(Another) Englishman Abroad

Unlike so many reality television participants of recent years, I really have been on a journey – Barrow Upon Soar to Oswestry to Manchester to Amsterdam to Hong Kong to Kaohsiung.  It took quite a while, but I’ve pretty much forgotten it already.  Indeed, I’m already just 3 weeks away from my return flight.  Anyway, luckily for you avid consumers of these intermittent ramblings I made some notes and took a few photographs in order that I might share some of the delights, disappointments and disasters of [Julie Walters voice] the journey [/Julie Walters voice].

In truth, it was rather mundane and unremarkable; I’ve done similar journeys many times, but this one came at the end of a couple of months of separation from my family, and following one of the most difficult times in my life, packing up and selling off the contents of our house and home of the past three years.

It began with dad dropping me at Manchester Airport.  I was much too early, so I had time to kill.  I asked at the Information Desk if I could get a wireless connection to use my laptop for a while; the woman looked at me as if I’d asked for the name of the manager of the Spudulike in Penzance.  The short flight to Schiphol was memorable only because the economy class cabin crew were not what you’d expect, being as they were, three women of about my age.  I thought trolley dollies were pensioned off at thirty.  On the long-haul to Hong Kong, they were more stereotypically young and blonde, but there was still one old stalwart apparently pushing her final few trollies before a well-earned(?) retirement.

Once in Amsterdam, more time to kill following an announced delay of one hour thanks to the inclement weather.  We finally took to the air two hours late, blamed in part on the need to have the plane de-iced before getting on the runway.  That was a first for me in forty-odd years of flying.  It wasn’t all bad news.  Enquiries about having a seat with extra leg room revealed that KLM wanted a (relatively) obscene number of Euros for the privilege, so I declined their offer.  It was a fine decision, as I was one of the last to board and determined that a polite question/cheeky grin/standing on tiptoes scenario may pay dividends in the seating department.   Although I was hoping to be shunted upstairs, realistically the best I could hope for was exit row.  One left!  Middle seat, but EXIT ROW nonetheless.  Ten hours would be just about bearable.  (In fact, the chief steward type person announced that the flight would be approximately 10 hours and four minutes.)  Here’s my view:

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As with most long-haul flights, hours of tedium are disrupted by meal breaks.  KLM did us proud.  Never before have I had such an activity-based meal on an aeroplane.  Two, yes, two duck pancakes with spring onions and hoisin sauce, just like they serve in Chinese restaurants at a fiver a pop.  Here’s the second one just before the rolling and scoffing:

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The entertainment was a little underwhelming, with the exception of some of the CDs on the system.  The Old Grey Whistle Test, 40th Anniversary edition seemed an excellent choice, featuring as it does the two greatest Dutch bands/tunes ever.  Hocus Pocus by Focus;  Radar Love by Golden Earring.  In truth, I probably can’t name another Dutch band or recording, but I defy anyone to suggest that these are bad records.  Either way, they remind me of the dormitory at school in the mid seventies; the source of my musical education.  Other good stuff on the CD player included the new Vaccines album (very good) and the latest from Bobby Womack (very, very good).

Here we are not far out of Hong Kong:

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Hong Kong airport continues to amaze me.  I still walk around gawping at the architecture and wondering at the scale of a place that has its own mini-MRT system in the depths of the building.  Here’s a really crappy picture of a view from the travellator on which I have to walk simply to enjoy that feeling of float-walking.  Why would you stand still on one of these?  One of my life’s simple pleasures.

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With about five hours to kill in Hong Kong, I found a nice quiet stretch of carpet and blagged an hour or so of quality sleep before waking up a little peckish and thirsty.  I tracked down a coffee shop where I spent some old $US and received change in new $HK.  Still not quite sure how that works, but glad that it does.

It’s only an hour and a bit on from there to Kaohsiung, on a flight where I featured as one of very few westerners, and we landed on schedule just before 11pm.  Mr and Mrs Chen awaited my arrival in their new Toyota Corolla Altis; Mrs T was at home with master T.  A long-overdue good night’s sleep was moments away.  I’ll have about eleven weeks of Taiwanese family, food, weather and a bit of cycling before I have to do it all again in reverse.

Sorry, there were no disasters.

In case you are not familiar with these tunes, sit back and enjoy:

(Now that’s what I call a bass line)

(Yodeltastic!)

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