Remembering 1997: The Sweetest Year in My Life (Part 30):

My last day in Australia, finally came. After months of fun times in Perth, it’s finally time for me to bid farewell to all of these beautiful things. I woke up in the morning, on 9th December 1997, with a rather heavy feeling. I feel like I don’t want to part ways and wished if I could stay longer. But then again, those who made my days very colorful in Australia have already gone. So it was inevitable that I have to go home. Besides that, my student visa will also expire at the end of the year.

I woke up and then having breakfast before taking shower. While preparing, I caught up with Feroza. She has recovered, but her facial expression looks feeble. I asked her about how condition and also has he feel better now. Normally she would reply in long and cheerful manner, but this time she only faintly replying “Yes”. Her walking also looks rather wobbly. Surprisingly, Shiraj have also return back home and act as if nothing unusual ever happened last night. Due to the sensitive nature of last night’s incident, I decided not to discuss anything about it with him.

Once I dressed up, my parents coming over to pick me up. They were greeted by Shiraj and also the kids. Wahyu and Shah Jehan also greet them, while Feroza looks unusually reserved. My parents, upon seeing rather tattered condition asked if she is alright. Feroza replied that she was just unwell. Still, my parents were not convinced as her appearance contrasting to her previous appearance when she met my parents.

After loading my entire luggage to the taxi (well almost, as I later learned that I forgot to load minor items), I shook hand with everyone. Shiraj and Shah Jehan hug me and saying that they will miss me. Shiraj also said that I’ve been the nicest kid that ever took tenancy in his house. Feroza, still reeling from last night drama, looked on with empty gaze. Had she was in good health, she would surely bid me farewell with much warmer manner. Wahyu also bid me farewell. “Well, I will be Shiraj’s only adult son now!” he smirks.

I boarded the taxi with a rather heavy feeling. Now I’m leaving the city that I once considered as “home away from home”. Perth has been a very peaceful yet exciting place to be. I’ve had the happiest moment in my life yet in here, and I feel like I don’t want to part way with it. I’ve meet the loveliest people, experiencing finest moment in my life, and learning new things in fun and exciting way in Perth. It’s just so difficult for me emotionally to leave these all behind.

Perth city as seen in 1997. 

We drove along rather quiet streets of Perth in the morning. Although it was a working day, busy commuter traffic didn’t exist, or not that I remember. Probably because we traveled through the areas that doesn’t have many schools, that I didn’t see many traffic.

Once our taxi entered Horrie Miller Drive, I began to feel nervous yet also excited.

Horrie Miller Drive was the main access road to Perth International Airport.

We’re getting near to Perth airport, and obviously my time in Perth, and Australia, is numbered. As soon as we arrive at the airport terminal, my father paid the taxi bill and we disembark from the taxi as well as offloading our luggage. I grab one of the trolleys and place all of our belongings there. We then proceed to the check in counter.

Row of luggage trolleys at Perth International Airport. I can’t recall if it was free or already paid in 1997.

We checked in our luggage and selected our seats. As soon as we got our boarding passes, we went straight into the boarding lounge. Perth airport was a rather small airport with very little to offer, so it was plausible that we went straight to the boarding lounge. The passport checking went without any hitch, and before long we already sat in the waiting lounge.

The boarding lounge of Perth International airport as seen in 1998, before major renovation in mid 2000s. It was like this in 1997.

This was the first time that I visited the airport in broad daylight. On previous occasions (during my arrival, and also when I picked up my parents), it was all in the dark. So for the first time, I can get clear view on how does the airport looks like.

In the apron, there were several airplanes parked. Most are Qantas  and Ansett planes. There was one Garuda airplane, which is Boeing 747-200.

Garuda Indonesia Boeing 747-200 at Zurich airport.

