Welcome to Part Three of my 2009 RTW Trip. This is a long read, and i apologize for that, but i hope it's found to be interesting.
This part covers my travel from Stockholm to Jakarta and my travels around Southeast Asia.
As usual, comments are welcome and appreciated enjoy.
The day started at five in the morning, standing outside the Jumbohostel, waking up in the chill morning air of Stockholm as I once again took in the sheer magnitude of the Boeing 747. Once I finished my wakeup cigarette, still feeling a bit bleary eyed from the less than ideal amount of sleep I had gotten, I trudged my way down to the roadway leading to the airport. I didn’t have to wait long before the bus picked me up. I was flying Scandinavian one more time, this time to London Heathrow, the aviation mecca of the world and with a four hour layover, I planned to make the most of the many great spotting opportunities offered by Heathrow.
Once I arrived at Arlanda, check in via the kiosk was easy and more importantly, checking my bag through to Jakarta didn’t seem to be an issue. I kept my fingers crossed that my bag would actually make it. After a little more time dawdling outside, hoping that a second infusion of my drug of choice would help me further wake up, I made my way to the beautiful and momentarily quiet terminal F. Going to London meant going through exit passport control which also meant that once I went in, there was no exit unless I went back through customs.
Coming into the beautiful Pier F, I walked around a bit, admiring the wood floors, but with nothing really going on, I migrated back to my gate to wait for boarding to begin.
Sector Sixteen: Scandinavian 525 Stockholm-London Heathrow 737-883 LN-RRJ
This was my fourteenth 737-800 and first 737-883.
Boarding took us down one level to the Schengen level, where the jetway entrance was and the flight was surprisingly full as I took my seat near the trailing edge of the wing.
A funky little building near the flightline. I’m not sure what purpose it serves, but I’d love to be able to look out my office window and see airplanes taxying by all day long.
With everyone on board, we pushed back and made our way to the runway, passing by the Continental 757 at the B gates.
Our flight time was two hours and forty minutes, which was rather long without entertainment, but, I looked out the window and enjoyed the smooth ride. I did manage to get a couple of good pictures along the way.
Sunrise over Scandinavia. Somewhere between Stockholm and London.
I’m guessing that this is the North Sea we’re over.
Service, typical for Scandinavian, was buy on board, I think I looked at the prices and decided to forego it other than breaking down and buying a coke for 2 Euros.
We arrive into terminal three, the Aerogeek capital of the universe, parking next to a company A321.
Coming off the plane, my first destination was transit security. As I followed the signs for flight connections and descended into the bowels of the building, I did consider going through the arrivals channel and through passport control, but understanding that customs at Heathrow can be nightmarish at times and with only a four hour layover I decided to go the transit route, ending up back in the secured area.
The next challenge was finding the Qatar Airways recheck desk, as I needed to get my boarding passes for Doha and Singapore. I remembered then why some don’t like transiting through Heathrow, it was a confusing maze of shops and check in areas and no clear signage on where to find anything. I think I had to actually stop and ask someone where to find QR. I did eventually find the Qatar Airways desk, a desk they shared with three other airlines, only to discover it unmanned. I’d have to come back. Someone at another airline desk nearby suggested I come back in two hours, so, I decided to go do some spotting.
Air Canada’s Star Alliance 767-300 logo jet. Beyond that you can see the tail of another AC 767-300 in the more traditional “toothpaste” colors, and beyond that an Air India 777.
With the mid 20s gates offering no good photo ops, I walked towards the 30s gates in the newer part of T-3, where the views were much better thanks to the expansive windows and more open layout.
The American 777 Breast Cancer Awareness logo jet at gate 35. I like it when airlines pay attention to causes, like the Breast Cancer Awareness planes at AA and the Habitat for Humanity plane with DL.
G-VHOL, a Virgin A340-300 sits at a hard stand near the T-3 semi satellite that houses gates 13-22.
G-WDGE, a Virgin A340-600 being towed away from the quasi-satellite.
Another view of the Susan G. Komen logo jet. Note another 777 nearby and the tail of the KU A300 just in the background.
Having seen the terminal side of T-3, I walked over to the quasi-Satellite.
A Cathay Pacific 747-400 getting ready to leave for Hong Kong.
The 747-400 was finishing up final boarding but wasn’t going yet, so, I walked back along the connector between the quasi satellite and the main terminal, noticing a huge mass of empty baggage containers stacked up on the tarmac. Interesting that half the connector was closed.
