Monday, July 1, 2013

Flying AirAsia to Yogyakarta, and Visiting The Prambanan Market

AirAsia is one of the budget carriers that I have been watching since its inception and admired for its trendsetting spunk. Hey, ten years ago there were barely any budget airlines in Southeast Asia, and they started the ball rolling.

CEO Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) is quite the personality too - brash, creative and gutsy. His personal credo of "Believe the unbelievable. Dream the impossible. Never take no for an answer" has made air travel possible for a lot more people, and helped tourism in the region.

But somehow all my previous attempts to fly AirAsia has been thwarted. It was only last week that I got to try it, when the airline flew a group of bloggers in conjunction with to Indonesia -- mine was to Yogyakarta with the Cambelles, Edunloaded, Melicacy and TheSmartLocal. I have to say I saw some good things on this first flight experience that I never even got with full service flights.

The cheery Row 14 at Changi Airport Terminal 1
For one thing, there's always someone to help you with enquiries even before you join the queue (maybe other airlines have that too, but I hardly see them). Check-in was pretty breezy at Row 14 of Changi Airport Terminal 1. The signboards are very clear on destinations.

Boarding at Gate 38D
Inside the airport, we also saw AirAsia staff scouring the departure area to gather up any missing passengers, so they wouldn't miss their flights. Their budget flights. Kudos for attentiveness. I know of cases where passengers have missed flights while sitting and busy with digital devices at the boarding area of foreign airports and full service flights. Incredible but true.

My first flight with AirAsia
Oooh that's my plane.

Oooh, I love take-off and landing...
I love flying. Especially take-off and landing. I even like turbulence (that's the roller coaster junkie in me), but there was hardly any on this one.

I like the red and black seats
I like the livery, the interior, the black and red seats. The plane seems quite well-maintained and very clean. No funny smells!

I even thought it was very clever of them to have colourful advertising panels on the overhead baggage compartment doors. Made it look very cheery.

Legroom on AirAsia flight
Legroom is important to me. I'm 5'7" or 171cm so I'm not that small. Well, there was enough comfortable space. If you sit all the way back, you still have room.

And hey, bright red seat belts -- makes it so much easier for you to look for them.

You actually get detailed ingredient list and nutritional info on the inflight meal!
Oh the food. Yes, one of the things that my friends always rave about AirAsia is their inflight meals -- it's actually tasty. I was surprised to find detailed ingredient lists of each component (rice, satay, sambal) along with allergen information and nutritional breakdown information (carbohydrates, fat, protein, calories).

Asian Fried Rice with Chicken Satay and Sambal
You can pre-book your meal online and save 20%. Also, you get more choices and they serve you first. Here we got the Asian Fried Rice with Chicken Satay. Good that the rice was moist and the grilled satay richly flavoured with lemongrass, turmeric and garlic. It's certainly filling.

AirAsia touched down in Yogyakarta on a sunny day
The flight to Yogyakarta is only about two hours and a bit more. We touched down close to midday with sunny weather.

Yogyakarta International Airport
Yogyakarta Adisucipto International Airport (JOG) smaller than I thought. But it's the third busiest airport in Java, and not too far from city centre (6km).

Well, since the airport is just 15 minutes away from one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Prambanan Temple Complex, we decided to head on there. The hotel airport transfer driver took us there as the hotel does transport there and back for 300,000 rupiah (about US$30).

Melissa and I at Prambanan Market
When we arrived, the sun was just too strong and harsh for any good photography, so we decided to "lepak" (relax) a while at the adjacent bazaar - the Prambanan Market. It's mostly for tourists but still worth a look.

Prambanan Market - all these trinkets for just 1,000 rupiah each (like US$0.10)!!
Trinkets galore at just 1,000 rupiah each (like US$0.10)! And you know that's the tourist price!

Just a small note on bargaining -- feel free to start haggling at one-third the price of whatever they quote you. We had several incidences of finding out how low the bottom can go. Sometimes I don't like to go too low, because it can be quite disheartening for the seller. But I also don't want to be outrageously fleeced.

Prambanan Market - foodstuff
You'll see lots of local snacks and food stuff.

Kerupuk Belut - that's Eel for you
Some might be a bit exotic: Kripik Belut. Deep-fried eel crackers. You can still see the critters. Looks like they've been slit and gutted.

All kinds of colourful drinks
Lots of colourful drinks.

Teh Botol Sosro - they are on Twitter ok! @tehbotolsosroID
The most well known drink is probably Teh Botol Sosro - Indonesia's favourite sweetened jasmine tea - they are on Twitter, ok! @tehbotolsosroID but it's in Indonesian.

Children at Prambanan Market
Children at the market. You notice how third world country kids somehow tend to look very happy? If they're not starving, that is.

A row of food stalls at Prambanan Market
Gaudy food stalls with all kinds of local favourites like mie bakso (meatball noodles), ayam goreng (fried chicken), gudeg (stewed young jackfruit, a Yogyakarta signature), nasi (rice dishes) of all kinds.

We ate here at Prambanan Market
We ate at this one. Quite randomly, actually.

Mee bakso at Prambanan Market
We braved a mie bakso (8,000 rupiah or US$0.80). It's a small bowl, probably only half portion of what we are used to back home. Tasty soup but likely loaded with MSG. This photo was taken on the iPhone. All other photos were taken using the Canon EOS 6D, which is on loan to me from Canon Singapore. Barely needed editing, just a few filter effects. Well, I had too many photos to edit anyway (750 crazy shots over just two days!).

Anyway, with the softening rays closer to sunset, we finally headed to the Prambanan temples - which turned out to be more magnificent than I remember (I saw them many years ago). More of that in the next post.


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