Sunday, March 4, 2012

A very large Update....feel free to Skim

20 Hours ago I left you at Chch International, and currently still travelling. At this point in time I’m about 8 hours into the KUL-LON leg, soon to be flying over Poland and Germany. Let me fill you on on the flying details.

After leaving you at security I went through into the main departing hall, quick peek through duty free and a 1.25L bottle of water I was set to go. There’s been a bit of talk about the quality of AirAsia, sure it’s a budget airline, but the seating wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
When booking my flights a couple months ago, I also registered with this little side company that works with AirAsia called optiontown. For a tiny bit extra money I could have the possibility of being assigned an entire row to myself (3 chairs to sprawl out on). When checking in at Chch airport however, they had spaced out the seating so much they couldn’t accommodate my request, but they made sure there was a free seat between me and the other passenger. The seats are very basic, a dirty sand colour with splashes of red on the head rest and seatbelts. When I sat down and put my water, tissues and bag of med’s there was virtually no room between my knees and the pouch. If you’ve ever flown domestically, that’s basically what it’s like, no in seat tv (or any tv in the entire plane for that matter), no radio on arm rest, just basic basic stuff. I made myself comfortable and was soon joined by a young girl from Finland called Elscy (not sure about spelling but sounded like eel-sea) She reminded me a lot of Danielle (of Danielle and Amy for those Richardsons who know what I mean). First meal was served 2am NZ time, why the heck would I want to eat at that time. But ate I did. Bean sprouts, carrots and salmon with hollandaise sauce, served with a 350Ml bottle of water, polished it off in less than 5 minutes. Was pretty decent.

The lights were dimmed and began the restless nice of tossing and turning, Elscy and I used the middle seat to stretch out legs and took turns awkwardly collapsing our heads into the middle seat. I must have slept a few hours, but certainly not solidly. Waking up to strong turbulence, limbs going numb, and being generally uncomfortable. I naturally sit quite squished up or in awkward positions, so I was able to fit my feet; into the magazine pouch, through the chair infront of me and onto the empty hand rest, or squished up in the fetal position. People unable to peform such manouverous should invest in the premium seats.
I felt very dazed and confused, and generally awful while trying to sleep, I felt like I was always in a semi state of concousness. Soon the harsh flurescent like lights were back on and breakfast was being served, Chicken and Gravy, with spuds, carrots and courgettes. (some breakfast!!) I ate a carrot, and half a piece of courgette before wrapping it back up and pushing it away. Nausea had taken hold very strong, the smell of the asian rice meals people were receiving were making my stomach churn. Elscy and I chatted for ages, she had been away for about 6 months working in Australia and travelling New Zealand, and was about to spend a week in Kuala Lumpur and the Philipines before heading home. We had an amazing landing in Kuala Lumpur, what a beautiful place it looked like. Rivers  meandering  between vast green forests, and rolling hills slightly hazed by the humidity and the sun slowly peeking out. We landed in KLIA – Low Cost Carrier Terminal (Yay no Sinus Pains!!) at about 7am local time. All of the planes just line up along the tarmac, and passengers must walk between the terminal and the plane. Wow it was hot, it was like walking into a very hot green house, or straight into the bathroom after someone has taken a shower. The air was thick with moisture. Within minutes sweat marks were appearing on my blue cotton shirt, and sweat was running down my shins under my track pants.  It looked like 3 other planes had just landed and swarms of people were walking along the tarmac towards the terminal. Elscy and I ended up at the back of the huge que that snaked out from the terminal and were standing outside. With only an hour to connect to my next flight, I was getting nervous. We couldn’t see where the line went, but people were barging passed us obviously knowing where they were going. As we got closer we saw the signs. One pointing towards transfers, which was the line I was in, but Elscy was at her final destination and could by pass the lot and go on. We said our farewells and bid each other the best of luck on our travels. Before she left she gave me her travel blanket and a book to read on the next flight. A quick wave and she disappeared over the escalator. ‘We’ was now just me. I felt very sad saying farewell, as now I was alone again, but what a wonderful person she was, and was kind of glad I didn’t get the row to myself and got the chance to meet her.

The issue of getting onto my next flight was still there.  I overheard a young couple mention London. I quickly butted in with ‘Are you connecting to London?’ they were, and were concerned about actually catching the plane. The guy ran up the line to where the desks were to see what the deal was. He came back saying it was final boarding call for London. We decided to push ahead of this huge line. I was trying to avoid eye contact with anyone as they seemed annoyed us pushing in. Just as we made it into the room where the line’s met the desk, the lady at the counter shouted, “Anyone going to London?!” We quickly shouted in return and raised our hands and were pulled to the front of the line to be processed straight away. The other two went straight ahead through security, and the Malaysian wearing a pale pink head scarf processed my tickets.