When I reached the terminal gates, I steered right, which put me in the area where the newly built A380 gates are. With no access to the gate areas, as they’re locked off, I looked through the windows from the hallway and tried to catch a glimpse of the SQ A380 at gate 6, I really couldn’t get a view good enough to take a picture. I continued to walk along T-3 East, getting a better look at the A380 as it pushed back. I think my original intent on flying through Heathrow, aside from flying the 736, was to try and get on the A380 to Dubai, but in the end, I waited too long and ticket prices went up so I went with Qatar Airways instead, as their price for the 8,000 mile journey from London-Singapore was less than 500 dollars one way.
With “nothing better to do” I walked back towards the 30s gates, maybe stopping along the way to ask about a smoking lounge, only to be told by a vendor that the entire airport is smoke free, even shop employees have to go outside to smoke. She reckoned it had been that way for three years.
Reading between the lines to discover an Istanbul bound A340-300.
A better view of Mersin, the TK A343 bound for Istanbul.
I wandered a bit around the end of the terminal, which seemed to be a departure from the rest of terminal three with its voluminous glass and plush carpeting. Deciding to try again to check in, I made the long walk back to the terminal entrance and navigated my way through a sea of shops and check in counters, re-finding Qatar Airways, hidden off in some back corner, daring people to try and find them.
I got checked in and got my boarding passes then went into the waiting area and took a seat. With my gate not up yet and my feet wearing out, as I had walked the terminal from end to end at least twice, I sat and relaxed for a while, keeping my eye on the monitor as I waited for my gate assignment to come up.
Finally, an hour before flight time, my gate came up. It was back down to the 30s again, as my gate was 35. I suppose had I walked around a little more, I might have seen my plane come in, but frankly, once I sat down, I felt too lazy to get up and walk around again.
My Ship has come in, A7-AGA, my fifth A340-600 sits at gate 35. Compared to their old paint scheme, the new one, as sported by the A346, really is quite striking. I like the use of billboard titles and the oversized oryx on the tail that seems to be snickering. Even cooler were the Asian games paint schemes that some of the A330s sported in 2006, but by now those were long gone.
The front quarter of A7-AGA.
Our wingtip flight, a QR A330-300 waits for her passengers at 34.
Once I got onboard and realized our flight was not that full, it left me to wonder how full the A330 was and why QR had decided to run two flights within ten minutes of each other.
As boarding time neared, I made my way to my gate and entered the pre-departure holding area. Since there wasn’t much of a view of the aircraft from the holding room, I put the camera away for the time being.
Sector Seventeen: Qatar Airways 6 London Heathrow-Doha A340-600 A7-AGA
This was my fifth A340-600.
Boarding was fairly orderly and I soon found myself walking down the jetway and sliding into my seat one row back from the bulkhead, taking in the Trent 556 power plants hanging from the wing just ahead of me. Being right on the wing made it hard to take good pictures so I gave up on that.
Once everyone was onboard we pushed back and the Trents powered up with their trademark electromechanical hum and we powered into the sky conservatively. From my four previous A340-600 flights on LH, including my most recent one a year ago where we pretty much took off in blizzard conditions, I thought I remembered the A340-600 having much better takeoff performance than this. This time we seemed to glide into the sky, creeping skyward much the way an A340-300 does. Our route of flight took us south east across Europe, Turkey, Iraq then down the gulf to Doha.
As we crossed Iraq, I couldn’t help but think of the young men and women who volunteered their service for their country and who were now serving in Iraq and how far Iraq has come that it can be safely flown over by commercial airliners.
The service, I remember, was good. The flight attendants were very friendly and made everyone feel welcome. The entertainment, provided via AVOD, was also good, and I liked the touch screen capability of the AVOD on the A340-600. The service was standard for a six hour flight, with dinner then a beverage service, then duty free, then another beverage service. The ride, typically for the A340-600, was comfortable and smooth.
Upon landing at Doha we parked on a hard stand right next to what I didn’t realize would be my plane to Singapore, a 777-300ER. What amazed me was that over the months between now and when I had booked my Singapore-Doha sector, my seat assignments never changed even though we had three aircraft changes. When I first booked the trip we were scheduled on an A330-300, later, it was downgraded to an A330-200, and later again, it was upgraded to the 77W. QR gets an “A” for consistency.
