Travel Tips

Indian Wedding with a Large Side of Turkey

Kannur, India
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Izmir & Istanbul, Turkey
February/March 2017
Age: 26

Weekend Getaway

So your best friend calls you and is like “oh btw the wedding will be in Kannur.” So you’re all like “aight, I’m there.” Now, you’ve already traveled around India and didn’t get invited to the honeymoon so you start thinking about what you’re going to be doing after the weekend wedding. You’ve got to take advantage of being on the other side of the world and make a trip out of it. Egypt comes to mind since you haven’t seen the Pyramids of Giza yet. Let’s not forget how popular Iceland has become and your sis won’t stop talking about it. But your girlfriend can’t come with you since she’s waiting for her Green Card application to go through #diversityvisalotterywinner so you can’t go anywhere she might want to go to because then you have to go back. So what to do? Where do you go? The answer becomes obvious, Turkey. You haven’t been to her country outside of a 5 hour layover in Istanbul where you quickly hopped on the subway and tram to Sultanahmet to check out the sights but of course that doesn’t count!

The Plan

Planning an affordable weekend trip to Kannur, India from the U.S. can be a little tricky for several reasons. It’s on the other side of the world, the Kannur airport isn’t built yet and you have to come and go at specific times with the addition of hitting up Turkey right after. The timing of the planes and trains have to be precise and of course cheap. If you can save over $500 and sometimes over $1,000 by purchasing and connecting separate routes as opposed to buying directly to the nearest airport then why not? In some cases flying direct is cheaper but not always. For the times that’s not the case, there are good guidelines to follow to make the trip more efficient and affordable.

The rules for my trip:

  1. Be in Kannur, India between Saturday 5pm and Sunday 3pm
  2. Hit up Turkey right after (both Izmir & Istanbul)
  3. Make it as cheap as possible (this one is what makes it a challenge. You are effectively trying to discover the cheapest puzzle pieces that fit together to get you from A to Z and back)

Planning Tips:

  1. Know the various methods of transportation to be used to begin searching for possible combinations. In my case, planes and trains
  2. Airports
    • Keep in mind that international airports are usually not in the center of the city like a train station might be. Dulles Airport (DC’s international airport) is 30 miles (48 kilometers) outside of D.C.
    • Always check out the To/From the Airport section on the airport’s website. Super important, it will tell you all the methods of public transportation (cheapest) To/From the Airport and most likely provide maps
    • Zoom out a little in Google maps and check out what’s around the airport. See some tracks? Follow them to the nearest train station
    • Give yourself enough time in between separate purchased flights (not multi-city tickets):
      • International flights: ~4-5hrs
        • 1hr to get through customs (always ensure you have a visa or your passport allows visa-free entry when using a country you aren’t visiting as a transit point)
        • 45mins to check in, get your new ticket and go through security
        • 45mins if going from the international terminal to the domestic one (they will most likely require you to go through security or may be completely separate terminals and require some travel to get to)
        • 2hrs for whatever else could go wrong
      • Domestic flights: ~2-3hrs
        • It’s just quicker bruh
  3. Train Stations
    • Choose the one closest to the airport, may not always be the obvious choice (e.g. Just because you fly into Cochi’s international airport it doesn’t mean the most convenient train station to take is in Cochi)
    • Choose the one with multiple trains heading to your destination when possible in case you miss your train

So after several shots of espresso and a café con leche I came up with this:

Itinerary

Reality

So of course there are guidelines and tips to everything but reality doesn’t really care. So here’s my plan and here’s what happened.

