Posts Tagged ‘air travel’

I now have an e-ticket for a Turkish Airlines flight to Korea via Istanbul, leaving on Sunday afternoon and arriving on Monday evening. I have no passport still – I’m hoping it’ll arrive on Saturday, but if it doesn’t, my recruiter will be able to reschedule my journey. Once at the airport, I’m to be met by a ‘pick-up man’, whose duty is to buy me a ticket for the bus (although I’ll have to pay for it) and see that I get on – and presumably let the recruiter know so that they can let the director know what time to pick me up from the bus station.

I’ve doing some partial packing to see how much stuff I can fit into my backpack and suitcase. My baggage allowance is 30kg, with 8kg carry-on. I may be making full use of this allowance – and leaving some stuff behind that I had hoped to take. When I launder my last clothes on Saturday, I’ll have a better idea.

The other day, I went to the doctor to ask about whether my medication, mesalazine, would trigger a false positive on the drugs test I’ll have to take as part of my official health exam, which will prove that I’m literally fit to teach in Korea. He said that it wouldn’t and neither would paracetamol (unless I took huge amounts of it) and similar pills; steroids and sleeping pills would – but I’m not going to be using either of those.

I also showed him a couple of photos of my back that I’d taken – at his recommendation – over the past couple of months. I have lots of moles and they’ve grown and multiplied over my life – it’s hard to say, as it’s such a slow process and, being mostly on my back, they’re hard to keep an eye on. I handed over my memory stick, on to which I’d copied the two photos. He connected it to his computer and had a look at the two pictures. The third picture turned out to be a saved soft porn picture I’d saved in a different folder – I never use the automatic slideshow option, so I wasn’t expecting that. Kind of embarrassing, but the doctor took it in his stride.

On the subject of my moles, he said he would have referred me to a specialist to check out two irregularly shaped moles espcially – if I wasn’t leaving the country. He recommended I see a skin specialist before too long.

After that, I headed off to Manchester on the train. I had been thinking about getting a couple of non-fiction books, but ended up just getting Robert Rankin’s new novel – The Educated Ape and Other Wonders of the Worlds. I’m not sure whether I should make this my in-flight reading or plump for something else, as I only recently read the book’s immediate predecessor, The Mechanical Messiah and Other Marvels of the Modern Age.

I also went to see Argo, which I thought was great – a tense, funny and apparently realistic depiction of the rescue of six embassy workers from revolutionary Iran. The stand-out feature of the film, though, was the period detail – the hairstyles and facial hair, the grainy footage, the vintage Warner Brothers logo at the start. This sense of authenticity was bolstered by snippets of historical footage intercut with the movie; it was especially powerful in the early scene when the US embassy is stormed by Iranian protesters. Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Bryan Cranston were all great, along with the lesser know actors playing the six staff; Ben Affleck’s performance was understated to the point of being semi-somnolent. The climax of the film was drawn out too much for dramatic effect. Overall, a very fine movie.

The title of this post comes from a line in the film that becomes a catchphrase for some of the characters. Alan Arkin’s character, a producer, is being badgered by a journalist who wants to know the meaning of the title of the fake film within the film – Argo. Eventually, he snaps and says, ‘Argo fuck yourself.’

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To Turkey

Our flight plans for travelling to Istanbul were a little complicated. Habiba was due a free flight provided to her by her employer; I wasn’t. Habiba’s work got her a flight with Emirates, stopping in Dubai; I got a flight with Aeroflot, landing in Moscow for a couple of hours.

We got to the airport in plenty of time for Habiba’s earlier flight. We even watched the season three finale of Breaking Bad. We said goodbye and Habiba went through security to get her midnight flight. I had to hang around the airport until lunchtime for mine. I played an on-line game, Realm of the Mad God for a couple of hours – finally deciding I didn’t like it that much – and walked around a lot. I lay down on some seats and slept for a couple of hours.

In the morning, after getting some breakfast, I lined up nice and early to check-in. The airline staff were asking people where they were travelling to and sending people to specific check-in desks. I overheard someone in front of me saying the plane that were supposed to be boarding was still in Moscow.

When I was eventually seen by the check-in staff – who were all working very hard – I was booked on to a Lufthansa flight via Munich; then I was walked to the Lufthansa check-in desks. The upshot was that I was to arrive in Istanbul a couple of hours later than we’d expected. I left messages for Habiba about the situation on Skype, Facebook and via e-mail.

