Here is my promised report on my most recent trip back to Hong Kong. I went to Hong Kong for a few days to attend a school-related conference, and for this trip, I flew Northwest World Business (the brand new) to Taipei on a cheap Z fare ($1200) and then overnight at the Evergreen Transit hotel at Taipei Terminal two, before flying BR to HKG on its brand new A330, and then from HKG to Taipei on CX, and then connecting on SQ to LAX. (I flew UA to SFO and then AA to JFK, but no report… except United did a good job with bags. The bags from LA came off before I reached the carousel and AA’s flight to JFK was excellent with good breakfast and snack – finally both the cheese/fruit plate and cookies). Here is the report!
April 30, 2004
NW 17 JFK-AA), Japan">NRT Lv1415 Arr1700 Boeing 747-400 City of Tokyo N673US “6313” with new WBC but old livery
I arrived at JFK’s superb Terminal four about an hour and forty-five minutes prior to departure time. I went to the NWA’s check in area, which was pretty nice. For those with electronic tickets, you will be made to use to the kiosk (you will have to enter your passport information yourself), but I used the kiosk because there was no line and I could pick my own seat. For the JFK-AA), Japan">NRT segment, many seats were opened up and got 4JK to myself. Then I proceeded to World Club, which was the Golden Circle Club operated by Aer Lingus. Even the staff was EI, and the GCC was better than any EI lounge at Ireland – SNN and DUB, in my opinions. It was spacious with lots of room and a stylish but relaxing interior. There were many sofa and lounge style chairs. The high ceiling and open windows provide lots of natural light to the lounge. For snacks, there were sandwiches, tortilla wraps, and a cheese & fruit platter. Of course, there was an open and self-served bar. There was also a great FLAVIA tea and coffee machine, and I had a nice cup of English breakfast tea. There was also a business center with Ethernet connections and four computers with web connections. I did a few last minute emails and then sat in front of the window, which was in front of Aer Lingus’ A330-300 EI-JFK ironically and Northwest’s Boeing 747-400. Since the lounge was outside of security area, I left the lounge unwillingly forty minutes prior to arrival. Since we were pretty much the only flight around at this time, there was no line for security plus a separate WBC line. Boarding began at 1:20pm and lines were huge, so I waited till the last minute.
For plane spotters, here was a list of planes I saw till takeoff –
Air Jamaica’s A321 6Y-JME, Pakistan’s Boeing 747-200 AP-SAK, Virgin’s new Boeing 747-400 VS-TOP “Virginia Plain,” El Al’s Boeing 747-400 4X-ELD, and Austria’s Airbus A330-200 old livery OE-LAP
Well I boarding among the last few passengers and was pleased to see the cabin outfitted with the brand new World Business seats plus the new AVOD function. The best seats were row 9 AB and JK with the most legroom. The worst seat is 10DEF because the bathroom lights will disturb you through the night. Row 1 to 4 was fine, but were not the best seats. The load was relatively full in all classes, but a few of us got the seat next to us empty, especially in the premium zone. The cabin crews were friendly, and your typical Northwest fare – and the Japanese F/A was the best, as she was the galley slave today and was actually the person, who took the entrée order and did the promotions for World perk. Once seated, I was given the menu, wine list, amenity kit (red triangle bag with the normal stuff – nothing fancy), and slippers. Then a range of Chinese, Japanese, and English newspapers was available in the console in front of us, and I got a copy of New York Times and World Journal (Chinese). Pre-takeoff beverage of orange juice, water, and champagne was offered. Door was closed at 2:06pm and we pushed back a few minutes early. We slowly taxied to Runway 13R and took off at 2:34pm.
