A Travellerspoint blog

End of another adventure

We landed in Auckland [Auckland-travel-guide-1139106] into quite a nice day about 10 minutes late. While I had travelled around for six weeks in Central Asia and India with just cabin bag (7kg including laptop), I had loaded up with food, a wok and lid for this last leg. Being able to show the quarantine officer a photo of all the items meant I was allowed straight through with just an X-Ray.

Thus ended a big adventure of the “stans” ... Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan (briefly) and finally Hindustan.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

A flight of disappointment

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Today I fly Kuching – Kuala Lumpur [Kuala-Lumpur-travel-guide-1096867] – Auckland with the shortest available connection time of 1h25. I was advised by Malaysia Airlines 2 days before that I had been successful in my bid for an upgrade at the minimum price.

With an upgrade guaranteed, I became concern that my domestic flight might be delayed and cause me to miss the longhaul flight (and face an overnight in Kuala Lumpur followed by the admin headaches in trying to get the upgrade refund).

I managed to find out online the pattern of the aircraft’s usage for my flight: KCH-MYY-KCH-SIN-KCH-MYY-KCH-KUL. Tracking each of the flights beforehand gave me some comfort that all was well.

My brother and parents dropped me off at the airport around 1700 (for an 1840 departure) before they headed out for an early dinner. Surprisingly, the check-in area didn’t have the usual queues. Despite my best intention to eat less, I was slightly peckish and utilised the lounge before an on-time departure for Kuala Lumpur.

Some passengers brought in too much cabin baggage and some put their smaller items in the lockers, meaning that later passengers had to have their cabin baggage taken down to the hold. I asked the ground staff on board what would happen if I had been unlucky and not got locker space, how would a cabin bag offload be handled in view of my short connection to an international flight.

He explained that offloaded bags are delivered to the carousel and with a connection of an hour or more, one can collect the bag, exit and re-enter through immigration and security! I disagreed and asked if he would choose to offload other passengers’ cabin bag instead. He acknowledged that but I was rather disappointed at how mis-informed he was.

I had a word with the Leading Stewardess during the flight, and also the Stewardess who was nearby when I posed the question to the ground staff. They both agreed it would have been impossible. In fact, the Stewardess said she kept quiet because she knew my bag was already safely in the locker.

We landed a little early in Kuala Lumpur and I swiftly made my way through immigration to get to the international area. It was five minute wait outside my departure gate before they opened up and a little more before we boarded the Airbus A330 for Auckland.

The Inflight Supervisor greeted me by name and immediately confirmed that I had a special meal ordered before showing me to my seat. Actually it wasn’t a special meal as such but a Chef-on-Call meal.

We departed about 10 minutes late. Drinks were served soon after take-off. I chose a bubbly which was accompanied by a premium nut mix which I prefer less compared to the peanuts in cattle class. Then came the canapés of satay which was absolutely tops. The Stewardess serving was exceptional in her casual but hospitable, respectful style. She asked me if I wanted lots of sauce and then mumbled to me “Banjir banjir lalu sedap” (loosely translated, I’ll just drench and flood this so it will be really yummy for you).

I asked the Inflight Supervisor how they maintain the consistency when catered from overseas and he explained that all the satay is prepared in Auckland and frozen for the return flight (unlike other meals).

This was followed by appetiser and then my “Chef-on-Call” preordered meal of Beef Cheek. Sadly it was so tough the knife hardly sank into it. I ate a couple of mouthfuls and ate everything else except the meat. I showed my lovely Stewardess and she was most apologetic. As I wasn’t hungry after having had seconds of satay, I opted for some fruit and the cheese (which could have been more mature and softer).

Bed time came. The electrical adjustment for the flatbed seat didn’t work and I thought it had been powered off for takeoff (which was the case with some flight). The crew checked and came back with the bad news. My seat appeared to be faulty with power supply issues. They released it manually but it wouldn’t go into the fully flat position and left a gap between the seat and the ottoman. The flight was already full and there was no spare seat.

Despite that, I slept for 4h with the help of a sleeping pill. I woke up about an hour before the breakfast service. I had opted for the nasi lemak which the crew ensured I got seeing that I have had two product failures already.

The Inflight Supervisor issued me with MYR200 of inflight shopping vouchers which I used on an overpriced adapter which I didn’t need (since I have cheaper but workable ones). A little later, he beckoned me into the galley and said “Mr Chan, it appears you enjoy food. One of our crew made some homemade rendong tok which you may enjoy. Would you care to try some?” I tried a spoonful and then he got me a small dish and heaped a few more spoonfuls on to it.

