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Topic: An Around The World Story (AA,CX,LA,QF In F/J)
Username: PresRDC
Posted 2003-07-31 21:04:25 and read 7425 times.

I orginally posted this report on Flyertalk, but I figured I would share it here as well. I hope you enjoy it.

Prologue: New Haven, CT -- Thursday, August 1, 2002

Done! Pen down and bluebook closed. Two months of brutal work and endless tedium had ended in three days of torture, but now, I was free. Leaving the testing room with a big grin on my face, I was ready for the trip of a lifetime. I did not know how I did, but I did my best and now, the New York and Connecticut Bar Exams were over. As I would not know my results for several months, I resolved not to worry about it. The World was my oyster and, over the next month, I was going to go a long way toward seeing it.

Join me as I circumnavigate the globe on a Oneworld Explorer First Class ticket. We will be visiting Japan, Hong Kong, Bali, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. We will fly in First Class on some of the world’s premier airlines, including Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Lan Chile. We will stay in some of Starwood’s premier hotels, including the Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit in Bangkok, the Westin Miyako in Kyoto and the Sheraton Laguna Nusa Dua in Bali.

Most important, we will see some amazing sights and have some great adventures along the way.

“Roam if you want to. Roam around the World. Roam if you want to. Without Wings, without wheels.”

Part I: The First Third (March – April 2002)

By the time my August 2002 travels began, I had already used the first third of this ticket. At the time I ticketed this trip in September 2001, the cheapest place to begin a First Class RTW that was reasonably accessible to someone living in the United States was Sweden. As such, I began the trip in Stockholm over my Spring Break in March 2002. My routing thus far had been:

ARN-LHR-DXB-LHR; FRA-DFW-SCL-IPC-SCL-LAX-ORD-SEA-ORD-SFO-ORD

Thus far, Easter Island had been the true highlight of this trip.

I posted much of the first third of my travels on this Oneworld Explorer ticket last year. Here are the links for the reports I did from these flights:

http://www.flyertalk.com/pasttalk/ftpasttalk_forum/Forum81/HTML/002607.html
http://www.flyertalk.com/pasttalk/ftpasttalk_forum/Forum81/HTML/002608.html
http://www.flyertalk.com/pasttalk/ftpasttalk_forum/Forum81/HTML/002651.html
http://www.flyertalk.com/pasttalk/ftpasttalk_forum/Forum81/HTML/002882.html
http://www.flyertalk.com/pasttalk/ftpasttalk_forum/Forum81/HTML/002887.html
http://www.flyertalk.com/pasttalk/ftpasttalk_forum/Forum81/HTML/002892.html

Note that I did not do a report for the Chicago to/from Seattle and San Francisco as there really wasn’t much noteworthy about them. Just your basic AA domestic First Class travel experience.

Part II: New York to Kyoto . . . The Long Way (August 2 – August 4, 2002)

The ritual of packing is one of my favorite parts of getting ready for a trip. You are taking your life on the road and need to fit as much as you can, keeping in mind that whatever you take, you have to lug. As I would be experiencing both an Asian summer and an Australian winter on this trip, packing would be a challenge. I decided to take two roll-ons and a carry-on. I would check one roll-on, a 25 incher, which would contain most of my clothes and would carry-on the second, a 22 incher, with me along with my carry-on. I would have two days of clothes in the 22 incher, so that if a bag got lost (not out of the question seeing as I had 15 flights ahead of me) I would not be out of luck.

American Airlines flight AA 17
Departs: New York (JFK) @ 5:00 PM
Arrives: San Francisco (SFO) @ 8:20 PM
Boeing 767-300ER
First Class Seat 2J

My car service sedan arrived at 2:00 PM, three hours before my 5:00 PM departure to San Francisco. There was no traffic, and we got to JFK by 3:00 PM. Although I knew my flight would be leaving from Terminal 8, it was a domestic flight, so I had to check my bag in Terminal 9. The agent was able to tag it all the through to Osaka and included a priority tag and a Oneworld transfer tag. I then hiked back through the temporary wooden walkway to the Terminal 8 Admirals Club. At around 4:15, I headed through security, which was effortless despite TSA having taken over at JFK the previous week. Having access to the priority security lane helped!

I boarded the plane and settled into Seat 2J. I believe that you can tell how a flight will be within the first minutes after boarding. I could tell from the attitude of the cabin crew that this would be a great flight. The purser was very enthusiastic about his job and it rubbed off on the rest of the SFO based crew. I took a glass of champagne and felt the weight of the past months lift off my shoulders. For the first time in a while, I felt truly relaxed. Before departure, an AA Special Services representative came on board and chatted with each of the six First Class passengers.

We pushed on time and, despite it being the height of the summer, were airborne from runway 13R ten minutes later. I had never seen JFK so quiet. I guess it was still a little too early for the evening rush, but still, JFK in the summer usually means an hour plus wait to take-off. I suspect the schedule reductions post 9/11 had some thing to do with this. We made a sharp bank to the right and those of us on the right side of the plane got a good view of Manhattan passing below. I perused the menu that was handed-out before push-back. Here is a transcript:

DINNER

APPETIZERS

TO START
Warm mixed Nuts or fresh Vegetables and Dip to accompany your preferred Cocktail or Beverage

SALMON APPETIZER
Smoked Salmon with Capers, Red Onions and Sour Cream, garnished with Lemon wedges and served with Toast Points

THE SALAD CART
Seasonal mixed Greens with roasted Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette or creamy Basil Dressing

Lobster Tail and Claw with Lemon wedges

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Salad

BREAD BASKET
Assorted warm Breads

ENTREES

FILET MIGNON
Fillet of Beef enhanced by a Kalmata Olive Demi-Glace, served with a Red Onion, Fennel and diced Tomato Sauté and Asiago Garlic Mashed Potatoes

SEARED PORK TENDERLOIN
Tender Filet of Pork accented by a Mango-Barbecue Sauce accompanied by Cherry-Apple Compote and Tamale Cakes

PAPPARDELLE PASTA
Pappardelle Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms enhanced by a Cream Sauce
Roasted Chicken can be added to this Entrée upon request.

BREADED CHICKEN SALAD
Breaded Chicken served over a Salad of Mixed Greens, Tomatoes and Corn Relish accompanied by Honey Mustard Dressing and Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

DESSERT CART

TIRAMISU
Sponge Cake with Coffee Liqueur and Italian Cream Cheese
-or-
Vanilla Ice Cream with a choice of Hot Fudge, Butterscotch or seasonal Fruit Toppings and fresh Whipped Cream

PRIOR TO ARRIVAL
Freshly baked on board, OtisSpunkmeyer Cookies

And the wine list:

WINE LIST

SPARKLING WINE
Domaine Chandon Napa Valley Brut

WHITE WINES
Rusca Gavi di Gavi 2000
Penfolds Koomunga Hill Chardonnay 2001
Santa Rita Valle de Lontue Sauvignon Blanc 2001

RED WINES
Villa Mt. Eden “Old Vines” California Zinfandel 1997
Chateau Los Boldos Requinoa Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
Rosemont Diamond Estate Bottled Shiraz 2000

DESSERT WINE
Graham’s Six Grapes Port NV
-----------------------------
I ordered a Diet Coke with lime and the filet mignon. I did not realize that the meal service on this flight would be so extensive. Essentially, it is the same dinner service as offered on an International Flagship Flight minus the cheese and fruit course. The drinks were served with both the nuts and vegetables and the salmon and salad were served from the cart in separate courses. The filet was actually very good and cooked to a perfect medium rare. For dessert, I chose the ice cream sundae with hot fudge, whipped cream and nuts. A truly excellent meal. In fact, it was the best I have had on AA.

First Class passengers on these flights get the DVD players that Premium Class passengers get on international 767 flights. Business Class must suffer through the main screen AAtractions and CBS Eye on American. As no-one was sitting next to me, I was able to set the DVD player up on the table of the seat next to me and watch while I ate. I watched the Royal Tennenbaums and a Globe Trekker DVD.

Our flight tracked along a northerly route as it plied its way across the North American landmass. We took off from JFK to the east and made a sweeping turn over the Rockaways to take a northwesterly heading. After passing over Manhattan, we tracked over New Jersey and Pennsylvania and overflew Cleveland. We tracked across northern Indiana (very close to a certain Catholic university in South Bend) through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and, finally, into California.

The remainder of the flight passed quickly as we chased the sun across the American Heartland. Forty minutes out of SFO, we had milk and cookies (sadly, this service has since been cut from all but the breakfast transcon flights). We landed at about 8:00 PM and were at the gate five minutes later. I said goodbye to the crew and headed to the Admirals Club.

Saturday, August 3, 2002
Cathay Pacific flight CX 873
Departs: San Francisco (SFO) @ 1:30 AM
Arrives: Hong Kong (HKG) @ 6:45 AM
Boeing 747-400
First Class Seat 2A

My next flight on Cathay Pacific was not scheduled to leave until 1:30 AM local time (4:30 AM according to my body). I was too early to check-in for the CX flight and, I hadn’t heard good things about the JAL Sakura Lounge that CX uses at SFO, so I hung-out in the Admirals Club for about ninety minutes before strolling over to the International Terminal.
Being in no rush, I walked to the International Terminal slowly and arrived at CX check-in around 10:30 PM. There was no wait at the First Class line and I was helped immediately. Despite being issued boarding passes for my next two flights at JFK, the CX agent reissued them on CX stock. I asked the agent to confirm if my bag had yet been transferred from AA, and it had not. She recommended that I check in the lounge later. She gave me my priority security pass and sent me on my merry way.

There is no separate priority security line at SFO. Rather, you proceed to the front of the line and hand over the card. Then you wait in the shorter line to get to the screening point. As it turns-out, there was no line to get to the security entrance, so I did not need the pass. I was through security in no time and headed for the Sakura Lounge.

As I mentioned earlier, the JAL Sakura Lounge does not have the best reputation. While it is large, new and clean, it is dreadfully boring. This lounge is more notable for what it doesn’t offer than for what it does. There is a separate First Class area, which is nothing more than a small room, packed with chairs and end tables. The chairs appear no different than those in the Business Class area. There is no separate food or drinks, it is literally just a place to sit (and a claustrophobic place at that). All the food and drinks are on the Business Class side. There isn’t much in the way of food on offer, just some pre-packaged snacks and a self-serve bar. While there are workstations with Internet access, there are no computer terminals available. While I understand that CX cannot be responsible for the infrastructure of this lounge, it could at least offer more in the way of food, especially since the CX 873 departs at such a God-awful late (or early, depending on your perspective) hour. I will give props to the lounge staff, who were CX employees. The women working the front desk were very helpful and really worked hard to confirm that my bag had been transferred into CX’s custody from AA. It was.

I survived my three hours in this lounge without committing hari kari, so I’ll consider it a successful wait. At 12:45 AM, I had had it, so I left the lounge and strolled the concourse. There were a few other flights departing to other Asian destinations, including China Airlines to Taipei, Philippine Airlines to Honolulu and Manila and Asiana to Seoul. The concourse is quite interesting, as the shops and some airline lounges are on one level and the departure gates are on the level below.

I was able to get a view of the CX aircraft that would be my chariot for the next fourteen hours. To my pleasant surprise, it was the “Asia’s World City” aircraft, which had been repainted in a dragon motif to advertise what was then a new Hong Kong tourism initiative. I also knew that this aircraft featured the new business class seats and, more important from my perspective, StudioCX, Cathay’s new on-demand audio and video entertainment system. Here is a picture of the exact plane:

http://www.airliners.net/open.file/253391/M/

Boarding began at 1:00 AM, with a call for both First and Business Class. After letting a few of the more eager passengers barrel their way onto the plane, I boarded. As I settled into Seat 2A, a team of flight attendants swung into action, offering libations and a small canapé. I ordered a glass of champagne, which was Krug served in a real glass and tucked into the small smoked salmon savoury. As we approached departure time, the cabin filled-up to capacity, yet it did not feel at all crowded. The flight attendants provided amenity kits and pajamas to those who wanted them. Many passengers changed into the pajamas before departure.

CX has twelve First Class seats on its 747-400s, which are arranged as individual suites that recline fully flat. There are four rows of single suites along the windows and two sets of double seats (which have dividers so that they can be single seats) in the center opposite the Rows 3 and 4 window seats. Row 1 is probably the coziest and most quiet area, but it leaves you a bit close to your neighbor, in my opinion (it would be a good choice for a coupe who do not want to be in the middle seats). The suites in Row 2 are spaced far apart and before the center seats, making them, in my opinion, the most spacious and the preferred seats. The seats are green with wood accents on the paneling. Here is photo of Seat 2A on the exact plane on which I flew:

http://www.airliners.net/open.file/263239/M/

We pushed a few minutes prior to our 1:30 AM departure time and had no wait to reach the Runway 28L threshold. It was a long take-off run as we were full and carrying enough fuel for a 6900 mile flight. As we slipped Earth’s surly bonds and climbed into the California night, I reclined the seat a bit and waited for the legendary CX service to begin in earnest. The flight attendants passed-out the menus and took supper orders. Here is what was on offer:

SAN FRANCISCO – HONG KONG

Welcome aboard Cathay Pacific’s First Class. We are delighted to offer you a variety of tasty seasonal dishes and a fine selection of wines and beverages to complement your meal. Our flight attendants look forward to making your flight as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

CAVIAR AND BALIK DELIGHT
Oscietra Caviar
-and-
Fine Smoked Salmon
Served with Warm New Potatoes and Crème Fraiche

“A La Carte Menu”

Create your own menu from our “a la carte menu”, which gives you the choice to eat what, and when, you like. Our cabin crew will be happy to assist you in taking your order at any time during the flight.

