Welcome to another of my trip reports, this time covering my flights to Hong Kong in British Airways First. As is usual with my trip reports, this will be photo-heavy and quite detailed in terms of lounges, onboard service and inflight product – these are the areas that interest me and what I look for when reading a trip report. My aim in writing a trip report is to make you, the reader, feel as if you’re sitting next to me (although not right next to me – this is first class after all!). Enjoy!
So, I was off to Hong Kong for a week’s break, staying in the InterContinental Grand Stanford. Taking advantage of the European BA
sale in January, I purchased tickets ex-Amsterdam, and so my ‘main’ booking route would by AMS
in Club World, upgraded to First with 80,000 BA
miles thanks to a helpful BA
Gold line agent. Being London based, it was necessary to get to AMS
to start the trip, and so I booked a cheap BA
flight to AMS
early morning, requiring an overnight stay at the Sofitel London Gatwick. After having nightmares about Euro Chaveller, I promptly took advantage of the relatively cheap online upgrade price to Club Europe, also choosing to do the same for my return AMS
flight at the end of the trip. This trip would thus earn 400 tier points, with 2 sectors in First (earning 120 TPs each due to the Club World base fare paid with cash) and 4 in Club Europe (40 TPs each).
Sofitel London Gatwick
The day before departure, I took a taxi from my London apartment to Victoria station. Upon arrival, I queued (a new concept for me) with the great unwashed at the ticket desks in order to purchase an anytime single ticket to Gatwick Airport station, travelling with Southern Railway. The Gatwick Express, rather pricey, represents only a ten minute time saving, and as I wasn’t pushed for time, I took the 40 minute Southern Railway option. Using a mainline service also enabled me to get rid of a leftover £10 compensation railway voucher I had received for a re-route and delay on Worst Late Western at the end of last year. The journey to Gatwick passed by relatively quickly (in standard class, no less – the 2-2 seating was a shock, I can tell you!), and soon I was taking the newly refurbished driver-less transit from South to North terminals, the stations of which are actually quite impressive now.
Emerging into the North Terminal, I backtracked down the short covered walkway to the Sofitel. There was no queue to check in, and I was warmly welcomed as a ‘special guest’ by virtue of my A-Club Gold membership. In fact, I was apparently so unique that I was called ‘special’ no fewer than four times during the check-in process. Perhaps the receptionist reads FlyerTalk. I was informed my room had been upgraded from a Classic (standard) room to a Superior room, although after enquiring, the complimentary internet was not available to me. I tried to negotiate staying in the standard room and having complimentary internet, but alas this was not possible. The check-in process seemed to take a good 5 minutes or so (with payment collected on check-in), but soon enough I was walking into a good-sized room on the 6th floor, overlooking the airport as requested. The receptionist had also given me a complimentary drinks voucher for use in the bar, and a 2-hour wifi access code for the lobby, although both went unused. I ended up paying £15 for 24 hours’ wired internet – speeds were good, although the LAN cable could have been longer.
The room was clean and bright, the bathroom in good condition, with a comfortable bed and soft chair. I liked the L’Occitane bathroom amenities, complimentary mineral water and the token ‘pate de fruit’ (although that turned out to be disgusting!), and it was good to see a shower screen rather than a curtain in the bathroom, although the shower was over the bath, which I dislike. I would much prefer to have a walk-in shower and no bath. The major downside of the room for me was the warmth, which did not seem to dissipate, despite having the air conditioning on the lowest 18 degrees setting constantly.
View of the airport from the room
I settled in for the evening, enjoying the views over the airport, including three recently retired BA
757s, stripped of their markings and looking rather forlorn at the far side of the airfield. I did not, however, enjoy the rubbish quality picture on the CRT television – not exactly 21st century! Skipping dinner, I took an early night ready for my 04:30 wake-up.
Unfortunately the temperature of the room did not decrease much, but I managed a few hours’ sleep before taking a shower – the pressure was adequate, but the towels were a little hard, and the provision of only one flannel was a little stingy. I checked out at around 05:30 (no queue at this time of the morning) and made the short walk to the North terminal.
