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David and Noel Coory

  Middle East Trip

June 2005



Today Wednesday 22nd June

Tomorrow Thursday 23rd June


  • Muggy heat.

  • Well dressed people.

  • Crowds of chic young people walking the streets
         at night talking on cell phones.

  • Pretty, petite girls with lovely skin.

  • Shrines and temples to oriental gods.

  • Tidy streets.

  • Lots of trees.

  • No houses only apartments.

  • Rickshaws.

  • Cheap taxis.

  • Strange new tropical fruits.

  • Super strict laws.

Wednesday 22nd June

Noisy bumpy flight from Tauranga to Auckland

Marie and Alec come with me in the car to Tauranga airport about 5-30am to catch the little link plane to Auckland. 

My baggage checking-in has to be done manually as the computers are down.

I am soon on my way in the very noisy Beechcraft 19 seat airplane. I decide that this is a good time to test out my $120 PlaneQuiet noise-cancelling headphones. 

They work well and cut the noise by about 60%. These headphones are battery operated and work by recording the surrounding noise and creating an opposite sound to cancel it out.

I have also copied my entire CD collection of 801 songs onto my little Ipod MP3 player. So I should be able to enjoy my favourite songs whenever I want to. 

This Middle East trip involves more than 60 hours flying time for Noel and I.

As we get near Auckland the plane trip suddenly becomes extremely violent. In such a small plane like this it feels like riding a bucking horse. I find I have to hold on to the seat, and tense my tummy against the sudden drops. 

What a relief when we land. Some of the passengers look pale. Probably I do as well.

I meet Noel and Andrew at 
Auckland domestic terminal

I find Noel and his tall son Andrew at the Auckland domestic terminal. Noel also had a rough trip up from Palmerston North.

Andrew, who lives in Auckland looks well. Both he and Noel’s daughter Lisa now have partners. 


Noel's son Andrew

We all walk over to the International Terminal, following the blue lines on the footpaths and towing our wheeled suitcases. Takes us about ten minutes. 

We have a long wait, until 11.30am for our Air NZ flight to Singapore. Andrew stays and chats for a while then departs.

We will do a lot of waiting at airports on this overseas trip, usually at least two hours at a time, sometimes four hours, and on eleven different occasions. About two days worth of time altogether.


Waiting at the airport – we lost two days doing this

Both Noel and I have got identical little digital cameras, new Sony T7’s. These are very small, and thin, only 17 mm, like little pocket calculators. The T in T7 stands for tiny. They easily slip into a pocket. I carry mine in a belt pouch.

A half empty jet plane

When we board the jet we find it's half empty. Noel has never seen this before and he has travelled quite a lot. 

Most of the passengers are Asians.


The plane interior – half empty on this flight

We are soon airborne and heading for Singapore crossing Australia.

This flight takes 11 hours, a huge span of time when you are just sitting.

Later on, some of the passengers, including Noel, lie down across the three centre seats to sleep. But Noel doesn’t find it all that comfortable. 

This is rather an old plane. We have each been issued with a small pillow, a rug and a set of headphones. There is a TV attached to the ceiling every 5-6 seats. These TV’s can only be heard through the headphones.

The TV screens occasionally show the progress of the plane against a background map of the countries we are flying over.

 They also list our flying speed, usually about 950 kph, and other details in various languages, ie, flying 6 kms high, with an icy cold outside temperature of minus – 60°C. 

There is also piped music available through the standard issue headphones, but the sound quality is poor. My PlaneQuiet headphones improve it a lot.

The airline food

We have curried rice and veggies for lunch, also a bread roll, a cube of cheese, two dry biscuits, a soggy cake square and a drink choice of tomato, orange, apple juice or beer. Afterwards a choice of tea, coffee, water, Baileys liqueur or wine.


Photo of an airline meal, not our one

Our steward is a friendly, middle-aged man. Usually they are young men or women in their 20’s.

Toilets in this plane are Teflon lined and only use about a litre of water to flush. When they do flush they do so with an almighty whoosh that gives the impression that everything is being sucked outside the plane at a 1000 kms an hour.

The outback of Australia – sand ripple hills and giant salt patches

After about 5 hours we begin flying across the vast outback of Australia. Mostly dry desert, but for about half an hour we notice low rippling brown hills, like the ripples on the sand of beach when the tide goes out. These ripples are equally spaced apart and continue for hundreds of kms. They nearly always run North-South.


Photo of ripple hills in the Australian outback

We also see huge areas of white, that looks like salt. 


Huge white salt-like patches in the Australian outback

Ipod music

I enjoy several hours of random music from my Ipod and headphones. When you set the play list to 'shuffle' it is interesting not knowing which of the 801 songs is coming up next. 