SUPPER

LIGHT OPTION
Asparagus Cream Soup served with Cheese Straws

Grilled Herb Chicken with Seasonal Salad served with Balsamico Vinaigrette Dressing

MAIN COURSES
Char-grilled New York Steak with Minted Rose Wine Sauce and Café de Paris Butter served with Potato Wedges and Fresh Vegetables

Seafood Fettuccine Pacifica

SNACK SELECTION
Sun Blushed Tomato, Pepper and Goat Cheese Tart

Assorted Tea Sandwiches

CHEESE SELECTION

ICE CREAM

CHINESE FAVOURITES
Stir-fried Chicken with Black Beans and Shallots served with Steamed Rice and Stir-fired Pak Choy with Garlic

Noodles with Wontons and Shui Gaw in Soup

Plain Congee served with Dried Pork, Fish and Preserved Vegetables

Hot Pot Rice with Daily Soup

Bean Curd with Shiitake Mushroom served with Steamed Rice

TEA AND COFFEE

PRALINES AND COOKIES

And here is the wine list:

WINE LIST

CHAMPAGNE
Krug Grande Cuvee Champagne

RED WINES
Louis Max Gevery Chambertin La Justice 1995
Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Merlot 1996
Chateau Lynch Bages 1993

WHITE WINES
Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay 1999
Louis Max Chablis Grand Cru 1996

CX SIGNATURE DRINKS
Pacific Sunrise
A refreshing combination of champagne and Drambuie with the zest or orange and lemon

Cathay Delight
A Kiwifruit based non-alcoholic drink with coconut juice and a touch of fresh mint
-----------------------------
I elected to partake in the caviar and salmon course and then move strait to the stir-fry chicken as I’m not a fan of asparagus. I fired-up StudioCX and sampled the audio selections available. U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” album started my listening experience, but I also sampled the Beach Boys’ “Greatest Hits” album and a Pink Floyd selection. There was plenty more to choose from.

The caviar and salmon course was served from a trolley and was served with all garnishes, including toast points and warm new potatoes. The potatoes were an interesting choice, but they actually worked quite well with the caviar. I got a good size mound of caviar and two thick pieces of salmon. Absolutely delicious. As CX has a reputation for offering excellent Chinese food, I decided to try the chicken. Aside from the caviar and salmon courses, all the food was a la carte and served directly from the galley. The chicken was great and it was obvious that the rice was freshly steamed on board. I followed this up with a cheese plate and a small carton of Haagen Das vanilla ice cream.

At this point, I was exhausted as it was nearing 6:00 AM according to my body time. My plan worked. I pushed to stay awake for the layover in SFO and the meal service, so that I would crash for the bulk of the flight. I changed into the pajamas in the special changing room that CX features on the 747s that have been converted to the new Business Class seats. This little room featured mirrors and seats and, best of all, one did not run the risk of putting one’s foot into the toilet when trying to wrestle into and out of one’s clothes.

The CX 873 followed the great circle route over North Pacific Ocean en route to HKG. We first tracked north off the California, Oregon and Washington coasts, before heading further out to sea. We passed south of the Aleutian Islands and then took a southerly route just off the coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula (probably not too far from where Korean Air 007 had its fatal run-in with a Soviet Mig). Our 747-400 then skirted the eastern coast of Japan, passing very close to the city of Yokohama. From there, we tracked on a course to Taiwan and into the South China Sea before approaching HKG from the south.
For the remainder of the flight, I slept with my duvet underneath me acting as a mattress. It was warm on board, so I didn’t use a blanket. I awoke once in the middle of the flight and had a plate with some finger sandwiches. I then went back to sleep. When I awoke, we were four hours out of HKG and I fired-up StudioCX and watched “We Were Soldiers,” a Vietnam War movie starring Mel Gibson based on the book “We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young” that I had read in college. The flight attendants took breakfast orders. Here is the breakfast menu:

BREAKFAST SELECTION

JUICES
Fresh Orange, Grapefruit Juice or V-8 Vegetable Juice

APPETIZER
Fresh Seasonal Fruit

YOGHURT SELECTION
Natural, Fruit or Low Fat Fruit Yoghurt

CEREALS
Granola, Corn Flakes or Rice Crispiest

MAIN COURSES
Freshly-Made Eggs: Fried, Scrambled or Boiled
Omelette with Creamed Mushrooms
Assorted Chinese Dim Sum

ACCOMPANIMENTS
Grilled Breakfast Sausage, Hash Brown Potatoes, Stir-fried Egg Noodles with Green Onions and Bean Sprouts
Grilled Tomatoes and Broiled Mushrooms

FROM THE BAKERY
Croissants, Muffins, Bagel, Bread Roll and Fresh Toast served with Preserves, Honey and Butter

TEA AND COFFEE
-----------------------------
I elected to have the fruit, some Corn Flakes, scrambled eggs, sausage and hash browns. When the meal was served, I further elected to have a blueberry muffin and some toast. It was all really good.

About ninety minutes out of HKG, light appeared on the horizon and soon, the rest of the cabin awoke. As we began our descent into HKG, I couldn’t resist the temptation to play U2’s “Beautiful Day.”

“See the world in green and blue. See China right in front of you.”

We landed on HKG’s Runway 7L at 6:25 AM. We appeared to be the first CX arrival of the morning as all the other gates were empty. Parking at Gate 21, one of the CX “preferred” gates, meant that I had a short walk to The Wing, a good thing as I opted not to change back into my street clothes as I planned on immediately hitting The Cabanas. Don’t worry, I wasn’t wearing the CX-issued pajamas, but rather a pair of warm-up pants and a t-shirt, so I was decent. Interestingly, the previous evening’s CX 255 to LHR had been delayed and our aircraft was going to be making a rapid turn-around before heading out to LHR.

The Wing was empty at this time of the morning and I had no problem getting a Cabana. Although there is no shortage of discussion on The Cabanas in Flyertalk, I will briefly describe the experience. The Cabanas are essentially a large bathroom with a “patio” in the back overlooking a babbling brook. There is a shower with a large rainmaker showerhead and a large bathtub. The décor actually reminds of what the bathrooms of new Westins look like, with lots of blacks and greys, giving it a modern, yet elegant look.

After a revitalizing Cabana experience, I checked my e-mail. In the lounge section of the First Class side of The Wing there is waiter service for beverages, so I took advantage of this and ordered a Diet Coke with, you guessed it, a lime. There is also a luggage check, so you can leave your belongings in the lounge and be comfortable that it is being watched while you stroll the airport (or take trip into town if on a long layover). I took advantage of this and went for a little walk and converted some U.S. Dollars into Japanese Yen. Let me say it now, I love Chep Lap Kok airport. It is so nice with big windows giving a great view of the tarmac and the striking hills of Lanteau Island beyond.

Sunday, August 4, 2002
Cathay Pacific flight CX 506
Departs: Hong Kong (HKG) @ 10:05 AM
Arrives: Osaka (IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX) @ 2:45 PM
Airbus A340-300
First Class Seat 2A

After returning to The Wing to get my bag, I headed to Gate 3, another CX “preferred” gate, to board the A340 that would take me on my final leg to IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX. Upon boarding, I was pleased to see that this aircraft was equipped with the new Business Class seats and StudioCX. The cabin filled to its capacity of eight passengers and we left on time. Once airborne from Runway 7R, we were offered menus and the two flight attendants dedicated to the First Class cabin took lunch orders. Here is a transcript:

LUNCH

SAVOURY

APPETIZER
Salmon Pastrami

SOUP
Roasted Capsicum Soup garnished with Mini Garlic Baguette

MAIN COURSES
*Sautéed Prawn with Kung Po Sauce

Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Natural Gravy and Forest Mushrooms

Garganelli with Olive, Caper and Tomato Sauce

ACCOMPANIMENTS
Fondant Potatoes, Steamed Rice, Stir-fried Shanghai Pak Choy, Fresh Seasonal Vegetables

CHEESE BOARD
International Cheese Selection

FRUIT
Fresh Seasonal Fruits

DESSERT
Rhubarb Crumble served with Ice Cream

BREAD BASKET
Assorted Bread and Rolls

TEA AND COFFEE

PRALINES

*A special creation by Mr. Kinsen Kam of “Yung Kee.”

JAPANESE MEAL
Cathay Pacific is pleased to offer a Seasonal Japanese meal, in traditional Kaiseki Style, as an alternative to our Lunch menu.

CANAPES
Chicken Meat Cake with Soya Beans
Quail Egg Eggplants Shape
Stewed River Shrimp
Steamed Baby Abalone
Sea Tangle Roll with Fish
Okra Roll with Egg
Jelly Fish with Conger Skin

LIQUEUR
Ume-shu Plum Wine with Soda

APPETIZER
Cuttlefish Roe with Seaweed
Seaweed Roll with Red Tuna
Scallop
Baby River Trout Sushi

CLEAR SOUP
Fish Cake with Soya Beans
Seaweed
Dried Gluten Roll

BRAISED DISH
Eggplant Ball with Fish Cake
Pumpkin Sauce

NOODLES
Arrow Root Starch Udon Noodle with Garnish

HOT DISH
Broiled Goby Fish and Sea Eel Roll with Chicken Meat

VINEGAR DISH
Cold Shabu Shabu
Vinegar Sauce with Sesame Paste

RICE
Rice
Miso Soup
Assorted Pickles

FRUIT
Fresh Seasonal Fruit

BEVERAGES
Ginjyo-sake
Green Tea
Mineral Water
And here’s the wine list:

WINE LIST

CHAMPAGNE
Cuvee William Deutz 1995

RED WINES
Chateau Lynch Bages 1993
Louis Max Gevrey Chambertin La Justice 1995
Henry Bouachon Saint Joseph Roquebrussane 1998

WHITE WINES
Louis Max Chablis Grand Cru 1996
Voyager Estate Margaret River Chardonnay 1999

CX SIGNATURE DRINKS
Pacific Sunrise
Cathay Delight
----------------------------------
CX was featuring meal creations from Hong Kong’s famous Yung Kee restaurant this month on flights out of HKG. Unlike the previous red and white menu from the SFO flight, all the menus out of HKG were green in color and prominently advertised the Yung Kee connection. Although CX’s Japanese meal service on its IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX and AA), Japan">NRT flights gets rave reviews on Flyertalk, it was too exotic for me, so I opted for the Western lunch service. It was quite good. I had the salmon, the soup and the prawns with rice and pak choy. All were excellent. For dessert, I just wanted ice cream and the flight attendant was able to serve me a dish of ice cream with a caramel sauce. Interestingly, the ice cream on this flight was served in a proper dish, while on the SFO flight, it was just a single serving tub of ice cream. I guess that is a difference between the supper and lunch/dinner flights.

After the meal, I had about an hour to relax before we arrived in IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX. I just listened to more music on StudioCX and watched some short video programs, including a Jamie Oliver cooking show. We arrived in IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX on time and were at the gate a few minutes later. IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX is an interesting airport. It is built on a man-made island that apparently is sinking, but the terminal was strong-enough to survive the Kobe earthquake a few years ago. To get to immigration, one must take a train, which was annoying to me as I like to walk on my own power and beat the crowd to the queues. As it turned-out, I need not have worried as there was no line at immigration and I was through in a matter of minutes. My bag was already on the carousel when I got to Baggage Claim and I was out of the airport in minutes. Interestingly, CX had added a priority First Class tag to my bag in addition to premium tag that AA had added at JFK. That is what I call attention to detail!

One of the reasons I chose to fly into IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX as opposed to AA), Japan">NRT is that Kyoto was my destination and there is direct train service from IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX to Kyoto Eki via central Osaka. I bought a ticket for the Green Car (first class) and managed to catch a train almost immediately. In about a hour, I had reached Kyoto Eki and was in a taxi (driven by a driver wearing white gloves) on my way to the new Westin Miyako.

PART III: The Westin Miyako, Kyoto (August 4 – August 7, 2002)

The Miyako Hotel is a venerable name in the Kyoto hotel business, but only became a Westin earlier in 2002. At the time of my visit, it was the only American luxury chain hotel in Kyoto (I am not sure if this has changed). It is located on the outskirts of central Kyoto on a hill overlooking the city, but it is only a few minutes’ walk from a subway station and is within walking distance of some of Kyoto’s more famous tourist attractions.

At the time of my stay, the hotel was in the process of converting the rooms to Westin standards, including adding Heavenly Beds and Heavenly Showers. Although I had booked a room on the executive floor, a mix-up had me initially assigned to a standard room that had not had been renovated. Fortunately, I had the reservation print-out from Spg.com, so I could prove that I was entitled to a room on the executive floor. While I am sure more (if not all) of the hotel has now been converted, at the time I was there, the only way to guarantee a room with Westin amenities was to be on the executive floor.

The room I got on the executive floor was great. It was on the top floor of the hotel and provided a spectacular view of the city and the mountains beyond. As it was a western view, I was treated to a spectacular view of the sun setting over the city and mountains each night (being in Japan, a view of the rising sun would have been more appropriate, but so be it). I would describe the room’s furnishing as being a mix between typical new Westin décor (modern, almost W hotel looking) and Japanese design. It made for an interesting combo. The bathroom sink was particularly distinctive. The sink was in the shape of a bowl with the faucet in the shape of a spout coming-in from the side. The Heavenly Shower did not feature the typical Westin two-headed showerhead, but rather a hand-held “Shower Massage” style showerhead. While I would have preferred the traditional Westin shower, this one was fine. The shower curtain did not feature the typical Westin bowed-out design.
There was an executive lounge offering continental breakfast and hors d’ouerves each evening. The hors d’oueves were really works of art. You could tell that a lot of work went into each one, which is typical of Japanese cuisine. The view from the lounge was to the north and was almost as stunning as the view from my room with several pagodas in view. Food and a view. It just doesn’t get any better!

