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Baby Flies Business Pt 2: CX 744 PVG–HKG–KIX In Y  
User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2009 posts, RR: 4
Posted (4 years 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 9869 times:

Part 1 featured the Qantas flight from Sydney to Shanghai in Business class. Now we continue on the journey with my 18 month old toddler and wife to Hong Kong, then onwards to Kansai International Airport on Cathay Pacific. This report actually features three flights, but only two with an airline…

I can’t say that I was disappointed to be leaving Shanghai. There was still plenty to do – another day at the Expo would have been great – but I was looking forward to a place where the water was drinkable and the toilet didn’t stink.



It's very difficult to travel light with a child in tow. Nappies, clothes, books, toys and other amusements have to be carried along. So it was that we were dragging two big roller bags, a heavy daypack and, of course, Alex in his backpack, along the streets of Shanghai. It was probably quite a sight for the locals.


After dragging the luggage down the stairs, we caught the metro from East Nanjing Road to Longyang Road. We could have continued on to Pudong Airport, but instead I wanted to give Alex a new transport experience: maglev!

We had caught the maglev on our last visit back in 2007. The tickets are expensive (for China – not in comparison to Sydney’s airport train), the city end of the terminal is nowhere in particular and the journey time is only around 10 minutes. Magnetic levitation trains are expensive to build. However, I was reading a recent Scientific American article which said that they can handle steeper gradients (not an issue in Shanghai) and require less maintenance than conventional high speed lines. The Japanese Shinkansen requires an army of thousands of workers to go over the tracks each night. You begin to wonder if countries like Australia, Britain and the US are prepared to engage in that kind of infrastructure maintenance.


Maglev station

It seems like every station in China, down to the subways of Shanghai, has an x-ray machine. Once we were through the security we joined the crowd on the platform as the Maglev train glided in. Despite the tour group crowds we got a three seater row to ourselves. Then we glided off with barely an indication of the acceleration (unlike the Shanghai metro, which jerks you off your feet each time it starts up).



It took about 4 minutes for us to reach the maximum speed of 431 km/h. That may sound like slow acceleration compared with a sports car or an aircraft, but there was only a small sense of acceleration in the Maglev. The ride wasn’t entirely smooth, with a feeling of some oscillations, though they were minor in comparison to an ordinary tracked train.



Unfortunately, we were soon slowing down again as we arrived into Shanghai’s Pudong airport. At least there was enough time for Alex to stand up at the window and say “Wow!” so that we knew that the journey was worth it. It was certainly far faster than catching a taxi.



Pudong airport appeared entirely different today, despite departing from the same Terminal 2 that we had arrived at a few days ago, very shiny and clean. The check in area was bright and spacious. We checked in without any problems, then bought some last minute expo souvenirs from one of the shops.



Security and immigration were both simple, with allowance given for Alex in the backpack. As with entry to Shanghai, we were processed by a smiling female police officer. We gave her an extremely satisfied on the little performance rating device on her desk.

Terminal 2 is very long, very straight, with views out across one of the airport's runways and out to the flat ocean. The runway was very busy, primarily with smaller domestic jets, but also quite a few international aircraft.



Before I could do much spotting, B’s and Alex’s hunger had to be sated. Up the escalators was the restaurant level. There were Italian, Korean/Asian and dumpling eateries along with a couple of others. B had dumplings, Alex a broccoli and chicken pizza; he loves broccoli. It was a slow process of picking off the toppings and feeding him. I was only thirsty, so in-between feeds I listened in to the United pilots chatting at an adjacent table.



Once the food was eaten I had a bit of a chance for some spotting. I was particularly taken by the attractive orange and blue livery of an Aeroflot A330. By the time I managed to extract B from the (expensive) shops our flight was already being called.


An AA meeting?

31/MAY/2010
CARRIER: Cathay Pacific
FLIGHT: CX367
SECTOR: PVG - HKG
CLASS: Y
ROW: 30
ETD: 12:25 (local)
ETA: 15:05 (local)
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 747-400

I was under the mistaken impression that we would be flying a 773 today. I’ve only flown a couple of Asiana 772’s before, when I didn’t really care much for civil aviation, and was curious about the 777 experience. However, I wasn’t too disappointed, because the aircraft at the gate was a 744, probably my favourite to fly in.

