Travelling to the Antipodes and other acts of lunacy – Act 1.

Yes, we are travelling to the Antipodes…as defined by the Macquarie being “the parts of the earth diametrically opposite each other”. So, being Australian, that means, in this case, Europe and Asia Minor, namely Turkey.

In this exercise, otherwise known as a holiday, we will stress ourselves to the max, dealing with the insanity of airports, border controls, foreign languages, strange customs and being confined in flying silver cigar tubes in spaces barely large enough for a 10 year old child.

Having landed we then need to address public transport we can’t decipher, being unable to speak to 99% of the local inhabitants and being generally in a constant state of stress as we try to avoid losing our passports, luggage, cameras, wallets etc. We think this is good and normal because it’s a holiday.

Our journey starts at some un-Godly hour of the morning because Kaylee chooses to inhabit one of the most remote parts of the planet known to human-kind from which you can only reach an airport after a trip about half as long as that from Melbourne to Turkey. Otherwise known as Bright, Victoria.

This is compounded by her last minute decision to search every known luggage shop from Tallangatta to Melbourne in an effort to find the world’s lightest suitcase – which also turns out to be the world’s most expensive piece of extruded plastic. It’s one of the contradictions of our society that they less you get (lightest, smallest, least material, least human labour) the more expensive it will be.

I have my own special contribution to travel stress. It’s called the bag with many pockets, which allows any object that one urgently needs to be in any one of about 20 different places.

To this storage complexity, one can add my penchant for clothes with multiples pockets and a tendency to wear more layers than a mille-feuille. Mainly because I hate being cold.

This means at any given time during my travels I my have about 40 different places in which I can potentially have put any item of value.

I never manage to allocate any specific pocket for any specific purpose which means that on any one of the 10 or so times a day when you need to look for items such as passports and wallets, I can be certain that I will not be able find what I am looking for.

This leads about 10 highly stressed moments per day. As I progressively rummage through each of 40 possible places where my passport or wallet might be, without finding either, the level of panic progressively increases. Or it would, except that having done this so many times, I always know that I will find my password slipped under the insole of my least used shoe at the bottom of my bag just before they decide to close passport control for the night.

This annoys the shit out of Kaylee who tends to panic if she hasn’t got to the departure gate at least five hours before they first call her flight.

Arriving at Melbourne Airport we start the normal process of security farce. Every few months our great security services, in some part of the “western” world, test new nbaggage security services.

“We” invest hundreds of millions of dollars of our money in anti-terrorism in order to protect ourselves from a Labor victory at the next election since creating and publicising fear of terrorism is a standard gambit of the right and airport security is a part of that.

It goes like this: DGSE (France), DIO (Australia), MAD (Militrischer Abschirmdienst- Germany), DIA (US) or one of the other myriad agencies tests airport security by trying to smuggle items through security at any given airport. In around 90% of cases they succeed.

Baggage Security Officer: “What is that you have in your hand luggage, Sir/Madam?”

Intelligence Officer: “It’s a very large tube of lipstick, officer”

Baggage Security Officer: “Is it a liquid or gel, Sir? If it is it should be a plastic bag”

Intelligence Officer: “Oh, sorry” He/she then produces a giant rubbish bag, removes a small missile shaped explosive device from his luggage and replaces it in his/her luggage”

Baggage Security Officer: “All good sir…”

Despite everyone knowing that almost all baggage and other security screening is a complete waste of time and money our Governments continue to invest millions in it for, apparently, the sole purpose of annoying the shit out of all of us and making airports even worse than they used to be.

Our flight to Bangkok on Thai is uneventful. We arrive at the “new” Thai international airport, Suvarnabhumi, which opened in 2006. Despite being relatively new it looks and feels like something out of the 1960s Soviet Union. It resembles nothing less than a massive concrete mausoleum and, as such, it pays tribute to Thailand’s obsession with concrete.

Half finished in many areas, falling apart in others, it is dominated by massive beams and tunnels with walls of concrete. It has no redeeming features, little signage, nowhere to sit, bad cafes and the ubiquitous duty free. It’s hard to believe that anything so new and expensive could be so awful and one wonders how much money was siphoned off into the pockets of corrupt officials?

In its awfulness it is typical of the schizophrenia of Thai society. This “friendly” Buddhist society is anything but Buddhist in its attitudes. It can be unfriendly to the point of fear and has a culture that in theory worships nature but does everything possible to obliterate it.

It embraces a religion that is supposed to be peaceful and non-materialistic but the military dominates every aspect of life, society is anything but peaceful and the Thais are highly materialistic. So just as hypocritical as most Christian societies in fact.

Next: Istanbul: across the European and Asian divide…riots, Ramadan and revolution…




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