Planes. Trains. Busses. Boats. Cars. Hong Kong. Bali. Bangkok. Berlin.

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by eponymous_coward, May 16, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    I feel manifestly unequal to the task at hand, after reading so many good trip reports here. Seeing people who actually paid thousands of dollars for their tickets, doubling over in laughter, knowing that many more before you have done a far better job at maximizing their travel, going to even more exotic places than you have, staying at luxury hotels and villas... and, well, generally not making a hash of things as I am likely to be doing.

    And yet, here I am. I suppose I shall do my best and make this work as best I can. Doubtless I've bitten off more than I can chew here.

    This trip hasn't happened yet, but we'll go with the outline here. Hopefully this will shame me into completing the trip report.

    [​IMG]


    Part 1: Planning and whatnot. Inspiration
    Part 2: Leaving SEA... and UA intercontinental F
    Part 3: Does our hero leave NRT? Oh, and how did the NH flight go?
    Part 4: Hong Kong: A Pub and whatever else we can find...
    Part 5: Come to beautiful Bali... with Singapore Air
    Part 6: Two sides of Bali
    Part 7: Off to Bangkok with Thai
    Part 8: The Chao Praya
    Part 9: To Macau
    Part 10: On to Europe and Berlin, thanks to Swiss F, and a brief FRA interlude with LH... and what's this, back to Y on AB?
    Part 11: 5 days of oontz in Leipzig
    Part 12: Dinner with a friend in Cologne... and scotch for breakfast in the FCT.
    Part 13: Conclusion
     
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  2. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    So what possesses someone to take a route around the world for 3 weeks like this?

    SEA-SFO-NRT-HKG-DPS-BKK-HKG-ZRH-FRA-TXL-LEJ-CGN-FRA-SEA

    Well, it was knowing that the 20th anniversary of this was going to go on during a break in time between my contracts as a software engineer, hearing the stories of my friends who went there, and reading everything from Mark Twain, Bill Bryson, bloggers like gleff, the Wandering Aramean and Lucky and even the trip reports of folks ln FlyerTalk and MilePoint... plus many of you, sharing information. It led me to realize "I can do this, go somewhere very far away".

    I've been to Europe twice, taken my daughter to the Yucatan... but this was going to be something different, a premium class redemption. Then the helpful FT US Airways *A award thread, along with generous promos to share miles and get bonuses on hotel point transfers made me realize I could turn it into something really, really cool- I could go to North Asia in first class and take a stop in Europe (and my industrial music festival) on the way home. Then I realized that due to CO bonuses and Key Bank giving me a $150 cash bonus, I could essentially add a trip to South Asia on top... and make money on the deal after getting the debit cards. Oh, hell, might as well throw in the once in a lifetime CO Gold match of AS status- I figure CO's lifetime wasn't going to be longer than mine, not by a longshot. OK, let's keep some SPG status, work a Hilton promo and start narrowing things down on Wotif.com and booking.com...

    OK, before I start going too far into the weeds of travel and frequent flyer hacking, let's just say where I am coming from. I set out to be fairly simple and thrifty in this, since it's just me travelling. So no W hotels with hot and cold running champagne for me. No rental villas. No three star Michelin restaurants (and besides, I want to see if Anthony Bourdain is right about street food, no better places to do that than SE Asia). Nothing poshy-posh. Just clean places to lay my head, take a shower, and have fun- I decided early in I'd try and stay out of hostels (no need to have a 40something show up in the middle of college kids), I'd research with TripAdvisor, Wikitravel, whatever, and I'd come up with stuff that would mix local flavor with whatever good values I could come up with.

    So it sort of turned into things like "I'd like to surf in Bali", or asking friends about Hong Kong or Bangkok street food... and hoping that I'd get the experience Rick Steves describes of being a "temporary local" instead of a tourist. I managed to stick through a contract ending early (nearly ruining my plans, I literally got a job at the last minute before I'd have had to bail on my plans, and my new, old boss who rehired me gave me the blessing to do this, something I am infinitely grateful for), a mild stroke (fortunately recovered from), which has just reinforced the idea that I need to do this...

    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

    -- Mark Twain

    So it just reinforced this with me: what if I don't have twenty years?