Had I choose to fly with Garuda, I would have flown with that airplane. But since I was keen to experience Australian airline, I didn’t mind about that. In fact back then, I looked down at the Garuda plane because it looks so old, rusty, and a bit decrepit. Indeed, since Garuda’s flight schedule was only a few minutes apart from Qantas, I learned that the flight was dodged by delays. I could also see the facial expression of Garuda’s passengers whose were visibly disappointed.

Although admittedly, these days I regretted that decision as that would have been my one and only flight with Garuda’s Boeing 747-200. It was something that I had dreamed since my childhood days, but never materialize at all!

For the first time, I can see the view of airport’s apron and runway in broad daylight. And now I get clear answer for my amazement when I first landed in Perth a few months ago. Back then, I was perplexed when I spotted some trees in the middle of airport’s airside (right between the runway and taxiway). Apparently there are a lot of tall vegetation (bushes and trees) on the airside. This gives unique experience for the first time visitors on the airport. I’ve never seen similar thing in Indonesia, as the vegetation on the airside never gets taller than half meter.

The view of Perth airport airside, with Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-200ER in foreground. The tall bushes can be seen in the background, while the domestic terminal can be seen in far background on the left.

Just across the runway, apparently there is another airport terminal. Its apron is dominated by airplanes from Qantas and Ansett. The terminal is the original airport terminal of Perth airport. Back in the old days, all flights (including international) arrive and depart on that part of the airport. But since the opening of the new terminal, it is relegated for domestic flights only. The most amazing part about it (and also Perth airport in general) is the fact that it is located across the runway. This was the first time that I see airport terminals separated by runway! Transfer between terminals would have been tedious, considering the distance between both terminals and rarity of inter-terminal bus service at that time.

But the most amazing view of all has to be the sight of Perth skyscrapers that is not just clearly visible, but also feel as if they’re nearby, despite the fact that there is a considerable distance between the city center and the airport. It’s probably because of the visual effect that made the city center looks as if it’s next to the airport. The sight gave some urban look in the area around the airport that is largely rural.

Perth city skyscrapers can be clearly seen from the airport, including from the boarding lounge.

And finally, about my flight, the plane that will take me back to Indonesia is ready at the gate. It was a Qantas’s Boeing 767-300. The plane is painted in predominantly white color, with red tail, and large “QANTAS” lettering above its front fuselage.

The Qantas Boeing 767-300 that will take me back to Indonesia.

Compared to Garuda’s Boeing 747 that I saw earlier, this plane looked much cleaner, fresher, and also gleaming in morning lights.

I’ve seen Qantas planes when they visit major airports in Indonesia, like in Jakarta or Bali. When I saw them, I always imagining myself on how would it feel like to fly onboard one of them. Today, my dream will come true.

After several minutes of waiting, our boarding call is finally announced. Passengers lining up at the gate and ready to get onboard the plane. I was so excited about it! Once our boarding passes are checked we walked down the jetway to enter our airplane.  I can feel adrenaline and the sense of excitement rushing on my body. I was really happy.

As soon as we entered the plane, passengers were greeted by stewardess dressed in smart business attire. They wore dark blue jacket and skirt, with maroon tie. This was the first time I get onboard a plane where its cabin crews are Caucasians. And contrary to the cabin crew of Indonesian airlines, they are more expressive and talk in louder tone. It’s not that they’re rude, but it is because the ways they talk are louder than Indonesians.

An example of Qantas cabin crew uniform in 1997.

I also notice one unusual feature about the airplane. Although the plane is about the same size as Airbus A300, it doesn’t have middle row entrance door. Some airlines actually feature 3 rows of entrance door for their Boeing 767-300, but Qantas opted for just 2 rows. That means that all passengers embarked (and disembark) through the front door. I’m not sure the reason behind this, but this made passenger movements a bit tedious. I sat on the right side window, overlooking the rear part of the wing. I sat next to my mother. Since Boeing 767 economic class seats are configured in 2-3-2 arrangement, my father sat in the middle group of seat rows.

