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kann123air
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Posts: 1644
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 2:35 am

Southeast Asia - Part 1! FSM-DFW-NRT-KUL-HAN, AA and MH Y

Sat May 02, 2020 5:31 am

Hi friends!

Welcome to my second trip report of 2020, featuring my onward journey for my two-week long trip through northern Vietnam and Cambodia through the middle part of May 2019. I was privileged enough to travel through these areas with my best friend, Maya, who had just completed a semester in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and was trying to visit all of the neighboring countries before her return to America. Earlier in the semester, she had visited Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, and Indonesia. She decided to save Vietnam and Cambodia to explore with me. This trip encompasses the onward journey from Fort Smith to Hanoi, while part two and three will cover the trip itself (including a HAN-DMK-PNH hop on Thai Air Asia), and the return to Arkansas, respectively.

So, who is Maya, this person who is going to be featured throughout this series of trip reports? As many of you know already, I am a senior at the University of Arkansas, and I happened to meet her through a mutual friend freshman year. Since then, we have had the perfect definition of an extremely close, yet 100% platonic relationship. She is a brilliant triple major in Political Science, International Relations, and French. She has had several summer internships in Washington D.C., one of which was with the State Department, and had spent a semester in Copenhagen, a year before her aforementioned semester in Thailand.

In December 2018, I was working on my laptop in my apartment in Fayetteville when I got a text from her. It was pretty late, around 2:00am. The message simply read: “hey, crazy idea. Travel through Vietnam and Cambodia with me.” I saw that and was filled with a mixture of thrill and disappointment. I figured that several obstacles would have to be overcome before this idea gained any traction. My parents were quite strict in high school, and coming from a fairly traditional Indian household, they can be pretty hesitant towards any close relationships with non-Indian American girls. I figured my parents would say no, just based off of this fact, despite the fact that Maya and I have always and always will be, just friends.

Secondly, how would I pay for the airfare? I likely would not have paid the ~$1500 air ticket for a two-week trip to the other side of the world. My only hope was to use airline miles, availability for which I figured would be unlikely since AA, my main airline of choice, does not serve Vietnam or Cambodia.

Finally, at the time I was a junior pre-med, about to take the MCAT and apply to medical school. At the time, I had planned to take the exam in April, so I figured this trip would be well-timed. However, I ended up postponing the exam to June, and this trip ended up serving as a nice mental reset after what was a quite stressful semester. Still, the daunting task of writing all of my application essays loomed, and two weeks in Southeast Asia seemed like an extravagance that, at the time, seemed difficult to justify.

One obstacle fixed itself at a time. First, I managed to convince my parents to let me go. My dad was much more receptive to it, but my mom took a significant amount of coaxing. Maya even had to come up with a detailed itinerary in order to sway her. I also had to repeatedly argue that yes, we were just friends, and no, nothing would change on the other side of the world.

Let me describe how I fixed the airfare issue. I was pretty surprised to find out that I would be able to use my miles roundtrip, and for a very affordable price too. At 37.5K miles per way, I had plenty of miles to pay for the FSM-HAN, REP-FSM trips, and I was quite bewildered at how cheap it was. I took this as a sign that this was meant to happen.

Finally, the medical school aspect of the problem essentially resolved itself. As I said earlier, I came back from my two weeks abroad refreshed and ready to roll, and I ended up doing quite well on the MCAT. I had a successful application cycle, and I can happily tell you all that I hold one acceptance (the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, UAMS) and one waitlist position (the Penn State Milton Hershey School of Medicine). All in all, it turned out well!

I suppose I’ve given all of you enough of an introduction. Let me jump into the transit from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Hanoi, Vietnam, through DFW, NRT, and KUL. I was extremely excited at not only the ridiculously cheap price in miles, but also the phenomenal itinerary that accompanied it. I was thrilled to fly the A350-900 for the first time. I was also stoked to check out the Oneworld member lounges at each airport, which I had access to due to my AAdvantage Platinum status I had acquired the year before. Looking back a year later, I am glad to have gotten to chance to connect through NRT on AA, with our gradual transition over to HND as well as the closure of the Admirals Club at NRT.

I showed up at the Fort Smith Regional Airport at around 5:00am for what was supposed to be a 6:00am flight to Dallas-Ft. Worth. Following a two-hour delay due to thunderstorms in the DFW area, we finally departed, and this quick flight was rather uneventful.

