Our next port of call in is the oil-rich city of Miri. We opt to avoid the boneshaker from Bintulu and instead travel by VIP coach. The difference in price is about 50p for the four-hour journey.
The coach looks the biz from outside, though the interior, whilst ten times better than the last couple of long distance buses we used, appears to be over selling the very importance of the people travelling upon it. It does however have a conductor and there are no chickens to be seen anywhere on the vehicle so I guess that gives it something of an executive feel.
The last day of August is also to be our last day in Sarawak. We have opted to avoid the road journey into the state of Sabah on the basis that it would take the best part two days due to the lack of direct routes and the need for a stop over in Brunei. We had agreed that the pain in the ass changes of buses and the need to clear immigration going both into and out of Brunei was not worth the hassle, so we searched for late flights with both of the route operators. MASWings (the budget subsidiary of Malaysian Airlines) came up trumps.
At a headline price of £33 for all three of us including taxes, booking fees and all the other small print crap which the likes of RyanAir never declare up front, it feels like Christmas has come early.
The flight is set for 12.30pm so we have our laundry delivered at 9am, the 0.5 pops out for a 30 min foot massage at 10, leaving plenty enough time to get a taxi to the airport and go through the checking-in process.
We arrive at the terminal at 11.15 and on cross-referencing the LCD as to where we need to check-in; I spot the message no flyer wants to see. CANCELLED.
No SMS, no email, no prior communication whatsoever. Just an offer of seats on the next flight to Kota Kinabalu that is scheduled to depart at 3.50pm, a full four and a half hours away.
Our compensation comes in the form of a pair of meal vouchers for use in the naffest restaurant in the airport. More galling still, our options are limited to one of three “value” dishes and an ice-heavy soft drink. “The Boy” gets no such benefits on account of his designated seat being my lap, meaning we have to buy him an overpriced pastry which comes to nearly as much as one of our flights.
We while away the hours taking turns to interact with “The Boy” and assisting him in his new favourite game of running wild with the buggy. Other travellers look on agape as they see a phantom McClaren pushchair seemingly heading their way without any means of propulsion.
Eventually each comes to realise a small human is tucked away behind it’s controls, working the steering in a haphazard manner. “The Boy” traverses the entire departures hall several times over, stopping occasionally to check the route ahead and yelling incomprehensible babble at his observers as he passes by at full throttle.
At around about 2.50pm our flight is called and soon after, we clear both security and immigration (which bemuses me as we are not leaving Malaysia) in order to make our way to the gate.
At approximately 3.15pm the LCD drops another bombshell. Our flight status changes from “CALLING” to “CANCELLED”. I am left dumbfounded.
Reclearing the same immigration we just passed through, all passengers head to the single desk allocated to telling us what the hell is going on.
At 4.30pm we finally reach the front of the queue and discover our options are to take an indirect flight via some no mark town at 7.30pm or take the last direct flight of the day at 8.30pm.
Confidence in MASWings at rock bottom, there is no way I am rolling the dice for a pit stop in Labuan, so we opt for the later option partly on the strength of the very apologetic young man staffing today’s job from hell ensuring us that under any circumstances, this aeroplane must be in Kota Kinabalu tonight.
I negotiate passes for the Malaysian Airlines lounge that will at least act as a new playground for “The Boy” as well as offering gratis refreshments and food.
Several plates of cake and high sugar drinks later, we are called (again) and this time I can see an aeroplane outside of our departure gate.
We take off on time and finally arrive in Kota Kinabalu a mere 50 minutes later.
This is the longest delay I have ever experienced. Eight hours, and I didn’t lose my temper once.
I’m quickly realising there is a reason why Asians do not like to lose face. You could go mad with frustration, and even this in Malaysia, one of the more developed countries on our itinerary.
I am digging in for more challenging times ahead. “Go with the flow, live in the moment”. That has to be my mantra.
It worked in India.
For a month or two…….