Coming Home (Via Singapore, Malaysia, Iran, Turkey and Germany)
I’ve been through 24+ hour bus journeys, 12+ hour flight connections and every other heartache on my travels, all of which with a smile across my face. However, for my final journey home, fate decided now would be the perfect time for everything to go horribly wrong.
The journey starts from Singapore where I arrived mid-afternoon from Jakarta. Still hungover from the night before, I was exhausted, so that day was spent in bed. By the time I woke, it was early morning. Brainstorming in bed, I was trying to decide whether to spend the day sight-seeing Singapore, or travel to Malaysia, giving myself a day to play with. Conveniently, there are regular buses which travel between Singapore and neighbouring Malaysia, taking you through all the border checks. 10am that same morning I caught my bus towards Malaysia, concluding my very brief visit of Singapore.
Thankfully the buses were angelic. Each seat was like a personal eazy-boy, leaning back with a foot rest, I slept all the way to the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Except when I was abruptly awoken and shuffled through 2 sets of immigration. This voided my long-month visa after 1 day and I got a 3 month-visa for Malaysia, used again for 1 day.
There were 3 other backpackers on the bus; a Canadian guy and 2 girls from Manchester, easily befriended with our Britishness. Upon telling them I had no hostel they suggested I go to theirs where I spent the night and following morning with them.
That morning we planned what we’d be doing as I had a day to burn before my flight. I looked at my ticket.
“FUCK!! I’m flying today” to the laughter of the others. I hastily collected everything, quickly having to come to terms with the abrupt end to my backpacking adventure. A taxi to Kuala Lumpur became my final treat to myself, not wanting to mess around with public transport. I arrived at the very same airport that my father informed me that the brother-in-law of Kim Jong Un had been assassinated a few weeks before. An appropriate start to the hell of the next 72 hours.
Throughout this trip I’ve gone for the “cheaper” option of travel, which usually means a lot of stops and a long time from A to B. However, until this point, there had never been a problem. Apart from the odd slight bus crash, wild swerving to avoid wildlife and enough turbulence to make you appreciate life. The flight I booked was already going to be stressful. Being broke, I was looking for a bargain. Flying out of Singapore wasn’t cheap enough, I found the cheapest in KL. Unfortunately, this would be FOUR flights in total; KL – Iran, Iran – Turkey, Turkey – Germany and finally Germany – Manchester. Totalling roughly 40 hours…on first estimate.
The first flight went by no problem at all, mothered by the head-scarf wearing older women that were sat around me. Throughout the flight they providing me with sweets, oranges, all manner of randomness. They were slightly perplexed why a young man like myself was headed to Iran, I was thinking the same thing. I was slightly unnerved by the entire situation when one of the women said ON the plane, for all to hear
“ohh you’re travelling to Istanbul, lot of bombs in that airport, terrorists”
So, I landed in technically my 5th very unlikely country in this adventure, Iran, landing in Tehran after a 6 hour flight. There appeared to be a lot of backpackers on the flight, all of which were in the same situation; catching connecting flights to the same airports. We totalled almost 30, all of which were shuffled through a special booth which would transfer our bags.
There was about a 6 hour wait for the next flight to Istanbul, but after 2 hours, a few of the group noticed the flight was shown as cancelled. We waited a further 2 hours for an official to briefly tell us
“the flight is cancelled due to weather” with no further info before leaving. After a further 2 hours we were eventually shuffled into the first-class lounge to wait for further details.
It was quite a hilarious scene. A high-class lounge with buffet fine dining 24/7 with businessmen in their suits, sat reading their papers with a coffee. In the other corner, a group of 30 Hawaii shirts and vest wearing slobs laying across the fine leather sofas, feet up with mounds of dirty plates arranged all over the place. I took full advantage of the free merch.
Another hilarious scene was a group of locals who were seemingly incredibly angry about something, and yelling quite aggressively at an official. It then got to a point where the entire 20+ group in unison just started to scream out loud, across the entire airport. We figured these people must be in a similar situation to us, so we decided to join in with the screaming.
12 hours after we arrived at the airport, we were finally told that we’d have our flight the next morning, another 12 hours away. Most of us were in a worse position, I had TWO other flights to catch after this, both I would miss. One was with this same company, which they promised to fix, however the last flight was up to me to sort out.
26 hours later, a prisoner in Tehran airport, Iran, looking out on the barren deserts on the horizon, unable to leave due to their refusal of returning our passports. The enormous group of backpackers barged their way through the inpatient crowds of Iranian’s towards our flight to Istanbul.
Finally, two flights down, two to go. A 2-hour wait was easy in the circumstances. The group of backpackers had thinned out as each travelled their own way, but a few remained as we passed each other in the airport. Eventually I caught a short easy flight to Dusseldorf, Germany.
I landed in Dusseldorf now as the lone traveller once again. So, the new dilemma was because of the enormous delay, I missed my original flight to Manchester. Thankfully the company I booked with www.omegaflightstore.com was INCREDIBLY helpful and arranged a new flight for me free of charge. Finally, some good news! The bad news however, instead of a 2 hour wait, it was now an 8 hour long wait, on agonisingly uncomfortable steel chairs.
One thing I will take from my brief visit of Germany which extended to the Airport, was their plastic bottle deposits. If you buy a bottle of coke, you have to pay a deposit on the bottle, which you get back if you return the empty bottle. An attempt at combating littering and recycling I suppose. Very strange. Which also explained the odd one or two people you’d see collecting bags full of plastic bottles and signs telling you not to empty bottles in the plant pots.
Eventually I caught my last flight, 3 long months back to the UK, back to reality, ending my 3 month long trip, 60 hours after I left Kuala Lumpur.
That sounds quite an epic (and fraught) journey ! Incidentally, I was reading an old book called “Journey Out Of Asia”, appropriately enough, by Katherine Sim. In it she recounts a trip they undertook travelling by van from Malaysia (Malaya in those days) back to the UK in the 1960s. All good adventure but of course the world was a very different place back then – worth a read if you can find a copy, found mine in a charity shop. Maybe next time ! Any future travel plans ?
Thank you for your comment! Maybe a the trip by van would have been faster! Yes indeed I have plans set, which will be revealed on my next blog post!
final cut library manager 3.23
Enjoyed reading through this, very good stuff, thankyou .