Sunday, February 22, 2004

Johannesburg, South Africa--Hong Kong, China--Bangkok, Thailand--Mumbai (Bombay India)--Days 22/23

Today was a long, long day. Probably because I was up for almost 24 hours straight, traveling from Johannesburg, South Africa to Mumbai, India. I don’t even know where to begin because it is all not that interesting since it involved a 12 hour plane ride, 7 hours lay over in Hong Kong, 3 hour flight to Bangkok and another 3 hour flight to Mumbai. I got to the Johannesburg airport just fine- earlier in the morning I had walked back over to the shopping center to express mail the hippo pictures and afterwards I found an “African Market” nearby, which made me go back to the post office/shipping place and mail a few more things home. I got my taxi (the same driver from yesterday) and another guest at the hotel asked if he could come with us since he needed to go to. Sounded good to me, so the drive down to the airport I talked with this guy (named unknown) who was from Sydney (another Australian!) and who had just gone on a holiday in South Africa for 10 days and gets free flights because his friend works for Quantas. He was actually trying to get onto the flight that I was going to be on, but had to fly standby which was the only downfall of his free tickets.

We made it to the airport and I gave the taxi driver the rest of the money that I had in my wallet and found my way over to the ticket counter for Cathay Pacific. I checked in (and had to check my bag through to Mumbai) and went through to the waiting area for my flight. We had to board a bus to get onto the plane (which I thought was strange) and my Australian companion from the taxi ride came into line near me. He had gotten a seat on this flight. I was ahead of him in line and got on the bus and he came and sat down next to me and we chatted while we rode the bus to the tarmac and then boarded the plane via the stairs.

The flight was just great- I was handed a menu right from the start when I sat down as to what my dinner choices were and all throughout the flight we were offered water, candy and all sorts of other goodies like toiletry kits and socks and stuff. Pretty nice. The other problem was that my TV screen stopped working and so I had to move to the seat next to me to watch the TV (good thing there wasn’t anyone there). Since there were continuous movies throughout the entire flight, I was able to keep myself occupied. Reading wasn’t going to work since I was already really tired and so I stuck to watching TV and trying to sleep.

We made it to Hong Kong at 7:30 am and I had to wait until 2:35 pm for my flight to leave. Hmm. What to do. Again reading was hard since I was getting even more tired now, so I literally spent the entire time writing postcards (which took all of ten minutes) and wandering through the shops in the duty free areas. I did get a drink at Starbucks (again with the Starbucks, I know) and amused myself by playing with the different settings on my camera.

Finally we were ready to board. Again I was on Cathay Pacific and had a nice flight, although this time I wasn’t offered any choices for dinner, just told that I was going to have the fish. Both flights from Hong Kong and from Bangkok were like this. Just fish. I was on the same plane going to both places, so we just made a stop in Bangkok to pick up other passengers and drop others off. We were not allowed on the plane and when I went to the restroom to freshen up a bit, I came back to my seat and my backpack had been moved down from the overhead compartment. What the…so another passenger tells me that the air steward took it down. He finally comes back down the aisle and asks if the bag is mine and said that he would have taken the bag away if I hadn’t come back from the bathroom sooner because it “was probably somebody else’s that got off.” Phew, ok, why he would have done that I don’t know, but I was glad that I came back when I did.

The flight from Bangkok to Mumbai was again fine. I didn’t have a window seat which is annoying because I can’t see outside and I can’t stand landing without knowing when we are going to hit the ground. However I am liking having an isle seat because that means that I can get up as frequently as I want to.

We landed in Mumbai and the temperature was 30 degrees C (HOT!) and it was 8 pm. Immigration took ages and we stood in a looooong line for what seemed to be forever. Thankfully somebody turned on one of the fans that was on the wall because all of us were just about to cook in that hot room. I found my taxi driver and we went out to the car. Outside there were lots of little children begging and women coming up to me and the car asking for money, and I hung my head in shame for not giving them anything. Everything I read suggests that I donate money to various organizations rather than giving money to children, etc. as it reinforces begging. The taxi man brought me all of the two minutes that it takes to get from the airport to hotel. It was almost as if we just turned the corner and there we were. I was greeted by several hotel staff all of which were eager to help me and was informed that I was to check in at the upstairs desk (wherever that is!). I was taken upstairs and was pleasantly surprised to find a special check in and even more surprised to find out that I have a really nice room, and a really nice big bed with really soft pillows in which I am going to sleep for a long, hard time tonight. J

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.