Here I Go Again: Day 37

Time to go home. Since it’s a travel day, I am awake a little earlier than I strictly need to be. I set the alarm for 8 am, though there isn’t much left to do other than shower, dress and pack my PJs and toiletries. Since I am awake early enough for once, I indulge in the breakfast buffet on the roof. I’m going to be travelling for 27 hours, so I get my 55,000 IDR’s worth of croissants, eggs, bacon, toast and coffee and then head back to the room.

My wallet, tickets and passport are all present and correct. My power bank, headphones and camera have all been charged. My book is easily accessible inside my hand luggage bag. With that, I heave my backpack onto my back and set off downstairs.

When I booked the car a couple of days ago I asked for it to leave at around 9.30 am. My flight is at 12.55 pm, and although I have checked in online I still like to be at the check-in desk with plenty of time – it’s a hangover from the days before online check-in was prevalent and I had to get there early to ensure I could get the agent to put me in an emergency exit seat for the legroom. I’ve no worries on this trip because I paid the $20 dollars that Malaysia Airlines asked for booking an exit row, but old habits die hard. The receptionist had said 10.30 might be better, since it isn’t that far from the hotel to airport. It’s about 11 km away. However, I know there can be lots of traffic so I don’t really want to risk it.

The car leaves the hotel at around 9.45 and we set off towards Seminyak. The traffic isn’t too bad at this point, so I’ve no worries about getting to the airport in good time. It’s only as we get towards the airport that the traffic starts to build up and we start to slow down.

It’s 10.30 when we get there. I collect my bags and tip the driver with the last of my small notes. It’s only 17,000 IDR (about $1.50), but I tell him it’s all I have. I paid for this ride on my credit card to make sure I have enough cash left over to change into Malaysian ringgit. I make my way into the airport. There are no check-in desks in the departures hall at Denpasar airport – instead you must go through security first and then go to the check-in desk. I’ve got plenty of time, so I saunter towards security. When I get there I have to take my belt off and scan it. Since I’ve lost weight this year my shorts are voluminous and without the belt they will simply drop straight down so I have to walk carefully through the scanner whilst keeping them around my waist.

I get my gear together and put my belt back on and set off for check-in desks C16-20. There’s a long line snaking past the exit of the security area, and I find myself at the end of row C of the check-in desks. There must be 150 people in this line. I walk up towards the desk and my heart sinks. Yep, this is the line for the Malaysia Airlines check-in desks. Not only is the winding line in front of the desk completely full, the line has spilled out and is winding its way past the end of the check in rows. I see no signs of a desk for dropping bags off if you’ve already checked in online.

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I join the end of the line and check my watch. It’s 10.50. I wonder how long this is going to take. Probably an hour, by the looks of things. I start to feel antsy. I’m not normally impatient, but situations like this usually aggravate me, especially if I suspect something is being done inefficiently. There’s no way to tell what’s going on at the desks until the line inches forwards and I can see the area.

We slowly shuffle forwards. I take my backpack off my back since there’s no point in keeping it on. Plus, the straps are really uncomfortable. I lay it on the ground and shove it forward with my foot every couple of minutes when the line moves forwards. It takes about 20 minutes before we get to the start of the winding line area. Someone in that line has an enormous box that must contain a surfboard. There’s a large gaggle of Chinese tourists. A woman is sitting on her backpack reading a book. I’m getting kind of annoyed with the waiting now, especially as the check-in agents seem to be working really slowly to deal with each passenger they process.

I notice that there are four desks open. Two are dedicated to business class, but no one is in that line. The other two are dedicated to economy. At least the business desks are processing passengers. I suddenly remember that as a OneWorld frequent flyer I would be able to check in at the business desk if I had maintained my British Airways bronze status. Sadly, I didn’t fly anywhere between April 2016 and July 2017 so my bronze status has lapsed back to blue and I no longer have that privilege. I’m contemplating asking anyway just to be cheeky, but there are no staff members anywhere near the queue.

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I’m getting even more bored and aggravated as the time crawls on. It’s 11.30 and there are still about 50 people ahead of me. The guy with the big surfboard box goes to one of the economy desks. There seems to be some kind of problem with the box he wants to check in. It’s taking forever for him to be processed. The agent disappears. One less desk to work through this huge line, and still about 50 people behind me.

Another 20 minutes goes by. I wind through the line and get closer to the desks. They’re so slow here. It’s been an hour now and I’m still not even checked in. I think this might the longest I have ever waited at an airport. A guy who has been standing a few people in front of me ducks under the fabric barrier and goes into the business line and then gets processed. What the…? A couple of girls behind me stop taking selfies of themselves and do the same thing. Now I’m even more annoyed that I haven’t still got my bronze status.

