We cleared the immigration and took a shuttle bus to the satellite terminal. By the way, KLIA’s aerotrain is down for maintenance until early 2011. So if you are travelling overseas soon, be prepared for a short bus ride from the main terminal (where you clear your passport) to the satellite terminal (where your plane awaits).
Since we had a couple of hours to waste, we headed to Starbucks, grabbed some drinks and enjoyed the free internet service (during which I managed to reply to several of your guesses on where I was heading :-D). Then we hopped onto the plane and went to our separate seats.
I sat between two guys. To my left was a Mainland Chinese guy and to my right was a South American guy. It was way past midnight so I was really sleepy. The moment the plane took off I put on my sleep mask and dozed off.
Not long after, I was awaken by a loud conversation between the two guys sitting next to me. The guy on my left asked in heavily-Chinese-accented Spanish how to use the remote control to select movies. The guy on my right told him in Formula-1-speed Spanish which button to press. I was no longer able to get anymore sleep, ugh! Took off my mask and asked the guy on my right if he wanted to sit with his friend. He said that the guy wasn’t his friend, he was just helping him out with the remote control.
He then introduced himself as John and he was on his way home to Columbia from Japan. ‘‘What were you doing in Japan?’’ I asked him. ‘‘You know what, I’m going to be completely honest with you,’’ he said. ‘‘Okay...’’ I replied, puzzled. He continued, ‘‘I was in jail.’’
Jail?! I was immediately thrown into alarm mode. My feet quickly reached for my handbag that I put underneath the front seat. While plastering a huge (read: fake) smile across my face, I used my right foot to wrap the strap aroud my left foot, then I squeezed the bag tightly between my ankles.
‘‘Why?’’ I asked him, obviously I wanted to know what got him slammed behind bars in a country as lovely as Japan. He told me that he and his friends got drunk, went for a joyride and crashed the car. The Japanese police arrested them and ordered them to do blood test. Guess what, in addition to being drunk, they also took ecstacy. Drink + drive + drug = Accident -> Jail!
Yes, all of them were sentenced to Japanese prison for five years. During the term, they were kind of “brainwashed”. In Japan, the prison’s approach was ‘‘correcting“ not ‘‘punishing’’. Prisoners were instilled with good habits and positive attitudes day after day. It was like they took out your brain, clean it piece by piece, put each piece together in the right places and then returned the brain into your skull in one perfect puzzle. ‘‘I’m coming home a completely different man, a more positive man,’’ said John happily.
We continued talking until the cabin crew served us late night meal. I asked if he didn’t mind swapping seats with Fiza so she could sit next to me. “I don’t mind,” he said, “but I like sitting with you, so I will ask the other guy if he wants to move.”
John then attempted to talk the Chinese guy to my left about swapping seats. The guy spoke zero English, while his Spanish sounded more like Jackie Chan’s Hollywood movie (he pronounced “ahora” as “ahola”). John couldn’t figure out a word of what the Chinese guy was saying, so in the end he said it was okay, he would swap seats with Fiza. I quickly thanked him and called Fiza to come and sit next to me. Yeay!
I spent the rest of the flight sleeping and sometimes talking to the Chinese guy. Yes, unlike John, I could understand his heavily-Chinese-accented Spanish ;-) I guess growing up in Malaysia trained my ears to be flexible towards different accents.
The Chinese guy told me that he was originally from Beijing and he had lived in Argentina for 12 years. It was his first homecoming since he migrated. After spending some time with his relatives, he was heading back to Argentina with his wife and two kids. He didn’t know much about Buenos Aires as he lived in a different province, so he wasn’t able to tell me much about the city.
Talking to him made me feel really good about myself, because I was able to strike a decent conversation in Spanish. It was like a warming up session before I start speaking with native Spanish speakers upon reaching Buenos Aires. Those classes that I took every Saturday for the past two years did worth it, yeay!
After 11 hours and 40 minutes in the plane, we arrive in Cape Town for a transit. We had the option to stay in the plane for the next 1.5 hours or get out. We opted to get out to find money changer and buy some Argentinian pesos. Interestingly, the money changer at Cape Town Airport didn’t have Argentinian pesos either, therefore we had to wait till we reach Buenos Aires to get them.
The transit passes that allowed us a toilet break with plenty water supply ;-)
We then hopped back onto the plane for another 8 hours and 50 minutes flight to Buenos Aires. Finally, at 12:20pm Argentinian time, we arrived at Ministro Pistarini Airport a.k.a. Ezeiza Airport, after 22 hours of flying on a jet plane! Whoa!
My first thoughts upon setting my feet in Buenos Aires:
- Ezeiza Airport looked like the old Subang Airport during my childhood, maybe worse.
- The midday weather was just as hot as KL.
- Other than the crew, I only saw 2 other Malaysian passengers and they were MAS staff’s family members.
We cleared the immigration and headed to the luggage area. There was a money changer there so we finally got to buy Argentinian pesos. We wanted buy Uruguayan pesos too but the staff said they only handled Argentinian pesos there. For other currencies we had to go another money changer outside the arrival hall.
We collected our bags and got out of the arrival hall. We found the other money changer but the queue was incredibly long, so we decided to forgo the idea. So we proceeded to Taxi Ezeiza’s booth and got a cab to city centre for ARS 150. It was the first payment I made using the currency as they didn’t accept credit card.
The lady behind the counter told us to wait right there for the driver. Soon he came to greet us and took us to his cab. It was a really tiny car for a tall and stocky cab driver (imagine The Rock driving a MyVi) and guess what, it didn’t have aircond! The driver rolled down the windows for us to get some hot midday air and we headed to our hotel in the city centre, which was 45 minutes away.
We reached the hotel, checked-in, showered and went to bed. Too tired and jet-lagged to do anything. Nighty night, city exploration had to wait for tomorrow ;-)
P.P.S.: Fine, I’ve put up one lonely pic for you to see :-D