Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bum Numbing

Last look at the jungly ridge and the corner of the villa deck. I could hear a gecko in the distance croaking out a goodbye. 

The girls, Wayan and Made, carried our luggage out on their heads. They transport groceries and water bottles on their heads everyday - up and down steep stairs, balancing on the paths through the fields, always smiling.

From the very high second story, waving at everyone below.

Leaving the villa this morning was a bit wrenching for me. We trod the path through the rice paddies for the last time. Nyoman wasn't in his usual place asking "Ubud?" Ten years ago when we were married in the villa, Nyoman was the night watchman. His mental state has deteriorated with old age and now he works his rice paddy everyday and doesn't say much. In fact, he only said one word to us - "Ubud?" and he would gesture with one finger up.

Three or four ducks quacked as we passed. They always have the final word.

One last harrowing ride to the airport with Wayan was over too quickly and we were back to reality in the new International Airport. My God - there's a gauntlet of designer shops to be run before you reach the departure gates - all the usual suspects. You could be any place in the world...quite a change from the funky old airport with local people selling fake watches and corny handicrafts. It had it's charms and I'm sorry to see it go.

Bringing up the rear. 

Thai business class
From the soft smiling service we received all over Bali (even in the shiny new airport) to the icy cold efficiency of Thai Airlines is like a dash of cold water in the face. Food and drink were served abruptly: eat, drink and hurry-up. "Are you finished?" they ask and then add - when you try to gulp your drink - "Take your time." It came across like the old saw: "Here's your hat. What's your hurry?" The guy in front of us coughed all the way from Denpasar to Bangkok; the woman across from him sounded like an espresso machine. The air in the plane was dry and crackly. 

The huge airport in Bangkok remains near the bottom of my list of airport preferences, if there is such a thing. The announcements screech gratingly, like a radio not quite set on the station. There are long empty stretches of partially lit buildings to be navigated and when you do reach a concourse, it's a mad house of signs with arrows pointing up, down and sideways, most in Thai, little in English. We've been through here several times and it never seems to get easier. 

We headed for the Thai Silk lounge where people were waiting in a line for chicken soup. They shuffled along like the chorus line from Oliver Twist, inching toward the soup ladler lady. Maddeningly indecisive people blocked the line's progress, contemplating the soup spoons, reading the ingredient list on the chili oil, soy sauce and hot sauce available as condiments, unaware of the building line and anxiety. Another 5 hour Thai light (red eye) was next with another vegetarian meal and bingo - we were in Seoul, where the temperature was -17 F. We got a jolting blast of the frigid air between the aircraft and the jetway. We were still wearing sandals albeit with the pee-soaker airline socks. Our brains were still in Bali.

There's a neat transit hotel in Seoul...by neat, I mean neat that there is a functioning hotel behind security and right near the middle of the airport. We got a room and slept for a couple of hours - paid the 8 hour rate. How glorious it is to be able to stretch out and get out of the noise and hubbub. We've stayed in this hotel before in a windowless room. This time we opted for the glamorous window upgrade which looks out onto the check-in counters. Like looking out a prison cell but who cares when you've actually got a bed.

Fruit salad plate 

For interest's sake we ordered veg meals all the way back. They were poor and I wouldn't recommend doing this as a matter of choice. I got the same fruit salad three times (served with two forks, three knives and 2 spoons) and a small portion of some kind of noodle. You cannot complain about the cutlery portion - it was generous to a fault! Richard's meals were ovo-lacto and were even worse than mine. On the final flight on Asiana Richard managed to get me a non-veg meal. 24 hours as a vegetarian was 24 hours too long - I needed protein.

Asiana business class was excellent in terms of service and the seating configuration was quite good. We managed to sleep for a good portion of the 10 hour flight. All told from when we left Bali to when we arrived at LAX, time elapsed was 31 hours. Even in business class that length of time in any seat is bum numbing.

Asiana business class

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:59 PM

    I can't imagine what you would do with all that cutlery. Too little food - too much cutlery. The trip home sounded quite awful. Not looking forward to the flight to France.