Traveling Circus

Thursday morning, 5am, Reid, Zara and I get up and load ourselves into a specially ordered taxi van.
We are not traveling light.

In the hold: 3 large suitcases, a portacot, a car seat, a baby backpack. In the overhead locker: 2 smaller suitcases, a laptop pack, a stroller, Nikki’s handbag, my satchel and a baby change bag.

Obviously we went down a treat at the Air New Zealand check-in, who charged us another $250-odd for the excess luggage, and then weighed all our carry-on. Maximum weight was 7kg. The two suitcases and the laptop bag all weighed 10kg. Much consternation and hang-wringing ensues, which is solved by taking all the heavy things out of those bags and putting them in my satchel and Nikki’s handbag (both of which we now cannot close).

Exhausted, we retire to the lounge where we quietly re-pack the carry-on back in the offending suitcases.

By the time we get to Auckland we’re stuffed, and cancel all thoughts of a lunch at SPQR. We head back to Helen’s house, Zara has a snooze, and Ben and Helen come for lunch – unfortunately missing Lowell and Andrew who were both in Auckland.

Back at the airport, there is some more grim weighing of the carry-on luggage which has been enhanced by some additional toys for Zara, but happily someone catches sight of Reid’s now out-of-date Gold status luggage tag, and there are smiles all round.

There is less smiling in Business Class when we load the baby into her seat (in which she looks ridiculously small) – we’re not sure the rest of the passengers signed up to 12 hours with a baby. Weirdly at least half the cabin consists of teenagers and younger – but no-one under 5.

Zara has a ball for a couple of hours, but then gets a little bored and a little over-stimulated…. and suddenly, a monster emerges, and rages up and down Business Class for the next 4 hours. I gallantly don headphones and tap away at my laptop, preparing for the Thailand meeting tomorrow, and Reid bears the brunt of a pissed-off exhausted Zara (not helped by one of the other passengers yelling ’shut that baby up!’ at one point).

Finally Zara goes to sleep, but Nikki and I don’t. In case there was any hope of us dozing at all, Thai Air make sure we enjoy every moment of this experience by turning on the lights three hours before we land and attempt to feed us something we cannot stomach. Once we’ve said no several times, they then turn the lights off again, and we go back to our misery. Happily Zara does not stir, and in fact only wakes just before landing in Bangkok.

By the time we get to bed at the hotel, it’s 1am and we’ve had about 40 minutes sleep each.

At 6am, I miserably get out of bed, put on a tie and enjoy one and a half hours of Bangkok’s finest traffic jams, while Nikki and Zara hang out at the hotel. Nikki gets a massage and they have a swim; meanwhile, I’m subjected to hours of boredom and minutes of abject terror (when something unexpected comes up with the Thais). This lasts until 7pm by which time I am white-faced and incoherent. By the time I make it back to the hotel, an hour later, Nikki and Zara have gone to sleep – Zara being consigned to a cot in the huge bathroom.

Next day, Zara works into her rhythm of jet-lag nicely, waking up at 3.30 (this continues over the next few days). It’s not a problem though – Nikki and I have the same issue, so after a while we get bored enough to go down for breakfast and head out to the airport.

I am dreading another check-in disaster, expecting more excess fees and another round of accusations about our hand-luggage but the Business Class check-in in Thailand is all very refined and wouldn’t be so rude as to weigh anything. Bellhops meet your taxi as you arrive, and you don’t touch any of your luggage as they lead you to their check-in counter, which is in a different part of the airport to where the Great Unwashed are having their fun times.

On this trip (4 hours), Zara eats and sleeps beautifully – Reid’s worked out a couple of in-flight tricks – and the arrival in Beijing is also completely painless – the Ambassador and Admin Officer both meet us at the gate and whisk us through to baggage claim and out to a hefty van. The ambassador disappears, mumbling something about meeting the ambassador from Canada for dinner and not missing the rugby, and finally we’re at our apartment… and asleep