dimanche 9 avril 2017

THE HOMELESS MAN IN SEAT 1K

It as my good friend Jim Kerr who visiting me in Miami, pondered at my life and said"
You are truly homeless but you are Upper Class.
So this is the snippet of the life of a Homeless but Upper Class man, in fact for the past six days..
For a Homeless man, I do get to stay at some nice places, the above is the view from the house of my sister in Miami.
Early Monday morning I left Miami to connect with my flight in New York.
My favourite airline is Qatar Airways and I go out of the way to fly them
But today my destination was Singapore via Doha and it is the right choice. 

I know that they keep the first row empty until last, so I request my favourite seat 1k at the airport and today I got it once again.
Before the flight leaves the gate, QR Qatar Airways has a short video of a prayer for safe journey. I kind of like it, as American Indians before going on a journey, say a prayer.
Qatar Airways have strict policies about its workers at all levels fraternizing with the passengers outside the work situation: Flight or Lounge in my case, but without fail I have wonderful conversations with the Flight Attendant assigned to me. This time it was no exception, it was Zorica from Serbia and of course even before the flight took off and she was pouring me a flute of Billcart-Salmon, we were talking about Ivo Andric and the Bridge over River Drina.
The flight was 12 hours in duration but I did enjoy it and did not feel any sort of fatigue when I transferred to the flight to Singapore.
this glass was a toast to Lulu, a margaux from her province

Once again I was given seat 1 K and as expected the first row had been kept empty. Many of the passengers were connecting from the JFK to Doha flight, but pleasantries among the passengers were at a minimum
The flight to Singapore was less remarkable. The all asian crew was efficient but not warm like the JFK-DOH crew and I have noticed it, In fact you could compare the crew to Singapore to the flight crew in the US based airlines, efficient and not so friendly.
More food followed and I cannot drink when the stomach and the mind are not in sync about the time but Karak Cardamon Tea was always welcome


Since 2002 when I began traveling to SE Asia I have been in these parts countless number of times, this is my second journey to asia in 2017 and was here with my brother in November 2016. Was here with my Omaha friends in June 2016, it has averaged about five trips per year! My homeless homes are always the same  Double Tree Hotel in KL, Hotel Equatorial in Malacca, Beyond Yangon in Siem Reap, Double Tree Hotel in Johor Bahru and in Fort Cochin, Bristow Bungalow and Niyati Boutique Hotel.
So arriving a Singapore airport no longer has that exotic feeling as I know my way around and I had a wonderful experience with Uber driver Ang which I had chronicled elsewhere.
 Johor Bahru Double Tree by Hilton is fairly new and learning by experience. They have a smaller Executive Lounge and it was manned by Sashi when I was there who was very attentive and welcomed me with a Capuccino in hand as I had told him earlier that I liked Capuccino

 They had a nice set up, a large selection of baked goods, a couple of Asian selections and the obligatory, baked beans, sausages, fried potatos for the European palate. I wanted to taste the Congee and also the Nasi Lemak so I prepared two small portions of the above, downed with two Capuccinos made by Sashi.
The view from Executive Lounge while looking at it while having breakfast was pleasant.
I took the bus, in Malaysia transport within cities is excellent, and the bus run by Crossway Link was a double storey bus with hardly anyone traveling in it, so it felt like the Business Class or shall I humbly say Upper Class. The journey took nearly 4 1/2 hours, along the highway with palm plantations breaking up recent urban growth but it is definitely a good way to travel within Malaysia, and only slightly longer a journey had I flown, since both the airports at Johor Bahru as well as Kuala Lumpur are far far away fro the city centre.
Was welcomed very warmly at the Executive Lounge of the Double Tree Hotel in Jalan Ampang in Kuala Lumpur. they had already assigned me a nice room in the Executive floor which was conveniently around the corner from the Executive Lounge
 Buffet breakfast was served at the Executive Lounge and usualy I chose the Asian offerings, such as chineese noodles or Nasi Lemak 

