Sunday, January 16, 2011

Not relaxing in Malaysia

Malaysia is a relaxed country, but this is a problem if you decide to leave in a hurry.  We got a taxi from Sentral at 1:40, which was possibly cutting it fine given our flight was at 4 from KL LCC, but we probably would have been less stressed if our taxi hadn't seemed to travel as slowly as possible, all the way there.

If you get a taxi from KL Sentral, you pay for a coupon at a counter which you then give to the driver; thus he's already getting paid, regardless of the service he offers, and so there's not much incentive from him to get you there any more quickly than he feels like.

Maybe it was because there were four of us packed into his Proton. Maybe it was because as well as three small suitcases, I had a bag of Granny Smiths that was weighing us down as we trundled up the steeper inclines on the road to Sepang.  Or maybe we were just agitated when every vehicle on the road steamed past us: buses, coaches, supercharged BMW 4x4s, a man on a moped riding one handed, his t-shirt fluttering in the wind.  Occasionally we'd ask him if he could possible go any quicker, but he laconically muttered, and then the speed would drop by another five kilometres per hour for a mile or two.

The stress wasn't lessened by the signs to the airport, which first appear about twenty five km out, but which show how many kilometres it is to the junction for the airport, not the airport itself.  Thus you have a short burst of calm when you think that you're only two k away, which shortly shrivels to nothing as the car continues to amble along interminable highways, and a man riding a donkey in a nearby field overtakes you on the inside.  Or maybe the worry of missing my flight was causing me to hallucinate.

Luckily, when you get to the airport, it's a glossy, well-organised terminal with row after row of automated checkin desks and helpful signs everywhere showing you where to go, rather than a great big shed with four checkin machines that don't work properly, and the desk for Hong Kong hidden far far away behind a Dunkin Donuts and a cigarette shop, guarded by some vaguely pointless X-ray machines.

Oh, my mistake.  It is just a big shed.  I'm not sure why they want to X-ray your luggage as you take it towards the check in desk, but maybe there's been trouble in the past.  I would have thought if you had an angry person with exploding luggage, that would be a problem getting on the plane, but I'm no expert in these things.  Although given the milling crowds of people in the terminal outside the security cordon, they'd probably do more damage there.  Or maybe there has been an atrocity perpetrated against AirAsia.  I'll say nothing else, for fear of saying something untoward.

Having sprinted all that way, we then rushed back through the security cordon and up the stairs to the immigration desks, where I took the shortest queue of five people I could find, but unfortunately with the slowest official, who was so bored with his job that ten minutes in, just before I was about to approach the desk, he wandered off and we waited another five minutes before his replacement arrived.

Once he'd looked at my passport (but never actually looked at me - maybe all Westerners do look the same, so they might as well let them through) and stamped it, I tootled off to the second X-ray machine (which suggests the first one was rather superfluous, or perhaps there's just a big mound of baggage out the back of the shed that they throw on the plane without inspection, so it needs to be X-rayed before it's checked for chucking).

And at last we were down at the bottom of the terminal, adjacent to the apron that was full of AirAsia aircraft, but sadly not ours. It would appear that AK78 to Hong Kong has been misplaced, or has broken down, or is sick today, and so we're sat in the airport listening to a woman shout at top volume through a knackered PA system, when we could be cooped up in a tiny metal tube flying through the air at hundreds of miles an hour.  Perhaps I'm having some sort of shock from not being in the super-efficient world of Hong Kong.  Strange how you have to get away from somewhere to really miss it.


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