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To South India

A Package to India, January 1999
We buy a package tour to Kerala, with the intention of using the accommodation on the first and last night only, and in-between travelling around for a couple of weeks with our rucksacks on our back.
Gatwick and the practised package tourist.
Our hol started in Garfunkels at Gatwick. Fortunately not a portent of the food to come, but a good thing to do because more sustaining than the food on the aeroplane.
We had been given a check-in time of 8.55pm earliest. We got to the desk at 9.15 and everyone had gone – been through already. Something we did not know, but became familiar with on this trip: that given an appointment the package tourist will arrive exceedingly early for it and form a queue. We, who have been to places here and there mainly for work, were unfamiliar with this convention.
But we were not concerned because we had paid an extra ten pounds each for pre-booked seats. These, we were informed when we got to the desk, were not arranged. We rather got the impression that, by turning up so much later than the rest of humankind, we had thrown the system somewhat. Normally when people pay their ten pounds they get to the check-in desk early enough that they can be told their seats had been booked, when they hadn’t at all, but the travel company collects its ten pounds per person. We demanded our money back (after we got back) and got it.
So we could not sit together, we had to sit on opposite sides of the aisle.
What the complete package tourist does on the aeroplane.
Hilary had ordered the vegetarian option on the aeroplane, and that message had not got through either, though she managed to get a veggie meal from the steward – not a particularly wise move as it was barely edible, whereas my meat dish by contrast was salty and synthetic – turkey possibly though it could have been tofu.
The first thing we noticed about our fellow travellers was the amount of booze they ordered. Drinks were neither free nor especially cheap, but we, who as a general rule do not drink alcohol on aeroplanes, appeared to be the only ones not ordering gin and tonic, Bacardi and coke, or a bottle of sparkling ‘champagne’. And not just ordering one gin and tonic or whatever, three or four at a time.
Our behaviour was not only notable by its difference, it was also looked upon with absolute disdain by the stewardess, who clearly thought we were somewhere we shouldn’t have been, we imagine because she gets a commission on sales.
What the complete package tourist does on the aeroplane – 2.
The next thing we noticed about the people on the plane was how excited they were. There we were on this cramped, full 757, at 10.30 at night, needing essentially to get our eyes closed as we’s come a long journey already straight from work, and all these people were drinking G&Ts and bottles of wine, tucking in to their dinner, and being purposefully jolly. They had plastic bags full of duty-free booze (though expressly forbidden to open these on the aeroplane, don’t want to damage sales after all) ready for more G&Ts on the balcony of the hotel throughout their stay, and no one seemed to want to sleep at all.
Just a little rest from the hubbub.
Snoozing was not easy, not least because the in-flight video showed a film of Only Fools and Horses that it appeared most if not all of our fellow travellers had seen many times before, so they know exactly where to laugh and guffaw boozily and loudly.
Eventually we did get an hour or so’s sleep, before being woken for breakfast as the plane approach Bahrain, at what for us was about 4am.
The story continues with Hours of Fun in Bahrain Airport.


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