Last weekend was one the most craziest weekend I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve got a chance to have breakfast with Secretary-General of ASEAN in Jakarta, lunch with CEO of Air Asia in Kuala Lumpur and Dinner with the Prime Minister of Thailand in Bangkok. How cool is that?! Thanks to Air Asia for inviting me and two other bloggers from Indonesia, Ong ‘Unspun’ Hock Chuan and Enda Nasution to this journey.
The excitement begin the day before the event at Gran Mahakam hotel, Jakarta, where we hand-over our luggage and submitting our passport for the event. At the dinner table, I met and chat with the famous Unspun for the first time. It’s kind of awkward because I didn’t know what to say and afraid that I can’t respond him properly. But he’s nice and has smiley face. (Thanks Mr. Ong for putting my photo on your ASEAN Day post :D)
Then I met Enda and Wandi, who’s eventually becoming my travel buddy. Later on, I found out that Enda sleeps whenever possible and Wandi is never run out of jokes. It’s nice to know people that much on a very limited hours hehe.
And when I walked out to get my buffet dinner, there I saw, a very familiar face… I gasp before asking, “Are you Kenny Sia?!” Kenny Sia is Malaysia’s top blogger whose blog I enjoy through my RSS reader! Apparently Air Asia also inviting blogger from Malaysia. I can’t believe I met him! It’s like better than meeting any celebrity in real life. I gave him my business card and take a picture together. We even got chance to share a cab and went shopping at Catuchak Market, Bangkok. Hihi I heard Bancha is screaming already (she’s Kenny Sia’s biggest fan, I’m #2).
At my dinner table, I got surrounded by older people chatting to each other like they’re old friends, but some of them just met. I’m amazed on how this networking things going on. The lady beside me is Indonesian and I can feel that she’s powerful. Later on, I realized that she is Dewi Fortuna Anwar, one of the most important person in Habibie Era. Anyway, they’re all talking about how they never fly with Air Asia before, they started wondering about the size of the chair, whether it is safe and how they must buy food in the plane. I hold my breath not to let out a chuckle. I know this is rich people conversation, but they’ve certainly missing out the Best Low Cost Airline in Asia!
On 8th August, 2009, the celebration of 42nd birthday of Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) started at ASEAN Secretariat office, Jakarta. I know what you have in mind. The last time I’ve heard anything about ASEAN was on my high school years. Basically ASEAN was there to bring out the best in Southeast Asia countries. The vision of Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, of “Green ASEAN” theme: “essentially reflects the three-pronged challenge facing ASEAN today: building an environmentally sustainable clean and green ASEAN; transforming the ‘green shoots’ of growth in the face of the current global financial crisis into an economically resilient ASEAN; and more importantly nurturing the new and green ASEAN to be a people-centred and globally respected institution among the community of nations.” I enjoy Dr Surin speech, he’s smart, funny and know how to do a good public speaking.
At the flag hoisting ceremony, I met Mr. Hermawan Kartajaya, one of the famous marketer in Indonesia. We exchange business card. He kept blurting out some marketing strategy and what he had in mind. He said he’s enjoying being a blogger, and also said that there are 3 type of people that we must pay attention to as a marketer: Ladies (because men do whatever for ladies), Youngster (because the older one will follow), and Blogger (because offline community is listening to the online community). I think he’s brilliant and never run out of ideas, maybe because he has high dose of entrepreneurship spirit One more thing, he’s very keen on getting photographed with important people… including err… Air Asia girls :p
On time, we went straight to Soekarno-Hatta airport. No immigration process, we’re treated as VIP, and that feels good. There were 140 of us (Diplomats, Journalists, Blogger, other guests) hopping to the Airbus A320. We got free meals, I choose Chicken Lasagna, and I think it’s delicious for a plane food. Then Dr. Surin speaking and held a Seminar on the sky. He then asked Dewi Fortuna Anwar to speak. The plane landed after 2 hours journey. And everyone’s busy taking picture of the ASEAN painted plane.
At LCCT, Kuala Lumpur, we went straight to the press conference. Tony Fernandes, CEO of Air Asia speaking. I think it’s so great that Air Asia offers to support the ASEAN event. Because Air Asia now become a bridge to ASEAN countries. I would never even dream of going to Bangkok in 2007 if I haven’t got that cheap tickets. And now Bandung is full of tourist from Malaysia, thanks to Air Asia, Bandung has become one of shopping destination for Malaysian. I know why! Bandung has variety of choices for Muslimah fashion, that you can’t get in Singapore or Thailand. So, we have nature (Bali), culture (Yogyakarta) and shopping (Bandung), Air Asia knows it well!
