Friday, 3 December 2010

Passage To India

How we got there

For me my trip starts when I check in online and book my HEX tickets (with a hefty discount code of course).  My first taste of what to expect in India was the crazy world of Emirates' online check in.  For some reason the seat selection part of the process and I did not get on and every time I tried to move our three seats on the 777 the body of the plane seemed to increase in length from the middle and out...  Not a promising start and a few minutes of frustration turned into many more minutes of laughter as by this time the length of our aircraft had doubled and we now had infinite leg room (which in the end was far from the truth!).  Somehow as I went to bed that night I felt a little underwhelmed for what would have been the longest and most exotic trip I had taken in fifteen years.  A mix of good planning, sheer exhaustion and an early afternoon departure probably didn't help.

We were supposed to meet at Paddington at around 10am to allow for lateness etc.  This was a good idea as standing for 15mins in the cold waiting for a tube was not really the best start to the morning.  Anyway, safely on board the HEX with a nice set of seats together my excitement levels were up and keeping out the cold.  After 10 years the HEX is looking a little worn around the edges and for the money charged at full price or otherwise it could really do with a bit more TLC/refurbishment.  20mins after sitting down we arrived at Heathrow Central and made the short trip to T3.  The check in area was right in front of us, there was almost no queue, easy does it through security and off for breakfast.  We chose the middle of three equally average options as it was the only one still doing breakfast after 11am.  Strangely for the nice people serving us they managed to plate up an English breakfast in about five minutes and yet it took them half an hour to sort out a toasted cheese sandwich; impressive stuff indeed.  The book and magazine choice in WH Smith was significantly worse than the airport food, which was a pleasant difference to Gatwick's North Terminal.  Then it was off to the gate and a first glimpse of the beast of the skies, the A380.  Other than the scale of the aircraft my other highlight of boarding was getting a copy of The Economist, not really holiday reading but better than the dross in Smiths.

On planning the trip I wasn't too keen on doing an indirect flight and stopping over, the one benefit and selling point was the opportunity to try the A380, this was definitely a wise choice and one that got me at least a few brownie points as we were nearly booked on to something else.  The plan is large, comfortable and quiet and still feels brand new.  Up in the air and I was enjoying a few indifferent films on a decent size seat back TV,  Iron Man 2 and Polanski's The Ghost come to mind  There may have been something else but the lamb served as the main meal was more memorable.  By then seven or so hours had passed and we landed in DXB.  I was hoping to see some of the famous Dubai sites lit up by night such as the Palm but no such luck.

Once landed it was  back through security and then a walk through the terminal whilst we had four hours to kill awaiting our flight to Delhi.  Using the if in doubt try McDonalds option we settled down at a table for a while and waited for the boarding call.  By this time I had already lost all since of time and place, as it was around 4am local time when we headed off to the gate at the opposite end of the terminal for boarding.  The flight to Delhi must have special memories for someone at DXB, it felt like it was in the remotest of remote stands and a good 15mins by airport bus.  Aboard the 777 reality set in, gone were the wide aisles and spotless interior from the A380, these were replaced with narrow seats, yellowing overhead bins with a just edible Indian breakfast and The A Team to keep me awake.  At least there was Tetris which was sadly missing on the A380.  Anyway, we would be in India in a few hours and our trip would be starting for real.  Touching down a little late we were glad to be finally there.  On planning the trip we were expecting a bit of a nightmare on landing at DEL, in fact the new T3 was clean, comfortable and it was only a short time before we were through security, bags in hands and out to find our driver.  India was finally with us.

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