Part II (Continued from http://www.airliners.net/aviation-fo...ms/trip_reports/read.main/137828/)
(Operated by Air Japan)
October 20th 2008
Narita - Hong Kong
After a long flight from LAX, we had about 2 hours to transit at Narita. With 11.5 hours of flying steerage behind, the thought of going through security isn't exactly the most tantalizing prospect, fortunately the transfer checkpoint at NRT makes things reasonably simple. The security queue took about 5-10 minutes long and the officers only checked to verify that we had onward tickets out of Tokyo.
Security at Narita is thorough but very respectful, there's no shouting or anything of the sort, I think I didn't even need to remove my belt, by this point my memory was getting a bit fuzzy so the exact details are getting hazy I can only assure that the experience was quite painless.
After a trip to the ANA transfer counter we were given our boarding passes for the flight to HK, 40A and B were our seats for the 4 hour flight. With that out of the way we were free to roam about Narita for the next 90 minutes
Terminal 1 at Narita has been recently renovated and is quite spiffy looking, changing planes here is quite simple, at least if you are staying within Terminal 1.
On the surface, Narita seems efficient if perhaps a bit unremarkable, the same Duty Free Shops full of fancy designer crapola as you'd find in any big airport, however, a tiny scratch below the surface can reveal uniquely Japanese experiences.
One of these experiences is oddly enough in the restroom, where most have stalls with doors bearing a mysterious waterspout insignia. Venturing inside reveals a marvel of modern engineering, the Japanese Toilet ! While the rest of the world seems mired in the 20th century, content to remain under the wretched tyranny of paper, the Japanese have moved on to the future and have created a marvel of technology. So many buttons and functions.. while some may be afraid of such a contraption, I assure you, the only thing to fear is your attitude towards lesser commodes once you exit the room. Everything else seems barbaric in comparison !
With that out of the way I also managed to get a quick bite to eat at a Tonkatsu restaurant near my departure gate, it was the first awful Tonkatsu I have ever tasted ! I knew I was in trouble when I saw them remove a rock hard piece of meat from a fridge For those of you unfamiliar with Tonkatsu, it's a magical piece of panko crusted pork cutlet, crispy and light on the outside and juicy on the inside, except this particular Tonkatsu of course. Fortunately the cabbage and rice were perfect
We headed to gate 52 where boarding would comence soon. Surprisingly enough Narita was starting to look quite deserted at this time, I expected more hustle and bustle.
Boarding started with Club ANA and then economy class, Biz seemed to be quite full on this flight, while economy was only about 70% full.
I didn't took any pictures of the cabin but I have another shot from a previous flight. It's pretty nice and new, NH's 767 have the nice 777 style interior which gives it a much more spacious feeling.
The entertainment system is SkyMaster I which is slightly less advanced than the SkyMaster II which is on the long haul 777-300, the interface is a bit clunkier but it does its job, it's fine for the shorter intra-asia flights I think.
Most crew were very friendly enough I think but by this time, I was beggining to sink into a zombie like state. The darkness outside and the fullness from the meal I just had were also not helping to make me feel peppier. I think a crewmember or two may have been not quite as refined as the rest, not rude by any means ! Just not quite the gem some other NH cabin attendants have been. I wonder if this is an Air Japan thing?
Pushback was on time and we were then subjected to a loooooong taxi to the new runway 16R, it took ages, but we were eventually off into the night sky, it was surprising for me to see that the ground lights all seemed quite dim, it made it seem like we were flying through a dark murky soup with little reference for the ground below.
Climbout from Narita involves many twist and turns that have you flying high before pointing south towards Taiwan and Hong Kong.
About half an hour after takeoff, the FA's were commencing their beverage service, the same items available on the Long haul LAX-NRT flight were available for this intra-asia hop along with a tasty bag of snacks.
Meal choices were not quite as exciting though, it was either Fried Rice or Seafood Pasta.
This time I lucked out, nothing but Seafood pasta was left for me. I initially denied the meal, however, I thought that my duty as a faithful a.netter was to give the meal an open minded review. I asked the FA for a tray and it was promptly brought to me with a smile.
I'm not really big on seafood, but, not wanting to think of myself as a close minded buffoon I gave it a try, merely for scientific reasons. The seafood pasta dish was actually a mish mash of various sea creatures with cheese sauce and vegetables over pasta. I gave it a try and it was actually not bad !! The cheese sauce was not vile at all and tasted great, I ate most of the pasta and even tried some of those maritime things. The main dish was complemented by a salad with cold cuts and smoked salmon, as well as buckwheat noodles with the neatest looking mushrooms. I almost felt guilty eating the cute tiny mushrooms By the time I remembered to take pictures of the meal, I was already mostly done with the seafood, so I just snapped this..
It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, so I was pretty happy. This time around there was no ice cream after the meal.
Afterwards the crew continued frequenting the cabin with beverage runs and some duty free shopping. It is interesting to note that ANA has quite a few items of interest for an aviation enthusiast in its catalog, like a couple of awesome looking calendars featuring ANA planes, I wanted to buy one but apparently many of these more exotic items require them to be mail ordered to Japan Among the rarities on sale was a bona-fide ANA flight attendant apron (in both pink AND blue, whoopee !), who on earth would want such a thing ?
After the meal I started to doze off and only sprung into activity for a while when we overflew Taipei, it was my first time seeing it by night and it was quite a sight. Most of the city was covered by a low cloud layer, which made the clouds a bright shade of orange. Fortunately the area around Taipei 101 was cloud free, which afforded great views of the huge building. Amazing how it is so visible even from more than 30,000 feet.
Once the excitement of seeing Taipei had fizzled, I was back to being a zombie, the exhaustion and the darkness made for a slightly fuzzy and dreamy state of mind, as always, it felt somewhat strange to ponder that one is so far away from the journey's starting point on the other side of the planet...
Soon the darkness had quite a bit of company, not from cities this time though, the lights from numerous ships became quite ubiquitous as we began to close in on Hong Kong. It's amazing to see so many ships out in the open seas that pretty much follow the track that planes take from Taiwan to Hong Kong.
Descent and arrival into HK's runway 7L was thankfully trouble free, the only annoyance was just how darn long the approach procedure is, why can't you just swoop in and land? All these silly traffic flow, mountain and terrain avoidance measures... what a nuisance
We parked at one of the 30ish gates which meant a long walk to immigration, however, after 15+ hours of sitting on planes I was quite eager to get some blood flowing. My passport was stamped within 5 minutes of arriving at the immigration queue and was off to the Airport Express.
The Airport Express trains was efficient as always, but I think some interiors are beginning to look quite tattered, the seats at least, they could do with some new upholstery.
25 minutes and a cab ride later we were finally at our buddy's apartment in Hollywood Rd. It was a long trip and a bit more of a hassle than taking a nonstop flight, but NH made the journey as pleasant as it can be in economy class.
The verdict on NH 911. I cannot really give an accurate rating as I was too tired to notice many nuances, but it was a perfectly solid performance by the crew. The meal service wasn't quite as extravagant as on the long haul flight but it was perfectly adequate given the shorter route length. If I had to sum up my NH experience with an indecent image.. it would certainly have to be this:
Thanks ANA ! And thanks for reading. Next up.. from Hong Kong to Nagoya with Asiana. I just wish I had an image of OZ and NH flight attendants with boxing gloves : )
[Edited 2008-11-30 23:16:20]
[Edited 2008-11-30 23:18:47]