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Supercolliders and Scooting home

I've written before how much I hate the final day of a holiday, especially if it involves a night flight. The anxiety of the upcoming flight and the knowledge that there's nowhere to rest before it.

Our Scoot flight home is not until the utterly silly time of 1.45AM the following morning. After a breakfast at Maxwell we check out of our room and catch a taxi to Katong. Alex naturally orders another Janggut laksa. On this Sunday lunchtime the shop is so much busier than last time.

We show B's mother some of the area around Katong and she had more food, curries and rice at Glory Nyonya cafe. The lovely cooling breeze of the morning has made way for a hot day and all we want to do was return to airconditioning.

The Singapore ArtScience Museum has an exhibition on the Large Hadron Collider and the discovery of the Higgs Boson. Surprisingly the others followed after we caught a taxi to the Marina Bay Sands.

The LHC is an astonishing piece of machinery. A 27 kilometre underground ring straddling the bounday of Switzerland and France, it is composed of superconducting magnets that must be cooled by liquid helium to within a mere fraction of absolute zero. Beams of protons are whizzed around in opposite directions and are then made to smash into each other, the collision ripping the protons into their consituent subatomic quark particles.

I'm not sure what the others think of it, but I have long been fascinated with quantum and particle physics.

There is an adjacent free exhibition on the Nobel Prize and how it has impacted on our lives.

Afterwards we consider going up to the observation deck on the Marina Bay Sands hotel, but it is too expensive. Besides which, the weather is a bit ugly.

This time we catch the MRT back to Tanjong Pagar and the hotel. Leaving Alex with B's Mum we walk to Chinatown in search of Korean drama DVDs, without success, though we do find Alex some shorts at the nearby markets.

B's Mum and friend have paid for a late checkout, but we are running late for that so we catch another taxi back to the hotel for $5.

Leaving our luggage at the hotel we return to the Maxwell Food Centre for dinner. The popular Tian Tian Chicken has sold out, so a queue forms at the next chicken rice vendor, then at the next when they run out.

I can't stomach anything hot and savoury right now and stick to rojak and popiahs. They are good pre-travel food.

Attempts to book a maxi-taxi to the airport fail and so two taxies are utilised to take the five of us to the airport.

We have paid for early check in with Scoot, but despite the short queue at the counter that's not early enough for the Mainland Chinese behind us who all try to shove in and crowd the desk to the displeasure of the agent.

Changi has much to do, but we are all tired and just want to rest. So we pass through immigration and head up to the Ambassador Transit Hotel and Lounge.

Harilela Hospitality, the group that run the Ambassador, are an embarassment to modern Changi. Their online system is actually manually processed, which means that you may have to wait a couple of days for a response. Their phone bookings are only done Monday to Saturday.

The transit hotel is full, as are the napping facilities at the lounge. So we just have to sit on their regular chairs and try to rest. We can hear the movie showing in the adjacent theatre and I wondered if we would be better off there, though last time it too had been totally packed.

At least the food options seemed okay, though I was game only to try a few sweet snacks. The shower was nice too, though somewhat run down.

I sleep a little, the ladies a lot, Alex plays with his iPad and the computers. Google tells me that our flight is delayed by 25 minutes.

I just want to take my shoes off, curl up in bed and sleep while quiet music plays in the background. I don't want to fly, but I am eager just to get home instead of being in transit. Eventually it is time to head down to the gate and join the crowd waiting for security to open.

We are early in the queue but in a later group to board the aircraft. It's Maju-lah again, the 50th anniversary painted Boeing 787-9. I'm happy with row 14 as the window is in a good spot for my head, though I argue with Alex about who will sit there.

The other two fall asleep very quickly. I doze on and off while we wait and taxi.

Senior first officer David Williams introduces himself and the rest of the crew. He says the flight should be "fairly smooth". Good, but I have already identified potential areas of turbulence and they cover quite a large area.

I finally get to see the rainbow mood lighting in the cabin. Pity Alex is asleep, he misses it.

Our take-off is towards the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru. The wind has died down now and our ascent is quite smooth. I can see the Moon and stars.

We pass through a lot of high cloud over Indonesia and the seat belt light is switched on frequently as we dodge huge storms flashing away in the night.

The crew are not ordered back to their seats. That's when you know to be really worried. I just sit and stare out of the window, not even listening to music. Now and then I doze for a seconds, minutes.

