Friday, June 11, 2010

Well, Hello there, Malaysia

Official blog of Ellie's 2010 trip to Asia; Entry numero uno.

I wrote a rather lengthy e mail to the boy from the guest house in Japan, so rather than rewrite it all, I am simply going to copy and paste parts of it. I probably won't tell you when I am doing that. So don't worry. Just don't worry about it.

I flew business class. Business class is like some kind of amazing, classy restaurant. You are waited on constantly, with champagne waiting for you (who in their right mind would ever sit waiting on a runway without champagne? Seems ludicrous.) and the flight attendants know your name (they cheat with a seating chart), ask you if you’ve gotten a chance to look over the menu and which of the four (four!) dinner choices you would like, and bring you refills on your wine. Which I drank lots of. Tried both whites and both reds by the time the trip was over. However, this is a very special restaurant due to the fact that you are also seated in your bed (think, "The Itis", boondocks episode #10), get to watch movies while you eat, are being taken to a far off place, say, Japan.

They also provide you with little travel kits. Presents everywhere. Socks, eye masks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, burts bees lip balm and lotion, and ear plugs (not that you need them because they hand out those fabulous noise reducing headphones). I spent some of the flight sleeping and the rest of the flight distracted by the myriad films and television shows at my fingertips. Loved it. Ate three great meals, watched two pretty good movies, plus some Wizards of Waverly place, all while wearing airline issue socks and snuggling under a warm, grey duvet cover.

American Airlines 777's have business class seats the recline completely. Totally horizontal. What could they possibly have in first class that makes it better than business? I couldn't even begin to guess.

Narita airport, Tokyo was a bit of a different story. The signs are confusing, no one, but no one really speaks English (you ask and they say, “A rittle bit”, kind of like how I say, “Un poquito.” But would never be able to give you directions to an ATM, internet lounge, or train station), and the thing is massive. Very big. Very confusing. Very Japanese. I wasn't terribly worried seeing as how I had 18 hours before my next flight. I figured I could take my time figuring out where to go and how to get there. Boy howdy, did I.

So here is what happened:

After I made it through immigration, got my luggage, found and ATM, took out some JYen, and stored my luggage, I went in search of a train to my guest house. I knew the guest house was in Chiba. What I didn’t know is that Chiba is a state (whose capital city is Chiba), and Narita is not only an airport, but a city nearby and the home of my guest house. I bought my ticket to Chiba (JYen 650), and rode the train there. I was getting a little nervous because the guest house website said it was just one short stop from the airport, 7 - 10 minutes. Chiba was definitely seven or eight stops, 45 minutes at least. I got out and showed a nice man my booking confirmation for International Guesthouse Azure Narita. He did not speak English but kindly pointed out that I needed Narita, not Chiba. I got back on the train. I got off at Narita and realized that I had NO IDEA where this guesthouse was. None. Hadn’t printed the map, you see. I spent a few hapless minutes attempting to ask for help, then I tried to use a pay phone to call the guest house but couldn't figure that out, so finally I bought a new train ticket back to the airport (JYen 180 because it was the cheapest possible fare and since I had no idea what I was doing I thought that was safest), got off at the airport but couldn’t get into the airport because I didn’t have enough money on my ticket (JYen 10. Really?). I was pointed to an internet lounge (JYEN 100 for ten minutes), where I looked up the guesthouse map which was all in Japanese. Helpful, not so much. I drew myself a rough map, scribbled down some listed landmarks, and took off for Narita again.

This is a ridiculous story. Long and with a very basic point which could be expressed much more concisely.

I got lost in Japan.
But managed to figure it out for myself.

I asked a lot of directions.

The guest house was awesome and I suggest it. Can't remember the website just now, but it was really nice. I slept pretty soon after I got there but woke up often and had jittery dreams about missing my flight. It's didn't help that the sun rose at 4:15 am and scared the crap out of me. Thought I'd set my clock wrong.

Eventually I made it back to the airport, and to the business class lounge. This has got to be the nicest thing in the world. Especially since I ate nothing but granola bars the whole time I was in Japan. The lounge has breakfast of all kinds, and little sandwiches, with coffee and tea and fruit and a whole range of liquor which, hilariously, most of the business men partook of. At 8 in the morning. Rough life. I tell you. I did drink champagne on the runway that time, even though it was 10 am. Told myself it was like half a mimosa and that is acceptable.

To make this long story short, I made it to Hong Kong (flying over a crystal clear and breath takingly beautiful Mt. Fuji) and from there to Penang where I was met by my fabulous parents. So far I seem to be adjusting to the time difference pretty well, and I think my long flights helped a lot with that.

My parents took me for roti this morning, which is something like a pancake but fried really thin and with eggs, at a great little, street side restaurant and I had the best tea ever. I promise to find out the real names for everything so I don't just say things like "indian pancake" and "great tea" all the time. Then we swam and had lunch and now it's nap time.

Here are some pictures. I didn't bring a camera, though my parents assure me I can borrow theirs of questionable quality, so I used my Mac. Therefore all the pictures are from inside our apt.

Here is one of the views from my bedroom. Mac's reverse everything in photo, so it's confusing, but my window looks West, and these are the Mountains S/W of us. As if you were looking left out the window.

And this is the view head on, with the Strait of Malacca on the left (though in reality it's the right).

And this is the view to the right, with the water.

This is off the balcony.

And this is a dragon fruit and what is, I think really, called a "hairy eyeball", only in Malay. I think the dragon fruit is so pretty. Like a bright pink artichoke. We bought them this morning at the market.


Heidi said...

How the eff did you get to fly business? Was it those wealthy, over-protective parents of yours? Sheesh! All I got on my flight to Tokyo was a couple of screaming little girls: "Mommy Mommy PLEASE DON'T DIE!"
Also, yes, I think you have to get lost in Japan. And ask directions. The Japanese are so nice! And everyone speaks some English except at the airport.
Finally, you didn't bring your camera? What's wrong with you??

The Coles said...

love it! keep the adventure stories coming! favorite part was, "I did drink champagne on the runway that time, even though it was 10 am. Told myself it was like half a mimosa and that is acceptable." :)
glad you finally figured it all out and are now on an awesome vacation-of-sorts with your parents!
and i agree the dragon fruit is pretty

hannah said...

this is going to be fun. post again, please. :)