Saturday, January 23, 2010

wedding frenzy (thankfully not mine :p)

The reason we are in Singapore this time is to attend the wedding of my sister in law, C, to M. Here is a potted account of the daytime events.

0636 It’s still pretty early, but I’ve woken up about 3 times so far this morning. There’s already activity happening outside and wifey is long out of bed. I think about doing a live blog type thing and decide to fire up the netbook.

0640 Netbook doesn’t seem to want to resume from hibernate. I think it’s the HDD problem again, which I’ll have to sort out when I get back to Oz. Hope a full reboot works…

0650 Now working on netbook after full reboot. Needs to hold out for another week. Loud (to me) chatting outside, I can hear my wife being a part of the conversation. Wonder when I should actually get out of bed.

0654 C’s ‘sisters’ are due to arrive in a few minutes. I think I should start wiping the sleep from my eyes. M is due to arrive with his ‘brothers’ at 8am to pick up his bride and go through the ‘negotiations’ to get past the front door. I’d better be dressed and fed by then.

0721 Time for breakfast. I feel like I’m in a house of strangers - many unfamiliar voices.

0736 The sisters have prepared some pretty nasty stuff for the groom and his men. Hope they don’t go overboard with these ‘games’. Time for me to make myself look presentable.

0747 Dressed and ready for action. The house is suddenly quiet. I’m going to stop being antisocial and see what’s happening.

0749 The closing of the veil by the parents being done. Photos with family and

0753 More photos - closeups of C’s nail art. Brothers are here.

0756 E touching up C’s mascara and attending to some last minute adjustments. Relatives starting to arrive too.

0803 The boys are congregating downstairs, while the girls realise they have no structure to their tortures I mean tests, and knock up a plan/sequence.

0806 The boys have arrived at the front door. Door bell rings. The negotiations begin.

0810 The flowers have been rejected, the ang pao has been rejected. The boys get to work on their first challenge.

0815 The brothers are now watching a video clip on the laptop - I think it’s a music video that they need to perform / dance to.

0821 Dance is done, and to reward them for their hard work, the girls serve some “snacks” for the boys. So thoughtful, eh?

0824 Thirsty? The girls have prepared some drinks too… meanwhile the boys continue on another challenge - something to do with unscrambling some letters to form a sentence.

0826 The door is momentarily opened to let some relatives through. The boys make a half hearted attempt to force their way through.

0829 Next game - photo quiz. See if M can recall details from some photos with the mystery sections covered up.

0831 The boys offer their third ang pao, the girls approve of the increasing figure. Boys enter.

0834 Photo quiz continues indoors. Each wrong answer results in some food/drinks to consume.

0841 Games over, drinks consumed. M moves onto the last hurdle - signing and reciting the love contract before he enters C’s room and sees his bride to be.

0844 Last last hurdle - M has to pass E’s test before she will let him in to finally see her little sister.

0847 M kisses his bride to be.

0851 The couple are now out in the living room and group photos are being taken.

0855 The brothers and sisters depart. Things are running on schedule. Those who remain at the bride’s family can relax awhile. There’s talk of playing mahjong… hmm…

0905 People retreat to the air-conditioned bedrooms. The mahjong table is out and ready for action. We have about 3.5 hours before the bridal party returns here for the bride side tea ceremony and lunch.

1102 Have been playing mahjong, finished two rounds. The caterers have already arrived to set up the food - we’re having Peranakan fare from Ivin’s the Peranakan specialists (, yum yum! More relatives have come and E says it feels like Chinese New Year.

1140 I’m sitting down to my meal. It’s nice :) Don’t want to overeat, even though I could definitely have more of this…

1223 We get word that the bride is back - tea ceremony will follow soon.

1301 Tea ceremony and lots of photos now done. Things are running ahead of schedule. Time for a bit of rest until the evening program.

1316 People are leaving. I think I’ll stop this now cos not much will be happening the next few hours, and when it does I won’t be near a computer so can’t really keep this up.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Not just another flight

We were originally going to fly with Jetstar for this trip, as they were having same sales at the time we were looking to book. However we were given an offer we couldn't refuse to 'upgrade' to the more expensive Emirates flights - total about A$17xx for 2 (economy class). Despite the odd departure (2:45am) and arrival times (~1am), it would be more convenient for us to fly direct and save on travelling time. Jetstar transits in Darwin - and we'll get to experience what this is like later this year. Another potentially cheaper option was AirAsia which we flew about 12 months ago - this would have required us to depart from Coolangatta instead of Brisbane, as well as transit in Kuala Lumpur. And so began my first experience flying with Emirates.
I should not have been concerned about whether they had video on demand, because their in flight entertainment system called ICE (information, communications, entertainment) digital widescreen blows everything else I have experienced out of the water! Among other things, it features:

  • a widescreen format for improved viewing, not the puny screens you might get in some other airlines (that is, if you get a personal screen at all...). The 10.6" screen is bigger than the one on my netbook!
  • touchscreen control - this was a bit hit and miss because I had some trouble touching the smaller buttons/icons, and I couldn't find anyway to calibrate the touch alignment (not that I looked very hard). Of course you can still use the more traditional control pad, which features a little joystick type thing to move the cursor.
  • over 1200 channels of movies, tv, music and games. There would have been a good 100+ new and recent release movies.
  • the ability to be used pretty much at all times during the flight, including take off and landing. My previous experiences with other airlines saw them turn their system on after take off, and turn it off before landing. Of course, during announcements and safety briefings etc the system is paused.
  • you can also do stuff like plug in your USB device to view photos, PDFs, play music(?) etc, though I didn't try any of these out myself.
  • oh and there are two cameras on the plane that show the downwards view and the forward view, which I found quite novel. At least that way you can feel more connected to your surroundings.

