Hello Virtual Travel Buddies! Did you sleep well? Yes? Well, that makes one of us. I had to get up at 5:00 am in order to catch my flight to New Zealand. I guess one of the bonuses of being a virtual travel buddy is that you get to lounge in your soft, warm bed while I’m fishing out all of my electronics (and there’s a lot), as well as dumping the water I just bought after going through airport security as, surprise, there’s another security check.
Here I sit on Malaysia Airlines flight 133 ready for take-off. Thanks to frequent flyer miles, this flight cost me a whopping $38.65 + 25,000 miles. Not bad for a nearly ten hour-flight. This is on the One World Alliance. The sad thing is that I have a Delta Sky Miles Gold American Express Card which charges no international fees and which I’ve used wherever American Express accepted. Unfortunately, only Visa and MasterCard are accepted in many countries. Still, I have over 50,000 miles on it. Unfortunately, besides American Express being somewhat of an international outcast, Delta apparently doesn’t play well with others, as there are few partner airlines. Unfortunately, Chase seems to be the issuer of all other U.S, airlines’ credit cards. And, due to a previous incident with Chase credit cards, I vowed never to have a card of theirs again. (Read all about it in, It’s Not Me, It’s You.) One of the lessons learned on this great journey is that, if you’re going to hold a grudge, be sure it’s to your benefit.
I’m sad to leave Kuala Lumpur. I haven’t written about it except to mention it in passing, but it’s been my home base in Asia where I’ve stopped by after India, Indonesia and Vietnam. It’s comfortable and I’m able to take care of business; getting my computer repaired after the great crash and dealing with my bank after my debit card information was stolen in Indonesia. (What? I didn’t mention these things? Ah, yes, the extra trials, tribulations and lessons will be told in the memoir.)
It’s now time to move on, as you’ve voted for me to head to Auckland, New Zealand, in search of Kiwis and Hobbits. Before finding them, I’ll find an Englishman. His name is John, and I met him in Gili Air, one of the Gili Islands of Indonesia. Gili Air was another “in between” place where I spent a week of R&R after Bali. John had just climbed the volcano on nearby Lombock Island and we met at dinner on the beach. He was looking slightly worse for the ware and dressed in shorts and a straw hat which made him appear as if he’d been stranded on a deserted island; sort of like I’d imagine Robinson Crusoe’s, Man Friday. He will thus be referred to in future articles as My Man Friday (or possibly even Friday). We enjoyed a day of snorkeling and decided to meet up if we happened to be in the same place at the same time somewhere in the world. He’s a Psycho-Acoustician which means he’s either bat-shit crazy, or a man who actually listens (I’ll let you know). As he’s traveling on an around-the-world ticket, and we happen to be in New Zealand at the same time, tomorrow we’ll rent a camper van and spend a week traveling around the north island of New Zealand seeking adventure, before he departs for the Cook Islands, and I hang around Auckland to explore the city. (It’ll be great to have a partner in crime, as well as somebody with whom to split the costs.) For now, I’ll sit back, relax, and watch some movies in an effort to stay awake despite the early morning, as I hope to get some sleep when I arrive, as Auckland is four hours ahead, I’m already thinking that this is the reason god invented Ambien.
I’ve been happy with my various experiences on Malaysia Airlines for many reasons: their checked baggage policy is generous, their staff is nice, and they have great inflight entertainment. As my sister calls me cinematically retarded, it’s not difficult to find a movie which I haven’t seen yet. I begin with The Dallas Buyers Club. I wanted to see this when it came out but never quite got around to it. An hour into the movie, the screen changes to the start-up screen. As the girl across the aisle complains, the flight attendant explains that someone was having a problem with their screen so they restarted the entire system on the plane. Gee thanks. I really have no desire to watch the first hour again so I try another one; Chocolat, a movie I saw years ago and remember I really liked. Thirty-minutes in, the screen, once again, reverts to the menu. Are you kidding me?! Before long, I’m falling asleep to Glee. So much for the staying awake plan (yup, another reason not to plan).
A couple of hours later I awake, turn on the entertainment system and realize it has games. I play an embarrassing number of Bejeweled games to stay awake before deciding to give movies another try. This time, I choose Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a movie I’ve seen countless times and won’t be too disappointed if it cuts off, unless of course, I don’t first get to the Golden Ticket song. (Did you realize that Charlie gives his Grandpa Joe money from his first paycheck in order to buy Grandpa Joe tobacco? How times have changed.)
Ten hours-later, after attempting to watch Chocolat and Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (again, unsuccessfully), I exit the plane with a fierce craving for chocolate. I head down to immigration where, as a U.S. citizen, I need only to insert the photo page of my passport into a machine, answer a few questions on the screen, and I’m issued a three month visitors visa. As I wasn’t sure if I’d need to show proof of an outbound ticket, I bought one on one of the many travel websites, noting that I had just over twenty four-hours to cancel it without penalty. When the E-ticket confirmation arrived in my inbox, I printed it and then called and canceled the ticket without penalty. A little shady perhaps, but I just don’t know where you’re going to drop me next (I’ll have the next vote up soon).
I grab my luggage from the baggage claim, put it through the x-ray machine at customs, and walk out the doors to find My Man Friday waiting for me. We step outside and I immediately notice the air temperature is at least forty-five degrees (Fahrenheit) colder than what I’ve been living in for the past four months. It feels cool and crisp and I get that excited high from arriving in a new land. I can’t wait to explore.
We head to the parking lot, climb into Friday’s car, and drive over to the Auckland Airport Kiwi Hotel to stay for one night before picking up our camper van in the morning. We catch up a bit on each other’s adventures before it’s time to try to sleep so we can begin our New Zealand adventure somewhat refreshed.
Tomorrow – Meet Camper Van Beethoven