 Atty the manager at the Executive Lounge had already allotted me a nice room 3408 and I was very happy wtih it. What I appreciated most from the staff and Atty was how genuinely friendly they were, Dat, Hafiz, Shahril, Zhi, Maria among them.
I always chose to sit by the window whether having breakfast or happy hour glass of wine, this view was always soothing
Once I reached Kuala Lumpur the fatigue of the long trip from Miami hit me and I did not go sight seeing but limited my activities around the hotel , KLCC the mega twin towers with all amenities was just a short walk away. I would stop at the Buddhist temple and offer a prayer , begging protection for those who need protection.
The food court at KLCC is not something you could compare to the food courts at malls or shopping centres in the USA..some of the food served at the food court is restaurant quality and i enjoyed eating there twice.
 Saravana Bhavan Vegetarian as well as Hameed's Indian food are side by side in the food court
 I enjoyed a vegetarian meal from Saravana Bhavan and satisfied my yearning for a Masala Dosai 
 The humble but ubiquitous Teh Tahrek is of South Indian origin but very popular in Malaysia and Singapore brought over by the indentured labourers and contract workers from the 20th century.
It was a short stay and it was time to say good bye, knowing fully well that I would be back here at this very same hotel in the near future. such is the life of a Homeless Man

On arrival Malaysia gives me a human gift and on departure one as well in the name of Nik Mohammed,

KL is notorious for its traffic and Nik M drove me to the airport and we had a nice conversation about life in Malaysia for him and his professional life and the time he worked at Renaissance Hotel and met Raul Castro (will write a later blog about it )
The journey to Cochin via Colombo was nothing exceptional. The Sri Lankan Airways Airbus 321 was spacious and once again no one was sitting next to me. Earlier I had been admitted to the first class lounge of the Malaysian airlines at KLIA by a lovely receptionist Miss F and when I mentioned Nasi Lemak I was escorted to the Restaurant in the lounge and served Nasi Lemak and Teh Tahrek. a nice gesture of good bye from Malaysia

First Class Lounge Restaurant and Nasi Lemak 
 A ceylonese curry meal at the Serendiva Lounge at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo SriLanka
 Image of Buddha is soothing to the soul so this giant statue at the Transit lounge allowed for a little reflection and a prayer 
 Of the four lounges at BIA, Serendiva is not the best but I was surprised to see Champagne on offer and a wide variety of buffet food and drinks

The arrival at Cochin International Airport was congenial, efficient and rapid. The flight from Colombo was full of weary eyed Indian travellers from the Gulf countries who use this route as they might be cheaper than Qatar or Etihad or Emirates.
The anxiety on their faces, their poor people who might have been away for months or years from home, in their newly pressed and often ill fitting clothes, they transmitted their anxiety to the ambiance of the waiting room where impatience and lack of manners were the order of the day
I was surprised how efficient it has become to enter India, I remember the times when beauracratic scrutiny unnecessarily delayed you and a curious customs officer presiding momentarily over your suitcase with a stern exhibition of his momentary power. all that has changed, India is no longer the poorest country it used to be, kerala is far better off than other parts of India (I am told as I dont travel to any other place than Cochin in India)
Within minutes of calling the Uber driver arrived, language was a problem but he navigated through the saturday afternoon traffic and arrived at the Niyati Boutique hotel in one hour and thirty minutes and the Uber fare was an amazingly low 15 usd.
The welcome from Niyati from the owner J was as expected, warm and accomodating and we caught up with the news during my absence of six months from this place, the last two visits to Fort Cochin I had stayed at the Bristow Bungalow.
 crossing the backwaters on my way to fort cochin
 a lovely meal at THE TALK OF THE TOWN of Chef Bensal  Nadan fish Curry and Paratta
 My room was ready for me at NIYATI BOUTIQUE hotel at Fort Cochin
 This land is verdant and lush and driving through it is pleasing to the eye
The Homeless man has arrived at yet another of his homes  this time Niyati Boutique Hotel in Fort Cochin in Kerala India five days after leaving another home in Miami (my sisters), transitin through the skies in my home in the sky (seat 1K of Qatar Airways), home at Double Tree at Hilton in Kuala Lumpur, then to this one..
Tomorrow night is the celebration of Pesach the jewish peoples rememberances of Freedom from slavery in Egypt 3300 years ago, it is highly symbolic I am here in Fort Cochin which once had a flourishing jewish community and the last Jew of Cochin Elias Babu is a good friend of mine and of course all of us are on some journey or other, metaphorically we still celebrate that difficult journey 3300 years ago. Whilst seat 1 K is not as arduous as Sinai desert, it is highly significant of the history of our people, we were without a home for 2000 years and now we have a home, the state of Israel, which we will defend to the end, regardless of naysayers and other Pharaohs who wish us harm
Some of your journeys have been cut short for various reasons, personal ones i can understand but I really feel sad when some people are not allowed to partiipate in the journey they had been allotted, by ill meaning people who control their fates.
So on this very hot day in Fort Cochin where I had escaped to the air conditioned room in Niyati Boutique, my thoughts are with those whose wings have been cut and whose aspirations have been stifled. I wish all of you a seat 1 K in life..