Sunday, April 30, 2017

Around the World in 80 Hours Part 7: At Least It's Not Jakarta

This is better.  Go here instead, brave Oneworld traveler.
Now, I don't want to come off as being to critical of Jakarta.  I'm sure it has some lovely places and inspiring things to do.  However, it's airport is not one of these places, nor does it contain any of these things.  Over my mileage running career, if you can call the aggregate of all this insanity that, I've nevertheless spent a good amount of time in and around the Jakarta airport, and wishing I was elsewhere. 

After several notoriously bad layovers, some of which even included having our passports taken from us with little explanation, and returned an hour later...still without our onwards boarding passes we'd been asking for, and yet others involving all-nighters at airport restaurants with questionable hygiene, the phrase 'at least it's not Jakarta' has come in quite handy when discussing various, less than ideal, airports and destinations. 

But, I'm getting ahead of myself here.  We arrived in Columbo on our Malaysia Air flight around midnight local time and found ourselves in a packed terminal.  This was likely a result of the fact that the airport's runways are undergoing massive renovation, and so all flights have been moved to the overnight while the work takes place in the daytime. 

To get our next boarding passes for our Qatar flight, we went to the Sri Lankan transfer desk so we didn't have to exit customs.  It might not seem like they can do this for you, but they can, it will just take some time.  It will also take some aggressive line-guarding, since the custom of waiting your turn is a little hazy in this part of the world.  May the odds be ever in your favor.

Though it's not Jakarta, Columbo is nevertheless one of those airports where a huge range of people come together, and the amenities and technology lag behind.  It has it's fair share of confused regional travelers, backpackers sleeping in the hallways, and the like.  What it does have going for it though is that it's a home airport of a Oneworld member, Sri Lankan, and as such offers a decent lounge option, if you know where to find it. 

The caveat here is that they'll try to send you to the "Amalya" lounge, which is a fairly minimal, crowed space.  The Sri Lankan branded lounge is much , much better.  To find this lounge, from the transfer desk, bear left, and pass the various duty free and tea merchants, then look for wooden doors guarded by a couple of lions.  Easy.

Rawr!  In Colombo they have lions guarding their lounges, instead of 'dragons'.
We spent a couple hours re-couping and waiting out the layover before boarding our much anticipated business class flight on Qatar to Doha.  I did attempt a shower even, and learned I probably should just have waited to do so until we reached Doha.  The staff was very nice, but the shower room lacked amenities and I was just provided one thin towel, and no hair dryer.  Suffice to say, I emerged looking much like a drowned rat with jetlag.  Once again, no one said circling the world in 4 days was going to be all glamour and five star service.

While I slowly dried out, I had a cup of Sri Lankan tea, which was fantastic.  Soon enough, we headed onto our next flight.  This was a milestone of sorts because it was the first segment actually of the ticket that started this whole thing.  Arguably, it's the cornerstone and main event of the weekend.  The first flight was from Colombo to Doha, a 'quick' four hours or so in flight. 
Quick cup of Sri Lankan Tea
We found our gate and were sent to a separate part of the gate for business class passengers.  CMB is one of the airports in the region that does security at the entrance to each individual gate, so be prepared for a few additional minutes between the lounge and the plane.
As we all know, however, premium class doesn't necessarily mean premium behavior. I spent the last 20 or so minutes before boarding sitting on a bench next to a guy face-timing his girlfriend who he had clearly woken up in the middle of the night in order to loudly talk to her about nothing of any real consequence, and repeatedly pronouncing Doha "Doo-HA!"  As travel companions go, I'd rather have been in the departures are of This Flight. Where's 80 falcons when you need them??
QR 777-300 Business Class Cabin
It should be no surprise then that finally boarding this flight was heavenly.  You can say what you will about Qatar as a place or middle eastern airlines generally, but when you're tired, it's 3:30 am local time, you had a shower with insufficient towel-age, and have spent what seems like an eternity hearing the airport's local frat boy yell about Doo-HA, walking to your gigantic business class seat and being greeted with truly 5-star individual service that begins with a hot towel and fresh mint lemon juice ranks in the top 5 airline moments for me, at least.  It's an exciting enough thing to force the creation of possibly this blog's longest run-on sentence to date, even.
Welcome beverage
Even though it was a fairly full flight, the attendants managed a courteous and detailed service from the time we stepped onboard until we walked off the jetbridge in Doha.  They even offer dine on demand service in this four hour flight.  I had the curry and a glass of (real) Champagne, and it was the best thing I've had on a plane.  Shortly thereafter I kicked back for a nap and managed to shrug off the lingering jetlag haze that had been following me since Hong Kong.
Ahhhhhhh!!!!  Yas.

In conclusion- all's well that ends with a seat up front.
Up next- Doha and the long road home.

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