I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Friday, October 20, 2006

October 11th: a very long day

October 11th started much the same as the previous four days, what with me waking up in the Marunouchi hotel in central Tokyo. But it wasn't a normal day. No, October 11th was the last day of my trip, really. True, I wasn't getting back to the UK until October 15th, but the few nights in New York that were on the way, I wasn't really counting those. The stop there was borne out of necessity more than desire, a "cheap" place to get home from on a separate ticket (my round the world ticket continues on with a few more US + Canada destinations next May...) and a chance to get over the physiological effects of time travel. Yeah, time travel... more of that later.

The first thing different about the day was breakfast. I skipped it. I wasn't too late, just too lazy. Instead I packed up, booked a place on the 1330 limousine bus to Narita airport, left my luggage with the concierge and buggered off for a walk. I'd remembered aborting my gawp at the Imperial Palace back on Sunday and figured it would be a shame to not see it properly, since it was only 2 blocks away and stuff. Plus I'd virtually met ol' Akihito too, so I could at least go and have a look at his house.

So the route I chose was the same as the first one; I was just going to extend it. Turns out this is stupid, because walking clockwise from that starting point around the grounds is basically one long walk (something like 4km) around the perimeter, mostly on roads. Oh, and it involves dodging a lot of joggers. I know it was lunchtime but the sheer numbers astounded me, there were bloody hundreds of the bastards. And mostly not jogging either, but going at it full pelt. Lunatics, it was boiling!

Come 3/4s of the circuit and I finally came across an entrance into the inner gardens. Free, but you get a ticket, and then you can walk around all kinds of stuff. I assume. I didn't go in, because by the time I'd got there I only had about 40 minutes until the bus. So I just kept on going round the perimeter and then back to Tokyo station. 15 minutes to go I thought about buying some clothes, went into a department store, got confused, couldn't find any t-shirts, and went back to the hotel. Down came the luggage, along came the bus, I was on me way.

The Admirals' (or Admiral's?) Club lounge, American Airlines' thing in the airport, was quite nice. They reprinted my boarding pass to get my BA number associated with it, and I looked for beer in the fridges. Couldn't spot any, only glasses.. because the beer comes from a tap. A really cool tap too, one that you put your glass under and just press a button. The tap drops down to the bottom of the glass and starts dispensing, then it slowly rises as the beer fills up. Tops it off with a nice head. It was almost as entertaining to use/watch as it was nice to drink, heh. I made a decent stab at emptying them of food too. Went for a wander with about 45 minutes 'til boarding because I had some yen I wanted to spend, and bought some noise cancelling headphones. Not that I was going to use them on board -- AA give their business class passengers them shit hot Bose "we don't put prices on our adverts" things.

When boarding started they announced that people should go in via groups. Seems most people's tickets had a group number on, similar to a sequence number I guess, and they were saying "group A, board now" etc. Perhaps mine was just missing it, or perhaps business class passengers could get on any time, but I just hung back for a while and got on almost last.

I'd never been on American Airlines before. The business class seat is... rubbish. They're upgrading their fleet so presumably the new ones will be less rubbish, but this one was rubbish. To begin with I was astonished with the legroom, but quite quickly thought that sucked because I couldn't reach the stuff in the pocket on the back of the seat in front of me. I struggled with the seat controls too, they were nowhere as advanced as the ones on BA, Cathay or Qantas. Oh, and my seat was fucked, that was the real problem. It reclined, but wouldn't come back up. Then when I made it come back up, it just slowly reclined and I had to keep readjusting it. For the whole damn flight.

I also took a long time to work out how to get the TV out too. Managed it after a while, and before they turned on the entertainment too, so no great shakes. Unfortunately for me the films were all shit, I didn't want to watch any of them. Not great for a 13 hour flight, I instead watched the episodes of Frasier and King Of Queens on the comedy channel. To my surprise I enjoyed the latter, I could have sworn I'd seen some before and thought it was rubbish. Anyway after finishing all the TV I thought I'd give the music channels a go. Normally I don't bother because airline radio tends to be awful, but on AA it was superb! I probably listened to the entirety of something like 4 channels, one of them twice. And to keep my eyes busy I either read my Disney book -- which I finished by the time we landed -- or watched the map channel.