Once we arrived in Doha everyone stood, with some passengers facing forward but most facing rearward. The fact that the curtain between coach and business class was kept closed convinced people that we were deplaning via the rear door even though some people tried to persist with waiting for the number two boarding door to become available, as it made no sense that everyone should deplane through the back door.
Once it was clear we were deplaning from 4L, we trudged to the back then down the stairs and onto the bus.
Traversing from the flight line to the terminal, our bus passed along a long line of mostly A319s, A320s, and A321s many still replete in QR’s old colors, all sulking in the darkness, as it was around midnight when we landed, before dropping us off at the huge two story terminal building. Following the signs for transit passengers brought me into the terminal, where I climbed to the second floor. As my luck would have it, there was a large smoking lounge at the back of the terminal, with signs directing passengers to it, so that was my first stop.
While the Doha Airport is an Aerodrome lover’s paradise and perhaps the last true major Aerodrome left in the world, it has no opportunities for spotting, so, I spent most of my layover in the smoking lounge.
Sector Eighteen: Qatar Airways 638 Doha-Singapore 777-3DZER A7-BAO
This was my first 777-300ER and my third 777-300 overall.
By the time I arrived at the gate for my Singapore flight the lines to get into the holding area were already massive. Interestingly, most of the passengers were of Asian descent, so possibly contract workers returning to Jakarta, as they appeared to be a rather rough looking lot. This was going to be a full flight I could tell. Slowly, everyone was processed into the gate holding area then allowed down to the first floor where we boarded our bus to the aircraft. Once again, we trundled along the flight line, past the line of narrow bodies we had passed on the way in, with the addition of the 777LR tucked in nearby, before finally coming to a stop at the rear door of A7-BAO. We spilled off the bus into the darkness and resolutely climbed the stairs, reaching door 5L where we were greeted by the friendly cabin crew who directed us to our seats. Sliding into my seat, it was funny to see the forward curtain separating us from Business class already closed.
With everyone onboard, the GE-90s spooled up, making a very cool electric buzz saw sound that quickly faded to a quiet hum and we got underway.
When we took off, at just after two in the morning, I was pretty much running on fumes having been awake since five the previous morning, so, I tried on and off to get some sleep. When I wasn’t trying to sleep, I was playing with AVOD.
Crossing the Arabian Sea towards India was typically laden with the heavy bumps I remember encountering on my last trans hemispheric jump three years ago, flying Emirates between Singapore and Heathrow via Dubai. The bumps didn’t seem as bad as before but they were still there.
There was of course the standard inflight routine of a beverage service followed by a meal service and then duty free sales.
Halfway through the flight, the sun appeared, thanks to the time changes we encountered along the way, and with the sun, came opportunities to take some good pictures.
The top of the massive GE-90-115B. what’s amazing to think about is that two of these engines deliver more thrust combined than all four engines on the 747-400.
A cloud basically confined to an island. Interesting.
A much thicker, more pronounced layer of clouds
These clouds seem to be attracted to land masses, the sea around them is clear.
Flying between the cloud layers
Another interesting cloud formation.
Arrival into Singapore brought us into the stunning new Terminal Three. After a quick stop to clear out my sweat glands with a little help from the hot and muggy air in Singapore and get some nicotine into my system without even needing to leave security, as there’s an outdoor smoking area complete with trees and plants located in terminal three, I made my way to terminal two, after discovering that the SQ transit desk in terminal three was unable to check me in for my LH flight.
Automated trains transport passengers the short distance to terminal two, which looks to be used at less than full capacity following the departure of most of SQ to terminal three. I found the Lufthansa transit desk and checked in, letting them know that my bag had been checked through to Jakarta from Stockholm. Boarding pass in hand, I had some time to wander around T-2 and take some pictures.
The inside of terminal two still exudes class despite the masses of duty free shops that have sprung up over the years. Walking the concourses still makes me feel as if I’m in the lobby of a luxury hotel, not an airport.
An SQ 777 at one of the D gates. While most SQ flights go from T-3, some still go from T-2. A helpful sign on the automated trains informs passengers which flights operate from which terminal.
D-AIHV, an LH A340-600 has just arrived from Munich, parking at E-5.
A Silkair A320 is towed past the A346.
An ANA/Air Japan 767-300 gets ready to go to Tokyo from E-3. Thirteen years ago, on my first tour of Southeast Asia, mom and I departed from this gate on an SQ 747-400 bound for Kuala Lumpur.
As I waited for my plane to Jakarta to come in, I walked down to the end of concourse E, which, like the other concourses in terminal two, is much quieter now that SQ has moved. D, E, and F used to be SQ’s main concourses when it was still using terminal two exclusively.
