A messy ride home

Emerging out of the MRT station at Changi Airport is like entering a giant Star Wars set, all ultra-modern architecture with Imperial greys and white fluorescent lighting. The station is at Terminal 2 and it was necessary to catch an automated airport shuttle, which also appeared out of Star Wars, to Terminal 1, where both B and I were departing from.

Though I was flying Qantas and B British Airways back to Sydney the same check in desk serviced both. We quickly passed through security and immigration.

Terminal 1’s refurbishment had progressed since our last visit, with the addition of an attractive area of vegetation, a rest area and views across the tarmac. However, toilet facilities were lacking in numbers, location and quality. The overall impression of this terminal at one of the world’s most popular airports was one of disappointment.

I was further disappointed to discover that there were no longer any Bengawan Solo outlets anywhere other than in Terminal 2. What’s happened to this kuih chain?

Alex seemed much improved. We took him up to the children’s play area, near a Burger King outlet. There is a small slide/climbing castle setup, and a padded area. It’s not very interesting. The nappy change areas are open behind a low barrier, though the feeding rooms are private. Alex was happily playing until an older kid barreled into him. Alex didn’t understand what had happened and just cried.

I wanted to take him to the clinic, but our boarding time was rapidly approaching. Looking at him, he was obviously sick but he didn’t seem critically so (and we’ve seen him plenty sick this year thanks to childcare). He also seemed to be keeping his liquids down.

That is, until we were queuing to board and he threw up into a pot plant. Poor kid! I weighed up whether to scratch the flight, but I thought, he’s going to be lying down asleep for seven hours then we’ll be back in Australia where I can take him to a doctor if he still needs it.

I waved goodbye to B, who was flying back on a BA 777 direct to Sydney. Alex and I would be flying a Qantas A380 to Melbourne, with a follow on flight to Sydney.

As I was travelling with an infant we had priority boarding. Back to the familiar green economy section of the A380, as for my last 3 flights on the aircraft. In my opinion the economy seats are the most comfortable of any aircraft I have flown in and at least I should have a chance to watch some of the entertainment.

When the flight attendant gave me the infant extender belt I also requested some sick bags. This lead to me being questioned about the health of Alex. I assured them that he would be okay for the trip, but upon later reflection we really should not have flown that night. The problem is if Alex’s health was to suddenly crash? It’s not like you can call on an ambulance to pick you up mid-air.

As we waited for boarding to finish Alex was quite lively, especially once he discovered that the seat back entertainment was a touch screen. He was given a Elmo kids pack from a flight attendant, even though it’s not meant for under-3’s. I kept it aside for later in the flight.

Once the doors were closed the lady beside me was moved into a window seat, as she had previously requested, and there was now a spare seat between Alex and I at the window and another lady on the aisle. Perfect! Plenty of room for Alex to stretch out and a spare tray table that I could use. The aircraft itself looked pretty packed, the spare window seat due to a no-show rather than a lack of bookings.

Also good were the provided pillows and blankets. I was so glad that we were flying Qantas tonight rather than Jetstar, because the additional comfort level should make a potentially difficult flight a big more pleasurable.

The captain welcomed us to the aircraft over the PA, stating a flight time of a mercifully short six and a half hours to Melbourne.

Alex fell asleep on my lap as the aircraft backed out from the terminal. I had the entertainment system set on camera view and Ravel’s Bolero playing on the music system for the gentle take-off.

The first couple of hours flight were a bit turbulent. Thanks probably to its large wing, both in absolute and relative terms, the A380 seemed to “float” through bumps in a way that I found quite uncomfortable. Dinner was brought around, but Alex was fast asleep and would have had no interest in his toddler meal. The crew kept an adult chicken curry noodles aside for me, but in the end I lacked the appetite to make the effort eating.

While Alex slept I had the rare opportunity to watch a movie. Feeling in the mood for mindless entertainment I selected Predators. It was as good as the original Predator, which is not really a recommendation.

I could feel a damp patch on my pants and I knew that Alex’s nappy had leaked some brown. But what could I do? Eventually he woke up, and fortunately the lady on the aisle was also awake and moved to let us out. I changed his nappy and pants, but there was nothing that I could do about my own shorts. Then I fed Alex some water and let him watch some Bananas in Pyjamas and other kids programs.