I ended up watching 3 movies:

  1. District 9 which I thought had a decent plot, with an ending that leaves the story wide open for a sequel which I fully expect to be called District 10 (for more reasons than one).
  2. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen which was a bit of a waste of time. I started to fall asleep during this movie (by which time I was at least 6+ hours past my typical bedtime). So I paused it, took a nap, and continued watching when I woke up.
  3. Michael Jackson's This is It I'm not a huge fan of MJ - I like some of his music and fully acknowledge that he was one skilled and talented individual - and missed most of the media storm that accompanied his passing because I was in China on an IT support short term missions trip at the time (maybe one day I'll get around to blogging my half finished offline entries from that trip), so felt kinda distant from it all. While I'm generally happy to hear his songs, I'm glad I didn't pay to watch this at the cinemas during its limited release.

Anyways, back to the flight itself. Some other miscellaneous thoughts:

  • The cabin crew speak a LOT of languages... I didn't keep count, but I think the announcement listed close to 10, if not more.
  • I'm not sure if the plane we were on had just been turned around from another flight, but the seatback pockets weren't thoroughly cleaned/restocked. Minor quibble, but the pedantic me notices these little details.
  • There is good foot room in the seats to stretch out. The space taken up by the equipment for the entertainment units is not as bulky as other airlines I've flown with.
  • Speaking of the seats, they recline better than other airlines I've been on too. Both the upright and the seat pan (not sure if that's the correct term... the horizontal bit you actually sit on) move when you recline, instead of just the seat back. Looks like the plane I was on had their new generation of ergonomically designed Economy Class seating. Yay me :)
  • Even the fold down trays were a better design - these planes had a double fold, so it takes up less vertical room when folded up. Not sure if it's related, but I guess this means more space for the screen :)
  • Along with the headphones, you get a set of stickers that you can place on your seat to indicate one of the following if you want to sleep:
    1. wake me for meals
    2. wake me for duty free shopping (though I just realised I didn't see any of this at all... maybe it was while I slept, but that would have been an odd time to have it)
    3. do not disturb
  • Having said that, they did not hand out any comfort/amenity packs, eg with stuff like eye shade, ear plugs, socks, toothbrush etc, which I would have expected given my previous overnight travel experiences. I can only assume this would have been available on request...
  • Otherwise the service was fairly good - wifey said before the flight that I should ask the cabin crew to hang my suit bag, but as we got to our seats, a stewardess offered to hang my suit, so I didn't even need to ask.
  • Food wise I thought the meals were reasonable without being fantastic. The snacks we were served after takeoff included a choice of chicken or lamb pie, which turned out to be tiny - I probably could have done with another 1 or 2. They also served a choice of whole fruits, which I don't think I've had on any other flight. Having said that, I think my banana was a tad underdone.

Overall I think it was a definitely value for money flight - compared with the likes of Singapore Airlines or Qantas (both of which I've flown for this route), you are getting more bang for less buck, and that's a win in my books! I'll definitely consider flying Emirates again, assuming the travel budget doesn't consign me to only the budget airlines.

Another flight to Singapore

Here's something new - I'm going to attempt to blog my way through my current trip to Singapore. It won't quite be live, but I'll aim to update roughly daily, and see how I manage to keep up with the discipline. The first entry was written offline at the airport before we flew off. See all entries/follow the journey at

21 January 2010 1:45 AM
Location: Emirates Lounge, Brisbane International Airport
Waiting to board our flight to Singapore, which doesn’t leave for another hour. The airport was very quiet when we arrived just before midnight - no other flights were scheduled to depart before ours, and then there’s nothing until 6-something. Or is that 8-something? I can’t read the departures information screen from here.

Packing was a journey itself. My plan was to pack most of our things on Monday and Tuesday night, leaving Wednesday night relatively relaxed. That was until the addition of a tray of mangos Wednesday morning, followed by another tray in the afternoon, and then another bagful, plus some passionfruit. So now I was staring at about 70kg of stuff… good thing Emirates has a standard allowance of 30kg per passenger! In the end I repacked about half of what had already gone into the suitcases, shifting some 10kg into hand carry luggage. So that left us with a ~32kg suitcase, a ~22kg suitcase, 2 hand carry bags of about 6 and 7kg respectively, a backpack (mostly containing the netbook), a handbag (wifey’s), and a suit bag. Edit: pic on left taken at our destination. I take some comfort in that the bulk of what we’re carrying is for other people (ie gifts), rather than ourselves.

There’s a free wireless access point here in the lounge, provided by Emirates for its passengers. But I have no idea where you’re supposed to get the password from. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but in the meantime I can only conclude that the free wifi is an enticing, but ultimately useless service.
edit: I think this might be a service only for (ie passwords are supplied to) first and business class passengers...

We’ll be boarding soon. The flight’s not very full. Seating on the plane is in a 3-4-3 configuration. We’re booked into one side of the middle ‘4’ section, but I hope there’s room around us to be able to split up and spread out across a bank of 4 seats for some sleep. I don’t think I can handle an all-nighter, even though I’ll be battling to extract maximum value from the onboard video on demand. It had better be VOD…