During my visit, I saw Nijo Castle, with its famous “nightingale floors” (as a security measure, the Shogun designed the floor to creek like a nightingale when walked upon). I also visited the Kinkaku-ji, better known as the “Golden Pavilion.” Although not Cherry Blossom season, I did the Philosophers Walk and took the time to stroll through the Gion District, famous for its Geishas (who are NOT prostitutes).

Part IV: Kyoto to Bali with a Night in Hong Kong (August 7 – August 8, 2002)

August 7, 2002
Cathay Pacific flight CX 507
Departs: Osaka (IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX) @ 6:30 PM
Arrives: Hong Kong (HKG) @ 9:30 PM
Airbus A340-300
First Class Seat 1A

After three great nights in Kyoto, it was time to continue my journey. There is only one CX flight daily from IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX offering First Class service, but it arrives too late to connect to any of CX’s Bali flights (it was timed to arrive in time to connect to CX’s late evening Europe, Australia and Africa departures). Since I paid for a First Class ticket, I only wanted to fly Business Class on routes were First Class was not available, so I decided that an overnight in Hong Kong was appropriate. As I love Hong Kong, this was not an altogether unappealing proposition.

I took the express train from Kyoto Eki direct to IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX, arriving about an hour later after passing through central Osaka. The last five minutes of this train ride is great as you pass over the long bridge connecting the man-made island upon which IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX is located with the mainland. You get a great view of the tarmac and Kobe Bay as you pass. Getting from the train platform to the departure floor is not difficult, but it is not exactly easy, either. As the check-in lobby is located a level above the aircraft stands and the train is below the arrivals level, you have to go up several escalators and elevators to reach it. There very well might have been a direct elevator, but I did not find one.

All bags were being x-rayed before one could proceed to the check-in stands, including carry-on bags. There was one x-ray for the CX area and everyone had to queue together. Fortunately, there was not a long line and I was through in a few minutes. I checked-in at the dedicated First Class counter and was soon on my way to passport control and security. I asked and was assured that today’s plane was equipped with the new First Class seats (CX was – and still is – in the process of converting its A340s to the new First Class seats and a handful have not been completed – at the time of this writing, about four A340s are still in the old 2x2x2 configuration).

CX uses the “Lounge Pacific” at IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX. Although I do not think it is exclusive to CX, I could find no evidence that other airlines also used this lounge. The lounge itself is a quite dour internal room with no windows and limited food options (prepackaged cheese and crackers). The seats were pretty worn and faded, but were reasonably comfortable. I stayed there a bit, but spent most of my time walking the terminal. It was pretty quiet, with a few Northwest aircraft and an Air Canada 747-400 boarding for Vancouver. There were probably more aircraft at the other end of the terminal, but I do not think it was possible to walk to the other end (it would have been a very far walk).

The A340 that operates this flight arrives in IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX as the CX 506 from HKG at 2:45 PM and then sits in IX / RJBB), Japan">KIX for nearly four hours before returning to HKG. The same crew that operates the inbound service returns on the outbound. While inefficient, I gather the flights are timed to offer three-class service to connect with the maximum number of CX longhaul flights.
We boarded at 6:00 PM and I was shocked and saddened to see both the old Business and First Class seats! It really wasn’t a big deal as it is only a three hour flight, but I would not be happy to have this on a longhaul flight considering how good the new CX First Class seats are. Despite this, the legendary CX service was very much in effect and we were offered a pre-departure drink and savoury.

We pushed on time and were airborne within ten minutes just after a JAL 747-400 landed. Once at altitude, the flight attendants took drink orders and handed-out the menus. Here is a transcript:

OSAKA – HONG KONG

DINNER

SAVOURY

APPETIZER
Antipasto Seafood Salad

SOUP
Asparagus Cream Soup with Coriander garnished with Cheese Straws

MAIN COURSES
Grilled Veal Medallions served with Maderia Sauce

Sautéed Lobster and Grilled Salmon with Lobster Sauce and Vegetables

Braised Spring Chicken with Honey Soya Sauce

ACCOMPANIMENTS
Mushroom shaped Taro Potatoes, Fried Rice Hong Kong Style, Stir-Fried Pak Choy, Garden Vegetable Basket

CHEESE BOARD
International Cheese Selection

FRUIT
Fresh Seasonal Fruit

DESSERT
Praline-Raspberry Ice Cream Cake served with Mango Coulis

BREAD BASKET
Selected Bread and Rolls

TEA AND COFFEE

PRALINES

JAPANESE MEAL
Cathay Pacific is pleased to offer a Seasonal Japanese meal, in traditional Kaiseki Style, as an alternative to our Dinner menu.

SAVOURIES
Seasonal Sushi Plate for Aperitif

LIQUEUR
Green Apple Wine and Soda

APPETIZER
Simmered Shellfish
Simmered Prawn
Glten with Yuzu Sauce
Marinated Cod Roe
Crab Meat Dumpling

CLEAR SOUP
Water Shield
Egg Bean Curd

BRAISED DISH
Simmered Seabream
Simmered Okra
Simmered Carrot
Simmered Daikon Radish

GRILLED DISH
Pike Eel Teriyaki
Rolled Eel with Burdock
Simmered Snow Peas
Grilled Egg Cake

VINEGARED DISH
Crab Meat with Egg Yolk Vinegar
Grilled Shimeji Mushroom
Cucumber

NOODLE
Yuzu Flavored Soba Noodle served with Soba Sauce and Condiments

RICE DISH
Steamed Rice with Miso Soup and Assorted Pickles

FRUIT
Fresh Seasonal Fruit

BEVERAGES
Ginjyo-Sake
Green Tea
Mineral Water

Here is the wine list:

WINE LIST

CHAMPAGNE
Cuvee William Deutz 1995

RED WINES
Chateau Lynch Bages 1993
Louis Max Gevrey Chambertin La Justice 1995
Henry Bouachon Saint Joseph Roquebrussane 1998

WHITE WINES
Louis Max Chablis Grand Cru 1996
Voyager Estate Margaret River Chardonnay 1999

CX SIGNATURE DRINKS
Pacific Sunrise
Cathay Delight
------------------------------
For the reasons discussed above, I opted to have the western meal. I ordered the seafood antipasto, the soup and the salmon and lobster with fried-rice and pak choy. To drink, I selected the Cathay Delight, which is a non-alcoholic kiwifruit and coconut based drink served with a mint sprig. It was absolutely delicious and I resolved to make this my drink of choice when flying CX. The seafood antipasto was a cold plate featuring shrimp, salmon and squid. I ate all but the squid, which I find repulsive (if it doesn’t have a backbone or an exo-skeleton, I ain’t eating it). Although I don’t really like asparagus, I decided to try the soup at the urging of the flight attendant in the purple uniform. Good choice, it was nice and creamy and did not have too strong an asparagus flavor. The salmon and lobster was a disappointment as the salmon was of poor quality and the lobster was pretty small. The sauce was too powerful as well. I am sure I could have ordered another main course, but I had eaten enough and opted not to ask. For dessert, I had the cheese and the ice cream cake.

By the time we began our approach into HKG, night had fallen. It was pretty cloudy over Hong Kong and the low level clouds were illuminated with the powerful lights of the city. We landed on time on Runway 25R. This time, we parked at Gate 69, one of the furthest gates from immigration and baggage claim, requiring one to descend to a subterranean people mover to get to immigration. Unfortunately, this flight arrived at what must be a peak time for HKG arrivals as all three non-Hong Kong resident immigration lines were packed and moving slowly. It seemed most people were Chinese citizens visiting Hong Kong. It’s funny, I was so annoyed by the long wait, but now, when I next return to Hong Kong, I will be happy to wait on a long immigration line as it would mean that travel has picked-up again in the wake of SARS. That said, I find that CX’s service falls apart on arrival at HKG if you are not connecting. I am sure it is not up to CX, but a Fast Track immigration line à la LHR would be a great addition once traffic through HKG picks-up again.

CX was able to check my 25 inch roll-on through to DPS despite my overnight layover, so once I got through immigration I was made my way to the Airport Express train and the Sheraton Hong Kong. Originally, I was going to stay at the Regal Airport Hotel, but I decided to stay in Kowloon so that I could get another Starwood stay credit on my quest for Starwood Platinum status. Although there are shuttle busses from the Kowloon Airport Express station to most of the prominent Kowloon hotels, I opted to take a taxi as they are not expensive in Hong Kong and I was not in much of a mood to wait for a shuttle bus.

I will discuss the Sheraton Hong Kong in detail at a later point in this report.

Thursday, August 8, 2002
Cathay Pacific flight CX 785
Departs: Hong Kong (HKG) @ 10:05 AM
Arrives: Depasar Bali (DPS) @ 2:45 PM
Airbus A330-300
Business Class Seat 1A

I checked-out of the Sheraton and took a taxi to the Kowloon Airport Express Station and proceeded to check-in at the CX counters. On my itinerary, the aircraft for this flight was listed as “EQV”and, despite this flight only offering Business and Economy Class, I was holding a seat assignment in the First Class cabin. Fortunately, the seat assignment held, so I was sure it would be a three-class aircraft and was reasonably certain that it would be an A340.

After check-in I caught a train to HKG and enjoyed the view of the container ship terminal as we sped out of Kowloon. This ride really gives you a sense as to just how large a trading port Hong Kong really is. While the Airport Express train is great, when it crosses the Tsing Ma suspension bridge, there is no view of the water below. Nevertheless, the ride is quick (22 minutes) and, with boarding pass in hand, I headed right to passport control and security, which took about 15 minutes in total to complete.

The flight was leaving from Gate 48, which, once again, is about as far from The Wing as one can get. With this in mind, I made my way to The Pier, CX’s new lounge in the Northwest Concourse of HKG. As I was still only Oneworld Sapphire at this time and traveling in Business Class, I had to use the Business Class side of the lounge. Unlike The Wing, The Pier is located below the departure level and does not offer as nice a view of the tarmac as one has at The Wing. The Pier does have all the same amenities as The Wing, including the Noodle Bar in the Business Class side and the full service restaurant in the First Class area. However, at this time of the morning, the Noodle Bar was closed and there were only some very basic snack items such as pre-made sandwiches on offer.
About forty-five minutes before departure, I headed to the gate, where I noticed that we were going to be on an A330. After a quick check with the gate staff to ensure that this was a three-class airplane and that seat assignment was still valid, I realized that this was one of the new CX A330s, which are being used primarily on the HKG to SYD and MEL routes. It also had StudioCX.

http://www.airliners.net/open.file/278460/L/

I boarded and soon had a glass of champagne in my hand. Unlike my previous flights were one could get anything to drink he or she wanted, I was only offered a pre-poured selection of champagne, orange juice and water. We pushed on time and were airborne off Runway 25L in less than ten minutes. Once the service started, the flight attendants closed the curtains between First and Business, giving the five of us lucky soles our own private cabin with a more individualized level of service. Despite our early departure, this was a lunch flight. Here is the menu:

HONG KONG – DENPASAR

LUNCH

Savories

Seasonal Salad Served with Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

Smoked Spiced Salmon Pastrami With Red Eye Potatoes and Chive Cream Sauce

Pan-fried Halibut Fillet with Olive, Zucchini, Red Pepper Sauce and Lime Butter
Boiled Potatoes
Carrots and Snap Peas
-or-
Indonesian Style Spiced Chicken with Tomato Sauce
Coconut Rice
Stir-fried Chinese Broccoli
-or-
*Pan-fried Beef Fillet with Tomato and Onion Sauce
Egg Fried Rice
Stir-fried Pak Choy

Cheese Selection with Crackers
-or-
Fresh Seasonal Fruit

Movenpick Ice Cream

Selected Bread and Rolls Served with Butter

Tea and Coffee

Pralines

*A special creation by Mr. Kinsen Kam of “Yung Kee”.

Business Class passengers get wine too:

WINE LIST

CHAMPAGNE
Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne

WHITE WINES
Louis Max Pouilly Vinzelles 1996
McWilliams Mount Pleasant Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2000
Mitchelton Estate Chardonnay 1998

RED WINES
Louis Max Mercurey Domaine La Marche 1999
Chateau Beausejour Clos de L’Eglise 1999

CX SIGNATURE DRINKS
Pacific Sunrise
Cathay Delight
--------------------------------
I ordered a Cathay Delight and fired-up the Beach Boys on StudioCX (a seemingly appropriate choice considering our destination). After finishing some very good satay, which was today’s savoury, the meal trays were delivered from the galley and included the salad and the salmon pastrami. I give CX a lot of credit for being creative when designing their new service items for Business Class. I particularly liked the blue tinted glasses and the polished stone salt and pepper shakers. It really shows CX’s attention to detail, which is what I think sets it apart from other airlines. Unlike CX’s longhaul flights, were the Business Class main courses are not pre-plated (pre-SARS), but served family style from a serving trolley, the meals on these regional flights were pre-plated, but were served from the serving trolley so that you could at least see the meals before making a selection. There was one trolley for each aisle, and after serving us in the First section, the flight attendants continued through the curtains to rest of Business Class. I chose the beef fillet. For dessert, I took some cheese (served and sliced from the trolley) and some ice cream (served in its tub) while I watched JohnQ starring Denzel Washington on StudioCX.

