My crazy around-the-world trip in three weeks had one thing in common. I always had to go to Istanbul. Thanks to Turkish Airlines rock-bottom prices and the country’s iffy political situation, Istanbul was my go-to place.
This was the first leg of the trip. I was ready to go, maybe a little too early. I got to the airport four hours early.
I sat next to a Czech girl who had spent three months in Hanoi. She kept talking and I kept listening. But she was nice. She even convinced me to have white wine with my fish.
I managed to get some sleep on my crammed economy seat during the 10 hour flight. I also managed to skip through two very strange movies.
After I said adieu to my Czech seatmate, I spent a good part of my six-hour layover wandering around the halls of Ataturk airport. For this place to be the great hub of Turkish Airlines, it was pretty disappointing. Chairs with armrest made airport napping impossible. There were machines that charged money to charge phones since outlets were almost non-existent. And the free Wifi offered only works if you can get access to an SMS from your phone, which of course, I did not.
After countless rounds in Duty Free, I found a coffee place that offered Wifi. I ordered an Americano, handed them my credit card and later found out that 12 Turkish Liras really equaled $4 USD!
The three-hour ride was uneventful. I was fortunate enough to get an entire row to myself. However, I decided to watch Me Before You and spent a good 10 minutes crying profusely.
For this part of the trip, I had someone familiar sitting next to me. Robb’s family took us to the airport where partook in coffee, beer then deep-fried Dutch goodness.
As they plane took off, we were able to see a bit of the sun setting in the horizon. We had dinner (part 2) with Turkish wine. The three-hour flight came and went quickly. Then I said goodbye to Robb.
With a nine-hour layover ahead of me, I was lucky that Alex, my Turkish friend was willing to meet me at the airport. What makes him an even better friend was that my first flight landed at midnight (basically Monday morning) with my second flight leaving at 9am and he still came to meet me! Although he kept yawning (understandably), it was nice to catch up with him. After two hours of chatting, we said our goodbyes.
I spent the next seven hours wandering around the “land” side of the airport. I would like to take Cafe Nero for providing four chairs for me to lie down and not kicking me out because I was basically loitering.
It had been a while since I traveled internationally to the US. So, I completely forgot how big a pain-in-the-butt it is to actually board a US-bound plane. First, I needed to talk to one security guy who decided to tag me for further inspection. Then, some guy took my passport and registered me for entry to the US. Then, I had to empty out all my contents of my carry-on. Woo…hoo…
For this 14 hour flight, I was luck enough to have a row to myself. Even with the added space, I felt like a contortionist trying to find a position that actually worked.
Once we landed at LAX, the plane had to wait another 30 minutes before we arrived at the gate. My poor parents ended waiting 1.5 hours before I got out.
This was the long journey back to Vietnam. LA lies next to the Pacific Ocean which on the other side is Asia. The most logical way to go back would have been crossing the Pacific. However, I took the long way, thanks again to Turkish Airlines.
And to add to my journey, the plane was full. Packed full… well, except one seat on the other side of the plane in my row. I tried my best to convince this guy sitting next to me to move to that seat so we could both have a free seat. However, he was very insistent that the move wouldn’t have had mattered. (Sigh…) But at the end, I made a seat friend. His name is Fazmin and he was in LA because his parents lived there. However, he was heading home to Kabul. He had the same feelings I had about the City of Angels. So, it was nice to share opinions.
I managed to sleep (although not very soundly) thanks to Benadryl. And after already 29 hours spent on a Turkish Airlines plane, I ran out of movies to watch. Sigh…
After my 14 hour flight from LA to Istanbul, I had a 6 hour wait before boarding a 9 hour flight back to Hanoi. Woohoo!
My new friends and I wandered to Starbucks and leeched off free Wifi. But after an hour of texting and chatting (and a sample of Iraqi sweets), I said goodbye as they headed for their flight to Kabul.
While at Starbucks, two older ladies saw us using Wifi and wanted to know how to jump on the Internet. I showed one lady and noticed that her phone was in Portuguese. So, I busted out my Portuguese. They were quite shocked that I, an Asian looking girl, could handle some sort of conversation with them. And the irony was that they were also heading to Hanoi. Go figure! We chatted for a bit in Portuguese, then in English once they figured out my Portuguese is a bit rusty. My legs were screaming for some exercise, so I bid the ladies adieu and roamed.
By now, I’d already spent 15 hours at Istanbul airport. There was only so much wandering I could do. But I did. It wasn’t very exciting.
I was “lucky” enough to be on another packed plane. This time, I sat next to a Vietnamese man who didn’t know any English. Basically, all around me were Vietnamese who couldn’t speak English.
It was funny to watch the Turkish Airline flight attendants try to ask the Vietnamese “chicken or pasta?” when dinner came. My seatmate just shook his head. I told the flight attendant that he probably didn’t understand. She gave his a chicken wrap. The man picked at it and looked at it in disgust. He didn’t touch the salads. But he used his apricot mousse dessert as a spread for his dinner roll.
Two hours before landing, we got breakfast. The Vietnamese were more open to the omelet that was served this time. But someone busted out an instant noodles cup and my section of the plane with crazy. The poor flight attendants were basically harassed to get hot water for the 20+ people who happened to have instant noodles in their possession while trying to prepare the plane for landing.
Side note: Turkish Airlines had just launched the Istanbul-Hanoi route a few months prior. During that time, they did not bother to get some Vietnamese translation of recorded announcements throughout the entire flight. Quite troubling.
Overall, I had spent roughly 52 hours flying Turkish Airline planes and 21 hours in layovers in Istanbul in 3 weeks. Next time, I’ll give myself a bit more time. I’m getting too old to sleep at airports!