Rose-Tinted Goggles (Singapore Day 13)

Monday, Jun 06 2022 to Tuesday, Jun 07 2022 (Day 13)

I left my room for the airport at about 10:45pm or so on Monday night, and reached the Eunos MRT station a little past 11pm with my luggage in tow. It was very interesting to see “last train” signs on the next train announcement boards, especially once I reached the transfer station at Tanah Merah MRT Station, to catch the train to Changi Airport.

Changi Airport itself was nearly deserted — there were people sitting around in the main areas of Terminals 1 and 3, but I had 3 full hours to kill once I reached Terminal 3 a little bit before midnight, before I could even begin to check in. So even though my flight was at Terminal 1, I spent some time walking from Terminal 3, to the Changi Jewel, to Terminal 2, then back to Terminal 3, and finally over to Terminal 1. The Jewel and Terminal 2 were basically deserted, but accessible, and there were some extremely sketchy corridors I had to walk through alone to get from one place to the other.

The Jewel had its elevators and escalators turned off, so I couldn’t actually descend to a lower floor, nor walk around to see the famed indoor waterfall (although I’ve seen its predecessors in old incarnations of Changi Airport and remember it quite fondly). I could only pass through it to get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2. The travellators (horizontal escalators) were completely empty though, and it was a little eerie, but very tranquil and liminal at the same time. Here are a few photos of a deserted Changi Airport (and a couple random pictures at the end).

I did encounter a guy pushing his girlfriend on a trolley cart around the deserted Terminal 2, which was cute, though they mostly stopped once they saw me, oops. They then fled the area on an elevator and I let them go, waiting for the next elevator before following them so as to not embarrass them even more. Also, the Skytrain between Terminals 1 and 3 flat out doesn’t run between 1:30 am and 4:30 am, and I thankfully got there just in time to catch a train before they shut off for the night. I also attended a workplace team standup meeting at 1am just for kicks, making this the second airport that I’ve connected in to our daily morning work meeting from (the first was Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport).

There’s stuff online that says Changi Airport, the Jewel, etc are open 24/7, but that’s stretching the truth, though this might have been an effect of the pandemic. There was one single store open selling overpriced dim sum or something in the “24/7 food court” in Terminal 3. Not a single shop was open in the Jewel, and I only saw one person (some maintenance person in a shop) during my entire walk through there. I did find some Indian place selling Nasi Briyani in Terminal 1, so I stopped there for a meal:

This was Chicken Biriyani, from the store in Changi Airport Terminal 1 called Anjappar. The price was listed on the menu as $13, but I was charged $15.30 for it. Late night menu pricing? Tax (Singapore does have 7% GST but its built in to the cost of items)? Or racist Indians manning the store? Some white girl came in after me and argued with the Indian staff cause they wouldn’t give her rice or something — they said something about being out, while I was eating my rice at the table behind them — it was very suspicious and I wouldn’t ever go back to this crappy store. The actual biriyani was quite nice though, even though both the rice helping and the curry helping was pathetically small for the price. Airport pricing yay.

Once I was done, I then found a nice lounge to sit down at and work on my blog a little bit until about 3:30 am or so, with my plane scheduled for takeoff at 6:10 am. The lounges were also nearly empty, though I did find a few people sleeping around on the floor with luggages next to them (not pictured).

I do remember the old Changi Airport having magnificent arrival lounges where you could hang out in and watch planes fly off, or sit down in alcoves and do homework in them while listening to peaceful jazz music or something. Our family actually went there several times, treating it as a family outing to visit the airport purely for relaxation, to watch the planes and the people and to eat the nice canteen food. All of that was either somewhere else or long gone by now, though. I wonder if that was our parents conditioning us kids to be okay with planes for our eventual trips. I remember throwing up in an air sickness bag on an early plane trip when young, but other than that being largely unafraid of and unbothered by planes and plane travel in general.

Anyway, I then checked in, and attempted to go through immigration. This time it wasn’t as bad as when I was coming in, but immigration was still extremely confused by my presence there. Not sure what my CMPB representative did if anything at all, but they had up to four officers poring back and forth over a computer and trying to reconcile my old name with my new one and the lack of a Singapore passport — apparently the ICA officers doing the intake when I first arrived in Singapore back on May 25th had registered my entry under my non-existent Singaporean passport, and so now I was trying to leave with a Canadian passport and they were scratching their heads over how to process that.

They did make some phone calls at some point, though I’m not sure if it was to CMPB or to some technical person, as I both heard comments like the computer wouldn’t allow them to enter some detail or other in due to a name or passport mismatch, as well as a comment that there was a phone number on my file and they were also aware of the Mindef/CMPB issues as well by the end. When I finally got my passport and clearance after an hour, a Malay lady who seemed to be the highest ranking officer there cheerily told me to make sure I brought all my papers (the CMPB clearance and the passport renunciation ones) once they were done if I ever tried entering Singapore again, so that I wouldn’t get stuck at the border. And that my plane was boarding so don’t run, but walk hurriedly toward my gate, and have a safe trip!

