Helsinki – Istanbul – Mumbai

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The day before departure I made sure to get window seats for both the flight to Istanbul and the connecting flight to Mumbai. But things don’t always go as planned, which the ladies who had tickets for seats in row 29 found out when they discovered the plane only had 28. And sure enough I ran into some unexpected changes as well; within a couple of minutes after takeoff a flight attendant approached me and asked if I’d be willing to switch places with an older gentleman who wasn’t feeling well. He currently had the middle seat somewhere towards the front, and felt that he’d feel better with a window seat, well behind the wing. Confused about how adding another person between yourself and the toilet in the case that you aren’t feeling well would aid him, I still agreed to do this. It’s a short flight after all, it’s not a big deal even though I love staring at the clouds. Curiously the attendant didn’t ask the two ladies whose company I left it it’s ok for them to have a sick man seated next to them.

As thanks I got noisecancelling on-flight headphones, some snacks and an extra small bottle of white wine. Coupled with the wine Turkish Airlines so liberally hands out at meals resulted in me becoming a bit tipsy and made my journey pleasantly relaxed, listening to the soundtrack and musing away.

Apparently Istanbul is huge. Ridiculously so. During the last several minutes of our decent we flew over km after km of tightly packed housing on rolling hills. It was low profile, but spread out over an enormous area. Well inside the terminal I hunted down a neat bar with charging stations, plugged in everything pluggable and wrote some stuff while enjoying a nice cold beer, trying to hold on to that tipsy feeling.

The flight to Mumbai in the 747 was surprisingly pleasant. I had a window seat (and got to keep it for the entire flight this time) and there were a lot of empty seats in that area of the plane, so the ambience was mellow. Watched some movies and tried to get some rest. The six hours went by quite fast and before I knew it we were on approach to Mumbai.

Somewhere in the darkness a thunderstorm was lighting up half the horizon, lightning bolts connecting layers of clouds in moments of eerie beauty. Below us the dark cover was ruptured at places, revealing glimpses of cityscapes lit by streetlights. We descended through the clouds and came in over Navi-Mumbai and the bay, touching down at 4:30 local time after a total transit time of 13 hours.

Waiting for the baggage is always a moment of suspense; you fear that it might be lost and while everyone else seems to get their bags you start listing all the items you need to shop in the coming days. However, after a lenghty wait, I got my walk-in closet without trouble. After immigrations and a couple of stamps in my passport I am greeted by Sid at the arrivals area. I am also welcomed by a pleasantly warm air, a humid 27 degrees despite the early hour. The feeling, moisture and scent of the air is not unlike the one you might experience inside the botanical gardens in Helsinki. Actually it is very much like it, as is the air on Mauritius and in southern Thailand.

Our driver, Adinath, drives up, we load my luggage, marked with a orange “Heavy”-notice (remember the subwoofer I packed along?), and head onwards.