Journey to the 'flip side'
Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
148Trip End May 30, 2013
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The MRT ride went smoothly and quickly (true to Singaporian style) and must be one of the most efficient in the world. But when we got to the Qantas check in counter, there was a problem with my passport. Apparently I didn't have an Australian Visa. Now Australian visas are electronic and must be applied for in advance (and for Canadians, paid for). It's electronically linked to your passport and you never receive a paper copy. I knew this and had insisted that we apply well in advance as month ago. It was super easy to do, just enter details and pay. Immediately I received an email conformation stating that it had gone through and there was nothing else I needed to do. I thought I was right as rain until I was standing at the desk with a lady saying I couldn't get on the plane...
Brian's was fine, so the lady said she would just check HIM in and take HIS bag. Ahhhhh! What to do? I had the email conformation with a reference number, but to retrieve it. We set off looking for WIFI, but the network was flooded and we couldn't get on. A KFC in the terminal had a couple of desktops for use (Singapore airport is amazing for providing free WIFI and free computer kiosks). I went to the embassy website and checked on my Visa and sure enough, there was nothing. Nothing? My payment surely went through the first time! Should I purchase another right now?
Unsure (and barely holding it together) we went back to the check in desk. The woman who had checked Brian in was very kind and let us through to the desk immediately. I explained what I had and gave her my reference number. She must have sensed I wanted to scream and cry all at the same time. She placed a call through to Canberra and asked us to wait until she heard back. Now all I had to do was wait. Brian chose this opportune moment to ask me how glad I was that we had come to the airport early today...
Waiting and wondering...If I miss one flight I've been told the rest of our round-the-world flights get cancelled. Would insurance cover this? Does Brian go without me and I buy another flight to meet him? I didn't even want to think in that direction!
Finally, we were called over and she said everything was fine. RELEF! Check bag. Run to security and get to gate. I needed a stiff drink, but there was none to be had!
Another fun little tid-bit. When checking in, we found out that we weren't flying direct to Sydney and then onto Melbourne. We were flying via Adelaide. What I thought was going to be one nice restful flight through the night was now going to be a series of 3 ups and downs and wake ups. Well, at least I was going to get there.
Finding our seats, I though we could finally rest, and we were both looking forward to a few in-flight movies to take our minds off of everything (and maybe that drink I was looking for). But our screens didn't seem to be working. I asked a steward and he reset our screens. Nothing. Ok, maybe we'll wait for take-off and the seat belt sign to go off and they will work then. No. And just our screens. I asked another stewardess. Another reset. Another nothing. We resigned ourselves to no movies for this flight.
However, then we must have crossed the equator and were suddenly on 'the flip side'. For those of you that don't know, this is the other hemisphere, on the other side of the planet where everything is upside down and works counter to what we're used to. Summer is winter, the moon is flipped around, the water in the toilet goes backwards, and as we were going to find out – misfortune turns around.
Another flight attendant came up to us to say that they were trying a different reset from the cock pit and everything should be working soon. When that still didn't work, a senior staff came over very apologetic saying that she wanted to make it up to us. Unfortunately the plane was too fun so she couldn't re-seat us. We said it was ok, we had some books and would probably sleep. This first flight was only 6 hours (½ the length of our regular bus rides without personal entertainment screens). But she wouldn't let it go. She offered us some of the wine from First Class, which I couldn't say no to :) An expensive Shiraz from the Barossa Valley (Australia) in a real glass (not a plastic cup), from a real bottle (not one of the minis the airlines usually hand out).
It was beautiful! After months of no wine (or at the very best, one or two glasses of very poor quality wine) my taste buds exploded! All of our wine tasting sessions came into mind and Brian and I were our own wine connoisseurs for awhile.
Soon we were showered with other goodies from first class (ear plugs, socks, eye covers, toothbrushes, hand creams) all in fancy little cases. I'm sure if the flight hadn't been so full, she would have sat us is first class. But I was just pleased with my wine glass being topped up regularly and eating some good food (you know you've been travelling cheap for too long when airline food tastes exquisite, or maybe it was just the wine going to my head).
Soon the woman returned saying that she wanted to offer us $100 worth of duty free products to make up for our screens not working. Oh my! Such luxury! If only I was into rhinestone encrusted watches and jewellery I would have been in heaven.
Being humble Canadians we didn't want to push it. We casually glanced at the the magazine, but weren't going to ask for anything. I went to sleep. But airline wouldn't forget. Soon the Duty free lady was waking me up with the open magazine asking what we wanted. We were able to find a few practical tokens and a big bottle of whisky for Brian.
We were starting to feel quite bad. There were lots of people on the flight who chose not to watch anything on their screens the entire flight and they certainly weren't being compensated! What happened a few years ago when there weren't personal entertainment screens. As a couple that doesn't watch television it's amazing to think that this has been engrained as such a right and standard of living that you must be compensated for being without for a couple of hours!
As we were preparing to disembark the airplane the same stewardess came along with a bottle of champagne for us as well!!!
So with our alcohol limits all out of whack, we went to face Australian customs and declaration. We have been warned by several people that they are extreemely strict and to be ready for searches and fines. We also had a transfer to another terminal which was going to be long and complicated. And we only had 90 minutes before our next flight.
But I had forgotten, we were on the flip side now. We got pushed through an express line for customs and the officer waved us through without checking our luggage or cross examining us at all. Then Qantas provided their own shuttle bus to the other terminal so we didn't have to worry about transport and arrived with lots of time before our next flight.
I hope this is an indication of what is to come. Perhaps we're going to like Australia!