Friday, September 18, 2009
Chapter 4. Leaving Singapore or Killing Time - a LOT of time.
So after I knocked down my expensive drinks with fruit swizzle sticks and umbrellas I decide I might be running out of time (6.30pm) to get back to Changi in time to make my flight (11.30pm). Yeah, right. For a start, Singaporean Public Transport is so wildly efficient there was no way in the world I couldn't make it back in time. Second, the check-in and boarding gates for Singapore Air flights open three hours before the flight. In Changi they open a mere 60 minutes prior. So I'm back at Changi with about another four hours to kill. Only I didn't know this at the time, so I spent endless hours just wandering around the airport looking like a very well dressed, white terrorist.
I did manage to squeeze in a magnificent shower at the transit lounge, and left resplentdent in the tackiest $15 t-shirt money can buy. All class, me. I downed another expensive beer at a bad bar and headed for some food. All of the Asian food looked remarkably similar to anything I could get down Victoria St, so was not filled with the travel wonderment from the local eateries. As I passed Burger King I scoffed at the anglo chavs and bogans who were not courageous enough to dine anywhere else but an American burger chain. "Uncouth" thinks me, the last of the great snobs. Until something on the Burger King menu board catches my eye.
Well, figuring I could get any manner of char seiw, or tom yum or any of the other local fare, I figured the only thing in the whole of Changi International Airport I may never again have the chance to try, how could I resist? And the verdict? Rendang burger puts the flavour back into fast food dining. Who knew that such a clash of culture could result in such a magnificent grease filled meat flavoured sandwich?
So after HOURS waiting I finally manage in to the departure lounge. As our flight is readying boarding a disturbing announcement is made: our flight would now be boarding from gate A5 rather than gate A2. What? You forgot where you put the airplane?
This announcement followed many minutes later by the "this flight has now been delayed by one hour and will depart 00:30".
GREAT! My connecting flight at Heathrow leaves for Glasgow at 0830. Check in closes at 0800. It was going to be a frantic stretch to get there with the flight running to schedule - now I'm FARKED!!!
Chapter 5. Singapore to Heathrow or The Elephant of the Sky.
My first time ever on a huge A380 Airbus. Man this thing is HUGE. I've got a window seat (which is becoming de rigour) and enough space between me and the window to stow a small hippopotamus. This thing is HUGE. I look out the window and all I can see is wing. It is ENORMOUS. No kidding (and I know you know I'm occasionally prone to exaggeration) literally three quarters of the viewable area of my window was takn up by wing. It stretched as far as I could see ahead, and as far as I could see behind. So I'm thinking "this thing must really need some serious thrust to get airborne". I mean, I know aeronautical engineering principles, yeah, and the force of the air pressure as the air rushes over the surface of the wing creates upward pressure blah, blah, blah. This monolith surely must have to get to about 500kmph on the airstrip before it could possibly take off. You know the force of the trust on an ordinary jet as it takes off? I was expecting the skin on my face to be stretched harder than Joan Rivers'.
So, about an hour after the extra hour added to our flight we're taxiing to the runway. We turn and I brace for the adrenalin inducing thrust that is about to rock my world when we start down the runway.
"Hmmm... a little slow," I think, "Can't wait 'til the pilot hits that super-turbo-thrust button" as we dawdle down the runway, "any minute now Mr Pilot," as we've travelled what seems like a couple of kilometres at what seems like no more than 40kmph, "at your leisure, dude," I begin to fret hoping tha tthe runway extends for about another five kilometres to allow us to get up to speed. And then, it dawns on me. This flight was delayed for technical issues. OH MY GAWD! THIS PLANE DOESN'T HAVE ANY THRUST!!! So just as I think we must surely have run off the end of the runway and are destined to be tomorrow's headline the thing just kinda lurches up and almost reluctantly leaves contact with mother earth. As easy as all that.
So anyway, this trip has none of the previous screaming children or obnoxous spoilt Indian families, so there's little to report - other than my bemusement at the two Chinese girls I shared the aisle with who wore swine-flu face-masks for the enitre duration of the flight. Well, almost the entire duration. they did take them off to eat, at which time I thought they looked better with them on. Can you say that?
As we approach London I mentioned to one of the stewardesses that the delay to our flight has meant there is little or no chance of me making my connecting flight. I showed her my boarding pass for the next leg and she giggled and assured me that even if I could reach that flight (and then she giggled again, reassuringly) that the chances of my luggage being transferred in that time were, well... in cases of such delays there is usually Singapore Air staff at our destination to assist me to book a subsequent flight. Oh great. I'm screwed. Just when I had that argument about whether or not I should get travel insurance.
Chapter 6. HEATHROW = PWNT!!! or "I had to hustle right through Heathrow, don't be alarmed now."
Flight touches down. How the hell can you land such a gigantic aircraft? Probably best not to think too hard about that.
I approach the staff member obviously appointed to help those inconvenienced due to the delay and waved my boarding pass at her, "It's okay," she intoned, "you've got almost an hour before it departs." "Hey Lady, I've been here before and I know it takes at least an hour to queue for the toilets!" It's amzaing how witty you can make yourself sound when you're recounting the story a couple of days later.
"Well, you can try, and if (when) you miss the flight there will be staff to assist you in booking another."
Great. That conversation just wasted almost thirty seconds of the 3300 I had to spare before take-off.
So I run to the flight connection area.
I skip past the dawdlers blocking the corridors with little or no idea where they were going, me - I was running on instinct and sense of direction alone.
I wave my boarding pass at one attendant... "Terminal 5" she calls as I turn into a blur before her eyes.
I leap on the connecting bus as the doors close behind me only to be greeting by the recording suggesting this journey will take 15 minutes. 15 MINUTES??!! Precious seconds ticking down.
Terminal 5 now and there is a queue of people for the flight connection information but me, I don't got time for queues. I slide like Tom Cruise in Risky Business (only this time with pants on - but that doesn't last for the whole length of this tale) to the side of the front of that queue where a curt but helpful woman escorted me to the check-in desk where a very helpful man proceeded to help. Only he was a little too helpful.
Oh noes. Time for dinner. It's at this most climactic part of my charming tale that I must bid you adieu. Again. For now.