I really like Northwest’s new interactive AVOD system, and the new Map function was addictive. It was no longer only the map, but you can follow the plane along, and zoom in and out along the track of the flight, which means that my flight route is a bit more detailed than normal. Flying time was thirteen hours and twenty-eight minutes. We first climbed to 31,000ft, while we passed through Elkland, Dunkirk, Lake Ontario, St Thomas, Croswe, Boyne city, Thunder Bay, and Kakabeka Fall before climbing to 34,000ft, then passing Skagway and Wells, before climbing to 35,000ft. Then we passed Katalla, Point Whiteshed, and Seward in Alaska, before climbing to 36,000ft, and we passed by Port Alsworth and Anogok before crossing the Pacific Ocean, and climbing to 37,000ft and our final cruising attitude of 39,000ft.
The flight started off really strong with a nice dinner service. The beverage trolley was out twenty-two minutes after takeoff, with a hot towel to start off, and then the new cocktail service. There were a bowl of mixed nuts, along with two spicy tandori shrimps and a beef canapé. The F/A came with refills on the mixed nuts. For Western dinner, the meals were served in two courses – salad and entrée, and for Japanese, it was a one tray thing.
Cocktail or beverage of choice served with canapés and mixed nuts
Western Style Dinner
Mixed seasonal fresh greens with garnish of the day
Offered with your choice of creamy Parmesan or Japanese chukka goma dressing
Mesclun greens with a stick of cherry tomatoes, Parma ham, and Mozzarella cheese
Assorted breads and breadsticks
A white soft roll and pretzel bread stick – not really a choice here
Stuffed Chicken Breast with au gratin potatoes and green beans
It was really a half spring chicken with a nice light cream stuffing. Chicken was juicy and tender, which was excellent in my opinions.
Crusted red snapper with basmati rice
Penne Pasta in Basil Parmesan sauce
Japanese Style Dinner
Sakizuke Shrimp and tamago
Takiawase Steamed Vegetables
Kobachi Wakame Salad
Black Cod in Miso sauce, soup
Traditional Japanese Dessert
Dessert a la carte
Chef’s selection of cheeses offered with Port wine
Ice Cream or Dessert of the day
Have all you want – I had a fresh fruit brochette, which had kiwi, strawberry, apple and pear, and a mint chocolate chip ice cream on a chocolate covered waffle cup, and a Godiva chocolate cookie.
Enjoy an assortment of light snacks from our Sky Break Basket – Please help yourself.
Udon Noodles and Pizza
The Sky Break basket had Toberlone Chocolate bars, Grissini – Italian style breadsticks, Fritos, Otsumami, Fisher’s Fruit & Nut mix, bananas, apples, and pears. For udon, it was the Japanese mini cup with dried bean curd and, for pizza it was a cheese individual style. Water bottles were also passed out after dinner, and you can always ask for refills. Food was abundant.
For the new AVOD system, there were choices of movies and games. I played the Trivia for most of the flight, but I think the system can use a few sitcoms. The new seats were fairly comfortable and the sleeping position was alright, and the slope was not too bad. However, due to the entertainment system at the armrest, the seats were narrower and that is my only major complaint, compared to EVA’s new Premium Laurel and Singapore’s Raffles sleeper seats, which had the PTV in front of the seat. However, for a US airline, Northwest definitely has an advantage.
A choice of:
Fresh Fruit and Warmed Breads
Southern Greens and Ham Frittata with apple cranberry chutney
Smoked Salmon with lentil and broccoli salad
Cold Cereal, Fruit Yogurt, Banana
It was the weakest part of the flight, and this snack service was pretty bad. It was the typical one tray service, and for fruit, it was a papaya, pineapple, strawberry, and orange combination), and then there was a croissant and raisin bread, accompanied by your choice of entrée. I don’t recommend the frittata, which was tasteless and dry, with a strange fruit sauce.
