Sunday, November 07, 2010

Dazed and Confused

It has been a heck of a very confusing week indeed for the 5 of us.

Tue, 26/10/10: The start of the confusion

My brother texted me that there were signs of an impending eruption of Merapi. I texted Razeif asking him to check for details as I was away attending a course at the time and he replied it was true.

Back to office, I searched for more info, and even asked a colleague from Indonesia, Pak Pancha whether it was safe for us to travel. At that stage, he and his mate assured us it was safe, in fact he mentioned that it would be an awesome experience if we could experience the volcanic eruption live! That made us all geared up again :D

Then that night Merapi first erupted. Just before it erupted, there was an earthquake off Padang, which triggered a tsunami at Mentawai island.

We then followed the progress religiously everyday, suddenly taking an interest in volcanic activity, and it coincided with the G&G course I was attending!

Sunday 31/10/10 : Credit Shell Notification

Zal texted me that AA posted a notification on their FB page that those who booked flights to Yogyakarta between 31/10/10 – 6/11/10 have the option to apply for credit shell and make new bookings via their website. Thanks Zal! I kept silent first as I did not want to worry my other travel mates (yet).

Monday, 1/11/10 : Another situation

M hadn’t made his passport yet, and being from a state in Malaysia which has special immigration arrangements (go figure!) he was told it would take him a week to get his passport! This is because his application in KL would be faxed back to his state of origin and the office there would review his application, then decide to approve or not (check for records). If approved, the paperwork will be faxed back to KL. Oh, and he needs to have his surat beranak as well for the application. No kidding.

And I thought everything could be done online now?

Later, I called AA’s customer service line, and was directed to a so-called premium service line (costs RM1.95 per minute – bergurau apa?) which I was put on hold forever – had to listen to all the promos first – before I was passed to a human agent. And he sounded like a native Indian (he didn’t sound like Malaysian Indian). I suspected I was being directed to a call centre in India (many companies do this to save cost). I was told by the agent that, no, there’s no credit shell, only airport tax is covered, and we have to pay additional costs for the rest. I told him about the situation in Yogyakarta, which he was unaware of.

AA’s customer service is definitely lacking big time (I’m restraining myself here from using stronger words)

Was this a sign that we should forego the trip?

Still, we kept on holding to the belief that we would be able to go.

Tuesday, 2/11/10 : A glimmer of hope

M successfully collected his passport within a day. But with constant follow up with the immigration.

I called Wisma Putra to ask whether there was any travel advisory against going to Yogya. The officer answered that there was none, the government is not restricting any travels to Yogya. However, we should notify the M’sian embassy in Jakarta on our travelling dates, where we were staying and contact no, in case they need to contact us.

But then later in the afternoon, there were new updates that flights to and from Yogya were cancelled.

A notification of cancellation was posted on AA’s website, but without mentioning until when. It only mentioned until further notice.
We finally relented it was not meant to be.
Plan B was needed.

Wednesday, 3/11/10 : Plan B

Checked for other destinations on the same date, not so positive. As it was only 2 days left, the other destinations were already too expensive.
We also thought of changing dates instead, and go on a roadtrip instead this weekend.

I checked AA’s website again. Lo and behold, the cancellation notice was no longer there. Back to confused mode. And there was no SMS notification from AA neither.

Drastic measures had to be taken. We went to AA’s counter at KL Sentral to get it settled. We were told that flights are now cleared to land at Yogya. So we cannot apply for the credit shell. (It was first notified on the FB page the credit shell option is valid for flights until 6/11/10) Ours was scheduled for 5/11

If we want to change date / destination, we had to pay the normal penalty fees.

Behind us, Diana (also travelling to Yogya this weekend) overheard us. She mentioned that her group was adamant to change the date without paying the penalty as it was a safety concern. Diana asked us to change our date too, and fight for the credit shell. She said it was too dangerous to proceed. She said that she would pray that we would not be able to go.

But us being stubborn (despite family and friends persuading us not to go), decided we would go (and secretly being excited about it).

We exchanged numbers and promised to inform each other of our progress.
That night Mas watched the movie 2012 and suddenly felt worried so she texted us all her concerns.

I searched for info, and found a guideline:

1) If you have sensitivity of breathing (asthma), strongly suggest you skip or bring meds. Otherwise, carry extra face masks. The ash is very fine like smoke and can irritate your skin.

2) If you have important work schedules after the holiday, and cannot tolerate returning late, better skip.

If you do not experience any of the constraints above, then visiting yogya & capturing on photo a live active volcano will be one of life experiences you'll never forget. From borodubur you can capture images of Merapi in all its splendour..

Liza and Razeif were very very excited about the trip. Myself and Mas kept changing minds all the time. M, if he had his own way, would avoid any natural disaster prone areas altogether!

Thursday, 4/11/10 : A day before

We carried on as usual with our work today. Checked for updates, no flight cancellation notice.

Later in the afternoon, we went to change our money.

Mas picked Liza and me up tonight. We were supposed to sleep at her house and take a taxi to LCCT at 4am. We planned to arrive at 5am as our flight is scheduled at 7am. Razeif and M would be going from Razeif’s house and take the bus from KL Sentral to LCCT.

Friday, 5/11/10 : The day. Will we make it?

It was Deepavali eve. It was hard to sleep as the fireworks were too noisy.

Mas was still packing her bags when at 2am we received a text from Razeif:
Flight to Yogya on 5/11/10 is now cancelled due to volcanic eruption. Pls call (certain number with certain password) for further enquiries.

We didn’t know how to react.

In the end, we laughed it loud thinking about all the mess we got ourselves into. We thought again: the signs were all over the place telling us not to go. Even families and friends preferred us not to go (but they did not stop us).

Degil sungguh.

Mas tossed her unfinished packing aside, and went to sleep instead.
Razeif, being pro-active, called up the number instantly and was told that we would be receiving the credit shell within 48 hours and we can make a new booking, but the travelling date must be within 3 months. No full refund although cancellation is by AA.
All this happened while M was still sleeping :-p

Around 7am we received a text from Pak Pancha when only we realized the degree of severity of the situation in Yogya. There was a new eruption at midnight, which was the biggest so far, (since it first erupted on 26/10) and it had claimed another 30 lives. The radius of danger zone is now expanded to within 20 km radius of Merapi.

We were thankful that we didn’t make the trip. It was indeed the best for us.

We pray that Merapi would calm down soon and the people of Yogya could return back to their normal lives soon. Condolences to the families who lost their loved ones.

Yogyes adventures is now postponed indefinitely.



Blogger Agip® said...

sedey...hehe.. Bali jom!

8:57 AM  
Blogger z.m said...

i hope u guys get to go when the volcano sleeps again...
but, i am definitely not flying AA ever again.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Zal said...

xpe, lepak dgn Gigi kat rumah during Deepavali pon ok what. I went back to visit Meena :)

6:48 PM  
Blogger aiyda said...

zm: memang serik dgn AA ni arghh...another flight with them though, to claim the credit shell. after that, i hope to avoid AA

11:04 PM  
Blogger IZWAN SHAHMIN said...

Insya4JJI, the future next trip!

Now you guys can get excited with planning for new trip (within 3 months)! (^__^)

8:43 AM  

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