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quirrow Jan 28, 11 1:34 am

Circle Pacific on oneworld: CGK-HKG-YVR-JFK-LAX-MEL-SYD-CGK

Browsing through the oneworld website, I was contemplating a round-the-world trip but without the time to apply for so many visas for the numerous countries I am planning to visit, I made do with a Circle Pacific ticket which allows me a single price fare to visit some of the cities I had wanted to visit. The plan was to spend Christmas and New Year with my siblings in Vancouver, before heading to New York and Los Angeles, and returning to western Pacific via Qantas to Melbourne and Sydney. Since I would be taking Cathay Pacific to Vancouver, I had a stopover in Hong Kong, which I will make use to catch up with friends in that place.

My flight routing will be like this:


Having had a taste of the regional Business Class on Cathay Pacific during my Bangkok trip, I opted for the Olympus Business Class configuration. This gave me a 20th December departure via an Airbus A340. Just as well since this will be the only A340 on the routing and I had taken enough of the regional A330 and B777 that Cathay uses. This though limited my departure to 20th Dec, with 4 nights stay in Hong Kong and a Christmas Eve flight to Vancouver so that I reach there by 24th. Fortunately my travel arrangements was good to go, and it was just as well since I would be expecting a 747 upper deck seating on my flight to Vancouver from Hong Kong.

And so here begins my trip review of my first taste of CX's soon-to-be-renewed Olympus Business Class journey:

CX776 Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta CGK - Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok HKG
20 Dec 2010
A340-300 B-HXE
Scheduled ETD/ETA: 1450-2030
Actual Time of Departure/Arrival: 1504-2022
Seat No: 16K

It was a relatively empty check-in counter at Soekarno-Hatta when I arrived, and a couple of people were waiting in the economy class check-in section. Having checked in online, and holding a Marco Polo Club membership meant I could check in on one of these fast lanes in addition to the Business Class queue. One passenger each was queueing in the 2 lanes which meant I picked the Business Class section. It was around a 5 minute wait while the CX agent that controls the queue tries to make small talk with me. Perhaps to keep me occupied or due to curiosity, I won't know. I had 2 luggages which I had to check-in, with one of them stuffs and gifts for my siblings in Canada. While I know getting a tag for one of them straight to Vancouver might not be possible, there is always no harm in trying. As expected it is not possible since my stay in Hong Kong was pretty long to begin with. No matter then as I check in both luggages and the friendly check-in agent requested that I weigh my cabin carry-on since I had another camera-cum-laptop backpack. The cabin luggage was filled with some snacks that I didn't want to ruin inside the larger suitcase which I checked-in in addition to a pair of windbreaker for cold weather in Hong Kong which I was told to expect. Thus it was quite light which meant it was tagged with no problems at all. Interestingly, my last international flight out of Soekarno-Hatta through Lufthansa also requested I tag my backpack, as I had only my backpack as carry-on luggage at that time. I was also offered a Hong Kong arrival card, which I have no need of since I had filled one at home already. I was thinking the tagging could also have to do with the tremendously large amount of luggage I have.
CX776 seen on my way to the Airport, operated by an Airbus A340 today

I proceeded to the immigration counter after taking the boarding pass and the lounge invitation. I passed the fiscal check for Indonesians with no problem but the queue for passport control was horrendous as the queue for Indonesians was long even though there were 5 lanes open while the ones for Foreigners was short despite having just 2 lanes. It might be due to the large volume of Air Asia flights departing and the holiday season in Indonesia as well. One family was being escorted by an Air Asia agent as it seems he is late for boarding and tempers soon flared as he tried to vent his frustration at the immigration officers - bad mistake - in my opinion.
Boarding Pass and Lounge Invitation in Hand

Around 30 minutes later, I passed immigration and proceeded to the choice of the Premier Lounge or the Pura Indah Lounge, both of which are located beside each other. I asked if I could enter both lounges, but the lounge agent just rejected that notion which left me with the Pura Indah Lounge which was nicer and has better selection of food and English language reading materials, though it had no views of the tarmac which the other lounge has.
Food and Snacks in the Pura Indah Lounge