Denpasar is almost exactly due south of Hong Kong and we tracked on almost a strait line for the entire flight. The highlight for me was passing over Borneo, which to me anyway, is the epitome of an exotic location. The thought that I was seeing it, even if from the air, was really cool and allowed me to reflect on how privileged I was to be a twenty-five year old traveling on my in First and Business Class through Asia. The arrival into Bali is stunning. We approached from the north and overflew the island at low altitude before banking over the sea and coming back toward DPS from the south. As we were quite low, I had a great view of the rainforest and the coastline as we landed.

While we were soon at the gate, there was a very long line to get through immigration. When I got there, the line was back to the end of the immigration hall, but grew considerably as the wait progressed. It took me 45 minutes to get through immigration and I suspect those behind me had well over an hour wait. As with Hong Kong, if I were to return to Bali, I would hope to see lines of this length at immigration as it means passenger traffic has recovered from the Kuta bombings this past October.

By the time I got through immigration, our bags had been taken off the belt and were being “watched” by some guys who looked like airport officials. They approached me and acted like I had to have them get my bags for me, but when they insisted on taking them to the car for me, I realized that they were just hustlers. I had arranged a car through the hotel and had to pay my porters for their service. They weren’t happy with what I gave them, but screw ‘em. A word of caution, while most of the Balinese people were great, there is an element looking to take advantage of tourists. I resolved to be more skeptical in my dealing with Balinese “officials.”

Part V: The Sheraton Laguna Nusa Dua, Bali (August 8 – August 12, 2002)

Upon arrival at the hotel, all the frustrations with immigration and luggage retrieval at DPS subsided as I was welcomed with true Balinese hospitality. Leaving the car, a guest walks-up an incline to the sounds of traditional Balinese music played live by a band in the lobby. I was directed to a sitting area while check-in formalities were completed elsewhere. I was offered a cool tropical drink and a cold, wet towel, which was most appreciated after the long, sticky wait at immigration. I was soon shown to my room, which was on the second floor overlooking one of the lagoon pools that snake around the property.

The room was probably not the best available, but was quite nice nonetheless. The room was a split level facility, with an entrance hall and the bathroom up a few stairs from the bedroom. The floor was covered in a rich wood and there was a balcony accessed by sliding doors. The most interesting feature of the room was a window in the shower/tub that, when opened, overlooked the bedroom. I’m not sure for what some people might chose to use this feature, but for me, it allowed me to watch TV while in the shower.

The rest of the hotel was amazing. The lobby and most of the common areas aside from the hallways where the rooms are located are outdoors. The building was essentially horseshoe shaped with lagoon-style pools snaking their way around the property. My favorite feature was the mock Balinese temple in the center of the property.

While the hotel was nice, my main reason for visiting Bali was to see the island and learn about its people and culture. To that end, I arranged to hire a car and driver through the hotel. While not exactly inexpensive, I wanted to see the island and did not want to drive myself or join a tour group.

My first excursion was a trip to the Balinese temple Uluwatu, which, due to its location on western coast of Bali, is famous for its sunsets. We left about an hour before sunset for the thirty minute drive. It was both interesting and slightly disconcerting to see the way in which the Balinese people lived. While they clearly had an idyllic setting in which to call home, one could not escape seeing the poverty in which most people lived. Granted this was not Calcutta, but it was still disconcerting.

Uluwatu is home to a large population of monkeys. Bad monkeys. While my guide was taking my picture, I felt a slap across my face and noticed that my glasses were gone. One of the monkeys snuck-up behind me and grabbed them, and was dangling them precariously over the several hundred foot cliff that dropped to the swirling ocean below. Fortunately, the monkey lost interest in the glasses and my driver was able to get them back. They were not even scratched. Uluwatu itself was magnificent. As is typical for Balinese temples, it was an outdoor facility, and visitors, who all must wear a sarong, were prevented from accessing the most sacred parts. As the sun set over the temple, we could see the local Balinese fishing fleet headed-out for a night on the ocean as the drum beats of a traditional Balinese fire dance reverberated off the cliffs. According to my guide, they sometimes travel so far as to run into the Australian fishing fleet out of Darwin. The sunset itself was magnificent; really the best I’ve seen. There are only two words to describe a sunset at Uluwatu: f*cking awesome.

The next day, I headed into central Bali to visit the artist colony at Ubud. The drive took around ninety minutes and offered a fantastic view of rice paddies that dot the Balinese landscape. At Ubud, I visited the famous Museum Puri Lukisan and several independent art galleries/art schools. I ended-up buying two paintings representing the “primitive” school of Balinese art. On our way back from Ubud, we stopped at Goa Gajah, better known as the Elephant Cave, a temple carved into the side of a cliff that sports an intricate carving of an elephant over the entrance. This really was a great day, which I capped off with a great seafood dinner at an oceanside restaurant at the Sheraton next door to the Sheraton Laguna.



[Edited 2003-07-31 21:33:32]

Topic: RE: An Around The World Story (AA,CX,LA,QF In F/J)
Username: PresRDC
Posted 2003-07-31 21:28:59 and read 7112 times.

Part VI: Bali to Bangkok with Two Nights in Hong Kong (August 12 – August 14, 2002)

Monday, August 12, 2002
Cathay Pacific flight CX 784
Departs: Denpasar Bali (DPS) @ 4:10 PM
Arrives: Hong Kong (HKG) @ 9:00 PM
Airbus A330-300
Business Class Seat 14A

My time in Bali was wonderful, but soon it came time to move-on. I took a car from the hotel and arrived at the airport at approximately 2:30 PM. I was early, but I needed to do some shopping and anticipated a long line at immigration. All bags were x-rayed before entering the terminal, but fortunately there was not much of a wait. Check-in was accomplished quickly, and I was on my way up the stairs and to immigration, which, to my surprise, was utterly devoid of a wait. I guess all the people entering Bali decided it was so great that they would stay!

CX uses the Premier Lounge, which is a shared lounge operated by a private company. This lounge wins the award for sleeper lounge of the trip. It was not The Wing, but it was very nice. It featured a large buffet with hot and cold items, including sandwiches, appetizers and soup all of which were served by attendants. There were shower facilities available. The best feature of the lounge, however, was the outdoor viewing deck, which overlooked the tarmac and the blue ocean beyond. I got some food and set myself up on the deck, where I watched a China Airlines A300 arrive followed by the CX A330 that was to be my flight.
I left the lounge and made a few last minute purchases before heading to the gate for boarding. This aircraft was configured for regional flights and did not have a First Class cabin. As such, I would be forced to “slum it” in Business Class for the flight. While CX’s service is fantastic, the Business Class seats on these regional aircraft are nothing to write home about. They are manually controlled and, my biggest pet-peeve, have legrests that do not elevate your legs enough. This aircraft did not feature StudioCX, but did have in-seat video in business class. My understanding is that CX does not plan on upgrading these regional A330s with the new Business Class seats.

We departed on time and made our way to the western end of the runway behind a Garuda A330 (DPS is definitely an Airbus airport). After an arriving Singapore A310 vacated the runway, it was our turn to rocket into the stratosphere. After a few final views of Bali as we thundered northward, the flight attendants swung into action. This was a dinner flight. Here is the menu transcript:

DENPASAR – HONG KONG

DINNER

Indonesian Style Beef Skewer and Shrimp Cake

Seasonal Salad served with Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

Smoked Salmon Pastrami with Grilled Zucchini, Cheese and Tomato

Seafood with Light Curry Cream Sauce
Basil Noodles
Fresh Seasonal Vegetables
-or-
Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Wafu Sauce
Steamed Rice with Sesame
Pak Choy and Carrot
-or-
Braised Chicken with Black Fungus
Steamed Rice
Stir-fried Pak Choy

Cheese Selection with Crackers
-or-
Fresh Seasonal Fruits

Banana Chocolate Truffle Tart

Selected Bread and Rolls served with Butter

Tea and Coffee

Pralines

Now, the wine:

WINE LIST

CHAMPAGNE
Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne

WHITE WINES
Louis Max Pouilly Vinzelles 1996
McWilliams Mount Pleasant Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2000
Mitchelton Estate Chardonnay 1998

RED WINES
Louis Max Mercurey Domaine La Marche 1999
Chateau Beausejour Clos de L’Eglise 1999

CX SIGNATURE DRINKS
Pacific Sunrise
Cathay Delight
---------------------------
I had the beef skewer and the shrimp cake with my Cathay Delight. The salad and the salmon were served together on a tray. As with the previous flight, the main courses were all pre-plated, but were served from the trolley so that you could see what each looked like before choosing. I wanted the chicken, but I have a rule against eating anything known as “black fungus,” so I opted for the beef, which was fine, but unremarkable. I had some cheese and the excellent banana tart to round out the meal. The rest of the flight passed quickly, and soon we were approaching HKG’s Runway 25R. As with my last arrival into HKG, we docked at one of the furthest gates, which necessitated using the train to get to the crowded immigration lines.

HONG KONG

I’ve heard of Anglophiles, Francophiles and Pedophiles, but I have never heard of Hong Kongophiles. However, I consider myself to be one (a Hong Kongophile, that is -- I don’t want any rumors to spread). I don’t know why, but Hong Kong has a magic effect on me. I just love this city. Sure it can be dirty, hot and crowded, but there is something about it that just pulls me in. I think it started when, as a kid, I saw an advertisement for United Airlines on television, which featured a 747SP taxiing at the old Kai Tak. The juxtaposition of the modern 747 with the ancient junks in Victoria Harbor really caught my attention. From that point on, Hong Kong was what I envisioned when I though of traveling in the Far East. My first trip to Hong Kong occurred in March 2001 when I went by myself over my Spring Break from my law studies in London. It was my first time in Asia and my first big solo travel adventure. I stayed at the Regal HongKong Hotel in Causeway Bay and just fell in love with the city. As such, I knew I wanted to spend some time in Hong Kong on this trip.
As for hotels, I was torn. On one hand, I was shooting for Starwood Platinum and needed all the stays I could get. On the other, the Conrad International in Hong Kong is a Flyertalk favorite and I wanted to experience it, especially as I was able to get Hilton Gold status through American Airlines. Since I had two nights, I split the difference and spent one night in the Sheraton and one in the Conrad. While inconvenient to move hotels, it allowed me to experience two top end Hong Kong hotels and to stay in both Kowloon and Admiralty.
The Sheraton is an older hotel located at the tip of the Kowloon peninsula, right next to the venerable Peninsula Hotel. On the outside, it looks like a typical large and uninspired international chain hotel. On the inside, it is much more modern and, since its recent renovation, is quite elegant. The afore-mentioned renovation was in full swing last August and the only way to get a room with a harbor view was to book an executive floor room, which I did. It wasn’t cheap, but you cannot put a price tag on starting and ending your day with a view of the Hong Kong skyline. The room itself featured a large bathroom with a walk-in shower and full size bathtub and a large bedroom. The bed was nothing special, but I understand that the property now features the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed.
In contrast, the Conrad is a fairly new property that is located above the Pacific Place Mall in the Admiralty section of central Hong Kong. Despite only being a Hilton Honors Gold member, I was upgraded to a club room overlooking the hills in the center of Hong Kong island. The club lounge provided great views of Victoria Harbor, but a less dramatic view of the skyline. The room was nicer than the one at the Sheraton, especially the bathroom.
During my two days in Hong Kong, I did many of the tourist things I did on my previous trip. I did some shopping in Pacific Place (there is a great toy solider shop I found there) and made many crossings of Victoria Harbor on the Star Ferry. I took the Peak Tram and walked the streets of Central looking at the stores selling dried fish (and almost vomiting at the smell) and the upscale antiques shops on Hollywood Road near the Man Mo Temple. After sampling its food on CX, I decided to dine at the Yung Kee restaurant, but also visited Mak’s Noodle shop and another dumpling shop I had found in Wan Chai on my previous trip.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Cathay Pacific flight CX 713
Departs: Hong Kong (HKG) @ 8:55 AM
Arrives: Bangkok (BKK) @ 10:30 AM
Boeing 747-400
First Class Seat 2A

My time in Hong Kong came to an end too soon, but I knew that I would be back, so I was not too upset. I was planning to take the Airport Express to get to HKG, but the taxi driver who drove me from the Sheraton to the Conrad talked me into riding with him to the airport for two hundred and fifty Hong Kong dollars. While this is more expensive than the train, it is convenient and I wanted to see the view from the Tsing Ma Bridge. I’m glad I did. The view going over the bridge was impressive and allowed me to see the diversity of seaborne traffic plying the waters off Hong Kong.

I arrived at HKG at around 7:15 AM and proceeded to the First Class check-in area. CX’s First Class check-in area does not feature the usual desks, but rather a series of podiums that allow a more personal interaction with the check-in agent. Frankly, it really was nothing special, but I did enjoy the display that shows your flight details. The airport was not very crowded this morning and I was through immigration and security and at The Wing in a few minutes. I helped myself to breakfast and waited for my flight to be called. As it was leaving from one of the CX preferred gates, which are right by The Wing, I could just peer over the side and determine when boarding began.

At the time, this flight, CX 713, was the only three-class service available from HKG to BKK. Interestingly, there was no three-class return flight from BKK as the 747-400 that operates the CX 713 continues to SIN and then flies directly back to HKG as the CX 716. Ideally, I would have preferred a flight leaving later in the day, but I was not willing to forgo First Class just to leave later.