Noel tries the set-up too and is most impressed. Although I don't think he was quite as impressed with my taste in music. He is a rhythm and blues man. I prefer livelier music.


PlaneQuiet headphones & Ipod

We finally arrive at Singapore

After 11 hours we finally arrive at Singapore airport. It is about 7 pm their time. It is quite warm in this huge airport.

We pass through passport control and then walk into the new arrivals area. Among the crowds of people we see a small, dapperly dressed Singaporean man with poor teeth and slick black hair. He is holding up a notice with 'Noel and David Coory' written on it. 

He then proceeds to efficiently take care of our luggage and customs clearance and leads us outside the airport.

Sauna-like Singapore heat

If we thought it was warm in the airport, as we walk outside into the twilight air we got a shock.  It was like walking into a sauna, especially in our NZ winter clothes. 

We feel an all-enveloping heat, clinging to us, from head to toe. I think, "If this is evening, what’s it going to be like tomorrow in the middle of the afternoon?" Actually the tropical temperature does not vary much between day and night.

Being near the equator, Singapore has typical summer temperatures ranging from a low of 28°C at night to a high of 35°C in the afternoon. These don’t sound extreme temperatures, but Singapore is a small island, so humidity is very high. 

Later we were to find that 49°C in the shade in Egypt was more bearable than 35°C in Singapore with high humidity.

We stand waiting on the street for about 5 minutes, sweating and waiting for our man to bring the van. All the time we are getting warmer and warmer. 

Fortunately the van is air conditioned. As we drive off I see a little altar and a shrine-like image of an oriental god set up on the driver’s dashboard.

As we drive into the city at dusk I am impressed with the wide streets and many trees.

Our classier than expected hotel

After about a 30 minute drive we are dropped off outside our flasher than expected Carlton Hotel. This hotel was a $35 a night each upgrade from our originally booked hotel which was full.

We clamber out of the van into the sauna-like heat again, and then into the welcome coolness of the hotel lobby.


Outside entrance of our hotel


The hotel lobby

Noel is handling our finances on this trip. We will split the costs 50-50 afterward. He is required to provide a photocopy of his credit card to the hotel. 

Our room is up on the 19th floor. Quite small, but flash enough, and with an air conditioner.

Traffic noise comes in when we open the double glazed window.


Our hotel room on the 19th floor

Out for a two hour night walk

When we have settled in, we put on cooler clothes and go out for a two hour walk around this bustling city. 

The heat does not seem quite so oppressive now in cooler summer clothes, but it is still muggy hot.


Singapore street at night – not normally empty like this

These Asian cities are quite compact, as everybody lives in tall apartments. The population of Singapore is 4.2 million. They are highly literate and 91% of the people own a cell phone.

Some of the buildings are unusual, like this one below. It reminds me of an old radio.


Radio-like building

We see huge numbers of chatting young people walking the tree-lined streets in groups. They are mostly girls, clothed in designer clothes. About a third of them are chatting on cell phones as they walk. They remind me of my granddaughter Sheree, very chic.

We come across a large. ornamental fish pool by the side of the footpath. I could not see this being spared by young vandals if it were back in New Zealand. But Singapore is a very law abiding city with strict laws. Death penalty for drug dealers and smugglers. Heavy fines for spitting or dropping chewing gum.


Street-side fish pond downtown

No obese people and well polished cars

Unlike in New Zealand streets, we do not see any obese people, apart from one young man who is swigging from a large soft drink bottle.

We come across a large Hare Krishna service in a huge tent.

We also come across this impressive mosque.


Impressive mosque

Singaporeans seem to take a pride in their cars, nearly all of them are polished brightly. Only one person in ten owns a car, but yellow taxis are everywhere. There is also an efficient underground railway system. Hardly any buses. 

We also come across a very smelly river canal, in sharp contrast to the cleanliness of the rest of the city.

We see lots of bike-powered rickshaws. Many of the owners are middle aged and skinny.

We next come to a busy market and buy two attractive watches as possible gifts for our relatives in Lebanon. We do not have any Singapore dollars but are able to use American dollars.

A fruit stall with not one familiar fruit

We then come to a fruit stall with not one familiar fruit. I can hardly believe my eyes. I thought I was familiar with nearly every fruit in the world.


Hairy red fruit, didn't get to try these


Still haven't found out what these are


One hugely popular item was a large, green, spiky fruit, about the size of a small person’s head. There is a huge stack of them, selling like hot cakes.

We want to buy some of these exotic fruits but we don’t have any local money, Singapore dollars. We will come back tomorrow.


These big spiky things are selling like hot cakes 

We have walked further than we think and it is a long way back to the hotel.



Next day Thursday 26 June


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