    Anyways, this is the genesis of the idea. The tickets are all finally bought, the rooms I want are all reserved, I'm in the final week of this preplanning, and I am nearly giddy with the thoughts of meeting new people, going to new places, and flying around the world. Not just luxury hotels, Westins and Sheratons and Hiltons, not just lie-flat seats, not just caviar, Johnnie Walker Blue and "Would sir prefer the Dom or the Krug"... but being out in the world.

    So I hope I can take you along with me, in a sense. It's the least I can try to do, for all this community has done for me.
     
  3. Halothane
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    Halothane Silver Member

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    Looking forward to your trip report! Can't wait to get it started.
     
  4. GeneCMH
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    Great start. Looking forward to the rest. Bon Voyage!
     
  5. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    En route update:

    So, it seems they have Dom Ruinart in the UA IFL in SFO.

    [​IMG]

    People like to complain a lot about UA F. I suggest the problem is you haven't had enough Dom Ruinart.
     
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  6. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Second en route update: the UA IFL is air conditioned. A lot of Narita is not, for obvious and understandable reasons.

    I was at one point thinking my flight was going to get in early enough to go into Narita, but between that not happening, muggy terminal, and feeling a bit peaked with some pretty significant travel left (flight to HKG, and getting to my hotel in Central via MTR) I decided to forgo the passport stamp and photo op and shower and lounge instead.

    Delicious beer machine still dispenses delicious beer, and I have reconfirmed you can get into the NRT International First Lounge arriving in UA F connecting to NH C (as I am). They won't announce your flight, though.

    Oh, met up with a (mostly lurking) FTer (who I pointed MP out to). We're in the ANA Suite Lounge. Donburi and Suntory Hibiki 17.

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. NYC_Gal
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    NYC_Gal Silver Member

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    Sounds like a wonderful trip. :)
     
  8. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    It has been. I'll probably do a more substantial update from Bali... that is, if I don't go "hang it all, I'm having a good enough time such that I don't intend to waste it updating my trip report".

    Last night was flitting about Kowloon and then Lan Kwai Fong.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Granted, I am too damned old to be partying with people in their teens and twenties. But the enthusiasm is infectious on a Friday night in Hong Kong, enough so that I didn't feel completely silly in the crowd. And some Hong Konger in the morning guessed my age at a decade and a half younger than it truly is (or was engaging in flattery, I'll delude myself with the former), so we'll go with that.

    Today is a travel day... on SQ. You know, that airline that nobody is supposed to be able to fly on Star Alliance awards in premium classes. Apparently they have made an error and are letting me on there on business class. So no Dom or Krug, but I hope enjoyable nonetheless. The old-timers think the "book the cook" Lobster Thermidor served in business class has gone downhill, but having never had any before, perhaps it will escape my notice.

    Prior to that, it will be breakfast in the HKG *A lounges... a battle of TG vs. UA vs. SQ. Who wins? Stay tuned to find out...
     
  9. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Still not a full update with pictures (that will come later in the week, I think), but enjoy what I will scrawl down here.

    The battle of the HKG lounges... TG wins for food, SQ wins for having Drappier whereas UA and TG had no champagne. Carlsberg and San Miguel were the alternate pale yellow beverages I chose. And I got lots of dim-sum-y sorts of food, sushi and so on.

    SQ's lounge is stately. Sort of state funeral stately, because of the dark enclosed space and all. Perfectly adequate but UA and TG beat them in ambiance. UA's lounge gets packed in before their flights- not crowded crowded but busy.

    SQ's catering on a regional flight in C beats UA's catering in international F (as well as NH's). And it wasn't even close. I suppose if half your revenue comes from premium classes (according to an article I saw in the Straits Times), you had better do it right, or it won't be staying around. Oh, and Highland Park 12. Very nice. Did I mention I drink?

    Oh, and thanks to SQ's T2 remodeling of their lounges, yours truly ended up with some Johnny Walker Blue during his SIN layover. It seems that the F lounge still has F drink selection, even though they are letting in C pax while the C side is being remodeled.

    [​IMG]

    Finally, I am also too damned old to be surfing. I was definitely the slow kid in the class, but my instructor, Frank, was great with me. So go to his school. (I suspect my stroke has impacted my sense of balance, which is sort of important for surfing). I did manage to get up for a few seconds. We'll try again tomorrow, and I still had a blast, anyway.

    Bali is wonderful and I see why people keep coming back. Chicken satay as street food with nuclear-powered sambal rocks.
     