Somehow, the Cathay 744 doesn’t elicit the same anticipation as boarding a Qantas 744, but maybe it’s the knowledge of only a short haul trip. Having arrived at the gate too late for any preferential boarding we joined the very long queue through the gate.



I had not realised at the time of booking, but we had been assigned bulkhead seats. I was initially disappointed at this, because I couldn’t put my bag under the seat in front of me, until I realised that there was now extra legroom and space for Alex to stand on the floor, and no seats for him to kick. His presence (or the threat of his presence) must have annoyed the aisle seat passenger, as he took his iPad and moved to an empty seat.



The Cathay attendants were very helpful and unexpectedly brought us the kids Lilo & Stitch pack of stickers and colouring in materials. Unfortunately, it was not age appropriate, with sudoko puzzles and other old kids items. In fact, it says on the pack “Not for children under 3 yrs”. He did enjoy using the crayons for a short period of time.

The Mustela nappy (diaper) pack was more welcome, though I’m not certain of the age/weight suitability of the contained items. Inside were two nappies, barrier cream and some moisturising cream, but it lacked the essential moist bottom wipes.



Shortly before the door closed Alex needed a nappy change. The flight attendants actually let me do it while we were taxiing, saying that I could read the safety briefing later.



I certainly had plenty of time before take-off, time enough for Alex to fall asleep on my lap. I was nodding off myself with our slow pace. It took forever to reach the further of the two runways as the runway outside of terminal 2 was being used only for landings. The Australian accented pilot blamed our late take-off on airport congestion.



Once we were finally in position, the 747 took off with confidence and plenty of power, up over the paddy fields and canals, over housing developments that looked like they belong in a different country entirely. Then we turned out towards the ocean, past round Dishui lake and over a muddy brown sea dotted with inhabited islands.


Still rising!



The flight was a little bumpy, maybe due to the topography and the weather. We hugged the Chinese coastline and below us were some fantastic views of China from above. Cities and mountains, rivers and dams, estuaries and islands. And when we flew above the clouds it really looked like we were flying intercontinental. I love the 747!



Lunch was served, chicken and rice for B, fish and spinach fettucine for me. We had to eat separately as there was not enough room for a tray table and Alex on the lap. The food was rather ordinary and flavourless, especially in comparison to what I've had recently on Qantas (and no, I'm not just talking business class!).



Alex was given jars of baby food, which really were too young for him as he now eats pretty much as we do, only more finely chopped. He insisted on feeding me spoonfuls of cold pureed chicken and corn mix. It was dreadful! Yes Alex, now I know how you have suffered!

We were seated in a renovated Cathay cabin. Their hardshell seats were comfortable in the upright position, but awful reclined. At least the widescreen StudioCX inflight entertainment system was fantastic, with a lovely high resolution screen and at least three decent soundtrack CD's to listen to. I setup a playlist of Thomas Newman's Revolution Road (*yawn*), James Horner's Avatar (good flying music, had intended to listen on my MP3 player), and Nicholas Hooper's Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (good music I already own). Pity that the random function wasn't very random and they used the old moving flight map that has been seen for a decade on inflight entertainment screens big and small.


Probably a valley of smog over Xiamen(?)



When he was awake, Alex was very difficult on this flight. He cried and complained, struggled to get free, everything we feared with flying with a toddler. It was a relief when we descended through the thick grey clouds into a wet and miserable looking Hong Kong airport.



There was another long taxi around the airport, though it gave plenty of spotting opportunities, including a chance to see a JAL 744 take-off, something that likely will not be possible soon.



Once inside the terminal we were ushered through a priority lane for immigration, though the official with the silly haircut was rather unsmilingly in comparison with his mainland counterparts. Then we were into the arrivals area and ready to catch the minibus to our hotel, the Novotel CityGate.



We stayed three nights in Hong Kong, all at the CityGate. I would recommend the hotel as a relaxing transit stop, adjacent to the CityGate outlets mall. It’s not really convenient for downtown Hong Kong and Kowloon and don’t think you can see airport operations from it either: stay on the poolside rather than airport side if you can as the views are nicer.