-“Hi how are you” she said
“Good thanks”
-“What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“Sorry?” I laughed
-“What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“I don’t know, they might be a little red from the flight, I’m not sure” Still kind of laughing, but also slightly offended. (My first thought was, ‘oh dear she’s not going to let me on because she thinks I’m on drugs’)
-“Oh maybe you had to much sleep” this didn’t make sense but I knew what she meant.
“........oh okay, yeah didn’t sleep much.....”

A little more self conscious than before, I threw my bags through the x-ray machine and was forced to throw out all my water. Quickly making my way into the packed transfer hall, I scanned the room intently to the couple I had just met. They waved from the line. I joined in, wondering if I had time to buy water as I had nothing to take on. No time. I checked through and was back walking the exact path I was walking 20 minutes ago along the tarmac. I had done a complete loop. I stepped onto the plane, it was already extremely full, with virtually no free seats in sight. People were staring at me as I walked along. ‘Damn, my eyes must be really bad’ I thought to myself, and averted my gaze to the floor. After kicking a man out of my seat I sat down. At this stage I had the whole middle row to myself! I noticed everyone looking at the spare seats, then at me. When I saw the doors close, I realised OptionTown had pulled through and I had the row to myself!! I quickly shuffled into the middle seat. Moments later a man stands up from the row next to me and goes to sit down in the free seat.
“Sorry Sir, I’ve paid for these extra seats”
“Oh no worries” he said, and went back to his seat.
Moments later a young girl on the other side of the plane turns around;
“Scuse me, are you sitting there by yourself?”
“Would it be okay..”
“Sorry I’ve paid for these seats” I cut her off, as I knew exactly what she was going to ask.  She was on the previous flight to and had used the same line about stretching her legs and sleeping when he had the row to himself also. I needed a stick to bat everyone away, I could see what they were thinking in their eyes; “Space, is that extra space, is that 2 free seats?”I felt a little greedy having the seats while everyone else was bunched up, but I did pay for the extra seats so I may as well actually make the most of it.
The plane ride was sooo much easier to deal with. Being able to lie down (and thanks to Elca, pull a blanket over myself) and sleep seemed luxurious. 13 Hrs certainly dragged on, but I felt pretty energised and calm and devoured my onboard meals. Mum, the blow up pillow was a god send on both flights, so insanely comfortable and versatile.

Arriving in London, 

I departed the plane and proceeded through customs with my British Passport, didn’t take to long and within minutes I was grabbing my bag and heading to the trains. I bought a ticket to London, Victoria from Gatwick and boarded the train that was located in the terminal. I was feeling nervous now as I had a bit of a journey ahead of me, with my bags and looking rather weary. It was quite a nice train trip, weather was clear and sunny, but was getting dark quickly. Arriving at Victoria, I wondered back and forth back and forth with contradicting information from the rail information staff, useless I tell you! Eventually I had to take the underground subway to Russell Square. What an experience. I’m hoping it was a busy time to be travelling, but the stairs were swarming with people. My bags seemed to take up so much space! I arrived at the platform and saw people running to get on, I decided to run to and jumped on the train, 95% sure it was the right train. It was so full you just had to stand bunched up, shoulder to shoulder. Literally. Even when the train was full people would still get on and just squish in, to the point where they had to stand about 5cm from the edge of the train doors. I switched trains and finally arrived at my destination. I walked for about 10 minutes with my bags and arrived at the hostel which is nice and cosy, and has really nice staff.

Now I know it sounds like it was an easy trip from Airport – Hostel. It wasn’t. I only had directions from Kings Cross, not from Victoria station. So I was completely on my own to find out how to get there. Asking people just had to be done and boy did I ask. In sequential order:

-At the airport, asked security how to get out of baggage claim (was actually a kiwi, could tell before he even spoke)
-Train Ticket office “where do I board the train?”
-Ticket machine security guy “how the heck do I use these machines, and where is my platform”
- Platform controller “Is this my train to Victoria?”
- Random man on train. “How do I get from Victoria to Russell Square (this guy saved my life, pulled up the rail network map on his iPhone and gave me instructions and which trains to take. I also have this app on my iPod so was really helpful to refer when I got off)
-Rail information at Victoria station, “where is this train departing from” (both booths gave different directions. After 15minutes of walking back and forth I found out where to go.)
-Random man on subway, “does this stop at Russell square?”
-Ticket security “the machine at my train ticket, can you let me through?”
-Random Italian couple on the street – “is Russell square that way?” (Lovely people, giving me clear directions and wishing me safe travels”)

From what I had seen on Google street view I found the bright blue door and checked in (and got my new camera I had sent to the hostel, but had to charge it overnight). I went for an evening stroll to Leicester square and China town looking for cheap grub. However the comforting familiarity of ‘Subway’ (the sandwich place) was hard to bypass. Back at the hostel, completely exhausted and feeling like I was just going to fall asleep standing, I went to bed at about 8.45pm. I woke up at about 11.30pm. My dorm room was still empty, as everyone was out at pubs/clubs. I thought, it was going to be a loooong night but after 30 minutes of IPod touch games I was tired enough to sleep again through the night until about 6.30am.