During the boarding process, I notice one elderly Australian man who can speak fluent Indonesian. Apparently he marries to an Indonesian woman. His wife accompanies him on this trip. Throughout my stay in Australia, I never came across any Australians who can speak my native language. So seeing an Australian able to speak Indonesian language fluently is quite an interesting sight.

While waiting for the plane to depart, I watched the activities on the outside, where ground crew working to load passenger’s belonging. Just next to airplane is Garuda’s Boeing 747. From my seat, I can see some mechanics trying to fix the airplane so it can fly back to Indonesia. Had the plane departed on time, it would have gone by now. But as I wait for my plane to depart, it seemed to be nowhere near ready to fly.

As soon as all passengers seated, and luggage are completely loaded, our plane is ready to depart. The pilot announcing to the cabin crew to closed the doors, and now our plane is being pushed back to taxiway. Once the clearance was given, my airplane slowly taxying into the runway. While taxying, the cabin crew demonstrate safety instruction to passengers. I didn’t bother to look at it, as I was busy watching the scenery outside and counting my last minutes or even seconds in Australia.

Our plane slowly taxying into the runway and it goes to holding position to the north of the airport. Once the clearance was given, the pilot hit the maximum throttle, and our plane rolled at high speed down the runway. And a few seconds later, our airplane is safely airborne, and we’re off the ground! Goodbye Australia! See you again in the future! Hopefully I can return back again to resume my study as I planned.

(Note: the video below is not mine, as it is used for illustration only. The details also differ completely from my flight. But I used it as the plane and airport involved are similar to mine).

The land below gradually goes further down, as our airplane gaining altitude. From the window, I can see that despite of rural setting of the airport area, the place is actually surrounded by industrial area and busy railway yards. And from the air, I can confirm that the city center is indeed very far from the airport. It’s just amazing on how close does it looks like, if seen from the airport terminal.

Once the plane goes higher, it soon made right turn into the northerly direction. From the window, I can see the Perth metropolitan area as a whole. I can see the cities that had become my home for the past 5 months from the air, and now I catch its final glimpse as my airplane traveling further north. Once the Perth city disappears, the scenery below is replaced by the sight of giant arid land, with predominantly red colored soil.

Flying in broad daylight can give you the actual view of how does real Australia made off. Although the scenery in Perth or areas to the south looks green and pleasant, on the northern part of the continent, the scenery consists of arid land with very little visible vegetation. And as far as I can see, the sky is clear and cloudless! No wonder the summer temperature in Australia is scorching hot.

The view from my window. You can see how arid Australia’s northwest region is.

Once the seatbelt sign is off, the stewardess went around handing peanut snacks to passengers. Contrary to my mother’s tale about comical attitude of cabin crew on her previous flight, this time they look more serious and straightforward in doing their job. I didn’t see anything special about their activities.

Throughout the flight, they played Mel Gibson’s “Conspiracy Theory” movie on the screen in front of the cabin.

Each passenger had been provided with the earphone at the seat pocket in front of them, so we watched to the movie while enjoying the film. I actually didn’t like the movie as I’m not big fans of the genre. All I remember about the movie is the very loud sound effect and surprises that sometime made me almost jumped out of my seat! But I think it was better than having no entertainment at all, as I have placed my Walkman into checked luggage.

The meal was served midway through the flight, while passengers enjoying the movie. There were two menus offered. One is Asian, while other is western. I choose western menu of lasagna. It was actually a nice meal to accompany watching the movie and scenery. Although when the movie goes tense, I almost choked on the food. Once the meal finished, the cabin crew collected all of the trays and we folded back the table.

I sit back and relax. Sometime I would take off the earphone and just sitting there and enjoying the scenery on the outside. The scenery outside is still dominated by the view of arid Australian continent, with its distinct dark red color. Throughout the flight, I didn’t see any clouds. Not a single patch of it to be seen as far as eyes can see. So the combination of red land and blue sky truly gave spectacular view. It was just pity that I didn’t take any single photo of it.

