Across Australia in 4 Days – Part 2: Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Originally posted October 27, 2009 ¬ 1:13 AM on previous web server

Previously on Across Australia in 4 Days – Part 1: Before the Journey

The taxi ride to the airport only took 30 minutes. At 9:00 p.m. I had completed checking-in and was given a boarding pass which indicated that the MH123 flight would board at Gate C01 at 21:40 (9:40 p.m.) and depart at 23:40 (11:40 p.m.). Still ample time.

I walked across the concourse to the Pusrawi pharmacy to get a 9 volt battery for my homemade CMOY headphone amplifier. Halfway there, out of habit, I looked at the boarding pass more closely. Something didn’t seem right. The seat number.

I pulled out my trusty Palm TX PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), and checked Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 747-400 aircraft seating arrangement. True enough; the seat number printed on the boarding pass was for a seat on the lower deck, not on upper deck as I had requested two weeks before.

Malaysia Airlines Seat Plan on my Palm TX’s Memos

I doubled back to the check-in counter, gave the Malaysia Airlines staff my boarding pass and quietly informed her the that the seat she gave me was not in the upper deck that I had requested when I booked the flight.

She consulted her computer, and I saw a concerned look. She stepped over to her colleague at the next counter, and told her that the upper deck looked to be full.

The colleague tapped her computer keyboard, and then the staff attending to me returned to her seat and printed another boarding pass. She tore into two the earlier boarding pass and handed me the new one, with an upper deck window seat.

After getting the battery at the pharmacy and completed Isha’ solat (prayer) at the nearby surau (mini mosque) next to the airport post office, I made my way to the departure gate, immigration, and airport security.

In a side pocket of my backpack was my empty water bottle. It passed through the security scanner without raising an alarm or question from the officer.

The backpack and water bottle, two seasoned travelers

The bottle had been traveling with me on quite a number of flights, and the backpack on many more flights.

Even with the international ban on water being taken on board flights, the bottle did not attract any question at any of the foreign airports I had been, but I was once questioned about it here at Kuala Lumpur International Airport when I was on my way to Los Angeles via Taipei.

The security procedure done, a few minutes later I was on the train going to Terminal C where my boarding gate was situated.

At the terminal, I rode a transparent-wall elevator up one floor to Malaysia Airline’s lounge.

There were many boring business types there, yours truly here excluded from that category 🙂

There, while helping myself to some cut fruits and a couple of glasses of mango juice, I turned on my netbook computer, connected to the lounge’s free wifi, and booked a Toyota Corolla at Australia’s Bayswater Hire Cars website.

At home a few days earlier I had looked at the website of several car rental companies in Perth, and concluded that Bayswater offered the best deal. I did not book then because of lingering doubts as to whether a Malaysian driving license was sufficient or needed to be supported with an International Driving Permit.

However, reading the Government of Western Australia Department of Transport’s website, I gathered that a visitor to the state was allowed to drive using a valid overseas license, and that if the license was not in English then it was advisable to carry along an International Driving Permit or an approved English translation of the license.

At the airport lounge I persuaded myself that my Malaysian driving license would be OK because it was in Roman alphabets and there were words at the front in English indicating that the document was a Malaysian Driving License. The validity dates of the license, the holder’s address and the classes of vehicle the holder was licensed to drive were self explanatory. And if needed be, as a last resort,I could always inform whoever concerned that I earned my license when I was a student in Perth, and had it converted to a Malaysian license upon my return to Malaysia in 1985.

With that I decided to take the plunge and at 10.44 p.m. confirmed my online booking with Bayswater Hire Cars. Within a minute my mobile phone vibrated with the arrival of an acknowledgment email from Bayswater, confirming my booking.

That was really assuring. I would have a car, with GPS and comprehensive insurance cover, waiting for me in Perth when I arrive there on the Indian Pacific from Sydney on Tuesday 6th October.

At 11.00 p.m. I heard a boarding announcement for my flight. With my backpack, the netbook computer in its bag and a bulky Canon EOS digital SLR camera, I walked briskly out of the airline lounge to the elevator.

I was in the elevator and the door had started closing when two airline pilots managed to reopen the door and came in. The door then re-closed, and at that instance I saw through the transparent wall another two pilots had tried to enter but were unable to because the elevator had started to move down.

One of the pilots was peering intently down in my direction. Only then I realized that he looked like Captain Abdul Manaf, a Malaysia Airlines pilot who was my home neighbor and friend at our neighborhood surau.

At ground level I waited for the elevator to go up and came down with the two pilots. Sure enough, it was Captain Abdul Manaf. He looked really smart in his black pilot uniform.

He asked me where I was heading to. I told him Sydney. He said he thought I was going to Frankfurt on his flight. Too bad, if he was going to Sydney that night instead of Frankfurt then I would have had a great time taking ambient-light photos of the aircraft’s cockpit in flight. My DSLR camera would be in its elements. Maybe next time. Captain Manaf then looked at his watch and reminded me that I was late and needed to move quickly.

The walk to the departure gate was a long one. The gate was at the far end of the terminal, and when I arrived there, I found a long queue in front of me waiting to go through a second security check. I was relieved – I was not too late or else everyone would have already gone on board the aircraft.

At 11:30 p.m. I was settled in seat 11K on the upper deck of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 747-400 aircraft. At 11:49 the aircraft was pushed back off the gate and four minutes later we began to move forward.

At 12:01 a.m. the aircraft was at the end of the runway and one minute later started to roar forward. At 12:03 a.m. I could feel the heavy aircraft rotating and then airborne.

Three minutes later at 12:06 a.m. my armrest LCD display showed that the aircraft had climbed to 1,054 meters above sea level, was traveling at 428 km per hour, less than half its cruising speed, and the distance to Sydney of 6,697 km.

I was truly on my way to Sydney, for my appointment with the Australian Indian Pacific coast-to-coast train.

Next on Across Australia in 4 days – Part 3: Sydney Landing


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