Day 01 – Tue 26 Apr 2005 – Sydney to London

All packed and ready to go. Clare M sent me an SMS wishing me a good holiday just before I called a cab at 1020. What a nice girl.

The taxi eventually showed up driven by a friendly and chatty old guy with an Eastern European accent. He dropped me at the salubrious East Hills station where I caught the train that arrived shortly afterwards for a ‘limited stops’ run to the airport.

East Hills station with a train departing for the airport and the city (Photo: abesty)

Three girls shared the vestibule with me on the thirty minute trip. Two were probably of Viet descent (one Aussie and one with a North American accent) and the other was probably an Aussie from a Middle Eastern family. They had a quite deep and meaningful discussion about whether personal carers were affordable by poorer people and whether some houses they could see built on rock shelves on the surrounding hills would be stable in the longer term.  All a bit surprising for 17-18 year olds who looked like classic ‘popular girls’.

Arrived at the underground International Terminal station and made my way up a few escalators to the departure area. Virgin Atlantic check-in was at the far end. I lined up for Economy check-in but all the counters were busy. On of the staff then called me across to the vacant First Class counter and checked me in there. Hung about snacking and eating for quite a while, then went through Customs and Security at around 1315.

Sydney Airport International Terminal Food Hall (Photo: MW12310)

Virgin Atlantic commence boarding their A340-600 service up to an hour before departure. Makes for a relaxed atmosphere where cabin crew have chats with passengers and seem actually happy to see them. The flight is only at about 30-40% capacity and I have three seats across which I can stretch out.

The video safety briefing plays up, so the crew do it manually instead. The second rendition in Cantonese ran much more smoothly, and strangely seemed to make more sense. The aircraft is very new and very clean. The cabin crew seem to be a mix of Hong Kong and British types.

Taxi and take-off are uneventful and we depart off runway 16R out over Botany Bay, turn north to north-west and quickly leave Sydney behind. The inflight entertainment is very good; lots of comedies and movies, and an excellent graphic of flight progress. Looks like I be watching a lot of ‘Little Britain’ in the hours ahead.

Sydney – International terminal at bottom right – Runway 16R starts near bottom left of photo – Parallel runway 16L visible at top right – (Photo: mathieumcguire)

Food consisted of light snacks, a main meal around 1630-1700 and light meal at around 2200 prior to arrival in Hong Kong. Lots of fruit juice and water available at all times. On descent to Hong Kong I discover I have tummy trouble (a bad episode of my usual irritable bowel syndrome) and have to make a dash for the loo. (At Hong Kong and on the second leg of the flight to London I have about a dozen repeat performances, which spoils the trip somewhat. Oh well, I guess everyone has to have some sort of shit in their life.)

Landed and ushered through a very efficient Hong Kong security check and up to the departures area for about an hour’s break before leaving on the same aircraft for London. I like Hong Kong Airport, it’s logically laid out with lots of space and seems really well run.

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