But there was still just an hour before boarding would actually commence. I stood around the gate for a bit, noting that I had not actually gone through baggage checking at that point yet — but that the departure gates themselves had baggage scanners on it and it looked like Changi scans people’s baggage for illegal contraband like drinking water at the gates rather than at immigration, which was interesting. The scanners opened about 30 minutes before boarding, which itself was about 30 minutes before takeoff, and I went through without incident. This plane, which I took as an Air Canada plane but was actually operated by Air Nippon Airways, was the only plane of my six that actually departed on time, and it landed about an hour early in Narita Airport in Tokyo for whatever reason. They served one meal during the flight, which was Simmered Chicken & Egg Over Steamed Rice:

This was really quite good. Though I didn’t care for the fruits (watermelon and pineapple), and the noodle sauce was just light soya sauce or something, the actual hot meal was great. They also served a chocolate baguette near the end of the flight, which was more delicious than any bread had the right to be:

The alternate meal, which I didn’t take, was apparently Vegetable & Cheese Open Omelet with Lyonnaise Potato. And some bread.

The process when we landed in Narita Airport in Tokyo was a bit strange. Firstly, when we were boarding the plane, they boarded the Economy class not in order of front to back, but in order of window, then middle, then aisle seats, which I thought made sense. But when disembarking, they first ordered all the people either making Tokyo their final stop, or with a domestic transfer, off the plane first, while everyone with an international transfer had to wait. Then once it was our turn to go, there were a number of airport attendants holding up signs pointing us in the right direction out in the airport itself. The airport itself had public areas with a few shops open that seemed rather normal, but also had several wings that were just entirely sealed off, and officers sitting around watching us suspiciously like we could open a large metal roller shutter gate by ourselves or something.

I found some really cool things, like this bathroom whose layout I swear up and down invoked memories of some dreams that I have had before:

It was so freaky that it instantly reminded me of a dream or two, though I have had a lot of washroom/bathroom/toilet dreams in my dream journal. The toilets were pretty great too — while Singapore’s Changi Airport had bidets, and the Air Nippon Airways jet had bidets, these bidets were far more complex, although I couldn’t figure out what the Hand Clean button did, and all the bidets I saw were missing the air dry feature that Korean bidets have.

Anyway, enough toilet talk. I found a ramen shop selling interesting ramen and a 7-11 place selling bento boxes that could be microwaved at the front counter. I gave my sister a choice as to which I should eat, and she chose the ramen shop, so off I went.

I ordered the Shiromaru Special Toppings Ramen, which basically came with four different toppings out of the six available ones (no bean sprouts though, sadly). The broth was delicious and the spoon and bowl were rather uniquely shaped, and I quite enjoyed this meal, and compared to the Changi Airport meal, this one only cost 1150 yen ($11.40 CAD after credit card conversion fees).

I then walked around Narita Airport a bit, taking pictures of various stores there. Like in Tokyo, Akihabara was busy and crowded and very popular with the tourist crowd:

And there were interesting things like this room and shower place:

Sadly I wasn’t going to be here long enough to use this service, or it might have been interesting. I actually tried looking for the Changi Airport equivalent while I was there, as there were one or two rest hubs and/or capsule hotels there too, but I couldn’t find them (or perhaps couldn’t get there due to parts of the airport being shut at night). That crappy Vancouver airport needs this, though.

Soon enough, our Air Canada flight was boarding, although not before significant delays due to the incoming plane being delayed. Par for the course for Air Canada. For this plane, I had an aisle seat and there was no one in the center seat, so both I and the person in the window seat rejoiced, as the flight was actually nearly full. I brought Tigey out at some point and plopped him on the center seat for most of the flight.

Our meals looked like this:

My first meal, labelled “Dinner” and pictured above, was served about an hour and a half in, and was supposed to be Chicken with Nanban sauce, white rice, black sesame, hiratake mushroom, broccoli, and carrot. That doesn’t seem like white rice to me, and I didn’t see any mushrooms either, and it amused me that they were accurate with the singular phrasing of “broccoli” and “carrot”.. there was literally only one of each. Pathetic Canadian airline. However, the chicken was very, very good. The side items were Macaroni and bean salad, and Chocolate mousse. And some random loaf of hard bread. The alternate meal, which I didn’t take, was Hamburger steak, espagnole sauce, herbed mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, beans, and carrots, with the same two sides. I note the usage of plural in those ingredients!! I bet they got TWO carrots each!

The second meal, served an hour and a half or so before landing, was “Breakfast”. This had two options as well, and I took the Stir-fried udon noodles, pork, vegetables, and pickled ginger.

