Sep 242019
 


Thanks to a relatively solid night of sleep I was up at a reasonable hour, and able to have a leisurely morning and coffee before heading to the airport to begin the next leg of the journey. While enjoying coffee, I looked up in the atrium and thought “this might make a neat artsy picture” – you be the judge if it was successful!

Back to the hotel to check out – the “for sale” display in the lobby of the W Bangkok always cracks me up. The giant sequinned muay thai boxing gloves that are always on the bed are funny enough, but I really wonder if they manage to ever convince anyone to buy any of this stuff….

Uber is no longer operating in Bangkok, so I had to use Grab to get to the airport. Worked just as well and just as conveniently as Uber, so not really a huge deal – I assume Uber has been spinning off some of its less profitable countries to other companies?

Check-in was nice and easy, and there was no line at first class immigration or security, and soon I was into the Suvarnabhumi Airport. It’s a really neat airport, but my biggest gripe is that it always feels quite humid and warm to me. Probably due to all the glass. I do love the Thai art throughout the terminal, however!

The Cathay Pacific Lounge was actually quite difficult to find, tucked away behind some elevators, but when I did eventually manage to find it it was absolutely packed without a seat to be had in the whole place.

This isn’t a small lounge, either. I was pretty surprised Cathay has so much traffic at Bangkok that it could fill a lounge of this size, but in addition to my flight to Singapore I assume there was also one to Hong Kong, so maybe because they use it as a transit point? Why knows.

I did finally find a seat at a computer in the “business center” area to enjoy a glass of champagne. I have no idea what I was thinking, since I was feeling a bit sketchy from the night before at this point, but I guess it’s always time for champagne! (and of course a few delicious biscuits!)

Boarding area for my flight was relatively quiet, which compounded the question of why the lounge was so full. Hmmm…

Cathay Pacific flight 717
Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi, Thailand (BKK) to Singapore (SIN)
Depart 11:55, Arrive: 15:25, flight time: 2:30
Airbus A350-1000, Registration B-LXA, Manufactured 2018, Seat 21K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 68,724
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,761,312

This was my first time on the A350-1000, and my first impression was positive. The seats were quite private, had a ton of space, and the cabin felt open and light. I’d selected a seat near the back of the cabin, and it was completely empty back there. All told, business was hardly 50% full to Singapore today.

Pre-departure beverages were offered, and I decided it was still an appropriate time for champagne, but I did also get some water…because it’s important to remain hydrated you know!

For a two hour flight, I was pretty impressed that a full meal was served with salad, bread, a tasty thai pork main course, and some ice cream to finish. Nice meal for such a short flight!

We landed in Singapore at the newish Terminal 4, which I have to say at least from an arrivals perspective did not impress me. Everyone pretty much universally loves Changi Airport, but this terminal felt like what it is: a budget terminal. I’m quite surprised that Cathay opted to relocate to this terminal.

Grabbed a grab (see what I did there?) to my hotel since apparently Uber doesn’t work in Singapore either, and on the way we passed by the Singapore Flyer:

I had two nights in Singapore, and hadn’t made any plans. I was meeting up with a friend who was making a mileage run from the States for the weekend, so we decided to play things by ear. First night was really just chill, a few drinks and early to bed.

Woke up the next morning without too much of a plan, so started with coffee…and thinking about next steps.

In all my visits to Singapore I’ve never really done a proper visit to a hawker center for food, so today seemed like as good of a day as any to give it a try. Our first stop would be the Maxwell Hawker Center, since it was just about a 10 minute (hot and humid) walk from our hotel. We were there by around 11am, but the long line had already formed and was around the corner for the famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. I have to say it was quite tasty, but somehow I expected something a little more mind-blowing.

After some lunch we walked a bit more to try and walk off the chicken rice before our next mean, and walked through the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple on the way. Very cool, and packed with locals.

The next stop would be Hawker Chan, which is known as the world’s cheapest Michelin Star restaurant. For something like $5 you got a plate of chicken rice. The place was so popular they actually moved out of the hawker center and into a proper storefront. I have to disagree though on the chicken rice – I thought Tian Tian was much tastier. This didn’t really impress me at all.

Full of chicken rice, and having had about all the heat and humidity we could handle, we headed over to the Marina Bay Sands mall to walk around indoors and cool off for a bit while still getting in a tiny bit of exercise.

After some cooling off we took the elevators up like 50 stories to the rooftop bar for some amazing views of Singapore:

Stopped for drinks at the bar which had recently-ish been renamed “Cé La Vi” and of course, I had to do the tourist thing and enjoy a Singapore Sling…while enjoying the great views! Despite the humidity, it was nice and relaxing up there.

