Sunday, December 13, 2009

Finally, I Am Leaving Sibu

[This blog was drafted on the day I left Malaysia on Wednesday, 25th November 2009]

I woke up early, at 5:40 a.m. I tried to continue with my sleep but could not. So, I decided to do what I must, i.e. to go through the checklist of items to bring. By 8:00 a.m., everything was more or less ready. I watched satellite TV for a while and decided to have my last kampua mee at 9:30 a.m. at the kopitiam in front of Tiong Hua Road Market. Then, it was back for a last bath.

The taxi arrived at 10:15 a.m., 15 minutes earlier than scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Arriving at Sibu Airport just before 11:00 a.m., the check-in counters were choking with passengers. I did not queue up immediately because I wanted to weigh my check-in bag first to ensure that it did not exceed 20 kg. It did not.

Flight MH2715 left Sibu for Kuala Lumpur as scheduled at 12:20 p.m. and touched down at about 2:00 p.m., and by 2:30 p.m., I was at the arrival hall at the main terminal building (MTB).

My flight from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Port Moresby (POM) was at 10:40 p.m. I had 8 hours to explore the MTB. The arrival hall was on Level 3. After 1 hour, I had explored the lobby area. Then, I went up to Level 5 to the departure hall, and spent the rest of the time there, waiting for Air Niugini check-in counters to open.

As I was taking photographs at Level 5, suddenly two familiar figures passed by me. Those who knew them would recognise them from the photograph.

While exploring the departure hall, I realized that there was no security check on the luggage. The luggage was checked in straight away. I called CTT and TSC back in Sibu and neither could offer any explanation. So, I asked a security personnel and was told that unlike the domestic check-in at other airports, no luggage screening was done here. It would be checked after the luggage was checked in.

The wait was long and boring. Tugging a 15 kg check-in luggage with a hand-carried bag restricted my movement. I could not check in my luggage as the Air Niugini counters have not opened. Other airlines have opened theirs. I had actually wanted to explore all the five levels at KL International Airport. I moved around Level 5 only. During this time, I exchanged MYR346.80 for USD100, more expensive than my first purchase of USD back in Sibu.

It was not until about 8:30 p.m. that Air Niugini counters finally opened for business. There was a small crowd, consisting of Papuans, Fuzhouese, Cantonese, mainland Chinese, families with young children, etc.

There was one lady, at another counter, who was told that her passport has less than 6 months' validity, i.e., it was expiring in January 2010. I thought what tough luck for her. She must have paid over RM1,500 for the one way ticket. With two children in tow, the amount paid would have exceeded RM4,500. Just like LCC when he checked in for Bangkok with less than 6 months' validity - he was refused permission to check in. As I left, the lady was still there.

I left the departure hall for Gate C33, passing through Immigration and going down to Level 4 for the immigration exit stamp. Then, it was a short wait for the Aerotrain to arrive, the mass people mover system at KLIA, to bring passengers to Satellite Building A, where the actual departure gates were located. I arrived before 9:00 p.m. and went straight to Gate C33 and after a thorough luggage screening and body check, cleared through the airport police check. As I was entering Gate C33 to the seating area, I was asked by a policewoman where I was heading. I replied, "Gate C33". I was told that Gate C33 had not opened and I must wait outside. Well, you see, I cleared through the police check for Gate C31 for Singapore, instead of Gate C33. The two gates were side by side. What a country bumpkin.

As I was waiting outside, the lady with less than 6 month passport validity appeared. How did she convince the check-in counter staff to issue her the boarding pass? Then, she was on the phone, speaking in Fuzhouese. Must be from Sibu too!

Two ladies, both with a child, started talking. The communication was initiated by one of the woman's son, who was trying to befriend the daughter of the other woman. Soon, both mothers were talking.

The woman with the son was working in New Ireland (not the Ireland in Europe but in PNG), and she was saying there was hardly anything there. Port Moresby would be much better. There were a lot of restaurants in Port Moresby. She said she was from the state of Sabah (in East Malaysia), whereas her husband was from the town of Banting (in West Malaysia). The other woman replied that she was from Banting, and was going to PNG to visit her husband during the school holidays.

