Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
This is the second part of four covering my trip to Asia in September 2013. The remaining parts will cover:
Japan Airlines 767-300 NRT-KUL
Malaysia Airlines A380-800 KUL-LHR
But first off, this part:
Cathay Pacific 747-400 HKG-HND
By pure chance, fjiii took the same flight just a day or two before I did. His report can be seen here – http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/244134/
Much like the main sectors of this trip, this part changed dramatically from what I had planned. I did plan on taking either a pair of Cathay Pacific A330’s via TPE to Tokyo, or a Cathay A330 to PVG and then a JAL 737 onwards. However, once I found out about the great deals available in Cathay’s First Class the direct route seemed instantly more attractive – which was a first!
Despite quite a few flights between Hong Kong and Tokyo, only two offered a First Class cabin. One around 9AM operated by the 777 or the other at 16:15 operated by the 747. To me this was a no brainer – in order to take full advantage of the lounges at HKG and to be able to have a good look around an airport I’ve been fascinated with since it opened back in 1998, the later of the two services it was. I also preferred the 747 over the 777 as the First Class cabin is right in the nose.
Unfortunately, despite booking quite a while in advance, my preferred seat, 1A was already taken. So I made do with 2A instead.
Check in was available 48 hours prior to departure. Once I had returned to my hotel room in Hong Kong to shelter from the on-going typhoon, I fired up the iPad and logged on.
Unfortunately this was about as far as I got. Weather it was due to poor Wi-Fi in the hotel, bad Internet due to the Typhoon or the CX website being bombarded due to all the cancellations, who knows.
The following morning I used one of the iMac’s in the hotels reception and was more successful. Even better was that seat 1A had become available so I bagged that. I attempted to print out my boarding pass, however a message came up saying that the printer had no paper. I alerted one of the staff but it would appear something was lost in translation. Either he didn’t understand that I was telling him to put paper in the printer, or I didn’t understand the reason why he couldn’t. A lot of faffing later, he finally emailed the .pdf to the hotel and used a printer on the front desk. I could now use this and keep the boarding pass I receive at the airport as a souvenir as my first flight in First class. Although I usually do that anyway…
The following day, I checked out of my hotel at 10:30 and made my way to Kowloon station via the shuttle bus – maybe a little early, but I fancied looking around the area. Also the fact there was non stop drilling and hammering at the hotel didn’t make me want to stay longer than I had to.
Once at the station, I decided to take a look at the sky 100 observation deck, as visibility had improved quite a bit since the last instalment.
Or at least that was the plan.
Instead I walked around the pretty big shopping centre – not that I could afford to shop in any of the outlets that were here!
I made my way downstairs shortly after and on to the 11:30 train to the airport.
Upon arrival, I headed over to T2 to once again try and go to the observation deck. Unlike my previous attempt, this one was more successful. There were signs up saying entry was 15HKD, however the doors were open but nobody there to collect the entry fee. I made my way up, thinking there would be a toll booth at the end but there never was, so got free entry. One complaint about this observation deck was that it was a little bit far away from the action, but for free I couldn’t complain too much.
After a while, I headed back to T1 to grab my souvenir boarding pass from the first class check in area at the far end of the terminal.
This was one I wanted to keep hold of. I was met by a very business friendly check in agent and was asked if I had onward travel from Japan but not much else. She typed away on the computer and the details of my flight were confirmed on the screen in front of me.
I was handed my boarding pass and a lounge invite without much more said. Guess she was having a bad day…
I headed down to the North security after this.
Security itself didn’t take too long, however immigration did. There wasn’t any priority security or immigration available – at least at the North security. Once I was through I took the scenic route to the CX lounge, taking a few pics along the way.
Amusingly, just ahead of me were a group of obnoxious businessmen who quite literally threw their lounge invites at the attendant without even stopping to acknowledge her – seriously, some people! I made a point of being overly polite to her when I made my entry. Pretty much as soon as you enter there’s a very good selection of reading material.
