Monday, September 12, 2005

Adventure in Airports and Planes

Since I have a bit of time before dinner, I might as well blog. :P Overslept on my siesta today, I guess that means staying up to finish my case study and some reading.

Now, my trip here was an odd one. Having decided barely 3 weeks before flying to be here, everything was rushed from the word go.

Anyhow, on the day I left, my flight was to leave KLIA at 10.30 p.m. but I was delayed for 3 hours due to Typhoon Mawar in Tokyo. The flight to Tokyo was pleasant enough though, I had the whole row of seats of three to myself. I managed to catch a few hours of sleep lying down sideways across the 3 seats. I should have known that the signs were not too good, when I was boarding in KLIA, the custom officer realised that good ol' MAB ground staff had misprinted the date for my boarding pass. It took me 5 minutes to get past the gate. Urgh. They printed 1.00 a.m. for the day before, they changed the time without changing the date.

When I did reach the counter for check-in for my next flight from Narita to Dallas 9 hours later (7 hours flight, 2 hours waiting in line and making my way through the airport, but the weather was nice, slight drizzle after the typhoon), I was told that my flight was cancelled. Urgh. Typhoon Mawar at work again, the plane from Dallas didn't arrive. I was instead booked on a 4 p.m. flight to LA and a connecting to San Diego before reaching Phoenix, my destination.

Continued after dinner

Anyway, I waited in Narita, thank goodness I have some Yen with me. So I wandered around the airport, had lunch, used the 100 Yen for 10 minutes Internet terminals available in the waiting area. Was frantically emailing contacts in the US to let them know that I would be late. I figured I won't get any opportunities to communicate with anyone when I land in LA.

I boarded the plane in Narita to LA at 4 p.m., and yes, I had this security check personnel who is this tall Japanese girl whom made small talk with me, gushing about how she would really like to fly to the US to study just like what I was doing. I told her politely that it's always possible. No, I was not hoping for her to ask me to drop my pants for a cavity check.

The Japanese landscape was really green and you can see huts and houses dotting the greenery. Rice fields and low hills as we head out to the Pacific. Boats docked at piers, houses lining the shores. Really idyllic looking. I wouldn't mind going to Japan for a vacation. It was also nice to see the people on the airstrip taking a bow as we left for the runway. These Japanese people are not only efficient, but nice as well. Oh well, at least that was my impression.

Oh what joy it was to be on a 13 hours flight to LA, not. The seats on the American Airline were more spacious than JAL's though. And yes Aida, the Japanese girl sitting next to me was cute, and no I did not ask for her number. I watched Shrek 2 and The Interpreter on the flight and tried to sleep, but I think I barely slept, regularly checking the flight plan. I managed to catch a good view of the fluffy clouds and sunset across the international time line though, being on the window seat.

The California landscape was a contrast. It was brown all over. With surbubia and freeways dotting the area as we slowly descend upon LA. I noticed many houses had swimming pools, big or small. The line at the immigration was rather long, and although the counter staff were nice, the ones checking luggages were kind of rude. The luggage handling was not quite automated as well. I had to leave my luggage in an open area right after the immigration door, the place was highly public (arrival hall) and I felt it was patently unsafe to leave it there, waiting for transfer. I waited until they TSA staff (Transport Security Authority) put the luggage through the scanner onto a manual cart(!). That took 2 hours. Highly inefficient way of doing things in my humble opinion, they could have finished much earlier if they weren't fooling around and just concentrated on their jobs.

Anyway, the TSA staff (again) at the boarding area for my connecting flight to San Diego weren't too nice either. And while they were rushing me, I left my nice warm red jacket at the scanning area. I realised it a bit too late, as I was about to board the flight to San Diego. Luckily I had everything else with me. The LA airport didn't have nice comfy waiting areas like in Japan and no Internet terminals. The connecting flight was on a small plane that has only 3 seats accross (2+1) with no more than 12 rows, with propeller engines. That took a bit less than an hour to reach San Diego.

The San Diego airport is not exactly small as I had initially thought. I had less than an hour to get my boarding pass, go through a TSA check again and board the flight. I managed to find out that I was 2 terminals away and needed a 'red' bus to get to my terminal. I obtained my boarding pass, and the lady at the counter wished me good luck as there was a long line at the TSA check and she doubted that I can get on the flight in time. And luck has it that the darn scanner beep when I walked past it, and this lady asked be to stand back. I had to take off my belt and watch, which is odd. I didn't have any problems elsewhere. I ran across the terminal gates as soon as I passed the checkpoint and somehow managed to board my flight to Phoenix.

It was on a 757, mainly used for domestic flights, it's a bit like the 737. I took me only an hour to land in Phoenix. And yup, there I was, landed in my new home for one year.

What adventures await me? I had niggling doubts about the wisdom of my decision to come here in my 30 hours journey. I managed to suppress it though. I hope indeed this is the right place for me.


At September 12, 2005 11:47 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At September 12, 2005 12:36 pm, Blogger totoro said...

i know what you're going through. i flew through the same itenary several times, but occassionally transiting in taiwan instead of japan. :)

happy adventuring!

At September 12, 2005 1:12 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At September 17, 2005 2:15 am, Blogger priya said...

You're alive! With posts for me to read!

All the best with your American dream - make sure you post your adventures up =)

At October 18, 2005 1:30 pm, Blogger Resurrected said...

totoro : will be flying the route again in December/January :P

priya : yes i am alive. :D Will try to update often


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