My 3 weeks in Hong Kong passed by very quickly, punctuated as by two short trips to visit family in the Guangdong and a weekend in Macau. I had only spent one (not very good) day at the airport spotting and the results were so-so - I simply did not feel like spotting planes here as it was far more interesting to spot buses, ferries, trains etc - my feeling was that Airbus A320's look the same no matter whose liveries they're in, whereas you don't get the same buses nor backdrop elsewhere. My 800+ photos of various transit in Hong Kong proved that!
My trip home would involve one sector on a 777-300 with SQ's old interior, and then my second ride on the Airbus A380 for the second sector to Sydney. I would have a 3 hour transit in Singapore - if I caught the later 777-300ER flight to Singapore that transit time would only be 30 minutes - but I was not willing to take chances with that flight being delayed and me missing my A380 flight, so an earlier flight to Singapore it was.
The Flight (My first flight in 2008)
Date: Tuesday 8 January, 2007
Route: Hong Kong CLK Int'l (HKG) - Singapore Changi (SIN)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-312 (9V-SYL)
For those who had read my last TR, you'd have known that I couldn't get any seat selections online last time on SQ. So this time I checked myself in about 24 hours before my flight, and, voila, there were plenty of seats on both sectors. I chose 57K for the flight to Singapore (a starboard window so I could see more of the Vietnam coast) and an Upper Deck window 75A for the A380 flight home.
Interestingly, there was no "print boarding pass" option available - I was simply told to turn up at the airport the next day.
One last double decker ride
For the second half of my stay in Hong Kong I stayed at Kowloon City in an 11-storey building that is a relic of the Kai Tak height restriction era - one of the quirks of the then planning laws is that they were really only allowed 10 storeys - plus a rooftop pod for the lift. So, developers being developers they built an 11th storey which is reachable only by stairs from the 10th floor with a flat roof above! How close was this to Kai Tak? From one of the rooms the threshold to what was Runway 13 is clearly visible, as would the (now demolished) passenger building. I wonder what it would've been like to watch planes land from your bedroom window below you? And it would only have been a 10 minute walk to departures from the front door!!! As it was I had to walk to the bus stop outside the old terminal anyway ... how inconvenient!!!
As someone who had grown up with double deckers in HK, it is always good to return and ride (and photograph) them. I simply love watching the world go by from the top deck. I decided to catch the far more expensive Cityflyer A22 (HK$39.50) instead of the E22 (HK$13.50) as its about 30 minutes faster and I really was not in the mood for another tour of Tung Chung and the various cargo terminals, catering centres and Cathay City!
As the bus arrives (only a few minutes after I arrived at the stop) I wave goodbye to my family and settled down upstairs (my heavy suitcase goes in the luggage rack downstairs, of course) as we wound our way through Ma Tau Wai and Yau Ma Tei, then onto the freeways, across the amazing Tsing Ma Bridge and the North Lantau Expressway, and arriving at the airport in about 45 minutes. (Now, how come HK has direct bus services to the airport from almost every corner and no other city has?! )
One last social engagement
The bus stop was exactly opposite the SQ check-in counters so it was just a short walk down the ramp. The entry into the Chek Lap Kok's departure hall is, for me, one of the most spectacular in the world.
SQ had purchased the board opposite its check-in counters advertising the A380 ... a plane I would fly on in just a few hours!
Before I could drop off my bags I had to wait for my aunt to arrive. That's because she has some more things for me to take home, and if you're Asian you can guess what it is! It didn't take her long to arrive but it took a while for me to squeeze the bag into my bluging suitcase. Luckily, the line for Internet check-in is very short and I was presented with my two boarding passes very quickly.
Of course, my aunt had to buy me lunch first. We went downstairs to the arrivals hall to Cafe Coral (which surprisingly hit the spot). It wasn't until almost 12:30 that I went through Immigration (no lines this time) and airside. I would have only about 35 minutes to spot before I have to board!
Chek Lap Kok's departure lounge is my absolute favourite - there is so much light and there is so much glass you can walk up to! This obviously makes spotting quite easy and HKG didn't disappoint on this afternoon, with plenty of variety. So, with a heavy backpack (full of model buses) and my heavy laptop bag, I set about running around the terminal getting photos of as many planes as I can. It may almost be mid-January but the Christmas tree was still there!
Here are some of the plane pictures:
The A380 might be the new queen of the skies but no doubting the majesty of the mighty 747, Cathay has plenty on the ground of course. This is B-HUD with B-HOW at the adjacent gate.