Finally it is my turn. As I make my way over to the desk I see that the guy with the huge box still hasn’t been processed. I set my bag down on the scale but it takes about a minute of standing at the desk before the agent stops chatting with his desk mate and turns his attention towards me and my bags. I’ve been waiting for an hour and a quarter and I almost snap at him but keep my calm and pleasant face on as I deal with the procedure. I double-check that I still have the emergency exit rows I’ve paid for, intimating that I need the legroom and drawing myself up to my full height, and then I get both of my boarding passes. No upgrade? Bastards.

I get into the departures area. There’s only about 25 minutes before boarding time. I’m not buying anything, but I want to change my last remaining 400,000 IDR into Malaysian ringgit. Can I find a bureau de change? Nope. I can find almost everything else. I walk back and forth around the terminal and eventually spy a desk. I’m suddenly thirsty so I ask if she can change 380,000 and leave me 20,000 for a bottle of water. This works out to 115 ringgit, and I like the nice round number.

I head over to the gate. Luckily it’s Gate 1 and I don’t have to walk far at all. I’ve swallowed down all my water and I go to the water filter to get more but it doesn’t give me any water at all. Never mind. I have time to use the bathroom before boarding is called. I let most people line up and go through the gate before I join the stragglers at the end of the queue.

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I’m a little more nervous than usual as we taxi. I don’t know why – maybe it’s because I didn’t have the most relaxing check-in experience. My palms are sweating a bit. I’m sitting next to a hulking Chinese youth who must be taller than me and almost as stocky. He’s leaning against the window with his headphones on so I can’t quite get the view I want out of the window as we hurtle down the runway and take off, but it’s a lovely, smooth lift off and climb so after a couple of minutes I’m feeling fine. .

Once the seatbelt sign is off I get my headphones out. I’m already feeling tired, for some reason. I’ve never been served a meal so quickly on a flight, though. Literally, within 10 minutes of the seatbelt sign being turned off the flight attendants are dishing out a meal. They must have been cooking them since before the take off. It’s not great food, but it’s passable. I already know that I’m looking forward to a big meal in Kuala Lumpur when we get there.

I spend the flight listening to music with my eyes closed. There’s no chance of me falling asleep – I never do on planes – but the time goes quite quickly and the flight is uneventful. When we land the grumpy flight attendant sits opposite me. As we taxi to the runway a girl of about 7 or 8 gets up from a few rows in front and makes her way down to the toilet. The attendant jumps up and yells at her, shepherding her back to her seat. A minute or two later she comes back and he jumps up and stomps down the aisle and engages in a yelling match with her mother, who wails and screams at him and flails her arms around.

At Old Man’s last night Emily told me about her stopover experience on the same flight. I had two choices when I flew back: fly to Jakarta at 6 pm and have a 90-minute stopover or fly to KL at 1 pm and have a seven-hour layover. I chose the latter because although I have been to KL twice before, that was on my old passport, so by getting out of the airport I can get another stamp in it. Also, I’d be in that situation where I’d have to check out of the hotel and spend a day mooching around if I took the later flight. I peg it through the airport as Emily told me that she had to wait over an hour, but that was on a weekend not a Wednesday. Even so, I want to get out quickly and smoothly and have enough time to get into the city. There is a fairly long line – about 50 people ahead of me – but I only wait around 30 minutes. Behind me are a couple of young Brits who have flown in from Australia and profess to still be on Australian time. A girl a few people ahead of me goes up to the immigration desk and fishes out her boarding pass. She must be doing the same as me. The guard seems to be giving her The Brits behind me snigger and say something along the lines of “Is she stupid? Why did she get her boarding pass out?”

When it’s my turn I get to the same desk. The chap asks me how long I’ll be in Malaysia. I say I’m just on an extended stopover. He seems confused. I have seven hours, I explain. He asks to see my boarding pass, so I fish it out and show it to him. “You want to go into the city?” he asks scepitcally. He seems concerned that I won’t have enough time to do so and says repeatedly that I should be back in the airport at least two hours before the flight departs.

