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Topic: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: Gabrielchew
Posted 2008-01-03 02:09:45 and read 9637 times.

Trip Report – Emigration to China, via the Maldives and Tokyo

Following my university course, I decided that it was time to leave the shores of England, and head off to China to try and find a job. I spent quite some time looking for flights to anywhere in Asia, and eventually found a great fare on Sri Lankan Airlines one way from London to Tokyo via the Maldives (twice) and Colombo. From there I decided to fly down to Fukuoka in southern Japan on Skymark, before getting as boat over to Busan in southern South Korea, then flying on to Shanghai on Asiana. This bizarre routing from Tokyo to Shanghai was the cheapest I could do in a reasonably short amount of time. Direct flights between the two cities were more than my flight from London to Tokyo. My routing was: LHR-MLE-CMB-MLE-NRT, HND-FUK, PUS-PVG. Initially I was booked on a flight direct to Colombo, but I changed it to one going via the Maldives (only 2 direct flights a week from LHR to MLE, but there are 2 daily flights straight to CMB), so I could see the Maldives during the day.

23rd July 2007
London Heathrow LHR – Male MLE – Colombo CMB
UL 502
Scheduled: 2135-1205, 1255-1450 Actual: 2217-1212, 1320-1453
Aircraft: A340, 4R-ADE Seat: 14A

After sitting on the Tube for an hour from Russell Square, I arrived at Terminal Four with 3.5 hours to go before my flight. The queues for the SriLankan flight to Colombo and Male were ridiculous. As I am a member of Skywards (not Gold or Silver mind), I went to the Business Class desk to see if I could check in there. Luckily they said yes, and I got my prebooked window seat in the forward mini-economy cabin. Leaving the crowds of the terminal behind, I headed off for a farewell dinner in the Hilton (extortionately expensive) with my little sister. An hour before the flight I headed through security, and down to the gate (via WHSmiths). The queues from check in had finally made it though as well – the flight was full. After not too long a wait, boarding commenced. I was sat next to an English family going on their annual holiday to the Maldives (alright for some!). The three rows of business class were full of very young looking families and their children – not a quiet and restful atmosphere.

Sri Lankan A340 prior to departure to Male and Colombo
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP4991.jpg
Map to the Maldives
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP4994.jpg
Heathrow at dusk
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP4995.jpg

After a brief delay (no reason announced – assuming it was late night departing traffic), we were on our way. I can’t remember what I ate, but there was a choice of three meals, and it was pretty good. Drinks were plentiful and free flowing. The staff were all very helpful. I was slightly anxious before the flight in case there would be an enormous IFE box under my seat (2nd row of economy), but there didn’t appear to be anything, so the legroom was also good. Once dinner had been cleared away, the lights were dimmed, and most people seemed to drift off.

A couple of hours before landing in the Maldives, the lights came on, and breakfast was served. Not as good as dinner, but still not bad. The approach into the Maldives was almost as good as I could have hoped for. There were some amazing views of the islands including the world’s smallest capital, Male, perched on its own island not far from the airport.

Arrival into the Maldives
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5008.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5010.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5010-1.jpg
Male
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5011.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5013.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5015.jpg
Runway
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5016.jpg

After a superb touchdown, we were taxiing to the small terminal. The tarmac was crowded with European visitors – Monarch, euroFly, Livingston and a few others. Once we had lined up, everyone disembarking in Male got off, and the cabin crew came round asking everyone staying on to Colombo to identify their hand luggage. Not long after a few new passengers joined us for the short hop over to Sri Lanka. I thought I’d have a free seat next to me, but unfortunately it was filled by the last passenger to board.

Male Airport
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5018.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5026.jpg
Map to Sri Lanka
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5028.jpg
On Board
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5041.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5040.jpg


After a turbocharged takeoff, we were once again offered some amazing views of the islands, before heading back above the clouds once more. On this short sector, the cabin crew handed round juice, water and beer. Arrival into Colombo was an unhurried affair. The tarmac was almost devoid of life, and there was just one company A320 at the terminal. I was among the first off, and thanks to my fast walk, the first to get to immigration (no queue). After a bit of a wait for the baggage belt to whirr into life, I was through customs and into a taxi in no time at all. Colombo Airport, even after all the security measures, is actually a very pleasant facility to use.

