After more than 10 months of travelling trough mighty Australia, on august the 5th, it was time to leave and head back to my everyday life in the Netherlands. Fortunately; not everything was over yet. I still had some time to kill before my final flight to AMS. To be more specific, 3 weeks in Thailand and 2 days in Hong Kong. So that means a few flights, including 2 long-hauls. I was really looking forward to this last segment of my trip. Here the trip report, going back to august the 5th, august the 26th and august the 29th. My first international Qantas experience, as well as my third and fourth Cathay Pacific experience. Hope you will enjoy it!
August 5th, 2004, SYD-BKK
To SYD Airport:
After a long day of souvenir-search and enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Sydney for the last time. This was the sad day that I had to leave Australia. Too bad, but I will be back!
I checked out of my hostel in the coastal suburb of Clovelly at 12PM and took bus 339 from Clovelly to Central immediately, arriving at Central half an hour later. The train to the Airport (actually a trough train to Macarthur, near Campbelltown) was waiting when I arrived at the platform, so I borded as quick as I could. The quick train ride took just about 15 minutes, and there I was: at Sydney Airport, not for sightseeing this time unfortunately. It was time to leave Australia.....(for now).
@ SYD Airport, Check-in, security and time prior to departure:
airline: Qantas Airways Ltd.
flight number: QF1
from: Sydney (SYD/YSSY), Australia
to: Bangkok (BKK/VTBD), Thailand
aircraft: Boeing 747-438
boarding time: 16:20
departure time (scheduled): 16:50
departure time (actual): 17:00
arrival time (scheduled): 23:00
arrival time (actual): 22:50
remarks: onward flight bound for LHR
Photo © Helmut Bierbaum
Check-in for my flight was still closed, so I had to wait for about half an hour. Fortunately, the Qantas employee could allocate a seat for me. Not long before the check-in was opened, a lot of passengers already joined up. So I joined up in the big queue. I remembered the day my mom and sister had left Australia (they visited me in june), we arrived exactly 2 hours before departure of their QF flight to FRA. They had to wait for about an hour before they could do the check-in. I didn’t wanted to experience that. So lining up was the best choice if I wanted to have some spare time to kill at the airport before departure. After 15 minutes I could finally do the check-in. Check-in was very fast. Backpack was labelled, boarding pass with seat 51K was given. Time for me to enjoy my very last hours in Australia. First: a quick subbie at Subway. I enjoyed this subbie together with a good view of 2 partners in crime, both prepared for departure to LHR.
After the subbie, it was time to leave Australia the formal way, with the “departured” stamp in my passport and the security check. I had 2 hours left before departure. I smoked some last cigarettes, bought an adaptor for my Aussie mobile and took my very last photo of this Australia trip; the VH-OJT with a nice background
Other aircraft seen during this short stay @ SYD: A couple of QF 744’s, a TG 744 (departed at the same time as QF1), a Lauda 772, 2 BA 744’s, a NZ 767 and a unknown 737 (white with a black or brown tail, I couldn’t trace the registration. The aircraft was right in front of me when I was in the smoking lounge)
Boarding was on time, at around 16:20. Boarding happened very quickly. According to that bloke at the gate, our flight was totally full. Yeah, ofcourse. When I boarded the VH-OJT and the aircraft was finally ready for departure, I noticed shitloads of spare seats, including the one between me and my fellow passenger on the aisle seat. Probably reserved for ex-BKK passengers. Ofcourse there was the usual welcome and the usual safety instructions. At 17:00 QF1 was finally off-blocks!
Photo © Norbert Genci
Taxiing took about 15 minutes, final take-off was a take-off as most take-offs are: smooth as silk. We made a quick and sharp curve above Botany Bay, a good opportunity to have a very last good look over the city were it all started for me, and were I ended this Australia trip as well. It was great, and I definitely will be coming back in the near future. For now, it was time for Bangkok!