  10. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Well, after a second day of mostly falling, slightly surfing, and tramping around Seminyak and Kuta, I am, well, decrepit. Everything hurts. I found good hole in the wall warungs serving Makkasan and Manado food, and great sambal, drank beer with college surfers and my guide, and found out that the local mosquitos treat the DEET-laced bugspray I am using like I treat whisky.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    People survive dengue fever, right?

    I think the next few days in Lovina will be spent recovering by a pool with tropical drinks.(In fact, it turns out, this one.)

    [​IMG]


    Not even the $6 Balinese massage from last night and aspirin is enough, though it is still a fantastic time. And I might as well finish up missing parts of this trip report.

    Edit: it's not often that you get a bus station with a kiwi. And I don't mean the human kind of New Zealander. ;)


     
  11. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    As I have declared today a day of doing Nothing, I have also declared that working on a trip report counts as sufficiently close to Nothing as to meet the qualifications.

    And what do I mean by Nothing? Christopher Robin will explain for us:

    Christopher Robin: Pooh, what's your favorite thing in the whole world?
    Winnie the Pooh: My favorite thing is me coming to visit you, and then you ask, "How about a small smackeral of honey?"
    Christopher Robin: I like that, too. But what I like most of all is just doing nothing.
    Winnie the Pooh: How do you do just nothing?
    Christopher Robin: Well, when grown-ups ask, "What are you going to do?" and you say, "Nothing," and then you go and do it.
    Winnie the Pooh: I like that. Let's do it all the time.
    Christopher Robin: You know something, Pooh? I'm not going to do just nothing anymore.
    Winnie the Pooh: You mean, never again?
    Christopher Robin: Well, not so much.

    I think leisure trips are fine times to do Nothing, even if one is well past Christopher Robin's age.

    So, we shall wind back the clock a bit to a week ago in Seattle...
     
  12. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    FIT THE SECOND

    (Note, expect pictures to be added in later, and some more detail. Too much work would no longer be considered Nothing.)
    I spent the night at an anonymous SEA hotel (the Coast Gateway, if you must know, but it was so anonymous that I didn't bother with pictures) so that I could 1) not worry about being picked up on time by my car, and 2) have dinner and drinks with dear friends who were leaving for a new home and jobs in New Jersey, and were in an airport hotel for their last nights in Seattle.
    Couldn't sleep well, though. I finally was going someplace really, REALLY far away with frequent flyer miles, in the front of the plane. True, no big deal for you frequent flyer veterans, but a BFD for me (as the US Vice President might say).
    So, the appointed hour comes, and, well, having paid the munificent sum of $1500 or so for all these miles, I decide it's time to hit the Red Carpet Club in the basement of SEA. For it being isolated from natural light it's quite all right.
    However, this flight being pre-dawn, it appears the bar isn't open. I refrain from writing my Congressman or demanding e-certs and content myself with pineapple juice from a smiling and apologetic attendant.
    Soon enough I am boarding…
    UA 468 5/25/2011
    SEA-SFO, 678 m
    757-200, Seat 3A (full F cabin, though I suspect from FA chatter one or two NRSAs)
    Ch 9 on
    Oh, good, they are boarding through 2L. I GET TO TURN LEFT. Silly that it should be a big deal, but all of my F experiences are on narrowbodies boarding through one door, with the one AA widebody 762 swapped out for a 757 last minute…
    People seem to like UA's domestic F seating more than AS's (the airline I am most familiar with). I am not impressed with the 757. No real place to stow my laptop backpack, pitch isn't all that. But time for the de rigeur foot shot…
    Oh, and the accompanying shot of food and beverage. Scone and bloody mary. Breakfast of champions.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We fly down over lots of cloud cover at 38,000 feet, and Channel 9 is on and interesting (a feature of UA I really enjoy), and soon enough, we're landing at SFO…
    And I am off to the International First Lounge. I get another set of boarding passes there (important so I can show them to lounge dragons in NRT and get into F lounges).
    Well, we've all seen the SFO IFL, haven't we? Oh, wait, what's this, Dom Ruinart? Well, this is very nice…. let's have some with sushi.
    Oh, time to board?
    UA 837 5/25/2011
    SFO-NRT, 5124 miles (wow, this is a long way, though I've flown longer-PDX-FRA, in LH Y. And I mean LONGER.)
    Seat 2A, cabin full
    Well, off to the seat.
    It's blurry. I might be too. But no matter.