By this point in the afternoon, the heat was really taking a toll, so it was back to our hotel the Westin for some relaxing in the lounge, catching up on email and such while resting up.

After snacks in the Westin lounge we really didn’t need a full dinner, so decided to just head out to Mikkeller Bar Singapore for some craft beers. Of course, after a few beers you really need food, so we decided to end the night back where we’d started the day, in the hawker center near our hotel.

Lau Pa Sat is known for having one street outside that at night turns into “satay street” with well over a dozen different stalls selling satay. The smell of grilling meat was heavy in the humid air, but it made an absolutely delicious late-night snack before heading back to bed!

After gorging ourselves on satay it was back to the hotel to get some sleep. I had really been looking forward to leaving Singapore on EVA Airways Hello Kitty planes first to Taipei and then Chicago, but unfortunately due to the strike my flights had been canceled. Sad kitty!

Fortunately, I managed to find a reasonably good alternative home which while not as interesting and “fun” as Hello Kitty, would at least be nice and comfortable while saving a good deal of cash!

Stay tuned!

Sep 252017
 



Slept in a little bit, and then did some walking around Singapore in the morning. Frankly, in the heat and humidity, it really wasn’t that pleasant for walking around, so I headed to the mall at Bugis Junction to at least get a bit of air conditioned exercise in (and I won’t lie…I also wanted Starbucks so I killed two birds with one stone.) It was mid-day heat at this point, the time of day when no sane person from northern climes would be caught dead outdoors in Singapore, so I checked out of the Westin and made a hasty retreat to Changi Airport.

Now, let’s be honest. Since I was flying in first I not only had the awesomeness that is Changi at my disposal, but the Private Room in the Singapore Airlines lounge as well. In my previous attempt six months earlier at enjoying Singapore A380 suites the one thing I did right was enjoy the Private Room. But, frankly, after a while a lounge is a lounge and it’s pretty easy to get bored in there. So, I didn’t want to get to the airport TOO early.

Caught an Uber to Changi, piece of cake, and in case you’re unaware many passports can now leave Changi via automated gates so there’s not even a need to queue for passport control. Biggest downside is that you also don’t get stamped out of Singapore…if that matters.

It was early afternoon at this point, and I was getting pretty hungry, so I decided to stop by the Private Room first for a bit of lunch. Today’s menu, notably absent was the lobster which they were serving in February..

I figured I would go with the satay as a starter, which was absolutely delicious, with a glass of champagne. Singapore has really upped the champagne game since my previous visit, however, and they were now pouring 2002 Piper-Heidsieck Millésieme Cuvée Rare. I know I’ve said it before here, but people have long associated Dom Perignon with luxury airline champagne, and Krug is also on that list. In the club scene (at least in the US) Cristal would also be a “bling” label…so it’s always nice to see a really high end champagne that’s different on offer.

I was a little hungry still after the satay, so asked the attendant what was small, and was recommended the dim sum. Perfect amount of food along with the satay, and a rather generous top up of the champagne.

Unfortunately, they only had vanilla ice cream today, but that was just fine with some chocolate flakes and almonds as a dessert!

Completely full on lunch, and with nearly four hours remaining until my flight, I decided to do a lap of the airport. The entire airport. Changi is shaped in a giant U shape with terminal one being the “bottom” of the U that connects terminal three (where the private room is) with terminal two.

Fight thing I saw when I left the lounge was my plane, already parked next to the lounge, waiting to take me to Delhi in a few hours. Coincidentally, it was the same A380 that had delivered me from Sydney the previous day!

So, I walked all the way to the other end of terminal three, the entire length of terminal one, and then to terminal two where I decided I was getting sleepy…and wanted to enjoy the flight ahead…so I stopped for some Starbucks. The people watching in T2 was fascinating, given many budget airlines leave from this terminal.

Walking past this gate, it wasn’t difficult to figure out where this flight was headed. Given the attire of the passengers, many already in their Ihram dress, headed to Jeddah and on to Mecca.

Caught the monorail back to T2, and had a little more time to enjoy the private room. The decor definitely reminds me of a living room…if you live in a really expansive and non-fashionable place with lots of dark wood and marble:

Enjoyed a shower (nothing luxurious at all about the shower facilities in the Private Room), a couple of glasses of champagne, and it was time to finally head down to the gate to enjoy my flight to Delhi.

