Time to fill in a little bit of detail from my travel so far.

I arrived in Amsterdam on Sunday morning, and decided that rather than get bounced by the hotel trying to check in too early that I’d fill in some time at Schiphol Airport.  While I was there I had a chance to reflect on the flight over from Hong Kong.

My stop in Hong Kong turned out to be just long enough to create a risk of me missing the flight.  I was sitting in a comfortable chair in the lounge and getting occasional snacks and drinks, and successfully dozing for ten or fifteen minutes at a time.  Our boarding time was delayed by about an hour, and whether I became just a bit more relaxed because of the delay or because the noodle dinner I had settled in my stomach I ended up falling into a proper sleep.  Like many airlines overseas, Cathay Pacific doesn’t make boarding announcements in their lounges…  I awoke to find the departure monitor flashing “Final Call” next to my flight.

The terminal building of Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok Airport is shaped a bit like a big letter-Y with an upside-down capital-T overlaid.  You guessed it, to get to my flight I had to go from the tip of one arm of the T (where the Cathay Lounge is located) to the fork of the Y (where my departure gate was).  Doesn’t sound like far, does it: perhaps I didn’t mention that this munged-up T-Y shape got stretched out in the middle and is about three-times longer than it is wide…  As I fast-walked along travelators, I kept looking at monitors and expecting the dreaded “Gate Closed” to appear.  I drew closer to the gate, and could see no queue of people waiting to board–now I knew I was pretty late.  I saw someone in a green uniform starting to walk away from the gate toward the main terminal building (toward me), and as I got closer I saw that she was carrying a card with my flight number on it in large letters.  At this point I relaxed: they’re still looking for the latecomers.  I waved at her when I realised this, and when I reached her she asked my seat number.  It looked like I would be okay.

When I finally got to the gate I saw that I did actually have a bit of time available: the queue was actually on the aerobridge waiting to actually get on the plane.  It took at least five minutes in the bridge before I was on the aircraft, so it wasn’t like I was keeping them from closing the doors.  Still, a bit of panic to teach me to be careful about being inattentive in an airline lounge.

The flight was bad.  Actually I take that back: in the context of other long-distance flights I’ve taken it compares badly, but really it was probably just your normal Cathay Pacific long distance economy-class flight.  Cathay’s seat in Economy though is weird: it’s actually a little enclosure, a bit like a discount version of the Qantas Business-class cocoon.  What’s weird is that the seat doesn’t recline, instead the seat cushion slides forward and back.  The bottom of the seat back is attached to the back edge of the seat cushion, and the top of the seat back slides in runners in the seat frame.  So the angle of the seat back does in fact change, but for someone tall like me instead of being able to actually recline with a straight back I got curled up by the crazy thing.  The only good thing about it is that it eliminates that feeling of intrusion you get when you want to sit fairly straight but the person in front wants to recline all the way back.

The arrival into Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport was uneventful.  The reason we were delayed from departing Hong Kong was actually so that we didn’t arrive too early to be allowed into Schiphol; the flight time was about an hour shorter than scheduled.  So even though we left late, we arrived on-time (if not a bit early).  The arrival hall in the airport was a mess however: I’m sure that they put us into the smallest passport hall in the place, and our full 747 from Hong Kong arrived at the same time as a United flight from the US.  The place was packed–they had to switch off the escalator into the hall to stop people from getting jammed into this room like sardines.

After I made it out to pick up baggage I waited another 10 minutes or more.  I had thought that the length of time it took to get through passport control would have given plenty of time for the bags to get off the plane, but it wasn’t so.  It took almost an hour to get landside–perhaps the messiest arrival at Schiphol I’ve ever had.

I decided to save some time for the next day and went to pick up my ticket for the train to Paris.  The airport terminal is actually built behind the railway station–if you were to arrive at Schiphol by taxi for the first time, you’d be tempted to think that the taxi driver misunderstood and took you to the train station instead of the airport.  Entering through the front doors, you have to walk past all the railway kiosks and ticket machines and timetables before you get to anything that even remotely looks like something to do with air travel.  I’m a train-guy though, so I like it that way. 🙂

I am so much a train-guy in fact that after I had some breakfast I decided to throw my bags in a locker and hop on a train to fill in some time.  I went to Utrecht, which I thought would be an hour or so away and would fill in a nice chunk of time, but actually only turned out to be 30 minutes away.  On this little trip I saw some Dutch countryside and was stunned at how green it looked.

When I got back to Schiphol I picked up my bags and got the airport shuttle to the hotel.  “Yes, sir, your room is ready”–how wonderful those words can sound when you’re tired and filthy from a long plane ride!