How is it that you can plan something for 4 months, but find yourself so frantic in the last few weeks and days before departure, that you cant comprehend that very shortly, you’ll be on a plane and in a whole and other country?
Well that was me. Somewhere along the way I’d lost sight of the fact that I was actually going to India. Yesterday, I discovered my body was heading there, but my brain didn’t get the memo.
I had an 18 hour stopover in Singapore en route, during which time I ate, visited the botanical gardens, ate, hopped on and off a bus, shopped at UniClo (can you believe that Esme and T-giggles?) and nearly melted in to a puddle of hair and clothes as it was so hot and humid.
Can I recommend to future visitors to Singapore that you make use of the well priced shuttle bus, which drops you directly to your hotel for just S$9.00, and on the way back the MRT (train) for just S$2.40- clean and quick at around 20 minutes. (Sorry, can’t help myself, I love a travel tip and bargain all in one!)
So in cracking good time, I alighted from the MRT at Changi and glided on the travelators to my departure lounge. Would it surprise you to know that, I was the only purple haired person there-and also the only non-Indian looking person? The latter was certainly a surprise to me, as at any given point in the known universe, there are 5 Aussies with southern cross tattoos and a group of 12 spanish tourists present.
The flight from Singapore to Ahmedabad is just under 6 hours, and was notable for only two things- it was remarkably quiet, despite the many families on board, and I had one of the most delectable curries of my life- I’ll bet you don’t hear that often about plane food! Thank you Singapore Airlines.
Before I knew it, (and 15 minutes before I finished watching the Man from U.N.C.L.E) it was wheels down in Ahmedabad! Palak had prepared me for a frenzy of Indians madly keen to disembark, but to my disappointment all were lovely and polite. At the bottom of the stairs there was a bus waiting to transport us to the terminal- everyone crowded cheerfully on, and off we went…for literally one minute before it stopped at the doors to the terminal. No one else seemed to think it odd…
Inside, there were lines and lines and lines of people as far as the eye could see… next to a very large empty space above which hung a lonely laminated sign saying “eTourist visa.” I looked around but there was no one to ask, so I figured nothing ventured… and boldly made my way across the great divide to the counter on the other side, where sat a young man playing on his phone. Being careful not overstep the yellow line, I waited a few moments before calling “Hello” several times. I’m not sure whether he was engrossed in some porn or just playing candy crush saga, but he failed to register my presence at all.
So even more boldly, I crossed the line (not the first time, surely not the last) and went all the way to the edge of his desk, waved my hand in front of his faced and shouted some “Umm, EXCUSE me” near his ear. At which point he looked up, seemingly startled by my proximity.
He was a bit confused as me about what to do with the eTourist visa (who knows when anyone last crossed the divide?), and consequently, he was a little brusque. However, after getting the advice of 3 or 4 people, scrutinising the print out of my eVisa taken from my gmail, and flicking through every page of my passport, he livened up a little. He asked me my name, and when I replied, he said with a sudden unexpected smile “Oh, why that is a very lovely name”. (Tina Sparkles IS a lovely if unusual name). After attempting to take my fingerprints 4 or 5 times, I was done and he waved me off to collect my bag.
Since the bag had been checked all the way through from BrisVegas, I was fairly convinced I would never see it again (see ‘For the Love of Luggage‘ and you will understand what a double first world tragedy that would have been) and waited by the luggage conveyer with something approaching mild concern.
Here I must say Indians are like all human species… they don’t understand how the luggage conveyer belt system works. As I am sure all MY enlightened readers already know, these work best when everyone stands about two feet back from the belt, then steps forward to retrieve their luggage, which of course you can actually see because people aren’t leaning over the belts to see past the person beside them. Then of course, amazingly, you can remove your bag from the conveyer without smacking it into the person next to you (though I concede if they annoyed the bejinkles out of you on the plane, that could be cathartic.) Here endith the lecture.
Interestingly, many people walked up and literally stood right in front of me as if I didn’t exist. Palak assures me this is normal and I should expect it everywhere (or possibly I am intermittently invisible). Despite possibly being see-thru and my quietly internalised luggage concerns, eventually my bag Sebastian Sojourn and I were reunited and, after he was scanned on the way OUT of the airport (I know not for what), I saw Palak and her Pappa among the many who had turned up to witness my arrival (they were staring at me so I guess I am moderately famous here too), and we took a cab to my hotel.
Everything from this point went extremely smoothly with the following exceptions:
- Finding the hotel was like looking for Wally at a convention of Waldos. (Tom, next year, Where’s Wally for Melbourne Cup, we are ON). Not sure we DID find the right hotel (see #2).
- On spotting said Wally (the hotel the hotel try to keep up) they claimed no knowledge of my booking.
- When my booking was eventually located, it was for 3, not 10 days.
- Palak threatened to come back with a lawyer to make them honour the booking. Ten days was then assured, which may or may not be good (see #5) (Suckers, she was already with a lawyer!)
- The room looked NOTHING like it looked on the interweb (old, bit dirty, no hairdryer- even the notion!)
- The room came with that iconic clearly-not-been-washed towel (what visit to India would be complete without that, so lucky me so early on!)
Then, 3.30am Aussie time, I snuggled my ear plugs in to block out the sound of beep beep beeping from outside, lay my very sleepy head down on a dubiously clean pillow, cosied within my own sleeping bag liner…. and zzzzzzzzzzzzz. What would tomorrow bring?
Another view from my hotel