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allrite
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The Whale And The Elephant Pt 3: QF 747 LHR-HKG

Thu Jul 23, 2009 5:14 am

The Whale And The Elephant Pt 1: QF A380 SYD-SIN
The Whale And The Elephant Pt 2: QF 747 SIN-LHR

After very little sleep on the flight, I was quite exhausted when I arrived at my hotel, the Barkston Gardens, so named for the gorgeous private park opposite. I waited in the lounge, hoping to be allowed to check into my room early, used their wireless internet service to Skype my wife.

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Unfortunately, it looked like none of the rooms would be ready until the afternoon, so, despite my exhaustion, I decided to go out into London and explore. Last time in London I was greatly disappointed that I had missed out on the museums after having got lost in Harrods. With only two free days on this trip I was not going to make the same mistake again.

That day I saw (in order of visitation) the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Science Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the Victoria and Albert Museum, then I walked back from the V&A to Earl's Court. The amazing thing was that I got something worthwhile out of each museum and gallery. Aviation buffs shouldn't miss the Science Museum's aircraft and space displays, though I personally found the mechanical computers and mathematics exhibits fascinating as well.

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The next day I caught the Eurostar to Brussels, then travelled onwards to Ghent. I had booked the Eurostar tickets online and printed them out, but I still had to wait for the long security checks. The train itself was very uncomfortable as the economy section comprised facing seats divided by a thin table. There was very little legroom and my daypack was squashed up on my lap as I required easy access to it.

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On the opposite site of the carriage sat an American who, as is their wont, needed to constantly verbalise his thoughts, disturbing the Englishman who just wanted to do some work. Thankfully I had my earphones.

I can't believe that Belgium isn't a more popular tourist destination. When I stepped into the town square at Ghent my jaw just dropped at its magnificence. I need to return to show my wife this place. And buy more chocolate! The funny thing was that I didn't see anywhere selling Belgian waffles and ice cream, but I did see an Australian Ice Cream outlet. (In Australia, we buy from New Zealand ice cream shops or European outlets!).

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Like Heathrow, the chunnel is obviously slot constrained. Our train was late arriving into Brussels and we missed our slot out, greatly delaying us. I didn't care, but a Japanese couple opposite me did, having to rebook some forward travel. The trilingual customer service manager was extremely apologetic, but informed them that automatic compensation required much longer delays. I guess they were just used to the extreme punctuality of the Japanese railways, where even a 20 minute delay on a rural line gets a station master booking taxis! I can't say I blame them for their displeasure. A Shinkansen is far more comfortable than a Eurostar and with far more legroom.

The next three days were all about programming Plone, so there's nothing more to say about that here, except that, on the final day, I noticed my tutor viewing turbulenceforecast.com. It turned out that he also loathed turbulence and was deciding when to fly back to Sweden based upon the turbulence forecasts! Yep, I've done that!

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See my London gallery for more city sightseeing

I had no such choices unfortunately. I woke up early on the Friday, chatted to my wife, packed my bags, quickly ate breakfast, then caught the Tube back to Heathrow station. This time there was no changing trains, so I could just relax all the way and watch the aircraft descending into Heathrow through a clear blue sky. Clear skies, a midday flight, I was looking forward to this leg of the trip.

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Inner London seems like a planespotters dream with constant flights low over the city. My location at Earl's Court seemed as good as any to admire the aircraft on descent into Heathrow.

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Not all flying vehicles were conventionally powered

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VA vs the BA London Eye

I arrived early into Heathrow's Terminal 4.The check in desk area is small and dingy and there are few, if any, shops around. The check-in staff's standard of English was quite poor, but it turned out that I had already checked in online for the flight, even though I hadn't got through the entire process to the generation of the printed boarding passes. Not a problem! I asked if I could get a window seat further forward than 55K, but I was told the aircraft was full. According to the computer the economy section had a -4 in it - overbooking?

