18th December 2015
As for the beginning of most journeys abroad, we wait with the usual anticipation at the Transit Centre in Molesworth Street beneath far-reaching branches and a dappled summer sky; though this day with more-than-enough time on our hands (like Kipling on the Road to Mandalay), though stationary in the centre of Lismore looking westward for the bus to Brisbane, our minds channeling excitement,our money belts puffing out our bellies with a fist of crisp virgin American dollars.
Delivered without incident to Roma Street, at 15:37 we venture to the ticket booth, hand over a Visa card to an efficient clerical officer, purchase two tickets to the Airport for an ‘approved’ $34, repocket the Visa card into the correct compartment, climb the escalators to the platform like turtles on the move, and walk straight into a waiting carriage just moments before the whistle blows and we’re out of Brisbane CBD before we even notice anything new.
After negotiating the stairs and passing through our first ‘manned’ checkpoint at the International railway platform, we’re gratefully directed by officialdom to load our luggage onto nearby trolleys and cross the walkway in blazing sunshine to glide into the terminal hours before the boarding time for our SQ246 flight to Singapore.
While Brisbane is sweltering, the airconditioning is super cool inside the terminal building. With limited cafeteria options, we eventually snack on a savoury muffin and share a small bucket of Kentucky Fried chips, washing everything down with a mug of Green tea as I spread out a crossword puzzle book onto a vacant table and fill known spaces.
Time passes slowly when there’s only a small number of terminal shops to browse through. Eventually the Departure Board informs us of our Check-in point. Eager to pass over our luggage, there’s more-than-enough time for me to nibble on a plate of beer battered chips and for Ben to slurp up a Thai Green Curry loaded with chicken chunks before we start the queue well-and-truly-before-check-in-time at the Singapore Airlines desks. It’s not long before we’re joined by a mature couple heading for Hanoi, and more specifically a junk in Halong Bay.
‘You’ll love it. It’s a magical place.’
Allotted seats 61E and 61F and informed of a 10:35 pm boarding time, I’m somewhat flustered by the singling out and scanning of my totally-innocuous-body-plus-carry-on-items by Customs officials. Meanwhile Ben breezes through screening unaccosted and unphased.
We make our way to the waiting lounge at Gate 81.
‘After that little hiccup I think I need to buy something sweet to chew. And a bottle of water for your medications, ‘ I say heading off & forgetting I’ll need to produce my passport and boarding pass for even the smallest purchase.
‘I must be aging quicker than I thought. It’s taking a while to get into the swing of things.’
Babies and families board the plane in the first phase. As part of Group 4, we’re the second phase passenger group directed towards the tail section by well-suited hostesses, to where we find our seats close enough to the washroom for Ben’s convenience.
Up and away, it’s difficult to sleep. And being seated at the very back and among the last to be served refreshments, we miss out on the Scrambled Eggs for breakfast at 5 am. Yogurt and sweet biscuits is deemed to be sufficient at that hour.
Changi Airport seems more like an underground city than an airport. Knowing the ropes (because we’re well-seasoned travellers) we know where to catch the Skytrain to Terminal 2 (stopping by some exquisite floral displays to further chronicle the journey with a snapshot or two)
though quite forgetting we need to walk the proverbial mile alongside a clattering moving walkway to find Gate E27, where we wait to be screened ready for our flight to Yangon at 7:55 am.
Boarding at 6:55 we find seats 54 & 55 in Row F, position our carry-on bags in appropriate places in overhead lockers or beneath the seats in front, and then buckle up. Of course, having already used our Earplanes for a trouble free descent into Singapore, they’re close at hand and ready to be retrieved out of their cute little blue cases for the shorter ascent and descent into Yangon.
With passports eventually stamped and backpacks and bags already breezing through Myanmar security screening I say to my companion abroad, ‘Remember we’re on the lookout for Chit Chit and her sign. The $10US is crisp and ready for the shuttle ride to our hotel in 30th Street.’
‘You’re going fine, Mum.’