Feb 072013
 

Was up early the next morning, and had the hotel arrange a taxi to Yangon airport. Driver easily agreed on $10 or 800 Kyat, which seemed to be the going rate. I’m sure I could have knocked a dollar or two off, but… check-in was quick and easy, and soon I was waiting for immigration. Took maybe five minutes total to clear immigration, and soon I was in the contract lounge that Thai uses in Yangon.

Now, here, I have to make a confession. I’d gotten going too early to get caffeine or breakfast, so I had to survive on what I found in the lounge. Hey, don’t judge, but sometimes a breakfast of Pringles and Diet Coke is just what you need. My mother would be mortified. WiFi in the lounge was just fast enough to do e-mail, but that’s honestly about it. Managed to kill the hour or so I had before the flight, and from there it was maybe a two minute walk to the gate.

Thai flight 304
Yangon, Myanmar (RGN) to Bangkok, Thailand (BKK)
Depart 9:50, Arrive 11:45, Flight Time 1:25
Airbus A330-300, Registration HS-TED, Manufactured 1994, Seat 24A

Flight was maybe 2/3 full in business, and I moved from my centre seat to the last row where the pair of seats next to the window was available. Space and a view! Nothing too remarkable about this flight – the typical friendly Thai service, a small snack that I just picked at (but way more than you’d see on a similar flight in North America) and we landed right on time.

I had a bit over an hour to kill before heading to the next flight, so headed to the Thai business lounge, where much Diet Coke was consumed, along with a fair amount of dim sim – especially BBQ pork buns – YUM! Internet was nice and speedy, and I managed to Skype several calls and get a few things sorted, so it was time will used.

Thai flight 407
Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) to Singapore (SIN)
Depart 13:50, Arrive 17:10, Flight Time 2:20
Airbus A330-300, Registration HS-TET, Manufactured 2010, Seat 15E

In contrast to the last two Thai A330 flights I’d been on to Myanmar, this one was the “new” configuration. Thai has multiple configurations for their A330s, and the other one had had business class seats that were definitely showing their age. Way more room than economy, but none of the modern bells and whistles one has come to expect in business class. This plane, in contrast, had personal tvs, power ports, and went much closer to flat. It may have actually gone flat, but being a daytime flight I didn’t test it.

The flight was completely full in business, and there was again a small meal (complete with menus) and the drink cart came through offering beer and wine several times. Fantastic for a regional flight!

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I was quite excited for my overnight in Singapore, and had decided to stay at the hotel I’ve stayed at most in the past – the Sheraton. Every time I’ve stayed up until this one I’ve received a fantastic suite upgrade, but this time they were supposedly all full so I received an “upgrade” to a “starwood preferred guest room.” I think this just means there’s a couple of free bottles of water in the room, but I didn’t really care since it was such a short night.

I had taken the MRT from the airport to the hotel (one of the great things about the Sheraton – in the Singapore heat and humidity it’s a block at most from the MRT station) and got right back on it to head to Clarke’s Quay for dinner. By this point in the trip I was seriously craving some “American” food, and there was a great Tex Mex place I’d been to several times before – Cafe Iguana. I managed to get a table right on the water, and it made for some fantastic people watching as a few margaritas were consumed along side some tasty fajitas.

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Got to the hotel, and managed to crash very early since I had to be up before 5am to catch a taxi back to the airport. Getting a taxi was absolutely no problem even at 4:45am, and I was quickly at check-in. Decided to skip the lounge since boarding would start in less than 30 minutes, and went straight to the gate. As much as I love Changi as an airport, it was too early in the morning to be feeling it, and I wasn’t really in the mood to shop since I was still getting over my nasty cold at this point. Boarding was quick, and soon it was time to depart.

United flight 6
Singapore (SIN) to Tokyo, Narita, Japan (NRT)
Depart 7:05, Arrive 14:55, Flight Time 6:50
Boeing 777-200, Registration N78009, Manufactured 1999, Seat 2E

I was a bit disappointed with this flight. About two months before departure, this was changed from an ex-United three class 777 to an ex-Continental two class 777, killing my thoughts of upgrading all the way to San Francisco. Due to this, I was slow in requesting the upgrade on the second flight as I waffled if it was worth spending a certificate for one flight, and as a consequence I lost out. Oh well!