MTR ride into Hong Kong from Tung Chung



Hong Kong was basically shopping/resting/eating for us. We found it cheaper than Shanghai, although the food failed again to impress. I suspect that we get access to better Cantonese cuisine in Sydney. At least there was open access to the internet and decent tap water.


Applying insanity to normality
9 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2009 posts, RR: 4
Reply 1, posted (4 years 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 9847 times:

Hong Kong Airport is only a ten minute free minibus ride from the hotel. I dragged us there early so that I would finally have a chance to look around the airport. We were directed to the infant, elderly and disabled passenger queue at check-in.



Despite one of our bags being 8 kg over the weight limit we were not charged extra. Then again, maybe they included Alex’s 10 kg allowance into it.



I thought the shopping and eateries landside were pretty boring, so we went relatively quickly to go through security and immigration. There was a lot of security to pass through and, as usual, I had to empty my daypack of electronics.

We wandered around the food outlets and luxury shops for a while before heading out towards the gate. Along the way we found a big children’s play area for Alex to run around while I took photos.


For passengers who can’t wait to eat onboard



03/JUNE/2010
CARRIER: Cathay Pacific
FLIGHT: CX506
SECTOR: HGK - KIX
CLASS: Y
ROW: 32
ETD: 10:05 (local)
ETA: 14:45 (local)
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 747-400



This time our names were called out for special boarding and we were the first into the Cathay Pacific 744. We were seat two rows further back today. The good bit about this was that the screen controls and earphone sockets were better located, with the former on the seat back rather than the arm rest, making it easier to access when Alex was on my lap.



Again we were given a nappy bag and amusement pack, this time “Mickey’s Toon Town”. This pack had one of those erasable doodlers in it, but was again inappropriate for toddlers.



Alex fell asleep on my lap before take-off and lasted that way for over an hour. We had some wonderful views of Hong Kong’s islands as we took off into the sky, though these disappeared into high cloud. With Alex asleep I was free to listen to Avatar on the entertainment system. It felt so perfect to relax to the music while the cloudscapes outside entertained my eyes.


Birdstrike!



As we flew over a cloud hidden Taiwan we were served our staggered lunches. B had chicken, me a Japanese style beef curry. Cathay's food leaves much to be desired, even their fruit salad was pretty ordinary. Can't go wrong with the Tim Tam on the side (or so Alex thinks). I found it funny to be given Australian Tim Tams on Cathay and foreign chocolates on Qantas. Alex was given bottles of baby food again. He only ate the desserts.



He was pretty well behaved on this flight until close to Japan, playing around with the seats and us, listening to some stories.



The clouds began to open up again over the islands of Japan. There were some great views of Kyushu and Shikoku from up high, of cities, paddy fields, mountains and rivers. Even from that high altitude you could see the differences in the landscapes from China. Most especially the lack of a dense smog layer over the cities.



The final descent into KIX was quite exciting as this was the first time that I had ever seen the airport in daylight. We turned over the water, ships plying the ocean below. Kansai International Airport is on an artificial island, a very expensive and controversial construction that has struggled to maintain sufficient patronage, or so I hear.


The long bridge to the mainland is visible in the background



We caught the shuttle train in to the main terminal building. Immigration took a little while, with the machines having a lot of trouble taking B's fingerprints. The Japanese only speaking official was rather amusing in his frustration.



Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time to dawdle in the airport as we had a further train ride of two hours to Okayama to come.


Once we exited the airport we exchanged our vouchers for rail passes, then waited to catch the Haruka Express to Shin-Osaka and from there a Hikari Shinkansen to Okayama. B was hungry, so we bought a bento box from the platform kiosk.



Partway to Okayama I realised that I had left my daypack with my notebook computer and other electronics on the Haruka Express. I was just glad that this was Japan and that they clean the trains at each terminus. I got it back the next day from Kyoto station’s lost and found office.

After eight visits to Japan you would think that we would be running out of things to see, but the fact was there was too much I wanted to do and it was difficult to make a decision. Complicating any sightseeing places was uncertainty over how Alex would cope.

