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allrite
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The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

Thu Jul 23, 2009 5:08 am

The Whale and the Elephant Pt 1: QF A380 SYD-SIN

I didn't sleep long, had to wake up to chat with my wife online, then go down to eat. Murtabak and Milo Ais for breakfast. Then a wander through the local bric-a-brac shops, more kueh, and a walk past the historic shophouses of Joo Chiat Street, eating popiah, buying curry puffs, deciding there was no way on earth I could fit the otak-otak into my stomach.

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I caught the MRT to Bugis and went computer and mobile phone accessory shopping in Sim Lim Square, which took a long time. Wandering around Bugis Junction I began feeling very hot and very tired. All I wanted to do was swim in a pool and fall asleep. I decided to go to the airport early and find a place to rest.

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On the way I was distracted by the Albert Street hawker food market, discovered a stall selling my favourite kueh and ate 10 sticks of satay (the minimum purchase) as well! I so wanted to eat the green pandan rice, but I was about to explode. (Would I still explode anyway in the reduced atmospheric pressure of flight?)

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The airconditioned interior of the MRT train that delivered me to Changi Airport provided welcome relief from the tropical heat and humidity outside. The line runs to Terminal 3, which is a work of art in comparison to the current state of Terminal 1. What a pity I that my departure was from the latter!

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The automate rubber tyred Skytrain transported me across to Terminal 1, cranes visible over the Terminal's canopy. Outside, dark clouds were gathering threateningly across the sky.

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I retrieved my backpack from storage and returned to the departures concourse to check in. Though I had checked in early, the only window seat that I could obtain was towards the rear of the aircraft. I was feeling very nervous. The Bay of Bengal has a reputation for turbulence and I recalled my only other flight from Singapore to London, on British Airways, 13 very unpleasant hours of bumps and shakes.

The terminal was absolutely crowded with Malay Muslim travelers, many families, milling around, chatting loudly. On the departures board I could see a delayed Saudi Airways flight with a departure time unknown. I made my way through the crowds to the GST refund stand, where they checked my meager purchases.

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Things were a lot quieter once through security. I asked the officer if there was some special event on, but she replied that it was always crowded like this.

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I was tired. Really, really tired. I had not had a full night's sleep the previous night, nor many before. I've never used a lounge before, can't afford the membership fees or flights that permit complimentary access. However, on the Changi brochure I had picked up inbound there was mention of an open lounge, the Rainforest. I rode the escalator up to the mezzanine floor to the lounge's entrance.

I looked in my wallet. There wasn't enough money for access to their napping beds. I could have used my credit card, but in my addled state I decided that I didn't want to spend the additional bank fees associated with that transaction, so I gave up and returned downstairs.

Last time we stayed in Singapore I could not rave enough about Terminal 1's facilities. While my wife used one of the daybeds in a darkened, quiet area overlooking the runways I was busy taking advantage of the free power and LAN sockets on a nearby desk to reply to emails. Now, both were gone, the area probably hidden away behind the boarded up construction area.

There were still free internet terminals, not all working and with sessions limited to 15 minutes. At least the information desk created a temporary wireless internet account for me so that I could use my own computer.

But the daybeds were missed! In fact, there was almost nowhere to sit in our end of the terminal, except for the departure lounges themselves, and ours wasn't open yet.

Eating and shopping options were also pretty limited. A Bengawan Solo (more kueh!), coffee shop, a minimart, lots of luxury shops but little else. Few views outside. I hope that the renovations deliver a Terminal 1 to the standards implied by Changi's other terminals. Right now it is not representative of a great airport, little better than Sydney.

Eventually I parked myself upstairs at the Burger King, where there were views outside, along with a childrens' play area and, nearby, an outdoor smoking spot (thankfully the smell didn't enter inside). I wasn't hungry, but I ordered a dessert to validate my use of the facilities.

Outside, there were a few operations taking place, but I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to care. A storm cloud flashed in the background.

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I was feeling very low at this point. I was exhausted, I was missing my family, I was apprehensive about the upcoming flight. All I wanted to do was collapse into a hotel room or just fly home again. I could do none of the things.

I took out my MyLO, a discontinued Sony handheld media device with wireless internet capabilities, sort of their version of Apple's iTouch, and loaded up the built-in Skype software. Fortunately, I found my wife online and I made the Skype call.