LGW-AMS-LHR, BA Club Europe (or LGW-LHR, Taxi)
check-in area in Zone D has had a bit of a refurbishment, and now boasts smart LCD
screens above the desks. I collected my boarding pass from the First desk (no queue), swiped a First bag tag (yep, absolutely shameless!) and headed through Fast Track security, which thankfully was fast. The slightly unfriendly security agent said my liquids bag was too big, and one item had to be disposed of to fit the remainder into the DfT-regulation bag… it’s honestly pot luck whether agents will pick you up on this, but I’ll admit I took a chance and it didn’t work. Oh well!
Through to airside I took the world’s slowest lift up to Level 4 of the Lounge Pavilion, the home of the BA
Galleries First and Galleries Club lounges, both of which have been refurbished into a sort-of Galleries concept (the new furniture, carpet and lights are present, but the bars etc. are old style). Turning right, through the doors (complete with old ‘FIRST’ logo), I was welcomed into the completely empty F lounge and took a seat at the far end.
Galleries First overview, looking towards the entrance
Soon a waitress appeared and took my order for a bacon baguette, which arrived promptly and was devoured with a glass of fresh orange juice.
As the lounge slowly started to receive more passengers for the first few European flights of the day, the receptionist came over to me and announced the ‘bad news’ that my flight to Amsterdam had been cancelled due to ATC problems in the Netherlands. Needless to say my heart skipped more than a beat at this point. Possibly the worst thing that could happen had happened – I wasn’t going to be able to get to the start of my ex-EU booking, and would therefore be unable to board the flight to HKG
. As it transpired, however, the receptionist wasn’t sure whether AMS
would be functioning properly at all today, meaning that I had a bit of negotiating power in allowing me to start the trip direct from LHR
. A ticketing manager was called, and shortly a car was secured to take me from LGW
, paid for by BA
after a gentle reminder of my Gold status and First flight to HKG
– a big well done to BA
for this. I can’t stress enough how helpful both the manager and lounge agent were at LGW
– ba.com/welldone completed!
Within 30 minutes the receptionist approached me again to hand me a £10 refreshment voucher (not really needed with lounge access, but a nice gesture nonetheless), and a friendly BA
agent arrived to escort me through a side entrance through arrivals – a first for me, and very welcome! We initially went to the taxi desk, where they had no record of a booking to LHR
, but soon enough my name was paged over the airport system, and we met the driver at the Airport Information desk. Thanking the BA
agent, I followed the driver to his car in the short stay car park, and was rolling up at LHR
a little under an hour later after a customary queue on the M25.
LHR-HKG, BA First
The driver dropped me at the far end of the terminal, and I made the short walk to First check-in in Zone J. I was welcomed (and recognised) by one of the Special Services team whom I have spoken with before, and escorted to an empty desk. My boarding pass was printed and I was on my way to Fast Track security (South) within a few minutes. The queues were, not unusually, pretty ridiculous for ‘Fast’ Track, and it took around 10 minutes to get through, with two scanners available for premium passengers. The normal lines looked equally busy, so I didn’t bother switching.
I felt a little pang of excitement, I’m not ashamed to admit, as I approached the guardian of the ‘magic doors’ to the Concorde Room (the doors which I usually mournfully glance at on my way to Galleries First). This excitement increased as I walked through the doors for the first time in almost three years and was welcomed by name at the reception desk into, in my opinion, one of the very best airline lounges in the world.
After depositing my roll-aboard at the luggage desk in the lounge, I headed first for the Concorde Dining area, and was shown to a table by the entrance to the area.
The entrance to Concorde Dining in the CCR
I ordered a full English breakfast (minus the mushrooms), with a glass of orange juice. The quality was adequate, but service had vastly improved since my last visit. Staff regularly passed through the lounge clearing empties and taking orders. After my full English, I opted for a pot of English breakfast tea, nicely presented on a china tray.
Concorde Dining breakfast table setup
The butter had started to melt…
My choice of full English breakfast
Breakfast tea tray
After breakfast, I took a seat in various spots around the lounge (not that I can split my body parts, but I did have about 10 hours in the lounge!). I ordered some drinks from the Concorde Bar, which were promptly delivered at my seat.