Gate C33 finally opened for business at 10:40 p.m. The air hostesses and stewards arrived soon after. Not one of the air hostesses was attractive, with none being slim and beautiful. Some looked like grandmas and nannies. Was that a contributing factor to the lack of tourists to PNG? (Please do not flame me for this comment).

At 11:00 p.m, it was announced that the flight to Port Moresby was rescheduled to 2:10 am, 26th November 2009, due to an eruption of a volcano.

We were given a voucher for refreshment, valid at either Noodles or Burger King. I chose Burger King. The value of the voucher was MYR13. You take more than the value, you pay for them. I took 1 Double Cheese Burger (MYR13.90, I cup of Sprite (MYR3.50) and potato chips. I was told to pay MYR1.00 extra only.

After the light refreshment, I thought of re-entering Gate C33 seating area to take a nap. However, I was denied entry. The gate would only open at 1:00 a.m. Seats outside the gate were mostly taken up, so that ruled out sleeping. It was then that I decided to pen this blog on paper.

While sitting at a quiet corner writing, there was a power blackout. Hmm! This was KL International Airport. Looked like power outages were not only occurring in Sibu!

At exactly 1:00 a.m., feeling very sleepy, I dragged myself to re-enter Gate C33. The scanning machine was undermanned. I was the first to re-enter. This would be the third time my luggage was being screened and I being frisked by airport police. I was given customs and immigration cards to fill.

Finally, the plane took off at 2:17 a.m. It was a Boeing 757. The pilot was apologising for the delay and explained that due to an eruption of a volcano at Medan (in Indonesia ? or was it Madang in PNG?), the ashes would be in the path of flight PX 0395, hence the delay as a safety precaution.

There were a few occasions which I might have fallen asleep in the plane before the late supper was served.

I kept myself awake until after the supper. By then, it was 3:08 a.m. (Malaysia time) already. I dozed off at about 3:25 a.m. I have not slept for the past 22 hours.

At past 5:15 a.m., I woke up. The sun had risen and sunlight was entering the cabin through the window.

I tried to get back to sleep. It was futile as I could only catnap because of the bright sunlight and uncomfortable sitting position. When I went to the rear of the plane, passengers were lying on their back sleeping on the empty seats. Why didn't I thought of that? The hand rest could be pushed upward to allow passengers to sleep on the row of empty seats! Too late for me! Breakfast was served at 8:18 a.m, Malaysian time.

The plane landed at about 9:15 a.m. Malaysian time, or 11:15 a.m. local time.

Jacksons International Airport was small, with one wing for domestic flights and one for international flights. There were only 3 or 4 parking bays for planes. It was about the size of Miri Airport and looked old. It has no staircase but ramps leading to the ground floor to the Immigration counters.

Instead of picking up the luggage on arrival and then going through Immigration, it was the reverse here. I queued up at the line for those with visa (the longest queue), then picked up my luggage, queued up once more to exchange my US$ to PGK at the sole moeny changer, Bank South Pacific, and queued up the third time to go through Customs.

The custom officer really meant business. He asked me what was inside my bags. I said clothes and some documents. Then, he asked me to open up my bags and he went through my belonging. The department was really concerned about smuggling. I was through only when he was satisfied.

From arrival until exiting the airport, it was a slow and long process. By the time it was over, it was almost 12:00 noon local time (or 10:00 a.m. Malaysia time).

My "predecessor" was there waiting for me as I exited from the airport. In about 7 minutes, we arrived at my new employer's compound.

Within it were the office block, staff quarters, a big sport complex with three badminton courts, a gym and separate spa for male and female employees. Behind was a hypermarket.

I was then led to the guest room where I would be staying for one night before moving into the new staff quarters on Friday, 27th December 2009.


  1. So PNG is 2 hours ahead of us. How much is a 1 way ticket to PNG? Think of visiting you there in the future, haha!

  2. Jam: Yes, 2 hours ahead of Malaysia's time. My tickets for KUL/POM/KUL was K3,58.80 or about RM4150.

    Do come, please. I shall be picking you up at the airport. Serious!