On Sunday morning, I woke up to an apartment full of hangovers. We were all bleary-eyed and headachey from the night before, but it was already almost time to say goodbye. We sat around watching a TV programme that seemed to be explaining in some detail the entire plot of the movie The Hangover, which was perhaps appropriate. I popped out to the supermarket to buy some last-minute gifts (some sweets and a bottle of saki) and then it was time to say farewell to Noriko, who had to go somewhere for work.
The rest of us started to go on our way to Shibuya, first stopping off at Freshness Burger, the other Japanese burger chain I’d been told about all week. After a mix-up involving teriyaki sauce, I enjoyed it but not as much as Mos Burger, by now a firm favourite. Perhaps it was a good thing I was leaving before developing an addiction. After lunch, we caught the local train to Shibuya so I could catch the Narita Express from there to the airport. After getting my final look at the famous crossing, we went to the ticket office and discovered that there was an earlier train than the one I’d booked. After a little negotiation, we managed to swap the ticket before realising that we’d have to run to the platform to catch the train.
After dashing through what seemed like the longest train station in the world, we got there just in time. I said my goodbyes to my friends and expressed my gratitude for the amazing way they took care of me all week. I had only expected to be shown around once or twice, but in the end I only spent one day by myself. It’s wonderful to have friends like these and I thought to myself as I sat down in the air-conditioned carriage and waved to them through the window that I will have to see them all again soon.
It seemed that I was at the airport in no time. There were about three hours to wait until I had to board my flight, so I spent a little time in an Internet café so I could let people know I was on my way home and spent my last bits of Yen on some final goodies to bring home, including some green tea Kit-Kats that would prove very popular.
By the time I was on the plane, it was dark outside. I put on my headphones and started to listen to Bowie’s Hunky Dory album on the in-flight entertainment system as we taxied, with the chorus to Life on Mars kicking in as the plane soared into the air. It felt perfect, but perfectly sad. I looked down to the lights below, everything getting smaller and smaller until there was just the dark black sea with the occasional pinprick of light from a boat.
There was some unfinished business for me, though – I finally got to finish watching Shutter Island, and really enjoyed it. After that, it was Shrek 4, which was OK, and a couple of episodes of Family Guy and Futurama before I found my eyes getting heavy and (a real rarity for me) managed to get some sleep on the plane. When I woke up, it was time for breakfast, although it was only 2am Dubai time. Although the food on Emirates was generally good, I don’t think I was especially hungry.
The stopover at Dubai was around four hours, but felt twice as long. There was just as much to do there as before, and I had saved a few Dirhams to get something to eat, but I think I was just a bit too tired to do anything. It had been an exhilarating week and although it would be great to be home again and there were people I was really, really looking forward to coming home to, there’s always something depressing about the end of a holiday and having to return back to reality, and an airport full of Brits, Americans and Australians as well as every other natitionality in the world was a clear sign that I was now in a different place and on my way home. It probably didn’t help that the airport was incredibly crowded, even at 4am, and despite getting to my gate over an hour in advance, I had to sit on the floor.
The sun rose over Dubai and it was eventually time to board the enormous Airbus A380. As we took off, we flew past the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, which was brain-meltingly huge, ridiculously dwarfing the ordinarily tall skyscrapers around it and seeming to be close to the aircraft even at a high altitude. It really was an incredible sight, and a fairly terrifying one.
As the flight continued, I selected the formulaic-but-watchable Predators and then the very funny fourth series of the IT Crowd on the entertainment system. I was very sleepy but couldn’t quite sleep. As we were flying over Europe, I went into the toilet cubicle and as I blew my nose, it started to bleed. Since I was I child I’ve always had nosebleeds, maybe once a year or so, but being in an aeroplane about to prepare for landing made me panic more than usual. I felt as if the thinner air was making me bleed more and for longer than usual, but eventually after a few minutes of pinching my nose with my head back the flow started to cease and I was able to get back to my seat in time for landing, as if nothing had happened.
Finally, I landed in Heathrow. It was cold, it was grey, but it was home.