43 Hours… Door to Door – Part Deux

If you had the patience to read through Part 1, you may need more patience this time too… If you haven’t read part 1 yet… please read it here.

12 1/2 into the trip… Amsterdam Schipol airport, April 3rd.

I have been through this airport about 20 times now, so know exactly where to go and what to do… Arrived at Gate E17 and checked into Foursquare again and started my 10 min walk to the KLM lounge.  I just read an article that Amsterdam airport is now rated as world’s 3rd best airport.. I can see why.  This early in morning, more than half businesses are open, people arriving and fresh set of employees in Blue (KLM) directing people.  Arrived at KLM lounge, setup shop and read through all my emails, played a couple of games, freshened up a bit, but still 4+ hours to go.  Decided to rest in the “Relaxation Room”… dark, quite and long chairs to rest.. no talking or food.  Couldn’t get real sleep in, but about an hour into it, a couple of guys open the door and start chattering in some asian language from what I could gather, they are trying to figure out what this is… so I had to get up and “shhh!!” them… for myself and others in there… they realized it was sleeping room and closed the door.

I decided to get up now, freshen up again and start walking toward gate and enquire about the tour of the city for return trip (I have 6 hrs coming back).  It is a 3 hour tour and looks like I will be able to do it for sure.  Walking through Schipol, you will hear these 2 announcement over and over again… if you ever go through there… one is “mind your step..” on every moving sidewalk towards the end… similar to what we hear in US about “moving side walk is ending”… second one is “So and So… immediate boarding please, you delaying the flight, we will proceed to off load your baggage”… both in distinct accent.. that I can recall even before getting to the airport.

I noticed tmy flight said “boarding” on the departures board (still 1 hr+ to go), so started walking towards it, reached there and got through security (they ask you all kind of questions again…) to only see that they haven’t.  Started boarding at 9:45 a.m… here we go.

Flight #3: Delta Flight # 50, Airbus A330-200, Tail Number N855NW. Airbus 330-200 is slightly different – 4 rows of business class before the door, 2 after, and then Economy.  I am in 5H – and immediately realized that it is a heavy traffic seat since everyone has to pass you.. I was regretting my decision, but the seat next to me was empty… so let’s see.  Then a few minute later the bursur comes to me and asks if I would like to move to 1 A or 1 B.. I asked if there anybody else in the row? he said no, it is open.. so picked up my stuff and moved to 1 A… This is much better… 1st one to be served, no body next to me, and quiter.  We push back about 20 minutes late, but pilot assured that we will be arriving on time.

So same routine… nuts, drinks, lunch, movie… this time I watched “This is 40″… had some funny bits, but was too close to reality 🙂  Slept for almost 5 hours on this flight too. Woke up half an hour before landing.. filled out the immigration paperwork, switched out SIM card in one my phones to the India number, had another drink and passed over the meal service.. I  know in a couple of hours I am going to get some home made Indian food, so no more airplane food for me.  After all these hours, you are ready to back on the ground…. after a couple of loops around airport, we landed at 11 p.m. local time in India at Mumbai.. and at the gate by 11:15 p.m. – 5 minutes past our scheduled arrival time.  It is now 29 1/2 since I left home…

Getting out of Mumbai Airport… Always a challenge.  11 p.m. is like peak rush hour at Mumbai… all international flight arriving around same time… people running to get through the immigration lines… Luckily I was able to get into the line for PIO (Person of Indian Origin card Holder) and Foreign Citizens… Quickly out of immigration… made my duty free purchases and started the wait for my 3 suitcases.  Here I never seen any rhyme or reason… Priority Tags get you no where… I had bags come in early, late and never… so dug in for the long haul… this is a crowded area about half the size of our normal baggage belts with 250 people and 500+ suitcases.. watch out “toes”… 5 mins in, I see my first.. then second and what? third too?  Nice… got them all and I am out of here… well not quite…  I have to go through customs.

