13 April 2014

The following is a post I began writing on 13 April 2014 to recount my dramatic journey to London earlier this year. Although I’m only publishing it now, it seems fit to keep the original entry date – as a keepsake, if you will. Here goes:

Good morning London,

What a journey this has been.

First, a location update: I am now waiting to pass immigration at Heathrow. So technically I’m not yet in London. The queue is the longest I’ve ever seen, and it feels like I’ve been walking round and round this snake forever.

Which, of course, is an overstatement. Though it is long. To give you an idea, it’s so long that after 5 lives of candy crush I still have so much left to go I decided to write this blog post.

One observation: they removed the ‘mobile phone prohibited’ signs in the immigration waiting area. I guess it got to the point where the costs of flagrant disrespect for the rule outweighed the benefits of… What was the benefit of banning mobile phone usage in immigration in the first place? I never quite figured that out. Anyone care to venture a guess? An informed guess?

To be fair to the UK border police, they’re doing a magnificent job of keeping the queue moving. This is a far cry from the severely understaffed border control of a few years back, where three manned booths equalled a really, really long wait.

Though actually, as circumstances would have it, I’m not too keen on passing immigration too quickly this time around.

Why, you ask? It’s a long story.

Then again, I have plenty of time on my hands… so let’s have it:

As usual, my carrier of choice to fly me to London was Emirates. It’s a flight with a stopover in Dubai, which suits me just fine – time to stretch my legs, primly sit at Paul’s in the Dubai airport, and pretend to read (while actually playing candy crush) for an hour.

Also, I love the Airbus A380 that routinely flies the Bangkok-Dubai route. It’s so luxurious… the starry ceiling, the majestic staircase leading up to the upper-class bar decked with neat rows of liquor and shining glassware. Not that I’ve ever set foot on the staircase or tasted the perks of upper deck travel (land of the first- and business-class people). But a girl can dream. In short, I guess I always choose to fly the A380 because it’s so aesthetically pleasing, something I’m sure you’d also appreciate when strapped to a seat for six hours.

And funnily enough, it was none other than the A380 that landed me in my present predicament.

More specifically, its fuels system.

My EK flight (EK for Emirates) was scheduled to depart from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport at 9.20pm. As usual, I have a few hours’ stopover in Dubai – I always choose my flights so that I have at least 2 hours to make my connection – to switch from the A380 to the Boeing 777-300ER that will deposit me in London at 6.45am the morning after.

Essentially an overnight flight, thanks to the 7-hour time difference. Don’t we love flying back in time?

As always, I had picked a seat in the front row of the A380. The very first row in the plane. So that (1) I can gaze up the staircase and pretend I’m not in economy, and (2) I am among the first to get off the plane at Dubai. Twice now, I have been the first transit passenger to go through security at Dubai. It’s a little challenge I set myself every time I make this by-now-routine flight.

One I feel ridiculously proud of for achieving.

*awkwardly clears throat*

Wow. I just looked up from my phone (yes I’m still in the queue) and there’s even more people now.

Let’s get back to the story.

There I was, all buckled up in my seat, as yet blissfully unaware of the events about to unfold. Unbeknownst to me, my front-row seat was about to acquire a whole other meaning.

I may be over-generalising from my limited experience, but the many times I’ve flown with Emirates, I’ve found them to be quick and efficient with boarding. Especially on the A380 with its multiple entrances.

So I was surprised when, after half an hour, the door was still open and the gangway firmly in place. They are waiting for late passengers, I told myself.

And I would have believed it too, if not for the amount of ground staff and technicians continually streaming in and out of the plane, and occasionally into the cockpit. The secretive whispering among the crew, more and more of whom were congregating on the staircase leading up to the bar, also kind of gave it away.

Then came the first announcement from the captain: the plane is refusing to pass some final technical check, so they’re running the check again. But not to worry – this will only take 15 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, the activity continued abuzz. Serious-looking technicians and ground staff continued to sneak in and out of the cockpit. At one point, the captain himself came out to talk to the crew on the staircase. I did my best to eavesdrop, but I just wasn’t close enough.

More time passed like this, with cryptic captain announcements at 15-30 minute intervals. We were served the first refreshments (a drink and crackers), then a second (only drinks).

Oh, did I mention that there was also a fault in the AC? As we were informed by an earlier announcement, the main system wasn’t working, so we were on some back-up option that meant the cabin wasn’t very cold. It felt like sitting in a room where someone had just turned off the air conditioning, which after an hour was just not very comfortable.