    [​IMG]
    More champagne, menus, and so on.
    The Japanese food + starters are competent, nothing special (I eat dinner, plus nibble a bit at breakfast).

    [​IMG]

    The service is good- the crew is attentive, passes through the cabin a lot for water. I feel well taken care of, even if the OMG FIRST CLASS factor (plus a general aversion to sleeping on airplanes, plus it being daylight hours) doesn't let me sleep much.
    And after movies, Anthony Bourdain and small nap, we are soon coming towards Tokyo… and Fit the Third.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2013
  13. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Live! From the Premier Lounge at DPS, after my driver got me here a bit fast, but in fine fettle, another small stream of consciousness update.

    TG pax get sent here, no problem. No eyes blinked at carryon+ laptop backpack. There is still a deck to look out over the ocean. Plenty of tasty looking food and drink here. Bar is not open yet (we'll fix that soon [​IMG]). Have showered, shaved and done the frog->prince transformation from "slumming backpacker in shorts and sandals" to "proper business class attire". Oh, and have bagged my second FTer en route (she's from SFO, UA 1P, with parents from PVG). We chatted about what a raging good deal CO intra-South Asia awards are. [​IMG]

    And now, off to some planespotting on the deck and looking out wistfully yet content over the tranquil Bali seas, for one last time over drinks and snacks.... my trip is almost half over, but there is more to come.

    [​IMG]

    EDIT:

    Oh. My. God. I think I have found something more heinous than what Jeff $mi$ek is doing to UA. More outrageous than SQ *A award policies.

    It seems the Premier Lounge does not serve mixed drinks or champagne. The lounge attendant said something sheepishly about how passengers might not be sober enough to make it onto the plane if they did, and the airport won't let them do it. Anker Bir only.

    :eek: :eek: :eek:

    Why, the nerve! Quinine is important in the tropics as an anti-malarial, and the gin helps it go down, you know.

    I shall soldier on, silently suffering until we're safely away on TG 432.
     
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  14. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Well, thanks to the Hilton Millennium being a lovely hotel, but absolutely ruthless when it comes to trying to ding you with charges for the Googles on the Interwebs, and my being unwilling to shell out for anything more than a $17 caprinha while looking out at a Bangkok sunset last night (which incidentally cost more than my dinner earlier: song yon tam soup that was divine, papaya salad and a nice large bottle of Tiger beer, for $11, at Be Our Guest; as a note, if you want to escape the usurious charges for damned near everything, LEAVE THE HILTON), I am spending a bit of time after rummaging around for cheap breakfast (iced chocolate and a sticky bun from a soi just off of Klongsan pier: $1.25 USD, plus fruit from the welcome gift last night) typing this report up. With luck, the EK lounge at BKK will be more generous with the Internet than the Hilton is for a lowly Silver. So…

    Fit the Third

    So, it's off the plane, and into a hot Narita, down what seem to be miles of corridors to a security screening. It seems that the AC is out due to the earthquake. I plough through the line for Star Gold/First/Business class and in through polite security people, then glance at the time. After 2 pm or so. Hmmm, do I really want to leave the airport for some sushi and a very quick train ride JUST for a passport stamp? No. So time to start some lounge crashing. First off: the UA International First lounge.

    The duplicate boarding pass I got in Seattle comes in quite handy here, since my onward flight is in NH C… but I show the arriving flight's BP. Off to a nice shower, and thankfully the lounge is cool (as well as being stuffed with computers, massage chairs and so on). The snacks look a bit underwhelming… but there IS a beer machine. Can't pass that up.

    I end up next to someone who was on my SFO-NRT flight, and he notices the FT tags on my bags, he cops to being an FTer… and then discussion turns to miles, SWUs, UA p.s., UA status and so on. He is one of the first of many people I get to chat with on my trip. I've found that if you are friendly, you're never really traveling alone. He suggests that we decamp for the NH ANA Suite Lounge, as he thinks the donburi there is better than anything we'll eat in the UA lounge; he'll get me in if my UA BP doesn't make the cut.

    Well, it appears it does, so we're in. It's a quiet day in the lounge- very few people there. I noodle about and find Suntory Hibiki 17, and order some donburi.

    The Hibiki is divine. It's rocketing up my personal charts of outstanding whisky, with a bullet. I'm not usually that partial to blends, but I like this one, with real character to it. It's not for bolting back for sure, and it went well with the donburi.

    My new friend departs for his flight to Taipei, and I take a bit more whisky and the sights before my NH flight is announced, and I am off to it.

