First impressions? Well, I've only seen the airport and a small bit of Christchurch, but I already like it. Nice friendly people, cool English accent, good weather, nice tiny houses. My biggest worry at the moment is the jetlag. It's 6pm and my brain's already in standby mode, but I can't doze off now, otherwise I'll wake up at 2am, fresh for the night, and will be utterly useless by 4pm. Not a nice experience to fall asleep on the street, in the middle of a walk...
Although there's not much to say about NZ at the moment, I can mention the flight. It's the beginning of my trip, after all. I left Europe for the third time in my life, this time flying from Prague through Dubai, Bangok and Sydney to Christchurch. The Emirates airline lived up to its reputation - absurd amount of legroom for an economy class ticket, good food and tons of movies to watch. As a bonus, the plance was almost empty from Bangok, so the few passengers could comfily stretch over the middle 4-seat row and sleep like babies. And those valiums I took helped, too. Thanks, Mick.
Dubai was a culturally enriching experience, despite being just a very short stopover. It was my first visit to an Arabic country and I couldn't get my eyes off the immigration officers all dressed up like Ali Baba and 40 thieves. You know those white pyjamas and head covers that beduins wear? The airport was also impressive. Although toilets aren't made of gold, as someone suggested, the airport is designed in a modern, almost futuristic style from the outside, in contrast with the cyclopean white marble collumns on the inside. Add a few beduins and you get an idea of Dubai airport. I was tempted to go see the city, but after giving it further consideration, I refrained from strolling alone through an Arabic metropolis in the middle of the night (it was 1:30am by the time I got the hotel).
Bangok and Sydney were just two short stops and we didn't even get out of the airport, so there's not much to say, except for the brutal thunderstorm that hit Bangok just after our landing and delayed us by almost an hour. And also that it was nice to be in Sydney again. I really like that city.
Most impressive of all were the views from the airplane, though. Not only did I see Prague as clearly as never before (I even saw my own house!), but I also flew over several countries I only know from the map so far, and that always gives me the chills - that strange feeling that I've flown over a foreign country, seen it from above, but haven't actually set foot in it. Flying over Turkey, Iraq or India felt the same like when I was looking at Syberia from 12km above, back in 2009. I was quite surprised civil aircrafts can fly over Iraq, but obviously it's not an issue.
Alas, Baghdad was on the other side and I didn't see anything. On the other hand, I saw lots of bright fires in the middle of complete darkness - the oil rigs - and some kind of military base or whatever it was with a wide perimeter like a fortress. And the night view od Dubai, that was quite something. Bits of inhabited areas in the middle of the desert, with the main roads resembling long serpents of orange light trailing off into nowhere, into complete darkness. Quite a view, really. Pictures should speak for themselves.
I was looking forward to seeing India as well, but I dozed off just after we got there and missed it completely, except for a small bit of countryside. Shame that I didn't see Mumbai, wee flew directly over it and there were no clouds.
Then a long nothing and then... ahh, my beloved Sydney. What a sight. Chatswood (where the PokerStars office is located), the Harbor Bridge, the city centre with all its scycrapers, the beaches, the double-decker trains... Sydney, oh, Sydney, I like you so much.
Ok, enough cheesy talk. After Australia and a short stretch of ocean, here goes New Zealand, at last. It looks exactly like on the map - impressive mountains in the West - Mordor - and then it goes completely flat all the way to the eastern coast, with geometrically perfect fields. Quite a view.
Ok, that's it. I need to keep writing not to fall asleep, but writing a novel about a flight trip isn't the best idea, so I'll find something else to do. Enjoy the pictures.