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Long-haul flight #1: Christchurch to Kota Kinabalu: Stream of consciousness

MALAYSIA | Tuesday, 12 May 2009 | Views [1236]

Flight Christchurch > Auckland: 8am - 9.15am

Was told by travel agent to arrive two hours early. This time of day very busy, apparently. Am never listening to travel agent again. Check in counter not even open. Extremely tired due to 4.30am awakening in order to two hours early. Have had 2 hours sleep the night before. Awesome. Try to nap but pipe music and lights conspire against. Meet a man who is going to Thailand for six nights. Sing “6 nights in Bangkok and the world’s … your … oyster… “

Brain is obviously fried already.

Flight out of Christchurch offers uninspiring views. Bad weather across most of country. Can only see the tops of mountains jutting insolently through cloud. Snack of floppy quiche and airplane coffee. Thus begins my day of airline cuisine indulgence.

Meet Pete in Auckland for three-hour stopover. Have last meal on NZ turf at Columbus Coffee in Onehunga. Pete good but drinking too much. Should move back to Christchurch. No booze there…

Flight Auckland > Sydney: 13.25 - 14.30 local time. Duration: 3 hours.

No inflight entertainment for the trans-Tasman. Watch “Lost” on little laptop. Is that what I brought it for? Consider that drinking two glasses of white wine will be an excellent idea. Australian savs still not so appealing. Eat inadvisable chicken and noodle meal.

  • Current plane food tally: 1 snack, 1 meal, 2 coffees, 2 wines, 0 bread rolls.

Arrive Sydney with 30 minutes to kill before boarding next leg. Go through security. Pay a leisurely visit to the bathrooms. Contemplate Akubra hat and rock opal pendant in duty free shop. Am reminded of a gentleman exclaiming in amusement that you can always spot the Kiwis because they wear chunks of their country around their necks. (ie, greenstone/pounamu.) Wonder if opal is Australian equivelent. Contemplate Akubra hat once again.

Row is called for boarding. Attempt to find boarding pass. Succeed. Attempt to find passport: Fail. Am reminded of my last visit to this airport where I lost both passport and tickets. Consider this current situation an improvement, but not by much.

Retrace steps: Toilet — no. Transit security point (common point of failure) — no. Flight still boarding. Run to gate. Panic. Communicate panicked state to gate attendants. Ask if they can call lost and found, although prior experience with this department has not indicated any great degree of competency. Accommodate suggestion that I check my bag once again, but secretly annoyed that they’re wasting time assuming that I’m an idiot when my passport is currently at large.

Passport does not magically appear on fifth examination of bag contents. Communicate panicked state to gate attendant once again. Following an eye roll, attendant agrees to phone. As soon as she picks up the phone my name is called over the PA.

Stupid security had it all along. Just like last time.

Run run run. Sweat sweat sweat. Grin. Thanks. Sweat sweat. Run run. Fucking undignified airport. Make it to the plane and collapse into seat in big sweating panting heap. Not even in bloody Asia yet.

Flight Sydney > Singapore: 4pm > 10pm local time. Duration: 8 hours.

  • Current airport tally: 3

  • Current terminal tally: 4

Yay, inflight entertainment. Watch “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “He’s Just Not That Into You”. Guy from Apple ads is hot. Enjoy second movie more than anticipated.

Brain obviously completely fried now.

Attempt sleep, but seated next to a wiggly 4 year old. Wiggle wiggle… POW! Four-year-old tootsies in the thigh.

Really looking forward to Singapore and the various delights of “Club Changi” — so called by sleepinginairports.com owing to its abundance of delights for transiting passengers: Couches for napping, movie theatre, showers, free wifi, etc.

Arrive in Singapore (current plane food tally: 4 meals, 1 snack, 4 coffees, 2 bread rolls, 1 hunk of cheese, 2 ice creams, 2 green salads, 1 fruit salad, 1.5 apple juices) and make fatal mistake: Exit the transit area. Turns out that the rest of the airport is actually pretty inhospitable for sleeping.

  • Hours of sleep previous night: 2.5

  • Current number of hours awake: 22

Theorise that I am perhaps in the wrong terminal. (There are three.) Ride sky train between them looking for a quiet nook with some carpet. Alas, all of Singapore is tiled. Noise of announcements and loitering Singaporean teens makes sleep look unlikely. Ask at information if there is such a thing as quiet and carpet. Answer is no. Go to 4th floor of terminal 3 and try to sleep down a dead end with a nice view of the carpeted bliss of the forbidden transit area. Lights, noise, lights, noise. Pack up and try to find a new spot.

  • Current hours awake: 24

  • Hours since leaving Christchurch: 20

  • Airports: 4

  • Airport terminals: 7

Find carpet on the floor of a pasta restaurant down a lane of shops. It is Shangri-la. Dark, quiet, with a toilet nearby.  Lock “paranoia bag” full of electronic gadgetry to a table and bed down beside it. Finally — sleep at 2am.

Awake at 5.30am surprisingly chipper. Obviously sleep deprivation has me deluded into thinking that I’m not tired. Take luxurious spa bath in disabled toilet.

Disabled toilet rating: 6/10. Not enough space between tap and basin to fit whole head. Slight gross sewerage smell. But clean with good shelf and mirror.

Catch shuttle to “budget terminal”. Spend about $8 on tuna sandwich and coffee. Bloody airports. Too hungry not to. Check in. Transit area. No napping area or movie theatre, but free internet and car racing on TV.

Board flight. Very civilized. Tiger Airways is certainly no Ryanair clone.

Flight: Singapore to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. 9.30am - 11.30am. Duration 2 hours.

Arrive Kota Kinabalu. Spy islands in distance as we’re coming in to land. Slightly excited. Go through health check: Disinfect hands, health questionnaire, thermal imaging cameras. Singapore has pig flu, it transpires.

Immigration, bags, customs, out. Need cash but only ATM in airport is out of order. Men walking around with rifles. Get cash advance on CC and try to catch bus. Wait one hour. Bus doesn’t come. End up sharing a taxi with Australians. Arrive hostel. Check in. Shower. Rehydrate. Attempt to nap.

  • Hours since leaving Christchurch:  34

  • Total hours in air:  About 14.5

  • Hours of sleep: About 3

  • Total airports: 5

  • Total airport terminals: 9

  • Days until next stupid long-haul flight: 54

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