Perrier Jouet Brut NV Champagne
Choice of WHITE wines
2001 Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Chardonnay
2001 Benziger Sonoma County Chardonnay
2001 Wente Riva Ranch Reserve Chardonnay
2000 Stag’s Leap Beckstoffer Ranch Napa Valley Chardonnay
2000 King Estate Oregon Pinot Gris
2002 Benziger Fume Blanc North Coast
2001 Bouchard Beaune Du Chateau Blanc Premier Cru
2002 Chateau Ste Michelle Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley
Choice of RED wines
2000 Fetzer Five Rivers Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
2000 Columbia Crest Grand Estate Syrah
2000 St. Clement Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
1999 Gallo of Sonoma Frie Ranch Vineyard Zinfandel dry Creek valley
1998 Chateau Soudars Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois
1999 Lacoste-Borie Pauillac
2001 Chateau Arnauld Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois
Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port
Descent soon began at 3:35am New York time, and we landed at R/W16R at 5:02pm Tokyo time. It was cloudy and windy at Narita today, and soon parked at gate 22. The transit security point was busy but Northwest managed to have a separate WBC line, which was nice. The line was long, but it was orderly. I made a mistake and went to the new additional World Club, which was relatively small and crowded. For snacks, it was only cheese, crackers, and chocolate bars, but there was an open bar.
May 1, 2004
NW 21 AA), Japan">NRT-TPE Lv1905 Arr2155 Boeing 757-200 N546US “5646” with the new livery
Well, this flight was a disgrace, compared to the relatively smooth and excellent transpacific segment. But I was surprised that we had a real gate, not the stair gate as expected, especially gates were at demand at this airport. We boarded at 6:20pm at gate 21, and the flight was fairly full in J and Y. It was basically the same as a domestic Boeing 757 configuration but with the audio and video system activated, and possibly some additional galley and oven equipments. The WBC seats had additional headrest cover, which had WBC printed. 2CD were the best seats. The F/As were mainly Taiwanese, except the purser and the Japanese F/A, which served the WBC cabin mainly, with one Taiwanese F/A helping out during meals. A pre-takeoff beverage was offered shortly after we were seated. Newspapers, including a range of Taiwanese newspapers, were offered. After everyone was seated, toothbrush sets were handed out. Door was closed at 6:52pm and we were soon headed to Runway 34L for takeoff. As usual, there was a line of planes, and following a United Boeing 777 we took off at 7:16pm. Flying time was three hours and nineteen minutes with a cruising attitude of 35,000feet.
For entertainment, a movie was scheduled to show, but due to technical difficulties with the audio soundtrack, it was not shown. For WBC, a DVD player was offered with various short subjects and movies – it came in a leather pack with a Samsung players. Subtitles were available for most movies. I was impressed. Bring your own DVDs, if you are flying these Boeing 757 intra-Asian flights with Northwest – Taipei, Kaoshung, and Pusan.
I feel that meal service was rushed and beverage was served with a bowl of mixed nuts, and then the dinner cart was pushed through. The purser was rushing through the service for no reason, and the Japanese F/A was simply in a bad mood, and could not even smile. There was no intent to refill beverages, other than collecting the cups and glasses. The F/As would rather talk with their colleagues (some non-rev Japanese F/As) in the galley, and the purser could not wait to read the book. The Taiwanese F/As stayed in the aft galley. I was disappointed at best. Well the wine list was the same as the last flight, and the meals were one tray.
Tokyo to Taipei
Smoked Salmon and Grilled chicken with consommé sauce served with assorted breads, salad, and dessert
It was my choice, which was pretty nice with thick slices of salmon but tasteless chicken. The salad was a basic green with cucumbers and tomatoes, with a thousand Island dressing. There was a choice of garlic bread and soft roll.
Full Meal service
Seasonal Greens with Cucumber and Tomato
Baked Salmon in Rosemary sauce with zucchini wrapped potatoes, eggplant and tomatoes
Sweet and Sour Chicken with steamed rice
Well I read for the rest of the flight, despite very tempted to sleep. I tried to conquer jet lag by staying awake till arriving at the hotel. Descent soon began at 10:02pm, and we landed on Runway 06 at 9:35pm Taipei local time, which is an hour behind from Tokyo. We parked at gate B4 a few minutes later. Then I took the Skytrain to Terminal two, which was very nice, compared to the other option, which was to walk to the Terminal two. I went to the transit counters, and there was one queue with the line for overnight accommodation. The staff called the hotel to check with my reservation, and then checked me in the flight next day. If you check bags, you will have to ask the agents to check your bag through the final destination. The hotel itself was located next to the EVA lounge at the departure hall. The hotel room costs USD$80 or NTD $2600 per night and you had to pay during check in. You cannot book online, but can call them directly. The EVA Air website had a link to all the Evergreen hotels. The room was very basic with a bed, a desk, a closet, a bathroom, and a TV – nothing fancy, but was definitely cleaner and tidier than the CKS Transit hotel. I highly recommend it for those who just need a quick overnight at Taipei.
