In which 36+ hour journeys are far too long...

Kaki Satu – Kuching ke Kuala Lumpur dengan pesawat MH 2529: Preparations were mercifully quick, and I even managed a quick trip to John’s Gallery where I was recognized as a local lad – “Eh – you’re local yah? Orang Cina dari luar tak berupa sama [Chinese people from elsewhere don’t look the same]”. Apparently the non-locals have redder cheeks because of the cold weather elsewhere. It didn’t matter to me that I don’t have blushing cheeks since I was given the local price, not the USD price being orang Sarawak. Membership does have its privileges, after all. 

True mah – that green credit card has it everywhere after all. 

After a quick phone call to Mr. Tan, no relation to Mrs. Tan (purveyor of fine laksa spice), to thank him for his offer of powdered Adabi Sambal, I went for one last swim in the swimming pool that was deliberately (in addition to being laid out in the shape of a grand piano) built two metres short of the official Olympic 50 metres to prevent the State Swimming Association from seconding it for their training purposes, and had one last bowl of noodles. It was in my mind to get some mango ais-kachang, but neither Mikey nor Ms. Chan was around and it wouldn’t have been the proper thing to do. 

We left for the airport where I checked in with 3.7 kilos more than I should have, and was charged excess baggage fees for 2 kilos – don’t ask. It’s the way things are done here. Landed in KLIA where I finally got to ride those little golf carts which go around beeping at people getting in their way. The cart took me to the airport hotel which saved me from having to drag my 23.7 kilos and one other bag to the other end of the airport. And once I was in the room, the phone rang, and it was Dr. K demanding to know whether I was on the train yet (roll eye, roll eye, tap toe, tap toe).

Kaki Satu A - Dari KLIA ke Bangsar dengan KLIA ekspres: So I rushed to the station where tickets were sold 5 minutes before the train left. The train took 28 minutes to KL Sentral where Dr. K was waiting impatiently for me. I got into the car and Dr. K promptly drove the wrong way into a one-way street, and we shrieked when we saw on-coming lights. Fortunately, we found a way out quickly and got on our way to Bangsar (suburb of KL – DWA would love it) which has become somewhat of a trendy dining spot with high-end restos with ‘ambiance’ and mamak stores and kopitiams where the hawkers sell their dishes. For the record – Roti Canai which costs RM$1.30 here costs 15x more in Vancouver.

Dr. K wanted me to go to Alexis Cafe which was started by Angela and Milton from Kuching and who made their name selling Sarawak laksa for RM$22.00 (“but big bowl lah!” and “ so much ambiance whoar!”). I had Nasi Kerabu from Kelantan, and she had Nasi Ulam – You didn’t really think that we’d have laksa at these prices do you?. Then we had a very silly 40 minutes talking about rojak Korean dramas at a frozen yoghurt place before I had to catch the train back to the airport hotel. 

Kaki dua – Kuala Lumpur ke Hong Kong dengan pesawat CX 720: The next day, woke up a bit later than expected and I had to eschew breakfast and run to the check in counters where M was very efficient and good (dressed very smartly in his CX uniform too) in finding me all my flights to KL, to San Francisco, to Seattle and finally to Vancouver. Again I was recognized as a local and was asked in Malay where I was, and why such a long itinerary. Then he said, “Let me see what I can do” and he did see and could do and there I was with a seat change to 4A when I got to Hong Kong. Originally I’d been placed in 2A, but the nice CX people checked the seats for malfunctions before the flight (imagine AC doing that – as well expect the Canadian government to be decisive), and 2A was found to not recline fully, so they reassigned me to 4A.

Mind you, I almost missed my HKG-SFO flight because I had 40 minutes to make my connection (the flight went late) in HKG, but some efficient agent whisked a group of us through the Staff and Crew security line, and thence to the gate where more agents swept me through the crowds to my fully reclining seat. I’d better not get too used to this sort of attention, however, for it will be a long time before this happens again. Of that I’m sure, but once can always hope. The flight itself was uneventful, the caviar up to standard, the red-date soup delicious, the main course forgettable and dessert a bit dry, but the Hong Kong style tea very good. There’s nothing like non-dairy creamer to make something taste good. During the 12 hours or so, I finished watching the second season of Downton Abbey with the marvellous Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess. In one scene, the Dowager Countess and Cora (the daughter-in-law) are plotting discussing how to turn the attention of the immensely bossy Cousin Isabel from one set of good works to another, and Cora says, about Isabel, that it’s difficult to dissuade her from her job because she’s such a martyr, and the Dowager Countess turns and says in a tone implying that the answer was obvious, “well, in that case, we must find her a more enticing scaffold”.

Leg 3 – San Francisco to Seattle with AS 305: The fog had rolled into San Francisco by the time we arrived - 3 hours before we left Hong Kong, such is the miracle of the International Dateline – and we circled the city several times before alighting. The international terminal in SFO is very swish, the immigration officers actually pleasant, but the agricultural officers a bit too nosy in their attentions to your luggage. When I mentioned this to DWA and SOCK, they both gasped, and spluttered, “...but the...they didn’ made it right?” Good thing “it” was well hidden is all I can say. 

I eventually rechecked my luggage (now 22.7 Kilos) and went to the AS counter to get my remaining (two more to go) boarding passes, went through security for the 4th time. Come to think of it, the one time I had more security checks was when I flew from San Francisco to Philadelphia, to Gatwick, took the train to Heathrow, then flew to Kuala Lumpur, then on to Kuching one week after September 11 2000 – on that trip, I went through security 10 times, four times alone getting from the check in counter at Heathrow onto the plane at Heathrow.

Then I sat amidst the hoi-polloi before realising there was an AS lounge at SFO (not a very nice one, quite tatty actually) and barged talked my way into it. The flight was delayed, but the sun did come out so I dozed in a stray beam and tried not to drool too much. We eventually left and I arrived in Seattle quite out of it – by this time everything was a bit of a blur and all I can remember is a Pamela Anderson look alike was handing out pretzels and drinks, and that Seattle was grey, and Vancouver even more so. 

Then I fell asleep for 14 hours, but have not had such luck since.