I boarded in the middle of the process and found an empty First Class cabin. As I chatted with Pearl, one of our flight attendants about Bangkok shopping, I thought I was going to have the cabin to myself, but one last minute passenger boarded. Nevertheless a 3:2 flight attendant to passenger ratio made for an attentive flight. We pushed on time and were airborne a few minutes later from Runway 25L for the two and a half hour flight to BKK. Once at altitude, menus were distributed. Brunch was on offer today. Here is the menu:

HONG KONG – BANGKOK

BRUNCH

JUICES
Fresh Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice or Raspberry Health Drink

APPETIZER
Fresh Seasonal Fruits

MAIN COURSES
Omelette with Mushrooms

Mini Glutinous Rice and Assorted Dim Sum

*Prawn Butterfly wrapped with Bean Curd Skin

ACCOMPANIMENTS
Grilled Ham Slices and Breakfast Sausage, Hash Brown Potatoes, Egg Fried Rice, Broiled Tomato with Parsley

DESSERT
Almond Vanilla Pie served with Vanilla Sauce

BREAD BASKET
Assorted Bread and Rolls

TEA AND COFFEE
*A special creation by Mr. Kinsen Kam of “Yung Kee”.

It was not too early for wine:

WINE LIST

CHAMPAGNE
Cuvee William Deutz 1995

RED WINES
Chateau Lynch Bages 1993
Louis Max Gevrey Chambertin La Justice 1995
Henry Bouachon Saint Joseph Roquebrussane 1998

WHITE WINES
Louis Max Chablis Grand Cru 1996
Voyager Estate Margaret River Chardonnay 1999

CX SIGNATURE DRINKS
Pacific Sunrise
Cathay Delight
----------------------------
I had the fruit and the dim sum. Of course, I had more Cathay Delight. I had the dim sum as we passed over Hainan Island (of spy plane fame). Pearl served the dim sum with a plate with all the side dishes. CX serves four pieces of dim sum in a traditional bamboo steamer. It was good, but a little on the small side. I decided to wait until later in the flight for dessert. The rest of the flight passed uneventfully and, after having my pie over ‘Nam, we arrived in a cloudy Bangkok. Of particular interest to me was the golf course between the two runways. I would imagine it’s hard to concentrate on a putt when a 747 is taking-off next to you! The flight docked in the new pier, which is as far from immigration as one can get (a theme of this trip). Nevertheless, it was a quick process and I was meeting the driver from the Royal Orchid Sheraton within ten minutes of disembarking.

Part VII: The Royal Orchid Sheraton and the Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit, Bangkok
(August 14 – August 18, 2002)

At the time of my visit, Starwood had two hotels in Bangkok, the Royal Orchid Sheraton and the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit (since my visit, Starwood acquired another hotel, which has been branded as The Westin Bangkok). I was torn over in which hotel to stay. The Royal Orchid Sheraton, on one hand, is on the Chao Phraya River and seemed to be to be better located for tourism. The Grand Sukhumvit, on the other hand, is a world class hotel that consistently gets rave reviews on the Flyertalk Starwood board. Being a compromising sort of guy, I decided to split my stay with two nights in each property. This would have the added bonus of getting me two stays closer to Starwood Platinum status.

I first stayed at the Royal Orchid Sheraton, where I was given a room on a high floor overlooking the river. The view was the best part of the room. There was nothing wrong with it, it just was not anything special. The bathroom was clean, but basic and functional. The service at the hotel was great, however, and I would definitely recommend it, especially for those interested in the tourist sites near the Chao Phraya.

There is no subway system in Bangkok, just an elevated people mover that covers a
limited area of this very sprawling city. While closer to many of Bangkok’s tourist sites, the Royal Orchid Sheraton is not conveniently located to the people mover. Fortunately, taxis are dirt cheap. Unfortunately, dead people move faster than Bangkok traffic. A two mile taxi ride might take over an hour, but cost less than $3. Despite the difficulties in getting around, I was able to see Wat Pho, Wat Phra Keo and the National Museum.

While sightseeing was a major goal of my stay in Bangkok, I had an additional ambition, mainly buying a custom-made suit or two. Not having any idea where to go, I asked the hotel concierge for a recommendation. The concierge recommended Chinese Tailor and offered to call them and have them pick me up. I am sure he was probably getting some kind of kick-back from Chinese Tailor, but, having nothing else to go on, I took his advice. It proved to be a positive experience. Over the next two days, I had two suits, two spare pants, two shirts and two ties custom made for me for $750. They picked me up at the hotel and, when my fitting ended, drove me to wherever else in Bangkok I wanted to go. While in the store, they plied me with Pepsi and made sure I was happy. They conducted two fittings on my first day and did a final fitting in my room at the Grande Sukhumvit and shipped everything back to the United States for me.

After the second night, I transferred to the Grande Sukhumvit. This hotel lived-up to its reputation and I was glad I decided to split my stay. The service was great, the room was great and, being located by a people mover station, the location was great. My room was on a Preferred Guest floor and featured a large bedroom, a walk-in closet and bathroom with a hot tub and a separate walk-in shower and a CD player. The view from the hotel was nice and really gave me a sense of just how sprawling a city is Bangkok. The hotel offers an excellent breakfast buffet. My only complaint, and a small one at that, is that, with only four elevators, the wait to go up or down could be a long one.

If asked, I am not sure which hotel I would recommend. However, if I go back to Bangkok, I will probably stay at the Grande Sukhumvit, so do with that information what you want.

Part VIII: Bangkok to Sydney with No Nights in Hong Kong (August 18, 2002)

After enduring the heat of August in Bangkok, I was ready for the mild coolness of an Australian winter. This flight was the only one that was not changed at all from my original routing and schedule. I knew I was going to be in Bangkok and that I wanted to have approximately twelve days in Australia, so this flight was pretty much set in stone.

Sunday, August 18, 2002
Qantas Airways flight QF 002
Departs: Bangkok (BKK) @ 5:40 PM
Arrives: Sydney (SYD) @ 5:25 AM
Boeing 747-400
First Class Seat 2A

I arranged with the Grande Sukhumvit for a car to the airport. I left the hotel at 2:30 PM, expecting traffic. While there was some traffic, it lasted only until we got to the highway leading to the airport. Consequently, I arrived at the airport around 3:00 PM. Much like the city it serves, Bangkok’s airport lacks the sense of newness and sleek modernity that characterizes many of Asia’s airports. I understand that a new airport is being constructed. While this will probably be welcome to many, I fear it will lack the character of the current BKK.

As in Osaka, all bags were x-rayed before reaching the check-in counters. There was not much of a line at the x-ray position and I was at the First Class counter in minutes. Qantas and British Airways share a common check-in island, but I was helped by a Qantas agent. Check-in was quickly accomplished and I received my boarding pass, a lounge pass and a fast track immigration card for Australian immigration. I was also informed that I was the only First Class passenger boarding the QF 002 in BKK, but nine other passengers would be staying on the plane from London.

After paying my departure tax and clearing security, I headed to the joint British Airways and Qantas lounge. There were separate First and Business Class lounges. The First Class lounge was on the departure floor while the Business lounge was one level below and accessed by elevators. The First Class lounge offered a great view of the runway thresholds and I watched as a Finnair MD-11 departed for Singapore. There was one computer in the lounge with internet access. There was a small, but nice selection of food, mostly finger sandwiches and assorted hors d’ouerves. The seats were comfortable and there were plenty of magazines and newspapers on offer. There were three showers available for use.
I spent a good deal of time relaxing in the lounge and watched as my flight arrived from London and taxied to a newly constructed pier at the opposite end of the airport from the lounge. About twenty minutes later, the first passengers from my flight arrived in the lounge, with most heading for the showers. The lounge started to get crowded, so I decided to leave and pay a visit to the Cathay Pacific lounge. I spent a few minutes in the CX First lounge, but did not find it terribly impressive. Fortunately, it was approximately halfway between the BA/QF lounge and the QF gate and offered a nice break on what was a long and hot walk. I understand that BA and QF have built or are building a new lounge nearer to the gates in the new pier.

By the time I reached the lounge and cleared a second security checkpoint, it was time to board and I walked right on the plane. Qantas has two additional First Class seats on the 747-400 than CX, which made the cabin seem more crowded than CX’s configuration. Although Qantas was in the process of upgrading the First Class seats across the 747-400 fleet, this aircraft had not been reconfigured. Nevertheless, it was comfortable. I was the first passenger to board, but the transit passengers had all left their belongings on their seats, which made the cabin seem even more cramped and cluttered.

http://www.airliners.net/open.file/177761/M/

The cabin crew were very welcoming and seemed very similar to American cabin crews in that they were more relaxed and easy going and quick to strike-up a casual conversation. There was no sense of the deference that you get from the flight attendants on CX. After two weeks of flying CX, this attitude was refreshing. I had a glass of champagne and took the opportunity to change into the pajamas QF offered. The bathroom was nicer and larger than CX’s bathrooms, featuring a tiled floor and a window. Thoughtfully, the cabin crew had left hangars in the bathroom and were helpful in storing my clothes in the closet at the front of the cabin (another difference from CX).

We left on time and were airborne ten minutes later just as the sun was beginning to set. Our route took us over the Gulf of Thailand in the direction of Borneo. From Borneo, we crossed the Java Sea and the Indonesian archipelago, making landfall in Australia close to Darwin. From Darwin, we crossed over the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales before beginning our descent into Sydney.

Once we reached altitude the flight attendants passed-out menus and took drink orders. I ordered my usual Diet Coke with lime. Here is a menu transcript:

BANGKOK TO SYDNEY

DINNER

CANAPẾ
Rice Cakes with Prawn and Tamarind Relish

ENTREES
Cream of Sweet Corn Soup

Pork, Pomelo and Coconut Salad

MAIN COURSES
Roast Beef with Potato Gratin and Ratatouille
*Australian Beef

Southern Thai Style Braised Chicken with Eggplant

Yellow Curry of Vegetables with Jasmine Rice and Asian Greens

Salmon Fillet with Asparagus and Roast Tomato Sauce

Green Leaf Salad with Palm Sugar Vinaigrette
*A selection of mustards and condiments is available

CHEESE
Hand selected blue, soft and hard cheese served with accompaniments

DESSERT
Chocolate and Almond Cake with Crème Anglaise

Fresh Fruit

PETITS FOURS

Chocolates

Macaroons

Here is the all Australian wine list (champagne excluded):

WINE LIST

CHAMPAGNE
Krug, Grand Cuvee

WHITE WINES
Mount Pleasant -2000
Maurice O’Shea Chardonnay
Region: Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Richmond Grove – 2000
Watervale Riesling
Region: Clare Valley, South Australia
Pipers Brook – 2001
Pinot Gris
Region: Pipers Brook, Tasmania

RED WINES
Wynns – 1997
Coonawarra Estate Michael Shiraz
Region: Coonawarra, South Australia
Tarrawarra Estate – 1999
Yarra Valley Pinot Noir
Region: Yarra Valley, Victoria
Penfolds – 1997 Bin 389
Cabernet Shiraz
Region: McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley, South Australia

DESSERT WINE
Cranswick Estate – 1996
Autumn Gold Botrytis Semillon
Region: Riverina, New South Wales

PORT
Para – Liqueur Port
Region: Barossa Valley, South Australia
------------------------------
My drink was served with the rice cakes. I didn’t really care for them as they were made with cilantro, which is essentially chopped-up shampoo. I also ordered the corn soup and the roast beef. The soup was great, but the meat was average, being more like filet mignon than the carved roast beef I expected. I had the cake for dessert. The meal was fine, but, frankly, unexceptional. I suspect that a better meal was served out of London. Unlike on the London flight, there were no snacks on offer, which was too bad as I had heard such good things about the steak sandwich Qantas offers (this was an option out of LHR). The BKK-SYD segment was, relatively speaking, not very long, so I guess this makes sense.

After the meal service, I watched a movie from the selection of videos Qantas has on offer. I watched Almost Famous, which I had seen before, but was (and remains) one of my favorite movies.

A few minutes after crossing into Australia, I noticed something wonderful from the window. It looked like a river of fire snaking its way across the land. Intrigued, I asked a flight attendant if she knew what it was. She told me it was part of an Aboriginal ceremony. This is was simply awesome. I cannot conceive of how large it must have been to be so visible from 37,000 feet. This ranks as one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
About an hour out of SYD, a continental breakfast was served. Here is the menu:

CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST

Tangerine Juice

Apple Juice

‘Sunraysia Liquid Fruit’ Pear or Mango Juice

Banana Energiser Drink
An energising dairy-based health drink with honey, fresh fruit and yoghurt

Fruit Salad

Birchermuesli

Toasted Muesli

Cereal

Yoghurt and Honey

A choice of warm bakery items with conserves
Raspberry Muffin, Croissant, Toast
--------------------------------
I ordered orange juice, the banana drink, the fruit salad and a croissant. All were good. We descended into Sydney and landed while it was still dark. I was off the plane very quickly and through immigration in no time. On entering Australia, all bags are x-rayed for prohibited organic products. My soap actually set off the alarm, but I was allowed to keep after I promised not to use it to wash any of the native vegetation. As the sun began to break into the winter sky, I was on my way to the Westin Sydney.

Topic: RE: An Around The World Story (AA,CX,LA,QF In F/J)
Username: PresRDC
Posted 2003-07-31 21:31:12 and read 7097 times.

Part IX: The Westin Sydney (August 19 – August 22, 2002)

With the exception of the bar exam, the biggest issue I had to confront in the months preceding this trip was whether to stay at the Sheraton on the Park or the Westin Sydney when in Sydney (I just couldn’t handle the stress of including the Four Points and/or the W in the equation). Ultimately, I went with the Westin, mostly because I always choose Westins over Sheratons when I have the choice and I am anal and unwilling to expand my horizons. I am sure the Sheraton is a perfectly fine hotel, but I was glad I chose the Westin.

