May 2010:

In this country banks are owned by the Government. Banking system is traditional and primitive. Read my previous post on this.  Only 2 banks can deal with foreign currencies. Banks have no products. No credit cards.  No debit cards. No ATMS. No housing loans. No car loans. All transactions were in cash. Even my salary was paid in home currency, and when I ran out cash to buy foods here, I either borrowed from friends or waited until I went back home for meetings or holidays.

So when offered free seats recently, it was an opportunity for ‘kaki jalan’ like me’. I could not get the seat to places I wanted to go to like Beijing or Taipei. After heavy “investment”  — yes I stayed up late until 1am one morning and the next day was a working day —  I managed to get seats to Makassar (airport code UPG) somewhere in Indonesia, south of Kalimantan. The name is so exotic and may be there is something special there. Travel date is in March 2011. I don’t know where I will be at that time.

Shared this experience with my local staff. The  most vocal among them said: “We cannot get the free seats ‘cos we cannot pay online. We do not have credit cards.”