After hours of seeing the Australian continent, our plane finally left Australian airspace. I gradually see the northern coast of Australia gradually disappear into the distance. That’s it! That was my very last glimpse of Australia. Now this is really goodbye, as I no longer in Australia at all. Our plane flew further north and heading to tropical place of Indonesian archipelago.

The movie eventually ended, and coincidentally, our plane is also nearing the end of its journey. A few minutes after the main movie ended, the cabin crew played the movie about Indonesia which was produced by a production house in Australia. Although at brief glance, it looks like any documentary that is produced in Indonesia; its Australian touch is palpable.

The documentary features many famous tourist attractions in Indonesia, although mostly in Bali (quite obvious for 2 reasons: because we’re heading there and the place is the number 1 tourist destination in the country). But what sets it apart from Indonesian made documentary is the choice of background music (which combines traditional Indonesian instrument and western techno/dance music) and all of the Indonesian people that they feature spoke fluent English in perfect English accent!

(The video below is an example of onboard video that is played onboard Bali-bound Qantas flight in recent years).

Throughout my stay in Australia, all of the Indonesians that I knew, whenever they spoke in English they will always speak in distinct accent that sets them apart from native English speaker. No matter how sophisticated their English language knowledge was. So when I see the video that showing local Indonesians can spoke clear and fluent English, it was just surprising!

Our plane is now descending and ready to land. The fasten seat belt and no smoking warning lights are illuminated. All passengers and cabin crew must be seated. As soon as we approached Indonesia, the weather outside changes into different kind of climate. While in Australia the sky was clear and spotless, in Indonesia, the sky is cloudy with patches of thunderstorms. Indeed I almost couldn’t see the islands!

As the plane’s altitude became lower, we entered thick cloud which causes the flight to go bumpy. It’s a bit scary thing to see. But not long, we descended below the cloud, and the greed islands of Indonesia are now finally visible. Selamat Datang! Apparently our plane is approaching the airport from the easterly direction, and will land facing west.

The plane is turning left, and I can also hear the landing gear and flaps deployed. As we approached the airport, the lush greeneries below grew close. Had it not cloudy, I could have seen mount Agung clearly from my seat. The plane flying low over water above Benoa harbor and then I can see Ngurah Rai bypass road clearly and seconds later our plane finally touched down at Bali airport, and I return back to Indonesia!

(Note: although the flight in that video is not Qantas, and has different departure point, but it follow exactly the same landing pattern as my flight. Even the weather is similar!)

I suddenly feel the rush of excitement. Not because we are going to vacation, because soon I will catch up with my friends, family, and cousins again. Yes, it will be real fun to be able to meet my family again after months being away in overseas country. And I will also bring them not just memento, but also interesting stories too.

As soon as the plane slows down, the pilot directed the plane to leave the runway and goes into the taxiway. If I recall, back then passengers stood up and start picking up their belongings from overhead bin, while the plane was still taxiing (these days, it is strictly forbidden and passengers must remain seated until the plane came to a full stop in parking bay).

Once our plane arrives at its parking bay, the cabin crew began to open the door to allow passengers to disembark from the plane. Since we weren’t in hurry, we waited until the crowd dissipates and then we walked out from the plane. The stewardess, who waited near the door greeted us and wished us pleasant days in Bali.

Upon exiting the plane, I was instantly greeted by the hot and humid tropical climate. Being in the subtropical climate for long, made my body “forget” how it feels to be in the tropic. So I was instantly sweated, and I sweated profusely too. That is despite the fact that we left the airplane through jetway, and I didn’t wear my jacket.

Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport was still in the old 1960s terminal, which was expanded significantly in 1980s and 1990s (but still inadequate and far cry from the current airport terminal). Compared to Perth airport’s terminal, it was rather inferior in term of comfort and even capacity. The queue for passport checking was quite long as the number of the desks couldn’t keep up with the demand. As soon as our passports checked, we head to the baggage carrousel to collect luggage. Custom checking went without any hitch. Back then, it wasn’t very strict. As long as you didn’t carry illicit drugs, or excessive amount of tobaccos or liquors, they wouldn’t stop you. These days, the custom officers would try to cash in from any souvenirs that you bring back from overseas.

