Today is a day of travel. We are repacking our backpacks and the three-bedroom accommodation we have planted ourselves in for the introduction of our year long journey, and will board a flight at 5:45pm this afternoon headed for Cochin located in southern India. In one way we don’t want to leave, but in another we are keen for the real adventure to begin.
Prior to leaving Australia, I had often joked with my work colleague and family members that I had booked in a breakdown in Langkawi Island. I thought it would be the place where the pace of life would suddenly drop off the side of the cliff, an instant fall from the great heights (and stress) of work-home and the transition from one world into another: our regular routine family life in Australia to a new and unfamiliar life of backpacking. I’m pleased to inform everyone that it didn’t happen. I feel like I have slipped into the world of the backpacker easier than anticipated, with the stress of packing up our entire family home in time for it to be rented out a week prior to take-off, continue working full time up until departure (note: not a good idea if we ever did this again!), rehoming our pets for the entire year with new families (2 dogs, 1 unfriendly cat and 2 budgies), organising all the documents and credit cards needed on the road, and packing for 6 people (7kg each of carry-on luggage only plus #onepinksuitcase that had to come along at the 11th hour – see ground zero/day #0 blog post for details on that fiasco!). But we did it, albeit not as smooth sailing as we first thought, but we did it without me or Steve going mad in Langkawi Island.
Departing Langkawi Island wouldn’t be right if we didn’t go for one last time to our favourite little café The Breakfast Bar. Our final order of delicious Island Pancakes, fried eggs on toast, and lime juice. They know our order off by heart now (well almost). We will all miss this little gem of a place that we feel right at home at. And we are pleased to note that for our final brunch, they got the number of cutlery right for the six of us (previous visits we received just 3 or 4 or 5 cutlery, but today it was spot on!).
We waited at the Adina Motel in their more than icy cold air conditioned front reception office for a bit, talking with Sofea (the Hotel owner and manager) about the motel and taking some pics together and being on the last of the wifi. We had some time to wait between checkout and taxi to the airport, so we relocated to Starbucks to get some better internet and try and look for accommodation in Goa (our second place we will visit in India and where we will celebrate the New Year). We’ve left it to the last minute in peak season so there’s really not much left for 6 people to stay in Goa on the beach but we’ll keep looking. Just getting a train into Goa is proving difficult and we are still on a train wait list (WL) at 93. Not good.
We caught a taxi cab to the airport and the driver was lovely, sharing bits of his life and information about the island and its population. Langkawi has been a real surprise to us. We would love to stay longer, but all we can say now is that we will be back one day.
The Carry-On luggage drama
The carry-on luggage idea and current situation we find ourselves in really hasn’t worked all that well. I’ll confess, it was my idea to try it our – each of us takes only carry-on luggage for the whole year (that’s 7kg each folks). It has made up carry less around, but it is quite tricky getting the correct weight for airlines. Our #onepinksuitcase is still in operation, carrying around 10kg of Year 11 & 12 text books! The rest of it is toiletries, shoes, and my clothes. I am carrying on board my camera case with all my camera stuff in it – 4 lenses, camera and chargers. If I had my time again, the packing of carry-on only really needs to be thought out a lot more. I think the suitcase has about 4kg just in its frame alone which is not helping one iota. Loving the wheels, but we are paying heavily for its weight.
Air Asia in Langkawi has a new system (great) of scanning the suitcase for dangerous items, then placing a small sticker placed across the zip area. If we opened the zip after this process had occurred (which we did) we had to rescan the suitcase again and go through the process again. Then we had issues with the weight of the #onepinksuitcase. It now weighed in at 27 kg! Holy moly! Their new system didn’t allow any bag over 20kg to progress to the next stage of check-in if over 20kg (Australia had let us in with just over 20kg).
Let’s just say it was more than a little tense on the ground at Langkawi Airport between me and Steve. We weighed the books separately, we weighed the clothes, we weighed everything and tried to make it spot on 20kg. We placed #onepinksuitcase for the fourth time on the scales – 19.9kg! Woo-hoo! Okay we were carrying some extra things, and our hand luggage just grew a little bit too. But we checked in and all good. My patience at the time fell apart and I recall that I kept saying, “this just doesn’t work” and “I’m not doing this again”… anyway we pulled it off. Now with all our carry-on luggage definitely weighing more than 7kg (easily) we started stressing about getting on board the flight itself…and what could we discard if it came down to that?