Immigration procedure over, I make my way through and find the express train to KL Sentral. It takes 28 minutes and costs 110 ringgit for a return ticket that can be used within 28 days. You can buy a single ticket for each leg, but I go with the return. That’s kind of expensive, but it’s the fastest way to get to the centre of the city. Traffic can be a nightmare and I don’t fancy dealing with taxi drivers. I’m also able to pay for the ticket with my card, since I only have 115 ringgit in cash. At first the machine rejects my card and I’m just praying that my bank hasn’t cut it off after I used it to pay for the car to airport this morning. Luckily, on my second attempt it goes through.

It’s 5 pm when I get on the train. I will be at Sentral at 5.30, and I should think about getting back to the airport on the 9.30 train. My plan is this: get to Sentral, take the monorail five stops to KLCC to go and see the Petronas Towers, have a quick look around the mall and then get to Little India for food. Out in the foyer after leaving the train I see a huge Malaysian flag. I haven’t unpacked my Canon so I try and get a selfie on the iPhone 5 to show off on Instragram, but it doesn’t turn out well. I see a sign for the MTR to the right so I head up there, climbing up a series of escalators and walking across platforms and bridges and going up more escalators. Eventually I find the ticket machines and I get in line to get one but something doesn’t look right. The sign for the station isn’t the name that it should be. I turn around and see a ticket desk and I wander over to check. As I’m doing so I realise that I have come not only to the wrong station but also to the wrong line. Whoops. I make my back along the bridges and escalators and back to the foyer. This time I pay attention to the signs and find the right route for the line I need.

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Everything comes back to me when I have to get a token for the monorail from the machine and go up the escalators to the train. When I stayed in KL in 2010 my hotel was one stop away from Sentral so I often passed through this station. I stand on the platform and recall the feeling and ambience from my previous trip. The train comes in a couple of minutes. I still don’t have my camera out, but I try and snap a couple of pics with the phone. They don’t turn out that well because I’m self-conscious of doing it.

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I take the monorail five stops and get off at KLCC. I go up the escalators and I come out in the food court of the mail within the Petronas Towers. I don’t quite remember this bit. I make my way through and find myself in the middle of the mall and then it comes back to me. I see the branch of Marks and Spencer on the next level and then I go up an escalator and try to remember which way I need to go to get out and see the towers. I wander along and realise that I should have gone up one more escalator when I came out in the food court.

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Outside the sun is starting to go down. I am right in front of the left-hand tower so I get the camera out and try and get a shot of the sun hitting the metal. From here I know where to go. I make my way to the front of the towers and then cross the street. There is a garden across from the towers that affords visitors a front-on view of the building. I make my way there and I snap away. I get the phone out and get a quick selfie. I spent about five minutes watching the people in the garden – it’s busy but not rammed – and then head back to the mall. First job done.

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Inside I head back to Marks and Spencer to check out the food hall. I only intend to browse, but I have only spent 1.20 MYR on my monorail token. I see plenty of nice British snacks and treats, but I decide to take the plunge when I see crumpets and (English) muffins. I’ve got a little bit of room in my hand luggage bag and I’m sure I can squeeze them in. I pick up a bag of chocolate brazil nuts and a big bag of jelly babies too. I spend 35 MYR, or about £6, on my haul.

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Now I want to get back to Sentral to find Little India and eat. I head back to the monorail and get my token. I board the train and I stand by the door watching out of the windows as we emerge from the tunnel for the last two stops. The sun is really going down now and there is a golden glow in the sky. We pass what I always thought was a large mosque, but I realise it is the actual station building for KL Sentral station for regular trains. I know I stayed near here last time I was in KL, but I can’t quite remember if it was on this line. I have a memory of walking from my hotel and going to a train station that was elevated and had ceiling fans and we pass a familiar-looking but decrepit building which I realise was the station I used to use. I turn and look out of the other side of the train to see if the streets below the monorail come back to me. Just as they are about to slip out of view I catch site of a hostel that I remember.

Back in Sentral I head back to the hall where I caught the train. The airport express is to the left and to the right there is a series of escalators going up into a mall. I’ve been reading about the Brickfields area of KL, which is located next to the station. I’m not sure where I am to go from here, so I ask a security guard. He directs me up the escalators and through the mall. I’m slightly amused to see a Burton Menswear outlet since I always used to get my clothes from there when I was younger, and sometimes still do. I keep walking and then find an exit out onto the street. There is a footbridge going over the road and I can see the Indian signs and shops. I go down the steps, thinking I will cross the road, but the traffic is heavy. A taxi driver asks me where I’m going and I point across the street. He tells me I have to go over the bridge, so I trudge back up and over.

