17 October 2009

Last week's travel

Today I am starting a series of posts about my experiences in a new place. I remember in a post earlier this year I mentioned that there is some big change that will happen this year. Well, there have been many changes obviously, especially losing my Dad last April. The other one big change is me leaving the workplace and going back to school again for a higher degree. So during the past few months I had been busy with papers and preparations for this new change to take place. It took me quite a time to be writing here as there have been so many things to do before I traveled.

Last week, we left the condo for Suvanabhurmi airport earlier than planned, which was ok since we did not want to rush. We parked the car and walked towards the departure area. There was no queue in the TG counter, for a change. But there were still many people in the airport. I did not have to wait to get to the check-in counter. I had to manage the bags myself, which was practice for me since I will be traveling alone. I only had one checked-in baggage and it weighed a ton. The scale said 24.4 kg. I had 30 kg allowance from my ROP silver membership so it was ok. Since I had a connecting flight it took quite some time for the staff to check me in, making sure that I would be checked-in as well for the 2nd leg of my journey. I got an aisle seat for my first journey to Frankfurt, and a window seat from Frankfurt to Edinburgh.

After checking in, we went to the bank counter to buy some GBP notes. The exchange rate was 54.70 Baht to a pound. Such a big change since we were last in the UK, 3 years ago, when the exchange rate was around 70 Baht to a pound. This is good for us so we did not have to use so much Baht to get a certain amount of pounds. After this, I was ready to go into the passport control. Key & I said our goodbyes and I went in. Surprisingly again there was no long queue at the passport control area and I was able to go through quickly. As I went in I looked back to see Key and we waved to each other. We will be missing each other for sure. It felt like that time when he had to leave for his studies also.

Right after the passport control, the passengers had to go through the checking of hand carried items. This is a change from the previous system. Thus there were no more checks before one enters the pre-departure lounge/gate. Key had already told me about this change as he traveled to China just a couple of weeks earlier. Going towards the direction of my gate, I passed many shops. I had a list of items I needed to buy in the duty free, namely a pocket book, a gift for one couple who are our friends in Dunblane, a camera battery and a Max Factor concealer. Unfortunately, I was only able to buy the first two, as the last two were not available there. However I was also cautious of being in the duty free area due to the recent reports of some things going on there.

I always buy a book every time I travel. This time I bought the book, My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. Actually I prefer some romcom for light reading during travels but there were none that I like within my preferred price range. So I chose this knowing that this is quite heavy and serious reading - hospital scenes, stem cell research controversy, family conflicts, etc. I had other books with me such as a minibible, the ODB devotional and the Psalm23 reflections minibook. All fit into my handcarried bag and easy to take out to read anytime.

I walked a bit further and passed by an electronic shop but they were not selling any camera batteries. In fact the staff said that in the duty free shops no camera batteries are being sold. Then farther I passed one shop selling some Thai stuff so I went to buy a Thai doll for our friends. I passed a couple of cosmetic shops but they did not have any Max Factor products. I wonder why. In Bangkok they told me I could only find it in Central Ladprao or Chitlom, I forgot which branch exactly. But I was too busy the past weeks that I was not able to go there, and I thought I could find it in the duty free shops.

So I kept walking as I had plenty of time. Until I felt thirsty so I stopped to buy a bottle of water. A couple of toilet visits later, I finally decided to go to my gate and sit to rest my feet which had started to ache. Again due to a heavy schedule I was not able to have a foot and body massage before I left. I was planning to have them the day before but things were just hectic.

When I entered the pre-departure area there were already many people there, all different sorts. You got the feeling that people were all looking at you. I did not really care. I knew some were looking at what I was wearing, what I was carrying, my shoes, etc. Then I found an empty seat toward the front and started to read the newspaper which Key bought for me earlier to read. As they were calling for different groups to board, I suddenly felt that I needed to go to the toilet again. Anyway the queue was long and I did not really have to hurry as I already have my assigned seat. The only thing that’s irritating when you are last to board the plane would be that the storage for hand carried items above your seat would be used by others, leaving no space for your own stuff. Then you have to chuck them in somewhere far from where you are sitting. It is quite inconvenient when getting off and people scrambling to get out. There should be a system to make it less chaotic.

