Today is an important day as I’m organising a diving slideshow and it has been some time since I last spoke in public… all be fine! For those of you who are not in Kraków and are not able to make it, I will post a summary with videos coming Sunday. In the meantime I will share some cool public transportation stories. Yes, public transport can also be exciting 😀
Do you recall old, rickety busses from backpacker movies? They do exist. When my bestie PRS and I wanted to get from Bali to Mount Bromo on Java Island in Indonesia we bought the cheapest evening bus ticket from Bali to Probolingo. We took cheap busses before but what we saw in this one exceeded our imagination about a cheap bus. It’s a miracle that we made it for the evening bus in the first place as we were very busy sightseeing. On the way back to the city, we got lost… happens. As soon as we entered the bus something seemed odd. The floor was wooden and at the back of the bus were cages with chickens… hmmm interesting. There was no glass in the bus windows and the seats were somehow uncomfortable. Well, budget travel is budget travel, don’t expect luxuries. As soon as the bus started, 50% of passengers lit their cigarettes, so did I! You might wonder, where did the butts go? On the wooden floor. Nothing unusual, just another day in Asia 😀
The first part of the journey was quite pleasant as we needed to reach the Bali ferry station to get to Java Island. Point is that all passengers need to leave the bus and embark the ferry… PRS and I embarked on the wrong ferry, which we didn’t know at that time. On board we were so thrilled eating rambutans, mangosteens and discussing what we gonna do in Probolingo. Guess how big our surprise was when after disembarking the ferry we didn’t see our bus. As usual, no panic! Although we must have looked really lost and terrified as some locals asked us if everything was OK.
We said that we didn’t see our bus and that it probably left without us. The nice ladies asked us to sit down on the kerb and wait. You won’t believe it, but after 15 or 20 min our bus arrived. Accompanied by the giggles of other passengers we got in and found our old places. It turned out that we somehow embarked the earlier ferry to the other shore than the remaining passengers from our bus. If that’s not enough, the second part of the journey wasn’t as pleasant as the first one. The bus was going fast and as there was no glass in the windows the air was blowing at us with light speed. It means no chat as it was loud and no sleep at all. Have no idea how we survived this. We reached Proboling at around 4 or 5 am completely exhausted and took a rickshaw to the place we were staying. God… a ride from hell you might think. Nope! That was one of those rides which you never forget and with time can even laugh at it.
Train from Beijing to Nanjing
Beijing, six days before Chinese New Year, minus ten degrees, ice cold wind and two not so fragile girls queuing at the ticket office on the train station. Those two girls were PRS and me. The cold got into our bones after like one and half hours waiting and trying to buy train tickets to Xi’an. There were no tickets to Xi’an for the 27th, 28th and 29th of Jan. There were also no tickets to Nanjing for the 27th and 28th Jan BUT there were places available in the 3rd class for the 29th of Jan to Nanjing… not thinking much we bought them. AND WHAT HAPPENED? We missed the train by 5 seconds… Did I mention that the trains in China are very punctual? Luckily PRS speaks Mandarin and she managed, not sure how, to rebook the tickets for the same day, same direction, for three hours later. The train ride was supposed to take around 13 hours but after reaching Nanjing it felt like 30 hours. It was a double-decker regular train, so not a comfortable bullet train, hey ho during Chinese New Year you get what you can. The seat was perpendicular to the back, there was not much space for legs and the train was packed… literally full of people. The first thing I said to PRS after the train started moving was – hmmm wonder if I can smoke somewhere here. My question was answered after I went to the loo. People were smoking in the passages between compartments. OK, again do as the locals do. At least I could smoke, that made the ride more enjoyable. I’m not sure if I could survive a ride in very uncomfortable circumstances without a cigarette. After five hours PRS and I tried to get some sleep. Nope that didn’t happen as our backs were numb from the hard 90-degree gradient seats. Another five hours later I said to PRS – mate we have three more hours to go. I’ll organise some black plastic bags to put on the stairs, so that our booties don’t get dirty and let’s just sit there as the stairs are more comfortable than the seats. So we did! For the remaining three hours we were playing word games to keep ourselves entertained. After reaching Nanjing we literally rolled out of the train exhausted as hell. The only thing we could think of was getting to our hotel, go to bed and finally have some sleep. On top of that we reached Nanjing on the 30th Jan, my birthday. I did say something like – what a crappy birthday, back home I would be celebrating with wine and cake. Instead, I’m tired and annoyed. Ahhhhh sometimes I can’t keep my mouth shut. Shouldn’t have said that as that made PRS feel bad. Luckily, after getting some sleep we went for a walk around the town and had a really good dinner… two buckets of fish soup, oh yeah! PRS if you are reading this, you know that I’m an idiot sometimes and I love you to bits 😉
Business Class? Yes please!
Bangkok, the final destination after my Borneo diving adventure. Reached Suvarnabhumi airport one hour and 40 minutes before departure. Enough time to check in, do some duty-free shopping, have a smoke and board the plane. At least that’s what I thought. I was flying Aeroflot and it turned out that there is no dedicated check in counter to each flight, only four counters for ALL Aeroflot flights. The queue was incredibly long, but I politely walked to the end of it thinking, well I arrived in time at the airport for the check in so they have to let me on board. After around 20 minutes a lady showed up holding a banner with “Aeroflot Europe” written on it. Though, OK… I’m flying to Warsaw, which definitely is in Europe. I approached the lady saying where I’m flying to, and she told me to pass the long queue and go straight to one of the counters. Fine, so I did. At the counter I asked for an aisle seat. All good, got the boarding pass together with the preferred seat – it was 10B or something like that.
The security and passport check took a bit longer than expected so when I was in the duty-free area, I didn’t have much time left. Quickly bought the fragrance I was looking for, some sweets and went to the closest smoking room. Come on a 10-hour flight, I needed to have a ciggie before.
Time got tight so I ran as quickly as possible to the gate, which was at the very end of the terminal. Other passengers were already boarding so I rushed on board. When passing the business class area though, mannnnnn how I wish to fly business class one day. Anyhow, I was looking for my seat, only why did the economy class seat numbers start with 20A… hmmm odd. After reaching nearly the end of the aircraft, I couldn’t find 10B and asked one of the flight attendants – Excuse me Mam, where is 10B? The reply shocked me – over there in business class. Aha… OK… nice! My smile got as big as the smile of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. Walked back to the business class area and felt like a million dollars, despite the hippie outfit that I was wearing. Ohhh it was amazing, champagne as a welcome drink, a seat that was fully convertible and the food. I was very much surprised with the service. A white tablecloth, nice cutlery, crystal glasses and a five-course dinner 😀 It started with hot appetisers, continued over salad, soup, main course to desert and coffee with chocolates at the end. What a fantastic surprise at the end of a fantastic trip. Eventually I figured out how it happened that I got upgraded to business class. The plane that was supposed to fly originally to Warsaw had a fault, so the company organised an alternative aircraft which was smaller than the original one. That means there were too many passengers than the economy class seats, and some were upgraded to business for free. Lucky me I would say 😀 Amazing experience, I have to admit, sadly a free upgrade never happened to me after.
Using public transportation is inevitable one way or another when you are on the road. Sometimes rides from hell turn out to be one of the best experiences ever. Another time extremely exhausting but after time you are able to laugh about it. Finally sometimes the universe sends you a surprise in form of a free business class upgrade 😀 Having said all that, don’t shy away from using public transport while on the road, it leads to cool adventures.