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We left home just after midday, Michelle's parents giving us a lift to the airport. It took less than half an hour to drive there using the new Eastern Distributor, which cut out all the awful traffic around Crown Street and King's Cross. We'd intended to get to the airport in time to check in three hours before the flight at 16:30, but we ended up an extra hour early!
Since I hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast (except a pear for morning tea...), I was hungry, and talked the others into having some lunch. We scouted the departure terminal for somewhere good to eat and were aghast at the inflated airport prices. The first place we checked seemed very expensive, so we wandered down towards the other end of the shops area, only to find that everywhere else was either more expensive or much more crowded and noisy. So we ended up back at the first place - Cafe Italia! And us just about to head off to Italy...
Michelle had pumpkin and carrot soup, and I had a steak sandwich, carefully avoiding the menu laced with various pizzas and pastas. I think we'll get plenty of that over the next few days! By the time I had finished my sandwich (which was very good - almost good enough to live up to the price) the Thai Airways check-in counter was almost open (we were keeping an eye on it so we could be first to check in for the flight). There were only 3 couples ahead of us in the queue when the counter opened, and with six or so check-in people working there we didn't have to wait at all. The lady gave us boarding passes for both flights: Sydney to Bangkok, and Bangkok to Rome. This was good because Michelle was worried about the seat availability and whether or not she would be able to get on the flights.
With our main bags checked in we could wander around the airport and look at the various shops. There were a few new ones since last time we'd been there, including a funky toy shop and a Gowings where we bought a pack of cards to pass the time when we're riding the trains in Italy. The duty-free places were huge and full of the usual electronic gadgets and smelly perfumes, which other people were snapping up. We saw some kangaroo and crocodile jerky in one food store, and a carry-bag full of Tim-Tams - 20 packets - essential survival supplies for Aussies overseas! Very expensive though - $76, or $3.80 a pack. Next time we want to take 20 packs of Tim-Tams overseas we'll be visiting Woolies first!
After all this wandering around it was surprisingly late, so we stopped at the bar near the near beer-garden area for some coffees for Michelle and her parents. By the time we'd had those, it was getting on to 15:30 and time for us to go through customs. We walked over and on the way saw our plane through one of the big picture windows. The catering truck was there loading up the food. Then it was goodbyes and we entered the passengers-only area for customs.
We checked through the immigration counter, then a guy took the duty-free receipt thingy off our bag full of photographic equipment which we'd bought the week before. We wanted to rearrange our stuff then before we went through the security check because one of the items was a camera bag which we could use to carry a lot of other stuff as soon as we got it out of the duty-free bag. The receipt guy wasn't too happy about us standing there ripping the duty-free bag open and told us to go through the security check first, but we just kept unpacking and he gave up on us as he had other people to go hassle. So we pulled all the rolls of film out of their packaging and dumped them in a plastic bag, and packed the rest of the equipment neatly into the camera bag. We went through the security check, and I asked them to hand inspect the film. As usual, they grumbled about it, but did it when I asked again nicely.
By the time we found a place to sit in the transit lounge area and Michelle had eaten her apple, it was almost time to board the plane. We repacked the bags again to put the film away tidily, I threw away some more plastic packaging from our new tripod, and I tested the film leader retriever I'd bought, which worked perfectly the second time I tried it out on a film, which I then reloaded into my camera. We loaded film into Michelle's camera too. Then it was off to the boarding gate. Michelle bought me a fizzy drink on the way - $2.70 for a small bottle!!
At the gate boarding seemed to be delayed for some reason. We didn't get called to board until about ten minutes before the scheduled departure time, but once we did getting on board was pretty quick. Michelle grabbed a free New Idea magazine from a rack in the boarding tube on the way. Our seats were most of the way to the back, a couple of rows behind the next-to-rearmost exit doors. Before long we started taxiing and were soon airborne.
The plane was a Boeing 777, about half-half Aussie tourists and Thai people heading home - quite a lot of Thai kids. We took off south over Botany Bay and flew south along the coast almost to Wollongong before turning inland. Cloud cover was almost solid and once above it we couldn't see much.
We were served some nuts, then drinks (succo d'arancia), and then finally the main meal. Halfway through the meal service, before we'd received ours, the plane hit some fairly bumpy turbulence and the captain cancelled the meal service and instructed the crew to sit down. The turbulence lasted about 15 minutes, then calmed down and eventually we got our dinners. There was a choice of chicken with noodles or beef curry with rice. We got one of each so we could see what was in them and pick and choose the bits we each liked. The chicken was average, but the beef was in a very spicy and nice green Thai curry with bamboo shoots. I ate most of the meat but left all the carrots. Michelle had the biscuits and cheese and bread rolls (I had a half a roll). The salads with both meals had smoked salmon on a mixture of raw diced vegetables - I ate all the salmon and left the veges. Desserts were blueberry cheesecake, which was okay, but rather light and fluffy like all airline desserts tend to be. Just once I'd like to tuck into a big heavy slab of chocolate mud cake or sticky date pudding on a plane!
The in-flight entertainment started with some cartoons - Road Runner and Tom & Jerry. Then some entertainment news thingy. Then a documentary about giant squid which I watched. Then a show about some crazy guys who slide down bobsled runs on their stomachs on a sheet of cardboard or something. There were two movies: I'll Remember April and What Women Want. We got up for a bit of a walk around and a stretch during the first one, which didn't look that interesting.
Seated in the centre row of seats, just a row in front of us, up against the videoscreen, were two parents and their young kid, presumably under 2 since he didn't have a seat of his own, though he looked quite large. Well... this is important because in the middle of the flight he chucked all over the floor. Pee-eeewww! Thankfully I didn't see it, but I could tell something bad had happened by the smell and the flight attendants racing around cleaning up.
Turns out there was a third movie: Vertical Limit, which I watched. I don't think I'll ever take up mountain climbing as a fun hobby...
The second meal was a pesto noodle thing with ham. By this time we could see occasional towns out the window, with their lights glowing. We had passed over Lombok, then Borneo, then skirted the Vietnam coast up the gulf to Bangkok. When we crossed the Thailand coast there were lots of lights, from towns and also from boats and ships on the rivers. Bangkok itself was huge - very spread out, but not densely packed with lights - we could mostly see major roads with large areas of sparsely scattered lights between them.
We landed at Bangkok Airport at about 23:05 local time. By the time we taxied to the terminal, disembarked, and wandered down the corridor to the transit lounge area it was pretty much time to board our next flight. The terminal was quite warm inside - we could feel it as soon as we got off the plane. We had wanted to take a leisurely look around the airport, but without the time to spare we went straight to the gate and found a huge crowd of people already waiting and starting to go through. Joining the disorganised queues, we saw that the gate led not to a passenger tube and the plane, but to a bus terminal where passengers were being loaded on to buses.
When we passed through the gate and were outside in the night air it was even hotter and very humid. Michelle was smart enough not to have worn her jacket; I had to take mine off as soon as I got on the bus. Once the bus was packed we were driven a long way (Bangkok seems to be a huge airport) out to a group of 747s waiting on the tarmac. Mobile steps were parked by two of the doors and we boarded up the rearmost one. Our seats were only a couple of rows back from the door by which we entered the plane.
Take-off was scheduled for 23:59 Bangkok time, but the usual 15 minute delay meant we spent two days in Thailand!
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