Monday, January 31, 2005

Of Planes and Trains

Of Planes and Trains

I'll need to catch an early flight to Bandung again tomorrow morning. It probably be difficult for me to blog when I'm there as I'll be tied up with presentations and dinner meetings with the customer, which usually leaves me pretty exhausted at the end of the day.

I was hoping to get a good view of the Parahyangan highlands during my flight to Bandung last week, but unfortunately the weather was very cloudy and rainy, which made the flight rather bumpy too. Paul Theroux, an avid rail traveller, compares the experience of being strapped on an airplane seat like sitting on a dentist's chair--it is always an experience that one looks forward to with a certain amount of trepidation.

I used to take the KL-Singapore shuttle flight very regularly; I liked the convenience of just showing up at the airport, buying a ticket and hopping on a plane. Now there are a lot less flights available on that route and they are also a bit expensive if you compare them to what's offered by budget airlines--I can easily fly to Bangkok and Jakarta with that kind of price. Furthermore NICE buses to Singapore are cheap, quick and comfortable.

Taking the Merpati flight to Bandung is relatively hassle-free, as you are allowed to board the flight half-and-hour before departure. The CN-235 propeller planes used for such short routes were manufactured locally when Indonesia had a thriving aircraft manufacturing industry (ex-president B.J. Habibie's pet project). I hope they still keep spare-parts.

Flying can be a fun pursuit if you have the time, money and inclination. Some of my friends in the States are into it as a pastime. If you read Antoine de St. Exupery, you'd be inspired to fly too. ("I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things...")

But I'm like Theroux--more of a train person. Well, I'm not exactly sure if it is safer, but to me it is certainly more fun: if taking a flight is likened to a dentist appointment, going on a train journey is like enjoying a moving picnic. And on the train, they have had luxuries like sleeper seats for ages, without passengers having to pay an arm and a leg for it...

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