ARRIVING

Visa on arrival is something that has been filling me with dread, I have instructions to push to the front, the queue will not be orderly, must have 2 photos (which are very dark and I am a little worried they might not even accept them) $50 US in cash, might take up to 20 minutes and you must listen very carefully for your name.

The queue is actually very orderly, with very few people in it.
The form is thrust back at me. ‘Wrong form, out of date’ I am given a new form which is almost identical, told I must complete all my family member details including name, address, dob even though they are not travelling with me. So with some rough calculations  on birthdays, and my father now living back with my mother for the purpose of this paperwork because I cannot for the life of me think of his actual address right now, I hand the form back, he smiles and tells me to sit down and wait. I am sitting waiting listening to  an American man on the phone telling someone they are asking him for over $200 per person and this is putting the fear of god into me as I only have $50 and have no idea where I could get any more in this particular part of the airport. Thankfully this is when my name is called ‘anoooowwww sikawa parrrrr’, I am charged $50 and am allowed to leave and hunt for my luggage, which I soon find with lost and found. Another X-Ray machine and I can finally escape the airport which I do with such glee that I forget to remove my sweatshirt, to apply insect repellent, which I know future me will regret. I am so relieved my driver is already there, I peel off the sopping wet sweatshirt, climb in the back and drift in and out of consciousness until I finally arrive at the Noush Castle…

HKIA

Hong Kong airport is my favourite airport. As airports goes it’s just a bit nicer, a bit more thought out, and you have lots of options of things. I like options. I brush my teeth and reapply some make up in an attempt to feel a bit fresher on arrival.
No it doesn’t make up for the hours of travel filth, sweat and general swollen grossness that you have to contend with, but it makes you feel better if at least your face looks presentable.
I know the drill by now, go to transfers hand over my boarding card ‘thank you, you are very beautiful’ says the lady as she hands it back, that was unexpected, takes a moment to register that I was just given a compliment when I am feeling totally grotesque. I smile and thank her, maybe it’s not as bad as I thought. To the next lounge! This time a Cathay lounge, this means champagne, this means I can toast my arrival in Asia…

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Airporting

So I am early at the airport, I cannot abide the extra stress of rushing at airports when it’s already right up there on the list of things that are quite stressful.. I am super early. I drag my suitcases to a trolley and using a combination that looks something like a SDHP, a lurch & a little prayer I manage to hump them onto it. It’s not pretty but it does the job.

I wheel my trolley straight past the lifts, realise then make my way back to find a lady ramming her wheelchair bound companion into the side of someones luggage looking very confused as to why this is not making the wheelchair go into the lift, I gesture helpfully, she glares, I slink off to the other lift.

In contrast to this, once I have dragged my trolley all the way to the final lift at departures there are two girls so helpfully trying to hold the lift and move their luggage out of the way that it restores my faith in human kind. ‘Are you on time?’ one of the girls says to me, I reply explaining my super earliness. ‘My flight is in 45 minutes’ and she says this in such a calm matter of fact way I wonder who she is and where she is flying to that it doesn’t appear to phase her that she is almost certainly going to miss her flight. Maybe she is famous, she is very cool looking, make up is flawless, tattooed eyebrow, who knows. ‘Run, good luck I hope you make it!’ she smiles and saunters off without a care in the world.

I decide to weigh my luggage again on the more accurate airport scales to prepare me for the cost of my excess baggage. I am about 10kg over so that should be somewhere around £350, honestly you try travelling light when you are leaving the country. I head for the business queue, in the past I have found them to be more lenient, and as I am now at the dazzling level of silver club member, this is one of my perks. I explain that I know it will be over, that I am leaving the country, she is nice. She rounds down some of the extra kgs and omits to weigh my hand luggage with a little winky smile which is good as I know that’s also around 8kg over plus the 1kg or so that’s in my hidden bumbag.

