Flying East is supposed to be easier on the body than going West. Rubbish I say. I have never suffered from Jet Lag this much flying in any direction. Numb from head to toe, we have walked around the streets near our hotel trying to get ourselves tuned to a new continent its food and climate.
Without leaving the hotel room you can get an education. There is a green arrow on the ceiling, with the word Kiblat printed on it. It points to Mecca, which is sort of NW of here. A notice in the lift warns against overloading – 730 Kg max 11 people. Evidently, they are not expecting too many Texans, or just a couple at a time.
The roads will take some getting used to. Traffic lights are there ‘ just for guidance ‘, and you can squeeze by any holdup by forming six lanes and sounding your horn. This is Darwinian principles in action.
It is just a few hours since we had our last evening with the ‘ grandparents ‘ and the final drink of ‘ grandfather grog ‘. The winter evening drink of choice, it is served hot. You know by the vapours and the itching of your nose that it is strong. He follows a far from secret recipe: Rum – must have, water – can be, and sugar – if you like.
It helps you to sleep, even on nights when you know that in the morning you are going to be flying your precious bikes with AirBerlin. The modifications had included some protection for the rear mech on both bikes, and big alloy ‘ Klean Kanteen ‘ water bottles. We know that water is going to be important in the humidity, and it has to taste sweet and not plasticky. The cages that you need to use with these do not get the best reviews I have ever seen. Time will tell.
In the last week, we headed to Berlin to apply for a visa for Thailand. For many years the symbol for the city was the construction crane. Filling in the strip of land in the middle, as two large cities came back together had created exciting spaces for three of the biggest building sites in Europe. They are still at it more than twenty years later.
Visa in hand, we returned to ‘ Granny Island ‘ to complete the packing. Most would say we overdo the bike prep. But every couple of flights or so we learn a perverse new trick of baggage handlers, and try to smarten up our system. This time, we have gone for liberal application of bubble wrap rather than foam.
Esther phoned AirBerlin two weeks in advance to book our bikes on the flight, ” We have a 24hr stop-over between flights and we want the bikes staying in the hold system “. All was well and a booking receipt was emailed. What could go wrong?
We turned up at the check in desk with 3 1/2 hours to spare, and a good thing too. ” What do you mean our bikes are not booked on the second flight!”. Etihad Airlines picks up the second part of the flight and have only been “cooperating” for a short while. So we found out where they do not yet meet in the middle.
” You will need to pay for excess baggage”. We waited whilst the nice lady went away and clarified the rate. ” That will be € 777 “. She was perfectly serious, and even asked us to move away a little when I got quite cross.
Esther was trying to be reasonable as she took on her ‘ Good Cop ‘ role to my ‘ Bad Cop ‘. You can get a deal on surf boards, children’s seats, blind dogs and Falcons and the one that really makes me angry – GOLF EQUIPMENT! Bikes pick up the full €55 per Kg rate.
” Ok, so it is golf equipment in those bags “. She was not having any of it, but she was still being nice enough. ” You could move things around, ” You get 30 Kg per person you know “. Which is how we ended up spreading all our carefully packed gear onto the floor of the check in area, and doing a hasty re-pack.
We were still well over. So, I regret to say, I put my foot under the heavy bag as it went back on the scales. € 777 came down to € 159, and we have an email sitting in the inbox with Air Berlin reclaiming our € 150 for booking the bikes onboard. Some day, they may even answer.
We spent a few hours in a hotel room in Abu Dhabi. The city planners have watched Blade Runner, and liking what they see have pushed the dvd in front of a bunch of expensive architects, ” Something like that please “. It rained whilst we were there, ” First rain in two years “, we were informed by the taxi driver as we headed back to the airport.
So, here we are in the heat and humidity of Malaysia. Keen to try new fruit experiences Esther bought some fruit from a street seller. It was the size of a large orange but green in colour, and with spikes prickly enough to need a gloved hand to hold it as it was cut. It is called a ‘ Turiyam ‘ (Durian, Thanks Pete), or something that sounds like that. I am going to describe what it tastes and smells like, but you will be far from prepared for the realty if you ever get around to trying one, and I do suggest that you do not.
When we showed some of it to the guy on the desk here at the hotel he became quite stern, ” We do not allow that in the hotel “. He was right of course, it would have stunk out all eight floors. It tasted of cheese, with a hint of very strong onion in a way that you are never going to be fully expecting from a fruit. Texture was the wrong side of slimy. It is now ‘ in season ‘, and now we know the smell, we can pick it out in even a crowded street. Ville, does not begin to do it justice.
The bikes are now back together and looking just fab, and we are regaining some of our wits having halved our IQ with the time zone challenging flights. We know we have to start each days ride as close to 7.00 am as possible, and that it will rain with life threatening thunder and lightning every afternoon at about 3.00 pm. Tomorrow we start by catching a train a little way out of Kuala Lumpur, and head into the first mountains. This is not going to be very easy.