As did Lufthansa with D-ABVD about to depart for Frankfurt with the mountains of Lantau Island and the buildings of Tung Chung in the background:
Ah, such colourful variety ... China Southern A319, Shanghai Airlines 767, United 747 and Cathay 777:
Whilst this photo leaves no doubt as to which airport this is!
A Korean Air 777 readies for taxi:
Air Canada's A340s wouldn't be around for much longer so I guess it was good to see them in Hong Kong, especially as their 777s make a daily appearance in Sydney. Here C-GDVW is preparing for departure to Vancouver.
South African Airways also sends its A340's to Hong Kong, here is ZS-SXA:
Hong Kong is no longer dominated by Cathay? Seen here with one of CX's ubiquitous A330-300s is Hong Kong Express's 737-800 (B-KXE) - listening to ATC whilst in HK I wonder if nearly all of "Bauhinia"'s pilots are Aussies?!
Funnily enough there weren't many Dragonair planes to be found - I only managed to find this one at a gate, their eldest A330-300 (B-HYA):
And not many Mainland carriers either. Here is Shanghai Airlines' 767-300 (B-5018) and China Southern's A319 (B-6239).
Although I was very fortunate to see two of the Air China Olympic liveries. I still don't like this blue/white scheme on B-5211. Why can't the whole plane be blue?
I'm not a great fan of the Fu-Wa's either (ummmm, did they actually think of how on earth their Olympic mascots sound in a foreign language?! ), although they look kinda cute on a plane! (B-5178)
During my run around I did take the opportunity to purchase an East Week magazine to take home for my parents - it wasn't until I got on the plane that I realised I should have got another magazine as EW is distributed free in Australia with your newspaper ... and I thought I could get a copy of a Hong Kong newspaper for them on board the plane.
And finally, a look at the plane that would take me to Singapore, 777-300 9V-SYL, which was delivered to SQ in July 2005. Despite her young age she would be the oldest aircraft I would fly during this Asian trip.
Last to board
The long line I had seen on my run past Gate 27 had all but disappeared by the time I got there. My watch said 13:10, 20 minutes before scheduled departure. And so I boarded, taking time to arrange my stuff and put my passport away on the airbridge. Then I noticed a bundle of paper being whisked to the aircraft ... ummmm, the manifest! I couldn't have been the last pax to board, surely?
Of course, being the last to board means the Hong Kong newspapers (available on the airbridge) were long gone - the only papers I could get are the Singaporean ones. Oh well. I made my way swiftly towards my seat near the back of the plane - very easy to identify as it was just about the only empty seat in Economy!!! The Steward helped me put my backpack in the overhead compartment (I've noticed on SQ they actively help you with your hand luggage whereas on QF, BA etc they give you a dirty look even if you needed assistance ...) and kept the laptop bag with me.
The couple that had the aisle seats gave me a dirty look as they let me through into the seat. I reckon they've been eyeing off the window (or a spare seat) for some time!
Phew! Made it. By now I was extremely sweaty due to my running around. It was good to sit down!
Given everyone was on board it was a long while before we got moving. It would be a long taxi to Runway 07R (I didn't take any pics of the taxi - too busy looking out the window and especially eyeing which birds were in at HAECO), but once at the holding point we were pretty much cleared immediately for take-off.
A very smoggy day indeed. A look at one of the HK spotting positions here - up on the hill next to the building at Sha Law Wan is a great spot for photographing 07R activity.
There was a pretty loud roar from the engines as we accelerated, and finally rotated just short of the cargo apron, where lots and lots and lots of 747 Freighters were parked:
The massive Cathay Pacific Catering complex in the foreground and Cathay City in the background.
The buildings of Tung Chung surrounded by the tall mountains of Lantau Island - with Dragonair House on the left.
The massive MTR (underground rail) depot.
Really really smoggy today, I'm really glad to leave this yellow-grey mess behind! Here is Discovery Bay - where probably half of CX's pilots live!
Disneyland ... how small is it?!
And with that we rose above the clouds and finally, a blue sky!!!
Tropical Islands and Vietnam Coast
As we reached cruising altitude I settled in and flipped through the TV channels - equipped with SQ's old interior, this 777's screen was quite small, and with the seat in front reclined, the screen could not be tilted to eye level. It was, however, AVOD-equipped, however the system moves at tortoise speed when compared to the newest Krisworld system - and the interface looks very old school. Besides I don't know what the two nets on either side of the screen are - they seem only good for storing your garbage!