It seemed, though that most passengers on the CX flight agreed as the Pura Indah Lounge was much more crowded that the Premier Lounge. Having had a short lunch break at my cousin's place before I headed to the airport, I wasn't particularly hungry. I just got myself a small bowl of Mie Ayam (Chicken Noodle), Ayam Kecap (Chicken in sweet gravy), vegetable quiche and some morsels of snack. The only thing worth eating was the chicken and I got myself more of that, while the other food were just good for small bites. I got to grab a copy of CNN Traveller and was just starting to connect to the internet when the boarding call started. I just left some time to check my e-mail before packing the laptop back inside and head towards the boarding gate. However, once I reached boarding gate D2, they were just starting to board those on wheelchair, and a queue was already forming for business class passengers.
Airbus A340 Nose Cone, an EVA Air 747 can be seen leaving for Taipei at the back

quirrow Jan 28, 11 1:39 am

cx776 cgk-hkg cont'd
It was perhaps another 5 minutes wait before boarding proceeded for business class passengers. With a 2-class configuration, there was 2 separate entrances to the Business and Economy Cabins, and unlike the 777-300ERs boarding procedure, it meant that Business Class passengers would not be bothered by the rest of the passengers. Entering the cabin, I didn't notice any flight attendants serving us nor checking my seat assignment. I was seated on seat 16K and placed my bag and carry-on luggage on the overhead compartment before relaxing on the seat. Perhaps its the crew or my early boarding, but I felt the crew attending this flight was lacking in enthusiasm. It took some time for them before welcome drinks, hot towels and newspapers were offered to guests. Having taken a copy of IHT and FT back from the rack before boarding, I got my reading materials for the flight. Having requested for the Pacific Sunrise, it took a while before I received my drink. The Pacific Sunrise is actually a concoction of champagne, drambuie with orange and lemon zest. It added more citrus scent compared to a normal champagne and is thus more refreshing for a welcome drink to perk one up.
Welcome aboard!
Business Class Cabin on 1-1-1 configuration onboard the A340

While boarding was ongoing, I noticed this family of 4 who entered the cabin, with 2 young children in tow. Apparently the parents took the last 2 seats on my row and the kids were sent to Economy. I got to meet them in the same lounge as I did before boarding, and I found the 2 kids to be generally well behaved for a flight so there is no need to be worried. There was also another young Indonesian family with their domestic helper on the flight that day, and the father seemed to be really excited to be on Business, taking video shots of the cabin. Though they were seated on the other 2 rows which were facing each other while their domestic helper would be seated behind me in row K. The other 2 seats in row K in front of me were unoccupied, though someone was seated at the first seat on my row. Before long, boarding was soon completed and the plane started pullback at 2.48pm, bypassing several numerous international flights into Jakarta that day. I even got to note a new airline - Mihin Lanka at Jakarta. It seems to be a great time now for airliners in Asia as airport infrastructure develops and e-ticketing lowers costs for passengers making it more affordable for Asian-based passengers. There was also an Etihad Airways A330 and a Saudi Arabian B747 that day.
My seat or private cabin for the next 4.5 hours
International Herald Tribune and Pacific Sunrise as my welcome drink
Mihin Lanka in Jakarta with the tails of Etihad and Saudi Arabian Jets in the background
Take off from Jakarta, with the 2 engines on the A340

From our boarding gate D2, the Airbus A340 made its slow way to the end of the runway at the other end in Concourse F, where the Garuda Indonesia domestic flights are based at. The flight finally took off at 3.04pm Jakarta time. Take-off from the A340 seems forced, and even with its twin engine, it seems to lack the smoothness of an A330 or a B777. Perhaps that is the reason for its small utilization by airliners around the world. After take-off, the flight stewardess took down orders for drinks as they passed around a small portion of hot almonds. With the hot almonds as snacks, I switched on the personal inflight entertainment system - StudioCX. With the personal screen, it also meant audio-video on demand, and the first thing I noticed was the much wider selection of movies and programming for First and Business passengers. There was even a dedicated StudioCX magazine for First and Business passengers. I started on a Hong Kong movie directed by Benny Chan and with Hong Kong being my stopover destination, I found it fitting to start on this movie. I was also a fan of Benny Chan's previous movies like Gen-X Cops and Invisible Target.
Legroom during the flight, more than adequate