We climbed up to a cruise altitude of 36.000 ft with a ground speed of +/- 950 KM/h. Flying in a straight line to BKK.
The skies became dark very quicky, so I could forget about those great outback views. So I satisfied myself with the Q entertainment system. On the TV side of things: not as many channels compared to the number of channels I had with CX (12 channels), but a good bunch of different programmes. During this flight I watched Shrek 2, the Ladykillers, Jersey Girl, the Aussie talkshow “Enough Rope” (interview with John Travolta, I wonder why ) and a Aussie comedy called “Soar” about an actor on a flight to Melbourne, who becomes very irritated by his fellow passenger called Jack (funny stuff!). On the radio side of things: I mainly listened to Soul Food and Rock on Q.
Seat pitch was pretty standard, nothing to rave about. The only small portion of turbulence I had during this flight was above Brunei. From the air, the capital (Bandar Seri Begawan) looked like it was totally paved with gold. Pretty amazing for a night view. Total flight routing was Sydney-Katherine-Darwin-Borneo (including Brunei)-Ho Chi Minh City-Bangkok.
2 meals were served during the segment of this flight. About an hour after take-off, dinner was served. My choice: Lemongrass chicken with Jasmine rice. Other contents of this dinner service included green leaf salad with herb vinaigrette, cheese and crackers and a Magnum ice cream for dessert. Tasty meal, I enjoyed it!
Between dinner and refreshment: a lot of drinks (including some good ol’ VB) and the usual peanuts.
Refreshment was served about 1½ before landing. My refreshment for this flight: Toasted vegetable and cheese with Turkish bread and seasonal melon in fruit syrup. Like dinner: a tasty meal as well. The only thing I wasn’t satisfied with: their tea (I can’t blame Qantas for that, I’m never satisfied with airline tea)
Approach and Landing @ BKK:
Not far before landing, I filled out a Qantas opinion poll and filled out the small immigration form for Thailand. Before I knew it, it was time for landing. We descended not far after flying over the Cambodian-Thai border. The weather in Thailand was pretty rainy, so I couldn’t get a first good glimpse of Thailand. Just like take-off, landing was very smooth, in heave rainfall. BKK was drowning! We reached our arrival gate after 15 minutes. Between landing and final arrival @ the gate, a lot of TG aircraft, some Bangkok Airways aircraft, a KLM 744, LX 343, TK 343, 2 LH 744’s and a Emirates 777 passed me by. So there we were: Bangkok! Quite a culture schock for me, given the amount of time I spent in Australia.
@ BKK Airport, Immigration, Baggage collection and everything beyond:
My first impression of BKK Airport: pretty dull, compared to airports like SIN & HKG. Is the new airport still scheduled for opening in 2005? The departure sections looked much better than the arrival section I arrived in. Anyway: immigration formalities happened very quickly, just as baggage collection. No one at the exit had the guts to check my heavy loaded backpack for suspicious stuff. So I could make my way trough arrivals as smooth as silk. After drilling my way trough the huge amount of touts, I reached the Airportbusstop. It was time to head for Khao San Road, looking for cheap accomodation. This is were this Qantas experience ends.
In the past I heard some scary stories about the “awful” service that Qantas offers, particularly on their Europe-bound flights. I don’t know where those people got their stories from. My experience with Qantas international was very good. Everything happened quickly and on time. All the staff (from check-in to cabin crew) were very polite. The food was good, entertainment was good. The overall flight experience: great! My last experience with the Aussie spirit is one that I will never forget. Thumbs up!!
Between SYD-BKK and BKK-HKG:
A nice 3-week holiday in Thailand, with a lot of Pad Thai, Chang Beer and the green green grass of Ko Pha-Ngan...........