We chatted and chatted for over an hour, all for free (okay, I pay for internet at home, but you get the idea). By the time we had said our goodbyes I was feeling a whole lot better, so much happier. I even felt confident about facing up to the turbulence. She has that effect on me. We met online, before it became fashionable to do so, so we know a thing or two about communicating electronically.

It was almost time for the boarding lounge to open. After a few false starts while crew were passed through security, we finally had our own chance for our carryons to be rescanned, our persons metal detectored. The queue moved slowly, but I was one of the first in the line and so got a seat in the lounge.

Boarding was first for children and those requiring special assistance, then for those with higher class tickets and those economy passengers at the rear of the aircraft, which included me!

13/JUN/2009
CARRIER: Qantas
FLIGHT: QF9
SECTOR: SIN - LHR
CLASS: Y
ETD: 23:05
ETA: 05:25
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 747-400
SEAT: ?

The Boeing 747 holds a special place in my heart. My first ever flight overseas, back in 1995, was on a Singapore Airlines 747 Megatop. Since then I've flown on 747's with MAS, BA, KLM and, more frequently, with Qantas. Looking from the front, the 747 has a misshapen, highly distinctive, profile. But when I would see the 747 out of the terminal windows as I walked to board, or when I watched them race down the runway across Botany Bay, then they spoke adventure. There was an old fashioned sense of ornateness in their design, the last of their generation, like comparing the QE2 to the streamlined modern cruiseliners is how I think of the 747.

Since the beginning of 2007 I had made many flights overseas, but they were all on A330's, with the exception of a short hop from Hong Kong to Tokyo on a Cathay Pacific 744. On that flight I was too exhausted to care, worn out by too many flights across China. Something about those A330 flights felt different to those previous trips on the 747, but I struggled to identify exactly what that something was. I was determined to find out as I stepped on board QF5 from Singapore to London.

I could start with the interior. Despite the new red fabric on the seats, the Qantas 747's interior looked aged. The plastics were yellowing a little, you could tell that the aircraft was well used. The overhead storage bins were squarer than on the more modern aircraft, making the ceiling feel lower, while the size of the centre toilet and storage areas also dominated. But to tell you the truth, I really didn't mind. In fact I think that these features, combined with the wide 3-4-3 seating actually made the aircraft feel larger and more solid. Maybe this was the key difference!

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The seats were not as comfortable as on the A380 and the seat backs were certainly not "strokable" carbon fibre. But, hey, these were standard Qantas economy class seats and I'd survived many hours on them before. The small non-touch IFE screens were a disappointment after the A380, but I much preferred the 747's windows.

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I removed the blanket from its plastic wrap, placed it over my legs, and tried to relax as we taxied out across the field of lights. Pity there was no tailcam on this flight!

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The 747 felt more powerful, more forceful, during the take-off as we confidently leapt into the air. Indeed, the power of the engines was apparent during the whole flight, even if the speed wasn't much different to that of the A380.

We must have had the wind at our backs because the captain announced that we might arrive in London up to an hour early. Yay!

During the first part of our flight we tracked up along the west coast of Malaysia. City lights were recognizable below and there was much of interest to see in the night. Past Penang it was time to leave the coast and to cross the feared Bay of Bengal.

For much of the first few hours of the flight, from Singapore until about halfway across the Bay of Bengal, it was a bit of a rough ride, as if we were driving across a bumpy ride with constant shaking. But, despite my fears, it really didn't bother me. I just coped. Few drops helped, but I just didn't feel the apprehension that has spoiled other flights. And no seatbelt lights! Not once on this flight!

At one point we had the most magnificent sight of flying through high cloud. Normally it is nothing but an indistinct haze, but even this high there were individual cloud shapes silhouetted against the bright Moon. Racing past these close cloud outcrops at over 900km/h there was a real sense of our speed.

One and a half hours into the flight we were served a late supper. The choices were "Beef in a rich tomato sauce with potato mash and steamed vegetables" or "Jalfrezi style fish with rice and spiced pineapple". I had no idea what Jalfrezi fish was, but it sounded more interesting than the beef, so that's what I chose. It was a kind of sweet and sour sauce while the warm pineapple seemed to be in egg, but overall it was quite nice. I was still recovering from gorging myself from the hawker stalls, so I could only pick at the meal.

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Sides were a so-so cucumber and bean salad, a bread roll and a yam and sago pudding. I only skimmed the top of the dessert as I dislike the gula melaka (palm sugar) syrup, but I applaud Qantas for providing a real, regional dessert or higher quality than an ice confectionary.

