Gone abroad

September 18, 2019 by Fraser Beath McEwing
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J-Wire’s music reviewer Fraser Beath McEwing has added another string to his bow as he takes J-Wire readers on his travels…this time he reviews the A380 and checks out Changi Airport in Singapore.

On its way out – the A380

I’ve wondered why airlines are not ordering any more A380s. But after boarding one in Sydney aimed in the general direction of Singapore, the penny has dropped. They are just too big for people, to say nothing of airports and runways. In business class there is an accepted expectation to run the seats across in the one-two-one configuration so that everybody gets an aisle. Because the fuselage is so fat, it takes fat seats to fill it. They are actually sized at one and a half persons each. Two thin people could comfortably occupy one, or an adult plus young child. Or maybe three small children, well behaved. Only exceptionally obese people would consider the seats fit-for-purpose. Perhaps the Airbus designer of the A380 looked at the world epidemic of obesity and calculated this was future-proofing air travel. But diet and fitness are fighting back, leading to the downsizing sizing of aircraft.

Travelling in the A380 is therefore making a vivid memory of something that will pass. One day I will sit down with my great-greats and hold them spellbound telling them about the now defunct whoppers of the sky. I will probably not mention the AA male toilet feature for fear of being indelicate. It comprises a confronting, full-length mirror behind the bowl. AA stands for Appendage Assessment. Most older men emerge depressed, their already flagging confidence totally gone. Newer, smaller aircraft don’t have room for such furnishings, thank goodness. In those, you must brace your head against the sloping wall and devote your full attention to aiming.

Changi’s waterfall Photo: Fraser McEwing

Changi Airport is trying to become a tourist destination in itself. Short stays are encouraged, with hotel style accommodation within the airport or attached to it. We dossed down at the Crowne Plaza Hotel built specifically for the flop-needy traveller. Moderately priced, it is absolutely silent, even though there is a close view of the runway.

The major feature of Changi Airport has now shifted from simply shopping and eating to Jewel, a nature-themed entertainment and retail complex. Linked to three of Changi’s passenger terminals, the centrepiece is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, named the Rain Vortex, which is surrounded by a terraced forest setting where every leaf and twig is real.
Jewel includes gardens, frivolous and more earnest theme-parkish attractions, a hotel, and more than 300 retail and dining facilities. It covers a total gross floor area of 135,700 sqm, spanning 10 storeys – five above-ground and five basement levels. Its attractions also include the Shiseido Forest Valley, an indoor garden spanning five storeys, the Canopy Park at the topmost level, featuring more gardens and places to lean and stare in disbelief. It creates the illusion that you’ve slipped through a wormhole into the future.

Fraser Beath McEwing

It is almost worth coming to Singapore just to visit Jewel. While the crashing water spectacular and verdant chasm pulls in the crowd, the shops pull in the money. All the important brands are there, including the biggest Zara I’ve ever seen. We passed a newly established store selling elaborate massage chairs and, being desperately needing to sit down, decided to test drive the chairs. Michelle settled into hers and immediately began purring. I settled into mine and was immediately assaulted by angry, twisting fists that wanted to turn me into gravel. The cute young Chinese operator said that I was only on level one out of seven, adding that even seven was not aggressive enough for her. I briefly wondered at the demands she might make on her boyfriend while Michelle took notes for further investigation of the chair. Deliver to Australia? No trouble. Freight free. Set up free. New app of pummelling sent every month free. Hmmmm.

Next stop is Moscow and my first glimpse of Russian hotel toasters. Derek Breadchamber who, as you know, is Hotel Toaster Critic for the New York Times wrote some scathing stuff about Russian hotel toasters. This will be my chance to see if he was justified.


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