The baggage collection area of old international terminal at Denpasar airport.

Once we exiting the airport terminal building, we were greeted by a flock of taxi drivers who offered their service. They’re truly annoying as they often shouting in your face and sometime would keep chasing you even if you refuse. But thankfully today my father’s friend (whom we have met before during our layover on the way to Australia last August) was there to pick us up and taking us. This time he came with his wife and also a driver. They will take as around the Bali in the comfort of their air-conditioned van.

We spend our layover time traveling around Kuta and Jimbaran. I can’t recall what places we visited. The only thing I remember was having lunch at the beach in Jimbaran. I remember we enjoyed the grilled fish of our choice, while watching the beautiful sea view, and airplanes landing and taking off in the distance.

Jimbaran beach is well known for its grilled seafood menu.

While having lunch, my father’s friend asking me how was my study in Australia. I said it was wonderful and I truly enjoying it. He also asked where I would go after this, which I replied that I will continue college. He joked “well after long stay in Australia your English must be really good! You’re an Australian now!”

After lunch, we head to his house where we had some shower, as our Surabaya bound flight departed in the late afternoon. We also spend some time in his house by chatting and also relaxing. The humid climate, although uncomfortable for those who never been to the tropics, actually quite pleasant for having nap. I did take a brief nap. The tropical climate truly makes my sleep very pleasant!

At around 5pm, we return back to the airport. This time they drove us to the domestic terminal. Its entrance is located right next to the international arrival. After bidding farewell to my father’s friend and his entourage, we entered the airport for check in. This time we will fly on Merpati Nusantara Airlines from Denpasar to Surabaya.

Back then Merpati was a subsidiary of Garuda. It was used to act as a feeder for Garuda, especially on the routes that had too little passengers to be served by Garuda’s big airplanes, or where the airport is too small for Garuda’s plane to land and take off. The airline had on-and-off relationship with Garuda. It was originally a completely independent airline, but in 1990s it was attached into Garuda. But in its last years of operation, it again became an independent airline until its demise in 2014.

The domestic terminal at Denpasar airport was crowded. Back then the terminal building was very old and outdated. It was small and rudimentary, and still had the design of 1960s or 1970s. It even received less upgrades than what its international terminal had. It also looked less colorful than the international terminal. And the passengers were dominated by Indonesian passengers, with small number of elderly foreigners. No beautiful looking European girls to be seen. Welcome back to the bland world of my hometown!

Dull looking old domestic departure area at Denpasar airport.

After checking in our luggage, we head up into the boarding lounge where we waited for our flight. Unlike the previous flight, this time I feel less excitement. I know that, although I will catch up with my family and friends, I will also return back to the world that is less colorful and lacking with variety than what I had in Perth.

A rather basic and spartan boarding lounge at the old Denpasar airport domestic terminal.

I spend my waiting time by standing by the window, looking at the apron and the runway. The waiting lounge is quite packed with passengers who waited for their flight. The Qantas Boeing 767 that took me earlier today has gone. The apron is not very packed, with several small planes like Boeing 737 or Fokker 28 parked on the apron. One of the Fokker 28 will take me back to Surabaya. And this flight turned out to be my very last flight with Fokker 28, the plane that I had frequently traveled with during my childhood.

Just like on my departure in August, on my flight to return back to Surabaya from Bali, I also flown with Merpati’s Fokker 28.

While waiting for our flight, I notice that my father is chatting seriously with a white man. I’m curious and walk closer to find out. Upon seeing me, my father introduced to that man. He is a professor from Edith Cowan University who travel with his wife and his grown up children to see his friend in Malang, and also attending a wedding ceremony there. That means they will also be on the same flight as us to Surabaya. We had quite a long chat while we waited for our flight to commence.