I relaxed on the chair, and found the recline of the seat to be very good. After that, I requested for an amenity kit but it wasn't provided for this short flight, though I was still able to obtain a sock and take off my shoe for a more comfortable recline position. In addition, I also requested for a stationery kit with postcards from the attendant, which was delivered to me. There were lots of places to place one's belongings and I could always have my camera close to me by the triangular tray at the side. I was also able to place the provided blanket on the corner. While there is space at the back of the seat, nothing should be placed there as the seat reclines to a full lie-flat position. Half-way through the movie while I was still munching on almonds, the crew started placing placemats on the table to signal the start of dinner service. Appetizers were served before a bread basket was brought over, and as usual I chose the garlic bread. I took a glance out of the window and could notice the coast of Borneo, indicating we are close to halfway on our journey.
Screen Menu for StudioCX, Cathay's inflight entertainment system
Dinner Menu
Inflight Entertainment with Hong Kong-style Milk Tea and Warm Almonds
Stationery Kit from Cathay Pacific

The menu for that flight was:

Starters 頭盤
Prawns with mango salsa and marinated fennel 明蝦及醃茴香伴芒果醬

Mixed salad with cherry tomato, celery, carrot and citrus vinaigrette 鮮蔬沙律伴柑橘醋汁

Main Courses 主菜

Stir-fried chicken with black bean sauce, steamed jasmine rice and Chinese mixed vegetables 豉汁炒雞柳配白飯及中式鮮蔬
Grilled lamb chop with rosemary sauce, cous cous with ratatouille 烤羊架伴香草汁配意式麥米粉及茄醬燴蔬菜

Penne pasta with spinach nutmeg sauce and tomato concasse 菠菜番茄醬意式長通粉

Cheese and Dessert 芝士及甜品

Cheese selection 精選芝士

Fresh seasonal fruit 時今鮮果

Chocolate coffee mousse cake 朱古力咖啡摹絲蛋糕

Tea and Coffee 名茶及咖啡

Praline 精美朱古力

Drinks List 飲料

Juices: Orange, Apple, Tomato 果汁:橙汁,蘋果汁,番茄汁

Soft Drinks: Coke Zero, Coke, Coke Light, Sprite, Perrier water, tonic water, soda water and ginger ale 汽水:零系可口可樂,可口可樂,健怡可樂,雪碧湯力,梳打,薑啤,巴黎礦泉水

Coffees 咖啡

Freshly brewed coffee, espresso, cappuccino and caffè latte; regular or decaffeinated 特級咖啡,特濃咖啡,低因咖啡,泡沫咖啡, 牛奶咖啡

Teas 名茶

Hong Kong style milk tea 港式奶茶
Ceylon, Japanese, jasmine 錫蘭紅茶,日本綠茶,香片
Organic selection: camomile, earl grey, peppermint 有機系列:甘菊茶,伯爵茶,薄荷茶

Hot Chocolate 熱朱古力

Wine List

Champagne: Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne

White wines: P.Ferraud & Fils Viré-Clessé 2008 / Next of Kin Margaret River Chardonnay 2008

Red Wines: RockBare McLaren Vale Shiraz 2008 / Lionel Osmin Haut Capitole Fronton 2007

Port: Dow's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2005

Aperitifs and Cocktails: Gin, Rum, Vodka, Martini Rosso, Martini Extra Dry, Campari, Sweet and Dry Sherry, Bloody Mary, Screwdriver

Whiskies: Chivas Regal 12 Years Old, Johnnie Walker Gold Label, Jack Daniel's, Canadian Club

Cognac: Hine 'Rare and Delicate' Fine Champagne

Liqueurs: Drambuie, Cointreau, Bailey's Irish Cream

Beer: International selection

CX Signature Drinks:

Cathay Delight - A kiwifruit based non-alcoholic drink with coconut juice and a touch of fresh mint
Pacific Sunrise - A refreshing combination of champagne and Drambuie with the zest of orange and lemon

The salad was a refreshing choice and I didn't realize that fresh and crunchy celery sticks could make such an ordinary salad seem special. It was also the first time to say I do enjoy eating celery. As for the prawns, I don't really like the contrast of flavours of the prawn with the mango salsa, and I would have preferred the last few scallops-based appetizer salads on those shorter regional routes I had on other CX/KA flights. My choice of main course - the lamb was another disappointment as the rack of lamb had a very strong aroma, and the cous cous (first time sampling this pasta) was tasteless. I would take plain rice any other day over this and kind of regretted my decision. Perhaps I would tell myself not to pick any lamb-based course onboard next time. The dessert service was the redeeming factor in the meal service as the chocolate coffee mousse cake was so good and the flight attendant also obliged with my request for more fruits in lieu of the cheese and crackers. The fruit platter was very generous and consisted of a variety of fruits including pineapples, strawberries, dragon fruit, honey dew and mango. I could easily have a second serving of fruits since they were all sweet and juicy!
Fantastic dessert service with lots of fruits and a delicious cake

