Narita-Changi (Gesundheit!)


My stopover in Tokyo (well, Narita Airport is actually about 40 miles outside the city) was only about an hour or so, just time to check out the JAL lounge There were lots of people in surgical masks walking around the airport; I guess they’re all worried about Swine Flu. I can never figure out if the people wearing the masks are afraid of getting sick, or are already sick and are trying to prevent themselves from spreading it.

The JAL lounge was very swank, with an upstairs restaurant called “The Dining, the Bar” and lots of free snacks, booze, and drinks. While I was sitting there checking my email, I felt a weird shaking sensation, and immediately thought it was an earthquake tremor. A few of the people around me felt it too, including one eight-year-old boy who looked delighted, but most people ignored it, since it did no apparent damage. After Twittering it, I was immediately informed it was indeed a quake — I guess, like in California, minor earthquakes are a normal part of everyday life.

After the 12-hour flight to Tokyo, I thought the rest of my stops would be “puddle-jumps,” but the journey from Japan to Singapore was seven more hours! Once again I must thank my State Dept. masters for flying me business class. The “pods” on this flight weren’t quite as full-service as the JFK-Narita leg, but I still had my pick of free entertainment options and the ability to fully extend my seat to a lying position. I took advantage of that pose for about half the flight, and I think I got almost four hours of sleep.

I arrived in Singapore just after midnight, and the last leg of my trip, Singapore to Yangon, didn’t leave until almost 8 a.m. After nearly 22 hours of sitting on airplanes, I desperately needing to stretch my legs, and took the long route from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2. Changi Airport must be one of the most modern, luxurious airports on the planet, as it’s just stuffed with free Internet stations, designer shops, and boutiques. “High-def” sports bars proliferate, as well as coffee shops and restaurants. They also have a lot of “parent’s room,” special lounges with play areas for the family. And even in the wee hours, many of the cafes and shops were open and fully staffed.

In any case, I was kicked out of the Singapore Airlines lounge at 1:30 am and didn’t relish spending the next six hours sprawled on a bench. I found a “transit hotel” with a “budget room” available: $S40 (about $30 US) for six hours in a tiny, windowless room with shared toilet and bath. It was worth it for the shower alone, not to mention some privacy and a place to stretch out, but my system was so confused I only slept in fitful bursts of an hour or two until my 6:30 wakeup.

Then it was off to Yangon.

Changi moving sidewalk

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