My first flight was eleven hours. I ate a couple of meals – quite tasty – wrote my previous blog post, watched a couple of films – Cowboys and Aliens, which was rubbish, and The Adventures of Tintin, which was pretty decent – and started reading The Road. I arrived in Munich to find that the free wifi didn’t work, so I used one of the free internet computers – no response from Habiba.

When I arrived in Istanbul, I bought a visa, passed through Immigration and went to the bathroom preparatory to getting my bag and meeting Habiba. I was just going in when I heard my name on the PA system; the message asked me to go to the information desk. I picked up my bag, went through Customs and searched for Information. Habiba was there – crying and pissed off.

She hadn’t been able to get on the internet, so she didn’t know that I was going to be late – and she kind of blamed me for it – because she didn’t have any other target for her ire. She’d only just been able to get hold of information about my change of flights. We took a bus to central Istanbul then a taxi to our hostel, Sydney Hostel Istanbul. Habiba’s mum, Noorunisa, was waiting for us.

The following day was to be much less unpleasant.

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My flight to Tokyo went without hitch. I sat next to a German woman, Jana, at the back of the plane. We talked a lot on the way over. It turned out that we were staying in the same area of the city, so we got a train together, too, and made vague plans to meet – haven’t heard from her so far. I’ll see her on Sunday, anyway, as we’re on the same flight back to Incheon.

I had planned to couchsurf while I was here, but left it very late to find a host. As a back-up I printed out maps and addresses for a couple of hostels. One of them was in Asakusa, near to where Jana and her friend were staying. I got off the train at Asakusa Station and found the place readily enough. Only then it turned out to be more expensive than I was expecting – ¥3,500 (£28) for one night in a capsule (the hostels website said they had cheaper dorm beds, but it didn’t seem that way when I got there).

The receptionist gave me directions to an internet place, where I had to become a member in order to use the internet. I found another hostel not far away and went there instead. The Khaosan Tokyo Annex is cheap (¥2,000 – £16 – per bed per night), friendly and has reasonable facilities – free wifi, kitchens with free tea and coffee; the beds are quite well sized, too, although the pillows are just a big piece of foam in a slip.

Last night I spent some time walking around the area near Asakusa Station, taking some photos of the Buddhist and Shinto temples, Senso-ji and Asakusa-jinja. Then I had dinner at a quick and cheap curry place. You can design your meal to suit your needs: you can choose the amount of rice and the spiciness of the sauce. I got an egg salad and a chicken curry with 400 grammes of rice and level 3 spiciness (out of 10). It was pretty simple, but quite tasty, and the spice level was pleasantly hot (I wonder what the higher levels are like).

This morning, I got up at nine o’clock, ate my trail mix and hard tack for breakfast along with some of the aforementioned free coffee. Then I headed out to hire a bicycle for the day. The bike rental place was pointed out to me by the nice Japanese guy who was working in the hostel last night when I checked in. It’s in a tunnel running parallel to the river at Asakusa Station. However, when I got there, the old man at the counter turned a Japanese sign on the counter round to show the English side – no bikes available. He put his hands together in apology.

I decided to walk to Ueno Park – two or three kilometres away. The weather has been strange compared to Korea. It’s been quite warm and today the sky is veiled in pale overcast. I’m walking around in a T-shirt (and possibly some other items of clothing) and still sweating a lot. Ueno Park was quite pleasant, but nothing special. There is a lake divided into three or more parts by causeways and at the centre is Benten-do, a temple dedicated to a Buddhist goddess of the arts (not to a boy with an alien wristwatch). Part of the lake is full of aquatic plants with big umbrella leaves, part is clear and has pedalos. There are lots of ducks, seagulls and carp. At one point I, and a bunch of other people, watched as a terrapin fought in vain to drag itself on to a platform; people threw bread to the ducks and the fish.

As I write this I’m having a coffee and a bite to eat in a Starbucks, listening to Rammstein’s magnificent Liebe Ist Für Alle Da. I’m trying not to spend too much, but the familiarity of the coffee shop is quite comforting. I plan to take the subway down to central Tokyo to check out the Imperial Palace and gardens.

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