Throughout the meal service, my drink was continuously topped up and there was no shortage of drinks. At the end of the meal, tea or coffee was served followed with a delicate box of praline. I asked for an additional praline and the stewardess indulged me. Maybe due to my requests, I was asked by the purser to fill in a customer survey form, and with the nice service I experienced for the meal service, I thought I should do the crew some honor in their performance. And maybe get Cathay to pick up on their meal service whose appetizers and main course are sorely lacking in my opinion.
Best part of the meal - Praline and Tea

After the meal service concluded, I head to the washroom and to take a walk around the cabin. Overall the Business Class cabin ambience is a piece of calm and serenity and offers really good privacy for all passengers, due to the high barrier. Like many people traveling in pairs have commented, it is really difficult to find 2 seats to provide easy communication. This is perhaps why Cathay has released its plans to renovate its business class cabin. I went back to my seat, and noticed that the mood lighting in the cabin has been dimmed to provide a comfortable ambience for passengers to lie flat on their seats and get some shuteye before we land in Hong Kong. I continued to watch the movie though i can't wait for it to end since I thought it was kind of cheesy and does not live up to the other movies that Benny Chan has directed. With more than 90 minutes to go before landing, I converted my seat to a bed and got myself a nice short nap until the captain called to indicate our start of descent into Hong Kong as we are due to land earlier than scheduled due to the nice weather encountered throughout the trip. I woke up and went to the washroom to freshen myself up before returning to my seat and converting it back to a reclined position. Descent into Hong Kong is always nice with its mountainous landscape and at night the lights of the city makes for a fascinating sight. The main drawback of the Business Class seat would perhaps be due to the really bad inclination towards the aisle, making it tiring for passengers to lean out towards the window. I would be glad to try out the new Cathay Business Class which faces the window instead of the aisle, just like what Boeing showed in its 787 Dreamliner advertisement.
Mood lighting in the cabin

During the descent, the flight stewardess went to the Economy section to fetch the 2 kids and brought them to sit at the 2 unoccupied seats in front of me. This was a nice gesture on Cathay's part and ensured the parents could leave the aircraft on time with the rest of the Business Class passengers. Eventually the plane landed at 8.22pm Hong Kong time and I really felt good even after the nearly 5 hour flight. In fact I was looking forward to a longer ride on this seat a few days later when I head to Vancouver on CX. For now, I took my luggage and alighted the plane, before heading towards immigration. Our docking gate close to the end of the concourse meant the general signs directed us to take the train to the main arrival concourse. With the trains arriving at a very frequent interval, I reached a relatively empty immigration queue and within 10 minutes of waiting, I was served by a customs officer. After the usual questions, I was let through and proceeded to baggage claim where I saw that my priority-tagged luggage was already out. This was really efficient and beats the Singapore Changi Airport hands down in terms of time spent from landing to exiting the airport since it took me perhaps a record of less than 20 minutes.
Inflight reading materials with the StudioCX magazine exclusively for First and Business Class entertainment options

For my first experience in the lie-flat Business Class seats of Cathay Pacific, I would have to say they were good enough for me, and I wouldn't even bother with First given this product. The hard product was good, even though the seats look quite worn which is perhaps why Cathay deems its time for a change. The lie-flat seats are much better than those regional Business Class seats and offers ultimate privacy like one is in their own suite. On the other hand, the high barriers makes it easy to knock your shoulders or hands while moving around and that is perhaps why one might feel it to be slightly uncomfortable. The dark sombre colors of the seat also adds to this effect, as I think a warmer earthy tone like those on Singapore Airlines works much better in providing a cosseting ambience. For storage and entertainment, Cathay's Business Class offers a very good product though with many airlines offering lie-flats already on many planes, Cathay needs an upgrade of their fleet. Service wise, it was good but not spectacular due to the start of the journey while boarding was commencing, and the meals in the Business Class cabin really needs to be a lot better since I have tasted better food on their Economy Class cabin before. For a paying passenger, I think it provides adequate Business Class service, but it doesn't offer more than that or anything spectacular for this 4 and a half hour route.

quirrow Jan 28, 11 1:51 am

Hong Kong
With 4 days spent travelling in Hong Kong and sampling a few new hotels in the city, it was time to reunite with my siblings in Canada just in time for a Christmas Eve dinner with them! After a nice workout in the fitness centre and a great breakfast at the W Hong Kong, I had some time to spare to do a webcam with my siblings in my room and confirm with them about them picking me up from YVR :) Staying at the W in Hong Kong allows me to proceed to do in-town check-in at the Kowloon MTR Station. Doing this check in at Kowloon provides me with the convenience of just bringing my hand carry luggage and camera bag onto the Airport Express for a quick ride to the airport.