1. 2/23 11:40PM JFK –> 2/24 5:30PM IST [3hr layover] 2/24 8:35PM IST –> 2/25 5:15AM BOM

  • I gave myself 3hrs 40mins to make it to my next flight (BOM –> IXE)
  • IST –> BOM was delayed 1hr 40mins

2. 2/25 8:55AM BOM –> 2/25 10:10AM IXE

  • Due to my previous flight being delayed, I now only had 2hrs instead of 3hrs 40mins to make it to my next flight. If I only would have given myself 2hrs (there was an earlier ticket) then I would have missed that flight!
  • Exiting the plane I learned two things as I ran to customs:
    1. It’s a long ass distance in the Mumbai international airport from the farthest gate where we got off the plane to where customs is
    2. I’m really out of shape
  • I was the first in line for the e-visa section and lost 3 pounds along the way
  • I quickly purchased a pre-paid taxi (only way that I know of to go from the international terminal to the domestic terminal). Of course some random dude got in the cab as well and we dropped him off in some random alley along the way
  • From exiting the plane, passing through customs, getting to the domestic terminal by cab, getting my new ticket, passing through security to reaching my gate: 1hr 10mins
  • The flight to Mangalore was delayed about 20mins

3. 2/25 11:45AM MAQ [Train] –> 2/25 1:35PM CAN [Train]

  • Upon arrival to Mangalore I took an auto (rickshaw/tuk tuk) from the airport to the train station
  • I chose Mangalore Central train station as opposed to Mangalore Junction train station because there were trains to Kannur about every hour
  • Train arrived about an hour late and was delayed an extra hour along the way
  • If you travel short distance or during the day by the cheapest train compartment its a free for all. You need to first fight to get on and quickly jump to a seat or you’ll end up standing or sitting/laying in the overhead section where the luggage should go like some of these hommies:

Crowded

 Wedding Pause (Time Out)

Of course, once I made it to Kannur (I planned to arrive at 1PM but got there around 3PM) I got to see my best friend get married which was a beautifully decorated, outdoor wedding covered in flowers..

Decorations.png

Full of delicious, traditional Indian food..

Food

Bride and moms on fleek..

On Fleek

The merging of two lovely families..

2 fams

A crazy ass umbrella..

umbrella

and of course a beautiful couple who lived happily ever after 🙂

coupleee

The Plan Cont. (Time in)

4. 2/26 5:00PM CAN –> 10:38PM AFK (Train)

  • The train was delayed an hour, but finally showed up in all its majestic glory

train

  • I took a ~4hrs nap in the train and did have a 1hr power nap back in Kannur before leaving.
  • There are many train stations in Cochi but the Cochin International Airport is actually about 37 kilometers (23 miles) away from the center of Cochi. However, by zooming out from the airport in Google maps and by confirming in the To/From the airport section from the airport’s website, I found that the Angamaly train station (AFK) is only 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the airport and had a train from Kannur.
  • I took an auto from Angamaly train station to the Cochin airport. Before that, I had asked the guy who sold me Indian Paneton at a kiosk within the train station the cost (140 rupees) to the airport prior to asking a auto driver. Of course the driver wanted 250 rupees and told me it was really far. I ended up finding someone who was also going to the airport and we each paid the 140 rupees. Worked out for everyone. Funny how it only takes 10mins to go somewhere really far

5. 2/27 4:30AM COK –> 2/27 7:15AM AUH [1hr 45mins layover] 2/27 8:50AM AUH –> 2/27 1:00pm IST

  • The COK –> AUH flight was delayed 3 hours
  • Sadly, while I waited for us to be able to board and fly out I wasn’t allowed to do what I consider to be a proper hygiene habit at Cochin International Airport 🙁

feet

  • If there are enough people taking the next flight (AUH –> IST) then sometimes the plane will wait
  • Of course I turned out to be the only one on the AUH –> IST flight from the COK –> AUH flight so the plane left me behind
  • Once I arrived in AUH, the airline said they had no more flights to IST so they gave me a free hotel voucher with unlimited food
  • The flight from AUH to IST left on time the next morning
  • Lost a day in Izmir but did get to explore Abu Dhabi for a day. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was pretty sweet

Mosque

6. 2/27 2/28 5:40PM IST –> 2/27 2/28 6:40PM IZM

  • I switched the date of my flight and paid a whopping $15 for the change
  • I gave myself over 4hrs which was more than enough since nothing was delayed
  • My girlfriend’s family picked me up from the airport so not much advice on this one

They took me all around and her mom made sure that every meal was equivalent to a Thanksgiving Feast. In 2 days I gained back the 3 pounds I lost in Mumbai and added an additional 12 pounds..

drank

Got to hang out with my gf’s oldest sister and this little rascal..

sisss

and of course this lovely family. Tomris is the funny one of the triplets ;)..

elifs fambam

Ending with the must see ancient city of Efes..

