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Singapore - Makassar

View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After yesterday’s excitement, we oversleep this morning, completely missing the alarm, meaning we have to rush down for breakfast before they stop serving.


Yet again I enjoy some smoked salmon, whereas David sticks to fried eggs. I love the sign on the table – I didn’t notice that yesterday – indicating whether you are just getting more food, or have completely finished your breakfast and departed, so that the staff know when they can clear your table. What a great idea!


Changi Airport

We arrive at the airport with plenty of time to allow us to reclaim tax for the drone we bought yesterday. After an uneventful check-in for Scoot Airlines, followed by finding a wheelchair, a porter grabs our boarding cards and instructs us to sit down and wait. Apparently, they are only allowed to push us through immigration one hour before departure. So much for us arriving three hours early to arrange for the tax refund.


With the flight originally scheduled to leave at 15:15, we are dismayed to see a new departure time of 16:00. Chatting to a disgruntled Australian man also travelling in a wheelchair, we learn that this is the norm with Scoot Airlines. The designated waiting area for mobility-impaired passengers leaves much to be desired, with nothing around: no shops or cafés to get a drink, no comfortable seats, nothing.


With a bit of pleading, and explaining about the tax refund, a porter eventually agrees to take us through before the ‘allocated’ time. David sits in the front of the mobility buggy, while I am at the end, facing backwards. The porter appears to have Formula One ambitions, and not only do I feel dizzy as he races across the swirly-patterned carpet, but I also fear I am going to fall out of the cart as he swerves at full speed to avoid wayward pedestrians.


Claiming the tax back proves to be easier than anticipated, via a self-service booth.

Singapore to Makassar

FlyScoot is new to us, one of the many budget airlines in South East Asia. While budget airlines in the West are bad enough, here they seem to be made for people who are a fraction of our size, and to say the aircraft is cramped would be an understatement. Every time the chap in the seat in front of me moves, he throws himself back into the seat, crushing my knees in the process.

Boarding is painfully slow, with seemingly everyone carrying hard roller cases that they struggle to fit in the overhead compartments, holding up everyone behind them in the process.

The plane doesn’t fill up until 16:15, a quarter of an hour after the revised departure time, and to add to the delay, an announcement is made that a black bag has been left in the gate hall. No-one owns up. Passengers are just milling about, unsure of what is happening – the whole thing reeks of chaos and lack of control. Fearing a security issue, the announcement is repeated. It takes 20 minutes, three more announcements later, and just as the bag is about to be taken away and destroyed, someone finally realises that they do not have their hand luggage in the plane with them. We finally depart at 17:30, 2 hours 15 minutes late.

Makassar Airport

As with boarding, passengers are painfully slow disembarking, and when we arrive in the immigration hall, my heart sinks. Thank goodness I am in a wheelchair, as the lines snake around the room, and I would have struggled to stand for the duration of the wait. There are only two other westerners, a young lady, and her son – they are in front of us in the queue.

After some 45 minutes or so, we finally reach the immigration desk and hand our passports over with the e-visa. The official asks where we are staying. I hand her my list of hotels for the entire trip. She calls a colleague across and they study the list, then ask what my itinerary is and the dates. I dig out the dossier sent to us by Undiscovered Destinations. As she continues to ask for further information, I am eternally grateful that I am so incredibly organised, printing off all the paperwork prior to departure from home, and placing it in a folder in chronological order: onward tickets to Timor Leste, tickets from Timor Leste back to Bali, onward tickets from Bali, hotel confirmations, details of local agents…. The list goes on. Soon she has most of the pieces of paper for the next 3 weeks, and eventually, we are let through to collect our bags.

The next hurdle makes immigration seem like a walk in the park. Most of the passengers on the flight are part of a large group returning from Umrah (pilgrimage to Mecca), and I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of them have never been on a flight, or abroad before. Confused, upset, tired, and angsty, they mill around, leaving trolleys and baggage blocking the route for anyone else. As with everything else these days, the Customs Declaration is totally online. Convinced that we completed this a few days ago, I am dismayed, and slightly panicking, when I can’t find it on my phone. When David is unable to locate it on his phone either, we assume that we most likely DID NOT do it - having filled in so many online forms over the last week, we must have missed it (Post Note: two weeks later we come across it – no idea where it has been hiding meanwhile). After much to and fro with an official whose English is barely better than my Indonesian, we are pointed to a QR code on a pillar in the hall which takes us to the form, using the free wifi in the airport.

David volunteers to complete the form, but with so many people trying to access the website at the same time, it keeps crashing. After three unsuccessful attempts, I have a go and get a little further than David, but then suddenly the system wipes all the information I have put in, three times in a row. When I eventually manage to complete the details for both of us, it adds a second husband. Groan. One is more than enough. Finally, some 25 minutes after we started this debacle, I have that all-important QR code on my phone. I quickly take a screenshot, just in case…


Now all we have to do is to try and get out of this bedlam, which is easier said than done, with a couple of trolleys blocking our exit, and no space to move those trolleys into with all the people still standing around, dazed and zombie-like. Eventually, the aforementioned official uses his authority to get people moving, by loud shouting and some pushing and shoving, and we can see light at the end of the tunnel.

We’re out. Or rather in. In Indonesia, that is. Theo, the young and delightful representative from Undiscovered Destinations' local agent, is waiting in the arrivals hall for us, a little concerned and baffled about the amount of time it has taken us to get through. He leads us to a generously proportioned people-carrier with comfortable seats and a friendly driver, Acho.

Aston Hotel

With an impressive lobby, the hotel looks very welcoming. The friendly and cheerful receptionist, however, is thoroughly bewildered, as he has no record of our stay. As anguish creeps across Theo’s face, I point out that the itinerary we received before leaving home, mentions Santika Hotel, Not Aston. Relief and embarrassment replace the apprehension on Theo’s face, and he is full of apologies. “Guests from Undiscovered Destinations always stay at the Aston” he explains, as he orders Acho to help the porters return our luggage to the car.

Santika Hotel

By the time we arrive at the much-less-impressive Santika Hotel, it is 22:30 and I am feeling tired and hungry. “I’m afraid the restaurant only opens for breakfast” Theo explains, “and the room service is closed now.” Great. Not at all feeling like wandering around an unknown town at this time of night looking for a place to eat (most restaurants stop serving around 21:30 we are told), David offers to pop along to the MacDonalds we spotted on the way here, just a couple of doors down. It is not something I would normally choose to eat at home, but needs must, and I have to reluctantly admit that the sorry-looking sandwich is very welcome and actually quite tasty.



Despite the initial disappointment of this hotel over the Aston, we are very happy with the spacious bedroom, with its two large beds and a couple of chairs on which to enjoy our late-night culinary delight.



Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this once-in-a-lifetime grand tour.


Posted by Grete Howard 12:00 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia singapore airport breakfast visa sulawesi airline passport changi immigration porter wheelchair umrah makassar marina_bay_sands_hotel qr_code flyscoot scoot_airlines budget_airline red-tape customs_declaration aston_hotel santika_hotel macdonalds

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Not the pleasantest of days on this trip, but needs must when you're travelling between so many countries. I'm glad you had a comfortable hotel room waiting for you at the end of it!

by ToonSarah

Thanks, Sarah, as you say, you've got to take the rough with the smooth.

by Grete Howard

What a day I might add! Sorry to read about the struggle you guys had to inter the country, but I hope to read nothing but good things as the days progress!

by Ils1976

Thank you, Ils, things most definitely got better. :)

by Grete Howard

by Ils1976

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