Dumbledore (aka Sir Michael Gambon) entered the lounge at one point (alone) and headed straight for the Concorde Terrace.
Fantastic view from the Concorde Terrace
Approaching midday, the menus were changed for lunch, and I perused these for a while, deciding to eat lunch at around 13:00. Before this, I confirmed my 16:00 cabana booking at the Quintessentially concierge desk with a friendly agent, and booked a massage chair at the Elemis spa for 14:55 upon the Quintessentially lady’s recommendation.
I checked at the customer service desk if my flight had New First, but she was unable to tell as it was so far in advance of departure. Shortly thereafter, the agent came over to advise I’d been offloaded from the HKG
flight! Yeah, fantastic work BA
! Anyway, this mess was quickly sorted out with a lengthy explanation from me. It was a bit disappointing that some miscommunication had occurred between LGW
, but the CCR
lady (possibly Special Services, judging by the non-uniform), was professional and friendly throughout, and most apologetic about the whole fiasco.
At around 13:00 I wandered over to the dining area once again, was promptly escorted to a table and drinks orders taken. From the menu, I opted for ‘Farmhouse Chicken and Tarragon Pie’ (not wonderful, but the mash was tasty enough), followed by the ‘English Custard with Summer Berries and Clotted Cream’ (absolutely fantastic). Service was spot on – a different waiter served me for lunch, and he was excellent – better than in most restaurants. My experiences with breakfast and lunch in the CCR
confirm my opinion that the SYD
Qantas First lounge offers far better quality food, but that I do prefer the general ambiance of the CCR
over the more crowded QF
F lounge (which is nevertheless still amongst the best). I think I’ll email BA
about the CCR
food – it needs to be so much better for their flagship ground product.
Concorde Dining booth set up for lunch/dinner
Lunch/dinner table setup
Rather bland main course
A wander into the main departures concourse of T5A emphasised just how remarkably quiet and exclusive the CCR
is – I felt very lucky, and even considered guesting in one of the passengers sitting at the bottom of the lounge escalators, but decided against it to avoid any embarrassing conversation. They were mostly wearing trainers anyway, and I even spotted a football shirt amongst the throng…
At 14:50 I made my way next door from the CCR
to the Elemis Travel Spa, and after a short wait and filling in the health and safety form, I was being pummelled away in the ‘intelligent massage chair’. It was my first experience of such a thing – it woke me up more than relaxed me, which was great considering I’d been awake since 04:30 and needed to stay awake for the next five hours at least! The Elemis area features soothing music and changing mood lighting, which is actually quite relaxing, although the curtains do not give a great deal of privacy when you’re in the massage ‘room’. I’d never had any form of spa treatment or massage before, so have nothing to compare the Elemis experience with. I don’t really see the point of it to be honest, although it seems popular.
Mood lighting in the Galleries South Elemis waiting area
After the massage, I checked with the customer service desk in the CCR
once again, and was delighted to learn that my flight would have New First – fantastic! Large-screen IFE and funky electronic blinds here I come!
Checking with the Quintessentially desk revealed that my cabana was in use until my pre-booked time of 16:00, and so I whiled away the next half hour sitting opposite Concorde Dining at the bar stools (although not the ones actually at the Concorde Bar). A hot chocolate was ordered and promptly delivered – sadly not quite as good as my favourite Costa Marchmont Street (London) one! At this point I felt that I had become something of a fixture in the CCR
, and the staff were going to find it hard to get rid of me…
I was escorted to my cabana just before 16:00, and was shown to Cabana 1, the largest of the three, which is equipped for disabled use (although done so in a discreet way). The cabana is basically an open plan living area with chair, footstall, side tables, desk chair, TV
and mineral water. One can order from the CCR
menu if they so wish, via a buzzer device on the table. Lighting is fully adjustable via a control panel. The attached washroom area was sufficient, although the pressure of the shower was far from good – equally, the water temperature fluctuated way too much and the noisy drain really is ridiculous. Also lacking were flannels – forgotten, or not provided?! I could have asked for some, but by the time I realised, I was already under the water… My final dislike was the low basin, I guess because of the disabled access, but this meant I splashed water unavoidably everywhere when shaving. In summary, the cabanas are OK
for a shower and a quick lie down, but you wouldn’t want to spend too long in one (they are a little claustrophobic), unless you perhaps were with children. Yes, if you have children, definitely go to a cabana. And stay there. Especially if you’re on my flight in F with me.