This hotel optimizes the modern luxury concept that Westin is currently espousing. The reception area is modern and spartan, but also exudes a luxurious and stylish air. I booked a room on the executive floor and, thankfully, one was available despite my extremely early check-in. The room itself was excellent and continued with the modern luxury theme. This was most evident in the bathroom, which featured a full size tub and a walk-in rainmaker shower. As with the Sheraton Laguna Nusa Dua, there was a window from the bathtub to the bedroom. I am sure a porno director could have made good use of this feature, but, alas, I am but a simple lawyer. Of course, the room featured the Heavenly Bed, which is always a most welcome site after a long overnight flight. The view was not fantastic, but I could see Darling Harbor in the distance.

Being my first visit to Sydney, I did most of the typical tourist stuff that one would expect a first time visitor to do. I strolled down to Circular Quay, took a ferry to Manly, saw the Opera House, walked through The Rocks district and went to the top of the Centerpoint Tower. Being a maritime history buff, the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbor was a highlight. Being a fish lover, the aquarium was another highlight.

I ate dinner one night at Mantra Ray, which is on the same pier housing the W Sydney. I highly recommend this restaurant if you are a sea food fan.

Part X: Travels in Australia
Sails in the Desert, Ayers Rock Resort and The Sheraton Perth (August 22 – August 27, 2002)

Thursday, August 22, 2002
Qantas Airways flight QF 412
Departs: Sydney (SYD) @ 9:25 AM
Arrives: Ayers Rock (AYQ) @ 12:20 PM
Boeing 737-400
Business Class Seat 2F (guess)

I was eager to sample Qantas’ domestic Business Class product and compare it to American’s domestic First Class product. Qantas does not pre-assign seats on domestic flights, even in Business Class, so I was unsure where I would be seating. I hoped that I would not get stuck in a convertible seat.

Check-in was quick and I was on my way to the Qantas Club. Apparently, domestic Business Class does not give access to the lounge, nor does Oneworld status when traveling on a domestic flight. Thankfully, my Admirals Club membership did the trick and I was admitted. I did not stay long as it was very crowded. It did have a nice breakfast offering, however.
There is not much to say about this flight. We were served a classic English-style breakfast but did not receive a menu. Interestingly, there is no bulkhead at all between Business Class and Coach on the 737. Flying over Australia is an interesting experience. You realize just how sparsely populated a country it is. About 25 minutes out of Sydney, there was no sign of life, just mile after mile of desert. Landing at AYQ was great as those of us on the right had a great view of the Rock as we landed. I rented a car from Hertz and was quickly on my way to Sails in the Desert.

Oh yeah, I qualified for Executive Platinum status on this flight! Kindof a random flight on which to qualify, don’t you think?

SAILS IN THE DESERT, AYERS ROCK RESORT

There is only one resort near the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which contains Ayers Rock (Uluru, to the politically correct among us) and the Olgas. The Ayers Rock Resort bills itself as an eco friendly resort designed to blend into the desert landscape and offers a variety of accommodations ranging from five star luxury hotels, to rustic camp sites. Being a spoiled rotten prima donna, I stayed at Sails in the Desert, the five star accommodation. My room was adequate, but, frankly, not all that nice. I think I was unfairly comparing it to the Westin Sydney, but it really was nothing special. The bathroom was very basic and not at all “five star.” My advice, save your money and pick a less “upscale” option. The Desert Gardens Hotel is a four star property that is cheaper than Sails and some rooms offer a view of the Rock.

My first day, I drove out to the Olgas (Kate Tjuta in the local language), a rock formation not far from Ayers Rock. Cars entering the Park need to buy a permit, which was good for three days and was not very expensive. At the Olgas, I did the “Valley of the Winds” walk, which takes you on approximately a two hour journey among the rocks. It was a pleasant experience and a fairly easy walk. That night, I went on a star gazing tour led by the resident astronomer at the Ayers Rock Observatory, which is operated by the Resort. It was interesting, especially for someone like me who does not get to see the southern hemisphere sky very often. This, and other tours, can be arranged through the tour desks located in the lobbies of each hotel at the Ayers Rock Resort.

The next day, I took one of the guided tours of the Rock conducted by a member of the Anangu people, in my case, Impana Collins. The tour includes the visitors center and a narrated walk around the Rock led by Ms. Collins, the Anangu guide. This is a great way to get an introduction the Dreamtime stories that form the unwritten law of the Anangu people. The tour ends at the sunset viewing center. The rock is famous for changing colors as the sun sets. It was a wonderful and almost spiritual experience.

One of the most popular attractions at the Rock is the “Sounds of Silence” dinner, which is held outside under the stars by the Rock. As I was alone, I did not do this, as it seemed geared toward couples.

Saturday, August 24, 2002
Qantas Airways flight QF 1923
Departs: Ayers Rock (AYQ) @ 1:50 PM
Arrives: Perth (PER) @ 3:15 PM
British Airways BAe 146-200
Business Class Seat 2F (guess)

I spent two nights at Sails in the Desert, which I thought was adequate time to spend at the Rock. I had some time in the morning before my flight, so I bought an aboriginal painting at the gift shop in the visitors center (there is also a gallery in the Sails in the Desert lobby). This gallery features work by Anangu artists and the profits from the gallery go back to the Anangu people. They were very helpful and were perfectly willing to ship the canvas back home for me.

I got to the airport and returned the car, which was easy (so was driving on the left, a new experience for me – of course the roads in the Park were not exactly busy). There is a separate Business Class check-in, but no lounge. My flight was delayed for 30 minutes. There is not much to do at AYQ, so I don’t recommend arriving early, although the line for Coach check-in can be long as there are often tour busses dropping people off.

This flight was surprisingly comfortable. I did not think the BAe-146 would be comfortable, but the seats had pretty effective leg and foot rests. Imagine that, leg and foot rests on a BAe-146! The food offering on this flight was pretty meager, however. Only some poached chicken and a small pasta salad. As on the previous flight, there was no sign of life until a few minutes prior to landing. We were twenty minutes late on arrival at a rainy Perth.

THE SHERATON PERTH

This is typical Sheraton. It is fine, but nothing special. They were offering suites for A$175, which, at the time, was about $90, so I decided to splurge (as if any part of this trip was not a splurge). The suite was essentially two standard rooms put together. The first room was a large sitting room and the second was the bedroom. The bathroom was off the sitting room, which required one to go from the bedroom and through the living room. This would be a difficult trip in the night . . . or if intoxicated. The room did offer a nice view of the Perth skyline.

To be honest, Perth was kind of a let down (no offense to any of you who may live in Perth). There comes a point on a long trip where you loose your enthusiasm and need a break. This was that point for me. The fact that it rained almost the whole time did not help. I did, however, make it down the river to Fremantle, which was a pleasant day trip. Interestingly, my alma mata, the University of Notre Dame, has a sister school in Fremantle (called, creatively enough, the University of Notre Dame Australia) where many ND students go for a semester (it has a reputation as a party semester). There was no Golden Dome, but then again, one cannot walk from class to the Indian Ocean in South Bend!

Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Qantas Airways flight QF 566
Departs: Perth (PER) @ 4:25 PM
Arrives: Sydney (SYD) @ 10:25 PM
Boeing 767-300
Business Class Seat 5A (guess)

Since the Oneworld Explorer rules only allow one transcontinental flight in Australia, I figured this would be a special flight, akin to American’s AFS service. I would be disappointed.

The airport was empty and I was in the Qantas Club within minutes of arriving at the Perth Domestic Terminal. As our 767 arrived, I could tell by the Rolls Royce engines that it was one of the ex-British Airways 767s Qantas acquired. Upon boarding, I was surprised to see how cramped the seating was. I kid you not, I had more room on the BAe-146! When the person in front reclined, there was no room to cross my legs. Dinner was a one tray affair and featured a choice of steak or a salad. Thankfully, it was a short flight of only three hours.

I stayed again at the Westin Sydney.

Part XI: A Study in Randomness
Australia to New Zealand on a Chilean Airline
(August 28, 2002)
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Qantas Airways flight QF 321 (operated by Lan Chile as LA 800)
Departs: Sydney (SYD) @ 10:15 AM
Arrives: Auckland (AKL) @ 3:30 PM
Airbus A340-300
First Class Seat 1A

First, a caveat. In addition to being a HongKongaphile, I am a LanChileaphile. So, when it was announced that Lan Chile would start service to Auckland and Sydney from Santiago with the A340, I knew I had to arrange my route so that I could fly Lan Chile between Australia and New Zealand. Of course, I liked the randomness of flying a Chilean airline between two countries that are not Chile.

The only way to get a First Class seat on this flight is to book oneself under the Qantas flight number as Lan Chile only offers Business and Economy Class under its flight number. Apparently, Qantas offered three class service to Buenos Aires using its own metal, but pulled-out in favor of the codeshare with Lan Chile to SCL. I gather that Lan Chile did not see a market for First Class on this route, but Qantas wanted to continue three class service to South America. Incidentally, this is (or was, I don’t know if it has changed) the only three class service Qantas offers between SYD and AKL.

I left the Westin at 7:30 AM and, despite the fact that it is a considerable distance further than the domestic terminal, had a quick trip to the international terminal. Lan Chile codeshares with Qantas on this flight and Qantas handles all ground services in SYD for Lan Chile. As such, I checked-in at the Qantas First Class counters. Qantas tries to make this a special experience by offering a little seating area in front of the check-in counters, but, in reality, it is just a check-in. Apparently, the Qantas check-in staff has a reputation for being a bit ornery and unhelpful. While the woman who checked me in was no Alice from the Brady Bunch, she was also no Rosanne Arnold either. Check-in complete, I headed through immigration to the Qantas First Class Lounge.

The lounge was nice, but nothing remarkable. It did feature a nice breakfast spread and the man in the yellow tie at the reception desk was quite helpful. I also appreciated the view of the tarmac from the lounge, including a view of my red, white and blue chariot readying for its journey across the southern half of the world.

Boarding started on time and I boarded right away. As has been discussed before, Lan Chile has one row of First Class in a 2-1-2 arrangement. The seats recline fully flat and are very similar (if not identical) to American’s First Class seats on the Pacific configured 777s.

http://www.airliners.net/open.file/199992/M/

As boarding completed, it became apparent that I was to be the only passenger in First Class to AKL. Perhaps this explains why Qantas does not offer First Class on this route using its own metal. To celebrate my first solo First experience, I had a glass of champagne while I perused the menu. Here is a transcript:

SYDNEY – AUCKLAND

BRUNCH

TO BEGIN

CHAMPAGNE
Champagne Taittinger ‘Comtes de Champagne’

COFFEE AND TEA
Choose from our variety of coffee, decaffeinated coffee and tea

AS THE MAIN ENTRÉE, WE OFFER
Leek quiche served with sausages baked tomatoes and ****ake

GOURMET SANDWICH
Create your very own sandwich choosing from the following ingredients
Breads
Bagel – Whole Wheat Bread
Delicious Fillings
Roast Beef – Smoked Salmon – Brie Cheese
Dressings
Cream Cheese – butter
Fresh Vegetables
Lettuce – Tomato

LIGHT CHOICE
A selection of natural and low fat products:
Roast Beef, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Whole Wheat Bread

FROM THE BAKERY
Bread Basket
Choose from our variety of cookies, warm breads and toast, served with butter, Philadelphia cheese and preserves

DESSERT
Kahlua flan served with caramel sauce

FRESH FRUIT
Assortment of fresh seasonal fruit

A selection of Chilean wines offered in a separate menu with a corkboard cover:

WINE LIST

CHAMPAGNE
Taittinger, 1995

WINES
Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
Catalina 1998
Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
Reserva Merlot 1999
Callejero Carmenere 2001
Reserva Chardonnay 2000
Santa Isabel Estate Sauvingnon Blanc 2001
--------------------------------
To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the menu. I was hoping that it would be the full lunch/dinner service that I love on Lan Chile. I thought there was precedent for this as Lan Chile serves a full dinner from Santiago to Lima on its LAX and JFK flights, a flight of a similar length to the SYD to AKL route. I guess the timing of the flight makes a difference. The SCL to LIM flights leave at dinner time while the SYD to AKL flight leaves in the mid-morning and the continuing flight operates, at least in part, in the daylight.

Once airborne, the service began. My personal flight attendants did not take my order, but rather just brought me the quiche. This is what I would have ordered, but I was surprised I wasn’t given a choice. Anyway, it was delicious. For the rest of the flight, I sampled Lan Chile’s entertainment options. Lan Chile offers an on demand audio and video system on the A340s and some of its 767s. Interestingly, the audio selections were the same as were on offer the previous March, when I flew from SCL to LAX. The movies were different, however.

Before our arrival, I asked to try the sandwich as I skipped it on the SCL to LAX flight when it was offered as the snack out of Lima. The flight attendant did not ask me which I wanted, but rather presented a plate of roast beef on a bagel and salmon on wheat bread. Frankly, neither were particularly good and I gather that the flight attendants knew that as well when they offered me the quiche.