Not long after that, our departure calling is announced and passengers began to flock to get into the plane. Since our plane did not use jetway, passengers must go into the apron and walk the airplane. Some ground crew helped to direct the passengers to get into their airplane.

Our plane is already waiting in the apron. It is a Merpati’s Fokker-28. The plane has white fuselage with fin colored in aqua blue color with gold stripes. Since the plane only have one entrance door, passengers had to queue on the outside as the first coming passengers are loading their luggage on overhead rack and being seated.

As we are waiting our turn to enter the airplane, I suddenly hear the loud roar of arriving airplane on the runway. Apparently it is the Garuda’s Boeing 747 that I saw in Perth! The plane finally made it to Bali, after more than 4 hours of delay! I can only imagine how disgruntled the passengers would be. And for those who transferred to other flights (including the one that I’m boarding now), it must have been a real nightmare!

In the next a few minutes the congestion eased and we finally able to enter the airplane. Once onboard, we are greeted by stewardess who checked our ticket and directed us to our seat. Many passengers have been seated, while smaller number is still searching for their seat. Our seat is located in the front part of the airplane. As soon as we put our luggage on the overhead bin, we took our seat.

But as I sit on my seat, I realize how small the space is. I feel like the back of my seat is too low, therefore exposing my head and making reclining quite impossible. If that’s not enough, the leg space felt too narrow. Very uncomfortable! When I flew from Surabaya to Bali earlier this year, with the same type of airplane, the seating felt more comfortable than this. I wonder if the airline put more seats on the airplane. Of maybe because I had gaining too much weight when I was in Australia?

Minutes later, the airplane’s door is closed, and the plane pushed backward into the taxiway. While the plane is taxiing into the runway, the stewardess is making safety instruction demonstration. As the plane is taxiing into the runway, I feel like the plane’s interior seem to be rudimentary and outdated when compared to Qantas’s Boeing 767 that I flew with earlier today. No entertainment system like video screen or music. And the interior design looked quite old.

Our plane eventually arrives at the edge of the runway. All cabin crew are seated, and fasten seat belt sign is illuminated. Once the takeoff clearance was given, the pilot opened maximum throttle, and our airplane is roaring down the runway until it took off. I’m looking nervously at the scenery on the outside. Sitting in such undersized space does make this flight feel more like roller coaster ride instead of comfortable airplane trip for me.

(Note: the video above is just for illustration on how does the scenery on westbound take off from Denpasar airport looks like. Although the airplane and airline different, the scenery is largely identical).

As soon as our airplane clearing the ground, we can see the scenery on the outside. Our plane is now above the water high above Indian Ocean. Since I was seated on the left, I couldn’t see the Bali Island. But as compensation, I can clearly see the sun about to set in the distance. It’s such a spectacular sight to see. And as our airplane is heading west, the sunset is actually “delayed” as our plane is trying to catching up with the sun.

While watching the sunset, I began to reminisce how beautiful and exciting my days in Perth have been. It started with anxious moment for me. But as I began to adjust living and studying there, it became fun. And things gradually become exciting when I got my first European friends, from Switzerland. And then it was peaked with my relationship with Denise, which I consider as the most emotional and infatuating moment in my life. Indeed as I flown back to Surabaya, the images of Denise was still hovering over my head. I wish if I could bring her along to Surabaya. As she disappeared physically from my life, and my study gets more serious, the emotional moment began to winding down, culminating with the end of my study and my return to Surabaya.

As the sun set, I’m grateful that this year has been a very exciting one, and hoping that the future will be equally and more exciting. And now it’s time for me to conclude my story and I hope you like what I have wrote.

Goodbye 1997! You’ve been the most wonderful year ever in my life.



About bagus70

I'm an adventurous railfans who love to seek out the world of railway, beyond the border of my office.
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