Efes

7. 3/3 11:35AM IZM –> 12:40PM IST

No delays or issues here. Just Emine being really sad in IST which made me really sad :(..

sad

So we went on an adventure and found this awesome fork in an abandoned 1943 refrigerator in some dark alley..

fork

That made her very happy..

happy

So she decided to take me out with her awesome friends and showed me how the Turkish really turn up..

friends

Which meant we all died the next day so here’s the Saturday evening sunset from the ferry (Kadıköy to Karaköy)..

ferry

8. 3/5 3:00PM IST –> 3/5 6:20PM JFK

  • I fucked up on this one. We’ll discuss further down. For now, let’s change the topic to a more relaxing one…

The Golden Ticket

Airport lounges are always hidden away in airports and kept at a distance from the masses. I don’t think in all my travels I’ve ever bumped into one on my search for an empty seat or free outlet during a long layover. Nor have I ever had the need to search for one, until now. At the end of last year I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve [$450 annual fee] credit card for a couple reasons:

  1. The points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred [$95 annual fee] were 1 to 1 transferable.
  2. You earn 3 times the points on airfare and dining.
  3. You get a $300 annual ‘credit’ when you use your credit card on airfare. This means that if you buy a ticket that’s worth $300 you’ll see the standard +$300 charge with a -$300 credit right after automatically. Remember, you are still paying for that -$300 which is in your annual fee of $450. However, if you are an avid travel and will spend more than $300 anyway on airfare, then you can look at your annual fee to be $150.
  4. Points spent on airfare on the Chase Sapphire Reserve are worth 25% more than my Chase Sapphire Prefered when spent on airfare. For example, 100,000 points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred is worth $1,250 (100,000 * 1.25%) while 100,000 points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve are worth $1,500 (100,000 * 1.5%). My current Chase Sapphire Preferred points were now worth 25% more once I transferred those bad boys over.
  5. You get (or used to get I should say) 100,000 points if you spent $4,000 within the first 3 months. That’s $1,500 that I got! Sadly, you only get 50,000 points now. They cut the promotion in half a couple weeks ago 🙁 Wish I could be underlying and bolding that 100,000 though…

However, none of those reasons are why we are here (but I do recommend getting yourself a good travel credit card if you travel several times each year). One benefit that I did not consider or care about was this so called Priority Pass which gets you into over a thousand different airport lounges around the world. Once I got my credit card, I decided to call and have them send it to me. It’s another perk of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

After a ~10hr flight with a 4hr layover in Istanbul I decided to find out how it works. All you do is go to the Priority Pass website or app, type in the airport you are in and hit search. A list of airport lounges pop up and how to get to them after you pass security. If you don’t have internet access, search beforehand and take a screenshot.

I walked into the Confort Lounge with a snazzy dude’s wife beater tank top flaunting my half beast chest, dark blue jeans, steel toed boots and my travelers backpack. Smart Casual Dress wasn’t under the Conditions section of this lounge but I definitely didn’t quite fit in. I handed the attendant my pass, signed the receipt and I’m in. “Is everything included?” I ask. “Yes” she tells me. “Showers too?”, “Showers too” she responds with a smile.

Bruh. let. me. tell. you. You know damn well I took a shower and came out fresher than the Old Spice guy who stole your girl. Free alcohol? Vodka shots all around please. Oh but hold up, let me fill my belly with that lasagna first and don’t hold back on the dill sprinkled on them chickpeas. Lattes? Hommie, I’ll have four. Let me get two of those water bottles to go too. Comfy love seat with a table and charger nearby by? 100% in no time. And yes, there was dessert.

I had the chance to take advantage of four lounges throughout this trip and it was great. Nothing beats being able to walk into a plane with a full belly from delicious food instead of super expensive, lame airport food. Having access to all those lounges was solid with all the airports I had on my itinerary. Also, keep in mind, I believe each lounge is different on their guest policy. For the Comfort Lounge in the International terminal at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, it cost 25 euros to bring a guest. Bon Appetit!