I must have fallen asleep after the meal because I missed the hot chocolate run, much to my disappointment. We were also given a snack pack containing bottled water, Menthos sweets, Oreo biscuits, a Toblerone chocolate and an apple. Not really very representative of Australia!

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Sometime in the night I accepted a banana as they were handed out in the dark by the cabin crew. I love the fact that they serve fresh fruit on the flights.

While the IFE screens were not as impressive as on the A380, there was one critical advantage: Little Britain USA functioned on this one. I watched the entire series, mindless disgusting entertainment which certainly helped to while away the hours. The entertainment system crashed towards the end of my watching, requiring a reboot which also seemed to involved turning on and off the cabin lights. At least the system was equipped with a fast forward option. Most of the other passengers were too busy sleeping to care.

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Little Britain is a gentle comedy about dogs...

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...and men in suits!

Once across the Bay of Bengal we began our voyage over the subcontinent. The many lights of the Indian towns peeked out from beneath the clouds. Pakistan was darker, but still provided its share of interesting sights below. Over Afghanistan, a single light became noteworthy. I could just discern the snowcapped peaks of the folded, tortured landscape below. To the north east was a line of storms, flashing threateningly without touching us.

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Outside of Afghanistan the cities regained their glory, glittering jewels on black landscapes, so beautiful.

Over the glowing Mashad in Iran we turned to cross Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea into the Ukraine. Halfway across and the first glimmerings of dawn arrived, a pale glow to the East. We crossed the coast of the inland sea at Astrakhan, oilfields visible below sticking out into the waters.

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As the glow in the sky increased more and more details on the ground below became visible. Around Kharkov the landscape looked flooded by many rivers. But most of these were shimmering rivers of cloud reflecting the first light.

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The ride became a little bumpy again, but nothing intolerable.

I snacked on a slice of kuih lapis and relaxed to admire the sunrise. The orange light reflected off the red seat covers, intensifying the glow throughout the cabin. That's one of the things I love about flights with the Qantas Group, they have an open window policy. The cabin silhouetted against the early morning sky while you drift far above the carpet of clouds is what flying is really about, in my view.

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Our route overflew Warsaw and Berlin. Outside I could see contrails appearing metres behind the engine exhausts. In the distance over German skies I spotted another aircraft whose shadowed contrails gave the impression of belching a thick cloud of brown smoke.

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With a little more than an hour and a half of flight time left the crew began to serve breakfast. The choices were cereal or omelette with bacon, sausage and tomato ragout (and a broccoli sprout), both serve with a raisin Danish, fresh melon fruit salad and orange juice. I was hungry and very picky about my cereals (they all seem to have honey and/or sultanas), so I selected the hot omelette. Like all the other meals so far, it was very tasty. The German woman next to me had a special meal of some sort, served, as all the specials were, prior to the main service.

Naturally, it was bumpy during the meal service!

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The cloud cover over Europe began to break up as we departed continental Europe over Rotterdam and crossed the English Channel. The first hints of morning were starting to creep up on the island of England.

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Military turboprop flying towards and below us

As we crossed the English coastline the Customer Service Manager announced that we had began our descent and gave us the usual spiel about safety. But then he began to describe how our flightpath should take us over London, giving us wonderful views of the city below, subject to the vagaries of Heathrow air traffic control. He stayed online for much of the descent, pointing out London's many landmarks. After over twelve hours in the air it was wonderful that he shared his enthusiasm about what must have been a very familiar sight.

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The aircraft dropped towards the grey cloud layer below, then eventually punctured it, revealing the vista below.

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Say what you will about the Heathrow experience, but the approach to the airport is incredible. Fortunately, I was on the right hand side of the aircraft and my rearward position worked to my advantage with stunning views of the city below against the suffuse orange glow of sunrise.

My first view of London was on our honeymoon when we were also on descent into Heathrow. Then, as now, I was excited by the view. I had grown up with a lot of television and literature from the UK, yet I was not particularly familiar with the country itself. Apart from a few flights in and out from Heathrow, primarily to Europe proper, I had only spent two days wandering around London.

Despite this, I could readily identify many of the landmarks below. Just as we had overflown the Sydney Olympic environs en route to Singapore, now we crossed over London's Olympic site, still very much under construction. Hopefully the Beijing Olympics were Britain's 2005 Ashes series and 2012 will be their 2007 Ashes! 