B wakes and complains that she is cold, so we pay $15 for a bright yellow thin Scoot blanket. Next time we'll bring the Jetstar blankets.

There is some respite as we cross the open sea between Indonesia and Australia. I spot wedges of light beneath the dark cloud. Are they cities? No, they are clear patches where the first light of the day is leaking through. Every other window in the cabin is darkened, so in deference to all those sleeping I dim mine. At least with the 787 there is that option.

The cloud returns as we cross the coast. I'm not sure when that actually happens, the land below is lost in the swirls and window enforced darkness.

The inflight internet has dropped out so I can't check where we are on FlightAware.

I am concerned about the same Big Wet clouds we passed through on the flight to Singapore and indeed embedded thunderstorms are again visible amongst the high cloud. The seat belt sign is switched on again for a while.

One passenger opens an overhead compartment, despite the seatbelt sign. As he pulls his big rollercase down a thin laptop bag slides out in an arc and falls on the heads of a couple of passengers opposite. Ouch!

Eventually I spot desert beneath us as the cloud thins. The sun is now up, a bright purple disc even through the maximally darkened windows ahead of me. It's a strange sight.

The crew decide to wake the cabin and automatically undim the windows and switch on the lights. We are over Central Australia. I see a city below and guess that it is Alice Springs. The nice thing about the now returned inflight internet is that I can call up Google Maps to confirm my observation. It's the right angled railway yards that give it away.

The landscape is surprisingly green here, but eventually reverts to red desert.

The big pale salt lakes still have water in them from the rains. Google Maps shows us as over the Simpson Desert. I let Alex know as he did a project on the Simpson last year for school.

He is upset, having woken up. Bored, probably hungry, then he hits his head. He's sick of the flight. All of us can't wait to land. There's no seatback entertainment either and I think he's tired of his iPad.

I'm listening to some more of the Star Wars radio play.

We fly over the tangled wetlands of the Hunter River somewhere near Nyngan. The landscape is becoming greener.

Soon after Parkes the aircraft the aircraft starts shaking with turbulence. The captain switches on the seatbelt sign and orders the cabin crew to their seats. So this is it then. Now I'm a bit worried. We've hit the jetstream clear air turbulence displayed on the forecast map.

We pass over a layer of high cloud with the aircraft still rising and dropping. Then it settles down and the light switches off. Phew! I can relax for now.

First officer Williams announces that we will shortly begin our descent into Sydney. To the north is a great mass of cloud, more storms, but the cumulus beneath us, sometimes beginning to tower with updrafts makes way for a thin layer of stratocumulus, the landscape visible through the breaks below. I wish that we could descend through that mild layer, but I have no idea where Sydney sits in comparison to our position.

I suspect that it is to the northeast where the clouds thicken to full cumulus and the storm threatening cumulonimbus, a full texture of cotton wool shapes that threaten an exciting descent.

I lose all sense of position as we edge closer and closer to that thick layer, the engines alternately spooling up and down. A thin bald man is still doing tai chi moves near the external door, his morning stretches obviously more important to him than the seatbelt sign lit for landing.

There are a few bumps as we slowly enter the cloud layer, then the next one. Yes, this is the long path into Sydney, heading from its southeastern suburbs all the way around. Eventually we pass through enough that I can see Sydney's north below. We are probably flying over my workplace.

Then we are through into the grey world. Sydney Harbour Bridge and the CBD lie to my left. Alex is excited. Down and down, over Sydenham and Tempe and then we land gently.

The journey is over! And for all my concerns the flight was actually a pretty good one. I'm impressed with the 787. It handles turbulence pretty well, softening the sharp drops with its flexible wings and advanced responsiveness. I was okay the whole flight, sometimes a bit tense, but never in discomfort due to the turbulence.

The midday landing during a quiet time for inbound international flights meant that immigration was fast. It was in waiting for our luggage that we got stuck. At least forty minutes before the belt started moving. With an insurance assessor scheduled to meet with us in the afternoon Alex and B headed off home while I waited for our sole checked in bag.

A lady dropped her bottle of duty-free Johnny Walker Black Label, smashing it and releasing its sharp odour into the luggage hall.

A quarantine officer had wander around the belt checking our arrival cards. Satisfied with my description of dried fruits and pineapple tarts I was allowed to pass through customs without opening my bag. Then I was free to go home, exhausted, smelly, ready for a shower and sleep.


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