We began with small steps, revisiting the Koraku-en gardens in Okayama and wandering around Miyajima. With B’s agreement we decided to bite the bullet and do what I really wanted, which was to catch local trains up from the Sanyo coast to the Sanin (China side) coast. We had done Yamaguchi to Matsue via Tsuwano last trip on express, but the route I was planning would take a full day on the slow local trains.


Koraku-en


Famous floating torii at Miyajima

After catching an early morning Shinkansen from Okayama to Hiroshima we boarded small railmotors up on the local mountain lines to Miyoshi and the unmanned junction of Bingo-Ochiai. From there it was an open sided tourist train, the Okuizumo-Orochi along the switchbacks to Kisuki, another railmotor to Shinji and a semi-express to Izumoshi. Far from being a boring day on the rails, all of us loved it! Alex ran around the carriages making friends and watching the world go past. The scenery was gorgeous. I strongly recommend getting off the Shinkansen and taking other scenic trains in order to see a different perspective on Japan.


Izumo Taisha shrine

In order to save time we caught the Yakumo Express back from Izumoshi to Kyoto. It’s still a very pretty journey, but I want to do the full Sanin line from Shimonoseki to Kyoto one day.


A maiko’s introduction


Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto

After sightseeing in Kyoto it was off to Tokyo for shopping. From Narita airport we would catch the Jetstar flight back to Australia, which will be in the final part of this trip report.


Shinjuku


Ueno


Akihabara

To read more about our Japan adventures please see my travel blog entries.

The full set of photos are in my photo gallery.

I enjoyed both flights with Cathay Pacific, but to be brutally honest, I found them to be inferior to Qantas. Now before any complaints of mixing class reviews, I’m comparing them with my six international economy flights with Qantas last year on 747’s and A380’s. Music and screen wise I preferred Cathay’s IFE to Qantas’, but the latter had better moving map and visual entertainment selections. The Qantas A380 seat is definitely more comfortable - not certain which I prefer with the standard Qantas economy seat and Cathay’s shell. In almost all flights with both carriers Qantas’ catering has beaten Cathay’s hands down, especially flavour and texture wise.

Cathay’s flight attendants were always quick to answer a call and to be helpful on request. However, I found the Qantas’ flight attendants much warmer and more likely to anticipate and understand needs, especially with a baby, even if service was a bit slower.

In the final installment we’ll see how both airlines compare with Jetstar in StarClass.



Applying insanity to normality
User currently offlineKL642 From United States of America, joined May 2004, 350 posts, RR: 3
Reply 2, posted (4 years 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 9755 times:

I thoroughly enjoyed your report and the great photos. Alex is a seasoned traveler and seems so well behaved. Looking foward to part 3!
Alex (Yup, I'm an Alex too!)


User currently offline9MMAR From Malaysia, joined Jul 2006, 2109 posts, RR: 18
Reply 3, posted (4 years 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 9046 times:

Dear Allrite, please continue making babies so that this Baby Flies trip report series will continue for a very long time. I am a fan! *wink*

User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2009 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (4 years 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 8664 times:

Quoting KL642 (Reply 2):
I thoroughly enjoyed your report and the great photos. Alex is a seasoned traveler and seems so well behaved.

Thank you! I take Alex to childcare four days a week and it involves 4 train rides there and back, totaling about 3 hours (my commute takes another 2 hours total per day), so he's used to long distance travel on public transport. Last night my wife drove us back home from childcare/work and part way through the drive Alex started crying "No! No! Woo-woo!" which translates as "I want to ride on a train no the car!".

Quoting 9MMAR (Reply 3):
Dear Allrite, please continue making babies so that this Baby Flies trip report series will continue for a very long time. I am a fan! *wink*

I'm not writing those trip reports. 



Applying insanity to normality
User currently offlineJL418 From Italy, joined Jun 2009, 493 posts, RR: 6
Reply 5, posted (4 years 4 days ago) and read 8180 times:

Hi Allrite!

your "Baby flies..." series are fabolous readings, thanks a lot for sharing them with us. This time is even more special because I've been in Japan last October, flew from KIX, been in Tokyo and Kyoto, and then I got a deep feeling about this part of your report. You've been luckier than me, anyway, since you spotted a maiko! I've seen a geisha with a maiko in Gyon one evening, but I didn't have my camera with me, bummer.

