Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Joy of the Commute

After London, I had a 6 hour layover in New Delhi before catching my flight to Amritsar, the location of the closest airport to my dad's hometown of Jalandhar in Punjab. In a way, it felt like a wasted because if the Delhi airport actually had trains running from there as well, I could have caught a train to Jalandhar and been there in the same space of time or even less, but what can you do? Oddly enough, the ticket I bought was the cheapest option, even taking into account the fact that I'm flying home from Pakistan! I decided to at least elevate my legs during my stop in Delhi, since my ankles were so swollen, as I mentioned in my last post.

My seat on the plane this time was pretty bad, second in the middle of 4 seats. Being in the middle any time in a flight isn't great, although I don't mind on short flights. It's just the long-haul ones that are really hard to handle. What made it worse is that the guy to my right took up all the arm space, the guy to my left took up leg space, and the woman in front of me reclined her chair all the way back, so I was pretty cramped most of the trip--and the Virgin Atlantic craft seems to have seats that recline more than I remember in other planes. The staff were not the best either. The flight attendant got distracted after the guy to my left asked for another drink, and she failed to collect my empty tray. I thought she would come back to where she left off, but she didn't, and it took 25 minutes before someone responded to my service call. It's the first time I've flown with Virgin, so it's a very poor first impression.

The main problem with flying to India is that you fly with Indians. They take up a lot of space, as mentioned above, without any thought or consideration of others, and depending on the situation, they can be smelly--refer back to my archived blog, when I get it up and running, about the old Punjabi lady who leaned on me all the way home from India and left her shoes off to reveal her smelly feet in knee-highs. Very unpleasant, especially after 14 hours of it! I didn't have any situation like that this time, at least, and of all things, there was a smell of rosewater in the plane! Of course, this is a generality about Indians; obviously not everyone is like that, but somehow, I always seem to get stuck next to the ones that think they own the plane, and it has always been a frustrating experience. I just hope my flights back to Canada are more pleasant!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Back on the road

I have the privilege of returning to South Asia again for a month, this time to spend 3 weeks in India and 1 in Pakistan. Two of the weeks I'm in India are business, but I decided to spend an additional week to visit with family, especially as I didn't have time to do so last time I travelled to India on business. I like having had the opportunity to see them this time. I was able to visit with additional family before even getting to India, though, as I had an 8 hour layover in London and wanted to head out to see my cousins who live there. I was only able to meet one of them as the other had some immediate tasks to attend to with workers coming to her house and what not, but at least I saw my one cousin and was able to meet his wife for the first time. It would have been great to hop on the tube and head over to her direction, but I spent so long going through customs that by the time I got out, caught a train and then a bus to get to my meeting point with my one cousin, we only really had a couple of hours to visit, so there wasn't enough time to go anywhere else.

(Street scene in London while standing at Earl's Court bus stop)

My flight to London was actually quite pleasant, despite being full. Though seated in the middle section and in the very last row, I at least got an aisle seat, and they also had enough space to recline the chair, so I did do that this time because I knew there was no one behind me I would annoy! I was able to sleep for most of the trip, especially as London flights from Edmonton are always night departures, and by the time I arrived in London, I felt well-rested and ready to hit the light fantastic--in contrast to my arrival in India, by which time my ankles had swollen, and I was exhausted! In any case, one of the funny things I saw on the plane was a guy who was knitting. You normally don't see anyone knitting generally, let alone a male. He looked like he was in his early 20s; he has a skill that most females today don't even have!

I had a great visit with my cousin. We went to this little restaurant somewhere around Notting Hill area, and just had a good visit for the few hours I was there. I had fish and chips, not so much because I was in England but because I wanted to eat something lighter than the rest of the menu could offer, and my cousin at his wife shared something called a pide, which I still can't really figure out what it is. It seemed to be something like a pizza, but I don't know how a pide differs from that.

I took the Heathrow Express from Paddington back to the airport, which was much faster than taking the tube. I didn't see much seating at first, so I asked this one guy if I could sit next to him, but it turned out he didn't speak English, so one of his buddies said I should go ahead and sit down. By the time we sorted that out, some other girl had already squeezed in front of me and sat next to the guy, so I just moved on. When I was getting off at my terminal, they were still on the train, getting off at another terminal obviously, and the guy who could speak English said goodbye to me, and then he waved, saying "From Russia with love." That just made me laugh. If there's one thing I can guarantee when I travel, I will always meet at least one funny person!