Thursday 7 February 2013

Bhutan: Trying to get home

With very little traffic on the roads, the driver was able to take the middle line along the twisty road to Paro in the darkness of the early hours of the morning. The light was just beginning to appear over the mountains as we reached the airport where he struggled with my case that had gained a considerable amount of weight since last week. I was carrying about 12.5kg of material on top of the 20kg baggage allowance; approximately 8kg in the suitcase, 4kg in a roll in my hand and the rest in an already overloaded carry-on bag. The girlie on the desk mentioned the excess, but a few sweet smiles helped to avoid payment.

Drukair ATR-42 - Paro airport, BhutanHaving read about the unpredictability of Drukair flights and been delayed by a couple of hours a few days ago due to a mechanical problem, I was prepared for a delay this morning. Sure enough, the flight was delayed by one hour due to bad weather at Kathmandu; then another hour; then a bit more. My two connecting flights at Kathmandu and Kuala Lumpur were looking more and more unlikely. The Drukair lady in the departure lounge was unconvincing in her assurance that my connecting Malaysia Airlines flight would also be late in Kathmandu. At least the terminal had free Wi-Fi which meant there was some way to work out the possible knock-on effects of the delay for myself and keep Mrs M from putting the kettle on too early.

Drukair provided a hot water urn, tea bags, small savoury pastry things without much savoury filling and miniscule finger sandwiches. The Drukair lady informed me that the pilot had told her that our flight would definitely arrive before any others into Kathmandu. Call me Mr Sceptical but my hopes of getting home today were fading.

Suddenly the flight was called and we walked to the tiny ATR-42 (42 being the number of seats) in freezing rain. This was no time for ploddy aircraft, I wanted a proper plane like the Airbus we arrived on last Saturday. Oh well, at least the ride was more interesting and it made the steep climb and turns out of Paro and into Kathmandu all the more interesting.

The plane for my second flight landed as I stepped off the Drukair flight at Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu where I was greeted on the tarmac by a Drukair member of staff holding two Malaysia Airways boarding cards for my next two flights! They dug my bag out of the hold and re-labelled it to Singapore. Five minutes later they announced the departure of the flight! Hoorah. What fantastic customer service. The one advantage of the delay at Kathmandu was that Malaysia Airways didn't get the chance to weigh the case - it went directly to the next aircraft. I sat on board the 737 wearing a happy smile. 

After four-and-a-half hours of listening to a guy violently snort every few minutes (another category to be excluded on aircraft), the plane plopped onto the damp runway at Kuala Lumpur. I checked with the airline that my luggage had been transferred to the next flight and found something to eat.

Just before the midnight, I finished the last leg of journey at Changi Airport. The sense of relief when my case appeared on the carousel was enormous.

I don't remember the taxi ride home. I needed sleep.

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