Sri Lanka
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5044.jpg

http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5075.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5078.jpg

After a night on the beach, it was time to head back to the airport for my second leg of my emigration up to Tokyo, once again via the Maldives. There were at least three check points to go through before I got to the check in desk, which wasn’t very busy. I was informed of a one hour delay due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft, not a big problem. Colombo airport doesn’t have a lot of attractions, but there was a good massage parlour which helped me kill a bit of time. Before I knew it, it was time to board…

http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5108.jpg

25th July 2007
Colombo CMB – Male MLE – Tokyo Narita NRT
UL 460
Scheduled: 2030-2135, 2215-1150 Actual: 2127-2207, 2309-1251
Aircraft: A340, 4R-ADA Seat: 10A

I had the first row of economy booked on this leg, and there was no one next to me for the first leg. The rest of the cabin on the other hand was pretty busy, with lots of what sounded like Brits en route to the Maldivian beaches. It was only after take off that I realised that the arm rest didn’t raise, so I’d be confined to having just one seat on the next overnight leg should no one take the seat opposite. There was a just a quick water round on this flight, nothing special. Landing at Male this time wasn’t quite as spectacular as it was dark, but the onboard cameras were on so I watched the landing on TV, which was cool.

Waiting in Male for passengers to Tokyo
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5119.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5123.jpg

Most of the passengers seemed to disembark in Male, and for the next 30 minutes, the aircraft was quite quiet and empty. After a crew change, a few passengers trickled on, and the doors were shut. Unfortunately one of those passengers was destined for 10C, so I was a bit stuck. After a cursory glance around the cabin, I asked one of the FAs if there were any rows of seats in the back that were empty, and if I could move. He replied in the affirmative, so I moved out of the mini cabin, and into the main economy cabin, which was nice and empty. Only two rows back I found a central block of four seats empty, so colonised them with the blankets and pillows. After take off, the cabin crew were quite quick to set up dinner; I had a spicy prawn curry which was tasty. The crew weren’t so accommodating with drinks (i.e. most alcohol wasn’t on the cart), but a request got me a vodka coke very promptly and with a smile. As soon as the trays were cleared, the lights were off, and I reclined across my four seats – ah, better than a SIA suite!

http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5130.jpg

After a reasonable nights sleep, I woke up to a hot towel, which was most welcome, followed by breakfast; can’t remember what was though, sorry. In the back of the in-flight magazine they mentioned that there were free postcards that the crew would mail for you. I asked one of the stewards, and he said he didn’t know, but would ask the purser. A few minutes later a was presented with a bag full of postcards, playing cards, pens and writing sets – result!

Flying over my old home in Nanjing
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5134.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5137.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5139.jpg
In Tokyo
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5152.jpg

Unfortunately we didn’t make up any of our delay, and landed at a very empty Narita Airport just over an hour behind schedule. The last time I was in Narita was September 2006, and I waited over an hour at immigration. This time (at the same time of day, but in the other terminal), I was the ONLY person at immigration. I was through in minutes. Luggage was a bit less forthcoming, but rolled out eventually, and then I was on my way into the city.

SriLankan Ratings:

Timings: 8/10
Comfort: 9/10
Meals: 7/10
IFE: 6/10
Staff: 9/10
Arrival: 9/10
Value for money: 8/10

Overall: 80%

After a week in Tokyo, and a day trip to Yokohama on the bullet train, it was time to head down to Fukuoka, on the next step of my emigration to China.
Octopus in Tokyo
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5184.jpg

After a rather stressful train experience with my very heavy bag, I got to Haneda. The Skymark desks are located next to JAL, right at the end of the terminal. I cheated the weighing scales a bit, and actually held my bag up so it didn’t register the full weight; was nearly 10kg over I think. When asked is there was anything fragile in the bag, I said yes, just so I could get a ‘fragile tag’ (sad, I know). The checkin lady then made me fill in the ‘limited release’ form on the back of the luggage tag which I’ve never had to do before. Interesting. As I was a bit early, I went up to the viewing deck, but there wasn’t much to see, so I went though security, and down to the gate. On the way I bought a tonkatsu sandwich (fried pork with BBQ-style sauce) – mmmmmmm.

