Greens and Reds: A Long Day’s Journey to One Night’s Sleep

Posted on January 18th, 2013 by

Shirley and Steve at Empire MallThe plane trip to/from Malaysia is always long – too long to be easy. After many such trips over the years, I have come up with two rules for minimizing the jet lag of crossing ten time zones at once. The first is, sleep as much as you can on the flight(s). The second is, when you arrive, force yourself to stay up until the local bedtime, and then sleep. The ability to do those, however, is affected by the timing of the flights relative to the sleep cycle your body has been most recently accustomed to. We picked the fastest routing available for this trip: Minneapolis to Tokyo (nine time zones in 12 hours of flying), an hour layover, then Tokyo to Singapore (one more time zone in seven hours flying), five hours layover in the middle of the local night in Singapore, and then the one hour flight up to Kuala Lumpur (known as “KL” to the Malaysians).

Since we left home at 1 PM Central Standard Time, I couldn’t get myself to sleep at all before Tokyo. So, I watched three movies on Delta’s video-on-demand system, ate the three meals they served, drank enough water to stay hydrated, and waited for the refueling stop in Tokyo. I planned to sleep most of the seven hours to Singapore, but our section of the plane was “invaded” by some delightful, very talkative and excited high-school students who were prospectives for a Yale University-National University of Singapore undergraduate program. Since they couldn’t stop talking, we joined in and shared a little of our knowledge of this part of the world with the realization that, just a year from now, we’ll be bringing our own excited students on the same journey. Anyway, after that and two more airline meals, Mellema’s rule number 1 for avoiding jet lag was not obeyed. If I had to guess, I had 2-3 hours of fitful sleep before Singapore.

If you got to choose, Changi airport in Singapore might be the best airport to be in from 1:30-6:30 AM. Good food to eat, free computers with internet access, and even a few shops to explore. Unfortunately, nowhere to sleep…

We flew up to KL, arriving at sunrise, and that’s where I was struck, as always, by the pervasive greens of  lush, tropical Malaysia. It always has an impact, but was probably even more striking coming from January in Minnesota. Then, the trick was trying to obey Mellema’s rule #2 for avoiding jet lag – no naps, stay awake until Malaysian bedtime. It wasn’t easy, having to go 40 hours on 2-3 hours sleep. We kept going by doing what KL residents like to do – spend the heat of the day indoors at air conditioned shopping malls. And that’s where the reds came in. It is three weeks until Chinese New Year, and the mall decorations are on full display. The photo at the top is Shirley and me amid some New Year decorations at Empire Mall in Subang Jaya, near her sister’s home where we are staying.

We made it to 10:00 PM, and then I crashed and had a good, long night’s sleep. Looks like I may have avoided the jet lag, after all.


One Comment

  1. Lynnea Myers says:

    I hope you are having a wonderful trip! Can’t wait to read more updates!