Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

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A Very Convoluted Return To Australia

October 5th, Istanbul - My flight out of Istanbul was at 13:50 out of Gurken airport east of Istanbul. I was informed the outside limit of how long it would take to get there was an hour so I planned to catch the bus at 11. Felt like I had plenty of time for a nice easy morning since the airport bus allegedly left from just beside the hotel, but of course inevitable ended up in a panicked hurry at the end. And mystifyingly the guy at the front desk told me directions which in no way conformed to the reality of where to find the bus. It sent me two blocks in the opposite direction, where the bus actually stopped just around the other corner from the hotel. So I end up rushing around the cobbled streets dragging around my gimpy luggage (one of the two wheels is completely destroyed) at the last minute. Fortunately I happened to stumble upon a Turkish girl who was also looking for the bus and together we (she) were able to ask around until we got there. I note you can work up quite a sweat on a nominally cool morning when you are in a panic and stressed and lugging around 23 kilos of luggage.
   And then while standing in line at the bus I was informed we wouldn't get to the airport until 12:45 -- the journey would take nearly twice as long as expected and get me there with only FIVE minutes to spare before boarding commenced and check in may be closed (an hour before the flight). That sounded thoroughly dire!!!! I considered grabbing a cab but figured that would cost exponentially more and yet be stuck in the same traffic.

   The drive across the Bosporus bridge and out through the city ouskirts as it happens proceeded fairly smoothly though I was very anxious ... and got me to the airport right on time after all around 12!!! Much to my very immense relief.
   Now I hate to sound petty, but I found it remarkable that just behind me in the check in line was the most classic "Russian trophy wife" I have ever seen. Her skin was a vaguely orange color, botox-inhanced lips gave her perpetual duck face, she had the very definition of "bolt-on breasts," massive battering rams of things jutting unnaturally from her chest. I think her bum may have been enhanced as well, I vaguely recall it was a bit oddly rounded. Her husband wasn't actually Russian but by all appearances a Turk, but I'm still calling her a "Russian trophy wife," because her look was infinitely more in keeping with the fashion mores I've seen in the Moscow airport than you see among women in Turkey.

   Flight back to Paris, once again on the super budget airline Pegasus. A several hour international flight with no seat back entertainment! But I think once again I was glad to have the lights on and finished reading my book. Had a bulkhead seat with the middle seat beside me empty, so that was pretty ideal. An asian woman in the aisle seat was working on her laptop and became annoyed when the person in front of her leaned his seat back, and began banging on it. When that illicited no response she called the flight attendant, who at first was reluctant to do anything, no doubt noting that he had a right to put his seat back, but laptop lady finally prevailed upon the flight attendant to politely ask the guy in the forward seat to move his seat back up, which he did. Personally, as someone who often finds oneself lacking knee room, I am often less than enthused when the person in front of me puts their seat back, but I think one has a right to put their seat back and I would never think of demanding they don't do so. Besides having to sit bolt upright for hours I think is even worse than not having knee room (and again, this coming from someone who is 6'2")

   Arriving at Paris Orly in the evening, I had to get to the Charles De Gaulle airport across town, my plan was to get a hotel near the airport there since I had an early morning flight out of CDG. The person at the information kiosk made it sound quite simple to get to CDG. A light rail line runs right from this airport to a station where you get on the RER B and it takes you all the way across town to CDG. So I bought the ticket for [memory fading] and off I went!
   What had not been mentioned by anyone is that, defying all logic, the RER B line splits just before the airport and apparently I was on a train that took the wrong fork! I fortunately became suspicious just shortly after this forking and realizing the error darted (darted with my differently-abled luggage bumping after me that is) off the train at the next station. Now it was either a 45 minute workaround on the train or a five minute €3 uber drive. I could see on the map that we weren't that far from CDG but there was no direct root by mass transit. Okay well uber sounded good. So I called an uber.
   But he took me to a nearby location which clearly wasn't the hotel! But we confirmed it was where I had booked the uber to. It was the same address ("4 rue de Paris" or something ubiquitous like that) as I needed but in the neighboring suburb. I don't know how that got mixed up because I had had the correct location up in google maps and it had prompted me with uber and I had clicked the uber button from that screen with the correct address. Anyway at this point there was no logical course but to rebook this same uber for the correct location. I haven't examined the receipt but I vaguely imagine it ended up being more like €15. It was about a ten minute drive. The sun was setting at this point and it actually looked very pretty over the city of Paris to the west, with a beautiful orange sky above the cityscape, and semi rural scenes nearer at hand.

