Posts Tagged ‘flying’

By the evening before I left, I’d mostly packed my bags and thought I would be under my baggage allowance of 30kg, plus 8kg carry-on. Finishing off the morning I left, it became apparent that it would not be so simple. I got my big backpack to about 16kg – consisting of clothes and toiletries – and squeezed about 15kg into my small suitcase – all the more valuable stuff: camera, speakers, Magic: The Gathering cards, shoes. I removed a few things from my suitcase, left a book or two behind, put a couple of books and my umbrella in my small backpack for carrying on etc, and got down to around 16 (big backpack) + 13 (small suitcase) + 6 (small backpack) kilogrammes.

My parents came down and, together with my sister and her kids, we drove to Manchester Airport. I was there in plenty of time – there was no wait to check in at the Turkish Airlines check-in desks in Terminal 1 and there were no problems – so we had a drink (once we found out where the cafés and shops were). My dad and sister took various photos of me posing with the kids; three-year-old Maisy pretend-fed me a series of sugar sachets. My mum and sister made lame jokes about me flying on a turkey. Afterwards, we went up to the rooftop carpark and waited in the cold for an aeroplane to take off.

I said goodbye amid lots of hugs and kisses and made my way through the security check and to the appropriate gate, arriving not long before boarding started.

The flight to Istanbul was uneventful. At Atatürk International Airport, I wandered around a bit, but elected not to bother buying anything or exchanging money and just waited at the gate, reading. The flight to Incheon was just as uneventful. The first thing the attendants handed out was a pair of slippers, then a tin containing an eye mask, disposable toothbrush and tiny tube of toothpaste and one or two other items. I used replaced my boots with the slippers, but didn’t get round to brushing my teeth. In fact, during the ten-hour flight, I didn’t leave my seat once. Having not drunk anything in Istanbul, I wasn’t excessively hydrated and didn’t really need the bathroom.

The meals were pretty good, but I noticed that you got a little teacup on each meal tray, but you weren’t served a hot drink until after the tray was taken away. I kept hold of my cup every time and, for the first two meals (including the one on the Manchester-Istanbul flight), was given coffee in it; but the last time, the stewardess gave me back a plastic beaker of coffee instead. People around me were given their tea and coffee in the same plastic glasses – pretty much rendering the teacups completely pointless.

At Incheon Airport, I finally went to the bathroom. I had to connect to the internet to find an address and phone number for my landing card, as I’d forgotten to note them earlier. A look of concern or confusion crossed the face of the Immigration officer as she examined my visa, but she let me through without question.

Once I’d got my bags and exchanged money, I was met in the arrivals hall by my ‘pick-up man’. He hurried me outside and to the bus stop for Cheonan and bought me a ticket with money I provided. He wanted me to pay him ₩30,000, to which I said, ‘No,’ with a bit of a laugh. He got on the phone and sorted it out – so I didn’t give him anything extra. The bus was due to leave in fifteen minutes and he was quite concerned that I should stay at the stop, but I headed back inside to get some water and coffee from a convenience store.

Having been told it would take two hours, the drive south to Cheonan took only one hour, forty minutes. The bus station appeared to be just a car park and thoroughfare next to the Shinsegae department stored. I waited inside, next to the Starbucks (resisting the urge to go in and get something quite easily because I wasn’t keen to lug my bags about) and about twenty minutes or so later the director turned up with her young daughter. As she got on the phone to her husband, who had the car, the five-year-old hid behind her mum and played peekaboo with me.

We walked outside and the husband picked us up on the main road and drove about ten minutes to the area where I was to live and work. The director, Julie, took me to a Paris Baguette and bought me sandwiches and milk. Then we drove past the school and stopped at the apartment, a distance of no more than fifty metres from the school.

Julie took me inside and showed me how to turn on the heating and then I was left by myself until twelve the following day. The flat is actually a little bit bigger than the photos I’d seen suggested – but not massive, of course. It was fairly clean, but there were a few small stains around, a bit of dust behind things and hairs from woman who left last week.

The really disappointing thing was that there was very little in the way of household items. There was a rice-cooker and toaster in the kitchen, along with a brand new, still-in-its-box microwave, but no kettle, no pots or pans, no plates, bowls, cups or cutlery, not so much as a sponge or scouring pad. There were no coat hangers in the wardrobe. In the bathroom, there wasn’t even a pair of rubber slippers. I could find no washing machine, either, but, after talking to a Korean friend on Facebook, who told me I would probably find one somewhere, I had a look around the building and found a communal wasshing machine in a room downstairs.

I went to a nearby Homeplus Express (Homeplus, you’ll remember, is co-owned by Tesco and Samsung) and got a box of cereal, noodles and some chopsticks and spoons. I microwaved water in the noodle container and cleaned it and re-used it in the morning for my Kellogs brown rice flakes.

I was up pretty early, and, having figured out exactly where I was on Google Maps, made my way to a large Homeplus about 25 minutes walk to the south, where I got various other essential items (including three kinds of tea). By the time I got home again, I was pretty tired and needed a nap before meeting the director for lunch.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday, having finally caved in to gentle pressure from Habiba to exercise more, I went with her to the modest gym she attends near Wangsimni and joined up for a month. I once went to a gym as a teenager with a friend (who subsequently developed the body known, in popular parlance as ripped), but apart from that distant memory, such halls of exercise have been strangers to me (although, of course, I did do taekwondo for a while here in Korea). Habiba showed me round the machines and recommended a few things to do.

By the end of our hour, I felt pretty enlivened and not suffering at from the experience. Today, I felt a little sore, but nothing terrible; nothing nearly as bad as my thighs when I first started taekwondo. And we went again. I read while I did six kilometres or so on an exercise bike. Still haven’t finished Moby-Dick.

For much of the day, however, I’ve been preparing to leave the country this evening for a week in the Philippines. I changed a load of money at the bank, packed, cleaned up at home. Soon, I have to head out to meet Habiba at the airport bus stop. After we arrive in Cebu in the early hours of the morning, we’ll be taking a ferry to Tagbilaran on Bohol Island (hopefully – the Philippines is a Christian country, but it’s also Asian; I’m guessing things won’t close down as much as they do in the west). From there we’ll have to get to our hostel on nearby Panglao island, probably by taxi.

I’ll post some pictures from there as soon as I can. I hope everyone enjoys their holidays, whatever they do.

Read Full Post »