Kuala Lumpur our old friend (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

We sit watching the runway at the Gold Coast Airport. A crewing issue has delayed our flight by an hour but it doesn’t bother us. We have a two night stopover in Kuala Lumpur so there’s no rush. Budget airlines call this small domestic and interns airport home: Air Asia X, Scoot and Jetstar planes stand on the tarmac waiting for passengers. Just one of each.
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The flight is full. Watching the other passengers is always fascinating. Some complain about everything from the leg room (surely everyone knows by now that leg room is non-existent when flying) to the change for purchases being paid in Malaysian Ringgit. The latter works in our favour because I found some Korean Won when I was packing our house. Not enough to exhange but too much to ignore. I use these to buy a cup of tea: the Ringgit I received as change are more useful to me than the Won. Paul passes the flight sleeping and listening to music while I sleep and watch movies. Oh how I love the convenience of smart phone technology and Netflix.
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The airport bus drops us at Kuala Lumpur Sentral.  We could easily take the monorail to Bukit Bintang but have been sitting all day. The 4km (1.5 mile) walk not only allows us to stretch our legs but also gives us more time “in” KL. Places now evoke memories for us: the shop where we bought sunglasses, the roundabout where we dices with death to get across, the corner where we ate a delicious meal and that spot where I threw a hunger tantrum. And new sights open up before our eyes: the gorgeous Church of the Holy Rosary and the Bukit Bintang food street.
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It’s hot and humid so we take a shower before heading out for dinner at 9pm. The market is an assault on the senses. The heady stench of durian fills the air around the many vendors selling this local delicacy. As much as I hate durian, the scent centres me here in Malaysia. Touts push menus in our faces, proclaiming their restaurant as the best, oldest or cheapest. Small stalls sell the knick knacks typical of any market in the world. Table to table vendors try to push figet spinners and wooden baskets onto the captive audience of diners. And local buskers sing for ringgit. The crowd is mainly a mix of Chinese locals and foreign tourists. But not exclusively. We eat fried rice with sticky sesame pork and spicy stir fried vegetables. What a way to reimmerse ourselves into South East Asia.

A one hour foot massage for RM50 ($AU15) rounds out the first day of our adventure. Paul suggests adding on a back massage but I’m exhausted. It’s only 11pm but my body us still on Brisbane time and it feels like 1am. Besides, we have a full day here tomorrow.

Istanbul to Brisbane (flying home from Turkey)

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It never ceases to amaze me that I can travel to a country carrying about 5-8kg of gear in a backpack (assuming I am not cycle touring) including my tent and sleeping bag. But I always head home with much more. It’s not even like I buy souvenirs or gifts. But, somehow, the return baggage is always double what I arrived with, if not heavier. Fortunately, I have this cool packable bag that saves me having to buy extra luggage.

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The process of checking in and boarding my flight in Istanbul was ridiculously slow. I was at the airport four hours before my flight because I needed to drop off a rental car (the Istanbul International Airport car rental drop off area is outside the airport near the cargo area and is poorly signed so I completed four laps of the airport before I even dropped off the car). Anyway, I joined the check in queue three hours before departure and it still took me over 1.5 hours to get to the front of the line. The check in operators were that slow. Then came the slow security process, leaving me about 40 minutes to find my gate before despite being at the airport with plenty of time to spare. I needn’t have rushed though. My flight was delayed by about an hour and we were not told why. But I wasn’t too worried; if I missed my connection in Abu Dhabi I knew that Etihad would get me on another flight.

I didn’t miss my connection though. I was a bit confused about the route I was taking though. I arrived at about 7:30pm. At 10pm there was a direct Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to Brisbane (my home city). But I was booked on a 10:30pm flight to Perth where I had to clear customs, grab my baggage, get a bus 30 minutes from the international to the domestic airport, drop my baggage and then wait 8 hours to catch the red eye to Brisbane.

But, forty hours after leaving my hotel in Istanbul I stumbled off the plane onto home soil. It felt good to be back.

A bonus city (Melbourne, Australia)

 My bags are packed and I’m ready to rock and roll. Turkey awaits and I am excited about the upcoming adventure with my parents. I’ve packed clothes, bivy, hammock, sleeping bag and pad, running clothes and shoes, Lycian Way maps and hiking poles. It’s adventure time.  Paul takes me to the airport where I check in. I have the necessary visa, my luggage weighs 10kg (leaving me 20kg available for shopping – I do have my foldable extra luggage bag with me too), and my boarding passes are handed over to me. All that’s left is to wait until I can board.

A lightning storm hits just as we board the flight. There will be a delay in departing. A headwind means we cannot make up time. I can see the 1:20 transfer time being eaten away. We are now scheduled to arrive at 10pm and my Etihad connection departs at 10:40pm. It takes an age for the doors to be opened.  

Mind you, the flight time passed quickly because I sat next to some interesting men who run courses in masculinity for school boys (they have colleagues who run similar courses for school girls). I am fascinated by their stories and job. It sounds at once challenging and rewarding. I learn as much from them as I can. 

 But I digress. I was telling you about the flight. As you can see from this photo, I am not currently on my connecting flight to Abu Dhabi. Rather, I am at a hotel in Melbourne that the airline (Virgin Australia) put the 30-40 passengers affected by the missed connection up in. It’s rather flash and we have a meal allowance that will pay for breakfast. None of us know how long we will be delayed but the airline has told us they will call the hotel around 7:30/8:00am tomorrow, which means we won’t be on the 10am flight to Abu Dhabi. 

I have checked and it is still possible to book the 10:40pm flight to Abu Dhabi with the connection to Istanbul for tomorrow night. So, theoretically, I should only be delayed by 24 hours. But just how many seats are available on the Melbourne-Abu Dhabi flight is anyone’s guess and there are 30-40 passengers needing to be rebooked to Abu Dhabi and on to various destinations. All I can do it wait and enjoy the nice hotel. 

I must mention the professionalism, calm and friendly service provided by Virgin Australia’s ground crew at the gate. It’s not their fault a lightning storm delayed our flight or that Etihad did not (or could not) wait for us. And they never got angry or annoyed at passenger frustration (especially challenging because they could not help us). They just apologised a lot, smiled and let us see them calling their missed connection management team so that they were seen to be trying everything possible. 

Winter in Europe booked

I just booked flights for Paul and me to Europe from 26 December 2015. Paul will stay a month and then I’ll stay a second month. We fly into Holland where we will spend time with my extended family who live there. Then hire a car to explore Germany and Poland (and maybe a couple more places). Then I will travel to the Baltic States for a cycle tour on my fat bike. 

It will be cold but it will also be fun. Paul has never seen snow and I’ve never experienced a proper winter.