    NH 911
    NRT-HKG, 1535 m
    767-300, Seat 3D


    Originally, I was hoping at the time I booked this flight that NH would have taken some 787s by the time I was flying, and I'd get to fly one. No such luck; it's a 767 for me.

    The NH C seat is comfortable enough, though, for someone who is used to an AS F seat that is nearly universally panned on the FF boards.

    I can't really say the same for the meal, though. I pick the Japanese set (served in a foli-wrapped container), and all of the food is… off for my palate, stuff like icefish and canola salad. I attribute it to lots and lots of flying, being spoiled by donburi and scotch, plus being Western and American (read: too much sugar). I pick at the food while watching The Young Victoria, but the only thing I really eat is the dessert (Haagen-Dazs and a dacquoise), and a bit of sake (which I liked).

    I also note that I have to flag an attendant to have water- they mostly retreat behind the curtain after the dinner service is over.

    Soon enough, I am now about to be through with 26+ hours of flying (and not a moment too soon for me; while the pampering in premium classes was lovely, this is quite enough riding around in hollow aluminum tubes for me), and we're landing at Hong Kong. Off down another long, long set of corridors (at one point I notice the egress for the SkyPier- someplace I will be returning to, well, the same day as I am writing this, in order to go to Macau), immigration and customs formalities, and then it is off to the Airport Express customer service desk to hand them a voucher to get my Airport Express stored value card, which allows tourists like me 3 days of unlimited travel on the MTR, plus a ride from and to the airport, for the sum of $50 or so.

    And then it's onto the Airport Express. I ride the light rail in Seattle a lot, have done BART in SF, too. The thought going through my mind? "We were robbed; let's call some Hong Kongers over to do our mass transport right." I end up in Central soon enough, and then plough over to take the MTR over to Sheung Wan, and then I am out the doors and down Wing Lok Street to a warm bed at Mingle on the Wing.

    OK, you can all laugh now. I've had walk-in closets bigger than that hotel room. But as The Wandering Aramean has mentioned, the rooms are clean and cheap, and while I'd love it if shelling out for Langham Place was in the budget (I went by there; it is very nice and someday when it IS in my budget, I'll shell out for it; I liked the art exhibit they had), it's not. And the location is absolutely brilliant: easy walking distance to ferries, MTR, plenty of tram lines, lots of cheap street food, not even a long walk to Lan Kwai Fong (more about that later).

    And then I proceeded to pass out until Fit the Fourth.
     
  15. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Another en-route update:

    And now we hit the missing top step I was afraid of.

    The good news is not only does the EK lounge have WiFi, it has Laphroaig.

    The bad news is EK 384 (DXB-BKK-HKG, I'm on the BKK-HKG leg) is notoriously late, and today it's even later, making my ferry ride at risk, even though I built in extra connection time for this. I knew this going in, and thought it worth the risk to get a bar on my flight.

    First thing into the lounge I told the nice lady (seemed hardly fair to call her a dragon) at the lounge desk "oh, I've got a connection to Turbojet at HKG SkyPier, will I make it?" She said they will do what they can for me. So we'll see how EK treats a business class (award) passenger with no status... let's hope they throw some extra gerbils on the treadmill of that A388, shall we?

    EDIT: well, (deleted) me running.

    EK almost put me on Sri Lankan to get me to my ferry... before they realized this was a CO award ticket (that I got paid to take). Whoops.

    Well, if it HAD been a paid ticket, major props to EK for irrops handling. As it is, I can't complain (I would imagine signing a CO award ticket to another airline.... oof.)

    So I guess I'll stay in the lounge and see what happens getting to HKG.

     
  16. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Well, it was no hassle being honored on the next ferry, and I even got the upgrade! :)

    I think I will be snoozing so I can have a late dinner on LX 139. Maybe some updates from the lounge... ;)
     
  17. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    OK, quick hit and run blurb.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the LX HKG-ZRH flight. While their service is excellent, what makes it even better is it's a night flight. I am finding that I don't sleep well during day flights. Granted, I woke up at 6 am HKT, but I do that when I am at home anyway (I seem to have lost the ability to sleep in very much).

    People seem down on the older LX A343 F product in comparison to the A333 F product, but not me; it was wonderful, I didn't really care that the TV screen wasn't very big. I am pretty much sold: LX F going from Asia to Europe, well worth the connection in ZRH to be able to fly during evening hours (though if TG has one at that time, I'd try them too).