Kind gestures like this are more effective than any kind of apology or vouchers but I’d still write in for a partial refund. The crew must have been pretty amazing in my mind to overlook the two product failures so forgivingly. Nevertheless the upgraded flight had been a large disappointment.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Off to see family again

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Well, my adventure finishes today as I fly from Delhi to Kuching [Kuching-travel-guide-1096915] to spend time with family again. As one adventure finishes, another one takes shape spurred by AirAsia’s sale for travel till Jan 2019. I had a sleepless night in Delhi thinking about their Auckland – Kuala Lumpur fare for NZD199 and Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne for NZD108.

I was thinking about what I could do, what dates they might have suitable. I fell asleep around 0200 and was up around 0430 and ended up booking the following between 0500 and 0700:

November 2018: Auckland – Kuala Lumpur – Kuching – Singapore / – / Bangkok – Kolkata – Kuala Lumpur - Melbourne for November 2018.

January 2019: Auckland – Kuala Lumpur – Kuching forC hinese New Year 2019.

But I have to work out how to get back to Auckland in both cases. With all that mental activity, I needed a decent breakfast and I chose a cauliflower prata and an egg prata.

After some rest, I wandered out just before 1000 but there was nothing much open. Perhaps it was because it is Sunday or maybe it is just too early. I returned and did stuff on the internet, which was nice to have after a week without a sustainable connection!

A nap didn’t work and finally about 1500, I wandered out with a plan to spend the rest of my money. Lunch, a haircut and some medication. As I was sniffly and chesty I got some antihistamine and anti-mucolytic. Drugs in India are cheap as they make generics and it is a good way to spend last rupees.

Eg. Cetrizine antihistamine 10mg was INR16.35 (NZD0.37) while in New Zealand it is about NZD13 per 10-pack. FYI generic viagra is INR1110 (NZD2.40) for four tabs while in New Zealand the new non-prescription one is NZD22; and it appears to be made in the UK? So the price is 1/35thfor antihistamine and 1/9thfor Viagra.

I ended up not having enough for a haircut and left it. I returned for my rest and failed napping. I got ready and checked out at 1830 to head to the airport by metro. There was a huge raucous religious procession in Main Bazaar which made foot traffic difficult. At the station, I struck it lucky and hopped on a train about to depart which meant standing room only.

I got to the terminal within 45 minutes. I was just less than 4h till departure and check-in for Malaysia Airlines was open. It took seconds and I joined the immigration queue which took about 25 minutes even though it was short. Security was swift and I was in the Plaza Premium Lounge three hours before departure for a 2h stay.

I was surprisingly hungry and had my third instance of meat (chicken) in India this trip (after the tribal pork dish and KFC).

We boarded a little later than expected and departed slightly late. I was lucky to have selected an extra-legroom (and recline) seat for no fee. It was a window seat that wasn’t (the window was absent) but it didn’t matter being a night flight.

Soon after take-off we were offered a juice and peanuts. Supper came pretty quickly. The non-veg option consisted of a chicken pulao (I think) with dhall. A savoury bake and gulab jamun was on the side. A roti was wrapped on top of the hot meal and the assembly heated in the oven in one hit. My last Indian flight, the roti was warmed separately and being rather densely rolled up, the meal service had to stop-and-start for the rotis to catch up. This was a nice idea and I had first seen it on Oman Air out of Muscat.

I managed to doze for about 3h with the aid of a sleeping pill. I woke up feeling much better. I thought my chest had improved in the dry filtered cabin air, as opposed to the mildewy rooms in the highlands or the pollution of Delhi.

I caught a glimpse of one of the senior crew in the galley, wearing disposable hotel slippers and his shirt out and tie undone. Not a good look. Some of the crew had been rather rude and offhand to the passengers too. I think it is a fact of life on flights to/from India on South-East Asian airlines and I have seen worse on Singapore Airlines.

On the other hand, the pilots were exemplary in their announcements. But of course, there were a few quirks in the pronunciation. “Delhi” was “Del-hi” instead of “De-lhi”. Bay of “Begal” was pronounced “Bay-ngal”. It’s a Malaysian thing which is natural even for me these days. For us, the correct pronunciation for “Singapore” is “Si-nga-por”. It gets amusing on the Australian flights where all the crew refer to “Brisbane” as “Bris-bayne”.

We arrived on time and I had a seamless connection to Kuching. Uber had a surge pricing when I tried to order a ride. I waited but it didn’t go away and paid normal my usual rate to my apartment. But it was still cheaper than a taxi. I'm back in Kuching again to spend time with family.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Big day of travelling back to the capital

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large_5550_15104732138593.jpgWith GoAir, you can buy a weapons bag for carrying your firearms as you customise your booking, eg. seat selection, samosa and tea, extra bag.
Today is a big day travelling back to the national capital Delhi [Delhi-travel-guide-479682]. I was at reception about 0640 using the very slow internet to do my online check-in for my Malaysia Airlines flight to Kuala Lumpur and Kuching. I had been assigned a bad seat and luckily I was able to change it to the only spare seat in the whole economy cabin.