May 2, 2004
BR 865 TPE-HKG Lv0915 Arr1055 Airbus A330-200 B-16303
I first went to the EVA lounge and was sent to the first class section, because the J section was full. Of course, I did not mind it at all. I had a nice breakfast of congee, dim sums and various breakfast foods. I surfed the net a bit before heading to C1. Just a few plane-spotting notes, I was surprised to see a United’s Boeing 747-400 N198UA, instead of a Boeing 777. I guess there was still a demand on the Taipei routes. Another A330 B-16302 was heading to Tokyo Narita, along with EVA’s MD-90 B-17917, B-16410 New BR 744 heading to Macau, B-16401 New livery heading to Ho Chi Minh City, B-MH), Spain">MAH Air Macau’s A320, FAT’s B-27013 with the new SkyCompass Visa all red livery plane, and an interesting Airbus A300B4 N505TA Air Macau cargo at the EVA maintenance area.
The load was really light, which was not a surprise due to an earlier flight departing at 8am, but however, I am sure the return flight will be packed, due to the beginning of a ten days holiday for most Mainlanders beginning May 1. Well for business class, it was less than half full, and I had both 8JK to myself. Row 6, the bulkhead seats, host the best seats. Once seated, I was offered choice of Taiwanese newspapers (still no Hong Kong newspapers), headsets, menus, and a pre-takeoff beverage of orange juice or water. Hot towel was also offered. Door was closed early at 9:09am, and we took off from Runway 06 at 9:28am. Flying time was an hour and nineteen minutes, with a cruising attitude of 40,000feet.
I really don’t have times to check out the sleeping position for these seats, but it was fairly comfortable. There was a brand new “follow the plane” function like Northwest’s WBC, which was nice. The AVOD system was called “Star Gallery.” Only short subjects were available on this flight. Noise-canceling headsets were available and I listened to the Chinese channel for most of the flight. After the pilots released the F/As, they sprung into action. Linen was placed at each seat, and then the appetizer was served with your choice of beverage and breadbasket, and then the entrées were shown to you before you picked your choice. Tea and coffee was then served. In terms of food, EVA Air is officially serving better food than CX, especially in business class. Here is the menu and wine list, with my comments added.
Taipei to Hong Kong
Apples, watermelon, melon, and orange
Breadbasket had garlic bread, twist soft rolls, and rye rolls
Stir Fried Beef Spare Rib with Salt and Pepper with Chinese Yam, Snap Pea, and steamed rice
Delicious and the sauce was a black pepper kind – tasty!
Roasted Fish Fillet with Mustard Tomato sauce with Broccoli, Carrot and Tagliatelle with Butter and Chive
Raspberry Dome with Pistachio sauce
Duval-Leroy Femme de Champagne 1995
German White Wine
Franz Kunstler Hochheimer Kirchenstuck Riesling Spatlese 2002
Chile White Wine
Montes Alpha Chardonnay 2002
French Red Wine
Chateau Aumedes Cuvee Emilien Raissac 2000, Corbieres, France
Australia Red Wine
Stonehaven Limestone coast Shiraz 2000, South Australia
Sandeman Medium Dry Sherry
Dow’s LBV Port 1996
Descent soon began at 10:13am, but we were obviously placed on a vector situation. Due to the May holidays in China, there were many additional Chinese flights this morning. It was a beautiful day in Hong Kong and we were soon landed on Runway 25R at 10:47am. We arrived at gate 60 a few minutes later, and parked next to EVA’s old livery Boeing 747-400 B-16465.
