(continued from “The Flight to Malaysia (Part I)” )
Remember how in Houston we went to the gate to get our 2nd boarding pass? Well, that’s where my brain went at this point, now that we were in Singapore. However, we were changing to Malaysia Airlines in addition to changing planes. And…Singapore is not Houston, Dan. So, hold that thought and we’ll come back…
Making our way from one terminal to the next after nearly 30 hours of travel, we were delighted when we found a familiar site from Seattle. For our first pictures in a foreign country, I wanted my mocha and Jenny wanted to get snapped with the flowers:
Having found our gate on the map, we enjoyed the extra time we thought we had, and leisurely made our way from breakfast to the restroom to freshen up even stopping at the computers set up for you to access the Internet. A Facebook post was definitely in order to let people know we made it safely to Singapore, right?
Finally, about 35-40 minutes before our flight was set to depart, we entered our gate area where the security check is setup right at the gate specifically for one flight, but before you can get to an airline rep. Uh oh…they are asking for boarding passes, which we thought we would get at the gate counter (remember Houston). “No, no”…they said, essentially telling us you have to go to some other desk to check-in, pointing back in the direction from which we just came. Not good.
So we quickly back tracked and found a check-in area that we totally missed the first time we walked by. It was nicely camouflaged with plants and lack of signage, plus we were distracted by our delicious beverages, lack of sleep and ignorant bliss stemming from the idea that we had plenty of time. So there was this extra step that we previously missed, and as we spoke to the clerk to check in, he informed us the flight was closed. “Closes 45 minutes before the flight, nothing I can do.” (there we were, 30 minutes before our flight…15 minutes too late and had walked right by this area 30 minutes before — our coffee pit stop had been our downfall).
So the flight was closed and there was no talking our way onto it. Freak out time! We pleaded, “but we are here…we were just there at the gate and they are still taking people through security and our bags were checked from Atlanta to Kuala Lumpur so we just need a boarding pass…”
“Sorry, nothing we can do.” So close…and yet, so far away…
As our friend was searching for future flights and even different airlines, I went into Robert Ward problem-solving mode and started wondering what it would take to rent a car or whether there was a bus or train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. After all, it’s a one-hour flight that occurs frequently everyday and we had a driver who was going to be at the KL airport waiting on us around 8:00am! We HAD to get there and meet our driver or finding our hotel in a foreign land was going to be another interesting challenge. Options were not looking good as other flights seemed to be booked and our friend continued to mysteriously disappear and help other customers while we were left to wait and wonder. Yes, for those of you who are close to my lovely wife, she was definitely in tears at this point : ) To her defense, it had been a long day…
Fortunately, we were placed on standby for a 7:15am flight on another new airline (Silk Air) but with only a few minutes to hustle back across the terminal to get through security. By the way, don’t try running after you have been sitting still for the better part of 30 hours…it felt like my legs were hollow and my lungs were taking in flames. At the gate, in broken English and hand gestures I realized the security folks (TSA) had a problem with our wine. Apparently, although it was clearly sealed, never opened and purchased on the flight, it was not appropriately packaged in the special duty free signature sealed bag. This meant it was unacceptable to pass through security and for now was going into the garbage, perhaps to be enjoyed later in the evening by the folks who felt it was a security risk. I know they are paid not to apply judgment on “gray” areas, but to enforce policies to the letter. It was a little salt in the wound, but we were happy to just to catch a flight.
Then that flight was delayed due to mechanical problems. We got the announcement about 10 minutes into our wait for boarding calls, and learned it came with a gate change, too. We saw a lot of the Singapore airport and some of it several times! With our original arrival time in KL being 7:45am, we finally made it out of Singapore around 8:30 and landed about an hour later. I was hoping the whole time that the phone messages we left from a pay phone (hadn’t used one of those in a while) or the emails to the school had somehow made it back to our driver that we would be late. Didn’t want that poor guy to have to wait all that time on us.
After about an hour of the immigrations line, we officially made our way into Malaysia without any further problems and headed toward our baggage claim area, eager to get our luggage, find our hotel and crash. Not so fast…
(continued from “How Do You Pack for Two Years in Three Bags?“)
With the check-in and baggage loading step behind us, we boarded our plane and let out a huge sigh of relief. It was a long flight ahead (flights really), but at least we could relax…kind of…
Our itinerary was daunting (but we got a great deal!) — Times noted in Atlanta time zone (EST):
2pm TUE – Depart Atlanta for Houston, TX (2hrs)
6:40pm – Depart Houston for Moscow (~11hrs); brief stop to refuel, etc
6:30am WED – Reboard same plane/same seats for leg from Moscow to Singapore (~11hrs)
6:45pm – Change airlines/planes for flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (1hr flight)
7:45pm – Land in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (where 7:45pm Wed in Atlanta is 7:45am Thursday in KL)
30 hours total travel time (plus the 12 hours we lost across time zones) = landing in our new home nearly two days after leaving the house for the airport in our old home…quite a journey!