While I walked around, I noticed our aircraft was arriving and so made the long walk back to my gate.
Sector Nineteen: Lufthansa 778 Singapore-Jakarta 747-430 D-ABVL
This was my eleventh 747-400 and first 747-430.
Having wandered around as much as possible but mostly staying on the E concourse as the distances at Changi are enormous, it was finally time to enter the gate area and get ready for my flight to Jakarta.
Our aircraft arrived just slightly delayed from Frankfurt.
Two SQ 777s wait for their flights on the other side of the tarmac from us.
Boarding was typically efficient for Lufthansa with first and business class through door one and coach through door two. I slid into my seat, taking in the jerry rigged looking divider in front of door three which separated coach from business class as I looked up the aisle. IMO, out of all the 747-400 operators, LH has the oddest configuration, with First Class upstairs, and the main deck split between Business class forward of door three and coach aft of door three. Oh well, it could be worse. The first 747-400 I ever flew on, from Chicago to Tokyo back in 1996, had a 36-123-142 configuration, with coach between doors four and five.
The beautiful wing of the 747-400 basking in the sunset.
Looking across the wing at the Air Japan/ANA 767-300 going to Tokyo.
As the sun began to set we got in motion, taxying to the runway and beginning our takeoff roll. With a heavy groan, a rattle and an audible shudder, this beautiful old lady became airborne for the short flight to Jakarta. Despite being nearly twenty years old, this 744, the 898th off the line, looked good both inside and out. The seats were comfortable, even if they didn’t have the more and more omni present PTVs.
Ominous looking cloud formations as we wended our way towards Jakarta.
Landing in Jakarta meant getting a visa, done before customs for ten dollars. By the time I got my visa, the lines at customs were light. My passport was processed by a friendly young customs agent whose eyes bugged out upon hearing the details of my trip. We talked for a few minutes about the trip and my interest in aviation, he seemed very excited by it all. He was probably the most genuinely friendly customs officer I had ever encountered. Then it was to baggage claim where to my great relief my bag, having been checked in with SAS in Stockholm two days ago, had made it. A short taxi ride later and I was at my hotel, the Sheraton Bandara resort, perhaps my favorite hotel in the world, with a slight hitch to deal with.
I arrived at the hotel by taxi as I have yet to completely master catching foreign airport hotel shuttles, I go to check in, and the front desk clerk apologetically explains that my room won’t be ready until nine thirty. It was approximately 745pm when I arrived at the hotel. Understanding that this will be an inconvenience, he proceeds to authorize me for a free dinner in the restaurant and he says he’ll let me stay until four p.m. the next day free of charge. I had specifically booked two nights knowing I had an evening departure and didn’t want to have to spend six hours at the Jakarta Airport. I accept the offer and go downstairs for dinner, enjoying their buffet and feeling relief that my overspent budget won’t have to worry about a 175 dollar hotel charge. This would prove to be helpful as money was getting a little tight.
Having already handed my suitcase over to the bellmen, I spend the next two hours enjoying dinner, and then alternating between sitting in the lobby and going outside to smoke, noting the presence of a metal detector in front of the doors.
At nine thirty I was finally able to check in to my room and get some much needed sleep.
With an easy and relaxing day for a change, and no necessity to get up early, as my next flight wasn’t until 720pm, I took some time to check out the hotel grounds, something I didn’t have time to do on my last stay, three years ago.
Looking down into a courtyard.
A structure hidden in the trees looking towards a lake.
Looking down from a second floor walkway, very tranquil.
A swimming pool hidden in the trees.
Sector Twenty: KLM 810 Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur 777-206ER PH-BQP
This was my eighth 777-200 and first 777-206
Four o’clock meant time to head for the airport, so, suitcase I hand I checked out and contented myself to wait for the shuttle bus in the lobby, also giving me a chance to talk with some Qatar Girls on their way back to Doha who were sitting in the lobby, waiting for their shuttle. They were very nice and friendly. I asked which they liked better the 777 or the A340 they giggled and admitted they liked the A340 better. I told them I liked the A340-600 as well but as for my preference between the A340-600 and the 77W, it’s pretty much a tie. I like both.
