Friday, March 14, 2008

Flying Over

Each time I do a long flight I'm reminded why I don't like flying. Our trip from Sydney to London was pretty much 21 hours straight, with only a small 3 hour break in Abu Dhabi.

We left Sydney on Wednesday afternoon, Chami's family and my parents came with us. It was a big surprise to find out that Renee had also come to the airport to see us off. There were big lines at the Etihad checkin, and to our dismay we saw that the weight limit per person was 25Kg. We had packed assuming 20Kg because that was what the website and ticket said. Chami was furious because she had left behind lots of stuff that she wanted.. But I think it was for the best as I don't think we could have coped with 50Kg of luggage. Anyways, finally checked in our luggage (my bag was 23KG! and they even weighed our hand luggage) and went to the gate.

There were many tearful farewells at the departure gate and we were gone. Security wasn't much of a issue, we got to the gate and settled into wait. This was the first time we had flown Etihad, and were were impressed. The plane was a new A340-500 and the cattle class seats had more leg room than Emirates, Cathay or Singapore. Each seat had it's own 11 inch on-demand entertainment system which was quite cool. Though it was quite buggy. The cabin crew was nice and the food was not too bad (guess standard QF Catering).

The first leg of the flight was 15 hours, leaving Sydney flying out north west over Australia, over the Indian ocean and along the Gulf to Abu Dhabi. I tried my best to sleep during the flight but it as pretty much impossible. Even though the seats were quite good, I could only manage to doze off from time to time. Chami didn't seem to have any issues sleeping as usual. :)

Finally arrived at Abu Dhabi at about 11pm at night. I had heard all sorts of stories about the airport (my mother had been there in the late 60s, and said it was a tin shed in the desert back then - and others said it's full of mid-east excess). Unfortunately the reality was that most of the terminals were run down 70s or 80s typical airport, with the central chamber this garish tiled monstrosity.. it was like being inside a fluro blue and green torus. Anyway the airport was full of all sort of seedy guys and lots of Indian workers travelling to other places in the Emirates. There was an unusual mix of western backpackers and tradition Saudi Muslims. Very weird.

We sat around for a few hours and finally they announced the gate the plane is at. When we got there and lined up for a while, some official told us to go back and get our passports stamped! So we went back, queued again, and then queued for security. Which was piss poor, I must say. They hardly even looked at the bags, hardly checked the people going through.

The final leg from Abu Dhabi to London was 9 hours. This was a lot easier than the first leg, probably because we knew in our heads that it was only half the legth. Also possibly because we were so tried we dozed through most of the flight, and it seemed to be over a lot quicker.

Finally got to Heathrow after flying in over the city, low enough to identify the Eye and the Gherkin and the Houses of Parliament. Got off the plane without much issue (though the backpacks were getting quite heavy at this stage), unfortunately there was a LONG line at immigration, which we had to endure. For the first time in ages Chami and I managed to grab our luggage quickly.

We thought about staying at Heathrow for a while until the rush hour ended (it was about 8:30 by the time we got everything organised). Disoverved that the Heathrow Express to Paddington was alost 14 pounds, so decided to take the tube instead. The walk from the Terminal to the tube seemed to take for ever! But finally got there, and got a one way ticket (4 quid each).

Got on the tube (it was empty) and started headng into the city. As we got closer and closer the train filled up with more people, and we were stuck in the middle with our huge luggage! We spent about 20 minutes planning how to get off the train! Fortunately for us most of the people got off when the announcer said we'll be held at the platform, so we moved towards the doors.

We changed trains at Hammersmith, but we didn't realise that changing trains at Hammersmith meant that we needed to get off the train, leave the STATION, cross the ROAD then across to the other station! The different lines had different stations!

Anyways, worse was to come as when we arrived in Paddingtion. There were no lifts from the patform, and you had to walk about 500m across various stairs from the tube to the main road. I've now realised that the London underground isn't the most accessible in the world.

We finally managed to make it to our Hotel and check in, which required us to walk down the road about 500m with our luggage. It was about 10:30am and checkin was at 2pm, so we left the luggage behind and went for a walk.. Dunno what we really did because we were in quite a zombified state.. but we managed to spend about 3 hours out and about..

Finally got into the hotel room at a bit past 2pm. We tried to stay up as late as possible to try and synchronise our clocks with London time.. but no luck.. We fell asleep at 3pm and slept through the night!

And then woke up at 4am, which set the pattern for the next few days. More to follow.

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