Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Leaving Kota Kinabalu

We took a taxi to the airport from the hotel, driven by a man with a greying ponytail, every surface of his vehicle adorned with Manchester United logos: stickers, miniature football shirts, a foam silhouette of a boot. There were so many stickers on the windows that I worried he couldn't see out, but given the vague way everyone drives around Kota Kinabalu, that probably wouldn't have affected our safety much. Unlike our driver yesterday, he didn't treat us to any music, which is possibly unfortunate, as I still have "I'm in Miami Bitch" circling my brain like an overly-aggressive Buddhist koan. He did charge us thirty ringgit, which for a ten minute trip seems a bit steep, but I suppose I'm oversensitised to this after all the incredibly cheap taxis in Hong Kong.

As well as the drivers in Kota Kinabalu being a bit vague, the airport itself is also rather vague; as you walk to the check-in counters there's a couple of security guards and an x-ray machine, but you only seem to have to put through whichever pieces of luggage you choose, or you could just walk into the check-in area from one of the other entrances and not have anything inspected at all. It's almost as if the x-ray machine is just there to provide employment to some people, rather than for anything relating to security.

At the check-in desk we ended up having to pay 80 ringgit for our luggage, which was rather annoying as this was about ten times what we'd paid for the same suitcase on the way out. This is AirAsia's way of punishing you for not paying for it in advance on their website, and it seems excessive; twice as much might be fair, but an order of magnitude is a bit rich. Then again, I suppose Ryanair would probably charge you for the privilege of watching an Irish farmer in hobnail boots jumping up and down on your bags, so it's not as if this is the most vile depredation ever visited upon us by a low cost carrier. Maybe I'll be raging more comprehensively when we get to Hong Kong and discover that our bag wasn't loaded on the plane but has instead been fed to an orangutan kept captive round the back of Kota Kinabalu Terminal 2.

There's nothing to really do in the airport before or after checking in; there is a shop selling chocolate coated pieces of coconut and a succession of Sophie Kinsella paperbacks, and there's a cafe that serves mushroom soup, garlic bread, and hurry-up potato, which sounds exciting until you discover it's just French fries. The staff have also noticed there's no entertainment to be had, so they made themselves scarce until fifteen minutes after the plane was meant to depart, and then made a few vague and unintelligible announcements on the tannoy, before everyone rushed out of the building and across the tarmac to the plane.

At this point I should mention that I feel personally aggrieved that after a week of it raining and the skies being grey, the sun should shine on us most strongly just as we leave. On future holidays I intend to give God a phone call first and make sure he knows to get the weather working properly when I've got some time off. Or else we'll go to a city destination with high speed internet connections so I can stay in the hotel room all week, downloading documentation on scripting languages and ordering books from Amazon. You know, the kinds of things you simply can't do if you stay in Hong Kong.

Once we were on the plane, there were at least three announcements that this was the flight to Hong Kong, as though it were quite normal for the plane to be half-full of people who were expecting to fly to Kuala Lumpur instead. I'm not suggesting that this is a common occurrence at Kota Kinabalu airport, but it's not the kind of thing that would surprise me.

Then the plane trundled to one corner of the airport, where we sat next to a grassy field for another half hour or so, before finally rattling off into the skies. Rather a marked difference from our smooth departure from Hong Kong a week ago, but at least we're now in the air, or trapped in a metal tube with dozens of screaming children, depending on how you want to think about it.


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