    And now, I type this from the LH FCL in the A gates, having decided that I wouldn't be much of a US DM Maximizer™ if I didn't stop in for scotch. I decided to bag going into town, and I am watching a SQ 747 taxi in front of me (along with UA and LH planes) in a mostly empty lounge. OK, so only two flights left: an AB one to TXL (I know: well, it was $80 and it includes a DB train ticket that gets me to Leipzig), and my return home.
     
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  18. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Haven't forgotten about this. I'm too busy enjoying myself ON my trip to be reflective about it, though.

    However, IF Lufthansa gives me an aircraft with FlyNet, I will attempt an in-flight update on my last leg (FRA-SEA). How's that: an intercontinental in-air TR update, eh?
     
  19. Redcap
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    Very good so far :)
     
  20. LN-FHU
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  21. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Home. LH managed to serve me the last thing on my list of "things I want to eat in Germany while I am there"- frische spargel. I did some work on the TR, though. So you'll get what I got so far, more to come. I think there will be pictures soon, too.

    _____

    You're in luck, people (or what passes for it). I have a four hour IC (regional, sort of leisurely going through the Fulda Gap- though "slow" for a German train is maybe 100 mph) train ride from Leipzig to the Frankfurt Flughafen Bahnhof, plus two ICE (fast train) jogs to and from Köln today (in order to have dinner with a friend). Incidentally, Deutsche Bahn does not offer much in the way of IFE on their trains in the second-class compartment, though I 'd consider their pitch as being very comfortable (Economy-plus-ish). So you get more trip report, once I upload it whenever I get some WiFi I can scavenge for free.

    FIT THE FOURTH.

    So, it's a brand new day in Hong Kong. I woke up bright and early and decided to orient myself in my band new city, something I always like to do. And not much point in being in a hotel room that's very nearly claustrophobic, is there?

    And yes, by gum, this place IS right in the middle of everything. Ferries to Macau? steps away. Fancy malls? Nearby under covered walkways. I strolled along wandering paths and so on, met an older gentleman who chatted with me, courteously welcomed me to Hong Kong, was unduly impressed with where I've worked in the tech industry when chit-chat proceeded to where I was from and what I did for a living, and he grossly underestimated my age, something that seemed to happen a lot on this trip (and I tried not to let get to my head, which seems to have a lot of grey hair in it, and to which I usually point to when people disbelieve my middle age decrepitude).

    So, off to the Star Ferry and Victoria Harbour. And the smell of the sea. I really never get sick of this, and for a pittance, it's well worth the trip.

    [​IMG]

    Then I walked around Kowloon-side a bit, picking up a SIM card and going up to Langham Place and seeing the art around there, noshing a bit for breakfast in the mall.

    OK, there are the usual tram rides and touristy bits in here- purchasing jade for my daughter as part of a promise made to her ("something from every country I go to"), marveling at the number of gold/jewelry dealers on Nathan Road (I counted something like six instances of the same dealer in a few blocks- it seems Hong Kongers really like their shiny things).
    [​IMG]

    You probably don't want to hear/see this, and the weather wasn't all that, so sorry, no Victoria Peak tram pictures. I did ride the MTR during rush hour, though, just to get a sense of Hong Kong at it's busiest. Yes, it's packed (not Tokyo subway-style, though). I also failed to find a place mentioned to me by a friend: A Pub, somewhere in Kowloon. I did find Metal Bar… and it was playing cheesy karaoke, not metal. FAIL.

    But I did manage to get delicious pork noodle soup in a place where I was the only non-Chinese person in the place. I saw art at Langham Place and around town (sponsored by the HK Jockey Club, it seems. I saw one of the tricks used in lighting up Hong Kong at night, while having a delicious drink at the Mandarin Oriental (gin and, uh, pomegranate? and cherry herring- a little like a cherry life saver or Singapore Sling, but more about that last one later).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The trick is lights projected against a building- you can look down and see them. But the highlight? Lan Kwai Fong.

    Yes, I know, expat hangout. But it was a Friday night. And for whatever reason, stuffed to the gills with young Chinese college kids out for what college kids do on Friday nights, cavorting and having fun with friends, along with slender young European model types I seemed to bump into (but fortunately, not drool on) every 15 seconds, and then there was me: a middle-aged American with delusions of, well, whatever he has delusions of, enjoying his drinks and the infectious energy buzzing around in the air. Going to someplace like that, you can easily believe that this is the future, here in Hong Kong, and you're lucky to be living in it.

