My trip from North Carolina to India was super tiring. 36 hours door to door. I was a little disappointed too because I was supposed to fly Etihad through the Arabian desert to Abu Dhabi. But, something happened in New York so all flights going there got cancelled and I was put on the next day British Airways flight to London instead.
London Heathrow, in my memory, was the worst airport ever (well, at least, among the big int’l airports). The first time I arrived in London in 2007, they held me for 5 hours in the airport for a lung x-ray. Everything was so slow, so inefficient. This time around, however, I felt different. It was actually not too bad. It could be that this time Heathrow made me feel nostalgia about what I missed in London (I spent a year here in 2007-8). Ah, the British accent. Yummy Matcha latte from EAT. Hot Wagamama’s noodle. And many more.
On my next flight to Mumbai, I finally got some sleep. Thanks to the comfy seat in a (new, I think) Boeing 777. An Indian lady sitting next to me was really nice. Swora – her name- told me a bit about lives in Mumbai. She had just visited her son in North Carolina for six months so now she was ready to go home. Living in the US would have been her preferred choice, had it not been for her people in Mumbai. She warned me about how crowded, dusty, dirty India is and that I wouldn’t like it.
We had a good conversation throughout the flight. I helped her a bit in getting some headache med and I gave her some sleeping pills as well. Right before we landed, she asked if I had Indian rupees (I planned to get some at the airport). She handed me some money and insisted I kept it for food at the airport. Of course, I rejected. Her argument (?) was that she thought of me as a daughter, so I kept it (for framing later. it’s like a badge). So, my first impression of India… very positive.
Finally, I landed in Mumbai. Passing through immigration was quick. It looks like the old Bangkok airport, Don muang. No much security hassles except there were a bunch of fully armed guards everywhere. I saw one with a big long gun in front of bag check. The weather here was sure hot outside even at night. Next destination is Chennai.
Once I got to Channai to Trichy, I couldn’t find whoever was supposed to pick me up. There were a ton of people at the airport – not a single foreigner there (well, what did I expect anyway?) I was heading to another town an hour away from here. I didn’t even have an address of the place I was going. So what did I do? FREAK OUT moment. A bunch of taxi drivers came by to ask “madam, madam, taxi?” I finally found a little local phone booth operated by a middle-age lady. She was extremely helpful, kept calling the two numbers I had with me until someone picked up. Finally, I found my driver and it was time to head to the final destination, Thanjavur!