Day 1 – The Journey

I’ve never been one for travel writing. I figure there’s nothing I can really say that hasn’t been said about every single place on the planet. But then I figure “hey, its writing practise and it’s a more descriptive way of telling my parents what’s been happening”.

Hi Mum! Hi Dad!

Anyways, enough of the intro, let’s get on with it:

We got to the Gold Coast airport at about 7.30 in the morning. Plenty of time to check in, sit around, and maybe get some breakfast. The Macca’s at home didn’t open until 6AM and we got there way too early. At 5.56.
But, alas, we were not meant for a relaxing check-in. The line for check in was absolutely astronomical. My sister and I stood in line for an hour in between young families on holiday with their demon children and clumps of people with boxes and boxes wrapped in bubble wrap, obviously going back home. Mum hovered at the edges of the crowd, handing us pens for our paperwork and toast and coffee for sustenance. But the line was so long that, eventually, Mum sat down and I did the Gen Y thing of texting someone in the same room.

When we finally got through check-in, we had about five minutes with Mum to wind our way through duty free shopping before having to line up, yet again, to go through security. I don’t know what it is about airport security, but I always get “randomly selected” for explosives testing. I was guided into this weird plastic tube where I had to stand, hands over my head, as they scanned me. I don’t know about you, but I always get nervous around official people. It’s like I robbed a bank without realising it, and these guys know all about it. Once I was cleared, my sister and I walked down through the internal maze and ended up on the tarmac. In the middle of another freaking line! I think the airport guys wanted to get rid of us all but the aeroplane staff didn’t want to take us. So we all stood there, in the perverted wind, waiting until the aeroplane people finally took us on.

The flight was nothing special. Flights never are. We were next to this woman who disappeared within the first hour, there was an incessant beeping that went on for about half an hour at a time, my sister got motion sick, and I rented an iPad and watched about two and a half movies. My dad booked us some food, which actually was pretty damn tasty, and I got to use the drop-down cup holders that came out of the fold-away trays. Throw in my accidentally pissing off the flight attendants, and that was our seven-and-a-half hour flight to Singapore.
Singapore (Changi) airport was something else. Australian airport designers could definitely learn something from their Singapore counterparts. For one thing, you could give electronic feedback on the state of the toilets, the cafes, and the entertainment on touch screens with different smiley faces showing your state of contentment. For another, they had grown hedges in the shape of “Changi” on the lawn encircling the edges of the runway. Inside Changi, the signs pointing us in one direction or another also told us how long it would take us to get where we needed to go. No excuses for being late in Singapore.
What really showed me we were in another country was the food. In Australia you’ve got Macca’s, Red Rooster, NRG (which you never see anywhere but at airports and Fortitude Valley train station), and various over-priced coffee shops. In Singapore I got lunch, chicken and rice, and a drink, root beer, for under $10. And here’s a tip for you: Visa really does get you everywhere.
We spent the rest of our three hour layover looking for something for my sister to eat. We found Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, and 7/11, before settling on MacDonald’s. And were let down: Macca’s only wanted cash. Too good for our Visa cards, apparently. So we explored instead. We found  a hotel embedded in the middle of the airport, half a dozen impressively huge lolly shops, and gardens. Gorgeous gardens with lush greenery, bright starbusts of colour, and koi ponds with actual koi. I was struck dumb. Seriously, gardens in an airport? Why doesn’t Australia have those? There was also the “Xperience Zone” with Playstations, computers, and an enormous screen that was showing some kind of football. Everything the impatient traveller could ever need.

About an hour before boarding we headed towards our gate and were greeted with every traveller’s worst nightmare: a primary school trip. Kids with no parental supervision. I was horrified. At least a dozen kids under the age of twelve yelling, running around, and basically just carrying on. But the air hostess handled them like a pro. She legitimately told them to “Go, sit down, and be quiet”. When they were hanging around, waiting for their mates and causing a bottle neck, she pointed to about four of them and said “Go sit down!”. Now, why can’t Aussie air hostesses do that? I’ll tell you why: because of the parents. They would turn around and tell the airport staff their children’s behaviour was the airport’s fault so fast that the lawsuit would have already happened before everyone’s heads stopped spinning. I, personally, wanted to high five this woman. People in the customer service industry should absolutely be allowed to deal with their customers’ devil children this way. I get so sick of this “my child is an angel” mentality. I’m getting worked up now, so I’ll move on.

The flight was less impressive than the last one. No fancy pop-out cup holders and my fold-away table was still sticky from my predecessor. But, funnily enough, we were sitting next to a family that we’d been “travelling with” since the Gold Coast. They were a few seats across from us on the flight to Singapore, ahead of us in the line to confirm our transfer at Changi, and then popped up on our next flight. Wherever they are now, I hope they’re having fun.
The people in front of us were a lot less fun. It was a mother and a small girl. And the tiny little girl was absolutely fascinated by her toy plane, which had a working a propeller. It was more like a tiny fan than anything. She started the trip fine, poking her head out from behind her seat and smiling at us with her huge brown eyes. But then the repetitive questions to her mother started. And the unintelligible noises. So my lovely, helpful sister decided to join in, with Sharpay’s vocal warm ups:

And because monkey hear, monkey do: that tiny tot decided to make the same noise. Until we landed.

When we finally arrived in Phuket, we were exhausted. It was 10pm our time, and the humidity hit me like a flaccid, smelly punch to the face. I walked up and down the taxi cue, looking for my name on the sign I was promised before we left Australia. This was amid dodging pushy taxi drivers trying to get us to choose their taxi instead. After a few laps, with my suitcase butting up against my leg, I still didn’t see my name. So I succumbed to the taxi driver that had been pursuing us since we walked out of the automatic doors.

Worst decision ever.

Thank God for my sister. I was so tired that when we got in the “taxi”, I didn’t hear the doors lock. But she sure did and so both of us and our luggage bailed out of there as fast as we could. The driver followed us back to the bustling, well-lit security of the airport. He didn’t get the hint for ages until he finally gave us back our money and walked away. When we finally caught our breath, we took a final lap of the taxi line and saw my name. Collapsing onto the back seat, we let the comforting beats of the Australian top 40 from a month ago calm our still staggering pulses.
About an hour later, we were in the lobby of our hotel, then the lift, the shower, and then dead asleep. Much too tired to appreciate the towel swan nesting on our bed, let alone take a photo.

About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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