I wasn’t about to “try and fall asleep” so I popped a sleeping pill and glugged it down with a glass of Tropicana pith filled orange juice. I was out like a light, at 10pm, and fluttered my eyes just before 6am. I never thought I would have slept a full eight hours before this journey. I felt well rested and ready to go. Kari made me a mug of coffee and with my bags all packed I sat for an hour or so reading some rather intimidating literature. I opened his magazine Security Management and the first article I flipped to was entitled Rating Airline Risk. Good Lord! A few minutes later he passed me a section of the Vancouver Sun. The headline, in large block letters read, “Robert Dziekanski’s Final Seconds.” The following article describes the last moments of this Polish man who was tasered to death at the Vancouver International Airport. On that note, it was actually time for us to drive to the Vancouver International Airport. Good Lord!
I loaded my things onto a trolley and quickly gave Kari a big hug. I wheeled into the terminal and stood in line at the Singapore Airline Check-in desk. I spent the previous evening looking through the Amenities section on the airlines website and I have this eager excitement running through my body. I was quickly rushed through security and found myself staring at a Duty Free Shop. First things first, I found Jean Paul Gautier’s cologne and sprayed it all over my body (it is my standard on board flight scent). I made a point to note that I can buy the large bottle here for $74. I hope it is cheaper across the Pacific. I bought a bottle of BC Colonia Chardonnay with the last few bits of change in my wallet.
This was my first time in the Vancouver Airport and I thought it was ever so charming. In the center of the long terminal runs a quiet little stream surrounded by moss covered slate. Several majestic Native Canadian totem poles stand at the entrance. Really magical. My final Canadian meal consisted of A&W Rootbeer, Mama Burger and a peppery bowl of poutine. I strolled down to Gate 64 and my heart skipped a beat when I eyed the chair configurations. I was ready to board two and a half hours prior to departure so I had many empty seats to choose from. I sat down in a leather lounge chair overlooking the tarmac and cloud filled Vancouver landscape. I plugged in my laptop and was shockingly surprised that the wireless internet was free. My jaw dropped as the largest airplane I have ever seen (a double-decker) JAL plane slid across the tarmac from right to left. I even leaned forward and peaked over to get one last affirmation that indeed planes this large do exist.
Our Singapore Air jet parked and a few moments later the glass doors opened and the entire population of India seemed to exit the plane. A few of the older ladies stood around their mothers (who were sitting in wheelchairs) in traditional Indian dress. I thought, “when these ladies stand outside their nipples are going to perk.” They certainly didn’t dress for the weather. A few moments later my eyes bulged as the flight attendants and crew for my flight walked onto the plane. The women were gorgeous. Tightly pulled back hair and dressed in sparkling makeup and tight fitting purple, green and gold dresses with little slipper sandals on their feet.
My heart started beating so fast. I haven’t been this excited in a while (note: I was not really excited about going to Korea. I was excited for the food, unlimited beverage and 200 films at my disposal). I sat down and was instantly offered a hot lemon scented towel. I spent the next few minutes gawking at the amazing quality of service provided by the many attentive staff. I grabbed the in flight entertainment magazine and my eyes started shooting to and fro: over 200 films on demand, 700 CD’s and 22 radio channels! I took my red pen and made little tick marks by the films that I would like to see. There were plenty of American, Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern films. So excited.
The flight zoomed off the tarmac at 1pm and I was now figuring out in my head which combination of films would allow me to maximize the number of films I saw in the next 10 hours. Evidently, I wanted to see over 40 hours of film. I was actually a little upset that I would only be able to fit in five during the flight. Perhaps they could loop around North Korea for a few hours until I was ready to land? I started the flight by watching No Reservations, a remake of the fantastic German film, Mostly Martha. During the film I was given a menu. I started my flight with a Bailey’s on the rocks (the first of many to come). I glanced down at the airlines suggested wines from their Sommelier (the airline has a sommelier? Good Lord). I ate lunch with silverware and wine glass! Potato salad with turkey, followed by Korean style chicken with spicy sauce, seasonal vegetables and steamed rice, finished off with cheese and crackers and ice cream drumstick.
I was ever so fortunate to have a spacious bulk head seat. But really, the best part of the flight was that I was the only one sitting in the four seats in my row. I decided to lie down on the ground with about three pillows and a silk blanket. I turned the little LCD screen to a perfect angle and watched Stardust with a level of comfort I rarely experience at home. I sipped on my Singapore Slinger and thought about all of my friends who had flown to Asia and mentioned how horrific the flight had been. I looked up (to the heavens, even though I was in the heavens technically) and thanked God for making this transition incredibly enjoyable.
We would be flying 8209 kilometers, in 10 hours and 24 minutes at a speed of 900 kilometers an hour. I was given a zip lock bag which consisted of a purple pair of cotton socks, comb and shaving kit. My next film (accompanied by a red from France and a white from Germany) was Angelina Jolie’s A Mighty Heart. I nibbled on a perfect bag of roasted peanuts and did a few leg raises. Our plane flew north of Vancouver, across Anchorage Alaska, past the Bering Sea and International Date Line (just south of the Arctic circle). As the credits rolled I sat back up and slid up the window cover. I was blasted by what seemed like a holy light. Our plane was following the sun, and I was staring down over the Arctic Ocean as we approached North Eastern Russia.
My flight attendant now knows that I alter my beverage between Bailey’s, German Riesling and Singapore Slingers. I felt divine as I started the German romantic foody film, Eden. Throughout this flick we flew over Siberia’s Golf of Shelekhova, the Gydan Mountain Range and the Sea of Okhotsk. I was offered a nice stationary set full of postcards and wrote a few to family and friends as we headed south, between Khuburovsk Russia and Sapporo Japan. Two hours before our flight would arrive in Seoul I watched my final film of the flight, an Australian comedy entitled Clubland. I stared up at the flight path every so often and noticed that our pilot made a quick sharp turn as soon as our diagonal flight path approached North Korea. “Best to avoid them,” I thought.
As the credits rolled I packed up my things, buckled my seat belt and opened the window once more. The sun blasted in my eyes and I thought I may just go blind. I almost cried when I saw my first glimpse of South Korean landscape. Our plane was flying over a shimmering glass coloured ocean as we approached the mountains on the countries eastern sea shore. The mountains were covered in a thick mystical fog which looked like a series of naked bodies lying on their side. We flew west over many rivers and lakes to Korea’s western shore. The plane made a quick turn and headed north. I witnessed a bright pink sunset which lay across an island filled landscape. I actually felt the need to do a little booty shake as the sun danced off the Ocean. I could see hundreds of little fishing boats coming into port. We started our decent towards Incheon International Airport and I sat back and closed my eyes. I realized that this was it.
As the plane started to shutter I imagined myself grabbing onto a friends hand atop a lakeside cliff. You know that feeling when you don’t really want to jump off a cliff but grabbing onto some else and making the plunge together makes it so much easier? As the plane was moments from touching down on the pavement time slowed and I imagined myself running towards the edge of the cliff and flying into the air. As the plane slammed onto the tarmac, with my eyes closed, I let out a great laugh and envisioned myself splashing. Cool, blue, wet.
I had arrived. This is now real. No longer holding anyone’s hand. I found myself soaking wet.