Suddenly he threw up all the water. Thankfully it was mostly down to the floor away from anything, though now my shorts and shirt were a bit wet with vomit. Also thankfully, it was mostly water with little of the revolting smell of vomit, so other passengers didn’t suffer. What can you do?

I probably smelled worse anyway after carrying almost 20 kilograms around all day in the Singaporean heat without a shower.

After that he settled back down to sleep, looking sickly, and I was left feeling like a very bad parent, silently apologising to my beautiful son.

He continued sleeping until we landed. Once Predators had finished I watched some Young Ones, Blackadder and Sydney to Tokyo By Any Means, which included some really gross foods in Taiwan. I tried to watch American Beauty, which I felt to be a good aircraft movie on account of its dreamy nature, but couldn’t get into it.

Our Continental breakfast was a disappointment, just a raisin danish and fruit salad, though the truth was that I was still thirstier than hungry. Alex slept through the meal.

The first signs of dawn appeared as we began our descent in towards Melbourne. I mostly watched our descent on the tail camera, until we had penetrated the low cloud layer and could see the city lights. Then the big aircraft sank towards the ground and we landed gently on the tarmac.

Had Alex been healthy that would have been a wonderful flight. It was still pretty good and thanks to the little extras, more comfortable than the Jetstar flights up.

I took my time getting out, making sure that I had collected everything, putting Alex in the backpack carrier. Without any checked-in luggage we passed through customs and immigration with little fuss. Just so that he could say he’d been to Melbourne, I whipped Alex out of the airport doors into the very cold air just for a second, before bringing him back inside again.

The nice thing about Melbourne airport is that the domestic and international terminals are part of the same building, making transit a breeze. The medical clinic near the domestic gates was closed and Alex seemed somewhat improved, so I decided to continue on to Sydney. However, in deference to his condition I went straight to the black and red Qantas CityFlyer gate rather than explore the airport further.

Qantas’ Boeing 767s are old aircraft, but I rather like them. This one had a projection screen in the centre, reminding me of our honeymoon flight. The friendly cabin crew asked if we needed anything. Alex was saying “bed, bed” when the attendant offered a pillow – that’s what he meant! Once he had the pillow and a drink of water Alex fell asleep again.

Some views of Melbourne before we disappeared into the cloud layer again, emerging into mostly blue skies. A special toddler breakfast was brought around, cornflakes, milk, banana, orange juice, fruit bar and apple juice. As Alex was asleep I drank his orange juice, kept the bar and apple juice for later and tried to eat the cornflakes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put the tray down, nor open up the cereal container in my position.

My breakfast was brought around then. I would have preferred the cornflakes over the “adult” honey nut cereal (didn’t even bother trying), but had my orange juice (still thirsty) and a very nice apricot bun. I thought the domestic breakfast better than the international one we had been served earlier.

I found flying on this domestic leg really pleasant. The clouds disappeared and we had fantastic views of the Warragamba Dam, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary. Our route took us out over the Royal National Park and across into Botany Bay from the south.

Finally back in Sydney! As this was a domestic flight there were no customs to worry about and we were free to meet B, who had arrived in Sydney about three hours earlier. Unfortunately, she got muddled up with the terminals and went to T2 – the Jetstar/Virgin Blue terminal we had departed from rather than Qantas’ T3. Eventually she arrived and we made our way out to catch the shuttle bus to the long term carpark.

In the car we decided to stop by at the Sutherland Hospital to have Alex checked out. Being a Sunday most of the medical centres were closed, not that you can get much service out of those that were open anyway.

The staff at the hospital were wonderful. I was actually thinking Alex was much better, but he threw up just before we entered the hospital waiting room. We were told that he was mildly dehydrated. They gave him some medication to stop him vomiting and wanted him to drink, but all he wanted was to sleep. So did we! I had no sleep at all on the plane. Eventually we were allowed to take him home.

Fortunately, he kept all his subsequent drinks in and was a lot chirpier by the afternoon, though the runs continued for another couple of days.

I felt a bit disappointed with Singapore after this trip. Some of the food was fantastic, some less so, and I did have the kind of perfect tropical afternoon that I craved. I think I would have been happiest just to hang around the Geylang/Katong area or drift between it and other food centres, rather than go to shopping areas. Even B suggested that she’d rather go to Japan than Singapore again.

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