Another dot in the blogosphere?

Serendipity and arse luck 2

Posted on: June 10, 2014

Yesterday, I wrote about the serendipity that presented itself when I was planning for a family vacation. That good fortune it sometimes balanced by some bad or arse luck.

The onward journey took us to Paris on transit. We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) at about 7am and before any major human traffic. I was worried about the complex navigation from one terminal to another as a search at the CDG site presented three options. Fortunately, ours turned out to be the most straightforward.

We cleared immigration at CDG very quickly as we were only second in line. I was surprised that we did not have go through immigration again when we arrived at the lovely Copenhagen airport (CPH). I had brought my prior understanding of travel with me and forgot about benefits of travel within the European Union. Passports were processed at the arriving and departing ports of call.

This made our travel between Denmark and Sweden seamless in terms of travel documents. There was no need for them. However, we faced a different and unpredictable problem.

We had planned on travelling immediately from CPH to Sweden. On the day we arrived, there was a rail strike that affected our train journey across the Øresund Bridge.

Fortunately, the authorities arranged for coaches to bring people over the bridge both ways and people could continue on rail once on the other side. What should have been a less than 30-minute ride was prolonged by a bit.

We planned on using Malmö as our base in Sweden but we did not realize that the coaches brought us to south Malmö when we actually needed to be at the city centre. The cab ride from south to central Malmö cost more (280 SEK, Swedish crowns) than the ride across the bridge (189 SEK).

I learnt later that a two-stop train ride within Malmö would have cost a fraction of the cab ride. But that allowed me to chat with the cabbie about how to orientate myself and which mobile phone company offered the best deal. After that lesson, it was trains wherever we went.

Most train ticket machines had an option for English translation. But not all information was in English even after you selected that option. For example, payment instructions by credit card were not in English, but it was easy enough to guess.

Your credit card must also activated for use overseas and with a PIN. I think all banks in Singapore deactivate the magnetic stripe for security reasons and you should activate this feature for the duration of your trip. You might be able to sign for other purchases, but machines require PINs.

After a lovely three days in Sweden, we made our way back to Denmark. The rail strike was still on, but my single family ticket took us by rail, coach, and rail again to Copenhagen Central.

We stayed at a hotel that was a stone’s throw for the Central station. However, it was literally and figuratively on the wrong side of the tracks. The hotel was in a red light district, but it was our only option for proximity to sights and to keep costs low. We did that by choice.

However, short of an extensive online search, I had no way of predicting two events in Copenhagen. We did not choose to arrive the day before Constitution Day (very quiet as many shops were closed) and Distortion (an annual and very noisy music event that attracted about 300,000 people). Some of the locals choose to leave the city because of the noise and drunken behaviour it attracts.

Thankfully our windows kept much of the noise out, the authorities kept things in check, and cleaning tricks cleared rubbish well before we stepped out the next day.

We opted to travel to Billund, home of LEGO, as a treat for my son. There were several travel options from Copenhagen. The information I had to process and the decisions I had to make were enough to cause an ulcer.

When I took into consideration the pros and cons of each, as well as unforeseen road or rail repairs, I still wonder why this sort of thinking and decision-making is not taught earlier and more actively in schools. I probably do not use 99% of the Math I learnt in school. I had (and still have) to teach myself these problem-seeking and solving skills.

Serendipity might present wonderful options, but it is the arse luck that creates dissonance and the opportunities to learn. I do not think you can or should have one without the other.

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