Finally, the day has arrived. Or has it? Our body clocks are in such a state of befuddlement after over 30 (almost entirely) sleep-deprived hours that it’s hard to know whether we’re coming or going (or have been). But the facts suggest that our arrival on New Zealand soil is now imminent as I sit here typing from the tranquil surroundings of Singapore airport waiting to board our flight to Auckland. Tranquil isn’t a word I’d usually associate with airports but after our traumatic experience at Paris Charles de Gaulle yesterday (or was that the day before yesterday?), Singapore Changi is a dreamy paradise. The failure of our pre-booked taxi to the airport to turn up, followed by Immigration’s initial reluctance to accept my NZ working holiday visa without proof of a return ticket, not to mention CDG’s general shabbiness, queue fetish and almost total lack of facilities, all conspired to make it a rather stressful end to our time in Europe but thankfully things have run a little smoother since then.
Singapore Airlines has turned out to be an inspired call, and even my dye-in-the-wool Air New Zealand flag waving girlfriend agrees it’s the best airline we’ve ever flown with. From the first class standards of service to the comfort of our seats (not to mention such wonderful little touches as the hot face flannels handed out throughout the journey), our first leg flight was excellent in every detail apart from its sheer length, but that’s not something we can really blame them for. Their eagerness to please and perfectionist tendencies appear to be an extension of Singapore itself, which has been incredibly friendly and welcoming in our all-too-brief day here. The taxi drivers, for example, completely overcame the need for any sort of tour guide or map, such was their eagerness to point out interesting sites and buildings and to discuss Singaporean life and culture with us on our journeys to and from the city. We were also amazed by how easy customs clearing was at the airport, not to mention booking a “day hotel” for a much-needed kip within minutes of our arrival. Quite why we didn’t plan to make a proper trip of it I don’t know but this has certainly given us a taste of Asian life (albeit a unique and admittedly westernised one) that leaves us hungry for more. We’ll be back – if only to experience the views from the architectural wonder that is the Marina Bay Sands, a mind-boggling construction that comprises a surfboard-shaped roof garden stretching right the way across the summits of three identical skyscrapers.
So, this is it. Holly is almost home and I’m almost at the start of my new life in New Zealand. Exciting, strange and mildly terrifying times for both of us – but I’d take that over the drudgery of recent working life anytime. Anyway, our gate awaits so I better rattle my dags!