After the conference, I stayed at Regal Kowloon at the Tsim Sha Tsui East. If you are into Night Clubs, that is the hotel to be at, and I was surprised at the number of prostitutes at TST East outside of the hotel, when I got home late at 12:30am. I felt sort of sad, but anyway, the hotel itself was okay – a bit ancient, but the rate was right, and the location was okay. I will rather be closer to the MTR station, but it is fine.
May 6, 2004
CX 470 HKG-TPE Lv1730 Arr1910 Airbus A330-200 B-HLL regional configuration
I took the Airport Express connection bus to the Kowloon station, which was a typical mini-bus, but I am surprised at its lack of proper baggage compartment. But since there were only a few other passengers, it was no problem, and the bus ran every 30 minutes. Check in was very efficient at the Kowloon station and the CX staff was as cheerful as always. She even blocks the aisle seat next to me, so I have both 14A and C to myself. I was at the airport two hours prior and enjoyed myself for a late lunch at the Wing. A few plane-spotting notes – B-HOU heading to LAX, B-HOZ heading to YVR and JFK, B-HXD heading to YVR, Swiss HB-JMD A340, and Turkish’s TC-JDN Airbus A340… I headed to gate 61 about thirty-five minutes prior to departure. The flight was relatively open this afternoon and the CX service was as good as always. I had a glass of CX Delight prior to takeoff. The F/As were mainly Chinese, with a few Japanese F/As. Door was closed at 5:26pm and we pushed back right on time. We headed to Runway 7R shortly, and after an Air China’s Boeing 767-300 B-2559 took off, we took our turn at 5:44pm. Flying time was an hour and fifteen minutes, with a cruising attitude of 33,000feet.
Marinated Prawn with Sundried tomato
Seasonal Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
Warm Barbecued Pork Pie
Sour Cherry Short Cake
Tea and Coffee
Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne
Louis Max Saint Veran 2001
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2001
Louis Max Mercurey Domaine le Marche 1999
Chateau Haut-Vignoble Seguin, Saint-Estephe 2000
Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 1997
Seat belt sign was off at 5:53pm and the refreshment was passed out at the same time – no more full hot meals, but a mixed of Japanese appetizer, green salad (Mesclun with cucumbers and red pepper strips), a pastry, and a warmed pie, which was disappointing, but better than the gross pizza served a few months ago on the same route. I watched an episode of Will and Grace, and descent soon began at 6:27pm. We landed on Runway 06 at 6:59pm. We were parked at gate B4 a few minutes later, next to two CX’s Boeing 747-400s – CX 401 to HKG B-HOT, and CX 451 to HKG B-HUF. I took the familiar train to Terminal two, and checked in with SQ.
SQ 30 TPE-LAX Lv2255 Arr2030 Boeing 777-200ER 9V-SVF
I went to the Silver Kris lounge, which was a significant improvement from the old one at TPE. There was a separate first and business class area. The lounge was spacious with lots of seats and four internet stations. However, there was a self-served food buffet and bar. There were curry dumplings, instant noodle cups, fruit plates, cookies, a “steamed Chinese bun” counter, fried Yeung Show style rice, and other light refreshments – I like CX food slightly better. Well I am not really hungry and surfed the net a bit. I left the lounge an hour prior to departure, as I wanted to shop a bit. For plane spotting, there were a few more flights heading to Europe and US – B-16408 old BR livery to SFO, B-16402 (new) to LAX, and B-16463 (new) heading to BKK (and then onto AMS). My flight arrived on time from Singapore, and there was a passport check before entering the gate area at the lower level. Boarding began at 10:30pm and the cabin was relatively spacious – not much width problem, as J class had a six abreast configuration, instead of the normal seven abreast. The F/As were mostly mandarin speakers and were helpful. Pre-takeoff beverage was immediately offered, followed by newspapers, headsets, menus, and hot towels. The flight was almost 100% full this evening (about 80%), which include raffles class, but most J passengers came from Taipei. Door was closed a minute prior to departure time. Flying time was a quick eleven hours and twenty minutes. We took off from Runway 06 at 11:17pm after the arrival of BR’s Boeing 767. The route was relatively standard – Okinawa, East Coast of Japan, and then over water till reaching Channel Islands, Camarillo, Malibu, Downtown and then turn back to line up with Runway 24. We initially stayed at 10,058m, and then onto 10,668m, and then 11,887m.
