What were we going to do with the rest of the holiday? I was questioning myself now. After twenty years did I still enjoy international travel? Did I still like flying? Could I ever look at an aircraft again and think “adventure”?
The answer seemed to be no.
But did I want to spoil it for the other two?
The answer was also no.
We had to skip Hong Kong. There was no point now as we’d only had two nights booked and one of them was now gone. I cancelled the hotel and the onward flight. Taiwan was still in the mix, though we’d now need to fly there directly.
The cheapest deal by far was again with Scoot, though at the entirely stupid time of 0:55AM. Not that most of the other low cost carrier flights were much better. Apart from the price, the flight would also be on a 787 again with its advanced turbulence mitigation features.
So I book it for the night, though with no confidence that I will actually board the aircraft.
Despite still feeling rotten I rouse myself to join B and Alex for breakfast of Alex’s second favourite local dish, roti canai (or prata as it’s called here). We walk down through the Rochor area to the corner of Arab Street opposite the big mosque, to Singapore Zam Zam. At this Muslim Indian cafe we order three sets of roti, a chicken tandoori drumstick and Milo ais and lime juice to drink.
Sadly the roti is not as good as we remembered it, dry and tough with none of that slightly undercooked ghee soaked softness that makes it such a delicious way to begin the day. For all their reputation we’ve had better out of a freezer. Very disappointing.
We walk back towards the hotel via Bugis Junction and decide to split up. B will take Alex to the aquarium on Sentosa Island while I will head back to the hotel to rest.
They have a wonderful time, photographing fish, riding on Segways and chairlifts, racing down the luge and, in not such a good time for Alex, on the Desperado ride, which proves to be scarier than he wanted.
Meanwhile I mainly sleep and use the bathroom. I feel miserable. I can’t even bring myself to type the blog or to watch a movie. I watch the skies darken as a massive storm cloud unleashes on the city. It does not help my confidence for flying tonight.
Fortunately another perk of the Accor membership at this hotel is that I can have a late checkout to 6PM. B and Alex still aren’t back, so I pack up and move everything to the lobby, where I rest on the chairs.
When they do return they are a little damp from the rain, but they’ve enjoyed themselves.
It’s dinner time. We leave our bags at the hotel and catch the MRT to Mountbatten, from where we walk to the Old Airport Road food centre, hoping that the clouds won’t burst again as we feel a few heavy, but warm, tropical spits on our skin.
The food centre is bright and busy. Even my churning stomach is eager to chow down some of the food on offer. I choose sticks of satay and otah, spicy fish cakes grilled in banana leaves. We order more, order too much, and leave feeling very full, wishing we had space for more.
The sky is clearing now and I have hope, just a little hope, as we make our way back to the hotel to collect our luggage.
We forgo the MRT service and catch a taxi to the airport. I’m still feeling fragile, unable to cope with trying to arrange it all.
When we enter Terminal 2’s departures level our eyes are drawn to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens display of five stormtroopers in front of a First Order TIE fighter. Posing and photography ensues.
I’m feeling a bit better than yesterday, a bit more confident. I think the rest has done me good. In my head now is more than just that storm cloud. I can visualise some good aspects of the flight, not just the fear.
I don’t pull out when we go to check in. I know I must see this through, even though it condemns me to an additional two flights to the one that will take me home.
Yet again through immigration. I wonder what they think of me? Nothing at all likely. This is a transit hub. I should enjoy exploring one of the world’s great airports, but I have no energy for it tonight. Again I just want to lie down and relax. Alex wants a lounge. He has high expectations this boy!
He sulks at the koi pond when he’s told he’s not getting a lounge. No wonder, it’s way past his bedtime and he’s very tired. We head up to the Entertainment Deck, but all the MTV booths are full and the movie theatre’s screening of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is not going to be of interest to him. The answer is a firm “No” from us when it comes to the gaming room too, as it is not age appropriate.
The Sunflower Garden interests him for only a short time. The foul stench of somebody smoking a cigar is enough to dissuade us.
We return down the escalator, spot a couple of spare seats across the koi pond and reach them before a gaggle of old Korean ladies, who promptly seize every other spare seating area, leaving their bags in the care of one or another so that they can get up and explore another shop.
As observed recently in the Blue Mountains if you are in a queue of Korean tourists it is never safe to assume that the couple in front are all that stand between you and the end. Rather they are likely just holding a spot while the majority go about other business or relax elsewhere.
Alex plays on his iPad while B rests or uses his own. I try to get comfortable sitting on the little table beside the seats – there is nowhere else for my bottom, three into two.
Eventually it is time to head to the gate lounge. In Changi the security check is done when entering the gate lounge, so we join the queue, pass our bags through the x-ray, us through the metal detectors. Attack of the Clones is showing on the televisions inside the lounge. A Star Wars movie is something I could have coped with tonight and it is a welcome distraction.
When I booked the flight online on my Android tablet I wasn’t given the option of selecting seats. My original seats were by the window, but towards the end of the aircraft. I asked at the counter and they found us some up near the rear of the wings, a bit better.
I’m a little surprised that the aircraft is “Dream Start” and not “Barry”. The window shade control forward of me is broken, pushed into the wall. So long as it isn’t set on dark I don’t care.
The windows are foggy, giving a mystical appearance to the world outside.
As we begin taxiing towards the runway I’m feeling very anxious and tense. The others are asleep already.
The rest of the flight is a darkened blur. There are some bumps as we ascend out of Singapore, though a lot of the earlier cloud has dissipated. The air never entirely settles, with niggling bumps and even the seatbelt light at one point going through high cloud.
With the flight conducted entirely overnight service demands are kept to a minimum. We are on the wrong side of the aircraft for the hellish views of Taipei that normally seem to greet airborne visitors, at least in my experience, red and amber light glowing through dark clouds.
We are told that it is raining around Taipei and the airport, but the cloud is very low when it eventually swallows us up. More like a fog, soft and gentle on the aircraft. Poor visibility for the pilots.
We arrive on to a tarmac with amber lamps casting a harsh light upon the sleeping aircraft parked there.
I have survived the flight. It wasn’t exactly pleasant, but neither was it scary. Right now, however, all I want to do is get out and rest.
We make our way out under the curved ribbed white roof to immigration, have our fingerprints and face scanned and are through into Taiwan.