While we purchased our tickets on Singapore Airlines through a site like Travelocity, Expedia, etc., our first leg was through Delta. It was comfortable, uneventful in a good way and we had plenty of time on the layover to find our next gate, where we retrieved our boarding passes. We made a few more good-bye phone calls while we had cell service, sent some emails and said farewell to the good ole US of A.
Our flight from Houston to Singapore (by way of Moscow) was on Singapore Airlines. We were excited that if we had to be in the air for 23hrs or so, it was on such a reputable airline. We heard so much wonderful raving about Singapore Air and let me tell you, it was all true! The inside of the plane was beautiful, the staff was beautiful and the service was 5-star (and we sat in “Economy”!). Check out these quick clips of the cabin experience on their site (1st class is ridiculous!)
Of course we walked the sad walk through Business Class as we made our way to our seats, vowing that “next time” that would be us…what a difference that cabin is! Here’s a shot from our seats into Biz Class (it doesn’t do it justice). We were in the bulkhead on the right side, first row of Economy with 3 seats in our row). Each row in Economy had three sections of three seats, separated by two aisles (for more tips on ideal seats to reserve when you fly, check out www.seatguru.com).
We paid a $50/seat premium to sit where we did thanks to the advice of “seatguru”. We figured it was worth it to have the leg room on such a long flight…and it was. Also, Jenny’s dad gave us a GREAT idea for a long flight where you are sitting in the bulkhead row and might want to sleep:
Travel Tip: Pull out your carry-on bag and place it on the floor in front of you to use as a leg rest. Being able to raise your feet that way, while stretching out and reclining, made such a huge difference!
What we didn’t know, was that the section just to the left of us and also in the front row, was prime real estate for moms with babies. That’s where they have the fold-down bassinets. We had fussy babies both legs, with crying the better part of 11 hours. So there was a trade-off for the leg room. Was it still worth it? Hard to say, because as tight of a space as the cabin is, I have to think everyone in there heard those babies. I think for me, I’d still rather have the extra leg room and take my chances with earphones or earplugs. The babies are also less of an issue if you have chemical assistance in falling into slumber.
SA has these great entertainment screens in every seat where you can watch movies, TV, play games, listen to music and even learn foreign languages through an interactive set of modules. Remember, this is an 11-hour flight so a little distraction…something to pass the time is HUGE! And mine didn’t work. It was a full flight so there was no changing seats, and mine didn’t work. Ugh! Seriously!?! I have to say, as much of a bummer as that was, there was one flight attendant who (without asking) made it his mission to check on me and the entertainment screen several times throughout the flight in between his many other duties. When it was clear there was nothing we could do to fix it, he offered me a voucher worth roughly US$55 to purchase anything from their version of the “Sky Mall” magazine. It was a very nice gesture and again, testament to the outstanding service from the airline.
When we arrived to Moscow, we all deplaned and went through security again to re-board. It was a pretty quick stop, thankfully (it was sweltering in the airport and A/C was no where to be found).
We had some passengers stay in Moscow and a few new ones get on, while the rest of us were to return to our same seats. Our moms with babies in tow were replaced by new faces, but the same situation. The entertainment system still didn’t work, but we caught one big break. The guy in our row at the window seat got off in Moscow. We waited with nervous excitement as everyone boarded, hoping we might get lucky and have an empty seat. As the doors closed and we were all accounted for, we giggled and high-fived, thankful for the 2-for-1 gift this was. First, I had an entertainment system that worked now and secondly, Jenny could have the window to sleep while we both enjoyed more space. Truly a blessing! Still a loooong way from Kuala Lumpur, but things were looking up.
The leg to Singapore was very similar to our Houston-Moscow leg – similar distance and duration, same number of meals (which were quite good compared to standard airline food, but still…airline food), different babies crying but similar amounts and location of crying…but we had a little extra space and all the movies we could stand. I even ended up studying some of the local language! All things considered, it was a good flight.
As we got closer to Singapore I had to choose something from the airline duty free shopping magazine so we could utilize the voucher we received on the first leg. There was really nothing in there that we needed/wanted at that price point, so we settled on a bottle of Icewine at $2 below the voucher amount. What is Icewine? I have no idea, but it looked good and we figured after this journey, maybe we would actually “need” a glass of wine once we finally made it to the hotel. So they took our voucher and returned a few minutes later with a nicely sealed box containing our bottle of Icewine…we were pumped. Shortly thereafter we landed, retrieved our carry-on bags and made our way out toward our next gate. Here’s where it got tricky…
More on the last leg and our luggage saga in the next post.