Cabana 1, looking towards the washroom area
Looking towards the living area of Cabana 1
Exiting the cabana, I asked at the reception desk which gate my flight was scheduled for, and as predicted it would depart from T5B. The journey over to the satellite only took ten minutes from CCR
to the T5B Galleries Club, and before long it was approaching 18:00, so I made my way back downstairs to Gate B43. This gate is equipped with dual airbridges, but of course as is usually the case at LHR
, only one was in use, attached to Door 2. I wonder whether they’ll still only use one airbridge when boarding their A380s… The gate area was quite crowded, but I found a seat right in front of the Fast Track lane, just as pre-boarding was announced for those needing assistance. Shortly afterwards, a general boarding call was announced for the rear WT
rows and any premium passengers to board at their leisure through the dedicated lane. I wish shorthaul departures had Fast Track lanes – it would make the world of difference. I was the first person through the BP
check and down the airbridge, to be greeted at the door by the CSD and welcomed by name before being escorted to my suite 2A in the nose of this 747.
Date: March 2011
Route: LHR [London Heathrow] (T5) – HKG [Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok] (T1)
Aircraft: B747-436, G-BYGA (1998)
Seat: 2A (First)
First impressions of the New First cabin were overwhelmingly positive –a quality look and feel, with good lighting and personal space. As I was shown to my seat, I made a comment about it being the New F cabin and the CSD asked whether I’d flown in the New First cabin before, to which I replied no. She then proceeded to run through a quick tour of the suite with me, highlighting the individual wardrobe and suite controls in particular. The two main F crew appeared at this point (one male, one female) and welcomed me onboard, commenting how they wished the ‘Prime’ seat was on all aircraft. As the CSD headed back to the door, the female F crew member (mainly serving my aisle) asked me whether I’d like a drink. Within a minute my requested glass of still water was delivered, together with a bottle for takeoff.
New F in the nose of this 747 G-BYGA
As I settled into my very comfortable suite, I noted all the new features of New F – the blue mood lighting, the new reading lamp, electronic window blinds, intuitive dial controls, large pop-out IFE screen, personal wardrobe, wider ottoman and nifty folding tray table (one side leather, the other smart black). The literature pocket is now at the side of the seat, containing High Life and First Life magazines, the safety card, sick bag and, most useful, a guide to the suite. On the ottoman were slippers and a blanket, with a cushion on the seat and bedding (including mattress cover, duvet and pillow) in the overhead locker. The central wardrobe between suites 1A and 1K has been retained, with a new magazine storage rack in the centre podium in front of 4EF. The F galley and washrooms have both been slightly refurbished with both having new wall coverings, and the latter having new lighting. Fans of the window in the forward First washroom will be pleased to note that it hasn’t been covered.
Suite control panel and reading light
Suite control panel (left) and blind controls (right)
New two-window setup
As the cabin filled up to its full complement on this flight of 8/14 (occupied seats were 1AK, 2AK, 4EF, 5EF), the cabin crew checked on pre-departure drinks levels and soon distributed Anya Hindmarch amenity kit bags (filled with REN products) and sleeper suits (PJs).
Amenity kit and PJs
Amenity kit close-up
Amenity kit contents (photo taken in the IC
New lampshade in the washroom
Mr 1A was quite jovial about the accidental spilling of champagne over him by one of the cabin crew. A takeoff delay was announced from the flight deck due to overcrowding at the takeoff runway (pretty much a given at LHR
), but the delay was only around ten minutes, during which time the safety video was displayed and I got my first taste of the new, larger, IFE screen – great size, but the IFE picture is low resolution, not putting the new high resolution screen to good use.