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With nothing to detain me landside I quickly passed through security. Airside, there were a few more shops. A big duty free store selling the usual range of perfumes, liquors and souvenirs. A branch of Harrods, mainly luxury items, confectionary and tea, and more souvenirs. A bookstore and a couple of newsagencies, luxury goods shops, a coffee shop or two, bar and restaurant. As at both Sydney and Changi there were boards up hiding ongoing terminal renovations.

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I was feeling bad that I hadn't purchased anything for my wife in London, only goods for my son, so I bought a couple of small items from Harrods and the duty free store.

I had a number of hours to kill before boarding my aircraft but once I had explored the terminal there was little else to do by watch the airport operations. There were good views of the runways and environs through the glass frontage of gate 7, so I parked myself there for a while.

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One of Heathrow's runways was being used for take-offs, the closer one for landings. I observed all sorts of airlines and aircraft rarely seen in Australia. Lots of the A320 family, especially from BA along with their 747's and 777's, but also a SAS MD-11, KLM 737's, Virgin Atlantic attractive A340's, the hopelessly archaic red and white liveries of Air India and Air Mauritius, the far nicer blue and yellow of Jet Airways and many others. The Singapore Airlines A380 even made an appearance, its squat form standing out amongst the crowd.

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A Kenyan Airlines jet was departing from the far end of Terminal 4, but the terminal seemed to be devoted mainly to Continental Airlines, with 777's and a 757 parked at the gates, and Qantas. I observed three of the latter's 744's on the tarmac in front of us. I could not help but get excited about flying one of them.

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19/JUN/2009
CARRIER: Qantas
FLIGHT: QF30
SECTOR: LHR - HKG
CLASS: Y
ETD: 12:20
ETA: 07:10
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 747-400
SEAT: 55K

Eventually, after much sitting around, the time to board finally arrived. I rather liked the midday departure time as it meant I would get some daylight sightseeing in without needing to wake up too early.

Adjacent to us, and leaving first was another Qantas 747 to Singapore and onwards to Sydney. I was bound for Hong Kong on this flight. The aircraft had a refurbished interior with the red seat fabric and premium economy section. I noted how the grey honeycomb pattern on their plastic seat backing was scuffed already. I was ten rows further forward than on the last flight, in seat 55K.

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Seated adjacent to me was a very nice father and son, the latter who politely offered to let me place my bag under the front of his seat as he wasn't using the room. I declined the offer, but the kid set a much better example than the aisle seat passenger behind us.

This middle aged Australian sourpuss was talking loudly on his mobile phone to a prospective employer about Oracle database work. I gather that his current unemployment status must have precluded him from flying in business class because he appeared to take up a lot of the cheerful English cabin crew's time with complaints. Complaints about what, I don't know because I had earphones on to drown him out.

We were asked to leave our seatbelts off while the aircraft refueled at the gate, presumably to allow for faster evacuation should something go wrong. Then it was time to back away from the terminal and taxi out to the runway. There was certainly more activity now than when I arrived into London. We had to stop suddenly before crossing the first of the runways while a BA 747 landed.

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We continued our journey past maintenance hangers and parked aircraft. Adjacent to a Virgin Atlantic hanger was a rusty green mockup that looked like a stumpy hybrid of a 747 with a trijet.

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After a reasonably long ride, during which time the crew completed the safety demonstration, we arrived at the runway. The powerful engines thrust us back against the seat and in a distance much shorter than the A380 took, we had ascended into the air.

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The previously clear sky had been replaced mostly by cloud. Unfortunately, the view was not as good as on the flight in, farmland, motorways, houses and factories, but I snapped away all the same. I even saw a circus down below. The ascent was rather bumpy, but the seatbelt signs were quickly extinguished.

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Once above the cloud layer the sky was a brilliant blue. What an exciting time to fly!

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Back over continental Europe again!