I asked if they liked working the long flights from Qatar to Washington, New York and Houston. They admitted that at 16 hours, the Houston flight was very long indeed. They said the outbound from Qatar was a lot of work as it was daylight and the passengers are awake. The return is a night flight and so is much easier on the cabin crew as the passengers are mostly asleep and don’t want much service. As for cabin crew route assignments, they told me that they can be assigned to work any flight in the system except the U.S. flights which have dedicated flight attendants due to the visa requirement for the U.S.
Finally, I asked them about their current rotation, I wondered if the same crew worked all the way from Doha to Jakarta. They explained that they work Doha to Singapore, have an overnight in Singapore, then fly Singapore to Jakarta, where they’re taken to the hotel to freshen up, then return to the airport and fly back to Singapore, spend one more night in Singapore then fly back to Doha.
They were very glad to hear that I had enjoyed my experience on their airline and that I’d willingly fly them again, they wished me a happy trip and headed for their bus.
Soon enough, my shuttle bus showed up and I was on my way back to the airport.
Terminal two at Jakarta, I really like the architecture. The use of brick and the colonial style roof makes the airport very unique.
Near one of the terminal entrances.
Looking down the stairs towards the arrivals level.
Hawkers were everywhere as I stood outside the terminal in a marked smoking area. People were constantly coming by wanting to sell me something I didn’t need. I had no trouble shooing the hawkers away with a polite, “no thank you.” One, however, was particularly poignant. A boy, maybe ten years old, came up the stairs wanting to give me a shoe shine. I said no, as I really didn’t need one, not to mention, I thought it would look a bit paternalistic to have this boy giving me a shoe shine before god and the world, but he persisted, standing near me, holding his little shoe shine brush and can of shoe polish and saying “Shoe Shine Mister?” over and over again. I’m guessing those were the only three words of English he knew, as he kept repeating them rather plaintively. In retrospect, I should have just given him a dollar to go away, but I just continued to uncomfortably ignore him until he went away on his own.
Statuary near the airport.
Of all the crazy things, an A&W stand in Jakarta!
Eventually, I head inside the terminal, noting that there had been some changes since the last time I flew from here, three years ago. The ticket checkers were now located inside the terminal, at the entrance to the check in area. Previously, they were located outside, standing in front of the entrance doors. It was still necessary to have one’s bag screened before entering the check in area. The very decrepid monitors that advise passengers of their check in counter numbers had been replaced with new flat screen monitors that are much bigger.
Once inside the checkin area, I located KLM and got my boarding passes and with no ability to go back outside, I decided to go ahead and go through departure control. That was another change, departure cards were actively being accepted. Once I was airside, I was able to do a little bit of spotting before the sun went down, but not much.
The Etihad 777-300ER getting ready to go to Abu Dhabi. I could have been on this flight. I was very tempted when booking this trip to book a Jakarta-Abu Dhabi-Johannesburg routing followed by a Johannesburg-Dubai-Bangkok routing to compare the service on all three major gulf carriers. Common sense suggested I not do this. For a change, I listened.
A typical gate at Jakarta, complete with grass and a park bench. The pagoda, of course is the waiting area and the long tunnel is the walkway from the terminal to the gate.
On a whim I walked over to the D concourse, to try and figure out which gate I had come into last night, as the gate numbers aren’t marked on the arrivals level, but had no luck, so migrated back to my E concourse.
Once airside there really isn’t much to do if one isn’t interested in visiting duty free shops. I did wander into a smoking bar on the D concourse and had a coke and a smoke. From my last trip here, I remembered the E concourse as being pretty wide open, but, in the last three years, a security checkpoint has been set up in the middle of the concourse, blocking off access to the gates. I did locate a smoking bar I had been to on my last trip here, so had a coke and another smoke as I waited for security to open.
An hour before flight time, security opened and I walked through, thinking at first, I’d walk to the end and check out E-4, the gate I had departed for Denpassar from three years ago, but a security officer gestured me into the gate area. No wandering around.
The pagoda shaped gate area was divided into two sections, rows ten to twenty five were directed left, twenty five to forty four were directed right. By this time our equipment was in, but the darkness made photography impossible. With some squinting I confirmed the ship number, I had already looked it up online, thanks to a new feature on the Schiphol Airport website where they post the aircraft type and number under the flight details, but I always like to double check by eyeballing it.
Judging from the number of people in the waiting area, the flight was going to be packed.
As I stood by the window, looking at my ride to Kuala Lumpur, I tried to envision what Pont Du Gard was, deciding, wrongly as it turned out, that it must be some famous bridge in Paris. I’d later discover Pont Du Gard was a roman aquaduct in the south of france.
