Following In Her Footsteps
Current Time: 2009-10-05 04:00 GMT+8
Health Report: Early cold symptoms, slight sniffles
This part is easy, as dad gives me a lift to the airport. Check-in is quick at that time of the morning, but I guess the pilot slept in as the plane departs 40 minutes after schedule. The cheap Air Asia deals must net them a fair bit of business, the guy I'm seated next to is on his return trip to the UK. However, there is a spare seat between us so it's not too uncomfortable.
Actually, I lie - the seats aren't comfortable at all. There's no complementary food on this flight either and I'm starting to feel a little worse for wear, so using the loose currency gifted by Mum I shell out 4RM for some water. 26.90RM left. I'm kicking myself for not getting water once I got through customs, but I later learn it only cost me around AUD$1.30 - bargain!
The in-flight information is very culturally sensitive. Not only does the aircraft's heading include an arrow towards Mecca for the Muslims, there is an arrow towards Dampier for the Yaburara tribe :)
Somehow we arrive in Kuala Lumpar half an hour early - I'm assuming the pilot was still hungover and disregarded any and all airspeed regulations to get the flight over with quicker. Credit where it is due though, I'm yet to experience a smoother landing.
I know a lot of people through work and family who have visited KL, but obviously I never ask the right questions as I've no idea what to expect. Baggage collection is pretty slow, and everyone crowds around the conveyor belt making it annoying to get to it when I do spot my bag. I keep seeing familiar faces though which somehow keeps me amused - I smile at a pretty girl from Perth airport.
I have four and a half hours and nothing to do, so first plan is to find somewhere nice to sit down and make a plan. Random airport coffee shop fits the bill, I order some mushroom soup (8.90RM) to soothe my nose+throat, and sundae which probably aggravates it again but hell it was 1.90RM (AUD$0.62)! Service is excellent, the sundae arrives at my table exactly as I finish my soup.
Refreshed, I resign myself to carrying heavy luggage around while waltzing around the airport. I only get about 10 metres before noticing that baggage check-in is already open for my flight - bonus!
Slowest. Check-in. Ever. There were three seperate queues, and someone near the front of mine must have lost their passport or something, we didn't move for a looooooong time. During the wait I resolved to start this blog, and tried to work out how I could arrange to spend exactly all my ringits.
So, next stop was the convenience store, whereupon I discovered such wonders as milo-in-a-can (2.30RM = AUD$0.85!!!), and urn-in-a-store. They made it possible for you to buy instant cup soup/noodles, then heat them right there in the store. Genius!
I wander around for awhile and run into a food hall with actual Malaysian fare. I have more ringits than I expected thanks to a gross miscalculation in the convenience store, so I figure I can spend 5RM in here and use the rest for a drink on the plane. However I misunderstood the pricing arrangement and the dish I was attempting to purchase (some kind of meat in a tasty looking sauce that turned out to be quite spicy) was 5.00RM plus 1.20RM for rice. We didn't communicate very well, but after waving 5RM around for a little while and attempting to tell her I'd just take the meat she offered the rice for free. Felt a little bad about it but accepted her gracious offer. I owe you one KL.
I grab some cutlery and sit down, and I'm pleased to discover the sturdiest plastic spoon I've ever had the pleasure of wielding. Then I remember I brought chopsticks in my bag, so the spoon is relegated to seperating meat from bones duties.
It wasn't until I had curry sauce all over my shirt and pants that I realised the spoon was not THAT sturdy. Very pleased that she gave me three napkins.
I'm almost devo when I pass through customs and realise I left my chopsticks behind on the table, but I had a good enough time to shrug it off.
I find my seat on the plane to London and start talking to the lady next to me, but before long the guy behind me interrupts and asks if we can swap seats as he's travelling with said lady. This causes a little confusion to the crew over the course of the flight as him and his companion (mother?) had ordered vegetarian meals. But we're all mature adults and such trifles are easily dealt with.
More importantly, the seat switch puts me right across the aisle to the Pretty Girl From Perth Airport! I proceed to pointedly avoid eye contact for thirteen hours, using tactics such as inserting earphones, looking out the window and trying to get some sleep. Smooth.
Before long the cabin crew comes to feed us and put movies on. I try to watch Casablanca but it's in french or something, so I switch to Transformers. Which is also in french, but yeah I don't really notice. Well, I did notice, but mainly because the audio track kept switching randomly between french and english. Sometimes for a whole line, sometimes it would switch three times in a single word.
