21 April 2009

Selamat datang kembali! - Welcome back in KL!

"Puan-puan dan tuan-tuan. Selamat datang penerbangan di Air Asia X ke Kuala Lumpur!"
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome on board the Air Asia X flight to KL!"

You know the feeling when you go someplace in the world and you know you'll be back? That's at least what I felt from the from the very first moment in KL this January. Something clicked!

Three months later, I find myself in Stansted Airport, with a £302 (!) ticket, my platop, my turtle bag from Singapore (made of organic cotton), two suitcases, one of then half-full with books, including (but not limited to!) a 500+ pages strong studypack on Global Forced Migration for some light reading and a copy of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven", given to me by a special friend about six years ago now (gosh!) in school. Unsurprisingly, my suitcases both weigh 1.6kg more than the 25kg I had bought. I don't have to pay extra and think it's down to the jolly mood of the check-in woman and the "novelty airline" factor. Later, I find out it's likely because the the cabin is by far not fully booked. There's not much to do at night, on an airport. I'm frustrated because I won't get my Economist to read on the flight and relieved to find Boots open (don't we girls love it to have our period when we travel? It's even worse if you have a hole in your jeans with the location and size of Liechtenstein: strategic, small but significant). By the way, did you know about the recent change in legislation regarding the tampon tax in the UK? - Hilarious!

As a piece of advice, should anyone of you want to check out the latest FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) country updates, you can do that free of charge on the otherwise coined internet computer terminals. Anyway, it seems Stansted has expanded ever since I've last been there (lounging with Kat for six or so hours connecting to Edinburgh from Vienna on our "alternative" Matura trip).

Boarding starts late, maybe 15min AFTER the scheduled take-off.

I think of the time I thought I nearly missed that Butterworth-KL sleeper due to the Penang Island-Butterworth Ferry being 45min (!) late (a 10-15min trip). When I arrived panting at the station after running the 7min walk with two backpacks, the train was still there and wouldn't leave for another two hours. I guess that made me over-punctual.

Or the time when my Chumphon (TH)-Butterworth sleeper was stationary in Chumphon for two hours whatever reason.

LESSON: Except for Hong Kong and Singapore, count on transport not leaving at the scheduled time and spend your time more efficiently.

A predominantly Malay mix of Malay Muslims, Chinese and Tamil people around, I take out my phone for some last-minute emails, trying to concentrate despite the repeated loud shutter sound and blinding blitz of the Chinese lady next to me who wonders if maybe the 37 th close-up picture of her boarding pass is going to be the perfect one. Everyone their own way to pass the time. Or, in Einstein's words: Pressing the same button for nearly half an hour was her own way of contracting her relative time. When boarding eventually started, a queue quickly formed - Asian style, as I observe with amusement a young English couple smirking at this. However, there also definitely is an excited buzz in the air - after all, it's still only a month that Air Asia launched the first low-fare long-haul route to London (one view from the Guardian and a quite entertaining video clip on the inaugural flight by Air Asia itself).

The plane, as expected and since it was bought second-hand, is well, a wee old, as I keenly detected by a look through the window to the wing that stretches out in a matted grey. The seats are new but onviously no entertainment system installed. Instead, you can rent an A5 handheld device ("Free earphones included!"). Devoid of an Economist, I decide to sort my blog ideas about some final thoughts on London as I last saw it before embarking on this adventurous journey.

When the plane finally starts, I catch myself impressed that it actually doesn't fly so bad if you ignore the racket of the closing landing gear.

And here I am - On a half-empty plane to Kuala Lumpur, stunned and astonished by the fact that it is indeed possible to do this journey at a third of the mainstream ticket. Sure, the environmental aspect is there and believe me, I am supporting CSR (corporate social responsibilty) initiatives like carbon-offsetting or reforestation on my intra-European flights and am against flying for no good reason etc. In this case though, this Air Asia enterprise is one of the few trends that actually supports my personal development opportunities for a change. I don't know if it's the credit crunch, the season, the destination or Thailand's current crisis but I would have wished to see more people on this flight, not just for environmental reasons. Many people have a seat free next to them to stretch out on. Must have helped make me fall asleep for when I wake up next and open the window, it's bright sunrise out there - beautiful.

A few hours later, I wake up from yet another nap and suddenly find it night again outside which is actually not a surprise as we were racing towards the sunrise - to be greeted by Orion (Orion and I have a special relationship, you know!).

Kuala Lumpur looks amazing at night. The landing gear opens with a loud jolt and locks into place with another bang below my feet that makes me jump in my seat. Old-school plane but as long as it's one of the kind that were built to last, I don't mind. After we touch down, in time to avoid a lightning storm looming in the East of town, I check the magazine pouch one last time and think how cool it must be to collect safety information cards...

I have a cup of coffee at the aiport - my way of rehydrating! ;P
I exit the building. I'm in Kuala Lumpur. I don't feel anything. Actually, it's the most normal thing in the world.

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2 courageous comments!:

Anonymous said...

hallo meine liebe! schön von dir zu hören!das ist so sehr du, danke! und gut dass du gut gelandet bist in kuala lumpur (kei el)... dann mal auf ins leben! muuuaaa ** martina

Heidi said...

:D Koennte das gleiche von dir sagen! Unverkennbare Ms. Anonymous! ;)

Kei El? Achso! Jetzt check ich's erst, dachte du meinst Superman's kryptonischen birth name! ;P