Flying Biman Air
After being dropped off by my fabulous friends I went to check in. The lady behind the counter told me my info and I realised I had a middle seat… oh horror! I asked her if it would be at all possible to give me a window or an aisle, pretty much anything but a middle seat. The lady said there was absolutely no way as the plane was full and no measure of puppy dog eyes could convince her otherwise. Just as she was about to finish and hand me my boarding pass, one of the others said something, there was a very short discussion and suddenly a window seat apparently, miraculously appeared and my boarding pass was changed. Thank the heavens, maybe the travel Gods are starting to look on me with favor… possibly.
The gate was in the far side, tucked into a corner of the airport, almost like it was an after thought, or an embarrassment. As I waited I noticed that there were an severe lack of the female breed in the large group waiting to enter the gate and there was definately only one of the paler complexion (in either breed), that being moi! The rest appeared to be a mix of Indian, Nepali and Bangladeshi (most appeared to be Hindu). I received a lot of strange, furtive stares. Except of course from the one “Mr. Sexy” with his shirt half unbuttoned and greased back hair, he was just missing a gold chain, he pretty much blatantly stared at me.
Lines and bag scans
There was still over an hour before the flight left and we had to go through a further security check before being allowed into the actual gate area. Everyone had queued already and even though they were “organised” if someone paused or turned around, their place was often displaced. But finally it was time to go through the bag scan and weigh and into the final waiting spot. I had been nervous when they had checked my bags weight at check in and had put my diary, book, and what ever else looked heavy out and into my shoulder bag. I did the same here again and tried to look nonchalant. I got through, barely. In the gate area the people watching was fascinating. I saw a pair of gentlemen unloading a bag of fruit, placing what appeared to be 2 bottles of alcohol at the bottom and then loading the fruit back into the bag (there was a definite attempt to hide those duty free items).
Right before we were due to board a repetitive announcement came over the speaker, apparently someone had left their bag with some important documents in the front. But no one came forward to claim it. This perturbed the security guard to no end and he spent a fair amount of time walking through the crowd yelling her name. It occurred to me that since there were only 2 or 3 women on the flight it might have been faster just to walk up and check our ID’s. But then again that just my logic.
Boarding en masse
Finally it was boarding time. But unlike most airlines where seats are called and people stand around frustrated because they are one row before the ones that have been called. No, on Biman air in Malaysia it involves everyone surging forward and the poor flight attendant attempting to only let 10 through at a time, all the while the security guard is still yelling out the name of the person who left their bag. Rather amusing to watch.Eventually we were all on board.
Looking at the upholstery of the seats, the kind that would make the best tunic dress for 1960, big colorful floral prints in downright, how do I put it, stunning colors. The seats were the old kind that were large and comfortable (well if they hadn’t been 50yrs old), in places particle board showed through worn spots…My seat mate looked downright terrified to be seated next to the foreigner and kept glancing at me with a nervous smile and trying to lean as far into the aisle as he could. I don’t thin I smelled too bad… I was thrilled to be given a window seat, however it was the one window seat without a window, instead it was the section of the plane that curved at a rather dramatic angle inwards, so trying to lean your head on it meant you were sleeping at a fabulous angle.
Since it was around 2.30am I desperately needed to just become one with the angle of the plane and pass out. I lasted the 5minutes through take off and then I was abruptly woken by the flight attendant taking her job way too seriously.
“Ma’am, ma’am, dinner ma’am, ma’am here is dinner”. It was the kind if insistence you dare not argue with as she would probably force feed you if you declined. Just a note, having reheated curry at 2.45am in the morning, and airplane curry at that, makes you want to throw up. I opened the foil and promptly closed it and tried to sleep again.
That lasted a further 2 minutes before the male attendant came by with the juice that I JUST HAD TO HAVE!!!! I swear are they paid on the number of meals and juice they hand out???? This went on for about 20minutes but finally their enthusiasm seemed to end and we could attempt sleep.
3rd world hygiene
Near the end of the flight all of the water and juice that were shoved in my face meant I needed to pee. I was delighted to discover that in true Asian style there was a pile of used toilet paper piled in the corner next to the toilet… oh joy! But at least it was a neat pile.