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Our winding route then took us over the Millenium Dome, then views of the Thames, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf (hi Torchwood!), Westminister, the Kensington area, then the rounded canyon rows of suburban housing.

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http://lh6.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSo1bT04SI/AAAAAAAA8YE/GKnaIeLslfs/s800/P1120942.JPG

Finally, we aligned ourselves with the runway at Heathrow, there was the clunk of lowered gear and the whir of flaps further deployed. Down, down, down, landed!

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSo4fX5m3I/AAAAAAAA8Yc/W4HL_2L2RjY/s800/P1120945.JPG

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSo5DKxfCI/AAAAAAAA8Yk/tJAlwN6ggUU/s800/P1120946.JPG

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSo5p6_3bI/AAAAAAAA8Yw/scJYKSlxsHk/s800/P1120947.JPG

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSo6VWKTjI/AAAAAAAA8Y4/3AN8wb9_EX4/s800/P1120948.JPG

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSo7GQ6tKI/AAAAAAAA8ZQ/vO-o0EAPNGQ/s800/P1120949.JPG

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSo79cuRYI/AAAAAAAA8ZY/lpa6yHdmByI/s800/P1120950.JPG

While we hadn't shaved a full hour off the flight time, we must have been early, one of the first into Heathrow. The airport was quiet with almost no visible operations as we taxied towards Terminal 4. The CSM warned us that we may have to wait a while for a gate to be made available - it felt like they weren't ready for us yet.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSo-bhWoyI/AAAAAAAA8Zw/DzeLai0Fjhk/s800/P1120953.JPG

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSo_JGH6HI/AAAAAAAA8Z4/xwdoPvl1B-g/s800/P1120954.JPG

It didn't take long for the airbridge to be connected with the aircraft and for us to deplane. We hurried out, passenger eager to be off the aircraft that had carried them aloft for almost 13 hours. I was not in any rush myself, for it was still so early that there was nothing much for me to do yet.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSo_zVnduI/AAAAAAAA8aA/excpzSYahUY/s800/P1120955.JPG

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSpA2bqcHI/AAAAAAAA8aI/Ep6smqR9k_M/s800/P1120956.JPG

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSpCefhw6I/AAAAAAAA8aQ/S26XeMDNHBA/s800/P1120957.JPG

This being Britain, despite the near deserted terminal there was still a long queue at the immigration desks. But me being Australian and used to our own strict immigration and quarantine restrictions, I was not particularly fussed. At least our luggage arrived quickly.

Terminal 4 was dark, old and worn. The ceilings exposed ventilation tubing and once out landside there was virtually nothing of interest. Last time we visited London we caught the Heathrow Express to Paddington, but this time I decided to save money by catching the Tube directly to Earl's Court.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSpDgRi1tI/AAAAAAAA8aY/SXmgkSlkmMo/s800/P1120958.JPG

The Terminal 4 station was deserted. The only way to buy a ticket was using the vending machines, and none of them took notes! What a stupid system, as you generally don't receive coins from the moneychangers. Fortunately, one of the vending machines took cards, but when you add in bank fees that's a lot more than the 4 pound ticket! Fortunately, I had a Travelex card with left over credit, so I got my ticket, but I'm not certain the other passengers were so lucky.

It was a pretty little ride from Heathrow to Earls Court. Some of it was above ground. The sky was clear blue, the trees bright green and the wildflowers colourful. When we stopped and the doors opened I could hear the birds and the insects. I had to change trains at Acton Town, but that was no drama as there was no need to change platforms as well. Fortunately my line was open, as many were closed for trackwork on the weekend. Yep, just like Sydney.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSpE_1WXjI/AAAAAAAA8ag/SJCFpbchd7s/s800/P1120959.JPG

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSpJHUbPnI/AAAAAAAA8a4/2XxlPVCBJWE/s800/P1120963.JPG

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSpXusgKOI/AAAAAAAA8cU/T_UZ52zvrXs/s800/P1120976.JPG

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSpdPKPouI/AAAAAAAA8c8/jvTtmx-49ww/s800/P1120981.JPG

Part 3: LHR-HKG coming soon...

[Edited 2009-07-22 22:09:27]
 
directorguy
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RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

Thu Jul 23, 2009 7:31 am



Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
There was an old fashioned sense of ornateness in their design, the last of their generation, like comparing the QE2 to the streamlined modern cruiseliners is how I think of the 747.