Ah, the sky map. Addictive things on any airline, but pretty much the same too. I think the same company provides the software for them all. But there are customisations possible it seems, and the one difference on AA than on any other airline I've ever used was that it told you the time where you were in the world. Generally you get the time at your origin, and the time at your destination, but not this. Makes sense I suppose, where you are is pretty irrelevant when you're going to be airborne for the next 10 hours, but for this first-time-International-Date-Line-crosser it was superb.

See, the flight took off at 1755 on October 11th. 3 hours later it was 2055 in Tokyo, obviously. But it was 0055 on October 12th where I was - just before crossing the IDL. About half an hour later it was, erm, something like 0755. On October 11th again. I had experienced a taste of the 12th but had another 17 hours or so before I'd see it again. Indeed the flight was meant to land at 1715, 40 minutes before I left Tokyo, yet 13 hours later. MENTAL. Timezones are crazy things; I found a map of them here which shows just how crazy they are. Like there's a +14; there are pockets of Q either side of P; there are pluses the minus side of the date line; Japan is due north of Australia yet doesn't share a timezone with any part of it; etc etc. Just go look at the map. It's my desktop background now *cough*

AA's business class food was superb. Truly superb. Best food I had in the air all trip I reckon. The cutlery was so cold it almost gave me frostbite though, sheesh. Bit odd that sushi was part of the "Western" choice though. The only problem I had was the "midnight snack", supposedly offered to passengers who aren't sleeping, didn't materialise. Ah well. And because I wasn't sleeping it really annoyed me when the reading light went off, presumably turned off globally by a flight attendant or something. It happened twice :-(

Lots of time to spend thinking onboard this flight. Not much to watch, finishing the book, ... things started springing up. Like a couple more examples of why "'a' before a consonant, 'an' before a vowel" doesn't work. Previously the only one I used was the word 'European', but now I can also cite "a useless bastard" or "a one-hour presentation". And my ears were pricked by one of the DJs saying "countries such as Africa". I asked for a beer off one of the flight attendants at 1pm New York time, which was some obscenely early time of day in Tokyo and about 7am where I was. Heh.

Staying awake was quite a feat I thought. It was a long bastard flight, we were landing at around 6am Tokyo time. As it happens I started to doze off with about an hour to go, but then they served us breakfast so I was perked up. Landed and managed to get to the immigration queue pretty sharpish, quite near the front. Handy that, because it appeared that I was the only person who had managed to fill out the immigration and customs forms. They'd been handed out on the plane (although I got mine at check-in) and the only trouble I'd had was fitting in "Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan" in the "countries you've visited on this trip before the United States" box, heh. But it seems none of the Japanese people had managed to do it, and loads of people were having to fill them out while at the desk or in the queue. So yeah, thank fuck I was near the front. Not so quick as to not give me time to watch CNN on the TVs though. Latest news: plane crash in New York. Welcome!

Got a couple of SMSes when I turned me phone on too. Robinson had made a right cock-up in the game and we'd lost 2-0. :-( Bring back Sven! Or something.

Through immigration, my bag came off pretty much first, and I was out through customs and into the terminal. Oh dear fucking christ JFK is a shithole. It was either terminal 8 or 9, can't remember, but it was really nasty. Worse than Mumbai and Taipei, and they weren't nice places. No signs to hotel shuttle buses so I asked at an information desk and was told I had to go get a train to a different place, Federal Circle, and get it from there. Thankfully it was really bastard pissing it down so I got soaked wet through just walking to the train. FFHS. Just one stop to FC, downstairs and the shuttle bus was there waiting. Superb. From touching down to my hotel room took about 90 minutes.

No comments: