Hello everyone! This is the second and final installment of my report on my May 2011 trip to Asia. I apologize for taking so long to upload this installment but, as they say, better late than never!
After eight days of lots of fun in Asia (13 hours in Seoul, 1.5 days in Siem Reap/Angkor Wat, one day in Phnom Penh and the rest in Singapore), I had to go back to New York. Even though the trip was too short (aren’t holidays always too short?), it was fantastic and very enriching. I found Seoul to be an amazing city, and now I have set myself the goal of going back for a proper multi-day visit. Angkor Wat was everything I had read and more… it really is one of the most breathtaking and fascinating places on the planet. As for Phnom Penh, well, I am not a big fan to be honest, but I do think it has a lot of potential; my recommendation is that if you happen to be in the area and it fits your schedule and budget, you should give it a try (just don’t go out of your way to visit). Finally, Singapore was just amazing! This was my second visit to the city state of the merlion, but enough time had passed between the first one in 2002 and this one to make me very eager to go back. Singapore is a really awesome city; however, the greatest thing about spending a few days in Singapore was not what the city offered to me, but rather the chance to attend the wedding of Coal and his lovely wife (and the pre- and post-wedding celebrations), get together with Aussie_ (whom I had not seen since 2007) and his girlfriend who decided to come to Singapore for the weekend, and meet wonderful people through Coal. I had a really, really good time. I do not hesitate to say that this trip to Asia was the highlight of year 2011.
Anyway, Sunday, May 15 was the last day I had in Singapore. Collateral damage (i.e., the hangover after the wedding party and the post-wedding party) was relatively mild and limited, so that was a great thing. After having breakfast, Aussie_, his girlfriend and I went to the Jurong Bird Park and afterwards we went for a late lunch and dessert on Orchard Road. Aussie_ and his girlfriend were leaving that evening for Brisbane, so we said goodbye at the hotel, and at that point I joined Coal, his wife and his in-laws for the night safari at the Singapore Zoo. Once I was back at the hotel, I packed and made arrangements for a taxicab to meet me a few hours later for my early morning commute to SIN
Monday, May 16, 2011
06:00 – 14:20
After sleeping 4 hours or so, I had to wake up at an ungodly hour in order to pay my hotel bill, take my taxi and start my journey back to the Big Apple. The taxi ride was quick because, well, the streets were empty, and soon enough I was at the airport. The DL
counters were not busy at all, so the whole process went rather quickly, even though I first had to answer some questions to a local police officer (I assume this is standard procedure on flights bound for the U.S.). The check-in agent was very friendly and he gave me an emergency exit row seat for the SIN
leg, which was great (sadly, he was unable to find me a good seat on the NRT
leg, so I had to settle for a regular aisle seat). Once I had gone through emigration, I looked for the Priority Pass lounge and I made the mistake of going to the Rainforest by SATS instead of the SkyView Lounge. For starters, the walk to the lounge was quite long (and the location was at the opposite end of the terminal from the DL
gate). Even though the lounge is not too bad, I think the rainforest theme might not exactly be to everyone’s tastes; in terms of food, the selection was a bit meager (and the eggs were somewhat disappointing). Other than that, it was a perfectly good place to spend the time I had before it was time to head to the gate.
As I said, the walk to the DL
gate was longish, and when I realized that the SkyView Lounge was very close to the gate, I got mad at myself for not making due inquiry. Oh well, next time I use SIN
’s T1 I will know where to go.
Upon arriving at the gate’s waiting area, I realized there was a short line to go through the X-ray machine, so I lined up and waited for my turn. After doing so, I took a pic of our plane and found a seat close to the gate.
I was beginning to feel sleepy, but I stroke up a conversation with a very nice girl who was going to Hawaii via NRT
for a vacation. It seems she is an American expat living in Singapore. We talked a bit about Singapore, the long flights ahead of both of us (especially me), and some other small talk, and then the boarding process started.
Because the load of the flight was light, the boarding process took a short time only, and was not chaotic. Once on board, I was soon in my seat and had ample room in the overhead compartment to stash my hand luggage. As you can see from the pics, I had unlimited legroom, which was awesome! First class legroom at economy class prices hehe.
This was the view of the seats across the aisle from my seat. My side of the aisle was definitely better!
I was quite tired and sleepy, but I was able to read my book between take off and breakfast. If you read my previous trip report covering the flights between JFK
, you will remember that I was busy reading The Last Prince Of The Mexican Empire because I had promised I’d give it to Coal in Singapore. Asian Tour May 2011. Part I: JFK-ICN-REP On KE (by EddieDude Jul 7 2011 in Trip Reports)
. I finished the book one night in Cambodia, so it was now time to start a new book. This time, it was Damon Galgut’s In A Strange Room. I found about this book thanks to a newsletter that the University of Chicago Law School sends to its alumni around Christmas with some reading suggestions by the faculty members. After reading what the book was about and that it had been the finalist for a literary award in South Africa, I decided to get it from Amazon and bring it with me to Asia.
Anyway, the flight was quite uneventful and after an hour or so breakfast was served. We were very close to the coast of Vietnam when this happened.
I have to say that I did not hesitate to accept breakfast even though I had eaten a little bit at the SIN
lounge. As you can see, the Western breakfast offering was nothing to write home about, but it did the trick.
Shortly after the trays were removed, I paid the requisite visit to the lavatory, which was in a very good condition as expected, considering that it was a 77L (i.e., new or relatively new plane).
After returning to my seat, I spent the rest of the flight snoozing, reading my book and looking at the moving map. The book was very engaging, and every turn of the page forced me to keep reading! I should have saved the book for the NRT
flight, which was on a 744 with no personal IFE and a 100% load. I should have really taken advantage of the PTVs with AVOD during this SIN
flight, but hindsight is 20/20.
Eventually, it was time for the pre-arrival snack, which consisted of a very average cold ham sandwich in a plain roll. I had apple juice to accompany my sandwich.
In between the two meals, by the way, there were a couple of water runs by the crew. After the crew came around to pick up the empty glasses and the sandwich’s plastic wrap, I basically snoozed some more while listening to my iPod.
As we approached NRT
, we experienced a bit of turbulence, but nothing major. I sort of regretted not having a window seat, but I could still catch a glimpse of the fields and houses through the nearest window thanks to the fact that the passenger on seat A was not very interested in looking out the window and therefore left the view unobstructed.
I must say I was really happy to be in NRT
. I had always wanted to visit this airport (I don’t know why) and now I was there… sadly my connection did not afford me a lot of time to explore the gates, the shops, the lounge, etcetera, but it was better than nothing. The “ATL
wing” of NRT
was full of familiar tails… several DL
aircraft of different types and sizes, and an AM
What a great sight! For a moment I thought about buying a ticket to MEX
and hop on the AM
bird instead of continuing my trip to JFK
. After going through X-rays right after disembarking, I found myself on a long and quite deserted aisle, and the only things that I could see were one or two very small duty free shops and some maps on the walls that were somewhat confusing. It took me a while to figure out the way to the KE
lounge. The lounge was not too big but esthetically pleasing. It was a pity that I had barely 20 minutes or less to spend there, but I promised myself I would come back… perhaps on an AM
plane, and perhaps on a 788 rather than a 763.
There was an area for first class passengers only, separated from the rest of the lounge by a bead curtain of sorts, and the seats in that area looked more comfortable. In any case, my stay at the lounge (the J-class side) was pleasant, albeit too short. I attacked the self-service food and drinks area and had, you guess, some pineapple juice plus some crackers. To be honest, the food offerings seemed to be quite meager… I am not sure if this was due to the time of the day or if this lounge is just like that (much closer to the American standards than the Middle Eastern). Anyway, soon it was time to leave the lounge and go to the gate, which luckily was closer.
Upon my arrival at the gate, I was greeted by a nightmare. A huge line of dozens of people had already formed as the boarding process was about to start. I tried to change my seat to an emergency exit row, but the agent at the counter told me the flight was completely full and all seats had been assigned. I joined the queue and was happy to see that the process of boarding by zones was being respected by all the passengers, so when it was time for my zone to board, I quickly walked towards the agents scanning the boarding passes and eventually made my way to my seat.
Monday, May 16, 2011
15:15 – 14:59
This was my first time on board a DL
744; my previous 744 flights had been on LH
(1996 and 2004), BA
(2007) and KE
(2011). At the time of the flight, I wondered how longer DL
will keep the 744s and what they will be replaced with… now I know they will still be around for a while considering that DL
will update the cabins. In any event, I was excited because I don’t fly on board widebody planes as much as I would like to. Sadly, DL
’s 744s do not have PTVs yet, and this was going to be a long flight. It was then when I realized I should not have read so much during the SIN
flight… I was at this point in time almost done with my book and once I finished, I would not have much to entertain myself with other than my iPod and the inflight reading materials. Oh well, maybe I would be able to sleep.
As you can see, legroom was not too bad. I would have liked to have an emergency exit row seat, but no complaints. This flight was fully booked, just like the KE
flight that took me from JFK
; I do not believe I saw any empty seat in the entire coach cabin. I really feel bad for the people who have to sit in the middle seats for long haul flights. It must be really horrible.
Once the boarding process finished, I realized how tired I was. I hoped I would be able to get some rest during the flight. Soon after take-off, the flight attendants distributed menus for the meals, and a beverage service followed shortly (apple juice and peanuts for me). A bit later, dinner was served.
The meal was quite alright. I had the beef for main course; it came with stir-fried veggies and rice. I had a glass of red wine with my food.
After the trays were removed, I spent the time reading my book. It took me very little to finish it. The book (In a Strange Room) is actually three stories in one, all of them involving trips, and in my opinion one of the most remarkable aspects of this book is that the author alternates between first person narrative and third person descriptions throughout the story to communicate with the reader in a more effective way. It is highly recommendable. When I was done, I confirmed that it had been a big mistake to dedicate a substantial portion of my SIN
flight to reading the book… I could have easily passed the time enjoying the 77L AVOD and leave the book for the non-PTV NRT
flight, but it was too late to undo things.
Lucky for me, I was able to sleep a bit and the Japanese gentleman sitting next to me did not feel the urge to walk around or use the lavatory often. Other than the movies showing on the screens and the water service by the flight attendants, not much happened… it seems that closing the blinds and turning off the lights does induce sleep in most passengers.
After my nap, a snack was served; it consisted of fruit, yogurt and a roll. I had some O.J. to go with it.
After the garbage was collected by the flight attendants, I rested some more while I listened to my iPod; when I got bored, I decided to walk around. Since most passengers were still sleeping, I was able to walk up and down the mostly unobstructed aisles at my convenience. After a few rounds, I found the most amazing place to hang out. The doors just ahead of the wings had a fantastic view of what I believe were the Northwest Territories and/or Nunavut.
I could not get enough of the views and I spent a lot of time enjoying myself. Sadly, two young Japanese kids saw me and wanted part of the action too, so I let them had the starboard door and I went to the port door to continue my observation of the snowy mountainous landscape below us.
After a while, a flight attendant whom I had not seen before (presumably from the J cabin) came and told me I could not stay there because I could cause a disturbance to the other passengers and told me to go back to my seat. She was kind of rude. I did not feel like arguing and I went back to my seat.
When I arrived at my seat, I noticed that the seat next to mine was empty, so instead of sitting down I decided to go to the lavatory and wait for my seatmate to return before taking another stab at sleeping. Once we were both in our seats, I listened to my iPod some more and read the inflight magazine until I fell asleep again. By the time I woke up, we were closer to our final destination. Soon enough, “breakfast” service took place. My choice of brekkie consisted of some fruit, a roll that was quit blah, and a Spanish omelet/frittata kind of thing that was neither good nor bad. My beverage choice was O.J. once again.
Once the meal service was completed, everything happened very fast. The usual preparations for landing took place and soon enough my Asian adventure came to an end as the beautiful 744 touched down a few yards from Jamaica Bay and we found ourselves being taxied towards T3
Thank you very much for your attention. Your feedback is welcome.
[Edited 2012-02-06 11:06:55]
Next flights: MEX-LAX AM 738, LAX-PVG DL 77L, SHA-PEK CA 789, PEK-PVG CA A332, PVG-ORD MU 77W, ORD-MEX AM 738