Followed by a pretty small, but not very busy lounge area with a bar.
I headed straight to grab something to eat from The Haven restaurant at the far end, where the F lounge meets the J lounge. There was a choice of A La Carte or Buffet.
The buffet looked more appealing, so I stuck with that.
One of the better lounge meal’s I’ve had.
Following lunch, I headed outside, grabbed a drink and perched myself in one of the interesting and comfortable seats.
Shortly after, I decided to check out one of the cabanas. There was a wait of a couple of minutes but it was worth it. Very nice indeed!
Around an hour or so prior to departure, I made my way on to the tram and over to the Pier lounge – again, taking advantage of the many windows at HKG.
The BA 744 flew me LHR-IAD in April 2013.
The CX 744 in the foreground would turn out to be my ride.
The Pier Lounge wasn’t anywhere near as good. I’m guessing CX haven’t refurbed it yet. Although it was handy for my gate as the entrance was right opposite.
I settled in with some ice cream and champagne. Pretty odd mix, but who cares! I like how the staff brought the drinks to me, rather than me having to go and find them. Even when I asked for some water, it came with another champagne. Well if you insist…
It was also much quieter in this lounge.
After the champagne, I figured it would be a good idea to head to The Haven once more to grab a bite to eat and have a bit of water. The Haven in this lounge, again, wasn’t as impressive as in the wing. Although the food choices were completely different, much to my annoyance as I fancied some more of those Peninsula chocolates – if they would have been wrapped, no doubt more than a few would have ended up in Japan with me!!
Once I had finished eating, I made my way up to the gate as I figured boarding would be near. B-HUB would be my chariot today, delivered new to Cathay in September 1992 as VR-HUB before switching to the Chinese register in 1997.
Boarding started at 15:40, and I was the first person on board in first class. For once it was a pretty orderly procedure, with everybody in correct queues.
This sign on the jet bridge could cause confusion.
24th September 2013
Boeing 747-467 / B-HUB
Seat: 1A / First
Scheduled: 16:15 / 21:35
Off Stand: 16:16
On Stand: 21:24
I was personally shown to my seat by the purser and brought a glass of water. I was also addressed by name throughout.
These were real flowers.
I was brought another glass of water along with a hot towel and the menus.
There were just three passengers in first today, and one sat themselves down in 1K. One of the crew members suggested that he might like to move a little further back due to the low load and he did. Although to be honest I wouldn’t have bothered me in the slightest if he had stayed there with the amount of space I had…
The safety video was shown whilst we were still on stand.
We pushed back on schedule. During taxi, the purser came and introduced herself and said I had the best seat in the house. Personally, I thought I had the third best…
Mood lighting on taxi.
We taxied over to the furthest runway and made a rough take off (due to being sat over the nose wheel) into the now clearer Hong Kong sky.
Something special about seeing the shadow of the 747.
Into the clouds as we made our way towards the city.
Shortly after departure, the cabin crew brought me the landing and immigration cards for Japan, and also took my meal order. I chose the Chinese option of prawns and rice.
A few moments later she returned with a drink and some warm almonds.
I was starting to wonder what the strange creaking noise was in the cabin – and later realised it was probably the radar in the nose. I decided to fire up the IFE at this point. I went with Mumford and Sons at one of the many European festivals over the summer, aided by good quality noise cancelling headphones.
Waves artwork at the front of the cabin.
The meal service then began. My table was set, and I began with the bread service. I decided not to have a starter as I’d eaten quite a bit in the lounge, and the crew member seemed pretty surprised by this. She said she would bring me some bread instead, even though it wasn’t really supposed to go with the Chinese option.
And of course the personalized thank you card from the crew.
Following this, the main course was served, as the sun started to set. What a perfect way to eat dinner!
And finally the dessert service, as the sun went down further.
