After more than 30 hours travelling by train and plane, from almost 13000 km away, and layovers in Lisbon (huge line, long wait), London (rushing through the airport to pick up our luggage from one flight and check it in at the next, and then boarding the amazingly comfortable Airbus A380 – yes, the Superjumbo – which made 12 hours feel like no time at all) and Kuala Lumpur (SUPER comfortable and bright airport – where some in our group encountered squat toilets for the first time), at around 11 pm, we finally stepped out of the airplane into the outdated carpet-floor of Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta airport, where we stayed for far too long standing in long confusing lines to get the stamp and pay the 25$ on arrival visa to enter that beautiful country.
At this point, I was in that phase when, no matter how excited you are about all the adventures to come, all you can do is dream about a fluffy pillow and cozy mattress, and you’re almost too tired to people-watch all the strangers sorrounding you in the bustling baggage claim area. So, when I heared that some of our group’s bags hadn’t arrived, and we’d have to wait even longer for them to file a complaint, sitting on the few and uncomfortable chairs under the bad lighting of the airport, my mood wasn’t exactly at its best.
The problem here was that, in the name of spontaneity, we decided to only book our first night in each of the first destinations: Jakarta, Yogyakarta (here only part of the group stayed overnight) and Denpasar. And since we would be travelling around a lot and didn’t have a fixed itinerary, there was no stable address to ship the luggage to. But a solution was found, eventually.
After everything was settled, and we passed yet another metal detector on our way out of the airport, in the dense warm humid air that I love so much, we took two taxis straight to our hostel, the POP! Hotel Airport Jakarta, which was supposed to be next to the airport, but, because of the way the main roads were built, was actually not easily accessable on foot – at least not at night. Luckily one of the boys in the group, who had to take another flight alone because he booked it a few days later than the rest of us (but ended up getting a better deal, with a shorter trip and leaving directly from Porto), had arrived earlier and gave us the tip of not even trying to go on foot. So we squeezed in 5 of us in one taxi, and 4 in the other, causing the first of countless situations during our trip in which we made the local people we’d meet laugh at the scale of our thriftiness.
Here we were, at the hostel – a modern building with bright lights and decorated in vivid colors like green and orange. The tiny rooms, where only the bed and a tight shower fit, were clean and comfortable and all I wanted was to sleep – so I did, right after washing away all the travel stress with a hot shower.
Our trip, which we had been planning for months, had finally started. But it only felt real once, in the darkness of the hotel room in Jakarta, I took in the noises from the busy streets outside, and while drifting off to sleep, actually realised we were there – all those endless frustrating but fun and exciting get-togethers and phone calls of scheduling, meeting, simulating bookings, picking an itinerary… had produced an actual trip.