I'm not sure if it's this particular row (row 57) or whether this kind of legroom is standard on this aircraft. Absolutely luxurious! (This photo was taken with the front seat reclined, too) Compare this to the pitch on SQ's new interior:
Ahhhhhhh, a beautiful tropical island in the South China Sea.
Soon lunch was served. This time it took only one hour from take off. The crew did run around with special meals before but not nearly as many as last time. And SQ's high standard of service was restored with excellent service from the cabin crew - and so too my faith in SQ after the somewhat below-par flight I experienced last time.
The food, however, left a lot to be desired. The chicken in gravy with mashed potato wasn't very appetising, especially the soggy pieces of carrot, and felt like stale KFC! The apple & tuna salad wasn't too good either, just tasted like tuna you get out of a can with a few pieces of stale apple thrown in. I was glad I'd already had lunch on the ground and I wasn't too hungry.
Dessert was the usual - a Haagen Daas vanilla ice-cream that was so cold it was rock hard when served! Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.
As dessert was served we were nearing the Vietnam coastline:
Soon we passed over a town, I think near the city of Nha Trang on the east coast but I couldn't seem to figure out what city it is from Google Maps. There were also a few airstrips nearby that seems like military bases rather than civilian airports.
And then headed inland, mostly hills and farming country but with a small cities every so often. I would imagine we're not far inland at this point. Vietnam's countryside does look rather beautiful even from 38,000ft. No wonder so many tourists go there!
We left Vietnam over the town of Phan Thiet:
After the lunch trays were collected there was (as usual) a rush for the lavatories - there was a bit of turbulence since halfway over the South China Sea and the seat belt sign was on basically until we land. However people (including myself) still went to line up as it's been a while since taking off! I didn't get the opportunity to do a usual cabin walk but snapped this photo anyway - I do quite like the purple & blue combination in the old interiors:
I spent the rest of the flight reading my newspapers and watching a few shows on IFE, like The Simpson's and a Pilot Guide.
A bumpy approach
Again it was a bumpy descent to Singapore. It was also rather cloudy over the Malay peninsula so didn't see anything of the countryside. We would head south, turning over Pulau Batam and joining the Runway 02L approach. The city skyline of Singapore was visible in the distance from my window. A few pictures of Pulau Batam as we descend through the clouds.
After this we pass over the huge flotilla of cargo ships that signal your arrival into Singapore, then the beautiful golf course as we get closer. There was plenty of condensation over the wings:
And touchdown on a wet runway - here we pass Terminal 3 with a 777 in attendance, no doubt final checks on the terminal before it opens the next day. And then my camera ran out of batteries - with the replacement in my backpack in the overhead bins!
It was another long taxi to our spot at the far end of Terminal 2. I found quite amusing some small birds which flew behind the engines at close to ground level - I'd say they were catching a free ride!
Again it was a slow process of disembarkation. I even had time to change my camera batteries! We might now be nearing mid-January but SQ still had not yet removed the beautiful Christmas decorations:
One final look at 9V-SYL through the empty departure lounge.
And a look at the aircraft which would, in 3 hours, take me home to Sydney. I love the tail's reflection on the tarmac.
After so many visits to Changi it is all becoming a little boring, especially as spotting is almost impossible from the terminal and I really could not be bothered going landside. As I arrived I tried to get on the people mover going to T3 for a look (I'd have thought it was open airside given it was already open landside!) but was told it was staff only. Oh well ...
I decided to walk up to Terminal 1 to sit down and have a look at what was about. The only aircraft is photographable distance was this Cathay 747-400 (B-HUG).
So, with almost 2 hours still to kill, I decided to fire up my laptop (with a view of the ramp, of course!) and surf the net. Fortunately, Changi provides you with laptop power and SingTel's free wireless service is available. Note that I never received my password via SMS on my Hong Kong mobile ... I only got a log-on when I switched to my Australian Optus sim and the login details came automatically (Optus is owned by SingTel). It was a good way to while away the hours.
And this is where I leave it for this TR. Stay tuned for my next Trip Report - the second leg of my trip home - on the A380!
Singapore Airlines well and truly redeemed itself on this flight. The service was faultless - the same as what I remembered on my A380 flight previously. It does appear that my Singapore-Hong Kong flight was just an anomaly.
AVOD IFE might not be all that old, but the old Krisworld system was very slow and frustrating, and I can't forgive the fact that the screen couldn't be adjusted so you can see it properly.
The revelation was the seat. The (mysterious) additional legroom notwithstanding, the old seat felt far more comfortable to sit in than the thinly-padded new seats. Is this really "progress"?