Friday, April 30, 2010

My Volcanic Journal - London

When I first received my travel itinerary, I noted that I will be going back via London. LONDON! That strikes me an idea instantly! It was never in my plan to go to London this year, though I’ve always wanted to leave my footprints there. The closest that I’ve been to in that continent is Denmark, a bit of Germany and a bit of Sweden. I feel like expanding my Euro Trip this time and I asked for permission from my team leader to have an extended transit in London. It was approved at first but it got denied by the GM’s secretary since they do not support any “diversion” in business traveling. I totally understood and agreed with the business policy and informed my team leader accordingly. To my surprise, he personally went to see the GM *well he’s kinda close with the GM anyway* and GM granted my wish to go to London!! Weehooo~~

So I made the changes and informed my sister’s friend that I will be going there and have 2 nights stay at their crib. Luckily I’m kinda close with all my sister’s friends and that saved me a lot on accommodation! *and they are scattered all over the places, you name it!!* Anyway, to continue from previous post…

On Saturday, we continued our journey to London via train and we went straight to Heathrow Airport to manage our flights back to KL.

Few facts that you have to know about our beloved MALAYSIAN HOSPITALITY airlines:

  • When we knew about the cancellation of our flights, we were not informed or booked for the next available flight automatically.
  • We have to call MAS reservation line to book for our flights again.
  • We were advised to call the country office (London) to get it sorted out but it was to no avail.
  • The London office was CLOSED on weekends, regardless of the emergency situation that we were facing at that time!
  • We then went to Heathrow with the hope that we can communicate directly with MAS Staff at the airport. Guess what? There was NO MAS staff stationed at the airport from Saturday until Tuesday! *not sure of Friday coz we were not there but I think they didn’t have any support staff there on Friday either*
  • We met the Heathrow staff who was taking care of the MAS counter. He obviously could not do anything except giving out numbers for us to call.
  • We had to call KLIA office and were put on the line for more than 30 minutes. I started to queue at no 27, and took almost an hour to get to number 6 before the line dropped!
  • I called them again and started back at no 26!! Bongok la kan!
  • When I managed to talk to the MAS staff @ KLIA office, I was told not to call the London office since all reservations were done in KLIA office. So okay, I managed to confirm our seats on the next available flight, which was scheduled on Wednesday. Note: my phone bill at the moment has exceeded RM1000 ya!! sheeeshhh
  • On Monday, we received an SMS from MAS informing that our flight to KL on Wednesday has been canceled. And then, we all went back to square one again to get another seat for the next available flight. For us traveling in business class, the next available seat they can offer was the following Monday! Holy smoke! Apa nak buat di London lama2?
  • So on Wednesday we went to the MAS counter at Heathrow again, that is when the NATS agreed to lift the restriction to fly through European airspace.
  • As expected, the airport was swamped with stranded travelers, queuing as long as it takes to get out of UK, including us. We queued for more than 2 hours before we can speak to the Heathrow staff. Heathrow staff! Not MAS staff!!
  • The Heathrow staff briefed us that she can only take our reservation number and contact details and she will pass it to the London office for the flight arrangement. AND she also informed us that the KLIA office number is NOT usable and we SHOULD HAVE contacted the London office instead! WTF?
  • I could see my boss lost his patience at that point of time. We were told to call this and that number but none was usable and helpful. It was very disappointing at that time to see our own airlines failed to handle such chaos.
  • After being forced by the crowd, or shall I rephrase… After being scolded by the tired stranded travelers, the MAS staffs finally showed up! Together with its Country Manager, who looked totally blur and acted like nothing massive is happening!! And it’s a mat salleh btw.. what a waste of money to have that kind of person sitting for that position!
  • Anyway, we managed to secure our seats back to KL on Wednesday night itself, though it was only the economy seat. My big boss however was luckier to get a seat in the business class on Thursday flight, all thanks to his Gold Club member or whatever the name is.
  • The 11 hours journey on economy was really a painful one! I always have back problem and sitting there for hours nearly killed me! *ok saya over!* But my big boss told me there were empty seats on business during his flight!! BODOH PUNYA MAS!!!!!!!! *ha kali ni betul2 marah..selama2 kena queue apa tu berjaya sabar lagi.. cisssssssssssssssss*

