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Michael’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 08 Jun 2008

Location: A380 Economy, Pacific Ocean

MapI write this as the plane approaches the Great Divining Range heading into Sydney airport. According to the flight information screen we are 47 minutes from Sydney, and due to land about half an hour – I guess that happened when you have a 215 km/hr tail wind, also according to the flight information board. It is 420 am local time in Australia, and I have now been travelling for 27 hours since I left work at 430 pm on Wednesday back on the Isle of Wight.

So how has it been? Interesting. One thing is certain, the 12 hour flight to Singapore and the 8 hour flight on to Sydney could certainly have been worse. The days of carrying 15 magazines, 3 books, a Gameboy and a 30 GB MP3 player to keep you entertained on a plane are well and truly gone. Well, with Singapore Airlines they are. The plane has 108 movies on offer, (I watched Vantage Point, Fools Gold, Step Up 2: The Streets and half on 10,000BC on the way to Singapore, then the rest of 10,000 BC and The Cleaner while heading to Sydney), 180 TV Programes, 700 CD’s to choose from and over 65 interactive computer games, many of them Gameboy titles. So keeping entertained hasn’t been an issue. In fact, I write this now using the hand held keyboard on the back of the chair in front of me, and will save it to USB to upload to the internet later. Pretty amazing.

So, the second half of the trip was on the A380. A pretty nice plane I must say. However, I’m sure it would be nicer if I was lucky (well, rich) enough to get into one of the suites. The plane is very quiet, with not too much noise coming from the engines. Plus the seats feel a touch wider. But there are some funny things about it. The sound of the toilets flushing seems to be intrusively loud compared with the 747-400 which was my ride from London to Singapore. More toilet humor later too… Also, the chairs, dare I say it, aren’t as comfortable to sleep on. They don’t recline as far back as the old chairs do, and instead try and compensate by having the base slide forward when reclining. In my opinion, leads to a less comfortable chair for sleeping in.

I also thought they had gone a little crazy with the cutlery, having only given us plastic knives, after the first leg was made using proper cutlery. But later I found a card in the cutlery packet that says “On flights to certain destinations, we are obliged to use plastic cutlery onboard, in accordance with directives from the local authorities. Thank you for your understanding in this matter. Have a pleasant flight and Bon Appetit!” So there you go, Oz must be one of ‘those’ destinations. But the food was delicious. With the crazy flying through different time zones, it worked out that I had two dinners and two breakfasts on board. The first dinner was steak and veggies, second was salmon, both incredible. Airplane food has changed as well obviously.

So, the toilets are pretty schmick on this big bird as well; Actual temperature control on the tap in the basin; Lights in the mirrors. Plus I haven’t yet had to wait for one on the A380. So there must be a plethora of toilets on board this thing. So here is this problem I have with airplane toilets – I can’t use them. I don’t know what it is, if it is the cabin pressure or something, but I can’t go. Means riding with a gassy stomach for hours on end, and then a pretty mad dash to the toilets once back on the ground where there’s never the same problem I face while airborne. This is one thing that I have noticed on quite a few occasions whilst flying round Europe, but on such a long flight as the two that I have been on today (or yesterday, or tomorrow… what day is it?) it becomes very noticeable.

Another oddity, the free razors in the bathroom to shave. No metal knives, but razors provided. So I figured I’d clean myself up a touch, and trust, those razors could cause some damage. Just ask my poor, burning, blood speckled face. I strongly advise others not to make use of the flimsy razors, not worth the pain, especially as I intend showering and cleaning up at the first possible opportunity once landed.

The layover in Singapore was pretty cool too. Singapore airport is as flashy as their airline. A free 24 hour cinema to keep you entertained whilst waiting for your transfer. Plenty of bars, even if they are over priced - $19 Singapore (about $15 Aus) for a bottle of Crown larger – ‘sucked in Krischunas’. But as much as anything, I was happy to sit out in the smokers lounge. Huh? Smokers lounge? Yeah, they have these outdoor smokers lounges, so I found myself a space away from the ‘not-so-fresh air’ breathers and sat down, enjoying the heat. 30 degrees, albeit bloody humid, but I did enjoy feeling the warmth again after England.

Anyway, computer screen is now telling me 29 minutes to Sydney, and I can feel the plane descending. I will be on home soil again soon! Can’t wait. In 4 hours I will be back in Melbourne, after 2 years and 3 months to the day. If only I was going to have more time to really enjoy it.

--- Later. Well, we circled for over an hour around Sydney, as the tail wind meant that we couldn’t land on the runway. The second runway, that wasn’t subject to the 200km/hr tail wind, doesn’t open till 6am, so all the planes were circling Sydney waiting for the runway to open, and all the planes in front of them to land. As such, despite being in Sydney airport territory at 440 am, it was 630 am before we landed. Given the flight was due to land at 555 am, I was already late for the flight to Melbourne. Thankfully that flight was already running late, and despite the horrible turn-around at Sydney airport, where it is necessary to collect your luggage, clear customs and passports, then PAY to get to the domestic terminal, and check back in, I made the flight in plenty of time. At 940 am, 25 minutes late, I finally arrived in Melbourne, to similar weather as the current English summer – 16 degrees and rain!

Peace out, and more details coming from Melbourne soon.