Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Malay Comedy

So, it is time for the epic description of the journey from Kabul, through Delhi (not pronounced Dell-Hi, pronounced like where you can get lunch meat).

Our journey begins on October 1, 2008, at approximately 4:45 in the morning, as your intrepid hero awakens, quickly showers, grabs his gear, and heads out to the van for our early morning ride to KIA, the Kabul International Airport. KIA is only slightly bigger than your average small airport, but has improved markedly in the last several years. There are nine of us on the first hop to Delhi. After we make it through the 3 luggage and body searches, we finally board the flight to Delhi. We are about the last people on the plane. The plane is about 1/2 full, and everyone crams into the first half of the plane. No passenger redistribution occurs. Consequently, it seems that a couple months' worth of wear are added to the elevators on the plane, as they are constantly overworked to keep the plane level.

Arrival in Delhi, proceed through passport control, and make their way to baggage claim. At baggage claim, they pick up mostly empty suitcases (everyone packs a full carry-on and then some check an empty on this leg, intending to fill the empty with goods unobtainable in Kabul), while the girls immediately proceed to bathroom to change into scandalous clothing. Russ begins to endure the start of the week's entertainment for his female traveling companions, namely the "We're not in Kabul anymore, we can touch boys!" which accompanies a poke or a grab. As befits his status as an intrepid hero, he endures this with a pained expression or a grin.

Three members of the group of nine, Russ and two of his female friends, are going to be flying to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia later that day, but not for about nine hours. The other six are going to be spending the week all over India. So, the decision is made that all nine of us will proceed to Connaught Circus in Delhi, think downtown shopping/restaurants. So the group piles into three taxis, drives through absolutely insane Delhi traffic, to Connaught... and only two cars make it there. Six members of the group proceed to look for the other three, having no luck, they decide to eat, then head back to the airport where surely they will find their friends who, upon discovering that they are also unable to reconnect, will head back to the airport to find each other. The difficulty here is that luggage is spread across three taxis, and therefore some of the lost people have luggage that some of the non-lost people need, and vice versa. Discussion ensues about the possibility of vacationing with the others' luggage, but is quickly discarded.

An hour and a half later, the groups reconnect, the Malaysia group separates and returns to the airport, after being scammed on the cab ride. (Russ is, he admits, rather easy to scam the first time.) They sit in the airport visitor lounge for about 5 hours, watch 3-2-1 penguins, eat, plan the trip. They get on the flight to Kuala Lumpur, which is populated by just about the crabbiest flight attendants ever. Once in KL, they collect their luggage, change money, and get on the express train to from the airport to the central terminal, where the folks they are staying with are going to meet them.

The train ride is the most beautiful thing they have seen in months. It's green and tropical. Russ spends most of the trip gazing out the window like a four year old at a toy store.

They take an LRT (think mass-transit train) from the central station to nearby the house of the folks they are staying with. They stay on the 20th floor of a condo building. This is their view.

This view staggers the three who have recently arrived from Kabul. They stare at it for a while. Eventually returning to consciousness, they receive the first bad news of the trip.

This trip was undertaken because E traveled through KL on the way to Kabul in August. In KL, she was told that her two carry-on bags were overweight, and she would have to pay $1000 to get one of them further on. Not having that much liquid cash, one bag was left in KL, eventually it was picked up by the folks the group of three stay with in KL. (These folks are friends of friends, and incredibly kind people). Upon opening the bags after reclamation in KL, it is discovered that items were stolen out of the bag, including the external hard drive with a year and a half's worth of pictures, music and documents, a laptop power adapter, various items of clothing and hair care products. This leads to immense disappointment.

They go on a walk to try to relieve the disappointment. In Malaysia, even with a t-shirt and uncovered head, no one stares at the white people. This is more refreshing than can easily be described.

They go shopping in KLCC, a huge, relatively posh mall. Russ bails from the GAP and gets ice cream. He discovers the new difficulty in going shopping with two girls who have different fashion tastes. E will pick something out and go to try it on, and L will remark at how she thinks that piece of clothing is hideous. Then L will pick something, go try it on, and E will mention how she would never get anything like that. Russ just smiles and says, "Looks good" whenever they ask him. They know he's faking knowledge, but it's a time-honored deception, and so they expect him to play the role, which he does with a degree of aplomb that does not betray the fact that he hardly ever went clothes shopping whilst growing up with two sisters of nearby age.

They get to see the Petronas towers at night. Later, Russ will post photos from the girls who had their cameras at the base of the tower one night.

Russ needs to be getting out now, but will try to return later to type up more of the thrilling story of the journey, including the beaches you can't swim at, not getting their kidneys stolen in rural Malaysia, Sandeep's First Family Vacation (and the White People!), Indians who won't stop staring, the joy of discovering Rolos in the Delhi airport, and the return to Kabul.

Word out!

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