As it turned out our carry-on luggage wasn’t weighed, but in the end the light was delayed. The flight coming had been delayed and then after being told to line up for boarding, we were told to find seats as the captain was uncertain about the stormy weather in KL. By this time there were no spare seats remaining at the small Langkawi Airport and just like our hand luggage, the little airport bulged with people. The passengers for the next flight to KL had arrived and the little dusty Langkawi airport gate area swelled with people. Food was sold out at the café and massage chairs were in constant use. We all sat on the floor. We started worrying about our connecting flight to Cochi now. Steve had given a 2-hour leeway between flights but with this delay we were now cutting it very close.
Finally on board with a stormy sky looming above, we departed Malaysia heading for the new country of India via a quick stop off at KL to change flights. Note 1: we are not going to try and fit everyone’s carry-on luggage on board! Note 2: we are not going to pre-order any food from Air Asia – it was just terrible. And just when I needed a drink to calm the nerves, this particular 4-hour Air Asia flight was an alcoholic free flight. Just great, thanks Air Asia!
We landed knowing we had limited time to get to our next gate so we had to rush. I felt like we were on the set of The Amazing Race! We ran to our gate via the international transfer section, amalgamating with the flock of passengers boarding the aircraft. We were lucky to have not missed that flight. We can laugh now; more fun and games to come I’m sure. Reminded me a lot of what the Griswold Family would be doing on their vacation to India! Maybe we need a Reality TV channel of our own!
I slept a bit on the flight as did the others. We ended up purchasing corn chips and salsa for the kids which they enjoyed. The time difference set us another 2.5 hours behind Langkawi time so the kids were tired in an instant, and we knew we had more hoops to jump through on Indian ground with getting a pre-paid cab to our accommodation which was about an hour away from the Cochin International Airport and trying to get Indian currency, the Rupee, in our wallets after the demonetisation of their currency. The luggage arrived quickly off the plane, and we got through customs, lined up for cash from Thomas Cook – exchange rate not great 1:44 but we had elusive Rupee in hand.
Each passport was allowed $100 to be exchanged so Steve, Charlie and I cashed in $100 each. Then we lined up for a pre-paid taxi received a registration number and walked out into the balmy Indian night at about midnight. Welcome to India – the hordes of Indians standing behind the steel rail gates separating passenger from onlooker. It was all too familiar for me with my arrival in December 2014 to New Delhi and being greeted by the Indian crowd but not being picked up by my accommodation. Shivers ran down my spine, but I looked around and was happy I had my family – the six backpacks with me this time round.
And with a pre-paid taxi ticket in our hand we felt more assured that we would not get ripped off. We waited and found the car and driver, stacked the bags into the boot area and clambered tiredly into the back of the car to our accommodation in Old Cochi (which can also be spelt Kochi but it’s the same place). It was a busy night of traffic on the streets; roadworks taking place so the usual road blocks occurred with plenty of beeps and pushing in.
The driver could not find our accommodation so he called the manager of the hostel a couple of times for directions. And then there it was a sign with the words ‘Rampart Homestay’ and a happy face of a manager standing out front who had walked out to greet us at 1am local time. We were so very tired. Both Billie and Dacey slept in the taxi, Charlie tried to but couldn’t get comfy and I nodded off a couple of times with my head wobbling from side to side. Steve slept in the front seat (he had a lovely head rest in the chair) but fell down a hole in the broken concrete on the footpath and managed to walk away with only minor scratches. Phew.
We walked down a narrow laneway single file with bags on our backs. The homestay was located off the main street which was good, and up three flights of stairs, hauling backpacks and #onepinksuitcase and entered a new space we would call home for our 4-night stay in Cochi – a hostel room with bunk beds sleeping 6 people. Perfect for us. We slept like babies that night, with the intermittent stopping of the air conditioner due to the power cutting out.
After we climbed the narrow stairs of Rampart Homestay with our bags and #onepinksuitcase and entered our dorm room just after 1am that contained 3 bunk beds, a filing cabinet, an air conditioner (please turn that thing on now!) and a separate bathroom. It was a lot smaller than our previous accommodation in Langkawi but nothing we couldn’t get used to. Everything already seemed to be on a smaller scale for the six of us in India – taxis, rooms, streets. There was no more spreading out. All the passports and check in stuff would be done tomorrow after we slept, but for now we were here and we needed to get our heads onto pillows.
Welcome to India.