Our flightpath skimmed the northern edge of Western Europe, slicing across the Jutland Peninsula and over the patchwork of fields on the islands of Denmark. Ferries could be seen plying the routes between the islands. Europe is a fascinating place from above, the molding of the countryside by thousands of years of humanity highly visible from above.

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We must have flown through some of the turbulence observed on the website the previous day, for the ride was a little bumpy.

Two hours into the flight we were served our lunch/dinner. It was a choice between Lamb Casserole with Baby Onions, New Potatoes and Beans, which is what I chose, or Red Braised Chicken with Water Chestnuts. The salad was Roasted Butternut (pumpkin) and sage. There was also a bread roll, crackers and beautiful soft French cheese. I selected a Coke to drink, but was handed a 150ml can of sparkling soft drink with vegetable extracts!

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Later, Twix ice creams were handed out. Better than the Splices, but still...

Landfall came over Poland or one of the Baltic States. I wasn't looking too hard. We were flying East towards the terminator between night and day, so this was going to be a short day and night for the passengers on the aircraft.

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As we flew across Russia and the old Soviet republics all I did was gaze out the window and struggle to listen to my MP3 player. My noise reducing earphones had broken and none of the alternatives was performing up to scratch.

The view outside was gorgeous, truly flying high above the Earth.

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PC-RudS7Zko/s800/P1130903.JPG" target=_blank>PC-RudS7Zko/s800/P1130903.JPG" width=650 height=366 alt="http://lh6.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/Sj3aAubGSeI/AAAAAAAA-p0/PC-RudS7Zko/s800/P1130903.JPG" border=0>

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Dusk arrived at a wintery five hours into the flight, more like the Southern Hemisphere season I had briefly escaped. Over what I assumed was Kazakhstan the land was scarred by the pockmarks of white salt lakes, the red dusk light generating landscape reminiscent of Australia's interior. This must be the northern remnants of the Aral Sea, the lands below poisoned by chemical remnants of a collapsed cotton industry, the rivers diverted away from the inland sea, leaving toxic dust and misery in their wake. It is a sad, sad story that all should learn from.

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Soon afterwards darkness descended, stealing the view from outside.

I tried watching "The Watchmen" on the IFE again, but just couldn't get into it. Unfortunately, the Oscar winning films aren't available on the IFE in the 747's. Instead I switched to "The Simpsons" as something that I could watch without focusing too hard.

A couple of times during the trip a message flashed up on the IFE reminding passengers that there was to be no smoking anywhere on the aircraft, including the toilets. I gather that some passengers couldn't resist. I felt sorry for the crew on this flight.

The captain had earlier announced that the flight would be smooth until China, so I was dreading crossing that border. It was still dark when we did, but I noticed cities lit brightly in the darkness below, their fine details discernable through the clear skies even though we were many kilometers up.

It was still darkness when we were fed breakfast. I had the vegetable omelette with baked beans, bacon and asparagus, along with a croissant, fruit salad, yoghurt (which I didn't eat) and orange juice. Maybe my tastebuds are more sensitive at altitude but the meals were really tasty, especially the bacon.

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As morning arrived a suffuse blue-grey glow enveloped the cloudscape outside, with high cloud above us and another layer below, blocking the view of the Chinese landscape. I was disappointed by this as China is a fascinating place from above, if you can penetrate the almost everpresent layer of smog. Towards the south a large cloud mass flickered ominously. The promised turbulence never really eventuated, but the sky certainly looked dramatic.

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The sun rose higher and the gloom disappeared, to be replaced by a bright blue sky above a carpet of puffy white clouds. The captain announced that we had begun our descent into Hong Kong from the south. Out across the sea the clouds became scattered and we could see the water below. It was now midnight London time, but here we could see the Sunlight shimmering off a placid ocean punctuated by dark islands and many, many ships.

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The aircraft turned to align itself with the airport and we drifted down towards the runway. As we dropped below the height of the mountains I caught a glimpse of Tian Tan, the giant Buddha, atop one of them. Then we touched the tarmac. Welcome to Hong Kong!

