Thursday, March 1, 2007

On The Way

2007 Royal Kedah International Invitational



So, John drops Steph and me off at the Phoenix airport. We are on different flights to LA, only 10 minutes apart, but the counter guy happily moves me to Steph's flight. And he checks my bags all the way through to Kuala Lumpur. Yay! He types Steph's stuff in and... it won't produce a boarding pass for her. Yes, she's on the flight, but it just won't give her a boarding pass. The guy tries different things, doesn't work, then he goes in back for help, and he's gone a long time. We were standing at the counter a good 20 minutes before Steph got her boarding pass. They were probably studying us suspicious characters very carefully on a hidden camera for signs of being shifty.

On to and through security... for me and not for Steph. She and all her carry-ons got pulled aside for a thorough going-over search. They went through and unpacked EVERYTHING. Took some of her toiletries away. Meanwhile, I skated through with about 15 Carmexes, most of them in the requisite plastic ziplock bag, (which I didn't have in hand, and nobody looked at), and one in my pocket. Whoops!

I watched the other people they chose - an older woman who could hardly walk - the security guard was holding her up by the elbow and helping her hobble over to the search counter. I wonder what their criteria is? Every 10th person in line? Those who look suspicious? Maybe traveling with Steph is going to be a liability.

From LA: 7285 miles, 14:38 hr flight to Hong Kong. Steph and I got stuck in the last 2 rows of the full plane, on the aisle in the middle - where we had empty seats next to us both! Yea! I had a precious sleeping pill in my pocket, and an extra 3 seats to spread out on. I must have slept, because after a while, and after dozing some more, I looked at my personalized TV/GPS plane tracking monitor, and saw 10 hours had gone by. Heck, once you've done 10 hours, 5 more are nothing. My Raven was having a good time on his first international flight, but then he always does.

8 AM local time in Hong Kong (after about 19 hours of travel); oh my God I'm in China! I spent a week in Hong Kong in '91 when it was still British, so this is the first time I've been in China. But alas it doesn't really count - no stamp in my passport, and my rules are I can't count the country unless I leave the airport grounds.

We had about an hour to get off that plane onto our plane to Kuala Lumpur… we went through security and came up into the terminal, right at a STARBUCKS! Did I want one? Did Steph want one? Of course! You know, a lot of people are anti-Starbucks, and I've asked each of them this question they can't answer: Starbucks really is about the good ol' American dream. Little guys start out small, one store, claw their way with a good product to the top, make it big, now many stores. At what point do they cross over the line from epitomizing the American dream to being an asshole corporation? Was it that one more store? Should they have stopped at store #51? #52 made them foes?

Well, they still have dang good coffee, and I sure needed one good iced Starbucks coffee to get rid of my headache (I think it was the ice I was craving even more). I kind of like trying Starbucks in different cities and countries: Athens, Vienna, Istanbul. And they all taste great, naughty corporation or not.

Back on a plane for another flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We drop down out of the sky into a very hazy green country covered with palms as far as I can see... Steph said that was steamy humidity down there... ugh!

Passing through immigration, a very friendly and helpful James finds us with tickets in hand for Penang, our ultimate destination (by plane anyway). He escorts us to baggage, wheels our bags to the next ticket counter and gets all set up for the flight. He turns us loose, we find the nearest curry and cold coke place (they have ice for me!!) and wireless internet in this very warm airport...

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