Flight #1
American Eagle operated by Mesa Airlines Flight #5820
Fort Smith (FSM/KFSM) - Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW/KDFW)
Canadair CRJ-900LR #N954LR
Seat 8F
Flying Time: 1 hour 17 minutes

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

I landed in Dallas, and with about four hours to spare, I made a quick trip to Founder’s Plaza with my friend Nick, who lives in the area and goes to school with me. It was pretty gloomy and aircraft were taking off in our direction (not ideal for Founders) so I made my way back pretty quickly, and checked out the temporary premium lounge at Terminal D. The Flagship Lounge was set to open a week later, so I made sure to check it out on my return.

After a quick beer, I worked my way to gate D27A, where I found my majestic Boeing 777-200ER waiting for me. I pulled up my boarding pass, and I was tremendously excited to embark on my first longhaul 777-200ER flight since 2008.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

After a quick wait, we promptly boarded, and I was more than ready to embark on my first long haul flight of this journey to the other side of the world.

Flight #2
American Airlines Flight #61
Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW/KDFW) – Tokyo Narita (NRT/RJAA)
Boeing 777-223ER #N779AN
Seat 28L
Flying Time: 12 hours 49 minutes

Upon boarding, I was treated to a view of the majestic flight deck of the 777-200ER. The captain joked that the aircraft we were on was made of “real metal”, as opposed to the 787-8 parked next to us.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

After a slow rumble to the active and a long takeoff roll, we were up and away towards Tokyo! This was my first time flying on the heralded Dallas-Tokyo route and my first time visiting a Tokyo airport, so I was pumped.

I honestly was mildly impressed with the lunch service on this flight. The beef was pretty good, especially for economy class!

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

Check out this awesome view of Seattle, about three hours into the flight.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

I killed just over two hours watching Vice, and I thought it was a fantastic movie. I am just old enough to remember a decent amount of the Bush White House, and it was pretty incredible to see just how much power Dick Cheney was given. Dramatized, of course.

I also thought the breakfast was perfectly fine. Not incredible by any means, but nothing to complain about.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

This flight went by pretty quickly. I was in bliss, being on a longhaul 777-200ER for the first time in a while. I slept a decent amount, and woke up about an hour prior to landing.

Hello, Japan!

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

After a pretty quick taxi, we parked next to N787AL, which had operated AA175, also from Dallas-Ft. Worth. I had flown on this bird in December 2016, DFW-LAX.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

After a relatively quick disembark, we went through security before emerging at the glory that is NRT Terminal 2. Having heard about this phenomenal airport for years, I was giddy to finally be there. I was in Japan! Incredible!

How cute is this feature of NRT’s WiFi?

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr
ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

I had just over five hours to spent exploring before my A350 to Kuala Lumpur. The first item on the agenda was a shower. After a nearly 13 hour flight, I felt like I needed one to wake up, before I was to eat anything or do any further exploring of T2.

Figuring that the JAL Sakura Lounge would have more shower availability than any of the other Oneworld lounges, I made my way to it. Once I presented my AA Platinum card to the agent, I made my way inside, and was in awe at how beautiful the downstairs portion of the lounge was. I asked for a shower key, and was given a buzzer instead. I asked how long the wait would be, and the agent replied with “two hours”.

Seriously? Two hours? I gave the agent the buzzer back and decided to head to the American Airlines Admirals Club, hoping that I would have better luck there. After a quick check-in, I found myself number one in line for a shower. That move saved two hours!

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

After a shower that was significantly longer than it really should have been, I briefly explored this lounge. I found that its food selection was somewhat lacking, but the views it afforded were awesome.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

With no reason to stay at the Admirals Club after my shower and brief bout of plane spotting, I headed back over to the JAL Sakura Lounge for dinner.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr
ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

Let me tell you, I had a phenomenal time at this lounge. I made my way upstairs to the dining area, and had one of the best meals I’ve had in any lounge. JAL’s signature beef curry, accompanied with shrimp noodles and one… or two… or three Kirin beers, topped off with phenomenal, elevated ramp views made for a delightful evening.

And all of this for 75K miles + $80? I felt blessed.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

I watched an absolutely beautiful sunset from my perch, and watched the evening movements slowly make their way out of T2 for departure. You can barely see it, but pictured in one of AA’s 787-9 Dreamliners, N838AA. I had flown that bird LAX-AKL just a few months earlier.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

After a few hours of indescribable bliss, I made my way towards gate 98 for my departure to Kuala Lumpur. I was pretty excited for my first flight on the A350-900, as well as my first flight on Malaysia Airlines.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

After a quick boarding procedure, I was on my first A350 ever!