Congratulations to Alex, he looks like a young, well-behaved, pretty and accostumed traveller!


User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2009 posts, RR: 4
Reply 6, posted (4 years 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 7991 times:

Quoting JL418 (Reply 5):
your "Baby flies..." series are fabolous readings, thanks a lot for sharing them with us.

Thank you, it's my pleasure.

Quoting JL418 (Reply 5):
You've been luckier than me, anyway, since you spotted a maiko! I've seen a geisha with a maiko in Gyon one evening, but I didn't have my camera with me, bummer.

We've spotted maiko both times we walked down the Ponto-cho by the river in Kyoto in the evening. Initially I thought the maiko in the photo was just a tourist dressed up to look like one, especially as she was accompanied by a young man. Then I saw the pack of Japanese photographers pursuing her as she entered the shops and, I guess, greeted the owners. I recall watching a documentary on geisha where the subject was "introduced" to the local community and I assume that this was what was happening here.



Applying insanity to normality
User currently offlineJL418 From Italy, joined Jun 2009, 493 posts, RR: 6
Reply 7, posted (4 years 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 7939 times:

Quoting allrite (Reply 6):

Thank you, it's my pleasure.

You're welcome, can't wait for the next dispatch!

Quoting allrite (Reply 6):

We've spotted maiko both times we walked down the Ponto-cho by the river in Kyoto in the evening. Initially I thought the maiko in the photo was just a tourist dressed up to look like one, especially as she was accompanied by a young man. Then I saw the pack of Japanese photographers pursuing her as she entered the shops and, I guess, greeted the owners. I recall watching a documentary on geisha where the subject was "introduced" to the local community and I assume that this was what was happening here.

God, how lucky you were! We spent a week or so passing almost daily in the area around the river, Gion and Ponto-cho above all, always hoping to catch one. And when it happened... none of us had a camera, as I said before. I don't know if tourists can dress up like a geisha, I asked once to a Japanese girl we met in Tokyo - I asked what if people dressed up like geishas without being so - and her reaction made me think it was a sort of social no-no, if you know what I mean.

Thanks a lot for the pictures, they gave me a lot of ideas for a future trip, whenever it'll happen.


User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2009 posts, RR: 4
Reply 8, posted (4 years 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 7877 times:

Quoting JL418 (Reply 7):
Thanks a lot for the pictures, they gave me a lot of ideas for a future trip, whenever it'll happen.

Always happy to help! My travel blog and Allrite in Asia blog have plenty of details about previous trips to Japan - one day I'll write up the first two trips. For thousands of Japan photos see my photo gallery and be sure to click view more albums down the bottom.



Applying insanity to normality
User currently offlinebps3458 From Australia, joined Oct 2006, 561 posts, RR: 1
Reply 9, posted (4 years 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 7536 times:

Hi Allrite,

love your "Baby flies" series as it keeps reminding me of our travel with our little kids. Our son did his first long haul SYD-LAX when he was just 6 weeks old and has now (turning 4 in October) been around the world three times. We have drastically reduced our family travelling since little twin girls joined our family in November 2008. We were very brave and took all of them to Germany in May 2009 so all relatives could have a look at our three kids but the flights were horror and the transit in NRT was even worse.

We are all going to Fiji in August but that's only 3 hours from BNE and I have just convinced my wife that my son and I should visit my sister and her family in Houston, TX so just yesterday booked us 2 "men" on QF 15 and 16 BNE-LAX-BNE in October returning early November.

Not yet sure if I am brave or simply dumb as our son is full of energy. Perhaps I'll finally manage a trip report and can post pictures of myself running after Mats as he races down the aisle. Anyone on QF 15 going to LAX 20.10. think of me when you see a men dashing after a very quick blond devil.

Enjoy travelling with Alex while you can and before he gets too quick. Looking forward to your return journey trip report.

Cheers from Brisbane,

Peter


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