Soon after we walked into the plane to fly to Bangkok, Tony Fernandes, offer 4 tickets to London to whoever can collect 3 business cards of ASEAN Secretariat staff and also can sing in the front. Two girls from ASEAN Secretariat win the ticket. Then Air Asia queens from all over ASEAN walk the runway and gave remarks on their own language. It was a fashion show in the sky! Very entertaining. Then we all sing Happy Birthday for ASEAN, pretend candle blowing and cutting the cake. Chaos already happened here as all photographers started to move forward, too little space for such celebration on sky
We’re landing on time in Bangkok and getting once again VIP access, straight to exit. The immigration even smiled at us! Then we’re off with the buses to the Thai Foreign Ministry office to have dinner with the Prime Minister of Thailand, Abhisit Vejjajjiva. Thought I would have Tom Yam Gung for appetizer, but turned out we’re having western food all the way.
Dr Surin passing by intentionally to our dinner table and we’re taking a picture with him. He’s just so nice. He said, “We will do this every year! And when it’s Jakarta’s turn, we’ll fly to Bali, the land of God!” And everybody’s cheering.
PM Abhisit gave prizes for the students who win the competitions held for the ASEAN Day. I notice that they’re never shaking hands. Cultural things I guess. At this point, I already too tired to think and listen to the speech. But I still can think about one thing: the Prime Minister is so young, handsome and charming. I whisper to Dian about this and of course she’s with me
At 10 pm we’re finally arrived at the Sofitel Centara Grand Bangkok. I believe all 4 of private floors in the hotel was booked for us. One guess per room. It’s fabulous! I try to call the receptionist asking for Thai Massage, but they don’t have it at these hours. Good thing though, because the price of Thai Massage there was 1300 Baht, and that’s actually all the money I brought from Indonesia :P
The next day, I woke up refreshed. Reading Saturday edition of Bangkok Post while enjoying the view of Bangkok from my window. After having breakfast, I decided to try going to Chatuchak Weekend Market. I didn’t quite managed to make friends during this short trips, especially with the girls. So, I have to go alone, I don’t have shopping buddies. I ask the information lady and she gave me this card with Thai words in it. I supposed to give it to my taxi driver. Lucky me, Kenny Sia was also going to Chatuchak Market, so I hop in his cab.
We splitted on Chatuchak Market. I kinda worried I’ll get lost, but I can conquered Pasar Senen in Jakarta and Pasar Baru in Bandung, then why should I be afraid of just the same kind of market? Then I started my shopping journey. It’s tricky because I should buy items in limited Baht in limited time for a lot of people. I also should spare Baht for my taxi ride back to the hotel. I bought everything with elephant in it, and took some pictures then rushing back to the hotel before the bus from Air Asia take us to the airport.
Remembering my last experience with Bangkok taxi in 2007 made me reluctant at first. But I get a good driver. I got nervous at first because he didn’t understand English, didn’t understand the way I spell ‘Sofitel’ and couldn’t understand latin words map I brought with me. I must spell the road name for him first before he finally understood. He then kindly tried to have a conversation with me, and it’s ended up awkward because all I can respond to his mumbling incomplete English was, “Good… Thailand good… shopping… Abhisit… Indonesia….” and he would respond, “Good… Indonesia good… Abhisit… Good….” >.<;
Several things I notice about Bangkok was, they have so many huge billboard. By huge I mean, GIANT billboards. They also have their King and family photos everywhere. And this funny ‘no fart’ policy is also exist in Bangkok haha.
I also have to tell you about the giant airport, Suvarnabhumi. The airport is sooo big, if check-in a little bit late, you won’t make it to the plane. Because even if you run, it’s still need like 10 – 15 minutes to reach the gates.
Everything actually went smooth until we got stuck in Immigration at LCCT. We forgot that we have return to be the same normal person who have to be in line. No more fast lane or VIP access for us. Three of us got really stuck and missed the plane back home. Didn’t have any of their number to check, but I hope they’re doing fine.
At Soekarno-Hatta Jakarta, I’m amazed with the long line at the exit door. Why we must get our bag checked again? We’ve get pass through this before! Every tourist looked tired and angry with the long line. They must face immigration line, visa on arrival line, baggage claim line and now a line to exit?! Hope the government could reconsider the way things work at the airport for the convenience of our guests.
I had a wonderful time, great experience and new friends, thanks again to Air Asia. Good luck to you! Last but not least, quoting Dr. Surin: We dare to dream we care to share, this is the new ASEAN! Happy 42nd birthday, ASEAN!