Flight #3
Malaysia Airlines Flight #71
Tokyo Narita (NRT/RJAA) – Kuala Lumpur (KUL/WMKK)
Airbus A350-900 #9M-MAE
Seat 30K
Flying Time: 7 hours 11 minutes

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

I asked for a cockpit visit, which was promptly denied. I somewhat expected this, as I am sure MH is pretty strict on security in the wake of MH370.

I will say that I was somewhat disappointed in the food on the flight. I thought the meal on DFW-NRT was significantly better. Believe me, I’m usually not one to complain about airplane food, but I didn’t think the “salad” on the top left was very good at all. Also, the chicken wasn’t that great.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

I slept for a decent amount of this flight, as it was exclusively a night flight. I don’t remember anything notable from it. I was surprised at how loud the A350 was in cruise, and I thought it was a bit louder than the 787. It was extremely silent on descent, though.

We landed in Kuala Lumpur at 3:43am local time. The airport was understandably dead, and having never been to KUL, I had no idea where I was, or where the MH lounge was. Maybe it’s just me, but it is in those moments that I feel pure, unbridled thrill. There I was, completely alone, in a new country at 4:00am, with absolutely no idea where to go. What an indescribably incredible feeling.

It was shortly after this picture that I noticed the MH golden lounge, all the way down at the end of the hallway.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

I checked in, and with a few hours to relax, I started with another shower. The shower rooms were totally empty, and I remember having to find a towel for myself, behind a stand which I assume would have been manned during daytime hours.

One nice shower later, I made my way towards the food area for an early breakfast. I was incredibly impressed at the items available at this hour. I filled my plate with Nasi Lemak, and worked my way towards one of the many comfortable couches facing the ramp.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

Check out this array of food available at 4:30am!

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

I remember adding milk to my coffee and being stunned at how good it was. There is something magical about milk in south Asia. It tasted like what my grandma makes every morning in Chennai, India.

A quick look at the FIDS, and my flight to Hanoi was looking good. My A350 was turning around to operate MH4 to LHR, out of the gate I had arrived into, C12.

ImageFSM-HAN TR :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

Before I worked my way to the regional terminal, I had one more stop to make. I visited the gate that MH370 departed from, and paused for a second. It was powerful to look at the last jetbridge that 9M-MRO connected to.

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

After this small detour, I hopped on the tram to take me from the Satellite Terminal A to the Main Terminal, where my flight to Hanoi would leave out of H-gates from the contact pier.

I made my way to the domestic golden lounge, where I observed a truly stunning sunrise while sipping my second coffee of the morning. I tried to resist having more nasi lemak. I failed.

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

Pretty cool to see the AA logo so far from home, at an airport that we don’t even serve. I love you, Oneworld!

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

Always a big fan of airplane models in airports!

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

By then, the sun had fully come up, and I sauntered my way to the H-gates. I was really enjoying myself.

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

How good do MH’s 738s look in their variety of liveries? I am a big fan.

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

Let’s get this show on the road!

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

After going through the security checkpoint for my gate, which was an unusual experience for me, and a short wait time, I was onboard my final aircraft for this onward journey!

Flight #4
Malaysia Airlines Flight #752
Kuala Lumpur (KUL/WMKK) – Hanoi Noi Bai (HAN/VVNB)
Boeing 737-800 #9M-MXQ
Seat 23L
Flying Time: 3 hours 26 minutes

What a cute winglet logo!

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

After my disappointing meal on NRT-KUL, I didn’t expect much out of the service on this flight. I was very pleasantly surprised to be served a spicy, delicious nasi lemak, complemented with a packet of peanuts and anchovies!

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

I played around with the AVOD on this lovely 738 for a little bit, and chatted with the friendly F/A in the back. I told him I was very impressed with MH’s short haul service, and commented about how not many American carriers have AVOD on their smaller narrowbody aircraft. I also mentioned how those that do are taking them out in favor of WiFi, and BYOD.

Before I knew it, we had begun our descent into HAN!

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

After a short touchdown and taxi to the gate, I quickly worked my way through immigration. I had no checked bags (only a backpack, actually), so this was a breeze. I marched over to baggage claim, where I found my best friend waiting for me on the other side. What a feeling it was to reunite after six months, and over 40 hours of travel!

Here we are, at an eatery in Hanoi old town a few hours after my arrival.

