I guess I haven't been in the mood to post much since my "vacation" to Bali.
I was supposed to go at the end of September for a week with 2 days in Singapore to visit a friend. We had booked everything in June and it was the main thing that kept me going all Summer.
We booked (with much difficulty - paying with a US card from Japan is impossible) a flight with AirAsia, and the day before we checked in online, inputted all our info. I was so excited. Got to the airport, went to the "Document Check" counter (carry-on only), got on the plane and we were off!
7 or 8 hours later, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur and transited in some pretty ghetto side room, where I find out that my passport expires in 5 months and 3 weeks as opposed to the 6 months required. I'm told to wait. Fair enough. I sit on the only bench in the room and think: How could I be so stupid? What is the point of having a passport for 10 years if you can only use it for 9.5? Why the hell didn't the document check lady in Tokyo notice? That was the only thing she had to do! How could I be so stupid?
In the meantime, I hear the announcement for my flight, that the gates are closing soon. There are still 50 passengers waiting in line to transit. Three AirAsia staff are standing at counters, but only one is actually doing anything. Three people away, I hear the last call for my flight. Finally, the woman calls me over. She's going to call her boss. She calls, and reports that I can fly into Singapore, but won't be able to go to Bali unless I have 6 months. Ok. At this point, I'm not even sure that I can make my flight to Singapore. I go to the security check. The three security guards there tell me to wait, because apparently the only security guard able to process me is in the bathroom. She comes back after 5 minutes, I go through, my gate is basically closed. I go to the staff, show them my boarding pass, they let me through onto the tarmac. Uhm... ok... now what? So I start following the signs trying to locate my gate number. I walked (or rather ran) half way around the airport (or so it seemed) asking people along the way if I was going in the right direction. Finally, I get to the right place, get on the plane, and deal with the angry glares of the other passengers.
(This - the angry glares for holding the plane back - is the second time it happens to me. The first time was flying back to Geneva from Madrid on Iberia... They wouldn't let me board the plane because I didn't have a visa for Switzerland, which I wouldn't have been able to get anywhere anyway as an EU citizen. I hate incompetent staff. Bitter much? You bet. I had to buy a 500euro ticket from Geneva (5minutes from my house by car) to Paris (1.5hours away from Geneva by plane) before they let me board. )
Anyway, got to Singapore, had minor issues at immigration there, get through, and run to the Italian Embassy. They tell me that I could apply for a new passport, but it would take 10 days. They tell me to try going to the Indonesian Embassy. I go to the Indonesian Embassy, they tell me I need 6 months, and to just get an extension at the Italian Embassy. Back to the Italian Embassy I go. Tell them what they told me at the Indonesian Embassy. The Italians tell me they don't do extensions. The other staff there says: "But you're born in Indonesia. Do you even need a visa?" . Did I mention how much I dislike incompetent staff?
So anyway. After S$70 in taxis, we go to the hotel. Oh yes, there was a mistake in the dates of the original hotel booking, so we had to rebook closer to the date. Since it was the F1 weekend in Singapore, all the hotels were fully booked by the time we re-booked. So we just got whatever we could find. We were checking in when a couple walks in behind us and ask for a room for 2 hours. I'm sorry? Two hours? Fantastic. We're in a Love Hotel.... We get to our room: no windows, barely the space for a bed and a huge mirror. Yup. It's a love hotel.
At this point, all I have left to do is enjoy Singapore. That same afternoon, we headed off to Chinatown. It was coming up onto the Mid-Autumn Festival, so all these beautifully colored lanterns were up. From there we headed back to Bugis (our area) and walked around a couple of malls, made our way to the Raffles Hotel, downed a Singapore Sling, tossed a couple of peanuts around then headed off to the F1 tracks. We didn't have tickets to get in, but we could still hear the cars flying by, and the excitement of the people going in and coming out was contagious. We had dinner at a small place near our hotel where I had more beer in one sitting than I've had in the past 5 years.
The next day, we headed out to see the Merlion and had coffee with view on the Marina Bay Sands complex. We then met up with an old friend of mine. She took us around Orchard Road, we ate at a food court, headed out to the Marina Bay again, walked around the hotel, went to the new Gardens by the Bay then headed off to Sentosa Island armed with a bottle of white wine and some snacks. We ate and drank at the southernmost point of continental Asia as we watched the sun set over a collection of cruise ships and oil tankers slowly make their way across the bay. From there we went to have dinner, hawker style. We had chicken wings, satay, stingray, banana leaf wrapped fish, and so many other things. One more delicious than the next.
The next day, we headed back to the airport. For the last time, I tried to see if I could go to Bali. They told me to have a seat and that they would come tell me the verdict. Two hours later, and still no news, I go ask at the Customer Service desk. They send me to the other counter. They tell me to line up with the same person I talked to before. Ok. I remind her who I am, she calls someone else, they've had the email for a while. "Sorry you can't go." . Okay. Well, that's settled. Can I change my ticket to go home? No. Can I change the first leg of my flight and catch the same connecting flight back to Tokyo. No. Can you give me a refund? Check this website when you get back (I did, complained, still haven't gotten any answer at all. It's been 2 weeks.). So can I buy a new ticket back? Sure. S$600. Seriously? (that's more than the original round trip ticket).
So back to Tokyo I go. I get stopped at every immigration counter because I don't have 6 months on my passport to get back into Japan (I'm not Japanese, you see.) so I have to keep explaining that I live there and that if they just flip to the back of the passport, they'll see my visa valid for another 2 years... Three times...
Get back to Tokyo at 11pm, get home past midnight. And go back to work the next day.
In an hour, I'm off again to Okinawa (domestic flight - although I immediately renewed my passport when I got back. It took 3 days.). I'm unfortunately flying AirAsia again (I booked the ticket before I flew to Singapore). And the weather forecast says a typhoon is hitting Okinawa this weekend. I guess that means no relaxing at the beach again....
Perhaps it's better I don't plan anymore vacations for this year.