   Also, I had just booked the hotel after arriving in Paris. I should have learned this lesson by now, but it turns out hotels generally cost about $100 more when booking the day of. I'd just been too busy with other things to have gotten around to it earlier but if I had realized the price difference I certainly would have! The hotel I ended up going with (Comfort Hotel CDG) was advertised for $48 every other day but $148 on this the same day. This made me feel a bit grumpy.

   At this point I hadn't eaten all day and was starving. So I asked reception, was informed there was "a sushi place, an italian place, and a french place" all within a five minute walk, and off I went. I of course headed to the French place because, when in France... it was by now dark and a bit chilly out, and the streets seemed to be deserted but it looked kind of like a small town. there were several other airport hotels in the immediate surrounds. The French place looked kind of cute, had the look from the outside of a kind of a traditional fachwerk country house. Inside I found a small dining area, such that one couldn't help but fully hear the conversations of the other tables -- there was a group of americans from Texas who it appeared were on the last day of a two week vacation in France, yet still seemed to barely be able to handle even the most basic French, saying "Well, bonn swarrr. That means goodnight right? Bon swarrr!" in brassy American accent that completely flattened the phrase.
   When I ordered (recall, I can speak French just well enough that people can understand my meaning and that they should respond in English, which is ideal really because I'm clearly making an effort and not annoying them by expecting them to speak English), and the other guy at a neighboring table, who was by himself, jumped in to help explain the menu to me. They had a "normal" menu and a sort of set menu, but you could choose one of three appetizers, mains, etc. The small room began to fill up with other people and he asked if he could join me, and I said certainly. His name was Thomas, he was a retired (accountant?) from Germany, kind of shortish, wearing a knit cap, visiting France on a vacation. He seemed to have a great enthusiasm for some cathedrals he had visited in some small towns I sadly don't quite recall (possibly Rennes and another small town near it?). I kept waiting for him to drift into con trails as particularly friendly strangers who join your table usually inevitably do but throughout the conversation he remained thoroughly sane and reasonable. We both ended up having sausages and saurkraut, I don't recall the other options (every time I travel I when I get to blogging about it and hit all these omissions I tell myself I'll take better notes next time!). Once again they didn't sell wine by the glass but by the small carafe.
   After Thomas and I both paid and left Thomas started ranting a bit about Paris rudeness. Admittedly the waitstaff had sometimes been hard to get the attention of, and when we paid our bill the guy was busy talking to two other people and barely gave us any attention. I suppose it wasn't quite the politest but I don't think I'd have registered it as rude if it wasn't pointed out to me. Maybe I just haven't been noticing "Paris rudeness" occurring around me??

I hate these anti luggage bollards

October 6th, Paris - Easy hotel shuttle to the airport. One more thing I want to remark about about Paris airports. Airports throughout the world these days have some level of security, ranging from the barely visible really in Australia to soldiers in balaclavas in Kyrgyzstan, and in many African countries its soldiers in fatigues with AK-47s, kinda hanging around. In the US there were uniformed soldiers with m-16s after 9/11 but that has faded away. They would stand in the middle of the hallway like a rock that the river flow of passengers would swirl past. But nowhere have I seen them as seemingly alert as in the Paris airports. The soldiers, in green camo with berets slouched across their heads, patrol in groups of four exactly the way you see in Vietnam movies, spaced apart, fingers on the trigger, constantly scanning the crowd, each step like a prowling cat. They appear to be behaving as if they are in actual fact in the middle of a combat zone.