Shortly after takeoff, socks and eyeshades were handed out, followed by beverage and nibbles (no more mixed nuts), which was some savory biscuit bits/crackers stuff – better than pretzels, but not as good as cookies. SQ was very generous with alcohol and the F/As never ceased to refill champagne and wine glasses. I had a couple glasses of champagne throughout the flight. We were addressed by our name throughout the flight. An above average SQ flight, but I think SQ should have a snack station or a Sky basket like CX, MH, and NW… also is it really that expensive to hand out bottled waters. Well here is the wine list and menu transcript!
Taipei to Los Angeles
A Savory Note
Teriyaki style tuna with soba salad, ponzu dressing
Fresh appetizer, but I don’t like the ponzu dressing…
The Main Event
Sirloin in natural jus, spinach custard, baby carrot, and potato puree
Scallop Dumpling noodle soup (Egg noodles in rich chicken broth garnished with scallop dumplings and leafy green)
Roasted Duck served with plum sauce, braised beancurd with vegetables and fried rice
I had the roast duck, which was nice, except the plum sauce, which I had to wipe it to the side. The duck was tender and tasty, and the braised bean curd retained its texture, which was good. The entrées were served in the typical casserole dish.
The Cheese board
A Sweet note
Lychee Sorbet served with stewed white fungus, red dates and dried longan
For the cheese board, there was a choice of camembert and some kinds of white cheese with dried fruits, nuts, grapes, and crackers, but I will be happier if a fruit basket can be offered as well. The dessert was surprisingly refreshing and delicious. I highly recommend it… a nice way to wrap up a late night meal! Pralines were handed out after the tea and coffee service. This meal was designed to be served as quick as possible.
I went to sleep shortly after and the seats were very comfortable. The slope was not so bad and I like the silk pillowcase. However the privacy screen did not serve much practical use. The seats looked very cramped, but it was okay. I watched a bit of TV – WISEMEN 3000 was amazing, especially the amount of movies, television programs and audio on demand. I created my play list of Chinese songs, and watched many episodes of my favorite American and British comedies. About two and half hours prior to arrival, lights were turned on. Hot towels and juices were passed out, before the appearance of the appetizer cart.
Before touch-down menu
A Fresh Start
A choice of freshly squeezed orange, apple, and tomato
A selection of fresh fruit
There was two slices of mango, melon, and grapes
A Healthy note
Cereal with low fat or full cream milk
The Main Event
Nuo mi fun
Taiwanese style glutinous rice with pork, mushroom, and dried shrimps
Grilled Minute Steak served with rosemary jus and griddled pancake with banana raisin compote
Parsley omelette served with chicken cherry sausages, mushroom ragout, roasted tomato and hash brown potatoes
I had the Chinese option, which was pretty good, but too filling for me.
From the Bakery
Assorted Bread Rolls
Butter – Fruit Preserve
Croissants and wheat rolls were the choice.
Piper Heidsieck rare cuvee reserve
2000 wente bros. Riva ranch reserve chardonnay
hattenheimer Riesling kabinett 2001 balthasar ress
St Francis Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 Sonoma
Barbera d’asti superiore “la luna e I falo” 2000 terra da vino
After breakfast, there was duty free service and I played the SIA inflight challenge till landing. Descent began at 10:04am TPE local time. We landed on Runway 24R at 7:37pm and parked at gate 102 shortly after, next to a China Airlines’ Boeing 747-400 B-18205.
Well I hope you enjoyed this trip report.