After a smooth takeoff and climb from RWY 09R, the CSD made a welcome announcement, gave a flight time of approximately 11 hours, and introduced the crew, noting that First would provide an ‘a la carte’ service, and all other cabins would be served a ‘hot meal’. Ah, the luxury of an international first class service. Shortly, the CSD made an appearance in the cabin and did the rounds welcoming each passenger by name individually, setting the tone for the rest of the service that was really very good indeed. BA
’s crew can be hit or miss, but this crew was most definitely a hit.
As further drinks orders were taken and nuts delivered, I fired up the IFE and started watching the latest Harry Potter movie. Being quite a dark (literally) movie, the poor quality of the video feed could noticeably be seen. The movie itself was actually rather disappointing – I had been expecting more.
Excellent split-screen map view
Post-takeoff drinks and nuts
At this point, the menu and wine list was provided for my perusal – I had emailed You First who had sent me the March menu for the BA25, but despite still being March, the April menu was onboard this evening! So faced with new choices, I spent a little longer before choosing.
I opted to eat straight away, and so within 15 minutes or so my table was set with the ‘new’ service, featuring red water glass.
Dinner table setup
A choice from a basket of bread was offered, along with an undisclosed canapé plate – quite a tasty thing, but still none the wiser as to what it actually was.
The soup starter was delicious, possibly the best soup I’ve ever tasted, served with a fresh (but uninspired) side salad and further choice of bread.
The lamb rendang was very nice too, followed by an equally lovely coffee-inspired dessert trio.
Dessert, showcased on the leather folded table
A pot of English breakfast tea concluded the dinner service which was as good in quality as Qantas’s First offering, although BA
do provide slightly larger portions (most welcome!).
The mood lighting was in full swing by now, and I lowered my electronic blind to reveal a funky blue effect, mimicking the roof and floor lighting of the F cabin. As I took my PJs to the (consistently clean) washroom to change, the male member of the cabin crew offered to make up my bed, and when I returned my seat had transformed into a 6’6” flat bed, made all the more spacious thanks to the lowering armrests in New F. After concluding Harry Potter, I switched the lighting to the lowest setting (all off except a faint blue light in the foot area, covered mostly by the reclined seat). However, the blue light in the centre of the cabin ceiling was on throughout the night, and really was most annoying. Apparently the new B77Ws are even worse, with two white spotlights at the rear of the cabin remaining on throughout the night in addition to the blue light. According to a Business Traveller article, BA
are set to make a change to the software to allow crew to dim the lighting further, but how long this upgrade will take to come into effect remains to be seen.
The bed itself was very comfortable (plenty long and wide enough too), and privacy has slightly improved in New F over the older seat, with the ‘wings’ around the head area having been extended slightly. It would be good to see some sort of door to the suite, however, although this may prove a little too claustrophobic for some. After a few hours’ rest, I settled on watching The Social Network, a most impressive film that made for interesting viewing. I requested the rather refreshing breakfast fruit plate halfway through the movie, and this was promptly brought by a female cabin crew member who seemed to have relieved my ‘usual’ crew member. At the end of The Social Network, I was beginning to feel the jetlag a little, and dozed for another few hours before awakening to the sounds of breakfast being prepared in the galley.
Annoying blue light
The Social Network
After changing back into something a little more civilised, during breakfast I listened to some of Taylor Swift’s latest album – I’ve not heard much by her before, but was impressed enough after the flight to purchase the album on iTunes. I enjoyed my fruit smoothie and gooseberry yogurt, but was not feeling up to a full English breakfast. Mr 2K clearly was, however, and seemed quite surprised at the arrival at his seat of an overflowing plate of unhealthiness!
Ottoman in the morning light (still very narrow)
The usual ‘almost there’ shot
Shortly decent had begun, and I requested a duty free bag from the crew in which I deposited my PJs and washbag (I had packed my rollaboard to full capacity, as I had not checked in any hold baggage). We arrived in HKG
on time via RWY 07L, and taxied to Gate 19 at the main building end of the terminal.