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tI’s about 7 pm now. I walk along the streets looking for somewhere interesting to eat. I figure I take a look around and come back if necessary. I walk along the street and then the restaurants and shops seem to end so I turn back. I soon come to a corner and I see some nicer-looking restaurants. I have in my mind an Indian meal from a street food-esque place, but I see some Chinese places too. Then I’m in two minds. I walk around a block, squinting at menus but trying not to commit to the people who come out waving menus. I carry on and come back to where the footbridge is and decide to go into an restaurant that has a sweet mart outside.

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Once I go in, I realise it’s more of a restaurant than a hawker-style joint. It’s quite clean and sterile and not quite what I had in mind. Oh well. I’ve got 75 ringgit to spend. I get a mutton biryani and a drink, plus a keema naan. I really miss keema naan – you can never find them in Korea. I also get a samosa. I see if there’s any Wi-Fi around while I wait for the food. I can get online through an unlocked connection, though it is a bit slow. I get an email from Malaysia Airlines telling me that my flight has been delayed by two hours. It should depart at 11.30 pm but it will now leave at 1.30 am.

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The meal is enormous. I can’t finish it all. I want to try but I also don’t want to be stuffed silly and feel ill when I get on the plane. I eat roughly half of the biryani and all of the sides, even though it’s a struggle to get them in. I pay up and since I’ve got a little more time I go for another walk around the block. I come across a Bhuddist temple and I have a little gander through the railings. I walk along the street and look inside a couple of stores.

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I decide that I will head back to the airport on the 9.00 train. Although that means I have four hours to wait, at least I will be there in case of any further issues. I head back to Sentral station, passing once again through the mall, and then I sit under a huge sign advertising a Wi-Fi spot. I can’t seem to connect to its Wi-Fi anyway. I’m outside the area that I came off the train in, so I head back to the gates. A guard stops me. No, this is only the exit, he says. He directs me around the corner for the entrance. I set off and promptly get lost. I’m back in the hall area in which I got the train to KLCC. I can’t see any signs for the express train departures. I wonder if I’ve come the right way. Why would the entrance and exits be so far apart? I keep wandering down the hall and then I see a small sign for the airport express.

I get on the 9.00 pm train, and as we make our way to the airport I can’t stop yawning. I feel exhausted all of a sudden. This, I feel, bodes well. I may even get some sleep on the flight if I can get comfortable enough in the seat. The only time I’ve slept on a flight was in 2007 when I went from Hong Kong to London and I managed four hours in about five bursts of 45 minutes. I’d love it if I could just fall asleep on the plane and wake up just before we land.

At the airport I pass through security and immigration with no difficulties. Inside the departures area it is really quiet. Many of the shops seem like they are closing. I’m also really thirsty, so I get  a bottle of water and bottle of juice in WH Smith. The shop assistant tells me that I can’t take it on the flight, though I assure him it will be long gone before then.

I wasn’t a fan of KL airport when I was here last time, and I’m not a fan now. It is laid out in an X shape with a garden in the middle. Annoyingly, the stairs up to the different levels are in the furthest corners, so if you are in the middle of the area you have to walk a fair way to the stairs and then come all the way back on the lower level. I end up doing this several times as I make my way around. I browse the duty free stores but the alcohol is more expensive that it is to buy in Korea with duty and there are no books or magazines I want to buy. I end up finding a seating area at one end of the terminal and spending an hour or two just sitting on a sofa listening to music and browsing online. There are several Koreans around, and I recognise several of them from the check in line in Denpasar this morning. I wonder if they spent all their time in the airport or whether they too have ventured out. When I look at the information board it seems there are only a couple more flights leaving: my Malaysia Airlines flight to Incheon and a Korean Air flight to Incheon.

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I get a coffee from Starbucks. I have about 17 ringgit left and the coffee is 11.90 – the same as the branch across from Burton in the mall. That leaves me with just 5 ringgit, or about £1, for my note and coin collection. I charge up my phone and headphones so I have music for the flight while I have my coffee. The only other patrons are Koreans.

Finally it’s time to board. As usual I wait back until most people have got on the plane. I’m not a fan of sitting there whilst people mill around shoving bags in the overhead bins. I’ve got the same seat as I had on the previous plane – 28C. The captain comes onto the PA and announces that the plane had a two-hour delay when departing from Shanghai, which is why we are two hours late.

I settle in and I find myself yawning again. Really yawning. Yawning in an I-could-just-fall-asleep-right-here-and-right-now kind of way. I close my eyes and wonder if I could fall asleep and miss the take off and not wake up. Either way, I’m exhausted after the day’s exertions.

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