    And the drinks there weren't even that expensive. And it felt safe wandering back home to my hotel room and going back into slumber. Because it was going to be a travel day tomorrow… on SQ. (cue choir of angels signing hosannas). You know, that airline where US Dividend Miles-buying losers like me shouldn't be able to fly, since we're not paying hard cash for it. Well, apparently an error was made, and I was going to be enjoying a Spacebed for a few hours, then a brief lounge stop, then a quick flight to… beautiful Bali. Oh, and I figured there was time for a Lounge-Off, seeing as I had privileges to all three: SQ vs. UA vs. TG. Hadn't bothered with dim sum the day before, so why not get some in the lounges?

    FIT THE FIfTH.

    Well, we've gone over the battle of the lounges in a previous blurb. I'd probably say TG wins were it not for no morning champagne. SQ's lounge is a bit staid compared to the other two. UA's lounge is pretty nice (and the only one that had sushi).

    Other notes on the SQ flights:

    Highland Park 12 is one of my favorite scotches. SQ also serves it in business class. More power to them. The duck noodle salad I had as an appetizer on the HKG-SIN leg was pretty delicious.

    I got caught out as a SQ tourist by my seat opponent, a nice resident of Singapore who humored me being the gauche American tourist- though we both shared an appreciation for VX F, as she said it's the one American airline she has flown that reminded her of SQ. I think the pictures and the asking the stewardess if I could get a little something for my daughter were the dead giveaway. Incidentally, I also think the stewardess proceeded to stuff everything in the plane into a bag for me- playing cards, stationary, and so on, including the pilot flight bags. My seat opponent got a picture of me in the seat as well.

    Spacebeds are comfortable for 4-5 hour flights, I find (then again, I find AS F comfortable, whereas most FF board denizens consider AS F comparable to devices designed by Torquemada). I may someday have to try a US DM "RTW" where I get an SQ C longhaul segment to get me to Europe and see if I can sleep on a slanty seat. It was good enough that I'd take the chance- do something like this:

    SEA-ICN-HKG on OZ (destination, possible pseudostopover < 24h at ICN)
    HKG-SIN(pseudostopover < 24h)-AMS/CPH/ATH/wherever there isn't 77W/A388 on SQ
    AMS/CPH/ATH/wherever or openjaw in Europe-YVR-SEA on AC

    I should think that would be a FINE trip to take. Not as luxurious as an F trip, mind you, but nice enough.

    OK, down at T3. With a delightful interlude where I went to T3 in error (whoops) and then went back to T2, found someone to exchange Hong Kong/US dollars for rupiah, and then bumbled my way to the T2 SQ lounge. Oh, damn, what rotten luck, the T2 J lounge is closed for refurbishment… so I'll have to settle for the F lounge. Oh, Johnny Walker Blue and champagne to go without the curries, satays and pralines? Don't mind if I do. This should keep me well-fed if the Book The Cook business class slipper lobster thermidor should disappoint…

    Well, it didn't. It was fine. But then I am a bloody tourist with all my taste in my mouth. Everything else was just as fine as well, though a full dinner service on a ~2 hour flight is a bit rushed, I think (and the SQ menu shows it's reduced a bit… plus this is a leisure route).

    Well, I will stop a bit now. We just got to Weimar, and I got a seat opponent back that I lost at Naumburg. But hey, at least I HAVE a seat. I didn't bother with the seat reservation when I bought the ticket, and just relied on plain dumb luck to get a seat.

    I also just looked for the seat belt when I got back into my seat. I think I've been flying too much, though it could be worse, I could be wondering when the safety demonstration was going to happen.

    ---

    OK, back on the train. And it's ICE this time. ICE ICE baby. 255 km/h the train tells me- FRA to Köln Hbf, dinner with a friend, and back. I dropped bags off at the FRA Sheraton (and I won't be bothered with that part of the TR either- who needs more pictures of someplace everyone ends up going to?), but on we go to…

    FIT THE SIXTH

    Boy, am I glad I did not spend money on a VIP greeting at DPS to get me through customs quicker, because apparently at 9:30 pm on a Saturday night in May, you're going through customs and immigration faster than a greased pig. So off to the outside I go, find my hotel driver, and then it's up Jalan Sunset to the Harmony Hotel in Seminyak.

