07.04.2013 - 09.04.2013 65 °F
So this should have been easier than it was.
A 90 minute flight to Delhi (India), a two hour layover, and a 7-ish hour flight to Tokyo.
Not even close.
Although I didn't think it would end up being a problem, my plan to check in for our Japan flight on-line that morning ran into the big snafu of the JAL website being down. Yuck. So I printed our itinerary, and assumed I would just show it to the gate agent in Delhi, and get our boarding passes there.
Second of all, they made us check our bags. Even though our entire plan for the trip (not check anything and carry everything on each and every flight) was JUST for this reason (we couldn't check them on Jet Air because it was the only flight NOT on our OneWorld ticket, and thus we would have to pick up our bags in India and re-check them - which (because the Delhi airport is so poorly designed in this way) meant we would have to actually legally ENTER India. Meaning, you need a VISA to simply pick up your luggage and re-check it on a different airline. Not a very smart system.)
When we got to the Jet Airways counter in Kathmandu, they told us that we had to check SOME of our bags, as we could only bring on one bag each (NOT what their website says). BUT, they told us it would be no problem to check them straight through to Tokyo (not what I expected them to be able to do, as the tickets were booked completely separately). So we made a quick decision, and gave them our clothes bags (and kept our backpacks and souvenir bags).
No problem, right?
Our flight from Kathmandu to Delhi took an extra forty minutes to board. Once we were on our plane (a nice, new 737-800), the pilot comes on a very casually announces another 30 min delay to to air traffic issues.
I'm sorry. Where are we? Kathmandu, Nepal, right? WHAT AIR TRAFFIC!!!
We finally got airborne (got served an entire meal, totally old-school wise, too, and the drink cart had two options, both free: water or beer. I swear. It was hilarious watching the entire plane have a beer. I have to hand it to Jet Airways, it's not a bad idea.
That being said, we landed in Delhi at 6:45pm, and had a 7:35 pm flight. We were sweating it (also it was hot). Most of the reason why it was a bad situation was that we didn't have India visa's, meaning if we missed our flight, we couldn't enter India (they don't issue visas at the airport), and would be stuck in the Delhi airport for an entire day waiting for the next flight to Tokyo (assuming we could even get on...)
So as soon as we even got close to the gate, Traci grabbed Tessa (asleep), ran for the front of the plane, and I manhandled my way past some very confused Indians to chase after her with our bags. We were running (as fast as we could, I will say, given what we were carrying), towards what we assumed was the Japan Airlines plane we had seen on the other side of the International terminal as we taxied in, and we happened to run by a young guy in a suit with a badge, who looked official, so I grabbed him and asked where the Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo left from. He said, "It leaves tomorrow, not today". I was like, "Look my friend, you're wrong, it leaves in like 30 minutes." He looked at me funny, and said, come with me, and led us to a checkpoint (complete with security), with a long-ass line of folks waiting for something. It was clear to him that this was urgent. He got on a phone for a few minutes, and then looked straight at me and said, "I'm sorry sir, but the gate is closed, and they won't let you on."
We pulled out all the stops. Traci started crying, I was pleading with the guy to try again, and Tessa looked sick.
He got back on the phone.
Then he asked if we had any bags. I said four. He talked more (we were in full panic mode at this point). Then he said, "They'll take you, but not unless you have your bags". Meaning, because we didn't have our bags, as they were checked - and we get arrived in Delhi too late to get them loaded onto the JAL plane in time - Japan Airlines wouldn't let us board. JAL policy, I guess.
I looked at Traci, thought fast, looked back at the guy and said, "No, you misunderstood me. THESE are our four bags HERE!" (for the record, I was counting Tessa's Hello Kitty backpack as one of the four, to make the story stick.) Fingers crossed, if JAL wouldn't let us on without our luggage, we made the decision to give up our luggage for the sake of making the flight.
The guy (who was a total pro, both of us have since agreed), looked at me, thought for a second, and grabbed the phone again. [For the record, I think he totally got what was going on, and approved of us changing our story mid-stream, in order to bypass the stupid JAL baggage rule. I guess we'll never know. If I ever come back through Delhi, I'm bringing him a bottle of scotch, either way.]
I heard him saying something about no luggage, and then five minutes later another Indian airport guy ran up with three boarding passes, and ushered us through security (as fast as possible, given that we had to clear X-rays AGAIN, get patted down, take out our laptops, get Traci's nail scissors confiscated, get our tickets checked, get every bagged stamped and checked - seriously, more security than any airport so far, although strangely enough Kathmandu had FIVE security checkpoints). We ran HARD for the gate, with the security guy with us, telling us that we had to hurry, and ran sweating, and disbelieving that this happened straight onto the big JAL 777, TWENTY MINUTES AFTER THE DEPARTURE TIME. They literally closed the doors as soon as we stepped on board (we weren't even in our seats yet), and started backing away from the gate.
I still can't believe they held the plane for us. But no one even gave us a second look. Maybe that would have been rude in Japanese culture. In any case, we sat together, and said an emphatic YES to the drinks they offered. BIG TIME stress, and NO BAGS - but we were headed to Japan.
After an EASY seven hour flight, with great food and some good movies (and decent sleep), we landed in clean, organized, modern Tokyo.
A long 30-min line through customs, and we were headed for the airport train station for our train to Tokyo.
While we were waiting, a wonderful Japanese woman walked up to us, and in unflinching Japanese fashion, gave us these incredible, ornate pieces of origami that she made on the plane ride (for Tessa). They were a box (a real two sided box, and two fully-functional tops (the kind you spin). She must have seen Tessa on the flight and decided they would be for her.
What a way to be welcomed to Japan.
We made it to Tokyo (and hour late, due to high winds and the resulting delays on all trains), and caught a bullet train (the Nozomi Shinansen, as they call them here) to Kyoto.
Kyoto is friendly, quiet, and a really amazing place to end our trip. We checked in, and got a gorgeous room overlooking the garden.
With an automatically flushing toilet with heated seat. Yikes!
We slept fourteen hours, woke up at 6am, and felt great. Kyoto is packed this time of year, as it's the height of cherry blossom season, and Kyoto is world famous for how beautiful everything looks here at this season. The day was 65 and sunny - perfect to explore.
We went to two temples, known as the Gold Temple and Silver Temple. (They are actually called the Kinkakuji Temple and the Ginkakuji Temple). They were crowded, with folks from all over the world, but peaceful and just stunning.
We had an amazing day.
More tomorrow, our last day before heading home.