So when I got to my seat in the plane I was silently praying that there would be no one seated next to me. I don’t really mind it for short flights but for long haul flights the place could be cramped. My prayer was answered so the seat on my right was free. The other passenger on the same row next to the empty seat dumped his pillow and blanket on that empty seat. I was quite surprised and stared at him coldly. His friend just shrugged his shoulders, silently apologizing for his friend maybe. Since the seat was empty I was able to put my computer bag under the seat in front of it so I did not have to store it in the overhead bin. Only my winter jacket in a big paper bag was stored above me. I am not really good at these overhead bins as I find the doors heavy and it is a bit high.. I don’t know how they could design it this way, without considering that not all have big muscles and strong enough to push it up, and not all could reach it. So I pushed it to close and nearly broke my fingers. Apparently I did not close it properly because during take off it suddenly opened! Another passenger wanted to stand to close it but he could not as it was dangerous to do so at that stage. Then one of the senior stewards stood to close it. That was a relief because I felt a bit guilty and ashamed that I was the one who closed it earlier and what if something fell down and hit another person. I also prayed for God's traveling mercies. I knew there were also many who were praying for me as I travelled.

I read somewhere that to avoid having jet lag you have to time your sleeping, so that if you arrive in the morning like 6 am or so you have to sleep during the last 8 hrs of the flight and wake up before you land. But if you arrive in the mid-morning or afternoon or evening, you should not sleep before landing so your sleeping pattern will not be disturbed. So for our 10-11 hrs flight I told myself that I would not sleep until after 3 hrs into the flight, i.e. after the first meal. So even though it was midnight already when we took off and some were already dozing off, and the cabin lights turned off, I still did not sleep. I was also not feeling sleepy. Instead I read the magazines and the newspaper and did the crossword & sudoku puzzles. I had my own light on. Only a few of us were awake. Then the attendants started distributing the menu card for the two meals we will be having during the flight. After nearly half hour or so they were distributing drinks, and then later the first meal. So everyone had to wake up.

During long flights it is my habit to walk around to stretch my legs. I did this many times, with only my socks on. I had to remove my shoes to relax my feet. I haven’t been using closed shoes for a long time and now I have to get used to it again. I only have this one pair of rubber shoes as there was no space anymore in my luggage for another pair. Besides I was planning to buy a pair in the UK coz that means that the shoes would really be suited to the local conditions especially for walking, the cold and rain. When you calculate the price for the quality you get, it is nearly the same.

There was a movie on but I did not bother really to watch it. I had the headphones on listening to some music. After sometime I got tired of listening to the music as the channels were limited. I was looking for some mellow music to suit the mood in the plane but most were quite fast. It was time to sleep and I adjusted my position so I could be comfortable. Quite a difficult thing to find a comfortable position in the plane even when the seats are reclined, but I still managed to sleep, thank God. I woke up a few times to walk around to stretch. Also did some exercises. Sometimes I would just stand on the aisle near my seat and tried to do some stretching and bending. There were a few others doing the same so it did not look strange. I also did not feel shy coz I was thinking that I needed to do this for my own health and body and, anyway, nobody knew me there.

When the screen flashed the info on the local time at destination, I adjusted the time on my watch. In this way I would estimate the time I needed to sleep more. And also that when I arrived in Frankfurt I would know the time there so I would not miss my connecting flight. I was not able to read the pocketbook I bought as I felt sleepy already. So even though I took it out and put it in the seat pocket in front of me, I did not touch it during the flight. When the second meal was served I remembered to take a photo of it. So here it is.

1 comment:

Reymos said...

Good luck to your new phase of your academic life! It is a challenging part but in the long term is a rewarding experience! Thanks also for sharing your passion in reading... Jodi P. is one of my second lady authors, next to Mary Higgins Clark. I dont like much of My Sister's Keeper, but you might interested to have a copy of her other novel, Second Glance...which I like most!

In terms of long flights, I dont sleep much before my departure day which allows me to sleep soundly during my flights... and of course having two pocket books ready in hand carry make my journey enjoyable!

You can visit my book collection:


All the best...Reymos