I had booked my flight to Australia already before having an approved visa. At first I thought about a one way ticket but I read that authorities could stop you at the airport and refuse to let you enter enter the continent due to illegal immigrations suspicions. I tried many configurations online with different locations of departure and arrival. About 1.200 € was the cheapest return ticket until I found out that a ticket Berlin-Brisbane, Brisbane-Singapore was only 666 €, a far better deal than booking a one way ticket for about 800 €. Enough about the money! The flight should take 29 hours, approximately 21:30 hours in the air, the remaining hours standby time, waiting for the connection flight. The flight route started at 9:50pm in Berlin – 06:00am arrival in Abu Dhabi departure at 10:50am – about 09:00pm arrival in Singapore, recheck in the same aircraft at 09:45pm – arrival at Brisbane 9:30am local time. When I did my last long distance flight in August 2001 (my first time I travelled to Australia) aircraft equipment was rather different. Two big screens in the economy class on which 3-4 movies of various genres were shown. Technology has advanced and so I was glad to see that every passenger has nowadays his own personal touchscreen on which you can choose music from dozen of artists, over hundred movies, all kinds of simple computer games, … there was even a special channel for kids entertainment and an info service showing your route on a world map and your current position. The aircraft from Abu Dhabi to Brisbane via Singapore had 2 cameras built in . One for the front view and one for aerial view down to earth. In former times it was an event watching the stewardesses performing the emergency procedures but today nearly nobody pays attention anymore because computer animated sequences run on your personal to demonstrate how you should behave properly. What else are you provided with by your carrier on a long distance flight? A blanket wrapped in plastic foil along with a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, patches for you eyes, socks and some earphones. From Abu Dhabi to Brisbane big headphones were distributed and taken back by the stewardesses at the end of the flight. I am not sure but I guess 11 years ago I had more legroom which is now at it’s minimum acceptable. Once the passenger in front of you turned his backrest towards you for a more relaxed seat position you felt caged. I tried different positions to sit but in comparison to my journeys with Deutsche Bahn every seat was occupied and I could not put my feet on a neighbour’s seat or try anything else. I envied the business class people when I saw their luxury lounge chairs.
First stopover was Abu Dhabi, according to internet researches a vibrant city at the edge of the desert, 150km distant to Dubai. The architecture projects they have already realized and the ones which are in the pipeline still are impressive, e.g. the ongoing rebuilding of the Abu Dhabi International Airport. It will look very organic and reminded me to a model made of modelling clay. The Airport they currently have is not worth a sightseeing tour apart from the main hall where all passengers wait before they go to their boarding gate by taking one of aisles in stellar direction. Temperature in Abu Dhabi was about 27 °C (Remember it was only 06:00am, still before dawn.) but the terminal was strongly airconditioned. I have never seen so many sheikh-like people mainly with long white cloaks. The women on the contrary wore black cloaks, most of them fully veilled. Bizarr scenery: a black BMW for advertising purposes with a dozen women chilling in front of it, completely black as well. Many male people but also some indian females showed their bare feed sitting in one of the lounge chairs or just on the floor, leaning against a glassy rail. What to do for four long hours at this airport? I walked around, used the free internet connection to post some photo shots on Facebook, watched the duty free shops closely and tried to guess the course of one dirham, the currency of the United Arab Emirates. The airport also included a mosque. A note at the anteroom told visitors that it is prohibited to sleep in there. Not so tired yet I sat down on a chair again after a while of walking around when an old asian couple came towards me. The women sat down to my right, the man to my left. I offered to exchange seats but the women smiled and made clear that everything was fine. Later on she started a chat by asking where I come from and within a very short time we had a nice talk. Her name was Minerva, originally from the Phillipines, living in Manila, the capital city. She definitely did not look like 74 years old. Her husband – married to her since 50 years – didn`t look like 81 years, too. I liked the heartly attitude of that women. Sometimes evern very short encounters leave a deep memory footprint.
The flight to Singapore was a bit boring. Two younger women next to me listened to music or slept, so only here and there some short conversation. The stewardesses had robed arab like, wearing a grey dress and a fashionable veil on one side of their head. During the flight they changed to waitress-style and back again right before the arrival in Singapore. The map on my touchscreen, displaying our position always showed the direction and distance to Mecca, too. I wondered if a believer would have put a mini carpet on the aisle for praying to that direction… haven`t seen that happening. It was already dark when arriving in Singapore at 09:30. Basically we checked out, they cleaned the aircraft, redecorated a bit and put a new foil wrapped blanket, eye patch, etc. on each seat. Passengers had to wait on the aisle in the terminal before going on board again with a delay of about 30min. I did a couple of photos which show that there is nothing special about the interior of the Singapore Changi Airport.
On my flight from Singapore to Brisbane I slept about 2 hours, played Battleships, Chess, Reversi and some Thai with the board computer programme which could be operated with a controller similiar to the one of a game console. I easily won most of the games although I had chosen difficulty level hard. Slightly disappointing! Even my calculator is smarter than this board computer was! As long as it is helpful for pilots to come up to their designated destination I am fine with it! The last 2 hours I counted down every minute. Because of the plasma-green colour (that`s the official name for it) of my recently bought trolley I spotted it easily on the baggage conveyor belt. Sad surprise…not only some black scratches on the surface but one defect wheel touching and blocking the trolley. I couldn`t pull it as normal causing annoyance. If that is the result of buying a product with a Made in Germany badge on it I better buy immediately made in China and don`T expect anything. The wheels are the first thing TITAN, manufactorer of the trolley, listed as very durable and redeveloped in it’s advertising description. The custom control zone was well organized and the passengers were guided to several counters. Suddenly my phone rang and it was Jason, a guy who had offered me to stay at his house and picking me up from the airport just 30 hours before starting my journey. The officer at the custom counter immediately complained about my call and I quickly ended it. 5 minutes later I declared a tiny feather, my mother had given me as a mojo and a chalk bag – sports equipment for bouldering – to the authorities and as expected they let me pass as they recognized that these goods can`t do any harm to the australian environment. Some SMS` later a red Toyata Corolla stopped at the terminal and the taiwanese guy Jason, an architect working self-employed as a graphic designer welcomed me together with his taiwanes girlfriend Yvonne. I balanced my heavy trolley and backpack in the trunk compartment of the car and noticed that this was the official start for my new life in Australia.
Slideshow features Abu Dhabi International Airport, Singapore Changi Airport and Brisbane custom control zone.