For one, my luggage actually arrived at the same time as myself. I left Chiang Mai on the evening of the 29th, after a thorough going away grooming by Vlekje, I arrived in Mexico City in the evening of the 30th. Only a day, you say? Not so. I traveled accross the dateline, meaning that in this direction, I lived one day twice.
Odilon, working for HDN, left on the same Bangkok – Tokyo flight as myself. Turned out he had found an affordable hotel close to the airport, to at least catch a few hours of sleep before our ungodly 6:50 AM departure.
He was kind enough to share his room with me, though I came in so late, my night's sleep almost wasn't worth it. Almost.
I arrived at Bangkok airport at a 11:45 PM. I arrived at the hotel, a mere 3.5 kilometers away, according to the brochure, at 1 AM. First, my taxi driver believing he was the third of the Schumacher brothers, then, when he had lost the plot, standing in a circle of bystanders all knowingly pointing him in another direction for getting to my hotel.
Tokyo airport was boring in that it looked like any other major airport, though much better than LAX, which really could use a major upgrade. Though, at Narita, Tokyo airport, they did have a small branch of Akihabara, *slobber*, though not even with any gaming devices or really low prices.
Before touchdown in Tokyo, I was wondering if I could withstand the pull of a DS Lite or a PSP. For both, only one shop had a few units around, more out of necessity than anything else.
Odilon went and took the flight to San Francisco, I went to Los Angeles. There, having to go through customs even though I was in transit, my passport was checked by a friendly coloured lady wearing blue surgical gloves. And, of course, the fingerprints of my two index fingers were taken.
The last leg of my trip, from LAX to Mexico, though still on United Airlines, like the previous two legs, felt more like being on a budget airline: the food and alcoholic beverages had to be purchased.
A good thing that, before boarding, I had gotten myself a Grande Latte from Starbucks. At 4 USD only 2 – 4 times the price I pay for a good latte in Chiang Mai.
Then, at Mexico airport, the shocker of the trip.
Mexico is a big city, and although I'm here for a conference, I suspected I also would want to be able to get 'out' once in a while. The online booked Hertz 'guaranteed rate' was 273 USD for 16 days.
Last time I rented a car, in South Africa, the rate I was given at the agency differed significantly from the rate I was quoted online. But because I had thrown away the quote, I only had my mind to rely on. Now, I had the quote with me. And, indeed, the online quoted prices was again not exactly the same as what I was about to be charged at the Hertz office: 273 USD online, over 950 USD at the airport. Yes, that's more than three times the quoted price.
Turns out they slap on a few extra taxes as well as insurance. And as 'CDW', Collision Damage Waiver, is 'only' just a bit over 30 USD per day here in Mexico, that quickly ads up.
I made it clear that 1000 USD really wasn't going to be an option. Haggling for a better price also didn't seem right, but the agent went and laboured away at his computer and a pocket calculator, to offer me a significantly better price after ten minutes of pounding away on his keyboard: 720 USD.
Indeed, a significant discount, but still way over budget.
So I said I wanted to cancel the deal. But that, surprise, was not an option. I was only given the full price after the whole contract had been put together. Now that it was 'in the system', it couldn't be taken out again.
So, the agent, a boy, who had a truly gorgeous Mestizo sidekick, went and slaved away at the keys some more, to try and quote me a new price.
Meanwhile, the sky had turned dark and I was not really looking forward anymore to renting a car and driving it around this huge Latin American city in the dark of night.
Then, the agent wrote down a new price for me. Just over 300 USD. Seriously. Almost a 70% discount.
No complementary map, however, just a crappy copied A4 piece of paper with what seemed like half the American continent on it.
I was given directions, but quickly lost my way. Asked for directions again and lost my way again, asked for directions again, lost my way, asked, lost, asked, lost, asked. At a gas station which was selling street maps of Mexico City. Finally!
From that point on, it was still a struggle, but at least I was able to truly figure out where I was going. And a friendly customer of said gas station was also able to tell me where we were the moment I purchased the map.
I arrived at my hostel at 11pm, a mere 4 hours after arriving in Mexico.
Groggy, half broken, thirsty, the next step was a stopover at Rouzeh's. In Mexico both for a pre-conference and the actual AIDS conference itself, and on a scholarship, she's been put up in quite a nice hotel, not too far away from where I'm staying. Okay, okay, so I knew what hotel she was assigned to before I booked my place.