As I’ve mentioned previously I booked my Work Australia trip with BUNAC, and as a part of the package this involved a group flight that included a three day stopover in Hong Kong. This suited me just fine – for one thing I’ve never travelled alone before, so for my own peace of mind (not to mention that of my relatives!) this seemed like a clever option. In addition to this however, it meant that I would arrive in Sydney knowing at least a few people, as well as getting to spend three days in a part of the world I’ve never been before!
London to Hong Kong
To say that I was nervous getting on to the plane would be an understatement – I was absolutely bricking it. I’d already beeped going through security, I was convinced customs were going to confiscate my backpack somewhere along the lines, and then there was the whole thing of setting up a whole new life for myself in another country to get my head around. That is, of course, if Australia’s notoriously strict customs officials let me through immigration in the first place!
(Drama queen? Me? I don’t know what you’re talking about!)
As it was a group flight, all our seats had been pre-allocated and so I found myself between two lovely individuals – Teya and Matt – both of whom I’d spoken to briefly over Facebook beforehand and seemed pretty sane then. Thankfully they only went on to confirm my excellent judge of character once I’d met them in the flesh! My only complaint would be that they both had a cough…! 😛 But considering the flight was 11 hours long I was willing to sacrifice my own excellent health in exchange for good company! 🙂
In total there were about 50 of us travelling to Hong Kong together, and we spent the first half an hour of the flight chit-chatting about our lives back home, any plans we had, who had travelled before and where, and of course we compared the all important in-flight entertainment. (Just a heads up, if you’re nervous on a flight, whatever you do don’t watch 12 Years A Slave. Or Captain Phillips. Neither are great for calming those crazy thoughts of yours.)
We were provided with two meals, which on this flight weren’t that bad. As a veggie my meals were delivered way in advance of anybody else’s, which was weird because I’d finish my meal just as the trolley was coming down to deliver the rest of the food. It was standard aeroplane food, not the best quality and a bit greasy here and there, but edible nonetheless. The best bit was reading ‘noodles available on request’ on the menu about seven and a half hours into the flight. I didn’t even care I had to eat them with chopsticks, they were that good.
Overall, the flight was pretty uneventful – it was meant to be an overnight flight but no matter how hard I tried sleep just seemed to elude me. Honestly all I really wanted to do was be the Weeping Wendy in the corner all homesick and sad, but there are times in life when you just need to get a grip and face big scary changes, and this was most definitely one of them!
Hong Kong to Sydney
After a few comforting moments in Hong Kong (more to come later) where I realised that not only was I probably going to be alright, but I might even enjoy this being away from everything I know malarkey, it was time to depart and head for our final destination. Sydney, Australia.
Sorry, please excuse my language but this is genuinely what was going on inside me at the time. I was utterly convinced Australian officials weren’t going to let me into the country. To qualify for a Working Holiday Visa you must provide proof of funds for $5000AUD, plus an additional £500 to get you home if you’d come on a one way ticket. I had both of these, all my insurance details, my passport and my sweet, sweet smile and was STILL cacking myself!
Annoyingly, this flight wasn’t as pleasant as the previous one. For starters we had our water taken off us as we were boarding the plane (despite it still being sealed and having bought it in the duty free section), and then there was less legroom. Four of us were squashed into the aisle seats this time as opposed to three, and muggins over here was stuck in the middle again. The two either side still had coughs, but once again I was willing to let this slide, and was actually a bit more concerned about their welfare this time around!
I’m happy to report that for this flight I’d learnt from my mistakes made three days prior to this and watched only happy films – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Little Mermaid. Mock me all you want, but I was adamant I wasn’t going to sit through another nine hours of unbearable tension!
My main bugbear throughout this flight was the food. For one thing nowhere near enough water or liquids were provided throughout considering they’d deprived us of our full bottles in the departure lounge. Then the food, as a vegetarian, left much to be desired. There was some weird pasta-bake-come-lasagne-come-potato thing, with goodness only knows what for dessert as it was all written in Chinese and looked like a cross between yogurt and cream cheese. Needless to say I didn’t even try that, and I was rather hoping I’d be offered some of the Häägen Dasz ice cream everyone else got, but alas, no, that was not the case. It was the same with breakfast, I was provided with a slimy mushroom omelette with green beans (because who doesn’t have green beans for breakfast…?!) and not much else whilst others were given yogurts, fruit and bread rolls in addition to their main meals.
To top it all off, this time around there were no noodles available on request. Livid!
Thankfully on this flight I did manage to catch a few winks, but turbulence and a crying baby ensured it was no more than just a few…the joys of flying in the cattle class, right?! 😉 To be fair, if I was the baby I’d probably have cried too – it really was quite a bumpy ride at times!
It did feel as if this flight went faster, but perhaps that was just the fear and adrenaline running through me making time speed up! All of a sudden it was time for us to land, and I’m not going to lie I did have a sudden urge to nervous poo from that point onwards. It was time to face immigration.
It started off well – thanks to the chip in my passport all I had to do was scan it in and then stare at a camera. As I don’t wear glasses this worked a charm, though it did mean no stamp in my passport which was sad. After collecting our luggage we all headed to the final stage, desperately clutching our ‘Nothing to Declare’ forms in one hand, with our proof of funds in the other…in my case trying not to shake with nerves. It didn’t help that a TV crew were present and filming for Border Control or whatever that programme is called! I was adamant I would not be appearing on that.
Typically, I needn’t have worried. No one asked to see a thing. Not one of us got checked and asked to show our paperwork, and before I knew it we were all on the other side and celebrating the fact that we were FINALLY IN AUSTRALIA!