Wednesday, March 26, 2008

DC to Malaysia - my flight

Thursday, Feb. 28th was busy. I had to get Sophie's things together for the kennel. We board her at Anchor Kennels in Accokeek, MD. I hated leaving her for such a long time but knew they'd take good care of her.

I had the rest of the day to finish packing, nothing like waiting until the last minute. The house was so empty without Jim or Sophie around, it was depressing. But I kept myself busy until the shuttle van came at 6 to take me to the airport.

Surprisingly, traffic wasn't too bad and we got to the airport in 45 minutes. Not bad for the Beltway at rush hour.

Since I was already checked in at 7:30 for my 10:30 flight, I had time for a quick bite for dinner and a few calls home before we boarded the plane around 10:00 p.m.

My flight was on Qatar Air. It had the best price and a good route, with only one layover in Doha, Qatar. Some flights, although lower in price had 4 stops! That's just screams, "Lose my luggage!" One example, DC to JFK to Anchorage to Hong Kong then finally to Kuala Lumpur with a combined travel time of 32 hours. Holy moly! Mine was bad enough with a travel time of 26 hours.

Qatar Air's service was very good. The meals were good and filling, beverages were available all through the flight and if you were on one of the newer planes the on-board entertainment was great. I got to watch several movies including Juno (loved it), No Country for Old Men (good) and Martian Child (eh, it was ok). Plus you had your choice of several TV shows, games and an option that let you see the flight path and where you were.The first leg of my flight over was less than half full so most of us got an entire row to ourselves, luxury.....if only the dang armrest went all the way back. I don't get it. If you're going to make the armrest mobile, at least let them be pushed all the way up so they're out of your way. These went about 1/3 of the way up and stopped. I saw several other passengers do what I did, push the armrest up til it stopped. Push it again, look puzzled then check the back of the seat to see if something was blocking it, then try pushing it up again. But at least it went up enough that you could stretch out and snooze which is exactly what I did for about 4 or more hours.

One quirk with the airline that I read about but thought was just too weird to be true was how the flight attendants would constantly go around closing the window shades during the entire flight. Now I can understand doing that while most of us were sleeping but when we were a few hours out from Doha just about everyone was awake, it was sunny out and some of the passengers wanted to see outside. No sooner did they nudge up the window shade when a flight attendant appear and tell them to close or just reach over them and close it themselves. This phenomena only happened on the the flight from DC to Doha.

Finally after 14 hours, we landed in Doha. It was about 5:30 in the afternoon when we landed which was about 10:30 in the morning back home. I had about a 5 hour layover and thanks to some research on the Internet Jim found out about the Oryx lounge at the airport that was available to any passenger for a nominal fee (roughly $25 US).This is just inside the lounge. What looks like a concrete wall is really a sliding door to the lobby/reception area.

Once inside, your fee got you
food, beverages, nice comfy seating, TV, Internet access, restrooms and a shower area.

It was very nice, much quieter than the terminal and a great way to spend some time between flights. I was able to relax, get a bite to eat, e-mail everyone back home and freshen up before the second leg of my trip.

The flight from Doha to KL was nearly full. I managed to get a bulkhead seat in the center (4 seats) with the two middle seats empty. This was an older plane which had slightly narrower seats, armrests that also didn't go all the way up and an older in-flight entertainment system. But what made up for it was my seat mate who had the other aisle seat was from Malaysia and more than happy to tell me about her country. I managed to get only a couple hours sleep on this flight but it was enough to get me to my final destination and my hubby who I hadn't seen in over a week.

We landed in KL about 11:30 a.m. Going through immigration was easy, my bags were one of the first off the plane and within 30 minutes I walked out of the arrivals area and there was Jim, all dressed up to greet me.

During the week he was in Melaka, he met Tony, the owner of one of the local restaurants. When Jim mentioned that he was going to go up to KL on Saturday to meet me at the airport (about a 2.5 hour drive), Tony said "you don't want a local taxi, my son can drive you there." (in a Mercedes)

The drive was nearly uneventful. I say nearly because at one point I looked up at the speedometer and noticed it was at 110! Meep. Then it dawned on me that it was kilometers not miles. I also noticed that traffic lanes are a mere suggestions on the highway.

By the time we got to Melaka and our hotel, the Equatorial, I was feeling worn out. We got a quick bite to eat then I went for a nice long nap. After 3 hours, Jim woke me up and I felt soooooo tired. I managed to get out of bed, shower and wake up a little. We were meeting his co-worker and her husband (who flew in several days before I did) for dinner on Jonker's Walk.

This was taken in front of the Victoria Fountain and Christ Church which was on our way to Jonker's.

It was about a 10 minute walk to Jonker's. During the week, it's just another street but on Friday and Saturday night, the streets are closed off to traffic. Vendors selling food, movies, jewelry and other items line the street. Strings of lights draped along the street add a festive feel. We made our way to D'Arts Cafe and got a table out on the sidewalk and ordered a bucket of Tiger beers. Five beers 25RM (or about $8 US). I enjoyed watching all the people milling about and catching a whiff of some of the street food being cooked. After a couple buckets of beer and some snacks, the four of us headed out in search of dinner. Jim's co-worker and her husband mentioned a place they stopped at for lunch and said it was so good they didn't mind going back for dinner.
Restoran Peranakan, 107, Jalan Tan Cheng Lock, Malacca 75200 is one block over from Jonkers. An old, well preserved building with high ceilings and lots of decoratively carved wood welcome you inside. Once seated we looked over the menu and ordered dinner. Clockwise, starting at the top of the plate is Udang Lemak (Spicy shrimp in coconut milk), Kangkong Belecan (water spinach with spicy seasoning), Ayam Panggang (BBQ spicy chicken),and Beef Rendang.
And very reasonable. This was our bill for the four of us. 94 RM (about $32 US) for 4 entrees, rice and 4 beers.
After dinner we all strolled back towards our hotels, said good night and went on our way. By the time we got back to the Equatorial, I was beat. I don't remember hitting the pillow before I fell asleep.

Next: Exploring Melaka

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rhinoceros Hornbill Video

Just a teaser of what's to come. This was taken in the Bird Park in KL. Rhinoceros Hornbills having a conversation.

This was just one of the great little video clips I captured on the trip. It's also one of my favorites.

Off we go!

Last year when Jim's office was asked to create a training seminar to present to the Malaysian Government, Jim and a co-worker were the lucky ones to be selected for the task. Naturally I was excited for him but even more exciting was that I was going too!

When a date for the training was finalized, we booked my ticket to fly over and meet Jim the day after he was done. Then I checked out several travel guides from the library and we began to select places we'd like to see. Our itinerary changed several times because there was just too much to see and not enough time to see it all. We finally decided on the following: Melaka (where Jim would be doing the training), Singapore, Borneo - specifically the City of Kuching in Sarawak, and Kuala Lumpur.

Jim flew out on Februrary 21st. The training was scheduled from February 25th - 29th in the city of Melaka which is about 2 hours south of Kuala Lumpur (or KL). Both he and his co-worker had a day and a half to recover from jetlag.

They were able to get a little exploring done in that time including going to the beach,
seeing a rubber tree plantation,

enjoying the nightlife on Jonker's Walk,

and meeting some of the local residents.

Jim's accomodations and the training were in the Renaissance Hotel in Melaka. Although not as centrally located as other hotels in the city, it was very nice with little touches like fresh flowers,
and a nice view of the city.

Week One ended with a successful program and Jim receiving a gorgeous plaque. He also had time to get a good lay of the land ahead of my arrival.

Coming up next.... I arrive.