Singapore Airlines flight 406
Singapore (SIN) to Delhi, India (DEL)
Depart 17:10, Arrive 20:10, Flight Time: 5:30
Airbus A380-800, Registration 9V-SKD, Manufactured 2008, Seat 1F
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 95,685
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,472,662

Compared to the previous day when I had the entire cabin to myself, today I had two other people joining me. It seriously felt so crowded that I want my miles back! Just kidding…but I did move up to suite 1F so it seemed like nobody else was in the cabin, given they were both back in row three. Pic of another A380 as we taxied out:

KLM 777 with a great livery:

Boats in the harbour shortly after takeoff:

One note on the crew. Maybe it was the length of the segment, or maybe Delhi is a less desirable route than Sydney (maybe they do an immediate turnaround?) but there was something slightly less polished – and more fun – about this crew. When I say less-polished I mean it in a good way. People often accuse Singapore crews of being “robotic” and while I have never really found that, this crew was very lighthearted in a way you very rarely see with crews of Asian airlines. There was just enough informality that I really enjoyed this crew.

That said, let’s start with another glass of champagne. Yes, there were also a couple of glasses before takeoff, but I didn’t manage to grab snaps of those:

This was followed by more satay right after takeoff. I definitely got my fill of satay in these 24 hours!

After the satay, the crew suggested they could begin the dinner service in a little over an hour. I’m sure they would have been happy to do it whenever I wanted, but truthfully I was still a little full from the lounge, so that sounded like a great idea. I enjoyed catching up on some tv on the iPad, and soon enough some nuts came around. The champagne was flowing the entire time.

For a starter, “seared tuna on niçoise salad with quail egg” – this was absolutely delicious. Note the water glass, we had quite a bit of turbulence.

Indian style creamy carrot soup with coriander. Spicy, and delicious!

…and I quote: “Green coral lettuce, frisee, spinach, cherry tomato and red radish” – for such a fancy name, it was a pretty meh and blah salad overall.

The Boston Lobster Thermidor. Frankly, the one out of Sydney was better. It was definitely delicious, and that big ripe tomato was amazing, and there was more lobster than out of Sydney, but it was just kind of bland and overcooked from a flavour point of view. That said, it was still in-flight lobster so you have to like it!

Who can say no to a cheeseboard like this?! This is pretty much my idea of Heaven. Lufthansa has some serious competition in the onboard cheese department!

Why yes, I’ll have a nicely plated small amount of each. Should have asked for extra of the Stilton – it was delicious!

In fairness, I wasn’t overly excited by the dessert, which was listed as “chendol with coconut ice cream” but I think at the end of the meal it was definitely the best part. Absolutely delicious, and paired very nicely with a glass of Johnny Walker.

After dinner pralines with my friend Johnny. By the time the meal was over, we were barely an hour away from landing in Delhi.

With that, all too soon, my two fantastic Singapore A380 suites experiences were over. It was a great experience, a fantastic way to travel, and I would love to do it again if the opportunity presents itself. However, I can finally check “flying it just for the fun of it” off my list, and get back to other products I’m still curious to try, as well as just flying the most comfortable product on the routes I do need to fly.

Now, time to engage in the delightful chaos that is India…

Sep 222017
 



I was feeling a bit lazy in the morning, so I decided to spend the extra $20 or so to save 30 minutes or so and call an Uber to the airport. Last time I tried this, there was a super long backup for cars to get into the airport so it actually took longer, but this time it went absolutely perfectly.

Unfortunately, Singapore’s check-in was at the very last desk in the hall, which meant quite a walk inside the airport once I’d been dropped off. However, once I got there, I was rewarded with my very own lane:

The check-in agent confirmed that yes, I was the only one in Suites today, and I would have the entire cabin to myself. Score! After a quick duty free shop it was through security and immigration which was pretty quick, and then a rather long walk to the satellite gates where many of the Star Alliance airlines have their gates.

Once in the Singapore First lounge, strangely, there were about 10 other people hanging around, in addition to 4-5 lounge staff who were all sitting around and having a chat. Rather strange, especially since I knew I was the only one in suites today. The others, I assume, were top level Singapore elites, but the whole environment was a bit strange. Anyways, made a quite pit stop before getting food….I’m surprised anyone in a first class lounge needs to be told this is recycled water and they shouldn’t drink:

Agent presented me with a menu of what was on offer in addition to the buffet…naturally, I went with some eggs benedict:

The buffet did look rather tasty, however. Even with ten or so people in the lounge you had to wonder how long it had been sitting around for though…

Most important part of the buffet. I tried to pour myself a glass of champagne, but the lounge staff was mortified and insisted on bringing it to me.

The “living room” area of the lounge:

My eggs benedict were super tasty, although my Veuve came cut with orange juice. I suppose it was only 10am so I can forgive this, but I did ask for “champagne.”

I love the little seating cubes that Singapore has in their first lounges. They’re the perfect combination of private, space, functional, etc.

I think I tried two or three different times to go down to the gate to board starting about 45 minutes before the flight, only to be told by the lounge attendant that it wasn’t time yet. Of course, with about 15 minutes left until departure I tried again, at which point she simply told me “yes, you can board now.” Hmmm…..