Skymark to Fukuoka
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5375.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5378.jpg
JAL at Haneda Airport
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5383.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5385.jpg

31st July 2007
Tokyo Haneda HND – Fukuoka FUK
SKY 009
Scheduled: 1120-1310 Actual: 1142-1300
Aircraft: B767-300ER, JA767E Seat: 39A

We started boarding a little late, at around 11am. The seating was pretty comfortable given the number of rows that they’ve squashed in. Once airborne, the cabin crew came round with a pay-drinks trolley. They weren’t very keen on selling anything. I asked for a coke, and they said that they didn’t have any, nor water, nor fruit juice – not sure what they did have. On the positive side, there were some spectacular views of Mt.Fuji.

http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5390.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5398.jpg

I also got some good shots of Nagoya Chubu Airport, Osaka Kansai Airport and Hiroshima. Just before landing, the crew came though the cabin with paper fans with sushi advertising on, which were quite cool.

http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5413.jpg

Fukuoka airport, I think, is the most city-central airport in Japan, lying only a few miles from the city centre. The view on approach was good, flying over the houses and building – very Kai Takesque.

Fukuoka airport is reasonably small and compact. The bags came through reasonably quickly, and thanks to the metro, I was in town 30 minutes after landing.

Skymark Ratings:

Timings: 8/10
Comfort: 8/10
Meals: 1/10
IFE: 1/10
Staff: 7/10
Arrival: 9/10
Value for money: 8/10

Overall: 60%

From Fukuoka, I took the JR Beetle (hydrofoil) over to Busan in South Korea, which took a couple of hours. Busan, I thought, was a reasonably nice place. The beach that I went to was probably the most crowded one I’d ever been to, but other than that, the city was lively, and not too expensive. I was, however, expecting it to be a little more like Japan than China, but found that it was the other way round.

I found an ok fare flying Asiana to Shanghai on their website, which was not terribly user friendly. China Eastern and Korean Air both fly the route too, but they were much more expensive – and I get Lufthansa miles with Asiana – win win situation!

I got a taxi to Gimhae Aitport, which was buzzing. Two Vietnam Airlines flights had just arrived (one from Hanoi, the other from Ho Chi Minh), so there were plenty of passengers from those, and a range of other regional destinations. I got my preassigned seat at checkin, and they didn’t question me about my overweight bags. The departure area in the International section was particularly boring, with just one large duty free shops, and a small café serving an unappetising selection of food. I think that there is one gate, but there was a Korean Airline A330 there, so we were bussed out to our newly painted A320.

2nd August 2007
Busan PUS - Shanghai Pu Dong PVG
OZ 311
Scheduled: 1000-1035 Actual: 1015-1035
Aircraft: A320, HL 7753 Seat: 14F

Thankfully, the flight wasn’t too busy, and the middle seat was unoccupied, giving me and the guy in the aisle a little more room. We taxied out a little late, but managed to make up time en route. Our flight path took us over Jeju Island, then straight down to Shanghai. We were served a full meal of Korean beef, along with smoked salmon – very tasty.

http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5485.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5488.jpg

We landed on time, but it took a while to get a gate, though at least we didn’t end up getting bussed in as all too often happens at Pudong with smaller international flights. Immigration was really fast, unlike the luggage which was particularly slow. After travelling for over a week, I had finally completed my trip from London to Shanghai.

Asiana Ratings:

Timings: 10/10
Comfort: 8/10
Meals: 8/10
IFE: 6/10
Staff: 8/10
Arrival: 9/10
Value for money: 7/10

Overall: 80%

Topic: RE: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: BNEFlyer
Posted 2008-01-03 02:56:31 and read 9555 times.

Wow Gabrielchew that was a fantastic report! Hope you're settling into life in China ok.

I would not mind taking a week to travel 12 hours if that was my routing  Smile

UL looks like a great airline, PTV's nice food, 2-4-2 config. and a stopever in MLE... wish they flew to Oz.

Topic: RE: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: Door5Right
Posted 2008-01-03 03:28:21 and read 9497 times.

What a wonderful way to get from London to Shanghai, Mr GabrielChew! A most interesting report and pics.

How much did the fares cost? Were you staying in that lovely looking Colonial style hotel in the picture below the men riding on the train? If so may I ask what the name of this hotel is please?

Topic: RE: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: Gabrielchew
Posted 2008-01-03 03:47:25 and read 9461 times.

