The Ballad of Chiangi Airport

[This is an important interlude. You don’t have to read it but it does have a great bearing on my trip home. Because I was confined (sort of) inside Changi Airport and felt no time passed in the normal sense, it isn’t really a day.]

Well, what an epic adventure! To precis…I checked out of the airport, clearing customs and picking up my luggage, then strolled over to the info desk to ask where the Transit Hotel is – just like Gareth at Travel Bag had advised me. The very nice girl suddenly looked very concerned.

You shouldn’t have left the airport, sir. It’s inside!

But no problem. She filled out a form headed ‘Fill in For Idiots Who Leave the Airport When They Shouldn’t’ and told me to go back in via customs. My luggage presented a problem of a different kind. She suggested I go up to the Qantas check-in desk and ask them if they could get it put back in for transit.

I queued (I could write a thesis on queuing) behind and in front of some particularly rude English tourists who have NO idea of personal space – I felt like I was on the tube. either that or they just wanted to wear my jeans. The line wasn’t moving and after a while one of them had the audacity to say “We didn’t have to wait in London. Just whizzed straight through.” Must be that other, mythical London.

Anyway, the girl tried but there was no way I could check-in for my flight until tomorrow morning at 3am. So, having a bright idea, I lugged my bag back to the Arrivals lounge and searched for the left luggage area.

It was tucked away in the basement, where all the buses come in. Going out the doors, I was struck by he horrendous humidity. Still, no problem with dumping my bag ($S4 but fortunately he took my remaining Australian currency to pay for it). Then back up to Departures where I had to explain my predicament to the security guard who looked about 18 and had a sub-machine gun. He looked dubious but took the form the girl had filled out, laughed at me and waved me through. Now back in the terminal it was very easy to find the Transit Hotel – it’s about 50 yards from Immigration, where I left the Terminal, right near the big red sign that says, in big bold letters “People booked into the Transit Hotel MUST NOT LEAVE”.

I had no problem checking in although the form could do with a bit of work. The room was very basic – actually just like an ordinary hotel room sans windows so it’s incredibly dark when the light are turned off.

I dumped my duty free and backpack and went looking for food and drink. I found a mini-mart (open 24 hours) and bought some crisps and apple juice then back to my room. Put in a wake up call for 2am and fell asleep almost instantly at 10.

Four hours later my phone rang and a girl said “Good day. This is your wake up call.” I said thanks but she was actually a recording and just repeated herself till I hung up. I showered had a coffee and was out by 2.30am, retracing my steps through immigration.

All the desks were closed and my heart leapt into my throat until I saw the two officers sitting at a side desk for flight crews to go through. I went and confessed my stupidity, saying I had to go and collect my luggage. I had to fill in another immigration card (I’m thinking of getting a thousand of these printed, ready for use) then was let back out.

Down to the bowels of Changi, where I woke up the left luggage guy, collected my bag then trudged up to Departures where I was 2nd in line to check-in. I tried to get an aisle seat but the guy said all the aisle seats had been taken by Transit passengers (grrrrrrrrrr).

I was back in the Departures Lounge by 2:50am. Not many people around though lots of shops are open. The other people are probably still asleep in the Transit Hotel.

I sat on a comfortable lounge and watched a rather disgusting program about Peking Duck on the National Geographic channel. It’s their journey from birth to being eaten. The guy narrating said, just after they get killed, that they are “on their own stairway to heaven”. Funny, they didn’t look that impressed to me.

My flight was delayed by 20 minutes.

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