In the mean time the 0700 bus bound for Siliguri had arrived early and the Canadian guy quickly ran inside to get me. We set off the windy roads stopping here and there briefly until we reached Jorthang where we changed to another bus. That took 4h30 whereas in the 4WD, it only took 2h30 travel time.

The stop wasn’t long enough for me to get any real food so it was good that I had brought enough biscuits and other stuff along with juice and water.large_5550_15104732154454.jpgWith GoAir, you can buy a weapons bag for carrying your firearms as you customise your booking, eg. seat selection, samosa and tea, extra bag.We set off again at 1100 and arrived into Siliguri’s rush hour it seemed.

We pulled into the station at 1430 some 7h30 after departure. I had been told anything from 5h30 to 8h. I asked around for the correct price for auto-rickshaws to the airport. Various people in counters didn’t know or said it wasn’t possible.

Going outside the gate, it was possible but the price wasn’t as low as I had liked but still OK for the distance. It took just over 30 minutes. There were tea plantations as we approached the airport.

I checked in 1h45 before departure. It was fortunate that my flight had been rescheduled to a later time by 30 minutes, otherwise it would have been stressful (even though at this small airport the close-off is 45 mins).large_5550_15104732171814.jpgOh the humanity! I had to walk through Delhi station to get from the metro to my hotel. This was just one of the many platforms with people waiting for night long distance trains.

I got some real food finally and a strong cha before going airside. The GoAir plane was a newish PW-powered A320 NEO (New Engine Option). It should have been “No Engine Option” as it was pretty quiet during take off and the rest of the flight. It wasn’t just in the front but it was pretty quiet throughout.

Arriving in Delhi Airport’s newly reopened T2, it was a very short walk to the metro. In fact, the distance is less than a far gate in T3. I took the metro to New Delhi Station where there was a long queue to go through security and up the overhead bridge. Fortunately it was swift.

The view from the bridge at night was an eye-opener. Oh, the humanity! People waiting on every platform.large_5550_15104732096486.jpgIndian porters are amazing. These two porters are carrying two pieces of luggage on their heads. Some of them are so skinny and likewise with their arms and legs.Porters with 2 bags on their heads. There is nothing quite like India.

I continued to the hotel where I was given a room which seemed nicer than my first stay. I’m sure it is just that I’ve gotten accustomed to India. After my highland hotels with lots of mildew, anything in dry Delhi would seem nice.

Delhi is quite smoggy right now. United Airlines have cancelled their flights due to poor air quality they say! Even in the airport terminal, it looked hazy as the air-con filters don’t remove all the particles I guess. It really doesn't help my chest and sinus in their current state.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Easy day

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large_5550_15104648313779.jpgInside Pemayangtse Monastery.
Today I wanted to do very little. After breakfast, I decided to enquire about the bus to Siliguri [Siliguri-travel-guide-1320650]. Essentials like where it left from how long it takes, whether foreigners are OK on it in view of the checkpoint utilised. Answered varied and but all that was confirmed was that it starts in Lower Pelling [Pelling-travel-guide-1321879] at 0700 and I can take it from outside the hotel a few minutes afterwards.

When I returned, the receptionist told me that I had an alternative of a jeep. I had to head downhill again to find the shop unattended. A helpful neighbour rang up and I was told to come back at 1600 (which I did but no luck again so I gave up).

In the afternoon, I went to Pemayangtse Monastery about 30 minutes uphill walk away.large_5550_15104648369734.jpgInside Pemayangtse Monastery.The exterior wasn’t much to write home about but the interior was quite a nice small typical monastery interior. It had a small museum which was filled with knick-knacks and was completely unattended. Their stunning masterpiece was in the top (of three) storey. It was a seven-tier pagoda-like structure which was intricately carved and painted with lots of rainbows. It was pretty stunning but the cabinet didn’t render it in the best light.

I stopped by a cafe overlooking the valley for lunch and sat in the sun. It was nice but when the meal took forever, it got too hot.

That was my stay in Pelling. It was a bit of a mission to get here from Darjeeling [Darjeeling-travel-guide-1310588] but it was enjoyable to savour the peaceful clean green countryside of Sikkim [Sikkim-travel-guide-1318339]. Unfortunately, I think all the dust from the roads and the mildew in rooms have affected my chest and sinuses.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

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