Welcome to Bangladesh…transit
Landing at Dhaka airport, Bangladesh at the fabulous hour of 4am ish, we were all herded off, possibly had another security check, and those of us in transit were veered off to the right and handed a plastic token with a number. So standing there, with no sleep, no way to communicate, I just looked at the token and then at the airline guy. He looked at me like I was an idiot and said “breakfast”, with no further explanation. Well of course its breakfast, I wander if I just add water…
I was too tired to worry about it now and was guessing that 4am was too early for breakfast to appear from my token so I chose a row of seats and curled up to sleep.
You have got to be kidding me! Just as I curl up into a comfortable position, I hear the dreaded sound of the female mosquito out for blood. I have survived the Amazon, Tonga, the bloodsuckers of Australia and NZ… But none compared to the voracity of Dhaka airport mozzies. I was chewed to bits through my clothes, the only good thing was that I was so exhausted that I would only sort of wake up, scratch and then pass out.
Foraging for Breakfast
After a restless few hours I woke up with at least 7 mosquito induced welts, wonderful! Since it was around 7am I figured I would hunt down the location that would magically turn my token into something of substance to eat. As I wandered down the transit hall corridor I would periodically show my token and receive a head shake. Eventually I found the restaurant, an obvious place to seek food. The waiters were very welcoming and ushered me to a seat with big smiles. I, in the daze that is airport travel and layovers numbering in half a day simply held up my token and looked dumbly at them. Their huge grins turned to confusion and then understanding as they sighed and said “ahhh, Biman from Malaysia?”
At that with a flick of his wrist I found myself being handed juice, wonderfully strong coffee, toast, jam and a boiled egg. Never thought I would be so happy to see this simple spread, it truly hit the spot. The staff seemed bemused by my enjoyment and I decided to return later for a cup of coffee and to sit and write in my journal.
Twiddling my Thumbs
Still with almost 6hrs to wait in transit, I alternated between trying out the different seats for naps (all of the same design but you can always hope that maybe one set was angled just so as to afford comfort and the bliss of solid sleep). On occasion I would stroll up and down the transit area and for a short burst even had wifi, which ended with my battery.
After hunting down a plug and trying to charge my computer, turned out the wifi bubble didn’t extend the 10ft to the plug point, I realised the boarding passes were being handed out. Heading over one of the Biman staff looked at me and asked for my little plastic token (it truly must be a magical token to deliver food and boarding passes). He was just about to hand over my pass when he looked at me and asked if I had ever been to Nepal before, when I said “no” he tore up my pass. If I hadn’t been so exhausted I may have been perturbed at this. Then he turned his back on me…and reprinted it. It appeared he had given me a window seat. Unfortunately it only occurred to me weeks later that this may have been so that I could marvel at the force of nature that are the Himalayas.
The flight to Kathmandu was definitely an improvement with the plane of being of a more recent design, spacious and clean! When I got to my seat I discovered a father and son (possibly Indian or Nepali) sitting there. The father looked apologetic and indicated his son who was excitedly staring out the window. Who was I to insist on having that seat (note it had not occurred to me that I would be giving up the chance to marvel at the magnificence that are the mountains of Nepal). I took the father’s aisle seat at the bulk head. This seemed like a pleasing trade and I was able to stretch my legs a little (not that I need much room for that, but its still nice to be able to actually lean them up on the bulkhead when you nap).
My seat mate from Bangladesh was flying to Nepal to meet her friend, this was her first time to Nepal and her first time flying. She was very excited but rather nervous too and kept looking at me as we took off. But then she found a window seat and left me to my own devices, which mainly involved napping.
On this flight the attendants were far more relaxed and didn’t seem likely to force feed you or put you in detention for sleeping through meal time. In fact they were downright helpful! I spent some of the time writing in my diary trying to catch up and using my scuba log book to remind myself of the diving in Borneo. When the meal came I placed the books in the pocket in front of me on the bulk head… a very bad idea.
As the plane came in to land I gathered my belongings on the seat and the attendant helped me with my bag. I knew the line for the visa could be long so wanted to get out as soon as I could… It was finally the end of ridiculously long flight and I hoped after making it through immigration (a procedure that had been known to take 2-5hrs), I could find my free pick up and get too the hotel where I could pass out… I forgot to check the bulk head pocket…