Anxiety has given me so much grief and has been making things difficult. Thoughts such as “What have you got yourself into”, “just book a ticket home now” and “how are you going to cope”. After today (Sunday) however it’s been a bit better. I think just being so overly exhausted had a lot to do with how I was mentally feeling.

First Full day in London.

Piccadilly Circus

Hostel Kitchen
Proud of my shopping
Map Posts
I lay in bed just resting from 6.30am – 8.45 before pulling on my track pants and heading to breakfast, which is included in the accommodation. Toast with vegemite, marmite, peanut butter, jam, or nutella; cocoa puffs, corn flakes, muesli, and the always free tea and coffee. Not bad at all I thought. After stuffing as much as I could into myself, I had a quick shower and got my day pack ready for a shop at the local supermarket, Sainsbury’s. I got there at around 10.45am to find it didn’t open till 12pm on Sundays, so had some time to kill. London has these map posts located everywhere, which show you where you are and the surrounding area, so just exploring and getting completely lost is not a worry. I wiggled my way through lanes and small streets landing up at Covent Garden Market, followed Leicester square and somehow ended up in Piccadilly Circus. Quite a cool area, lots to see, but it was almost 12 so I headed back towards Sainsbury’s.  My first grocery shop in London.  I had prepared a shopping list back in NZ, so I pulled out the scrunched up envelope I had written it on and proceeded to check things off. It was tiring browsing the prices and finding what I needed, (this store was pretty tiny, probably half the size of New World, Merivale) Finally I had my list, and now was  feeling super proud of myself and full of confidence now that I had food available to eat whenever I’m hungry. It started bucketing down on the way back to the hostel, and before long I was running to stop my down jacket getting too wet.
Back to the hostel and put my food away, grabbed a free umbrella from reception (could have been useful before), and headed to the British Museum. 30 Seconds later, I was at the British Museum. It’s a fantastic neighbour, and will be heading over again, as a short afternoon is not enough to really explore all of it's amazing exhibitions. 

Inside the Museum Entrance

Please excuse the size of this update, the lack of photos, spelling, and weird layout (I'm running out of internet I ran out of internet and I still haven't worked out how to arrange them effectively) I promise my posts from now on will be more organised and straightforward. 

Thanks for all your kinda messages, missing you all already. =) I will update again shortly.



  1. Excellent update! Loved the "Sorry, I paid for these seats" part. Fair enough, too!

    Glad to hear you made it without too much fuss, and that you could relax and stretch out on the flight to London.

    Well done for asking questions. Sometimes it's the best and only way to get where you're going.

    Looking forward to having a decent catch-up on Skype soon.

    I know it's so much easier said than done, but don't be anxious, Alex. Probably the hardest part is behind you now and you can look forward and enjoy your new surroundings :)


  2. Also loved the update Alex - reading this was a great way to start Monday. Love some of those questions esp "the machine ate my ticket, can you let me through", can imagine the annoyance after so many hours of travel! But the very mention of Covent Garden makes me want to jump on the next flight to London, even if it did involve those dramas!

    Hope your eyes have recovered...I half expected some mention of finding out that your flight buddy had drawn harry potter glasses on your face or something :P

    Take care & talk soon

  3. Good stuff man, that was a good update.
    Just don't let people intimidate you, you've done nothing wrong.

    Anyway, Look forward to more.

  4. Sounds SO amazing. Photos at the museum are beautiful, amazing architecture! I'm so jealous of the amazing places you get to see :)

    Miss your face already! Cant wait to hear about more of your adventures.

    Love you!!

  5. I really did comment on this at work - but I think the computer ate it - hidden in a random window behind all my work and unsent. So I just wanted to say, after scanning mail, facebook etc, yesterday, how lovely it was to know you had arrived safely... I had forgotten where the hostel was so just hoped you were wandering London happily.
    You are doing a great job of coping - and I am really proud of you :)
    Anyone who carries a crumpled envelope across the world with a pre thought out shopping list is really likely to be ok!
    Are these pix with the new cam or the ipod?