Anyways, thirteen hours is a long time to spend on a plane. Air Asia actually chartered an Air Mauritius vehicle for this flight (something about saving time, I guess whatever aircaft they owned in the area were stuck being repaired or some such) which I'm told was a bit more comfortable than the actual Air Asia planes, but it wasn't doing much for me and my sniffling nose and my aching head. Drifted to sleep a couple of times but spent a large portion of the flight alternating between Beethoven and drum and bass (cheers James), which kept me sane. Don't ask me how.
Turns out they offer free water on the long flight, but don't sell any drinks! Thus the plan to spend all my ringits is foiled, but at least I'm only left with notes.
After much discomfort we eventually touch down in London. Elated, I finally greet the PGFPA, sharing my joy. Turns out she is coming home to London, but it turns out the roaming on her phone isn't working so she can't get in touch with her boyfriend to find out how far away he is. She doesn't seem very worried about it though, I have my own mission to attend to and my baggage just appeared so we wish each other luck and I'm on my way.
Not looking forward to getting back in the air.
The cheap Air Asia flight goes to Stanstead airport - we arrived at 23:00 and my flight to Prague leaves from Heathrow at 07:40. I'd been talking to various people about my options before and during the trip, and got a maybe for public transport (possibly a bit late for it) and expensive for taxi (one guy reckoned it would cost me £100 which is like more than my flight to KL!). However the guy at customs assured me there was a shuttle between the airports running all night - we had a bit of an extended talk as he wasn't impressed with my answer of "I don't know, I haven't booked a return ticket yet" to his question of when I was returning to Australia.
Anyway, he was right and the shuttle only set me back £22.50. I don't know where people get the idea that England is green, it was pretty much murky and dark grey the entire time ;)
At some point during the bus trip I realised I was still wearing my shoes, and as I was taking them off managed to drop my ticket on the floor. I picked it up with my newly free toes, and was a little dismayed to note that my bus ticket now smelled like foot.
> USE TEA TREE OIL ON TICKET Which ticket, the bus ticket or plane ticket? > USE TEA TREE OIL ON BUS TICKET You can't use the tea tree oil, it is in the duffle bag. > GET TEA TREE OIL FROM DUFFLE BAG The duffle bag is closed. > OPEN DUFFLE BAG You can't get to the zips, you hid them behind a flap to make tampering more difficult. > OH FORGET IT
I may have been suffering a little under sleep deprivation at this point.
Heathrow Airport was kind of cheaper than I expected. There was only one coffee shop open at that hour of the morning, but I managed to get some decent food and hot chocolate and stacks of NAPKINS which helped greatly in the process of clearing my nasal passageway. I joined the legions of folk sleeping on benches at Heathrow airport for about an hour, which my shoulder didn't appreciate but was probably worth it. Tried and failed to get on wireless with my Plan 9 laptop.
It was a popular time for flights, we had to wait for three British Airway crafts to take off as we approached the runway, and there was at least another two behind us. Thankfully my worries about getting back in the air were ill-founded and the two hour flight was almost pleasant. There's cloud cover over most of western europe but the Czech Republic is lovely and sunny.
I get off the plane and I'm into the first convenience store to get a SIM card and message Amanda. Costs me €4 with €2 credit, and then I'm into the streets of Prague. First stop is to get some local currency, then I meet another aussie who is trying to pay for a bus ticket but has realised she needs coins, so we head back to the airport to break our notes. I end up having to go to a change booth because the convenience store belies its name and won't break 1000 kronar (AUD$66).
It's now around 11:25 - I have a vague idea of the stations I can bus to from the airport and Amanda gives me a time and destination: bus leaves Florenc for Ĉeský Krumlov at 13:00. I hop on the first bus displaying a name I recognise and make my way from there.
I actually want to stop by another station on the way, Hlavní nádraží, so I can sort out my outgoing Czech bus. I'm pretty confident this is walking distance from Florenc, so when I arrive at Dejvícká I look for a bus to either - don't find any so I head into the underground metro.
The metro is pretty clearly mapped, and the signage is good. My Czech pronounciation is apparently terrible, I try and speak the name of a station to a girl on the train with the intention of asking whether that's where we were currently stopping and she had no idea what I was on about. Then she got off at the station I was trying to ask about! Two seconds later I look around and notice the next station is clearly advertised on an LED display within the train.
Anyway, I switch train lines and when I get to the platform there is a train waiting, about to depart. I have to make a split second decision whether to chance it and hope it is going the right way, but excellent signage assauges my fears and leaves me quietly confident that it is my train.
Next stop is Hlavní nádraží. I take two steps off the train, check the time and get right back on the train - 12:36 doesn't really leave me enough time to mess around. Especially as the trip from Florenc metro to the Florenc bus station isn't so well signed and takes me about 10 minutes to find!
Still, got there with another 10 minutes to spare - mission successful.