I hate security, not because of all the things that they have to do to try to stop us from getting blown up, but because of the horrid, wretched, mean people that make such a bloody song and dance about it all. Take your belt off, take your jewellery off, empty your pockets, coat off, laptop out and all toiletries under 100ml in a bag in a tray. If you have lots of metal on your shoes, you’re probably going to be asked to remove them. IT’S NOT THAT HARD IS IT? Today I, amazingly, am in a queue of sensible people, but you cannot get through security without some sort of something happening can you? First of all I can hear a commotion and see some movement, then I can hear a very loud American voice. ‘Stop her, that’s my purse, she has my purse’ before the rather amazonian lady is revealed flinging bystanders out of the way as she chases down this poor soul who has now turned around with fear in her eyes. She is a tiny, pretty non offensive backpacker type with a slightly hippy sequin bag slung over her shoulder. I thought for a second the amazon woman was going to rugby tackle her but instead in this rather exciting turn of events, she stops dead in her tracks, quietly says ‘Oh that’s not my purse, sorry’ then retreats back to wherever it was she stampeded from. Outstanding…

Obligatory pre-flight mini Yo! Sushi then off to a lounge of my choice as the Cathay one is being refurbished. The lady on the desk said that the American Airlines one would probably be less busy as the other one is a pay for lounge open to the public so I take her advice and head in there.It’s not as nice as a Cathay lounge but I guess you are spoiled in there. I grab a paper, a glass of Prosecco and find a quiet corner to spectate. Honestly I am not a great reader, I make it through a few paragraphs before my attention is drawn to a man skulking around the wine carousel; much more interesting. I have been half watching and it’s absolutely hilarious how about 95% of the people here have been walking past looking longingly at said carousel, with the *but it’s 10:30am, is it ok* look on their faces, and then this trailblazer, maverick if you will has not only inspected several bottles of wine before making his selection, but he has poured not one but TWO glasses. This is the cue for all the less brave of the lounge to join team double park, and soon everyone is getting wine, why the hell not, fuck yes it’s a 10:30am wine partteee in the American Airlines lounge. The two Australian girls sat next to me make the discovery there is a drink called Britvic and this is just like the most fucking A M A Zing thing ever because OMG one of them is called Brit and the other is called Vic *mindblown* this is then followed by numerous failed selfie attempts with the can; I half want to offer to take their photo but am enjoying the spectacle of how they are even shitter at selfie taking than me. I select two particularly crunchie hash browns to go with my second Prosecco before heading down to my flight.

I can hear the beeping of one of those airport car things going past me and who should be waving out of it at me with her credit card? The girl from the lift this morning – still totally un-phased – ‘I just missed two flights’ she beams at me then cackles ‘bye babe, safe trip’ who does that? Misses two flights? Two flights and is still smiling? Maybe she is drunk, or on drugs, or perhaps both, who knows…

I get on at the first opportunity as I have my huge backpack and I want to get a locker space for it, I settle into my seat, check out the films, confirm my strict vegetarian jain meal, and fall asleep. I wake up an hour later, and we are still on the runway GAH. I fall asleep again and am awoken by my meal being delivered. We are in the air…

The last sleep..

I think I finally staggered up the stairs to bed at 2:30am, feeling pretty confident that I had packed everything I would need to keep me reasonably sane for the first few months. I suppose it wasn’t quite sleeping more lying in bed restfully with my brain whirring about the imminent adventure.
My alarm went off at 5:10am, I dragged myself out of bed, threw some make up in the general direction of my face whilst JJ loaded the car with my extremely overweight luggage. A very gentle ‘Time to go Noush’ is called from downstairs, I try to say goodbye to Duchess and she runs away, this makes me feel a bit sad, but she knows something is going on.
I climb into the car and when I see it has already got to 5:50am I freak out, my coach (What? Coaches are easy, go to sleep, wake up at airport) is at 6am, and although it doesn’t take 10 minutes to drive there, and there is another one, and if worst came to worst JJ could drive me, I am still panicking.
A lot of people have looked sadly at me when I have said I didn’t want anyone to take me to the airport, but I have seen those people, being waved off by their families, wailing and gibbering at security, and it almost brings me to tears when I see it. I fear that I would have been completely floored if it was people from my life seeing me off, so I chose a quiet singular departure. It’s just a business trip right, a really long business trip….
The coach is sat in it’s bay fully loaded, JJ pulls up in front so it can’t leave; a skillful move perfected by my mother used for stopping the last bus into Bedford when Alicks (or Catface as some of you will know her) and I were youths.
JJ puts my luggage on, mainly so the coach driver doesn’t feel how overweight it is, there is no time for any tearful hysteria, then I am waving goodbye with slightly leaky eyes, soon I am sound asleep.