    My room is basic (you may be catching a theme here), but very livable all the same, with one catch- bathroom is open to the outside elements. this means mosquitoes. And it turns out that my DEET-based spray is salad dressing to them. My room does seal off well from the bathroom, so in the end it's all OK. The hotel has toothbrush and toothpaste for me, even… as well as the inevitable overpriced minibar. BUT, free breakfast, free wifi, can't knock that. And a swimming pool outside my door, and beautiful weather.

    See, up back home in SEA, we're in a stretch where it was one of the coldest springs on record. Days in the 40's… in late May. Thanks, La Niña! So when I saw the forecasts calling for a cold spring, the thought that went through my head was "oh, BOY, did I make the right call for a trip to the tropics this year".

    But, time for bed, and then up early the next morning for mostly uninspired breakfast. Side note: I know Europeans, Brits and Aussies are tied to their breakfast foods, but I really wish they weren't. I suspect that the blandness of "free" breakfasts at resorts has to do with having to shovel beans and toast at people. I, for one, go with "eat what the natives eat, unless it's completely stupid, like the Icelanders eating rotten shark". It probably won't kill you, and you might like it.

    -- Another interlude (what, this is FIT THE SIXTH AND A HALF, eh?)

    Fantastic dinner and drinks with a friend in Köln. Back to FRA, the Sheraton, and soon home.

    I could really do this for weeks longer, I think. Shouldn't I be getting homesick?

    Because I am not. I want more. I miss my daughter, I enjoy my job, I want to tell my friends at home how awesome this was… but I still want more travel. Not tired of this. Not even a little bit.

    OK, well, that is all you get for now. I promise, though, more work on the plane ride home.
     
    Exiled in Express likes this.
  22. eponymous_coward
    Original Member

    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    You may notice this TR is a bit more colorful now. Still not done with it yet. Sorry that my camera sucks: the HTC HD7 has lousy image stabilization, but I am lazy and like a camera that has instant upload to the Internet.
     
  23. clear travel story....
    love to read it...
    thanks[​IMG]
     
  24. MSPeconomist
    Original Member

    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Welcome to MP
     
  25. eponymous_coward
    Original Member

    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Oh, right, where were we?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Ah, I see, there we were. At the Harmony, about to go surfing.

    I've already linked to Frank's school up there and talked about it a bit already, so I'll just say that it was still fun to be batted about and fall down bruised in the surf, for the privilege of standing a few seconds on a surf board.

    So much that I did it two days in a row when I didn't have to. My second day was with a German girl from the Munich area who came back, and mostly one on one with an instructor, Johnathon. I took breaks because I was in lousy shape and maintaining your balance on a surfboard when you are horrible at it is hard work. But I was game, and it made the plunges in the deep pool at Bali Pro Surf School and beer I had with Johnathon afterwards all the better.

    I tramped a lot about South Bali that weekend, too, giving myself mild sun poisoning and blisters on my feet. Sounds terrible, doesn't it? Who does THAT on their vacation?

    But I still got the tasty chicken satay skewers at Pettinget, a walk along a gorgeous beach...

    [​IMG]

    ... a temple near the beach, and got there as the locals arrived to play chess, socialize and pray. It was nice to find someplace that didn't feel like it was designed to separate tourists from money. I also hit the W Bali… and saw $30 drink prices, and politely went on my way without one of those drinks. I sadly spent the trip flying like I was in one of the moneyed classes, and even occasionally got a fancy hotel… but this was just out of my league.

    Oh, and almost got picked up by one of the locals. See, my way home took me past… Banana Spa. It seems they cater to men. With an all male staff. And from the way the staff member who was trying to pick me up was talking to me, I suspect lots of "extras".

    And I mean LITERALLY picking me up. After politely demurring as I tramped on my way, he followed me in his scooter. I had to point out that I was 50 meters away from my hotel, and that while I'm sure some guys found him very attractive, I wasn't going to be interested in having him come to my room. Though I was flattered he found a middle-aged American handsome- though I also suspect he found my middle-aged American wallet more handsome than me, no harm in being polite in turning down a pass, eh?

    I also tramped back to my hotel from Kuta on the SECOND day I was there, passing all kinds of shops, nipping in for Makkasan padang food (I suggest checking out Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations Indonesia episode for why I thought this was completely awesome- tons of hot spices and good food).
     

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