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April 17, 2013

Daunting But Pleasant Trip

Tom McLaughlin

Searching for a way home from Kuching, Malaysian Borneo is a daunting task every time I try to make plane reservations. I usually start about three months before departure trying to find the best deal.


Being almost half way around the world from Frederick, I have a choice between either the Pacific or the Atlantic route and a myriad of airlines. Being that I will be traveling for about 30 hours, I choose the best airlines that offer good service and comfortable seats at the best price. This negates both American carriers, United and Delta which fly somewhere near here and the European ones including Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa (Germany), FinnAir (Finland) and KLM (Netherlands). I also have the choice between two international airports Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, but flights out of that island nation are, for some reason, more expensive.


The airlines serving the west coast, Malaysian, Thai, Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong) Korean and Singapore are all about the same in flight length, food service and comfortable seats. The Atlantic route carriers include the relatively new Qatar and Emirates, which fly directly into Dulles from Doha and Dubai with a minimum layover time.


Services on these Asian and Arab airlines usually include a screen directly in front of you with a choice of 150 movies, television programs from around the world, games, news broadcasts and music channels. The food is restaurant quality with snacks of ice cream, sandwiches and chips available at the galley during the entire flight.


This trip, I took Emirates Airlines. To my pleasant surprise, the seats moved back like a small living room recliner with lumbar support. And this was economy. As a single traveler, I was a moveable object. The plane was filled with tourists from Saudi Arabia, with women dressed in the black Abaya complete with full face veil.  I always wanted to ask them what happens when they sneeze. My opinion is that if the husbands force the wives to wear that oven-hot Abaya, then the men must wear the head gear and thobe of the Arab world.


I am also very naughty violating custom by talking to the women directly. Some will answer and engage in a conversation, but most will ignore me. I am also very naughty when they refuse to talk because I will flirt by exaggerating a wink or give a come-hither gesture when their husbands aren’t looking. Many times they will just chuckle.


My first seat was an inside seat at the back of the plane, but a gentleman was trying to collect his family so I switched places with his wife who was about 30 rows up but had a prized aisle seat. The Saudi gentleman next to me was a newlywed and, to continue to foster international relations, I switched seats again so his wife could sit next to him. This time I was seated in the aisle but next to the toilet. The smell was not at all unpleasant. To make things more entertaining for me on the flight, I held out my hand and asked for $10 from anyone who wanted to use the facilities. We all had a good laugh and fun conversation which helped break up the trip.


The last five hours of the flight are the most tortuous regardless of the comfort. I had watched all of Season Six of The Big Bang Theory and many movies but my patience was wearing thin.


I finally landed at Dulles and to begin the process of closing out my life in Frederick.


. . . . .life is good…


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