August 26th, 2004, BKK-HKG
To BKK Airport:
Straight after check-out from my guesthouse, not far from Khao San Road, I took the airportbus to the airport. At around 12PM. Pretty early given the fact that my flight was scheduled for 16:05. Well, let’s just say I had it with Bangkok a little bit. If I had stayed any longer, I would easily jump on the next bus to Surat Thani to take a boat to Ko Pha-Ngan, so it’s a good thing I jumped on that airportbus so early!
@ BKK Airport, Check-in, security and time prior to departure:
airline: Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.
flight number: CX712
from: Bangkok (BKK/VTBD), Thailand
to: Hong Kong (HKG/VHHH), Hong Kong SAR
aircraft: Boeing 777-367
boarding time: 15:35
departure time (scheduled): 16:05
departure time (actual): 16:08
arrival time (scheduled): 19:50
arrival time (actual): 19:45
remarks: my first 777!!!!!!!!!!
Photo © Alastair T. Gardiner
I arrived at the airport about 45 minutes later. Ofcourse, CX check-in was closed. So I took my backpack, and headed straight for Burger King. Not that I really needed it, but I reckon airport Pad Thai isn’t as good as your average local restaurant in some back street in Bangkok or Chiang Mai. 3 hours before departure, check-in opened their doors. And I was one of the first to be a part of this flight, ow...and 2 other Dutch backpackers. But I couldn’t bother speaking Dutch, I would be back home 4 days later. Luckily for me, when I’m abroad it’s easy to hide my nationality since I’m from Indian descent. Outside of the Benelux, I’m not always recognized as a Dutchie
Well, check-in was done, with seat 45K given. After check-in. It was time for the usual immigration and security formalities. I payed 500 Baht departure tax, gave my departure form to the immigration officer. He gave me a “departured” stamp. And after the quick security, I was free to explore terminal 2 of BKK Airport! A big maze of duty-free shops. I ran out of Baht, so with my very last notes, I bought a can of Heineken and a 2-days old Dutch newspaper. I wasn’t really interested in the whole duty-free maze, so I walked around the terminal and took some photos of aircraft passing me by. Including:
Indian Airlines A320:
Orient Thai 742 (those gourmet geeks are everywhere!):
One out of 2 Lufthansa 744’s:
And a lot of other interesting flying stuff. Including LX 343, Martinair Cargo 742, 2 CI 744’s, TK 343, UL 332, 2 SQ 744’s and one SQ 772, and a heavily delayed BR 744 coming in from AMS. Oh, and a lot of TG ofcourse!
And there she was, my first 777. It’s like your first love. You will never forget her.
Boarding started on time, at 15:35, in row numbers. I just had to wait about 10 minutes before my section was called. Not far before scheduled departure time, there were still some people boarding. Nonetheless, we departed on time! They must have been the very last passengers. We were welcomed on board. When the aircraft was finally off-blocks, the safety video came up on the PTV. The first things I noticed on my first 777 flight: a very spacy cabin, and some unusual sounds that I haven’t heard on any other aircraft, particularly during take-off and approach.
The taxi trip took about 10 minutes, before we finally could take the skies, we had to wait for a TG 330 and BR 744 arriving. Final take-off from runway 21R-03L was at 16:22, a little bit bumpy and turbulent. We took a straight line towards Laos, and after 15 minutes we reached a altitude of 29.000 ft with a ground speed of +/- 860 KM/h.
The flight was completely full. The seats next to me were also taken. Compared to the QF 744, I had a feeling the seat pitch on my 773 was a little bit better. Altough this 773 is a couple of years old, she appeared pretty new to me. Or it was just the excitement because this was my first 777 flight
Ofcourse, PTV was the word! Because this was a short-haul flight, the Studio CX program was limited to a small selection of TV programmes. Some of the radio programs were not working, including my favorite: Bollywood!! Well, I had to take the absence of Bollywood for granted, so I enjoyed some of the TV programmes, including an episode of “Goodness Gracious Me”, a Donald Duck cartoon and the news Channel, which contained the latest Olympic results. During the remaining time of the flight, I listened to the All Time Hits and Soundtrack channels.
