A long day’s travel to India, Jim’s sunglasses get attacked by chewing gum, and a big beery welcome at the local bar.

Day 96: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo & Kochi, India. This morning we packed up again and headed to the airport to fly to Kuala Lumpur, then on to Kochi in India.

We’ve spent a total of seven weeks in Malaysia, split across the peninsula and Borneo, and it’s been spectacular. We’ve loved the fabulous food, amazing jungle hikes, diverse towns and villages – but most of all we’ve loved the people, who have been incredibly welcoming, interested and interesting. Thank you Malaysia. 🙂

We ordered a Grab to take us to Kota Kinabalu airport. As we entered the departure area, we heard the sounds of Santana’s ‘Black Magic Woman’ coming from somewhere. In the middle of all the check-in desks was a busker, who was doing a stellar job of bashing out some popular numbers, and made us wonder why more airports don’t have live music.

The check-in process took a while – the AirAsia self service kiosks wouldn’t accept our reservation for some reason, so we had to queue at a ‘document check’ desk. We’d booked our Indian visas online the other day, so the check-in staff had to manually go online and check the validity of the visa and enter it into their system, which took ages. Meanwhile a queue of 50 or more grumpy people had formed behind us, so we walked sheepishly away trying not to make eye contact with anyone.

On the flight to KL, Jim tucked his Ray Bans into the seat pocket in front of him. When he took them out again, he found a piece of the plastic frame had mysteriously dissolved. Turns out someone had left a chunk of chewing gum in the seat pocket, and as it contains plastic softener, it had started eating into his sunglasses. Good job it wasn’t a longer flight.

The stop over in KL was just a couple of hours, and at least a quarter of that was taken up by security queues. Lil wandered off to find a coffee, Jim caught up with online stuff, and then it was time to board another plane.

The four and a half hour flight to India felt quite long (this time Jim kept his sunglasses in his bag). The lovely old Indian lady next to Lil spent the entire flight dropping things on the floor, so Lil was kept busy picking them up again, which helped to while the time away. With lots of screaming and crying kids on board, we were very happy to land a little early at Cochin (Kochi) airport.

We’ve booked two nights at a hotel next to the airport so we can recalibrate (as Lil calls it) before we get stuck into our India travels. We’ve a big to-do list to work through, to sort out the next chunk of our travels around India. And let’s face it, we’re unlikely to get distracted by sightseeing or hiking beside a major airport.

When we arrived at Kochi, we walked from the airport to the hotel, much to the disappointment of the dozens of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers who were shouting after us, hoping to give us a ride. The laneways and fields around the hotel are still badly flooded, and there’s lots more rain on the way – the area is in a very sad soggy state.

After checking in and settling in, we asked the guy at reception where we could get a beer. He said to walk down the street to the red bar, in a laneway on the right hand side. We found the bar, walked in, and nearly walked straight out again. It was a bizarre red themed room, with numbers on the walls and a counter with iron railings, which made us think we’d walked into a betting shop. Lil asked the security guard if the place sells beers, and he said yes, yes – just queue at the counter with the railings.

Everyone sat and stared at us, which made us uncomfortable at first, but then we realised we were just the odd ones out. And also Lil was the only female in the entire bar. The manager of the place was lovely, and went out of his way to make us feel comfortable, asking if we needed another beer or food, and apologising that the place was so loud.

A guy called Rajesh came over and shook our hands, asked where we were from and was super excited to be able to welcome foreigners to India. He was drinking large glasses of rum, followed by water (which he drank straight from a metal jug) and got increasingly wobbly as the evening went on. He loves English movies (the Avengers is his big favourite), and kept showing us movie clips on his phone, then shaking our hands again, and telling us how much he liked us and how happy he was that we were in India.

He was really lovely, insisted on buying us a beer, and gave us his phone number in case we needed anything while we’re here. Meantime one other non-local had appeared on the scene – a guy from South Korea called Jay. He asked if he could join us – it turns out he had also asked the hotel receptionist where he could get a beer, and the guy told him about the red bar, and said that two Australians are already there. As the evening went on, Rajesh insisted on taking endless selfies of the four of us.

As we left for the night, Rajesh was getting onto the back of his mate’s motor bike – an impressive feat given how wobbly he was. He works at the airport (as many people in this area probably do) and has work tomorrow – let’s hope his job doesn’t involve flying aircraft or operating heavy machinery.

We were starving by then, so popped into an eatery next to the hotel for massive plates of chicken and rice – just what we needed after our crazy evening of beers with the locals.

Then back to our hotel for a long night’s sleep, before our re-calibration day tomorrow.

More then.

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