Singapore Airlines flight 232
Sydney, Australia (SYD) to Singapore (SIN)
Depart 11:00, Arrive 17:20, Flight Time: 8:20
Airbus A380-800, Registration 9V-SKD, Manufactured 2008, Seat 3F
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 93,106
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,470,083

Once aboard, however, the crew instantly greeted me by name (easy since I was the only passenger in Suites) and was the perfect blend of helpful and hands off. Normally, I struggle with crews that are cold and lazy or the other extreme: too deferential and won’t let me have a bit of space. From the very first moment this crew read me perfectly. Nice note in my suite letting me know it was ready for me:

Glass of champagne? Don’t mind if I do!

Overhead view of the 12 suites Suites cabin:

My suite, taken from the door:

Seated, looking across to the other site of the plane with all the doors/windows opened:

Bit of an angled shot into the suite directly across the aisle from me:

Have champagne, am happy, ready for takeoff:

After takeoff, candied nuts and more champagne. Personally wasn’t a big fan of the candied nuts.

Next up was the caviar course, which was fantastic. Debated asking for another helping, however, knowing all the food that was coming I was glad I passed. It was served with some of the butteriest and most garlicky bread I’ve ever had on a plane. Winning!

White onion and thyme soup with prosciutto ham…was way more flavourful than expected!

Very tasty salad with cranberries, goat cheese, and walnuts:

…and the book the cook main course, the Boston Lobster Thermidor. The most interesting part to me was that Singapore offers two different lobster thermidor dishes, but depending where it’s catered from it seems potlatch which you will eventually get. It was slightly overcooked, but given it was being served on a plane it was pretty tasty!

Warm rosemary apricot tart with vanilla ice cream…amazing.

If you’ve read my blog for long, you know I can’t turn down cheese. I could make a whole meal of it…which gives me an idea for a future flight. However, I was pretty stuffed by this point. The crew, however, would not be deterred, and insisted on making me a cheese plate with a little bit of everything. I have to say, Singapore is the only airline that can rival Lufthansa in my books on the cheese course.

We’re finished, right? So I asked for a Johnny Walker Blue, one ice cube, so I could watch some tv. I was offered pralines. I declined. “Are you sure we can’t just bring you one?” Ok, one. This is what came:

They tried to give me more food before landing, but I just couldn’t. I was still stuffed. Plus, the whole point of arriving Singapore late afternoon was to enjoy the magic that is Singapore’s street food scene! I did, however, have one more Johnny Walker for the road. This flight was absolutely amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. My last A380 flight in February I felt a little cheated because I slept 90% of it, but this time I definitely maxed out the experience!

First thing I wanted upon landing was a washroom, and look…first one I found had a perfect view – from the urinal – of the plane I had just arrived on:

My phone rang at this very second, and reminded me:  “Welcome to SIN!”  Uhhh…..

Decided rather than melt in the humidity I would try Uber once more, which was super easy, and soon I was checking in at the Westin. After a shower and a bit of rest, headed up to the executive lounge, which had a rather impressive happy hour buffet and drinks service, despite the lounge being absolutely empty.

Impressive, except this scary jell-o concoction:

After recovering a bit, I headed out to one of the best things about this hotel. It is right around the corner from the Lau Pa Sat market, which has a street next to it that is known as “Satay Street” at night. So, it was time for dinner: delicious chicken satay.

See the right side of the pic? That is more than a dozen stalls with grills all making satay. Plenty to choose from, and all delicious. But the heat, smells, and humidity are overwhelming!

I was pretty exhausted at this point, so headed back to the room to get some sleep. Only one problem. When I opened the door, I couldn’t see anything. This was perhaps the most strangely designed room I’d been in anywhere in the world. No light switches near the door. When I finally did find one, I took pics to show why it’s so confusing.

View from the door. Imagine this long corridor in the dark:

Then, when you find your way to the end and turn left, you have THIS long corridor…also pitch black. See where my suitcase is? Once you pass that, there is finally a light switch on the left. Incredibly odd design!

That said, after dozens of times in Singapore, this was only the second time a hotel has really impressed me. I seem to stay somewhere different every trip, and never am super happy with my stay. They’ve all been “fine” and never really “bad” but also never impressive. The Westin, however, despite the light switch, I really liked. The other one I’ve really liked is the Mandarin Oriental, but for price reasons, that’s just not a regular option.

The view, however, from the approximately 30th floor “lobby” of the Westin is great:

After an all too short overnight in Singapore, it was time to head back to Changi Airport to enjoy the world’s best airport and also the Private Room Singapore First Lounge! Called another Uber, and I was on my way…