By this time, I was starting to fear for my connection. If things continued at this rate, I was going to miss it. So I started mentally preparing myself for the scenario where I had to catch another flight to London. No big deal, just some hassle. I made a mental note to text my flatmate to let her know I would be delayed, so she doesn’t worry when I don’t show up at the flat the next morning.

Another captain announcement: regretfully, yet another check was not passed. Due to conditions on the plane (namely the faulty AC), they would be obliged to disembark all passengers if the fault isn’t resolved within the next 30 minutes.

Now this was getting interesting. In all my years of flying, I’d never had to disembark from a plane. New experience! Having resigned myself to the near certainty that I’d miss my connecting flight, I sat back and let myself be washed under the positive rush of entering the unknown.

And sure enough, thirty minutes later, another announcement informed the by-now universally restive passengers that they would shortly be disembarked. The captain profusely apologised for the inconvenience this may have caused. No more specific information was given as to what was preventing the plane from taking off.

Luckily, I was in the front seat. So I was easily within eavesdropping distance when one of the upper-deck passengers who, of course, were the first to disembark casually asked one of the flight attendants what the issue was.

Fuels system. It was the fuels system.

Damn you A380 fuels system.

So it was that two hours after boarding the plane, I was back in the gate along with a planeload of frustrated passengers, entirely uninformed as to what would happen next.

I found a spot next to the toilets, inflated my travel neck support (I refuse to call it a pillow), and settled in. A quick call and some texts later, I had informed all concerning parties of my delayed flight to London and assured a worrying dad that all was fine. Many of the passengers asked to leave the gate area to smoke. Some left to have dinner. All the on-board crew had also been disembarked and were quick to congregate in a corner, presumably as far away from the inquiring passengers as possible.

More time passed. More passengers left. No more news was given regarding the status of the immobile A380. My stomach started to rumble – of all the days, my flight had to be delayed the one time I decided not to eat before.

I was on the verge of leaving to get some food when the ground staff called for passengers bound for London. I rushed to the counter along with a dozen others, and was informed that we were to be transferred to a direct Thai Airways flight scheduled to depart in half an hour. Our passports and boarding passes were swiftly collected and checked. And soon we were racing across the airport, led by a tired-looking yet efficient and amiable ground staff.

I had never been more thankful for my indecision. If I’d been quicker to leave for food, I would surely have missed the call, and the Thai Airways flight. Irrefutable proof that there’s a time and place for everything. Even indecision. Ha!

And thanks to the ground staff’s efficiency (she was amazing. I wish I remembered her name…), we were successfully put on the TG (for Thai Airways) flight. As it was a direct flight, we would arrive in London in the morning, only an hour after Emirates’ scheduled arrival time. Needless to say, the dozen of us were extremely pleased. I didn’t even mind the disapproving glares from the TG passengers who undoubtedly thought we were irresponsible late arrivers as we made our way through the boarded plane to our freshly-assigned seats.

Let me tell you, I had never been more relieved to hear the “cabin crew, arm doors and cross-check” announcement. Everything was finally going to plan. Dinner would soon be served (I was starving by then). And I’d be in London in the morning.

With one catch: our checked bags were still on the faulty A380. No one could say on what flight the bags would travel, but they certainly weren’t on our TG.

And that’s why I wasn’t too eager to pass immigration too quickly. One part of me was naively hoping that I’d be able to wait at Heathrow for my big suitcase to arrive. And if I had to wait, I might as well spend some time waiting on the other side.

End of story!

I did say it was a long story.

Thanks for staying with me.

Love,

Val

p.s. in case you’re wondering, I filed a report for ‘lost’ luggage at Heathrow, and my suitcase was delivered to my flat the next day.

p.p.s. and yes, I’m still flying Emirates. My love affair with the A380 isn’t over. Not just yet.

 

 

 

 

5 July 2014

I’m flying to Brazil tomorrow.

Which is why I’m watching Brazil vs Colombia right now. I’m crossing my fingers and toes that Brazil wins. I don’t have anything against Colombia, but arriving in Rio two days after Brazil leave the World Cup would just be bloody depressing.

And extremely unfortunate, given the World Cup prime I paid on those flight tickets. #Capitalismisabitch

(I realise I’m being inconsistent in my use of singular/plural in the second paragraph. To be honest, I have no idea which is correct. I just went with what sounded right in my head.)

I also realise I haven’t been the most regular of bloggers. I would apologise, but I don’t want to set a dangerous precedent (of making myself feel guilty for not blogging). So I won’t.

I hope you understand.

I’ve been busy. And I’ve been not busy. I think it’s the latter that’s the problem.

