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Insanity at 40,000 feet - Part 1

And you thought my rail journeys on the last trip to Japan were insane. Not only have I topped them, but I have dragged my whole family into the nightmare. But it was the only way.

A bit before eight am we left the house. We brought three pieces of luggage, my trusty 40 litre backpack, a day pack on the front and a small roller bag, all sized for cabin baggage, clothes precisely rolled by B, military style. Enough, we hope, for ten days.

A bus drove us to Padstow, followed by a train to the International Terminal. I had checked in online for all our flights today, but each required a manual document check and therein lay the problem.

We had two tight connections to look forward to. Theoretically, there should be enough time between each, but now we would have to exit through immigration at each stop and get our boarding passes before the desks closed an hour before each flight. I was nervous. It wouldn't be the first time a trip has gone pear shaped due to messed up connections.

The plan was to fly from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur on AirAsiaX, then onwards to Singapore with AirAsia and henceforth to Osaka with Jetstar. The bookings were all done separate to each other, taking advantage of sales, flight credits and the voucher from the Instagram competition. It was also the only way I could fit in the conflicting destinations.

So here we were at Sydney Airport. The AirAsiaX check in lady was friendly, but couldn't print out the KL - Singapore passes.

We had some breakfast/morning tea at the food court, then with limited time passed through the quiet immigration desks, the first of six on this segment of the trip. B was pulled aside to enter the full body scanner, the first we'd seen in use since Amsterdam in 2011.

Fortunately, AirAsiaX allows families with young children to board first, so we bypassed some of the row segmented queue. Ahead of us was a buck's party headed for Phuket, the groom in a multicoloured tutu.
This was our first time aboard an AirAsiaX aircraft. We've flown their short-haul AirAsia cousins a few times before, including earlier this year. What struck me first about the interior of the red and white Airbus A330-300 was how narrow the seats were. They have somehow packed nine across in economy, 3-3-3, as opposed to Jetstar's 2-4-2.

The lack of width was readily apparent when sitting down on the seats, though I didn't find them uncomfortable. The width issue was exacerbated in the window seat of row 20, our row, due the lack of a window and its indentation near the head area.

Alex started off at the window, B in the middle and me on the aisle. Not my preferred configuration!
On a trip that could ill afford delays it was Sydney that struck again. The airport congestion meant we found ourselves seventh in the queue for a takeoff to the south, a delay of half an hour.

It was a brilliant clear blue day as we rose up into the air and past our southern haunts. There were wonderful views of Sydney, but as soon as the seatbelt light was extinguished Alex just wanted to watch videos I had converted for viewing on an older Android phone, so I negotiated a swap of seats.

I'm so glad I did. The scenery of inland Australia is awe inspiring. From the suburbs of Sydney we then crossed the Blue Mountains, steep ridges dividing the coastal plains from the green pastures around Bathurst. 

The further west we flew, the drier the countryside became. Ochre and black, interspersed with dry rivers and salty white lake beds.

The straight lines of human roads and fences are visible in much of the landscape, despite it's remoteness, but there are a few patches of nothing other than the straight lines of red dunes.

I wanted to understand everything about the scenery outside. The geology, the environment, the history, the future in a changing climate. I wanted to hear its story.

Our two preordered Asian meals turned out to be Thai green curry, tasty but not as nice as the version served on Thai airways. I ordered an additional nasi lemak (coconut rice with chicken rendang). The meals were fine, if a bit small perhaps. They were served about two hours into the flight, which meant that Alex was falling asleep as he picked at the meal.

Apart from that sleep, Alex amused himself with prerecorded children's television, movies, Doctor Who and the Goodies on his phone. I used mine to listen to movies, while B read the book she had purchased at the airport. 

The flight really seemed to drag. I felt hot and stuffy and had a bit of a headache. It felt longer than the eight hours.

We crossed the Australian coast, flew over sea and cloud until we came to islands in Indonesia, a prominent volcanic cone sticking upwards on one. The land looked so dry, no tropical jungles visible.

Singapore was clearly visible below, then there was turbulence as we began a slow descent into Kuala Lumpur's airport, located far outside the city. Malaysia's jungles and palm plantations were a dark green in comparison to the pale shades of Indonesia.

As we landed at KLIA, we were running half an hour late thanks to Sydney's congestion at the journey's beginning. We had asked one of the flight attendants what to do, she had suggested asking the transit desk.

Disembarking was via stairs and we raced as faced as we could along the tarmac to the big shed of the Low Cost Carrier Terminal. The unhelpful "Fly-thru" desk staff told us to go away, but fortunately the queues at Malaysian immigration were moving quickly, apart from clueless passengers who took no notice of free desks.

The path from immigration to check in was circuitous, but there was no time for stopping at the many stores in this dingy, soon to be replaced building. We got to the document check in time and to no queue, then had to re-enter immigration.

Phew, transit one complete!


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