That. Is. Beautiful.

Well, the QF 744 certainly pales in comparison to the A380s in terms of cabin amenities. But there is something so exotic, so timeless about travelling aloft a Jumbo from Singapore to London....

Well done with the photos-you did a good job on the London photos (and as a rule cameras nearly always fail to capture the true majesty of these sights to film). Thanks for sharing!
 
VHSMM
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RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

Fri Jul 24, 2009 12:40 am



Quoting Directorguy (Reply 1):
island of England

I hate to be an pendant, but England isn't an island - Great Britian is the island comprised of England, Wales and Scotland.
 
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allrite
Topic Author
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RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

Fri Jul 24, 2009 1:41 am



Quoting VHSMM (Reply 2):
I hate to be an pendant, but England isn't an island - Great Britian is the island comprised of England, Wales and Scotland.

I hate to be a pedant, but VHSMM, you quoted the wrong guy, it was me. Plus, I would hate for you to be a pendant, although you are quite welcome to hang around. I have also never heard of Great Britian. Where is that place?  Smile
 
VHSMM
Posts: 68
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RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

Fri Jul 24, 2009 1:56 am

Great Britian is the mane country in the northern hemyspear, nere a bunch of lesser countries known as Urope. Britin is the center of a grate and powdfeul emporium wif branches everywear.
 
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NZ107
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RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:14 am



Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
(Would I still explode anyway in the reduced atmospheric pressure of flight?)

No, because it is "open" as such - the pressure would be the same inside and out, just like your ears.

Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
but I much preferred the 747's windows.

Definitely! I forgot to comment on this in the previous post but I sure hated those A380 windows, more to do with the size than glare but every single shot of mine had some part of the frame in it (making it useless for trying to upload onto A.Net!).

Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
We must have had the wind at our backs because the captain announced that we might arrive in London up to an hour early. Yay!

Most A.Nutters would lament such situations when there is such a strong tailwind, reducing the flight time  Wink

Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
He stayed online for much of the descent, pointing out London's many landmarks

That's a great touch to the end of a long flight! It saves one forking money to take a helicopter tour!
 
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allrite
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RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

Fri Jul 24, 2009 11:33 am



Quoting NZ107 (Reply 5):
No, because it is "open" as such - the pressure would be the same inside and out, just like your ears.

Not too certain about that open bit. The point was that there was so much food inside of me that I could have been sealed at both ends. I was at risk of exploding at sea level pressure. Oh no, I shouldn't be saying this because I'm returning to Singapore soon. Don't want to be banned as a safety hazard! Big grin

Now I noticed this sign while exploring in Singapore:

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/SjSjPnyQXGI/AAAAAAAA77c/7aIj7ARNiOs/s800/P1120721.JPG

I myself went on the London Weight Management program on this trip. Gained weight by pigging out on so much cheap and delicious food in Singapore followed by the losing weight in much less delicious and too expensive to buy anyway food in London.  Smile
 
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NZ107
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RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

Fri Jul 24, 2009 11:48 am



Quoting Allrite (Reply 6):

I'm pretty sure the body can equalise the pressure, not that we'd notice it or anything.. But in saying that the system's pretty strong!
 
9V-SPJ
Posts: 671
Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2000 1:51 pm

RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

Sat Jul 25, 2009 2:37 am

Great report! On to the next ones  Smile

9V-SPJ
 
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allrite
Topic Author
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Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:28 pm

RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

Sat Jul 25, 2009 12:01 pm



Quoting NZ107 (Reply 7):
I'm pretty sure the body can equalise the pressure, not that we'd notice it or anything..

You can trust me, I'm a scientist. Nah, I was just writing in jest. I doubt if any normal meal could have that effect.  Smile
 
ba319-131
Posts: 8335
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RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

Sun Jul 26, 2009 4:50 pm

Hi Allrite,

Enjoyed part 2, nice read & pictures.

Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
We were also given a snack pack containing bottled water, Menthos sweets, Oreo biscuits, a Toblerone chocolate and an apple. Not really very representative of Australia!

- Agreed, could be anywhere in the world on any airline with that snack pack!

Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
omelette with bacon, sausage and tomato ragout (and a broccoli sprout), both serve with a raisin Danish, fresh melon fruit salad and orange juice

- Not a bad looking breakfast.

Regards

Mark

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