Okay.. enough on rants. Let’s move on to the happiest part of all! My main mission going to London was just one.. SHOPPING!! Though it was NEVER in my plan to go to London, *let alone shopping!!*, but considering the fact that it’s kinda like one of the lifetime opportunity for me to have a PAID vacation, I spent like there’s no good malls in Malaysia!! Seriously I did not even bother to go for city tour in London! I don’t bloody care about London Bridge, or London Eye and heck, I don’t even know about Big Ben! Haha. Yeah, I hate history and geography. Period. ;p

So on Saturday my sister’s friend fetched me at the Paddington Station *oh yeah, Paddington Bears tuh mmg datang dari Paddington tuh rupanya!*. We went to the Westfield Mall for cuci mata session. Ala2 kick-start gitu kan~ and headed back to Kak Ina’s crib. The next day Kak Ina and hubby decided to bring me to the Clarks Outlet where I bought 4 pairs of shoes!! *hampir pengsan test kasut ya.. serious rambang mata!!* They then took me to the Oxford Street for the ULTIMATE shopping spree! Oh my, I almost lost my sense of logic especially when she took me to Primark. The clothes were so damn cheap BUT with good quality. I bought few pairs of dresses, mainly for work purposes. The highest amount that I paid was just 15 pound. *RM75 for a dress???? NO WAY JOSE!* see, I’m kinda screaming here! Hahaha

Anyway, the rest of the day was mainly filled with shopping. Football merchandises are crazily cheap there. Bought few Man Utd official merchandises for my darlings, cosmetics and fragrances. Oh not to forget, my brand new PINK handbag too! Haha. Since I was stranded for a couple of days more in London, I decided to have a city tour! FINALLY! Luckily I have another friend who is residing in London and she was available on Tuesday to take me out. We walked more than 10km around Central London and I got to see different side of London *other than shopping that is!* Cantik~~

All in all, I am COMPLETELY satisfied and more than happy to be stranded in London. Despite having emotional sickness during the first few days, I can conclude that it was all worth it. The experience, the knowledge, the stuffs that I bought.. and I got to meet my long lost friend too. I’m still thankful to be given this opportunity together with good health. I had nose bled throughout my 10 days stay in UK but it was nothing serious. The weather was just a bit too chilly for me.

Thanks for all the prayers during my stranded days in UK. It was not really a good moment at the beginning but to get back to my home, safe and sound is just the perfect ending for this chapter of my life. I’m happy and blessed to be given the opportunity to visit another beautiful countries. A total blessings in disguise… Mari pergi London lagi ye~~!!

*cheers*

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Volcanic Journal - Edinburgh

"Athens of the North', the capital city of Scotland was more happening and lively compared to Aberdeen. The weather was pleasantly warm and the sun shined so bright that day as if it was welcoming the 4 stranded tourists to explore the town. We first went to the train station to get our ticket sorted out and confirmed our seats on the next day's train. Once done, we went to the tourist information center to get assistance on the hotel. I left it to the big boss to decide and made the bookings while I spent the few minutes at the center browsing thru the souvenirs. Oh yeah, I didn't manage to get any souvenir in Aberdeen since I couldn't find the souvenir shop. We planned to get some memorable Aberdeen's stuff at the airport, which eventually was closed due to the volcanic ash eruption. *sigh..

We checked in to the Parliament House Hotel and left our luggage at the concierge since we were early and the rooms were not ready. We decided to take a walk down to the city center and Edinburgh is just so beautiful and breathtaking. We climbed a few hills up to enjoy the excellent natural vantage points and it was just the perfect panorama for photography. I truly savor the moments I had in Edinburgh and was thankful to be given the opportunity to be stranded there, even just for a day!