The past two months have more or less confirmed a crucial piece of information that I have suspected about myself for a while now: it’s all about routine. I won’t be elaborating on this just yet. I’m sure I’ll get round to it in a future post.

For now, let me catch you up with what’s been happening in the life of Val:

– I graduated! (big news no. 1)

– I am officially at the end of my seven-year scholarship! (big news no. 2)

– I moved back to Bangkok! (big news no. 3)

– I’ve travelled a decent amount around the UK. I intend to blog about these travels. Most likely on my other blog. After I’m back from Brazil.

[Aaaargh… the match is getting intense.]

#brb

WE WON! BRAZIL WON! WOOHOO THIS MEANS I GET TO WATCH BRAZIL VS GERMANY IN RIO ON TUESDAY. WITH MY FRIENDS. THIS IS AWESOME.

OK. I’m going to calm down now.

So yes, that’s what’s been happening with me these past months.

My 25th birthday is in three weeks. Just a few days after I’m back from Brazil. The timing couldn’t be more perfect.

I hope my granddad is planning an extravaganza. He always wants to have a big celebration. Not because I’m special, but because he has lived enough years to know that any such occasion should be celebrated and enjoyed.

And for once, this year, I’m not going to be a bitch about it. I’m not going to be the teenager who resolutely refused to graciously accept the effort and thought that went into the planning of the birthday lunch. Year, after year, after year.

I’m going to embrace it and be grateful there are people in my life who want to make my birthday special.

I am looking forward to it.

I am happy.

And that’s really all I hope to be. 🙂

Until next time,

Val

p.s. I’m not bringing my laptop to Brazil. And I doubt I will be blogging from my phone. I’m considering short daily travel updates, but then…

 

25 April 2014

It’s Friday night.

No. That’s a lie. It’s actually Saturday morning.

But seriously now, everyone knows morning doesn’t happen past midnight. Morning is when you wake up. #fact

So what am I doing blogging on a Friday night? Two things.

First, I’ve never really been big on Friday nights. Which isn’t surprising, really, considering I’ve spent the large part of my last seven years as a student.

Students don’t have to wake up to go to work the next day. We just sleep. At least I did. I had some morning lectures here and there, but two per week was the maximum. So, really, almost every night of the week could be Friday night for me.

I did get a taster for what’s in store during my time working in Bangkok last year. And I don’t think I’m going to do very well staying up on my feet on Friday nights come August (when, fingers crossed, I will be putting my myriad capabilities to lucrative ends). I’ll probably fall asleep over my drinks given that I will have been waking up at 5am five nights in a row.

#Bangkoktraffic

We’ll see how that works out. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, every night can be Friday night.

The second thing is that, exceptionally, I’ve actually already been out this evening.

Exceptionally because, as I’ve just said, I don’t really do Friday nights, and also because, not counting dinners, I haven’t been out on a soirée in a while.

My boyfriend wanted to do something after work. And since he’s the responsible one with a job and I’m the final-year student who’ll do anything to procrastinate from revision, I did some googling and found a comedy night in Shoreditch.

And that’s what we did: comedy night in Shoreditch. It’s a place called Comedy Café just off Shoreditch High Street. I’ve never been, though as it turns out my boyfriend has. Oops. He said he liked it the first time round though, so no damage done there.

It’s actually quite a nice place. Cozy. Not too dark. Not too loud. Relaxed atmosphere. Great backdrop for comedy. Of all the places I’ve been to in Shoreditch so far (4-5), this was my favourite.

As for the comedy, well… There were 3 acts, and I happened to like the first act the most. The second guy was clearly not as good as the first. Having googled the headline act beforehand, I was quite excited about it (an experienced Swede comedian). And I really did try so very hard to like him.

To no avail. Tobias just didn’t do it for me.

Not that he wasn’t funny. All three were, in different ways. I just happened to like the way of the first guy the most. So much so that he totally eclipsed all the other acts. Ah well. Can’t have it all.

Observation: it was an all-male line-up tonight. The other comedy night I’ve been to (also in Shoreditch) also had a male-dominant line-up. Female comedians, where art thou?

But yeah, I had a fun night. And now I’m back, all snug under my cozy blanket, blogging away.

It’s 00.30am. I must now go to bed with the delusion that I will wake up early and have a productive morning.

Have a good night everyone,

Val

 

 

 

 

29 March 2014

I don’t think I’ve ever had so many slices of bread in one day.

That’s what happens when you stay at home: you eat. Everything and anything you can find within a 5-metre radius.

