We caught a cab to Penang airport and flew to Kuala Lumpur airport, where we had a few hours to wait around. There was this cute little area with couches and TVs called the ‘movie lounge’ where we managed to nab a couch for Justin but he promptly fell asleep, while I wrote a few more blog entries.
We also enjoyed a few drinks at a bar (it was Christmas!), and then we boarded our flight. It was another Malaysia Airlines flight, but unlike our last two (Phuket to Penang/Penang to Malaysia) this was terrible. When I was a teenager, I read the non-fiction book ‘The Hot Zone’ which is about the origins and incidents involving viral hemorrhagic fevers, including the ebola virus. The book includes a detailed scene that explains ebola is contracted by a man travelling on a plane, then his internal organs fail and he bleeds out. I was having flashbacks of this book while I was on this flight.
There was a cacophony of coughing and sneezing from the people in the seats around us – NONE of them covered their mouths. About half way through the flight, the woman in the row ahead, and to the right of us threw up – she didn’t bother reaching for a bag and instead threw up on the ground, herself and the woman next to her.
About half an hour later, another boy one row back from us starting throwing up, but this time he managed to get it into a bag. And this was just the seats around us – I have no idea what the rest of the plane was like.
We walked out of the airport at about 2am on Boxing Day. We hadn’t even cleared the gate to enter the departure hall, and there was a man saying ‘taxi, taxi’. I have seen men like this in Bangkok airport before, who come right up to the gate and grab tourists before they make it to the registered taxi area, so I said ‘no’, but he was extremely persistent (another warning sign) and took one of our pieces of luggage to carry and walked with us.
Justin suggested we just go with him, because we were tired and keen to get to the hotel. I stupidly didn’t ask how much the trip would cost or how far it was. Justin ducked off to change some Australian dollars into Chinese yuan. While he was gone, the driver pulled out a little card, showing that he was a ‘VIP Driver’.
Once Justin returned, the driver then practically ran to a car (not a taxi) parked around the corner and threw our luggage in, then took off. After about
twenty minutes, he turned his head and said ‘highway, twenty dollars’. We guessed he was talking about the tollgate we had just gone under, and hesitated – twenty dollars seemed like an extremely high toll fee.
He then pulled over to the side of the highway, and pulled out the little card again, but this time showed us the other side – our trip would cost 800 yuan and he wanted payment now. Because I hadn’t converted the Australian dollars, or done any research into what the conversion rate was, I wasn’t sure how much this was, but Justin knew it was about $150 and hesitated, unsure what to do. The driver became extremely aggressive, and kept jabbing his finger at the little card, until we handed over the money.
A very short time later he dumped us at the Crowne Plaza Beijing and then left without saying another word.