Total flight routing: Bangkok-Laos-Hanoi-Gulf of Tonkin-South China Sea
A refreshment was served during this flight: I had chosen for the steamed fish fillet with wood fungus and preserved vegetables, steamed rice and Chinese seasonal vegetables. Sounds very posh huh? Well it wasn’t, but not a bad meal at all! Other “refreshing” contents: ice cream and a bread roll. I skipped tea and asked for a beer and a bottle of water. Tasty stuff, this refreshment!
Approach and Landing @ HKG:
About 125 KM away from HKG, a small word from the Captain, giving us information on the latest weather conditions in Hong Kong and our planned approach above the South China Sea before final landing @ HKG. Time passed by very fast, after 2 hours and 20 minutes, it was time to land at Chek Lap Kok Airport. The weather for this evening: just like in Bangkok 3 weeks earlier...rainy! Due to this heavy rainfall, there was nothing to see from the skies. I focused myself on the airshow channel and waited until I could feel the bumps and sounds of landing. Due to those weather conditions, the final landing was a little bit bumpy. But we arrived on time @ HKG, at 19:45 local time. A quick taxi ride to our arrival gate and there I was, back in Hong Kong! I was here before, october last year. When I made a 1-day stopover on my way to Australia. I was glad to be back here. I love this city!!
@ HKG Airport, Immigration, Baggage collection and everything beyond:
The quick train moved me to the arrival hall in just a few seconds, I walked trough a health screening, went trough immigration very quickly and picked up my backpack. Nothing to declare. Okay, good evening Hong Kong!!! I withdrew some money from a ATM in arrivals, and walked to the busstop together with Mr. Backpack, to take a bus to Tsim Sha Tsui, were my already booked guesthouse was located.
Nothing to complain about. Everything happened in a quick, polite and comfortable way like I had expected it to be from Cathay Pacific. Nice flight experience. The fact that this was my first flight on a 777 is the main reason for me that I will never forget this experience.
Between BKK-HKG and HKG-AMS:
I enjoyed the sights, sounds and smell of one of the world’s greatest cities. I love Hong Kong!!!
August 28/29th, 2004, HKG-AMS
To HKG Airport:
The last flight as part of the 11-month trip was coming very close now. I didn’t realize that this flight would be the flight to the country I could miss easily for a few more years. But hey, you can’t escape from the truth. I had to go home. So I enjoyed my last day as full-time backpacker (for now) to the fullest. With backpack and all, I took the MTR from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central. The station for the Airport Express train was located here. The good thing about this station, and the Airport Express service in general: the In-town Check-in service! Ofcourse I took advantage of this, and I checked my bag in at the station. No need to worry about Mr. Backpack anymore. Just my handbag and my boarding pass. Seat 44K was given (life was all about the K’s past 3 flights). The train was already waiting for me, this comfortable train took me to CLK Airport in less than 30 minutes! Bye bye Hong Kong.....I’ll be back
@ HKG Airport, Check-in, security and time prior to departure:
airline: Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.