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The airport was quiet at a quarter past seven. Not dead, but not yet fully awake. We taxied past numerous Dragonair jets resting on the tarmac, before passing a Qantas A330 and nosing our way into ou
 
directorguy
Posts: 1421
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:58 am

RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 3: QF 747 LHR-HKG

Thu Jul 23, 2009 7:38 am



Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
On the opposite site of the carriage sat an American who, as is their wont, needed to constantly verbalise his thoughts, disturbing the Englishman who just wanted to do some work. Thankfully I had my earphones.

Hahaha....

Thanks for another brilliant installment. I love seeing so many exotic airliners at LHR. However, I must admit I'm rather partial to white/red schemes-so I love AI and Air Maritius.
QF catering seems good, but they need to do something about their dessert offerings. I feel really bad for you LOL  Smile
 
Ryanair!!!
Posts: 4133
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2002 8:55 pm

RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 3: QF 747 LHR-HKG

Thu Jul 23, 2009 8:28 am



Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
but also a SAS MD-11

SAS MD11?
 
bps3458
Posts: 526
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 12:25 pm

RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 3: QF 747 LHR-HKG

Thu Jul 23, 2009 10:18 am



Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
but I did see an Australian Ice Cream outlet

Really enjoying your long trip report and had a big laugh about the above. Found same outlet in Frankfurt downtown and explained to my family that this brand is unknown to us but that we really enjoy eating ice cream from New Zeland when we spend the weekend at the Southbank. Will now read the 4th and final part of your long journey.

Cheers from Brisbane,

Peter
 
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allrite
Topic Author
Posts: 2617
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:28 pm

RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 3: QF 747 LHR-HKG

Thu Jul 23, 2009 12:16 pm



Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 2):
SAS MD11?

Hehehe... my bad. MD-80's! Got that UPS MD-11F from the first installment stuck in my head! And in my defense, the whole trip report was written over a few weeks on commuter trains without internet access so fact checking was rather problematic. Big grin

Quoting BPS3458 (Reply 3):
Found same outlet in Frankfurt downtown

It's a chain I've also seen elsewhere in Europe. The funny thing was that I didn't see any waffles in Belgium, but there was a Belgium Waffle Shop right next to the entrance to the location of my lessons in London!
 
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NZ107
Posts: 4946
Joined: Sun Jul 10, 2005 6:51 pm

RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 3: QF 747 LHR-HKG

Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:32 am

Are you able to zoom in on that Star Alliance Livery plane? And tell me if it still has the likes of Ansett on it?

Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
(In Australia, we buy from New Zealand ice cream shops or European outlets!).

Yeah, just like I never get anything from New Zealand Natural!

Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
It turned out that he also loathed turbulence and was deciding when to fly back to Sweden based upon the turbulence forecasts! Yep, I've done that!

Wow.. I wonder if he had ever considered training home because there was so much lingering turbulence  Wink

Quoting Allrite (Thread starter):
I was ten rows further forward than on the last flight, in seat 55K.

Oh no! The galley! My last 2 trips on a 744 were on QF AKL-LAX-AKL a long time ago and the noise and light coming from there was really bad..
 
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allrite
Topic Author
Posts: 2617
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:28 pm

RE: The Whale And The Elephant Pt 3: QF 747 LHR-HKG

Fri Jul 24, 2009 11:54 am



Quoting NZ107 (Reply 5):
Are you able to zoom in on that Star Alliance Livery plane? And tell me if it still has the likes of Ansett on it?

Why, I do think you are right! Well spotted! The rego is G-MIDX.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_tTveYWZ5z8I/Smmf_9n3O8I/AAAAAAABQ3c/XVMFq3zq7KU/s800/star-alliance-a320.jpg

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 5):
Oh no! The galley! My last 2 trips on a 744 were on QF AKL-LAX-AKL a long time ago and the noise and light coming from there was really bad..

I don't sleep much on the flights, so the only issue is the light reflecting off the windows during the night.

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