   Flight to Abu Dhabi. Only memorable thing about this flight was that I had the front row of my cabin area, so our television screens were on the bulkhead in front of us. One usually can't help seeing one's neighbor's screen and I've seen many movies I wouldn't choose to watch myself that way (ie Bay Watch and Fastest and Furiousest or whatever that latest is called), but in this case it was really too easy not to. My neighbor was watching this new Spider Man movie, again a movie that I wouldn't choose to watch because I don't like comic book movies, but there were a number of scenes that caught my attention for extended periods of time. At first the guy would look over at me kind of accusingly and I would look away and go back to my book. But then I thought, what the fuck what is wrong with watching your screen which is also right in front of me, so the next time I found myself watching and he gave me a sideways look I didn't look away. He looked at me very pointedly immediately followed by slowly reaching forward and pushing the pause button on his controller, and then made like he was trying to sleep. I had to laugh to myself about this pettiness! Oooh I'm stealing your movie enjoyment am I? Ahaha the memory still warms my black little heart.

   In Abu Dhabi switched to Sr Lankan airlines for the flight to Colombo. Meals on Sr Lankan were good (for airplane food!) and spicy. I love spicy. Flight attendants wore sort of saris. I was relieved to see a new selection of movies since I've seen everything on Etihad I'm interested in. I think I watched a movie but I can't for the life of me recall anything about doing so. Also wrote one of the previous entries on my phone.

October 7th, Colombo, Sri Lanka - I was a bit surprised, speaking of airport security, that in Colombo, where, by the way, suicide bombing was first invented, there seemed to be nearly no airport security. As far as I could tell you would walk in right off the street up to the gates. Many people in beautiful saris. There was a "buddhist information center" kiosk with nothing at all on it and I was tempted to take a picture and post it with some zen sounding caption like "but is it really empty?" or "the information is within YOU" or something. But didn't want to annoy anyone by seeming disrespectful by taking a picture of said obviously empty kiosk. (In fact I'm quite interested in zen buddhism and I think the empty kiosk really does fit in to some kind of koan). Arriving in this airport around 5am and flew out about two hours later.

Kuala Lumpor, Malaysia< - Glad I had an eight hour layover here because it took at least three to get from the one terminal to the other!!! This last leg was on super budget airline "Air asia X" (and here I thought Pegasus was budget!). The baggage allowance was a mere 17 kilos for which privelege I paid an absolutely ridiculous like €150. Since my luggage was 23kg I had to somehow get 6 kg into my backpack, which was already not-empty. By some miracle I did, though in the hurried changeover a bottle of honey ended up in my backpack and was therefore confiscated as a "liquid or gel" at security.

   Inside the secure area I went to a noodle shop I remembered being delicious last year, and, well, it was fairly alright, but not nearly as delicious as I remembered.

Really this is just here because the entry needs pictures

   The Air Asia X flight left more than two hours after its scheduled departure. It was supposed to leave at 10pm and left closer to 12:30. No one seemed surprised, everyone in the passenger area seemed to know what they were getting into and cracked a lot of jokes about it. As I noted before, nothing brings people together like things going wrong. When we finally boarded I found there were once again no television screens and I'm not sure the seats went back either, this was as budget as it comes. And despite being a I don't know ten or twelve hour flight there were no meals unless you wanted to pay way too much for an airplane meal. During this miserable flight, after having already been in air transit for two days, I really began to reflect that I must have been out of my mind when I booked this. In past self's defense, I had booked it while on the road, in the sweltering hotel in Somoto in Nicaragua. And had pulled a prank on me, after I found the best deal it said "but you have to book each leg seperately" and then AFTER I had booked the first leg and went to book the second one, on the actual airline page (and any other booking service) that leg turned out to not be available, so now I had a leg that didn't connect to anythingg that I had to connect and... so yeah, I had glued a bunch of things together which in the end was an arduous odyssey on budget carriers ):

Sunday, October 8th, Melbourne - And then my friend Ben picked me up as usual in Melbourne where the weather was lovely and sunny and warm and on my way home the flowers were out everywhere and the air smelled like spring! The "traveling season" is thus over until next March and instead I'll be enjoying the warmer weather here in Australia and working on this season's crop of honey and expanding the operation! (:

Tags: air travel, traveling, travelogues

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