flight number: CX271
from: Hong Kong (HKG/VHHH), Hong Kong SAR
to: Amsterdam (AMS/EHAM), the Netherlands
aircraft: Airbus A340-313X
boarding time: 23:25
departure time (scheduled): 00:05
departure time (actual): 00:00
arrival time (scheduled): 06:40
arrival time (actual): 06:21
remarks: code-shared with Iberia, IB7762
Photo © K.L.YIM
After arrival at CLK Airport, there was no need for check-in (been there, done that). So I checked out the check-in area for a while. I captured a bunch of timetables and headed for immigration and security at 20:00. I had to handle some longe queues at immigration and the security check. But after that, it was time to enjoy the wonderful departure lounge of CLK! First I treated myself to some fast-food dinner at Popeye’s, afterwards I called my sister back home to tell her I was on my way home (the planning was to arrive back home in Arnhem by total suprise, only my sister knew about this, so I had to call her up for the latest details), and finally, I exchanged my spare HK dollars for Euros. The smoking lounge looked much better compared to last year, with a lot of comfortable seats added. Last october it really looked like a smoking prison. I also helped an Indian bloke on transit from the SQ SIN-HKG-SFO flight, he didn’t knew how the public phones were working. Well, it’s a good thing I told him about the HK currency that you need to use a coin phone. You can’t do much with a bunch of Singapore dollars
I was just hangin’ around the terminal till boarding time. It was late, and there was not really much interesting to see outside, apart from the heavy rainfall. Altough I could catch a glimpse of the following aircraft: SQ 744 & 772, LX 343, SA)">CO 772, CA 340, AY M11, SA)">NW 742, AC 340 and A SA 340. I also saw a QF aircraft taking off, but I’m still not sure about the A/C type, or a 767 or a A330. Is the QF 330 already deployed on HK-Australia routes?
Midnight is a busy night in terms of long-haul traffic, all European services were lined up in the same area. The AMS flight @ gate 1. Behind that, CX flights bound for FRA, CDG and LHR. Not to mention all the Australia/NZ bound flights in the other terminal.
Boarding started on time, and was supposed to be in row numbers. But most of the passengers queued up immediately after the “boarding” appeard on the screen, so things became a little bit chaotic. After 20 minutes I could board the B-HXE, preparing myself for my flight with destination home, after 11 months of travelling. Everyone was boarded, and the B-HXE was off-blocks way on time. I don’t have to mention the usual welcome and safety video. Headsets were given, so I checked the presence of the Bollywood channel straight after. It was alive!!!!
Taxiing to the runway took about 10 minutes, but we had to line up in sequence, there were 4 other aircraft in front of us ready to depart, including 3 CX aircraft and a delayed Orient Thai aircraft. Final take-off was at 00:25, quite a turbulent take-off. For a bit, I had a feeling the B-HXE didn’t had enough ground speed to climb up properly, because I had the feeling we were descending all the time, but according to the airshow channel, everything went smoothly. And Mr. Airshow was right. After 15 minutes we reached an altitute of 27.000 ft with a ground speed of 830 KM/h.
After reaching cruise altitude of 38.000 ft, inflight service started. This flight was completely full as well. A lot of connecting passengers on board, particurly inbound from MNL & DPS. A strange looking Dutch guy was sitting next to me. He didn’t said much, and I wasn’t in the right mood for a conversation. This was the flight of adventure evaluation. All the things that I’ve done in my 11 months of travelling and my future outlook back home in the Netherlands were slipping trough my mind during the whole flight.
Maybe it was meant to be, but my PTV sucked big time. Only the first 3 movie channels and the news/sports channel were working. The inflight service manager tried to solve this problem. My system was rebooted twice, but was fruitless. Well, I still had 3 movie channels. And most of the audio channels were working. So I satisfied myself with that. I watched both Shrek 2 and the Ladykillers 2 times, and 13 going on 30; a nice feel-good movie. I really needed that. I wasn’t too happy.
Altough the flight was going trough an all-sunrise sky for 10 out of 12 hours, and you’re supposed to catch some sleep, I didn’t had any sleep. I was thinking, thinking, thinking all the time.
Total flight routing: Hong Kong-Guangzhou-Lanzhou-Urumqi-Southwest Mongolia-Novosibirsk-Western Siberian Lowland-Southern Ural-St. Petersburg-Estonia-Baltic Sea-Kiel-Hamburg-Groningen-Amsterdam
Meal service on CX271: Supper and Breakfast. First the supper. Containing Mesculin salad with ham and dressing, coconut pineapple cake, bread roll with butter and, out of 3 choices: Pan-fried fish with onion and mushroom cream sauce, boiled potato wedges, broccoli and carrots.
