Justine Tyerman has no end of complaints after flying in the front end of the plane
The trouble with flying Business Class is that you don't get to interact with other passengers.
Cocooned in your own luxurious bubble, you don't have to engage with the super-chatty chap beside you who extends his hairy hand and introduces himself before you've even had a chance to stow your cabin bag, sit down and fasten your seatbelt.
Nor do you hear the tragic life history and fascinating surgical procedures of the large lady whose ample frame invades your seat and armrest and whose heavy head finds its way to your shoulder in the middle of the night.
In a past life, I was a social worker and counsellor, and empathy still appears to leak uncontrollably from my pores. Total strangers feel compelled to tell me their life stories and involve me in their dramas. I've even found myself mediating in such situations and offering to help with fretful babies.
However, it was so quiet and tranquil on my Singapore Airlines flight from Auckland to Changi, Singapore, I was unaware of any other passengers in the BC zone. There appeared to be a few elongated dark shapes lying motionless under duvets during the flight, but there was no chat. A strange yet wonderful experience.
To satisfy my desire for social interaction, I made friends with the cabin crew.
As the only one upright and awake in BC, I had the full attention of chief steward Wong and his team Niken, Wu, Felicia, Manisha and Quek who plied me with magnificent French champagne and cuisine and entertained me with stories of their travels around the world.
The flight-time of nine-hours, 40-minutes from Auckland to Changi is far too short a timeframe to do justice to the magnificent seven-course lunch, four-course dinner, and the dizzying array of beverages they serve.
Before we had even taken off, Niken intuitively sensed my penchant for champagne and my glass remained mysteriously full for most of the flight. The bubbles matched my effervescent mood as I headed to Singapore and on to Laos on another adventure with Innovative Travel, my fourth with the Christchurch-based boutique tour company.
The cuisine was nothing short of sensational, created by eight world-renowned chefs from Singapore Airline's International Culinary Panel.
Lunch began with a flourish — a starched crisp white tablecloth, fine cutlery and an elegant menu were spread before me. All the choices had my head spinning.
I started with a canapé of Singapore chicken and lamb satay, followed by an appetiser of poached prawns; Gulai Kambing, an Indonesian lamb curry; gourmet breads; triple chocolate ice cream with fruit coulis; a selection of cheeses; a colourful basket of fresh fruit and a collection of fine pralines.
The wine list was also impressive. I stuck to the French bubbles but was also proud to see that the first craft beer served on Singapore Airlines is a Kiwi beer — Hapi Daze — from the Garage Project brewery based in Wellington's Aro Valley.
Another complaint about BC is the fact the armchairs are so generous, soft and deep, I needed a booster seat to see out the window. I'm vertically challenged so in order for me to indulge my passion for high-altitude geography, Wong raided his pillow supply to elevate me.
Detecting my fascination with the terrain we were flying over and the flight path displayed on my screen, Wong kept me informed about our position. When I went walkabout, my travel guide in the sky showed me his detailed flight monitor and pinpointed our exact location over Australia.
There appeared to be a few elongated dark shapes lying motionless under duvets during the flight, but there was no chat. A strange yet wonderful experience.
When it was time to visit the bathroom, I sorely missed having to use my well-honed gymnastic skills to avoid disturbing my snoozing seat-mates. I could come and go as I pleased.
After investigating the moisturisers and perfumes in the spacious, spotlessly-clean bathroom without anyone banging on the door, I plugged in all my technology, stowed my belongings in the many handy compartments and reclined my 28-inch-wide armchair into a 78-inch-long flat bed. The moment I achieved horizontal and snuggled under my duvet with my head on a fluffy cloud of a pillow, I was out to it. Such a shame — I was looking forward to practising my relaxation exercises and counting all the sheep I missed the last time I flew.
I woke up somewhere between Burrundie and Alice Springs, flying high over a barren, red desert. I could just make out a cluster of houses and a dust trail heading away into the distance on a road to nowhere.
Wu appeared with a fruit bowl and Wong with a chocolate bar.
Are you hungry Mrs Tyerman? Would you like another pillow Mrs Tyerman? Another champagne Mrs Tyerman?
So many decisions!
Panic set in about then. With all the ZZZs I had stacked, I had yet to watch a movie and time was fast running out.
Scrambling for the noise-cancelling earphones, I flicked through the selection of 1000 movies, television shows and music programmes on the entertainment system, thinking I might watch La La Land, but then the landscape below began to change dramatically and I was once more transfixed by the view out my window.
The endless flat plain began to crumple, as if a giant hand had screwed up a piece of paper or stiff fabric and tossed it aside. Deep gashes cut the terrain and rivers, like slim silver snakes.
Tour guide Wong said we were nearing the Australian coast after flying diagonally across the country for the past three or four hours.
Australia slowly broke up into little pieces and disintegrated, dissolving into an ocean so vividly turquoise after the relentless red desert, it looked like someone had dropped blue-green dye into the sea. Soon there was nothing left of the land mass.
As we flew high above the Arafura Sea towards Denpasar, Wong and the team served dinner. It's termed a 'light meal' but is still more than I would ever eat at home.
I started with tomato juice, with an appetiser of prosciutto and fresh melon before enjoying herb crusted lingfish fillet in pesto-spinach velouté and a chocolate cappuccino cake with raspberry coulis.
"Too much food," I protested to Niken. "You will have to wheel me off the plane if I eat another mouthful. Is that part of the service?"
She laughed and offered me a tray of pralines.
Singapore was hazy in the early evening light. The sky was pale apricot and I could see the lights of hundreds of container ships in the harbour and the gondola to Sentosa Island.
We touched down so gently, I hardly knew we had landed.
As I left the plane, I complained to the cabin crew that the flight was really far too short.
"I didn't even have time to watch La La Land," I grumbled.
IF YOU GO
Getting there: Singapore Airlines flies from Auckland to Singapore daily, from Wellington four times weekly, and from Christchurch daily. SilkAir flies from Singapore to Vientiane and Luang Prabang three times weekly.
Justine Tyerman travelled to Singapore and Laos with Christchurch-based Innovative Travel.