Sensibly, all gates at HKG
have dual airbridges, and both of these are always utilised for widebody aircraft. As such, we disembarked through Door 1L, with the crew holding back the Club World masses. The gentleman from 1A and I exchanged a little ‘you go first… no, you go first’ moment at the door, as he emerged from the ‘K’ side of the aircraft through the galley. The friendly female crew member who had mostly been serving me exchanged a comment along the lines of ‘so polite’, and with a thank you and a smile I departed the aircraft and embarked on the 5 minute walk to immigration. It took about 10 minutes to be processed through the Visitors channel, but once I had my passport stamped I was landside within two minutes.
The Airport Express is by far the easiest way to reach Kowloon/Hong Kong Island, and there is a ticket desk conveniently located to the right before making the final exit into the arrivals hall. After purchasing an excellent value HK
$300 Octopus card, allowing for two Airport Express journeys and unlimited MTR/MTR Bus travel for three consecutive days, it didn’t take me long to find the clearly signed train platform. The journey to Kowloon Station took around 20 minutes, and thanks to no queue for a taxi at the extremely efficient manned taxi rank, I was checking in at the InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong only around an hour after landing.
InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong and my time in Asia’s World City
Grand Stanford (GS
) is one of two ICs in Hong Kong, the other being vastly more expensive and, judging by pictures/reviews, not significantly better. I was delighted with my stay at the GS
– the property is styled classically with a modern twist, and has an overall good feeling about it. It’s not too businessy, not too touristy – just the right balance.
My rollaboard was taken from me as I exited the taxi, and I wandered over to the Ambassador check-in desk. The efficient (but not overly welcoming) receptionist checked me in, gave me directions to the Club lounge on the 1st floor, and did the usual credit card/paperwork shuffle, before handing me my room keys with directions to the lifts.
10th floor lift lobby
10th floor corridor
My room, on the 10th floor of this 18-floor property, was a Side Harbour View room, upgraded from my booked City View room thanks to my Ambassador status. The room was on the large side, with a queen sized bed, writing desk, TV
cabinet with large LCD TV
and standard-sized bathroom (with shower over the bath and, even worse, shower curtain!). However, the room was spotlessly clean and the fantastic view across the harbour to Wan Chai more than made up for the (not unexpected) shower arrangements. The Ambassador welcome fruit plate and Vittel mineral water were present on the TV
cabinet, as was the Ambassador gift (a box of delicious chocolates, on this occasion). Two bottles of complimentary InterContinental branded mineral water were available in the bathroom (replenished daily), along with Elemis amenities.
Side Harbour View room
Ambassador welcome amenities
The dreaded shower over bath and shower curtain (not too bad in reality)
Spectacular view from the room
The Club lounge in the 1st floor overlooks the harbour, and has recently been refurbished into a rather impressive space, featuring a long ‘corridor’ of seating, boardroom, hot and cold buffets, TV
seating area, two PCs and an outside terrace. Staying on a Club rate, I was entitled to 20% discount on laundry services, and, much more useful to me, complimentary wired and wireless internet, not only in the lounge, but throughout the hotel (including in-room). This should be the norm at all five star properties these days.
The Club lounge staff couldn’t have done more to make me feel welcome, delivering consistently excellent service throughout my 5-night stay. The breakfast selection was comprehensive, with a changing choice of buffet hot dishes and a vast array of continental items. In addition, a breakfast menu was available from which a variety of items could be ordered. Afternoon tea was not quite so comprehensive, but did change each day and included a variety of cakes and scones. Evening canapés matched breakfast in choice (and in quality), with a delicious selection of both hot and cold items. Drinks were available throughout lounge opening times of 06:30-23:00. The lounge staff clearly took pride in serving their guests, and it was a delight to visit every day. I also experienced both In-Room Dining and The Mistral (Italian) restaurant during my stay. Both were superb, in terms of service, choice and quality. The Mistral experience was only let down by its location in the base of the hotel, thus lacking any view. It was also rather on the expensive side, but I was pleasantly surprised by the relatively cheap In-Room Dining, that was certainly not cheap in terms of quality.