Our approach into AKL was quite scenic and, being on the left of the plane, I had a nice view of downtown Auckland as we passed overhead before looping around to approach AKL. As we deplaned through the L2 door, I was not the first off the plane. While there was a fast track line at immigration, it was not open and I was forced to wait with all the non-Kiwis and Aussies. While this was not a long line, it took a while as there were only two immigration officers. By the time I got to the baggage belt, most of the passengers had left and there were only a few bags on the belt. Unfortunately, neither of my two checked bags were present (incidentally, I decided to be lazy on this flight and check both roll-ons). Instantly, I had visions of my bags winging their way to South America while I was in New Zealand. I was lazy and checked both bags, so I had no emergency supply of clothes and I knew that, with my tight schedule, there was no way my bags could get to SCL and back before I had to leave for Hong Kong, London and New York. Starting to panic, I approached the Air New Zealand baggage service desk (the handling agent for Lan Chile at AKL) with minutes to spare before the Lan Chile A340, complete with a new crew, was scheduled to depart for SCL. Thankfully, I was able to stop the plane and to get my bags, but not before I lost five years off my life!

Part XII: The Sheraton Auckland and the Run-Up to the America’s Cup (August 28 – August 30, 2002)

In many ways I found Auckland to be a smaller Sydney. I had a similar experience with Krakow. I visited it after visiting Prague and found it to be a smaller version of the Czech capital. Krakow is a fine city on its own, but I could not help comparing it to Prague. After my first opinion of Auckland, I thought I was going to leave with the same feelings I have toward Krakow. That proved not to be the case. The excitement over the America’s Cup might have had something to do with this, but I ended-up really liking the City of Sails.

The Sheraton Auckland was a fine hotel. It was a typical Sheraton with standard (and small) rooms and typical hotel beds. There is nothing wrong with this, it just was not anything special. The location also was not ideal as it was far from the waterfront and the walk back from the waterfront required walking up some very steep hills. If I go back to Auckland, I would be hard pressed to chose between the Sheraton and the Hilton, which is located on a pier on the waterfront in an ideal location.

During my time in Auckland, I visited the America’s Cup site, watching the teams prepare their vessels for the competition. I took a tour of the harbor on a boat sponsored by American Express for the Cup and visited the Auckland Maritime Museum.

Topic: RE: An Around The World Story (AA,CX,LA,QF In F/J)
Username: PresRDC
Posted 2003-07-31 21:32:14 and read 7131 times.

Part XIII: Back to CX
Auckland to Hong Kong and, You Guessed It, A Night at the Sheraton Hong Kong
(August 30 – August 31, 2002)

Friday, August 30, 2002
Cathay Pacific flight CX 108
Departs: Auckland (AA), New Zealand">AKL) @ 12:50 PM
Arrives: Hong Kong (HKG) @ 8:30 PM
Airbus A340-300
First Class Seat 1K

I was apprehensive about this flight. I had heard that Cathay frequently operates this route with the old A340 equipment, featuring the twelve lounge chair style First Class seats. When I booked this segment, the RTW AAgent indicated that the configuration in First Class was 1-2-1, which indicates the new configuration. Nevertheless, I was nervous. As it turns out, there was no reason to worry and this ended-up being the best flight of the trip.
I left the Sheraton Auckland for the airport at 9:45 AM and arrived at AA), New Zealand">AKL’s International Terminal by 10:20 AM. I am amazed that there is no highway connecting downtown Auckland to the airport. For much of the trip, the taxi navigated through suburban neighborhoods. While this undoubtedly made the journey to the airport longer, it provided a glimpse into the ordinary life of Kiwis that one would not see from a highway.

Cathay Pacific uses Qantas’ check-in facilities for its Business and First Class passengers in Auckland. Check-in is accomplished in a separate room with four check-in stations located to the left of the main check-in desks. Cathay used two of these desks, one for Business and one for First, and they were staffed with Cathay-uniformed employees. There was a bit of wait to reach the counter (it would have been faster to use the Business Class desk), but soon I was on my way armed with a boarding pass, a lounge invitation and permission to use fact track immigration.

Cathay uses Qantas’ lounge at AA), New Zealand">AKL and, upon my entrance, I was directed to the relatively empty First Class side. It was comfortable and featured a selection of light snacks and finger sandwiches, as well as the usual assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. There appeared to be showers available.

Boarding began at 12:20 PM and I boarded right away and settled into Seat 1K. I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only did the aircraft feature the new First Class, it also had the new Business Class and, of course, StudioCX. I was immediately offered a drink (I chose a Perrier) and a savory. As boarding continued, the First Class cabin filled 2/3 of the way to capacity (six of eight seats taken). We pushed on time and were airborne without a wait.

Once reaching cruising altitude, the FAs offered menus and took lunch orders. Here is a transcript of the lunch menu:

AUCKLAND – HONG KONG

LUNCH

CAVIAR AND SALMON DELIGHT
Oscietra Caviar
-and-
Fine Smoked Salmon
Served with Warm New Potatoes and Crème Fraiche

SOUP AND SALAD
Roasted Tomato and Capsicum Soup with Pesto

Leaf Salad with Bocconcini Cheese, Sun-dried and Roma Tomato with Olive, Pesto and Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

MAIN COURSES
Grilled Salmon with Scallops and Prawns
Served with Boiled Parsley Potatoes and Vegetable Spaghetti

Grilled Tenderloin of Beef with Field Mushrooms and Natural Gravy
Served with Jackson Potatoes, Oven-roasted Vegetables with Mild Garlic and Thyme

Stir-fried Chicken in Sweet Bean Sauce
Served with Steamed Rice and Stir-fried Chinese Broccoli

Penne Pasta with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

CHEESEBOARD
Selection of Fine New Zealand Farmhouse Cheese

DESSERT SELECTION
Tropical Fruit Salad

Raspberry Mascarpone Ice Cream

Gourmet Chocolate Cake served with Berry Coulis and Whipped Cream
Hazelnut and Cherry Pudding served with Cinnamon Anglaise Sauce

BREAD BASKET
Assorted Bread and Rolls served with Butter

TEA AND COFFEE

PRALINES AND COOKIES

Yup, I copied the wine list too:

WINE LIST

CHAMPAGNE
Cuvee William Deutz 1995

RED WINES
Chateau Lynch Bages 1993
Willespie Shiraz 1998
Henry Bouachon Saint Joseph Roquebrussane 1998

WHITE WINES
Louis Max Chablis Grand Cru 1996
Sacred Hill Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2000

CX SIGNATURE DRINKS
Pacific Sunrise
Cathay Delight
-----------------------------

I ordered the soup and the chicken and awaited the caviar and salmon cart. Being in Seat 1K guaranteed that I would be served first (not that it matters), and I enjoyed a nice plate of caviar and salmon served with the warm potatoes, toast points, crème fraiche, onions and egg. There must have been a sale on capsicum this month, because almost every airline meal featured capsicum in some way. The soup was quite good and went perfectly with the warm garlic bread. The stir-fry chicken was great, as had been all the Chinese cuisine I had sampled on CX. I had the cheese plate and the chocolate cake for dessert. Both were excellent.

The A340 tracked northwest from Auckland and skirted the Gold Coast of Queensland before overflying the island of New Guinea. After New Guinea, we overflew some of the eastern islands in the Indonesian archipelago and passed between Borneo and the Philippines before entering the South China Sea.

For the rest of the eleven hour flight, I played with StudioCX and watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Having done so much flying on CX already this month, I was running-out of new things to watch (things interesting to me, that is). While all the CX flight attendants I encountered on this trip were excellent, this crew stood out as the best of the best. Perhaps it was the relatively empty cabin, but this crew ensured that my every need was satisfied. I spent over an hour talking with the head First Class flight attendant (the one in the purple uniform). I also tried a plate of assorted sandwiches.

About ninety minutes out of HKG, while overflying the South China Sea, a refreshment service was offered. Here is the transcript:

REFRESHMENT

MAIN COURSES
Lamb Skewers with Satay Sauce
Served with Egg Fried Rice

Cajun Chicken with Yellow Capsicum
Served with Noodles with Pesto

LIGHT OPTIONS
Young Chawun Noodles with Scallop and Prawn in Soup

Selected Sandwiches
(Smoked Salmon, Beef Pastrami and Char-grilled Vegetables with Herb Cream Cheese)

DESSERT
Selected Pastries

Tropical Fruit Salad

Ice Cream with your choice of toppings

TEA AND COFFEE

PRALINES AND COOKIES
---------------------------------
I selected the lamb satay, which was excellent. It was even better when followed-up with an ice cream sundae with hot fudge, whipped cream and nuts. The sundae service was done from the cart with all the panache of the initial caviar service.

We landed just after sunset and made our way to Gate 70, which as far from immigration as you get (I guess CX wanted me to burn-off all the food I had been eating). As a parting gift, the flight attendants gave me a bottle of Krug for the road. I was touched by their generosity. If there was any doubt about my affection for CX, this gesture erased it. I don’t want to be too corny, but this crew really personified CX’s “service from the heart.” Unfortunately, some of the pleasantness of the experience was lost with the long trek (and train ride) to immigration, where I was faced with the same long line I experienced when arriving from Osaka and Bali. Once again, I can only hope to be confronted with such lines when I next transit HKG.

I again stayed at the Sheraton Hong Kong and was pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to a suite on the executive floor. Unlike the suite at the Sheraton Perth, this hotel had a full bathroom off the bedroom and a half bath off the living room. As a Starwood Gold at the time, such an upgrade was much unexpected. That the room featured an uninterrupted view of the Hong Kong skyline was a bonus. What a great way to cap off a great travel day!

Part XIV: Hong Kong to London by Day
A First Look at CX’s Daylight Flight to London and The Park Lane Sheraton, London
(August 31 – September 1, 2002)
Saturday, August 31, 2002
Cathay Pacific flight CX 253
Departs: Hong Kong (HKG) @ 3:05 PM
Arrives: London (LHR) @ 9:05 PM
Airbus A340-300
First Class Seat 1A

I woke-up early resolved not to waste my final day in Hong Kong. I got-up and took the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong Island where I proceeded to Hollywood Road for a little window shopping. One day, I hope to be able to afford some of the exquisite Chinese antiques on display in these stores, but this day, window shopping proved sufficient.
I returned to the Sheraton via the Star Ferry and took a quick shower and did my final packing. I left for HKG at 12:30 PM. As with my trip from HKG to BKK, I initially planned to take a taxi to the Kowloon Airport Express Station and then the train to HKG, but the cabbie convinced me to let him drive me to HKG. This was fine as it was a nice day and I would have a great view from the Tsing Ma Bridge.

I initially planned on taking one of CX’s overnight flights to London, but when CX announced that it was going to start a daylight flight with A340s, I decided to give it a try. I am not a fan of overnight flights as the service is always more rushed and there is less to see from the window. So, I was excited to have a chance to take this flight. To my knowledge, this is the first trip report to discuss the First Class service on the CX 253.

I arrived at HKG at a little after 1:00 PM and proceeded strait to the CX First Class check-in kiosks. I was helped immediately and was on my way to immigration and security, which took about twenty minutes. Although my flight was leaving from Gate 46, which is closer to The Pier than The Wing, I decided to stop in at The Wing for a brief farewell tour. I hadn’t eaten anything that day, so being hungry, I helped myself to some food at The Haven, which, as you may know, is prepared by the Peninsula Hotel. I then headed to The Pier, choosing to walk as opposed to taking the train. I spent some time in one of the Daybreak Rooms which feature a brown leather recliner and a full slate of audio-visual options and then took a shower as I was sweaty from the long walk down the concourse. By the time I was done, it was time to go to the gate for boarding the New Business Class equipped A340.

We began boarding at 2:35 PM and I was one of the first to board. I settled into Seat 1A and ordered a Perrier to accompany the salmon canapé that was offered. Gradually, all eight First Class seats filled and I chatted with the man across the aisle from me. He had flown in from Manila and he said he commutes to London at least once a month using CX First. Can I have your life?

We pushed exactly on time and had a minimal wait to take off from Runway 25L. We made a series of turns as we proceeded through multiple cloud layers before reaching our cruising altitude. Our route took us almost due north out of HKG on course to Beijing, where we made a turn to the west and proceeded across China, Mongolia and most of Russia before crossing the Urals and entering European airspace. In Europe, we overflew the rest of Russia, Latvia, Sweden and Denmark before skirting the north shore of The Netherlands and the East Coast of the United Kingdom.

Upon reaching cruising altitude, the flight attendants distributed menus and took orders for our “late lunch.” Here is a lunch menu transcript:

HONG KONG – LONDON

LATE LUNCH

CAVIAR AND BALIK SALMON DELIGHT
Iranian Servuga Caviar
-and-
Balik Salmon “Tsar Nicolaj”
Served with Warm New Potatoes and Crème Fraiche

SOUP
Fennel, Potato and Leek Soup garnished with Mini Garlic Baguette

MAIN COURSES
Marinated Grilled Lamb Chops with Natural Gravy and Roasted Garlic
Served with Boulangere Potatoes and Vegetable

*Big Bowl Feast (Poon Choi) with Roasted Goose
Served with Steamed Rice and Stir-fried Chinese Broccoli

Ricotta Cannelloni with Semi-sundried Tomato Sauce

*Braised Cod Fillet with Preserved Olive and Vegetable
Served with Egg Fried Rice and Stir-fried Pak Choy

CHEESEBOARD
International Cheese Selection

DESSERT SELECTION
Selected French Pastries

Tropical Fruit Salad

Movenpick Ice Cream with your choice of toppings

BREAD BASKET
Selected Bread and Rolls
Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Balsamic is available as a healthy alternative to Butter

TEA AND COFFEE

PRALINES AND COOKIES
*A special creation by Mr. Kinsen Kam of “Yung Kee”.