I really had to force this down…
After eating that lot, I was well and truly stuffed. That didn’t stop the very attentive cabin crew member refilling my drink, bringing me a hot towel and dishing up some chocolates. Oh if you insist….
Following my binge it was a trip to the very modern looking washroom that had been locked to stop business passengers using it. Good idea in theory, but a little awkward having to ask the crew to unlock it every time. Especially when you had consumed a fair bit of liquid during the day and had to pay a few visits…
I then tried out the seat in front of the TV for the last couple of hours of the flight.
More mood lighting on the wardrobe door.
Many seat controls
Almost in lie flat mode.
Nearly there already…
The ever attentive crew brought me yet another drink, but I just had no room, so I had to decline. I was later handed a questionnaire to fill out – and I bagged the pen too. There was also a $5 duty free discount voucher attached.
As the crew collected my questionnaire, they offered me yet another drink and some duty free – I declined both! I was certainly very well looked after. After a very relaxing three and a half hours or so, it was time to descend. The British captain gave a brief update of our status – basically saying that we had 35 minutes left to run and that we should be arriving pretty much on schedule. Shame, as I could have quite easily gone all the way back to London like this.
My own personal seatbelt sign.
First views of Japan – something I’d been waiting a number of years to experience – and what a setting to experience it in!
We landed at around 21:20 and came to a pretty sudden stop, exiting to the left and making our way over to the terminal. We pulled on to stand and I was the third person off into the very clean terminal.
Immigration was hassle free, and a sticker was placed into my passport – doesn’t anywhere stamp any more? Following this was customs, where I was stopped and questioned. The officer couldn’t figure out why I was in Japan for only a few days, if I wasn’t on business. He searched my bag, asked to see my hotel confirmation and onward travel arrangements and seemed happy enough though – and was almost apologetic for stopping me.
Once I was out, I headed off to buy a bus ticket direct to my hotel for ¥1200. I then changed my remaining Hong Kong dollars into yen, before heading downstairs to wait for the bus.
The Friendly Airport Limousine turned up at 22:15 and made the hours drive to the Hotel Metropolitan near the Ikebukuro station.
I was checked in and escorted to my room high up on the 21st floor.
I then ventured around the corner to grab a bottle of water before going to bed, as it was nearing 1AM by now.
The following morning, I got ready and headed out in the direction of the Tokyo tower. But not before admiring the view from my room in daylight.
Making my way to the train station
On the famously busy Tokyo Metro.
Grounds of the Tokyo Tower – I didn’t bother going up as I figured the views wouldn’t be that great due to the weather.
Making a LONG walk to the Imperial Palace from the Tokyo Tower. Didn’t bother me though, as I was happy to take in the atmosphere rather than take a characterless train.
Total distance walked that day.
Park as I was nearing the grounds of the Imperial Palace – full of locals eating lunch!
And finally in the grounds itself. Unfortunately it had started raining pretty heavily by now.
Couldn’t come to Japan and not visit an electronics store!
Along the way, I saw a JAL shop. I headed in and grabbed a printed timetable. Although as it was printed in Japanese it was more of a souvenir than of any use. Although it did have aircraft seat maps.
Back on the train again – this time heading for Shibuya. Everybody forming an orderly queue!
Tower Records in Shibuya – the Japanese don’t seem to have embraced digital copies of things as much as in the West, which is a little surprising really.
Great tasting Japanese food – another one of Gabriel’s tips (go into a random restaurant, point at something random on the menu and enjoy). No idea what it was – apart from noodles, meat and a lightly poached egg. Tasted great though and at less than £3.50 a real bargain.
More scenes from Shibuya.
About to cross the famous Shibuya Crossing.
Now in Shinjuku – and the worlds busiest train station.
Familiar brand, with an unfamiliar twist!
And with that, I’ll leave this part. Next up will be my return to Kuala Lumpur on board one of Japan Airlines 767’s.