At under 3 hours long, the best option for our flight from Singapore to Bali was booking five Garuda Indonesia economy class tickets for $115 each and then redeeming Barclay Arrival Miles. Garuda Indonesia offers travelers the option to bid for an upgrade after booking their tickets. When I tried to do this, I was restricted from bidding anything less than 395 SGD/$280 per person. Considering business class tickets cost $340, the upgrade option didn’t make sense.
Due to a lack of award space, all I had booked when we departed Singapore were tickets to Bali. None of the return segments were booked, but I was confident Cathay Pacific would eventually open up availability within a few days of departure. That’s where I got into a bit of trouble at the airport. During check-in, the Garuda Indonesia agent asked about our return flight plans. I told him we were planning to fly to Kuala Lumpur (true at the time) and he asked to see our tickets. I told him I hadn’t booked them yet and his jaw dropped to the ground. He said we couldn’t enter Indonesia, let alone board our flight, without a return ticket.
I was still on the fence about even going to Kuala Lumpur and didn’t want to make the decision right at that moment. There was a ticket sales desk nearby, so I booked five refundable one-way tickets to Kuala Lumpur for around $400 per person and confirmed I could cancel them without penalty. Once the agent saw proof of our onward travel, he checked us in and directed us to security. We got through with ease, except for a minor problem at immigration. The agent wanted to see my embarkation card, which I of course had managed to lose somewhere along the journey. “This is a very important item” he lecture, “Next time make sure you don’t lose it.” I was just glad they didn’t find this minor infraction worthy of a caning.
We made it to the gate about 20 minutes before boarding began. Thankfully, the erupting volcano hadn’t caused any delays and we departed on time.
I’ve always heard good things about Garuda Indonesia, so it’s no surprise that this ended up being one of the most comfortable flights I’ve ever experienced in economy class. The seats had tons of legroom and the pillows were a nice touch.
We were served a pretty good breakfast consisting of omelettes topped with mushroom sauce, plus a side of chicken sausage, fruit, yogurt, and a muffin. The utensil packets contained real silverware, which was the first time I’ve ever seen that in economy class. The flight attendants were a pleasant group and came around offering drink refills after breakfast.
I don’t know what it was about this flight, but it gave me flashbacks of my Safi Airways flight to Kabul three years ago. It might have been the similarity of the company logos and something about the cabin that made me think about that particular flight.
After breakfast I turned on the IFE, which had a great selection to choose from. It was filled with a mix of old movies I’d wanted to see as well as new releases. I ended up watching Down with Love, which was surprisingly funny and entertaining. I’m not a fan of the romantic comedy genre, with it’s ridiculous portrayal of women as hapless and desperate. This movie was really witty and broke the mold. The headphones weren’t the best, but they sufficed.
During the flight, the captain made an announcement and everyone crowded to the windows. We were flying past Mount Raung, the erupting volcano responsible for flight cancellations and delays that week.
Immigration at Ngurah Rai International Airport has frequently been described as being a bit of a zoo. Thus, I was worried about how long it would take to get out of there. Once we got off the bus and arrived at the terminal, you could practically hear the crickets. Our group was the first one there at that moment. I found out later that the airport closed 20 minutes after we landed, re-opening a day later.
We got through immigration in a breeze and went to retrieve our luggage. Everything went smoothly and as soon as we emerged from the jungle of duty-free stores, we saw our driver, Made, holding up a sign with my name on it. He led us to the parking garage across from the terminal (a very brief walk) and proceeded to drive us to Villa Bulung Daya in the small village of Antap. It was a bright, beautiful day and this segment of our trip was off to a great start.
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