Boarding was indicated by a set of doors on our side of the waiting area opening up, then people stood and began lining up. As we were in coach, we boarded through 2L.
Upon boarding I was greeted with a sea of blue and white as I took my seat.
The presence of a PTV in front of me caught my interest, but, I’m not sure I watched anything as the flight was just an hour and a half. I think I just watched our progress on the flight mapper. Service consisted of a beverage service.
By the time we took off it was completely dark, so no chance for pictures. Our route of flight took us in a straight line from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur. Once I arrived in KL I caught a shuttle bus to my hotel, the very unimpressive KLIA Concorde Inn, located near the airport. The motel consisted of a series of buildings each called a terminal, they were connected together by a long walkway. Across the parking lot was the main building where check in occurred.
The next twenty four hours were long and basically boring. I spent more time looking over the materials I needed to study to pass my Canadian Travel Agent exam, required for me to take calls from Canada. From time to time I wandered outside into the sweltering heat and humidity, at other times I sat, and watched tv, and listened to rain storms that seemed to appear out of nowhere.
All in all it was nice to just slug around, but, it also got boring after a while. With my departure not until 935pm, I did consider venturing into Kuala Lumpur proper, but knowing what the traffic is like in KL after my previous two trips here, and that the airport is at least an hour from anything, I didn’t take the risk. Specifically, on my first trip to KL back in 1996, mom and I flew into the old airport and caught a taxi to our hotel. During the trip, sitting mired in completely gridlocked traffic, the taxista demanded a ten dollar highway fee. At first, my mother argued with him, until he explained that we were on the highway, and that the local roads, traffic wise, were worse. We paid the ten dollars. It still took an hour or more to get to our hotel.
Sector Twenty One: Lufthansa 783 Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok 747-430 D-ABTB
This was my twelfth 747-400 and my second 747-430.
While technically this was built as a 747-430C, I don’t count it as a combi in my log as it’s been re-configured for full passenger operations.
Once again, I was engulfed in darkness as I left the hotel and headed back to KL Airport, hence no pictures at all. Check in via the Lufthansa ticket counter was easy and I got my boarding pass, seat 35K, once again near the front of the coach cabin. Once having checked in, I boarded the tram and made my way out to the satellite that houses the C concourse, where I wandered around for a while before ending up near my gate taking in the immaculate looking 747-400 that would take me to Bangkok. I’d never have even realized it was the second 747-400 ever delivered to LH and the 749th off the line.
Entrancedly, I watched as it was catered and the cargo was loaded. I migrated back and forth between the gate and the smoking lounge before time got too tight and I gave up on smoking, as the smoking lounge was on the other side of the satellite from my gate.
One hour before flight time we were allowed into the gate room, where we were screened and our tickets and passports checked.
Finally, at nine o’clock in the evening, we began boarding. I slid into my seat and met my seatmate, a very polite, friendly Ukrainian sailor returning home to Odessa having just spent four months onboard a ship. He clung steadfastly to the middle seat he had been assigned even though the aisle was open at least as far as Bangkok, he was going on to Frankfurt, then Kiev before finally going home to Odessa.
Once we got airborne, with a much less strained take off on this particular old lady as compared to the last one, with no creaking, groaning, or shuddering, we were fed dinner, which I ate while commenting to myself that my friends back home would be so proud of me for eating something good for me in the form of a pureed and hardened peach thing that came in a cup, not a usual course of action on my part. It was good however.
At a little over two hours, the flight was short, and following the dinner service, the overhead screens were turned on. What they showed, I’m not sure, I spent my time talking with my seatmate or just trying to look out the window, which was a losing battle, considering the darkness outside.
Being that he was a seaman, I had to ask him if the pirates scared him. He said no, but admitted that he had a run in with the pirates, but, to quote him, they weren’t successful, our ship was big and fast. He explained that his ship had docked in Singapore and he had come to KL by road. Clearly, he was exhausted as he alternated between sleep and wakefulness, crammed into his middle seat but also slightly stretched out to the aisle seat. I felt sorry having to disturb him when we arrived at Bangkok, as he had a very long journey ahead. I wished him a pleasant journey and deplaned.
My first impression of Bangkok’s new airport was enormity beyond a human scale. Coming off of 747-400 number twelve, we headed to customs, at least I headed to the entrance to customs, then I got spooked when I saw something about needing a visa, so, I backtracked to a visa on arrival desk I had passed on the way, where the curt agent looked at my passport and said I didn’t need a visa. So, it was back to customs.