No whining, here’s the wine:

WINE LIST

CHAMPAGNE
Krug Grande Cuvee Champagne

RED WINES
Chateau Lynch Bages 1993
Louis Max Gevrey Chambertin La Justice 1995
Henry Bouachon Saint Joseph Roquebrussane 1998

WHITE WINES
Louis Max Chablis Grand Cru 1996
Voyager Estate Margaret River Chardonnay 1999

CX SIGNATURE DRINKS
Pacific Sunrise
Cathay Delight
--------------------------------
I elected to partake in the caviar and salmon service and chose the soup and the Poon Choi. The caviar and salmon were excellent, as always. The soup was great accompanied by a fresh, hot loaf of garlic bread. I chose the Poon Choi because I was having such good luck with CX’s Chinese offerings and I was in the mood for goose. This course was served in what looked to be a wooden bucket with a smaller metal plate inside. The dish was essentially a mixed seafood and goose entrée and was excellent, although it contained squid, which, as previously mentioned, I detest. I followed this up with the cheese course and a ice cream sundae with hot fudge, whipped cream and nuts. It was, of course, excellent.

Fortunately, CX had loaded the September StudioCX selections for our flight, so I had something new to watch. I selected About a Boy, which I fell in love with (I’ve seen it six times since this flight). I also watched some short subject programming, read and napped and then watched Spiderman. Despite this being a day flight, we were given duvets, which, on the A340, are stored in the lockers between the window seats and the wall. We also received pajamas. This flight also featured a separate snack menu. Here is a transcript:

REFRESHMENTS

To meet the individual tastes and preferences of all our passengers, we have a selection of refreshments as a complement or as an alternative to our regular meals.
The following selection are available at any time on request:

Noodle with Shrimp Wonton in Soup

Shanghai Noodle with Marinated Beef in Soup

Asparagus and Artichoke Quiche with Salad served with Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

Selected Sandwiches

Tea and Coffee
--------------------------------
Over the course of the flight, I tried the sandwiches and the Shanghai Noodle dish. The soup was wonderful and the sandwiches were okay. Almost everyone tried at least one snack item. It was light for most of the flight, but got dark as we overflew Scandinavia. Supper was served as the lights of Copenhagen slipped by 37,000 feet below. Here is a menu transcript:

SUPPER

APPETIZER

Marinated Prawn and Scallop with Coriander Pesto

MAIN COURSES
*Pan-fried Beef Fillet with Tomato and Onion Sauce
Served with Steamed Rice and Stir-fried Pak Choy

Guinea Fowl with Juniper Berry Sauce
Served with Dauphinoise Potatoes and Fresh Seasonal Vegetables

Garganelli with Olive, Caper and Tomato Sauce

DESSERT
Almond Apple Pie served with Vanilla Sauce

BREAD BASKET
Selected Bread and Rolls
Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Balsamic is available as a healthy alternative to Butter.

TEA AND COFFEE

PRALINES AND COOKIES

*A special creation by Mr. Kinsen Kam of “Yung Kee”.
-----------------------------------
I decided to have the pasta, as I was not too hungry and had not yet tried CX’s pasta dishes. The prawn and scallop appetizer was great as was the pasta, although they didn’t offer any garlic bread to go with it. The pie was a nice ending, especially after I charmed the flight attendant into to rustling-up some of the left-over ice cream from lunch to go with it!
We made a fast descent into LHR and touched down on Runway 27L on schedule. We had a lengthy taxi to reach our gate at the new circular wing off the Terminal 3 concourse closest to immigration. Unfortunately, Fast Track was closed and there was a bit of a wait at immigration as we arrived after AA’s day flight from JFK. Despite Fast Track being closed, the flight attendants had handed-out Fast Track cards, which I happily accepted and am looking forward to using the next time I arrive at LHR as a coach passenger.

I took the Heathrow Express to Paddington and a taxi from Paddington to the Sheraton Park Lane. This hotel has been a frequent topic of conversation on the Starwood board. It is my Starwood of choice in London, mostly owing to its location on Piccadilly across from Green Park. While it is a nice hotel and the staff is great, the hotel is in dire need of a renovation. Most important, the hotel desperately needs new beds. I’ve had better beds at youth hostels for God’s sake! Despite my late arrival and my lowly Starwood Gold status, I was upgraded to a junior suite. This is essentially a large room with a king size bed, a living area and a large white marble bathroom with a tub and a walk-in shower. In the middle of the night, there was commotion outside as the Fire Brigade arrived. I do not know what the problem was, but we didn’t burn down!

Part XV: Back to America, Back to American
A First AA Flight as an EXP and a Double Upgrade
(September 1, 2002)

I woke-up early and had a room service breakfast. This hotel has an excellent breakfast, which, although pricy, is massive. In addition to the usual English breakfast of eggs, bacon rashers, sausage, mushrooms, fried potato and tomato, it includes a pastry basket, toast, fresh fruit, orange juice and warm beverages. Seriously, it is enough for two . . . or fifteen.
As I was not scheduled to depart for JFK until the evening, I took advantage of the day in London to revisit my old stomping grounds (I studied in London from September 2000 to June 2001). It was a gloriously sunny and warm day in London and I walked down Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall and along the River Thames from Westminster to Blackfriars. I then walked-up Fleet Street and The Strand past the Royal Courts of Justice back to Trafalgar Square where I stopped in the National Gallery to see Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding. I then stopped by Notre Dame’s London building (on Suffolk Street across from the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery). Finally, I hopped the Jubilee Line at Green Park to Willesden Green, where I lived while in London. I had lunch at Shish, a Middle Eastern restaurant across from the Willesden Green Tube Station. I then headed back to the Sheraton to take a shower before heading for the airport.

Sunday, September 1, 2002
American Airlines flight AA 107
Departs: London (LHR) @ 6:30 PM
Arrives: New York (JFK) @ 9:15 PM
Boeing 777-200ER
Business Class Seat 14J … First Class Seat 4J

I was not looking forward to this flight as it would mean going back to Business Class after being spoiled rotten all month. I decided to sooth my pain by skipping the Heathrow Express and taking a taxi to LHR. Expensive, but easier. I used AA’s Park Lane facility and collected my Business Class boarding pass and took the elevator and the sky bridge that leads directly to the Fast Track security entrance. After clearing security, I headed through the waiting area to the Flagship Lounge, where, owing to my newly minted EXP status I was welcoming despite my lowly Business Class boarding pass. This lounge is no Wing or Pier, but is a significant improvement over the Admirals Club. I helped myself to some finger sandwiches and mini quiches and waited for my flight to be called.

I went to the Gate when my flight was called and quickly passed the final security hurdle. Just before boarding commenced, I was called to the podium where I was informed that I would not be traveling in 14J as I had expected, but rather in 4J. Oh yeah, my first AA flight as an EXP and a double upgrade! Talk about raising expectations. It was a very pleasant surprise and a nice cap to a great month.

We boarded on time and our Pacific configured 777 pushed on schedule. A quick taxi and takeoff from Runway 9R, and we were on our way back to JFK. Once airborne, the purser took drink and dinner orders. Here is a menu transcript:

DINNING SERVICE

TO START
To accompany your preferred Cocktail or Beverage:
Warm roasted Nuts
-or-
Fresh Vegetables served in a Cucumber-Dill Dip

APPETIZER
Smoked Salmon accompanied by Capers, Red Onion and Sour Cream, garnished with Lemon wedges and served with Toast Points

THE SALAD CART
Please select any of the following served with Uno’s Focaccia Bread:
Fresh seasonal Greens with Ginger Orange Dressing or Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar
Parmesan-crusted Chicken
Your choice of Vegetables including Artichoke quarters, Red Bell Peppers, Kalamata Olives and Cucumbers

BREAD BASKET
Assorted warm Breads

ENTREES
The following a la carte vegetable options are available with your entrée:
Wild Rice with Vegetable Medley, Braised Leeks with Chervil, and Roasted Carrots with Sage Butter

LAMB CHOPS
Rosemary-roasted Lamb Chops enhanced by a Merlot Sauce, presented with sautéed Artichokes and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

LEMON THYME GRILLED CHICKEN
Grilled Breast of Chicken served with sautéed Haricots Verts and sun-dried Tomatoes, accompanied by a Potato Soufflé

PENNE PASTA WITH GRILLED EGGPLANT
Complemented by an oven-roasted Tomato Sauce, smoked Mozzarella and freshly shredded Parmesan Cheese

YANKEE POT ROAST
Tenderloin of Beef braised in a Red Wine Broth, offered with oven-roasted Potatoes, Carrots and Pearl Onions

DESSERTS

THE FRUIT AND CHEESE CART
Stilton, Provolone and Camembert Cheese complemented by fresh seasonal Fruit, served with selected Crackers and offered with Port and other fine Wines

THE DESSERT CART

ICE CREAM SUNDAE
Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Ice Cream with a choice of Hot Fudge, Butterscotch or seasonal Berry Toppings, Whipped Cream and Pecans
-or-
GRAND MARNIER FRUIT SALAD
Presented with Ben & Jerry’s Mango-Lime Sorbet

SELECT CHOCOLATES

No, American has not yet cut wine from First Class:

WINE LIST

CHAMPAGNE
Pommery Cuvee Madame Louise

WHITE WINES
Zaca Mesa Santa Barbara County “Zaca Vineyard” Chardonnay
Vincent Sauvestre Chablis Premier Cru “Beauroy”
Silverado Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

RED WINES
Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon
Chateau Duhart-Milon Rothschild Grand Cru
Baileyana Winery Edna Valley Pinot Noir

SHERRY
Osborne Amontillado Sherry

DESSERT WINES
Graham’s Vintage Port
Royal Tokaji “Blue Label” Tokaji Asszu
------------------------------
I ordered the Yankee Pot Roast and a Diet Coke with lime to accompany my warm nuts and crudities. I had the salmon and a salad with the chicken and all the vegetables. The ginger orange dressing is very bland, though. The pot roast was fine and the ice cream sundae was, as always, wonderful with hot fudge, whipped cream and nuts. For the rest of the flight, I slept and just veged as I began mentally preparing myself for life in the working world.

A light meal was offered just before we landed. As this was not a long flight and I was not hungry, I skipped it. Here is a transcript:

LIGHT MEAL
We are pleased to present the following Hors d’oeuvres, which will be accompanied by fresh Greens topped with Balsamic Vinaigrette.

CRAB SALAD
Crabmeat infused with fresh Tarragon and Champagne Vinegar served on a toasted Pita Point garnished with sliced Radish and fresh Dill

FENNEL SPREAD
Caramelized Fennel enhanced by Kalmata Olive, Marjoram and Garlic, served warm with toasted Croutons

CAMEMBERT CANAPE
Soft-rind Camembert Cheese topped with Blueberry Preserves enhanced by Black Pepper, Red Wine and Shallots, on Whole Wheat Bread

SOUP
A creamy Soup with Shiitake and Cremini Mushrooms and Leeks, garnished with Sourdough Croutons

DESSERT CART
Fresh Fruit
Cookies, freshly baked on board
-----------------------------------
I did have a chocolate chip cookie, however! By the time we began our descent into JFK, it was dark. We touched-down on Runway 31L on time and were at the gate within minutes. Immigration and customs were non issues, although I was expecting some kind of search owing to the large number of countries I had visited on this trip. I met my limo driver in the terminal and was on my home to Westchester for a new life as a junior associate in a corporate law firm.

Part XVI: Aftermath and Final Thoughts

Over the month of August 2002, I logged 42,398 miles in the air and spent twenty-two nights in hotels. I crossed twenty-four time zones and crossed the Equator four times. I experienced the heat of an East Asian summer and the coolness of an Australian winter. I loved every minute of it (expect, perhaps, the wait at immigration in HKG and DPS).
I earned enough AAdvantage miles for two First Class tickets to pretty much anywhere I wanted to go. I redeemed 125,000 miles for a Lan Chile First Class award to EZE in February and 145,000 for a Cathay Pacific First Class award to JNB in October.

Two days after my return, I started work. While law school was difficult, it was nothing compared to the learning curve a new associate in a law firm must face. Throughout the difficult times in the months ahead, the memories of my around the trip have carried me through.

Both the Balinese and Aboriginal paintings are hanging in my apartment.

I shared the bottle of Krug with my family on Christmas Eve.

I qualified for Starwood Platinum status in December 2002.

I hope you enjoyed this report as much as I enjoyed writing it (I’m serious, it was fun). If you have not done a RTW, I highly recommend you take the plunge. Despite its problems, Earth really is a nice place and contains many fascinating things to see.

Oh yeah, I passed both the New York and Connecticut Bar Exams.

Topic: RE: An Around The World Story (AA,CX,LA,QF In F/J)
Username: NoelG
Posted 2003-08-01 12:35:00 and read 6846 times.

Wow - that was an incredible trip report! You are seriously lucky to be able to do that!!

I take it you like HKG judging by the amount of times you flew in and out of there!!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

NoelG

Topic: RE: An Around The World Story (AA,CX,LA,QF In F/J)
Username: Tbear815
Posted 2003-08-06 22:38:07 and read 6552 times.

Incredibly complete trip report! I did much the same thing in 1971, only used the routes of Pan Am. I, too, was between college and career. I think what impressed me the most was being in Egypt, being young enough to actually climb and go into the pyramids, and seeing MANY other tourists confined to walkers, wheelchairs, and canes. This only serves to reinforce your statement about taking the plunge. It's a fabulous planet despite all of the problems - of course, those were created by mankind. Thanks so much for the thrill of taking your trip with you! Now, build up a lot of billable hours so you can keep going and write these great reports!!

Topic: RE: An Around The World Story (AA,CX,LA,QF In F/J)
Username: Vafi88
Posted 2003-08-08 06:58:23 and read 6440 times.

Best Report I have read in a long time (maybe ever) you made it sound sooo good, that I'm hungry....Too bad it's night time here, so I cant :-(

Awesome Report!


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