This entry is overdue a couple of days. I was moving to New York City and will be working with Research Foundation of City University of New York. It will be a new adventure to start a whole new year.

This entry is about my long travel from Jakarta to New York. Some of you were keep asking me about this, so here it is. Enjoy.

SQ 967, Jakarta – Singapore

My first flight was using Singapore Airlines. Not much happening during the flight, it was a short flight, around 1 hour. Landed at Terminal 3, Changi Airport around 10 PM and had to wait for the next flight at 6.50 AM. Terminal 3, Changi was a relatively new transit airport (opened at January 2008) and its amenities were first class. It was amazing how Singaporean serviced their transit visitors. On the first floor it had a huge shopping mall, standard for every transit airport, since it was better if the transit visitors spent some money while they were there, right? The surprising feature of this floor was the Butterfly Garden. It had a huge area filled with butterfly where visitors could get in and enjoy the beauty of hundreds beautiful butterflies flying around. Too bad since I arrived there at night, almost no flying butterflies in sight. Well, maybe some other time.

The second floor hold more surprises, it had small free movie theater, it was showing August Rush when I was there, transit hotel, visitors lounge and a huge eating area. I was looking for a place to spend the night since I need to wait for another 7 hours or so for my next flight so I went to the transit hotel and asked for a room. Unfortunately, it was full and since I only need a place to lie down for a couple of hours, the friendly staff recommended me to get a nap room at the visitors lounge. So I did, a nap room was a very small room, 2×2 m with bed, small credenza and blind (no door). It cost 30 SGD for 3 hours plus a couple of SGD for an access to shower. It was not bad at all, so I took the time to lie down, get some rest and taking a shower before checking in at the transfer counter around 4 AM.

Everything was cleared, my passport and visa checked out all right and I was ready to board my next flight to O’Hare International Airport, Chicago with a short stop at Hong Kong International Airport.

UA 896, Singapore – Chicago, via Hong Kong

Next flight was with United Airlines and although it counted as one flight, it actually required the passenger to change plane once at Hong Kong, so it was quite a short trip from Singapore to Hong Kong, around 2 hours, and not much happening. Once the flight landed in Hong Kong, I did not had the luxury to look around the airport since it was a really tight schedule changing from one plane to another so I just went to the boarding gate and get in on the next flight, the longest one.

The flight from Hong Kong to Chicago was long, really long, around 18 hours, and to my surprise, I’d got an Economy Plus seating which mean more leg room and my seat was a front seat so I did not had any other seat in front of me. It also mean I sat in front of the screen which was always good. I did not remember all of the movie but some of them were: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (I slept halfway of the movie, too tired I guess), The Longshots (also slept in the beginning but wide awake for the ending), Bottle Shock (which was actually a good based-on-true-story movie) and City of Ember (which I loved since it had steampunk elements on it). It was a relatively good flight, I mean my body was sore all over the place but what could I expect from sitting (and small walking) inside a Boeing 747-400?

The real adventure started in Chicago…

O’Hare International Airport, Chicago

I landed at O’Hare around 4 PM and since I need to change my flight to domestic flight, O’Hare was my point of entry to United States. So when I presented my passport and visa to the Custom and Border Protection officer, he asked if this was my first visit to the US and since I answered yes… the adventure began. The officer asked me to follow him to another room to process my documents. Well, some of my friends already warned me that this process could take at least 2 hours and they were not joking. My problem was, I need to catch my next flight to New York in 1.5 hours…

So there I was, inside a room with a dozen or so people waiting for my document to be processed. Then, another officer called my name and 4 other people and we were moving to another area. Just my luck, I was number 5 behind 4 middle-eastern looking guy… So while my documents were processed in less than 30 minutes, 21 minutes to be exact, I had to wait around 3 hours before my documents were actually processed. That was a very long wait in a not so comfortable waiting area. Was it worth it? At least, it trained my patience… But to my delight, most officers were courteous and polite, of course there are some rude officers but fortunately I did not had to deal with them. That was a little incident happened with the first person in my line, he was a Pakistani and he was standing because he said he was tired sitting for hours in the plane and in the waiting room. The officer was asking him to sit, he said no and somehow the officer was irritated and push him to sit, he was yelling and telling that he was being treated unfair and impolite. It was quite a scene, more officers came into the scene and there were a yelling contest for quite a while. Fortunately, the incident was not escalated to an arrest and it was solved quite nicely and the Pakistani guy was finally passed the process. Other than that, not so much happening, for 2 hours or so before finally, after the airline staff told me that my two baggages were left at the carousel 6 and I should picked them up before I continue my travel, my documents were processed and I was finally allowed to enter United States.

I supposed to miss my next flight because of the custom procedure. While the custom officer assured me that the airline will definitely replace my flight with another flight, I was still worried and irritated about the fact I was missing my flight and had to trouble myself with rechecking with the airline. So I brought my two large baggages and walked to the transfer baggage check-in. A friendly Philippine baggage officer checked my baggage tags and to my surprise, told me I had not missed my flight since my flight was delayed for 2 hours 47 minutes! My good luck but bad luck for others. So I checked my baggages and walked happily to the boarding gate.

O’Hare airport was so crowded and the security were really tight. And so I waited for the delayed flight, getting some lunch and coffee and waited… Until finally, after waiting for almost an hour, I finally boarded the plane. On the runway, the pilot announced the plane would had to wait 27 minutes before the tower allowed it to depart, well, great… another delay. Well, at least 27 minutes was true and the plane finally leave Chicago after the long delay. Great!

UA 646, Chicago – New York/New Jersey

The plane went to Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey. It’s actually one of the three airport servicing New York, the others are La Guardia (mostly local flights) and JFK. I went to Newark because my new boss could only picked me there since it was the nearest airport to his place. So, Newark was my destination of choice. The flight was uneventful, except for the 27 minutes of delay, again I had an Economy Plus seating at the window side and there was no movie on the 2 hours flight. It was practically a night flight.

Uneventful as it was, at the end of the flight, as the plane dived toward Newark Airport, my eyes caught a view that I will never forget for the rest of my life. It was Manhattan, glowing with thousands of lights and it was so beautiful and so grand, it almost brought the tears to my eyes. This was the first time I laid my eyes upon New York and I was staring at the main city glorified lights. Paris could take the title as “The City of Lights”, but I’d seen Paris and I think Manhattan could took that title now. It was amazing. I was so amazed, I made a mental note to recommend everybody who would visit New York to land on Newark at night time, it was an unforgettable experience.

Newark Liberty International Airport

Get off my plane, straight to the Baggage Claim area, waiting for my bags and while waiting, my new boss greeted me and finally, after communicating back and forth using email, instant text and video messaging, we finally met. I was tired, the total travel time was almost (or more?) than 36 hours, but I also happy because this was a start of a new beginning. So after collected my baggages, me and my boss walked outside to the parking lot and there I was greeted by the winter weather. It was quite a shock, since just a couple of days ago I was living in the tropic and suddenly the temperature drops to almost 0° Celsius, reminder to self: started to get used with the Fahrenheit system in this country. So we entered the car and drove away from Newark to his house, somewhere in New Jersey…

Epilogue

The story ends here. For now. Next will be about my first trip to NYC… I hope all of you, especially those who keep asking me to write this, enjoy the story as much as I enjoy experiencing it. Always have faith that things will get better, as long as we tried hard and harder.

Happy New Year 2009! Time to make our life better!