The word of the day at customs was “moo.” There were hundreds of people packed into the vast arrivals hall, lines snaking everywhere and more people coming in. The amazing thing was the time, going on eleven p.m. The lines moved quickly enough, and occasionally the lines would split as new desks would open and people would be directed accordingly.
I began thinking that I really missed Don Muang, its intimacy, its human scale size. Of course, customs at Don Muang would have been equally packed, but, there was just something about that airport I really liked.
Slowly the line moved forward until I got to the desk. No friendliness here. The female agent stamped my passport and sent me on my way. My hotel was the Legacy Suites and I really don’t remember much about it, I’d be back at the airport in about 12 hours anyway, heading back towards Singapore.
Sector Twenty Two: Thai Air Asia 3503 Bangkok-Singapore A320-216 HS-ABE
This was my nineteenth A320.
Welcome to Suvarnabhumi Airport. Everything about this airport is huge.
My first stop was the Thai Air Asia check in desk, where I got my boarding pass and checked my pre-paid bag to Singapore. Today I was flying on a new breed of animal in Asia that even ten years ago would have been unthinkable, a low cost carrier.
The first thing I discovered about Thai Air Asia was that nothing was free. The ticket of course was cheap and included payment of the Bangkok Airport tax, to check a bag cost money, to get a seat assignment also cost money, finally, getting a meal cost money. With the discovery by our U.S. carriers that passengers are cattle waiting to be milked, none of this was foreign to me, except that all of these fees could be paid at the time the ticket was booked. That was actually refreshing. In one fell swoop I was able to pay for everything I wanted, even being able to designate the approximate weight of my bag, which helped me determine how much to pack. Not wanting to pay their enormous over weight fees, I made sure my bag weighed less than forty pounds.
I was also able to look at the menu of what food was being sold on the flight online. The only thing remotely interesting looking was the hot dog, but the moment I discovered it was a chicken hot dog, I declined it.
Once I got through departure control, I went in search of a smoking room, finding one on the F concourse, across from my departure gate, F-1. While the exterior architecture is interesting, even exotic looking, everything about this airport is drawn to a huge scale.
Coming into the concourse from the overcrowded maze of shopping outlets that is the main terminal, things quiet down. The distances, I discover as I walk from departure control to the gate, are enormous. The grey floors blend in with the grey walls and ceiling.
As much as I can really say I hate an airport, I decided I hated this new airport.
To get to the departure gates requires taking an escalator one level down. To get to the gate room requires descending another level via stairs or a ramp. With some time to kill, I hung out in the smoking room, noting the signs posted limiting occupancy to eight people, not that anyone paid attention to those signs. At some point half the crew of the S7 flight to Russia ventured in, talking to one another in Russian as they stood around smoking. They were waiting for their plane, which was delayed.
As others have discovered, spotting at this airport is not easy. I did manage to snag one picture, however.
An Old Lady gets a new lease on life with Orient Thai. A 747-300 sits at the E concourse. When I was putting this trip together, I tried to find a way to fly this airline, as they’re one of the few passenger airlines left that still flies 747 classics, but there seemed to be no way to book their flights online.
With flight time coming soon, I left the smoking lounge and headed to my gate.
HS-ABE has just arrived from who knows where to take me to Singapore.
The exotic architecture of Suvarnibhumi airport.
Boarding began soon after the plane arrived. With imaginations of flying Ryanair’s Asian cousin, with the seats perhaps replaced by concrete blocks on the floor and chains to hold us in place, I followed the throng down the jetway and onboard to be greeted by a comfortable looking cloth interior. The legroom was decent.
Once we were strapped in, we got underway.
The clouds get heavier as we head towards Singapore
Flying into the clouds.
Sandwiched between two layers of clouds.
The “cottage cheese” clouds are coming back again.
Pictures like these are why I love to fly. The scenery outside is constantly changing.
The flight was completely packed. Sitting at the window seat, taking pictures, I had to wonder if the guy next to me was a fellow A.netter as he alternated between taking pictures out the window, leaning around me to do so, and taking pictures of his girlfriend, seated on the aisle one row up and across the aisle. I think towards the end of the flight, having watched him take pictures throughout the flight, I even asked him if he had heard of a site called Airliners.net, it didn’t seem to register, or he was just playing coy. I wasn’t sure which.