Four slices for lunch. Then another one just now to soak up all the salad dressing. So much for having salad for dinner!

I love bread. I really do. I always have.

Even now I am struggling not to grab another slice from one of the two loaves (whole wheat and fluffy white) sitting very temptingly to my left.

Hmm… I can smell it, the buttery smell of bread. I can almost taste it.

Speaking of bread and breakfast, there is nothing I love more than the smell of fresh toast and coffee in the morning. I distinctly remember, one day in the summer of 2012, I was in London. I had got up super early to get to my work shift. I put a slice of bread (multi grain) in the toaster, and popped my moka pot on the stove. Then, as the smell of toast filled the kitchen and the coffee started bubbling, I realised how much I loved that moment.

How happy I was. I felt at peace. At one with my surroundings. Content with my life.

It’s a great feeling. It’s easily the most memorable breakfast I’ve ever had. I remember nothing of the day that followed, but that moment in the kitchen is as vivid in my mind as if it were yesterday.

Hmm… I’m already planning getting up early tomorrow morning to have a slice over coffee before I go for my morning run.

Yes. Let’s do that.

If I wake up early enough, I might even get some reading done before I leave the house.

So that’s it from me for today, short and sweet,

Good night,

Val

 

 

22 March 2014

It rained today. Proper, torrential, rain.

The rain took me by surprise. The sun had been out in full swing for the past month, maybe more. And I had come to expect nothing but blazing heat.

We had just been for a run in the park when the torrent fell. Luckily, we were by then indoors, snugly huddled around a table, coffee in hand. And I could not be happier that I had decided to bring my car to the café rather than walk the 500 metres.

Given my dislike of driving in Bangkok and my fondness for walking, me opting for the car was extremely unlikely.

So, this either suggests I was extremely lucky, or offers conclusive proof that I’m psychic.

I’ll let you choose.

After so many weeks of Summer heat, the rain was a welcome respite. The sight and sound of the storm raging outside provided a surprisingly relaxing backdrop to our coffee-fuelled conversation.

It was a perfect morning, to be followed by a perfect afternoon as I sat revising under the verandah. The sound of raindrops falling on the roof. The light touch of the cool breeze on my skin. The smell of wet grass. The coolness and freshness of it all.

Revision had never been more aesthetically pleasing.

20 March 2014

Bangkok is a bitch.

It is.

And I am a fool.

A fool for being lulled into a sense of security and calm after three weeks of no traffic, just to be violently jolted back to reality today. At around 8.45pm.

There I was, cruising along, feeling good about myself for leaving the city centre early to drive home, home being just outside Bangkok. I was thinking how smart I was, heading out early. After all, the roads have been so empty the past few weeks. Leaving 20 minutes early couldn’t possibly land me in the middle of Bangkokian traffic.

Ha.

I turned into the expressway, paid the toll fees, then: TA-DA. Rows of red. Red tail lights everywhere. The sight you dread most when you drive onto the expressway, right before my very eyes. And I had to spot the red just after changing into the slowest-moving lane. How very convenient.

Taking the expressway is like flipping a coin. Either you win, there’s no traffic, and you get home in 40 minutes. Or you lose, like me today, and you get home in anything from one and a half hour to two. It’s a real gamble.

Gosh and now I’m so tired. It appears I’ve used up all my adrenaline quota today.

To be fair, it has been quite an eventful day.

On the drive home alone, I already experienced two adrenaline-pumping events.

The first happened while I was stuck in traffic on the expressway. There I was, moving along. Or, rather, not moving along. All the while, I was thinking something was strange. It wasn’t until I saw flashing blue and red lights on the other side of the expressway that I realised what it was: the expressway in the opposite direction was completely empty. The police had cleared the road. Some minutes later, the motorcade arrived. And I’m betting it was someone really important. Police cars, police motorcycles, unmarked sedans, unmarked vans, moving at a speed so fast it should be illegal, in really loose formation. Unlike any motorcade I’ve seen before (and trust me, living in Bangkok, I’ve seen a few). A motorcade worthy of a Hollywood movie. Adrenaline rush number one.

The second was when I had to brake really fast because there had been an accident and all the cars in front were forced to an abrupt halt. Have you ever felt it? That instant after you’ve braked, just in time, when you’re left completely at the mercy of the car behind you. The split second where you’re half-hoping the driver behind has really good reflexes, half-bracing yourself for impact. Luckily, they did. And I brought my car (and myself) home unscathed.

And now I’m completely out for the count. It’s a wonder I managed to write this far.

Let me give myself a pat on the back.

And go to bed.

Good night!

Val