Published: November 9th 2011November 3rd 2011
It’s been a while since my last blog, mostly because I didn’t think I had anything that interesting to talk about. Now I think I do, because I’m in Africa. It’s always been my dream to come here but I never thought it would happen, and now it has. The journey even getting here was pretty interesting so I’ll start there.
Because of the flood situation in Bangkok we got moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for about 5 days until things settled down. It’s quite interesting watching all of the news coverage, especially CNN because while it was somewhat accurate a lot of it was completely wrong. The flooding in northern Thailand was, and still is, very bad. Hundreds of people died and many more had their entire houses destroyed. The water was meters deep in places and it even crept up on Bangkok. Bangkok has quite a complex system of small dams and canals and what the government did was completely block the water from entering the city. The problem is the water had to go somewhere eventually so what they finally decided to do is allow it to flow into the city, somewhat controlled. Some of the outlying
areas of Bangkok were severely affected especially to the north, and even the old airport, which served as an emergency response center, got flooded and they had to move out. The problem with the media coverage was that they made it sound like the entire city was neck deep in water. The central area of Bangkok was never affected at all and neither was the main airport, which services most of the domestic flights and all of the international flights. Now, the people in the outlying areas weren’t too happy with the government’s decision to basically spare the city center and there were even some instances where the army had to be called in to prevent people from sabotaging some of the dams that were set up. The big problem now will be the issue of disease and bacteria from all of the standing water so let’s hope it doesn’t get that bad. There is still a chance that the Bangkok city centre will be affected but for now, it's dry.
I booked my flight on Egyptian Airlines which flew from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, then to Cairo and then on to Accra, Ghana. It was the cheapest option
but I was a little worried because some of the online reviews weren’t that good, but it ended up being a pretty good airline. The one thing that did confuse me a little was some of the security procedures, especially at the Bangkok airport. When I checked in at Kuala Lumpur airport, I passed through immigration outbound and then airport security. Once I was at the gate I checked in and passed through the same type of security again. The flight from KL to BKK was only about 2 hours and most of the passengers were only in transit to Cairo so we didn’t have to clear immigration or customs. We did, however, have to exit the aircraft so they could clean it, I assumed, so we were told to take our passport, boarding pass, and money in case we wanted to buy anything. When I got off the aircraft I was in the controlled area where everyone had already cleared airport security. They told us to walk a fair ways to the transit area and re-board at the same gate, but a level higher. Here I had to go through security AGAIN and it was the full meal deal.
Shoes off, belt off, bags through the x-ray, metal detector and then I had to stand in the machine that gave me a full body scan. Now get this – after the full body scan there was somebody there to wand all of the passengers and give everyone a full body pat down. What do you possibly expect to find after someone has already gone through a metal detector, a MACHINE that sees right through your clothes, two security checks at another airport, and already being in a secure area? The Thais certainly do things a little differently.
The actual Egypt Air plane was very nice and looked quite new. The seats were nice and big, fully automatic and could be moved into whatever configuration you wanted, as far as reclining to relax or to sleep. The entertainment system was very modern and had a few good movies to choose from, and the staff were all very friendly. The food was amazing and I had to learn to pace myself on this airline. Every meal started off with something light and on the first leg they served marinated shrimp, buns, fruit, some type of sweet bread and juice. I
thought this was the main course but then they came around with more plates and I had a choice of either beef or chicken. I took the beef and it was an amazing steak, especially for airplane food. The only thing I had to get used to was the alcohol – DRY AIRLINE. So, if you want to fly business class and drink your face off don’t go with Egypt Air.
Business class was only about a quarter full so there were lots of empty seats, but there was an elderly gentleman beside me with his wife. I noticed right away that everyone was coming up to him, shaking his hand, kissing him on the cheek and when I say everybody I mean EVERYBODY. Even all of the pilots came back to talk to him for a while. I started talking to an Egyptian guy beside me about all of the crazy security and I asked him, “Who’s the guy beside me that everyone keeps talking to?” He leaned in smiling and said, “He’s one of the government opposition leaders and could possibly be the next President, so everyone is paying their respects because he’s well liked.” I still
don’t know his name but I’ll do some googling later and try to recognize a photo.
The one thing that was very entertaining was the difference in airline safety on board. In North America I’m used to flight attendants telling me to move my seat back up if it’s a reclined a quarter of an inch, but on Egyptian Airlines it ‘s a little different. Would you like to leave your seat belt unbuckled during take off and landing? No problem, they don’t even come around and inspect it very closely. How about leaving your seat back reclined a little bit during landing? No problem, I saw some people were fully reclined back and sleeping while the plane landed. Can you use your cell phone while the plane taxis into the gate? Don’t worry about it, I saw all of the flight attendants turning their phones and texting, even before we landed. The best part was the smoking on board because this would be an international incident at home. On the flight from Cairo to Accra I thought I could smell smoke coming from the bathroom about an hour into the flight. At first I thought I was mistaken,
because there's no way the crew would let someone do that. A couple hours later I smelled it again so I got up and used it right after someone left and sure enough, someone had been smoking in there. About an hour before we landed I saw the captain use the bathroom and so I went in right after him and what do I smell – cigarette smoke. The Egyptian Airlines captain, the guy in charge of the plane, was smoking in the bathroom. Hilarious.
That’s it for this blog, in the next ones I’ll give details on Ghana itself and the other countries I ended up visiting. Attached are photos of Cairo and Ghana I took from the plane.
There are more photos below