Priority Pass

The Mistake

Listen brahman, we all make mistakes. Even in all my traveling experience I still fuck up every now and then. It’s okay. Learn, tell others so they can learn from it too and move on. So…

Walking up to the airline counter and get told your ticket was cancelled as opposed to the location of your gate and your seat number is a little frustrating. That’s what happened to me at Ataturk airport in Istanbul on my final flight back home when I so nonchalantly waited in line to get my boarding pass.

So what happened? Well, most of us know that if you miss one leg of a flight and it’s your fault the next one is cancelled. However, I didn’t know that if you buy a multi-city flight like the one below:

Fight 1 (2/23): NYC — (layover in IST) –> BOM

Flight 2 (2/26): BOM –> IST

Flight 3 (3/5): IST –> NYC

and miss for example Flight 2, like I did, then you will be considered a no-show and all consecutive flights, in my case Flight 3, will be cancelled. To clarify, this is when you select the multi-city option instead of one-way or round-trip and pay once for all those flights. It’s considered one ticket.

Yes, I intentionally missed Flight 2. In the madness of trying to balance planes and trains I initially planned on making that BOM –> IST flight. However, I couldn’t find a way to make it to BOM and since, for whatever reason, it was more expensive if I left that middle flight out, I said “eh whatever” and just bought it like that.

Anyways, at the airport I had to go to the ticket purchase counter. They told me that it would cost $1,000 to change the 3rd flight of my ticket even though I paid about ~$700 (with my points) for all 3 flights to begin with! You best believe I told that man that he was out of his fucking mind! Except I told him in Spanish… in my head… Thought it would be best if he didn’t understand my thoughts.

So what are your options? Well, I asked him how much was my flight if I just bought a new direct flight ticket (same flight that got cancelled) and he said $691. Were there cheaper flights online? Hell yeah, the same flight was $50 cheaper online. But one thing we usually forget is that it takes time (sometimes several hours) to receive the confirmation email ensuring you are in the airlines system. It’s not always instant. With only 4 hours until the flight would take off, it definitely wasn’t worth the risk. I guess I could have bought that $350 evening flight with a 23 hour layover in Moscow instead and stop by and visit some tovarishi for a day but this whole having to show up to work on Monday business deferred me from the Ruski option.

So what did I say in my frustration to the sir working the ticket sales counter after making my travel mistake? “How much is first class?”

The gentleman straightened his back, fixed his tie, gave a slight grin, looked straight into my dark brown, beautiful eyes and said “You can’t afford first class”

#dis

#res

#pect

Hold up, Hold up, hoollll ddddduuuuhhhhhh. This dude had some big ass balls which I clearly didn’t see since he must be sitting on them behind the counter. It’s been a very long time since someone’s words caused my hand to my reach for my heart, my jaw to slightly drop, my eyebrows to greatly raise and my foot to take a step back in disbelief of the audacity before me. I gathered my thoughts, leaned forward and looked straight into his dirty, ugly ass, brown eyes and said “Watch me”

Moments passed, keys were pressed, numbers were calculated. “That’ll be $3,654… sir.”

My heart couldn’t handle these multiple stab wounds straight into my soul. You know damn well this man better put me in the back of the plane, middle seat, armrests occupied, monitor broken, no lean back chair (damn wall), next to the crying baby and the man who hasn’t showered in 3 weeks cause you better believe I ain’t that mad. This trip is not about to go from being one of my cheapest trips to THE MOST EXPENSIVE TRIP OF MY ENTIRE LIFE in 2 seconds flat.

“The $691 econ ticket sounds about right” I  humbly replied with a nod.

So, things didn’t go quite as planned at the end but hey, I roughed it through that weekend travel to India, saw my best friend get married to an awesome gentleman at a spectacular wedding, met my girlfriend’s wonderful family and finished it up with Miss Emine and a solid group of new friends. I had a fucking blast thanks to all my old and new friends I met up with along the way. Safe travels everyone!

Group Pic


© 2017, Traveling is my Religion, All Rights Reserved

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