Remember the golden age of air travel – impossibly elusive sophistication out of reach of all but the chosen few, jetting off from immaculate art deco lounges? Well, I can’t believe that ever applied to Birmingham Airport. Forget Heathrow’s champagne and seafood bars – at Birmingham, it’s a Yates’s or a Wetherspoons.
Dead at 8pm, but with surplus staff hanging around ready for the late night charter flights to triple word score destinations – Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Karpathos – flights where the 24hr “breakfast and a pint for £7” offer would be in strong demand. Still, who am I to be sneering at a perfectly functioning domestic hub with short queues and on-time flights when a week or so ago the whole concept of air travel was looking a bit 20th century? I’d beaten the Icelandic ash cloud and was on my way – 25 days exploring Indonesia and the Philippines.
Here’s how things worked out in the end – Birmingham to KL via Dubai, then Bali. An eye-wateringly expensive flight East to Flores got me 3 days’ diving and dragon watching in Komodo National Park, just in time to snag the island-hopping Perama boat back to Lombok for a night out in Senggigi, 2 sleeps with a lovely bunch of Eurotrash on Gili Meno and one more back on Lombok before Garuda Indonesia kindly flipped me back to Jakarta, passing the baton straight onto Cebu Pacific for a 0030 (more vampire than redeye) cheapo over the South China Sea to Manila. Bored of departure lounges yet? I’m not – AirPhil Express are proper excited about their brand new shiny Airbus 320s (they’ve got, like, jet engines and everything) so were very happy to run me way out West to Palawan in time for lunch.
Keeping up? Well, I got to stay still in Palawan’s capital Puerta Princesa for almost a WHOLE DAY before the small matter of a 6 hour minivan ride on largely dirt tracks to the end of the world and the start of paradise – El Nido. Where I stopped. Dead. For three complete, amazing days hanging out with a friend from TravBuddy, Karen. Retracing tyre tracks South to PP and trashing the idea of a Manila citybreak, it would be back onto Cebu Pacific, sliding East a few hundred miles to Cebu itself to hit an insanely rushed transfer onto an OceanJet hi-speed ferry over to Bohol for a final 3 days of fun, bad San Miguel, good company and amazing oh-my-god-that-hits-the-spot happy hour cocktails. All I had to do then was say a sad au revoir to Karen and trundle back to KL via Manila, to make the least of my last 24hrs in Asia before reluctantly letting Emirates forcibly deport me kicking and screaming back to reality.
12 flights in 25 days – how’s that for a carbon footprint of shame? One day, I’ll go and sit on a sun lounger in the Caribbean for two weeks. One day…
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