The flight attendants came through with their service, which consisted of handing out pre-ordered meals or taking orders for things from the onboard purchase catalog. I would not call them necessarily attractive and they barely smiled.
The plane itself was pretty bare bones from a passenger perspective, with no audio or video system onboard. The configuration is all coach, of course, with an interesting clear wall between the passenger seats and the forward boarding door. Overall, Thai Air Asia was what they said they were, inexpensive, dependable, no frills transportation. I got what I ultimately paid for, a seat with a view, a space down below for my bag and a scenic two hour flight down the Indo China peninsula back to Singapore. What more could I ask for?
Arrival back into Singapore meant going through customs, an easy, painless process, then catching a hotel shuttle to my hotel, the 81 Tristar Hotel in a residential area of Singapore.
The hotel was middle of the road. Nothing exceptional. The hotel did not take U.S. Dollars and with no easy place to exchange money, the cost went onto my already overtaxed credit card. The fact that the hotel did not allow smoking meant I was alternating between watching television in the room and standing outside, smoking. A convenience store next door proved helpful for buying various and sundry things, like something for dinner, drinks, and other things. Overall, it was a pleasant experence.
Sector Twenty Three: JetStar Asia 561 Singapore-Manila A320 9V-JSA
This was my twentieth A320
Once again I was going low cost. Once again I was on a flight that left way too early in the morning, six thirty to be exact. To catch that six thirty a.m. flight meant I had to awaken at around three. Since I had prepaid the hotel the night before, I dropped my key at the front desk and caught a four a.m. shuttle to the airport. By the time I got to the airport, check in was already open, so I got my boarding pass, dropped my bag then went through passport control and made my way to Harry’s Bar, on the roof of Terminal One, where I woke up in my usual way, nicotine.
Spotting of course, would be impossible given that it was before sunrise so I just wandered around, taking in one of the few remaining original, almost unadulterated airport terminals in Asia.
Feeling a bit nostalgic, I walked to the end of the C concourse to C-25, where my Emirates flight to Colombo and Dubai had gone from three years earlier. There really wasn’t much to see so migrated back to my gate, then a little further, stopping to look at C-15 where I had arrived from Melbourne back in 2006 on a QF 747-400.
As for my original RTW trip, I do regret not taking the opportunity to fly on the A340-500 and A340-200 when I had the chance back then, but, after arriving into Perth from Indonesia and being grilled like a hot dog by Australian customs, though the experience was not unpleasant as the customs agent I encountered was actually very friendly, doing his job as quickly as he could as I had mentioned I was flying out later in the afternoon to Melbourne, I got concerned about how much trouble I’d have later in that trip, as I planned to fly from Melbourne to Auckland to Sydney. So, during a baggage delay, as our 747-300 from Perth to Sydney had arrived thirty minutes late, giving me fifteen minutes to make my onward connection to Melbourne, the end result being that I made it but my bag didn’t, I had my Sydney to Singapore flight changed to fly Melbourne to Singapore instead when the Qantas agent told me, “if you do it now, I’ll do it for free.”
Back to the present. Time was once again getting short, so I migrated back to C-22.
We boarded our silver and orange A320 and I slid into my seat and buckled in. As with Thai Air Asia, there was no entertainment, but, thankfully, mother nature was more than ready to step in as a replacement, providing lots of clouds to take pictures of.
Climbing away from Singapore in the early morning between layers of clouds
Flying into the clouds
It’s amazing the way the clouds sometimes seem to form their own landscapes.
The sun blasting through the cloud layer
Multi layer clouds enroute to Manila
It was as if I were looking into the mouth of God.
Getting closer to the Philippines, the clouds are disappearing
Or maybe not.
My impending arrival into the Philippines was greeted by an H1N1 form that I carefully completed. Once we arrived, we handed off the forms off to a very stern looking female doctor standing by as we came off the plane.
Customs was easy, as usual, and I passed into the baggage claim area, where I picked up my baggage then made my way to the exit.
My hotel this time was a rather ordinary apartment hotel near the airport, but somehow, even though I could see the airport from my floor, it still took forever as the traffic was crazy. Of course, with the traffic moving at a snail’s pace, people were walking amongst the cars pandering for money or trying to sell things, it was a bit unnerving. I just ignored them as best I could.
My room, when I got to it, was on the tenth floor, making for some interesting pictures of the surrounding area from different vantage points along the hallway.
Filipino traffic. Taken the night I arrived.
Why are people so against low yields?! If lower yields means more people can travel abroad, i'm all for it