hungry, still empowered by a strong belief in myself, in the market…this whole belief that I could some day start my own label.
Wait a minute, not just a label, but a fashion empire a la LVMH Group, but a Singapore-based one.
That’s how ambitious or delirious I was, that even when it was obvious that my family couldn’t afford to let me further my education, much less my own dreams, I began seeking out my own options, and began making my own plans. I suppose that’s what happens when desperation is stirred with dreams – you find a way to make it work, even if it sounds alien. I had to have it. It wasn’t difficult, and before long, I found a branch of a respected Italian fashion instituition in Jakarta, Indonesia. I needed to find out more.
The idea of visiting Jakarta was bittersweet. My mind began to toy with the hope that a visit could reopen the channels of communication, but the odds were low. How do you, with all your emotions, begin to even convince someone who doesn’t even remember that he once knew, loved you…assuming if that someone’s willing to listen in the first place, which he won’t, because he’ll think you’re a crazy person. It was a very long shot, but Jakarta is Southeast Asia’s largest city, I could only do so much besides being in Jakarta.
When you love, truly love someone, you are fascinated by your lover – his life, his origins, his favorite color, and naturally, his hometown of Jakarta naturally flowed into that subject of fascination. I already love big cities, I’ve visited some of the world’s biggest cities: Beijing, Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo. There’s just something about the air that’s infectious in its energy, dynamic in its outlook, and grandiose in its perfections and imperfections. Sure, Jakarta’s not perfect. Heck, there are even songs that implore people to “Forget Jakarta”, but somehow, some way, you’re like Lot’s wife, you want to know, you just can’t resist looking back. The city’s crowded, the poor are poor, the rich are rich, the jams are jammed, the air’s heavy, the sun’s never out but dayum, you just gotta. I was bitten, and I had to.
When I was offered the most opportune time to go, I nearly froze. The thought of possibly seeing his face, and seeing his boyish innocent face laughing and loving with another person besides me was, well, unbearable. I almost didn’t want to go, but I had to. I had arranged to meet a school representative already, and it was an appointment I needed to adhere to. So, I shared my dream (the one about me wanting to be a bags and accessories designer) with my mother, hoping that her curiosity about this school could warrant her to accompany me, and expectedly, it paid off.
Being the aviation enthusiast that I am, I naturally wanted to fly Lion Air, Southeast Asia’s single largest low-cost carrier. But when you’re traveling with someone, like my mom, interests have to take a backseat. Air France with its all-in SGD 149 return fares was the top pick, until we realized that the schedules just didn’t fit our short getaways well. Singapore Airlines’ prices were exorbitant as usual, and AirAsia – which we initially settled for – had so many hidden charges, it was plain ridiculous. In the end, Garuda Indonesia’s superior frequency, clear pricing strategy and revitalized reputation was therefore, the option we settled for.
I booked us a comfortable, mid-morning 10am departure out of Singapore’s Changi Airport Terminal 3. To be honest, I felt like I was going to work, rather than going on a trip. We reached the airport the same time I’d usually do, and there was a certain anti-climax to the whole thing. In fact, I was so jaded, I didn’t bother taking many pictures. We had checked in the night before, so our boarding passes were issued in a jifty and off we went…for breakfast at Kilinney’s which is okay only in occasional doses.
Like my previous Garuda Indonesia flight to Bali, boarding for my flight was conducted at the A-gates at the far end of the concourse. It’s a common gate holdroom, and there were the usual Terminal 3 suspects – China Eastern Airlines to Shanghai, Lion Air to Jakarta, and mine.
Although there were different flights departing in tandem, the boarding proceeded systematically, with the usual SkyTeam Elite and SkyTeam Elite Plus being called, followed by the various segmented Economy Class zones (mine was designated “green”, “front row”). There’s a certain order and sentiment among the passengers that suggested that for most, this wasn’t something that was alien or novel to them. It was just a regular commute home or to work on the world’s second most traveled international flight.
Flight: GA 825
Singapore Changi – Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1000h
Actual Time of Departure: 1011h
Scheduled Time of Arrival: Unknown
Duration: 01h 55min
Garuda Indonesia has just been awarded the World’s Best Cabin Crew, and the 7th best Airline of the Year by Skytrax, and from the moment you step in, it’s very apparent why. The crew are all smiles, sincere in their traditional “wai” greeting, and never one to avoid eye contact, ever ready to accommodate every whim and fancy of every passenger (and not just those in the premium cabins).
Now characteristic of Garuda Indonesia, a welcome orange juice is served on the ground aboard to all Economy Class passengers, followed by the usual safety protocol of the video demonstration, pushback and taxi. In my limited experience, I find the Economy Class pitch more generous after the wing, so that’s some frequent traveler advice if you’re traveling on the airline’s Boeing 737-800 fleet.
The Singapore – Jakarta route is hardly a long-haul flight, at just about an average of 90 minutes long, and for the crew to work the meal and drink service (combined with a second drink run, followed by a tea and coffee round) without breaking a sweat is just downright impressive. Never once did they appear in a rush, and maintained their dedication entertaining every single order. But after about a quarter of a movie, the aircraft began pointing down and this absolutely flawless flight was alas, coming to an end.
Garuda Indonesia’s catering is awesome, as usual.
The approach to Jakarta’s kinda like the one into Changi. Soekarno-Hatta International Airport is to the northwest of the capital, and the resulting approach is over water with a portside spectacular of the imposing Jakarta skyline.
Kissing the tarmac, we quickly vacate the runway and swoop in on a nearby gate at Terminal 2E.
Garuda Indonesia continues to demonstrate why it’s one of the best airlines in the world. The flight was no doubt, short, but every moment was an experience to remember. The crew possess that old-world charm and sincerity that I feel is lacking on Singapore Airlines’ cabin crew these days. Cathay Pacific was right: people, they do make an airline.