Thursday, March 1, 2018

Chennai to Sydney - 1 March 2018

 CX632 pulled out of the docked gate 20 minutes ahead of scheduled departure, and I was among the last two to board. The economy class seat was not uncomfortable especially because the next seat was vacated by a gentleman who wanted to be near his friend. I must have slept off even as the plane was taxiing, for I don't remember the take off. Breakfast was announced at 4.30 IST, by when I was refreshed. The hostess was pleasantly surprised when I asked for a continental helping rather than the 'Hindu Meal' that was booked for me. An omelette with potato wedges, sausage and tomato slices comprised the 'main course' with cut fruits, croissant, yogurt and apple juice accompanying it. Wholesome and sumptuous. After a cup of coffee came the next installment of sleep, which lasted till the flight deck announcement about the proposed landing in Hong Kong. I woke up to the most magical skies; nothing better to make the best of a new day.

By the time we landed in Hong Kong a quarter hour ahead of schedule I had body ache, running eyes and a touch of fever. I had packed medicines in the check-in baggage! However, it didn't take me long to locate a store that dispensed Panadol. I made my way to the Premium Lounge and was faced with the possibility of leaving it in three hours. I needed some liquids to get the medication in. Breakfast was on in the lounge. Had a cup of coffee with marshmallows and cookies.

The lounge became full in a while. Some were working, others sleeping but most were eating. There were counters for noodles, salads and rice. I was running out of the three hours I had in the lounge. The Carlsberg lager beer dispenser interested me, because I had never seen one like that before. Had my health been any better I may have had a few pints. But at this time I helped myself to a pint for the sake of videoing the process. I had small portions of sweet and sour chicken and fried rice before vacating the lounge.
Originally my flight from Hong Kong to Sydney was scheduled for 2115 hours. Last evening I was informed that the flight was clubbed with another that would leave at 1750 hours. When I came down from the lounge by 1 pm the gate was still undecided. I found a seat near terminals where I could charge my mobile and laptop. By 4 pm the terminal gate was on display and I made my way to gate 28. The airport is huge, with over 150 gates. Therefore, despite the travelators the distance to be covered can be substantial depending on where you are in the terminal. The duty free shops are not large and I found them pricey. The major attraction seemed to be Asian liquors. I studiously avoided the shops after seeing the prices. Even a strip of 12 Panadol cost me over Rs 425! Drinking water was free and so was use of the toilets. These and reading occupied my attention till 5 pm. When I did not notice much activity at the gate I looked up the display board to find that the gate had been changed to 17 and that the flight is delayed to 7 pm. 
When one is not well every step is laboured. As I had enough time to get to the gate I did not fret. That the flight would be full was evidenced by the number of people at the gate. Gate 17 afforded fantastic views of flights landing in the background of the sea. The sun was going down fast too. The views were indeed magical.
I waited to bring up the tail after boarding was announced. Security personnel examined bags that were going into the cabin. The speed at which they did their job was amazing. The boarding process was not impeded due to this. I had been allotted a middle seat for the flight as web check-in had consumed the aisle and window seats. The two young boys who flanked me looked like students going back to Australia after the Christmas vacation.
On the flight to Hong Kong I had been asked if I had ordered 'Special Meal' for breakfast, as described a while ago. Aboard the Qantas flight to Sydney that was not to be. A 'Hindu Meal' in a meal bag was served and, as all special meals, it was served way ahead of the other guests being served. The individual portions are also marked HNML! Dinner consisted of rice, long beans and a big slice of boiled fish. The Hindu Meal did not prohibit me from having a couple of stiff shots of Jamesons. Over the whisky shots and the meal I managed to view the new version of 'Murder on the Orient Express'. I thought it was not a patch of the older version of the Agatha Christie classic. The very description of Hercule Poirot was stood on its head, as it were.
The strong night dose of Panadol have me complete rest till the next Hindu Meal was flung on my tray table. I ignored it till the others were served because I was still overcome by sleep induced by the Panadol. The Hindu breakfast consisted of a veg wrap with Yoghurt. I traded the Yoghurt for a Banana muffin. A hot cup of strong coffee shook the residual sleep off the eyes. A very elaborate Customs declaration form had to be filled up, primarily with information about plant, animal and soil matter that one was likely carrying into the country. 

The touchdown was at 6.45 local time. I had landed in the fifth continent, ahead of my originally planned time. 

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