India is known for its bribes and corruption and it it everywhere… if you try to fight it, you don’t get anywhere… so I learned to live with it.  I have a projector for office, about 3 iPhones and bunch of small stuff… if I go through customs, they will try to make me pay an import fee of let’s say $200.  But I have to open each and every thing and could be an hour.  One of the “porters” asks me if I need help… in this case “help” means getting through quick… I said yes, he gets me through with a nod from one of the officers for $150.  He says he has to split with a lot of people.. for me, it is a known evil… and by me pointing it out, not going to rattle ranks and create a national debate… So I got out of airport with hundreds of people waiting outside and it is close to midnight now and it is 90 degrees and humid… yes, it is peak summer time in India.

I met up with my childhood friend Subbu, who now has the obligation of picking me up and dropping me off from/to airport every time.  It is not so bad for him, since I bring him their much needed supplies from US and they come to US for vacations and I plan all their travel.  It is a fair trade (I think)… There are no connecting flights to Hyderabad till morning and I really don’t want to spend 6 hours in airport.. We reach his house and start catching up on things, about their May trip, work, over late dinner (12:30 p.m) and drinks.  Finally went to bed 2 a.m. local time… it is 1:30 p.m. in Arizona, so I am really not that sleepy. But sleeping on a flat surface after 33 hours sure feels good and I dozed off….

The final stretch: Got up around 7 a.m. at this stage, you are really antsy to get to your destination.  I want to get home, see my Niece’s new baby, start work, etc.  My flight is at 10:10 a.m. decided to take a later flight so we don’t have to hurry in the morning.  Learned that my friend is also leaving for New Delhi at 10:30 a.m. so we both going to leave for airport around 8:45 a.m. – he lives only 10-15 minutes from the domestic airport  (same airport terminal on opposite end).   Arrived at Mumbai domestic airport around 9:10 a.m. – I requested an upgrade with Jet Airways, the biggest Private Indian Airlines using my miles and it did get confirmed, nice.  Went for check-in, knowing that I have to pay excess baggage fees.  I shed about 20 lbs at Subbu’s house and rearranged the 3rd suitcase to be a carry on with  almost 30 lbs… and still weighed in at 120 lbs.  In India they charge by the Kilo (120 lbs = 55 kilos).  The allowance for 1st class is 30 kgs.  So I have to pay $4 per kilo over the limit – so close to $120.  The ticket actually costed me $100… Had to go to another counter, pay the fees, come back and get my boarding pass.  Subbu and I made it through security quickly and at gate by 9:30 a.m. – ready to board last flight.

Flight #4: Jet Airways Flight #7017, Boing 737-800, Tail Number: VT-SIZ.  Boarded the flight and and settled into seat 2D.  This plane has only 2 rows in First Class, one of those old Air Sahara fleet Jet Airways bought.  I was in Aisle and the passenger next me showed up late and I kind of recognized him.  He is Mohan Babu, a famous Telugu movie artist who appeared in more than 550 films.   I didn’t want to pester him, but he started the conversation asking me where I was from, and then we had a nice conversation during the one and half hour flight.  Between him dozing on and off, finally got the opportunity to snap a couple of photos on my Phone.  I am surprised that he was so down to earth (at least with me).  I complimented on his stone studded Breitling watch and he said he didn’t know what kind it was, and was a gift from his son Vishnu (who is also a movie star).  I told him his son did “WELL”…

With Mohan Babu
With Mohan Babu

Finally landed in Hyderabad at 11:30 a.m. local time (41 1/2 hrs since left home), by the time I got my bags and got outside to meet my dad and our driver and another employee from office… it was close to noon.  The ride from Airport to our house is about another hour weaving through the traffic of India…

Arrived at my parents/sister’s house at 1 p.m. local time – exactly 43 hours since I left my house in Scottsdale… went to my sister’s place on ground floor first to see my niece’s one month old girl and then eventually upstairs to see my mom… bit exhausted, but glad to make it to my destination.  After unloading suitcases, quick lunch… I left for office in an hour and worked till 11 p.m. that day 🙂

So, there it is… my typical one way journey to India.  There are other ways to get there quicker, but not with the perks of upgrades.  Now that I have been doing this 3-4 times a year, over the last 5 years, it has become a routine and when I started documenting it, I feel more tired than the actual journey itself…

Thanks for making it through both parts (if you actually did).  Next up 6 hours in Amsterdam on my way back home in a few days.

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