Entrance walkway to the Club lounge on the 1st floor
View from the Club lounge
Club lounge tables set for breakfast
During my time in Hong Kong, I visited a mix of tourist and local areas, broadly falling into the areas of Central (financial centre), Western (fascinating steep and narrow hills with shophouses), The Peak (with the famous Peak Tram), Wan Chai (a mix of modern Western and traditional Chinese streets), Causeway Bay (shopping mecca), Lantau island (the location of the famous Big Buddah) and Tsimshatsui (the area around my hotel). My preferred areas for experiencing ‘real’ China were Western and Wan Chai, although the mega malls of Tsimshatsui and Causeway Bay were certainly impressive. I will include a very small selection of shots from around HK
In my opinion, the Peak Tram is slightly overrated – a long queue for an eight minute ascent. The Peak Tower is a complete tourist trap, but if you head straight to the top, the view is certainly spectacular (particularly on a clear day, quite a rarity in HK
). Skipping the Tram on the way back from the Peak, I took a local bus, which gave a fascinating tour through country and suburban areas on its way back to Wan Chai.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Big Buddah, reached via MTR and the spectacular Ngong Ping cable car, with breathtaking views over the parkland and airport. Walking through the touristy fake village, the Buddah itself was impressive, and the monastery a fascinating insight. A short walk through the countryside away from the tourist trail, and more spectacular views revealed themselves.
The famous Symphony of Light show, impressive if a little Disney, takes place every night at 20:00, and is best viewed from Tsimshatsui, towards the ferry-end of the Avenue of Stars. Avoid the Kowloon-end of the Avenue (closest to the IC GS
), as this is where the tourist buses tend to congregate, and the tourists don’t tend to walk too far along the Avenue.
Transport around HK
was easy thanks to the efficient MTR, with the Star Ferry and traditional trams being a great way to see the city for a very, very cheap price (think pence). The Upper Deck of the Star Ferry costs just 20p, and affords awe-inspiring views of both sides of the harbour. I experienced little of HK
’s supposedly infamous brusque customer service, instead being made to feel welcome by all those I interacted with. HK
, despite its many corporate towers, certainly does have a special aura about it, different from many other Asian cities. With English being the second official language, it is relatively easy to communicate (taxi drivers being the most notable exception). Thanks to matthandy from FlyerTalk for his excellent advice on what to see and do before I visited. If Hong Kong is not on your list of places to visit, it should be.
During the penultimate day of my stay, I indulged in a spot of relaxation on the pleasant and well-maintained hotel ‘Sun Court’, the top-floor heated outdoor pool and sun terrace, adjacent to the small fitness centre. Service was again very good, although the staff were not quite so proactive in offering drinks as in the Club lounge (strange, given that Sun Court drinks are a revenue source for the hotel!).
Check-out was efficient in the Club lounge, with no fewer than five members of staff bowing me out of the (held open) door. Marvellous. I can wholeheartedly recommend the InterContinental Grand Stanford, and it is most certainly well worth the extra to enjoy Club privileges.
HKG-LHR, BA First
So my time in Asia’s World City had regrettably come to an end, and it would soon be time to face the world of work once more. However, thanks to a very late flight departing at 23:15 and a hotel check-out that had been extended until 16:00, I had the majority of the day free in the city, before making my way to the airport in good time thanks to a quick taxi ride to Kowloon Station and the marvellously efficient Airport Express.
I arrived at the airport at around 17:00, a good 6 hours or so prior to departure. This gave me ample time to do the oneworld lounge tour of the three CX
lounges (not counting the former Dragonair Gate 16 lounge, now operated by CX
, which by all accounts is rubbish) and joint BA
check-in desks don’t open until 3 hours before departure, but as I had hand baggage only and had printed my boarding pass in the Grand Stanford’s Club lounge, I was able to go straight through security (with the minimum of wait times, despite there being no Fast Track) and emigration (around a three minute wait, again with no Fast Track). I opted to go through the left hand zone for these two checkpoints, as this would bring me out closest to Cathay Pacific’s flagship ‘The Wing’ lounge complex. Much like the CCR
at LHR T5
, there is a private entrance to The Wing’s F section on Level 7 immediately on the left after passing through emigration. Those wanting the J section must descend to Level