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If you are flying to/from Jakarta on budget airlines AirAsia, Tiger Air (operated in Indonesia by Mandala) and JetStar Airways, expect to arrive/depart from Terminal 3 of Cengkareng Airport. The relatively new complex is a breath of much-needed fresh air for harried passengers.

Here is a view of the check-in counters.

Go early to avoid the queues. The counters on the left are for domestic flights; the ones on the right for international flights. Tiger Airways flights to Kuala Lumpur are almost always on the right-most check-in counter even though the electronic signage states “All Destinations”.

After checking in, you need to walk all the way to the end of the hall. Watch out for the sign that says “Keberangkatan” (Departures).

At the arrival/departure hall, you can find a J. Co outlet. J. Co is an Indonesian donut chain that has branches in Malaysia and Singapore. Their donuts are excellent IMHO and I’d pick J. Co over Krispy Kreme any time because I find the latter too sweet.

Near the exit is a drinking water fountain but paranoid that I am, I stick to bottled water. (Sorry, Indonesian friends. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings. I can eat in a totally unknown waroeng but I stick to Aqua or teh tawar to avoid the possibility of an upset stomach. This strategy has kept me 100% diarrhea-free so far in all my trips to Indonesia — and elsewhere all over the world — over the years.

Both arriving and departing passengers would find themselves in this area in the ground floor, where you can also find a bakmi restaurant, some retail outlets which include a mini mart (Circle K) and pharmacy. ATMs can be found near the escalator but it’s a shame that there are no money changers in the entire complex.

There are toilets and a playground for children beside the escalators.

If you need to meet up with someone, it might be easier to spot them at the Meeting Point.

Departures are in the upper floor, which is accessible by stairs, escalator and lifts.

In the Departure Hall, you can also find toilets, surau/musollah (Muslim prayer room), a reflexology centre, DeGreen executive lounge (only for people who hold certain credit cards or belong to certain airline loyalty programmes)…

…and Monas executive lounge which is open to everyone for a small fee.

Side note: the ATM machines are located right in front of Monas Lounge.

The entrance fee to Monas Lounge is Rp80,000 per person but if you are a Visa or MasterCard holder, they give you a 50% discount. Food and beverage choices are limited but you can eat and drink as much as you like. Over all, it’s a great bargain for Rp40,000 (~RM13/US$4)!

The seating arrangements inside Monas Lounge cater for people who are traveling alone or in groups. (Just make sure you don’t miss your flight, you hear?! You! Yes, you snoozing on that grey arm chair!)

There is a charging station near the food and beverage counter inside Monas Lounge.

If you need your caffeine fix, there is a Starbucks outlet ensconced between the duty-free shops (look out for it on the left-hand side).

Interestingly enough, the duty-free shops are right before the Immigration counters, making them technically accessible to non-passengers. (Note to self: check if they require boarding pass or passport for any purchase next time.)

The limited number of immigration counters give you an idea of the relatively low number of passengers who go through this terminal.

For Terminal 3′s facilities, cleanliness and overall ambience, I’d now pick budget airlines anytime over other airlines. It’s a great way to arrive into and depart from Jakarta!

While rummaging through a box of knick-knacks last week, I found this draft scribbled on a small writing pad that I thought I’ve lost a long time ago.

Night landings hold a special kind of magic. They start off quite scary, with nothing but darkness as far as the eye can see. Once in a while, a flash of lightning might illuminate the night sky 0r a portion of the aircraft’s wing for a fraction of a second at a time.

Then as the familiar grinding of the lowering landing gear breaks the monotony of the engine drone, the magic begins. Through a gossamer veil of clouds, I manage to snatch glimpses of the city’s lights spread out like a dazzling, bejeweled carpet on the ground. My pulse quickens at the sight of the familiar shape of the North-South highway, winding like ribbons of light. I’ve still never quite figured out from which direction the aircraft approaches the runway of KLIA.

I’ve witnessed this scene unfold countless times yet each descent somehow still manages to retain a certain uniqueness.

I hear the unmistakable comforting whirr of the landing gear and the shift in the engines’ hum as the pilot begins the landing sequence. Then suddenly the miniscule lights morph into a miniature landscape, getting larger and larger as the plane descends lower and lower. And as the landing gear comes into contact with the runway, the wings extend forward before bending slightly downwards. Then as the plane decelerates, the wing extensions slowly retract. The plane begins its slow taxi into the gate.

Dots of blue mark the path to the gate. The main terminal comes to view. A vestibule with a man at the helm awaits, his joystick at ready. He deftly maneuvers the skybridge towards the aircraft door as the passengers inside the plane scramble to get their hand luggage from the overhead bins.

Selamat pulang ke tanah air. (Welcome back to your homeland.)