This was not very good, but it wasn’t terrible. Definitely the weakest of the three main meals I had on this itinerary though. Heck, I’d rank it below the singular chocolate baguette as well, so the weakest of the four meals. The other option was Scrambled eggs, cheese, pork sausage, parsley roasted potatoes, dried tomato, and broccoli. I could have had one pork sausage, one dried tomato, and one broccoli!! The side dish was the same for both meal options — fruit salad. And hard bread. I took tomato juice every time I could as well, although I did vary a bit for my first drink on this flight and took a cup of Clamato instead.

This meal was also notable because I could see the movements of the Air Canada attendants from my vantage point near the back-middle of the left aisle of the Economy class seats. I noticed that just before lunch was served, our male flight attendant wheeled out a drinks cart and started giving out drinks to the front of the left Economy aisle that I was on. There was no equivalent drinks cart going down the right aisle though. He had gotten maybe a third or halfway down the aisle when two lady flight attendants wheeled out the meal carts and started to each push one down each aisle. But then this caused a problem, because the aisle was so narrow already, the lady attendant on my left aisle couldn’t reach the front third or half of the Economy seats to give them their food! (The attendant on the right had no such issue and started giving out the food from the very front.)

Dreadful timing. And to make things worse, instead of sliding the drinks cart into Premium Economy or whatever cabin was ahead of us, so that they could give out the food to the front group of Economy passengers, she instead just decided to start giving out food to those that she could reach, and then progressed to the back of the Economy aisle as per normal, with the drinks cart following along a little behind and giving out drinks to the people that had just received food.

That’s all fine and dandy for us, but this meant that the front third or so on the left aisle of this plane did not get their food at all until they had finished giving out the food and drinks to the rest of the Economy class, at which time they still took some time in the back cabin area before the food cart was wheeled out again to sheepishly serve those in front. By that time there was maybe an hour to go before landing at most, and everyone else was done with their food, though to their credit they did manage to clear the trays fairly quickly this time. It was amusing watching the Air Canada attendants be so uncoordinated though. This was starkly contrasted by the Air Nippon attendants, who were the very model of efficiency — the very minute I finished my meal, there was an attendant there approaching to remove my food tray, and I believe that the attendants did three rounds down the aisles or something to clear the dishes of people that ate at different speeds. ANA really had their timing and coordination down pat.

I was trying to take a picture of my window seat mate as he took pictures and videos of the plane landing in Vancouver, for my collection of pictures of other people taking pictures, but he noticed me and asked if I wanted him to take a few pictures of the scenery outside with my phone instead. I obliged, and so I ended up with an aerial photo of Vancouver anyway despite not having a window seat:

The plane eventually limped into Vancouver, where I passed through Customs without issue. The Air Nippon lady at the Singapore airport who had checked me in, and who also had an “I’m new!” sticker on her name badge, had said that even though my checked luggage was slated to fly all the way to Edmonton, I would have to collect my checked luggage at Vancouver, go through customs with it, and then check in again. I didn’t have to do anything like that though, and in our siblings chat, we think that this was because I was flying Air Canada — she was probably right for other airlines, but although the Singapore to Tokyo flight was technically an Air Nippon flight even though it codeshared with Air Canada, both the Tokyo to Vancouver and Vancouver to Edmonton flights were bona fide Air Canada planes. We weren’t 100% sure though, as all the rules are complex.

Prior to boarding, I wandered around the little departures area we were in and noticed that we were definitely back in Canada — I could tell by the obscene food prices in this country.

That’s legalized robbery, especially after spending nearly two weeks in Singapore with its cheap food. Also, in a stroke of serendipity, I also noticed our gate was practically adjacent to a couple of very familiar scenes:

This was the airport counter that had helped me get food and hotel vouchers when I was stuck here on May 23/Day 0, and I had taken a photo of these two places at the time as well, here and here. I like when things come to a perfect loop in the end. Too bad I couldn’t use my remaining food voucher here too (since it was only good for the day that it was issued), though I didn’t exactly fancy the food anyway. I also pitied those people queued up at the counter, obviously with missed flights due to more Air Canada delays.

I then found out that my final flight, the plane from Vancouver to Edmonton, was delayed because they only had 3 flight attendants and needed at least 4 on deck before they could commence boarding. What an odd statement. I’ve seriously never heard of this reason for delaying a plane. But they said a fourth attendant had arrived from a Los Angeles plane 15 to 30 minutes ago or so and was on the way when she could, so we actually boarded more or less on time. Still, we then had a luggage loading issue, which meant that the plane was delayed on the tarmac for another 40 minutes before we took off.

Once it finally took off, my final flight passed without incident, though we were on the tarmac for so long that I fell asleep and slept through the takeoff as well as the complimentary salted peanuts that were given out to us Economy class peons. Once I reached Edmonton, Jon and Kel picked me up and drove me home, and I handed them several bags worth of goodies to bring home to Mom and Dad. I then took a nice long shower, did my laundry (and gave Tigey and Clara their baths), and comfortably settled down, home again at long last. Tadaima!

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