Monday, October 8, 2012


On Saturday morning I FINALLY departed Five Stones hostel in the status of 'most experienced guest', by which I mean there was no-one there who was there when I had arrived and had not left in the meantime. I bet they were relieved! I had a great time at Five Stones and fully intend to return next time I'm in Singapore, even if only for a social visit. However I was excited to be in transit again, especially since Nepal is only a few days away...

Final packing commenced at 5:30am and I was amazed to discover that, through no conscious efforts, my luggage weighed in (thanks for the luggage scales, Mum) within 50g of the limit of 20.0kg! So maybe it's fortuitous that I sent home debateably too many of my t-shirts? Though I must be careful not to acquire anything while in India (except that which is counteracted by the consumption of shower gel, sun cream, tissues etc).

It turns out that Andy had been spun tales, or at least misled, about the difficulty in getting to Changi (airport) at 6:30am. The MRT worked fine, though I longed for the easy town checkin and seamless transport of Hong Kong's system! Changi airport itself is a vast complex and very nicely designed - most notably with excellent acoustics, since with hundreds of people moving round and checking in, all I could hear was the checkin agent and some gentle piano music eminating from the ceiling...

I downed my water before going through passport control, only to discover that the security check is actually situated between the Departures amenities like restaurants, free cinema and butterfly garden (!) and the gate itself. Which frankly I think is a rubbish idea, because you can't relax and (say) have a bite to eat at the gate in the knowledge that you've had all the required frisking, and you can't bring water into that small seating area and have to allow time for the queueing. Also those people who like to buy duty-free alcohol etc can't actually bring it on the plane if it is more than 100ml of fluid!

The calming influence of Changi butterfly garden tries to distract you from the poor security planning.

Anyway without getting too worked up about this, and managing to consume a bagel and a muffin with no water in record time, we boarded the nice Jet Airways B737 which made no dramas about whisking us off to Chennai / Madras. I reckon the flight was at least 90% Indians (by ethnicity, not nationality) but there were some Westerners as well. Light turbulence throughout (despite being in clear air) meant that the seatbelt light was switched on for ages and I needed the loo. Eventually we were allowed to use the facilities despite this, though I got quite shaken around when it was my turn in the loo! (by the turbulence, you twit). The food on board was good, omlette with curry and fresh fruit - random but tasty. Window seat was pointless because all I could see was the Indian Ocean until the last 2 minutes. Before arriving in India, we were 'disinfected' by a flight attendant spraying a cannister along the length of the cabin.

Upon arrival in Chennai at 10am, it was announced that the temperature was already 31 degrees, thereby spoiling my assumption of 'it's the Northern Hemisphere, at least it will be Autumn!'. But it also turned out that we had parked next to Air India's brand new B787 Dreamliner, definitely worth a
couple of pictures!

I went out of one part of the airport and straight into the other to check in for the domestic flight up to New Delhi. With 5 hours to kill I checked in straight away (having briefly considered a taxi ride round the city) but then regretted it due to not many options of places to eat, nowhere to change my Singapore Dollars, and this rather ominous announcement:

But some men working in a cookie-store were very helpful and happy to take the Singapore Dollars at quite a good exchange rate, giving me Rupees in return and even rounding up the change! For which reason I forgave them for giving me a spoon with which to eat the muffin. It was a hot wait in the departure lounge and I started to get quite hot and bored as I alternated between reading my book 'Dating a Cougar' (don't get any ideas - it was free on Kindle and I was intrigued) and designing Roller-Coasters on RCT. Eventually we were summoned onto our next plane, an even newer B737, and set off through another bumpy ride (this time a cold front on the climb-out) towards the sunset and Delhi. The plane was brand new and we also got a meal on this short internal flight, so all things considered I am pleased with the Mumbai-based Jet Airways!

Oh look, a Massey-Ferguson baggage tractor! And another! And another!

Upon arrival in Delhi, I was met at departures by someone holding my name on a placard and taken to his car (the one which I was secretly hoping 'please not that one!') and we drove 45 minutes into Delhi. I was impressed at his ability to avoid hitting cyclists, tuk-tuks, rickshaws, cars, motorcycles, scooters, water buffalo and, on one occasion, what I am sure was a dead person lying on the side of the road... He took me to an ATM on my request and then to the hotel, which was on a very intimidating street full of rubbish and buzzing with all sorts of transport. But the hotel itself seemed clean and welcoming despite being only 3m wide.

I think that it's fairly normal to tip drivers of any kind, but I had genuinely no idea how much would be appropriate. Seeing as he had just seen me withdraw over 10,000 Rupees in 500 Rupee notes, I gave him one of those and he was very happy and agreed to take me to the airport on Wednesday morning. Thinking back on it, I had probably given him enough money to buy small bicycle. But at least he will definitely pick me up on Wednesday, and that note can cover the tip for that journey as well!

Quite clearly though, this is not a hostel despite the website, as I have a king-sized bed and en-suite which are absolutely fine for my needs and quite homely. Unfortunately no communal areas and therefore no way of meeting people! I am therefore very glad that I had booked a couple of tours for the following day. So to bed I went.

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