Thanks for the comments so far  Smile

Quoting Door5Right (Reply 2):
How much did the fares cost? Were you staying in that lovely looking Colonial style hotel in the picture below the men riding on the train? If so may I ask what the name of this hotel is please?

The Hotel in Colombo is the Mount Lavina Hotel, which was very nice - they do an excellent buffet breakfast everylooking the sea, but it isn't very close to Colombo - maybe an hour or so from the city centre. The train pciture was taken from my balcony.

The UL flights were around 300GBP, Skymark about 50GBP and OZ about 120GBP, so not the cheapest set of flights, but the routing included a few places I wanted to go, so was worth it I think.

Quoting BNEFlyer (Reply 1):
Hope you're settling into life in China ok.

Life in China is certainly interesting!

Topic: RE: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: Door5Right
Posted 2008-01-03 05:51:51 and read 9244 times.

Thanks for the info. Have a great time in China!

Topic: RE: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: Buck3y3nut
Posted 2008-01-04 14:59:08 and read 8347 times.

great trip report... congrats on completing your course  Smile
and a happy new year to you...

Topic: RE: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: B747forever
Posted 2008-01-05 07:11:48 and read 8074 times.

Really interesting TR

The pics are really good.

What a different but really nice way to travel to NRT

Seems that you had a great flight with UL.



Thank you for sharing

B747forever

Topic: RE: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: BA319-131
Posted 2008-01-05 08:25:39 and read 8018 times.

Great report and what a route to get to China, superb!

I've not seen than many UL TR's, so your was of interest, and from this, UL actually seem pretty decent.

Quoting Gabrielchew (Thread starter):
Once airborne, the cabin crew came round with a pay-drinks trolley. They weren�t very keen on selling anything. I asked for a coke, and they said that they didn�t have any, nor water, nor fruit juice � not sure what they did have.

- How interesting, seems to mirror Planehunters flight on them when they came out with the cart but nothing seem to be sold.

Quoting Gabrielchew (Reply 3):
The UL flights were around 300GBP, Skymark about 50GBP and OZ about 120GBP, so not the cheapest set of flights

- I think those are pretty decent prices when you consider your booked 1 way tickets.

Rgds

Mark

Topic: RE: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: JoeCattoli
Posted 2008-01-05 08:35:10 and read 8006 times.

What a cool rooting to get to China.. Well done. Why didn't you stay in the Maldives for the stopover? Have you already been there?

Would be very cool if you could post some images of the hydrofoil trip and Japan trains/countryside if you did photos.
Thanks for sharing.

Ciao
Joe

Topic: RE: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: Gabrielchew
Posted 2008-01-05 20:42:05 and read 7813 times.



Quoting JoeCattoli (Reply 8):
Why didn't you stay in the Maldives for the stopover?

I would have liked to stay in the Maldives for a bit, but the fare routing was via CMB, not MLE, so I couldn't stopover as much as I would have wanted to.

Quoting JoeCattoli (Reply 8):


Would be very cool if you could post some images of the hydrofoil trip and Japan trains/countryside if you did photos.

Summer firework festival in Tokyo (note the kimonos)
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5173.jpg
Bullet Train in Tokyo
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5189.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5331.jpg
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5336.jpg
Baseball Game in the Tokyo Dome (Tokyo Giants vs Hiroshima Carps)
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5276.jpg
Tsukiji Fish Market
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5200.jpg
Tokyo's Meiji Shrine
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5355.jpg
My hotel room in Fukuoka
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5421.jpg
The JR Beetle from Fukuoka to Busan (Korea)
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p207/shefgab/IMGP5459.jpg

Quoting B747forever (Reply 6):
Seems that you had a great flight with UL.



Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 7):
UL actually seem pretty decent.

Sri Lankan were very good, especially on the empty Male-Tokyo sector

Topic: RE: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: OA260
Posted 2008-01-06 04:09:45 and read 7678 times.

Very nice TR . I always loved my flights on UL. The crew are very pretty in their uniform and the food is good. I like the cabin design also.

Thanks for sharing

OA260

Topic: RE: Emigration To China, Via The Maldives And Tokyo
Username: JoeCattoli
Posted 2008-01-06 05:35:32 and read 7640 times.



Quoting Gabrielchew (Reply 9):

Thanks for sharing the bullet train looks very interesting and your hotel room very... inspiring  Wink

Ciao
Joe


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