A nice meal, altough the potato wedges were a bit dry and tasteless. Ofcourse, I skipped coffee....beer for me!
Snacks between supper and breakfast: a lot of chocolate bars and water. (I probably captured half of the total chocolate-supply on this flight)
Breakfast was served about 2½ hours before landing. At the times, the lights went on as well.
Breakfast on this flight contained: Seasonal fruits, fruit yoghurt, a croissant with preserve and butter. Out of 2 main choices, I chose for braised noodles with mushrooms, dim sum served with chilli sauce.
The main content, the noodles, wasn’t that great. The noodles were very dry and the dim sum hard and tasteless, not your most favorite breakfast. I had to save my stomach needs for Schiphol Airport, because I wan’t really satisfied with this breakfast.
Approach and Landing @ HKG:
Like I said before, the lights went on about 2½ hours before landing. After breakfast, I bought a CX 346 model for my ever expanding model collection. And just relaxed before final approach into the Netherlands would come.
So there I was, flying over the county I had left 11 months ago. I really couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be back. A pretty strange feeling. After Groningen, we took a straight line over the IJsselmeer towards Alkmaar, and the final preperation for landing was there. The weather outside was very clear. For the first time in ages. My last landings were accompanied by heavy rainfall. After more than 12 hours of flying, the B-HXE was descending. We landed on the brand new Polderbaan runway quite early, at around 06:21, a smooth landing without any remarks. A good re-introduction into the Netherlands.
When the aircraft was taxiing, towards gate G7, I couldn’t get my eyes off a heavily discussed 747-300 that was parked not far from the G-section. PZ-TCM, a former KLM 747-300 now operated by Surinam Airways. The photo I took of this aircraft is very vague, but I had to take one!
@ AMS Airport, Immigration, Baggage collection and everything beyond:
After arrival at Schiphol Airport, we had to stand in a queue for quite a long time, immigration officers were waiting for this flight to check the passports of all passengers. Some of the Phillipino passengers were taken seperately. They didn’t even took a good look at my passport. They just nodded when they saw my standing in line with a passport in my hand, with “Kingdom of the Netherlands” printed on the front. So there I was, back at my home airport! Time to head for immigration and baggage collection......
No hassles at immigration, the officer gave me a friendly “welcome back”, I had to wait for my backpack for quite a long time. It came out as one of the last pieces of baggage. For a little while I had a feeling I would be in serious trouble. My bags were checked, filled with cloating and pirated CD’s bought in Bangkok. Fortunately, a lot of those CD’s looked like real ones in their opinion. So there was nothing to worry about. Me, my backpack and the contents of my backpack: we all survived our 11 months in Australia, Thailand and Hong Kong. Hello Holland!!!
Not a bad flight, this one. Unfortunately, thanks to the half-broken IFE system, the bad breakfast and the fact that I was pretty nervous because I was going home, in “the best of 3” order, this flight ranks the 3rd place. Thumbs up for the great cabin crew, at least they tried to help me with the broken IFE system. And to ease the pain, they treated me with a lot of drinks and half of their chocolate-supply. Good flight after all. My Cathay Pacific experiences were good!
Happily ever after??
Well, I’m back home now for more than a week, after a small period were I really had to get used to the Dutch lifestyle again. I’m picking up all my usual stuff slightly now. I had a great unforgettable time the past 11 months. I can’t wait to pack my backpack again to explore more parts of the world. Next destinations: New Zealand, the USA and more of South-east Asia....and that’s were all my upcoming savings will be geared to. Hopefully within now and about 1½ years.
When I can afford it again, between now and my next big backpacking trip, I’m gonna try to plan some spotting trips troughout Europe, and a long awaited city trip: New York!
For now, this was my very long trip report. Getting tired now? Hmm.....no worries. This is the end, reactions and questions are always welcome. It feels good to be back at A.net!
Greetings from a dull Dutch country town that’s called a “city” by the average Dutchie called Arnhem