That said, the flight was good. I had a good long chat with the crew, who admitted they were, and I quote, “absolutely mortified and embarrassed” to be working this flight. They loved Singapore, but were embarrassed at the level of service they were given to work with. Breakfast was little more than a standard domestic first breakfast, and although this crew provided some of the best service I’ve seen on United in years, they weren’t given a whole lot to work with. Major points to them for making the most of what they had though! ¬†Of course, there was major branding fail as well – I still wonder how Continental stuff showed up at Singapore catering since they never flew there!

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There was also a small snack prior to landing, but more on that in the next post.

Landed in Tokyo a bit early, a quick trip through security, and soon I was in the Red Carpet Club…I mean United club. Sensing my upgrade wasn’t going to clear, I tried to work with the agents on re-routing me onto something that would clear, but by the time they figured it out it was too late – most flights had left. All for the best, I suppose, since part of the reason I’d booked like this was to max out the miles earned. I made sure to have a bit of sushi in the lounge along with a beer from the magical Japanese beer machine, and it was soon time to board.

United flight 838
Tokyo, Narita, Japan (NRT) to San Francisco, California (SFO)
Depart 17:10, Arrive 9:10, Flight Time 9:00
Boeing 747-400, Registration N128UA, Manufactured 2000, Seat 15J

As mentioned above, my upgrade didn’t clear, so I was upstairs in business sitting backwards on the 747. I was very lucky to get a seatmate in the window seat who didn’t get up once the entire flight I dislike planes with only pairs of seats near the window, because it means I’m usually always being climbed over, or having to climb over someone else. Small problems, but in this case I got lucky.

Meal was pretty standard United business class fare, and after a good amount to eat and a few glasses of wine I passed out only to wake up less than 30 minutes out of San Francisco. 5+ hours of sleep accomplished, so can’t really complain at all! Some people had mentioned that the 747 business seats upstairs have less legroom, but even at 6’3 it was plenty of room for me as a side sleeper, and I was totally comfortable.

Immigration with Global Entry in San Francisco was quick and painless (never mind the series of one way flights, Myanmar, Libya, etc) despite my odd trip, and again – screw the United Club – I was off to find coffee. I found a good non-chain (I think?) place at the end of the international pier at SFO, and managed to get a fantastic iced americano to fuel me. Yes, I said international pier. Despite being a domestic 737 flight to Houston, it was leaving from the international pier because the plane had come in from Mexico. I’ve not encountered this before at SFO, but can’t say I really minded. The coffee shop had plenty of seating space, lots of wall outlets, so I was happy.

United flight 1620
San Francisco, California (SFO) to Houston, Texas (IAH)
Depart 10:52, Arrive 16:45, Flight Time 3:53
Boeing 737-800, Registration N73278, Manufactured 2003, Seat 2E

At this point, I was absolutely exhausted. There was a small lunch, I remember it being decent, and that’s about all I remember. A completely unremarkable average domestic flight.

I was fading badly at this point, and gave in to the siren’s call of Starbucks and fueled myself with yet another iced americano. Still having 30 minutes before boarding, I stopped by the United Club. I wanted some of those scary cheese and crackers before my flight, and why not have a margarita as well. This is where the trip got weird. A random middle-aged business type started chatting me up at the bar (about football since the Redskins game was on) and then it turned into “hey, dude, wanna arm-wrestle for the next drink?” Um, drinks are free. How generous to offer to arm-wrestle for the tip. I declined, and got the heck out of Freakistan.

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United flight 1299
Houston, Texas (IAH) to Washington National (DCA)
Depart 17:50, Arrive 21:49, Flight Time 2:59
Boeing 737-700, Registration N16713, Manufactured 1998, Seat 2E

Again, see above. Terribly average domestic flight with a terribly average domestic meal. That said, I’m happy when I get flights like this. There’s not much you can do to make a domestic flight awesome, so as long as there’s no drama I’m pretty happy. Plus, we landed on time which is a huge plus!

27,207 miles flown, all the way around the world plus some – it was my second real “RTW” trip. I’ve taken long trips before, but this is only the second time I’ve actually flown all the way around the world. I know I was sick so that may colour my impressions a bit, but the first time I did it I did it in the westbound direction as conventionally suggested to minimize jetlag, and this time I went east. Hands down, I would fly west again next time. The number of redeye flights on this trip (three: Philadelphia to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Hong Kong, and Tokyo to San Francisco) was absolutely brutal, even in business and first class. Combined with the cold, I felt like I spent the entire trip playing catch-up.

One more post to come with the menus I collected, and then onto the next trip report!


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