ImageFSM-HAN TR part 2 :) by Amrit Kannan, on Flickr

My thoughts:

As usual, I was pretty impressed with AA’s longhaul Y product. The food was not bad at all, and AA’s hard product on the 777-200ER is perfectly acceptable. As I mentioned earlier, I was disappointed with the MH A350 in general. The service wasn’t significantly better than that of a US3 carrier in Y, and the food was disappointing. I was very impressed with both of MH’s lounges in KUL, and their 737-800 service to HAN was great. In general, lounge access what a tremendous benefit on this journey. I visited five lounges in total (AA's Terminal D premium lounge at DFW, JAL's Sakura and the AA Admirals Club at NRT, and both MH golden lounges in KUL), and I remember telling Maya that I felt very refreshed and ready to roll as soon as I arrived. We hit the ground running, which was likely due to the fact that I had taken several showers and felt great throughout the transit.

Be on the lookout for my next report, which will feature our two weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as our two flights on Thai Air Asia (HAN-DMK-PNH). Both of these flights were on special liveries, making them even cooler than they already were to me.

Thanks for reading, and as always, comments are welcome!

Amrit
Going for great
 
User avatar
zachary165
Posts: 158
Joined: Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:19 am

Re: Southeast Asia - Part 1! FSM-DFW-NRT-KUL-HAN, AA and MH Y

Sun May 03, 2020 3:41 pm

Excellent and very detailed report as always Amrit! Looking forward to part 2 soon
"Keep true to the dreams of thy youth." - Schiller
 
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kann123air
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Posts: 1644
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 2:35 am

Re: Southeast Asia - Part 1! FSM-DFW-NRT-KUL-HAN, AA and MH Y

Tue May 05, 2020 6:43 am

zachary165 wrote:
Excellent and very detailed report as always Amrit! Looking forward to part 2 soon


Thanks Zach! I appreciate it buddy.
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subramak1
Posts: 194
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:21 pm

Re: Southeast Asia - Part 1! FSM-DFW-NRT-KUL-HAN, AA and MH Y

Fri May 08, 2020 12:53 am

kann123air wrote:
Hi friends!


So, who is Maya, this person who is going to be featured throughout this series of trip reports? As many of you know already, I am a senior at the University of Arkansas, and I happened to meet her through a mutual friend freshman year. Since then, we have had the perfect definition of an extremely close, yet 100% platonic relationship. She is a brilliant triple major in Political Science, International Relations, and French. She has had several summer internships in Washington D.C., one of which was with the State Department, and had spent a semester in Copenhagen, a year before her aforementioned semester in Thailand.

In December 2018, I was working on my laptop in my apartment in Fayetteville when I got a text from her. It was pretty late, around 2:00am. The message simply read: “hey, crazy idea. Travel through Vietnam and Cambodia with me.” I saw that and was filled with a mixture of thrill and disappointment. I figured that several obstacles would have to be overcome before this idea gained any traction. My parents were quite strict in high school, and coming from a fairly traditional Indian household, they can be pretty hesitant towards any close relationships with non-Indian American girls. I figured my parents would say no, just based off of this fact, despite the fact that Maya and I have always and always will be, just friends.

Secondly, how would I pay for the airfare? I likely would not have paid the ~$1500 air ticket for a two-week trip to the other side of the world. My only hope was to
One obstacle fixed itself at a time. First, I managed to convince my parents to let me go. My dad was much more receptive to it, but my mom took a significant amount of coaxing. Maya even had to come up with a detailed itinerary in order to sway her. I also had to repeatedly argue that yes, we were just friends, and no, nothing would change on the other side of the world.


Amrit


Congratulations on your acceptance to Med School. That is a credible achievement. On the quoted para above, I have to say LoL; I can totally understand the context though as a Desi person.

KK
 
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kann123air
Topic Author
Posts: 1644
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 2:35 am

Re: Southeast Asia - Part 1! FSM-DFW-NRT-KUL-HAN, AA and MH Y

Tue May 12, 2020 6:11 am

Hey Subramak1,

Thanks for the kind words!! And haha yes, I figure you would understand as a person of Desi heritage!
Going for great
 
jrfspa320
Posts: 591
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 12:18 am

Re: Southeast Asia - Part 1! FSM-DFW-NRT-KUL-HAN, AA and MH Y

Tue May 12, 2020 1:20 pm

Thanks for writing up! Good details. Looking forward to part 2, a welcome reminisce of the days of flying and travel. Im always fond of flying MH, the hard product may not be the best but the crew are very warm.

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