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Singapour, mon premier amour

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30 January 2019

Singapore was my first ever overseas destination way back in 2010 and it is where I caught the travel bug that will be with me the rest of my life. It is therefore no surprise that I have some affection for the place. Yes, it has a rather nasty authoritarian corporatist government that turns the buttocks of petty criminals into Peck's paste with heavy bamboo canes saturated in water just to make them even heavier and more brutalising, slaps crippling defamation lawsuits on those few brave souls prepared to criticise government leaders, and relies on blatant exploitation of low-skilled foreign labour. So I can't see myself ever living there. But it does have marvellous modern architecture, amazing food, one of the world's greatest public transport systems and a flag-carrier airline that consistently ranks among the world's best.

I had never flown with Singapore Airlines before, nor had I ever flown on an Airbus A380. I was eagerly looking forward to both these things. Singapore Airlines' reputation is well deserved. The service is polite, professional, clinically efficient, and the food is better than in most restaurants on terra firma. The food even comes with proper stainless steel cutlery. The A380 is a commendable enough plane and the seats were comfortable and roomy. The main noticeable difference is how deeply recessed and far away from my seat the window is. I usually book window seats because I like the view but I had to lean all the way to the left to get a glimpse of the terrain eleven kilometres below.

The plane pushed off from Gate 57 at Kingsford Smith's international terminal a few minutes early and we took off from Runway 34L. We banked to the northwest and soon encountered heavy cloud and turbulence until we reached the Outback somewhere west of Tottenham. I kept myself occupied by listening to an excellent Big Ideas podcast from ABC Radio National about the broader socio-economic causes of mental health disorders (look it up - I think the guy's name was Yonah Hari) as well as a podcast from Boonta Vista, a troupe of three young Australians whose programs consist of an hour engaging in sardonic and understatedly hilarious commentary on Australian current affairs. I did the crossword and Sudoku in the complimentary dead-tree edition of the Sydney Morning Herald and watched the Outback scenery glide past thirty-seven thousand feet below. I passed over Lake Eyre, Australia's largest "lake", really just a vast desert salt pan that looks like a giant white turtle.

We also passed right over Uluru, but just as it was about to come into sight, the plane flew over a bank of clouds. I got to see a little glimpse of Katatjuta anyway, a nearby landmark consisting of a few dozen closely-spaced breast-shaped monoliths that is just as interesting and awe-inspiring as its more famous neighbour.

Four hours and twenty minutes after leaving Sydney, Flight SQ 222 finally crossed the western coastline of Australia between Derby and Broome. The vastness of this country is something Australians don't think about often, we are kind of aware of it in the abstract, in the background. It is only when you are flying over it for hours and hours that the colossal magnitude of Australia is brought home to you. The flight is scheduled to take seven hours and twenty-five minutes. That means that over half the flight from Sydney to Singapore consists of just crossing Australia. Broome is closer to Singapore than Sydney.

Night fell as we passed over Bali with its volcanoes puncturing through the soupy mist. Not too long after, we started our descent and I got to see my first love once again, the Lion City with its brilliantly lit waterfront skyline and hundreds of ships scattered through the Malacca Straits like so many Christmas decorations. The plane approached the runway over high-rise housing estates and illuminated sporting fields and the Airbus A380 touched down at Changi.

The plane docked at the far southern end of Terminal 3 from which it was a lengthy walk to the Skytrain, a driverless people mover system with cute little trains that whisk transferring passengers from one terminal to the other. There was only a fifty minute interval between SQ 222 and my next flight so I didn't get to savour too much of Singapore before boarding commenced.

Posted by urbanreverie 22:25 Archived in Singapore Tagged singapore airport changi

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