We walked quite a distance, which I think we've covered 2/3 of the city by foot! From 1 castle to another that I couldn't even remember of its name. I was too occupied enjoying the breeze, the sun and taking pictures. Though I consider myself as a bad photographer, I just felt happy to be able to capture the different scenes and moments I had in my life. Oh, my team leader, which is a Trinidadian was busy instructing me to strike different pose and he was my photographer too! Seriously, the trip was not just an eye opener for me, but it was a great opportunity to build strong rapport with my bosses. I was just less than 2 weeks working for that department, FYI, when I was requested to join them for the meeting! \o/

Being in Edinburgh was never in our plan, hence I had to carefully manage my spending. The big boss wanted to visit the Edinburgh Castle, the main tourist attraction in Edinburgh. And to my surprise, he paid for my ticket and I was deeply touched and almost hugged him to say thanks? Haha. I called him daddy since that moment coz he was such a good daddy to me throughout the trip! He helped me with the luggage when we had to take the stairs, he paid for some of my meals, the entry ticket to the castle, etc. *Terharu!!! Mana nak cari boss baik camni???*

Anyhow, Edinburgh Castle was spectacular, and the view was amazingly beautiful! It actually sits on top of a volcano! The castle was huge and I didn't even manage to cover the whole castle as I was too tired to continue the climb! The castle has various magnificent panoramas in every direction of the castle. I increased my knowledge in Scots history from the short trip I had around the castle too.

A very memorable journey in Edinburgh........ =) Highly recommended!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Volcanic Journal - Aberdeen

So I boarded the MH016 flight from KLIA to Amsterdam on Monday night. I was on a business trip to Aberdeen with my 2 bosses. We safely arrived Schipol Airport and had to check in for our connecting flight to Aberdeen. The security at Schipol was rather strict. I was asked to remove every metal on me including my belt. I witnessed a lady who was asked to take off her boots, was thoroughly checked by the security up to her breast. It looked like she was being examined for breast cancer! I salute their security system, though it could be a pain in the ass to those who were checked inside out!

I didn't have much time to shop for souvenirs at Amsterdam. We were basically there to check in to the KLM airlines and walked (almost run) to our departure gate. I remembered clearly when my sister advised me of the same situation she had when she was there, with a stroller! Journey to Aberdeen was fine. We had fresh strawberry with raspberry sauce for our breakfast. It was so fresh and tasted differently from our local strawberry. Must be the weather! ;P

We safely touched down at Aberdeen Airport on Tuesday morning and the wind was quite strong. I was in my sweater with only a layer of clothe wrapping me, so you can figure out how shivering I was at that time. I had my big bulky thick winter jacket in my luggage but I thought I was doing okay for not wearing it. We went to our hotel, which had a road construction along the street and taxis had to drop us off quite a distance from the entrance. Aberdeen is known as the Granite City, meaning it is full with granites, from the building down to their roads. Imagine I had to carry my luggage on the granite road where I had few hurdles and damn, it was difficult to walk and drag your luggage on the granites! I totally hate them! It hurts my feet...

Nevertheless, I started my journey in the Granite City later that day. It was a gloomy city. All building are made of granite and they are all in gray. The shape of the buildings are all the same and it was just not an exciting city to be at. The weather was awfully cold with temperature ranged from as low as 1 degree C to 8 degree C the highest. I was heavier by few pounds from 3 layers of clothes, gloves, hat and muffler.

We had our 2 days meeting with one of our partners there. On Thursday morning, when we were having breakfast, my boss told me the airport was closed due to volcanic ash. I thought he was joking as we were supposed to fly to London the next morning. Checked the BBC and the whole team panicked and started calling the airlines to see if we can still take the flight to London. All of us were scheduled to go to London and 2 of them were supposed to depart to KL in the afternoon. I took an extended transit in London and was scheduled to return home on Sunday night.

Later that night we were informed that our flight has been canceled and we immediately booked ourselves the first class ticket on EuroStar train to go to London. To our surprise, the train system in Europe works differently from ours. We had to purchase the ticket and make the seat reservation separately! So, we ended up having the first class standing ticket for our 7 hours journey to London! Fret not, we did not stand up that long. We temporarily took the seats that were reserved for travelers in Edinburgh and we decided to stop at Edinburgh and had a night there. We settled our ticket and managed to secure our seats to continue our journey to London the next day. The train station in both Aberdeen and Edinburgh were full with people who were trying to get themselves out from Scotland. It was chaotic and I for once felt so scared of the situation that might be worse in the next few days...