Some photos from Hong Kong:
Windmills at Che Kung Temple
View from Regency Club of Hyatt Regency Sha Tin
Hong Kong Skyline at Night
Infinity Pool at W Hong Kong
Heritage 1881 at Tsim Sha Tsui
Cruising the Victoria Harbour
Raceday at the Hong Kong Jockey Club
In-town Check-in at Kowloon Station

quirrow Jan 28, 11 1:54 am

Cathay's Lounge in Hong Kong
CX838 Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok HKG - Vancouver International YVR
24 Dec 2010
B747-400 B-HUD
Scheduled ETD/ETA: 1625-1150
Actual Time of Departure/Arrival: 1659-1156
Seat No: 82K

Checking in the station was effortless since there was not much people and I headed to the Business Class counters, handing over my Marco Polo member card and my passport. With e-ticketing, it has always been easy to check-in for flights with one less stuff to bring for the flight. I was greeted with a warm welcome and I put my 2 huge luggage onto the weighing scale. As expected, the larger of the 2 exceeded the weight limit and I had to repack the luggage and move some of the stuff into my cabin baggage. Luckily, the check-in agent was nice enough to close one eye on the final weight as it exceeded the maximum permissible weight by a little bit. As mentioned, all these luggage were filled with snacks and gifts for my siblings in Canada. With check-in completed, I was able to head down to the Airport Express platform and wait for the train heading to the airport.
A ride in the excellent Airport Express linking the airport to downtown

It was perhaps a 5 minute wait as a train arrives at the station and I was able to board the clean and spacious cabin. With storage space for luggage and the light load, I got to occupy 2 seats and was seated comfortably as the train made another stop at Tsing Yi before an express ride to the airport. My first experience years ago with the Airport Express endeared me to this mode of transport between airport and the city and I always wonder how amazing it would be if all cities has such infrastructure linking the city centre with the airport. That would definitely make travelling more convenient!
Boarding Pass and Lounge Invitation

Upon reaching Hong Kong International Airport, I went ahead to find check-in row 2 as I wanted to pass on my mileage claim form to the Asia Miles desk which could be located in that area. In fact just beside Row 2 of the departure hall lies the amazing Cathay Pacific First Class check-in desk. The counters without the baggage conveyor and weighing scale for luggages just shows the gap between Business and First, and maybe one day I might journey in that Class. But that would be for another day as I am perfectly satisfied to be travelling on Business in an ultra longhaul flight. While I was queueing up at the Asia Miles counter, a family checking in for their flight queued up behind me. Initially thinking they were waiting for the Asia Miles agent as well, I thought nothing of it until another family member came looking for them to direct them to the correct check-in counter. After maybe about 10 minutes of wait, I got my turn and handed in my request form.
Cathay Pacific's First Class Check-in Counter at HKIA

With that settled, it was time to head past immigration. Since there was no fast track immigration in Hong Kong, I just had to queue up like the rest and was lucky enough that immigration and security check was quite fast considering it was a Christmas eve. First stop after immigration was The Wing, as I proceeded to have lunch of Dan-dan Noodles. Being a Christmas Eve, there were also servings of cookies for patrons. Since the noodle came in a small bowl, I got another bowl of Japanese noodle and requested for the Ebi Tempura to be placed on a separate platter. The lounge was suprisingly not crowded at all and when I enquired about the renovation to take place at The Wing, the lounge agent wasn't able to provide more details, though they did mention the luggage storage area and the first floor lounge section has been closed. From the Wing, I made my way to The Cabin and visited the new lounge. While it had modern stylish seats, there wasn't a noodle bar in The Cabin and it was pretty small with many guests using the iMacs at the lounge. I didn't take any photos of the lounge interior, and proceeded to browse for automobile magazines in the PageOne bookstore around the airport.
Christmas Cookies at the Wing
Entrance to the Cabin, Cathay Pacific's newest Lounge at Hong Kong

Eventually, I ended up at The Pier, the 3rd of 4 Cathay Pacific's Lounge. The Pier is perhaps my choice of lounge in Hong Kong, though the location was a bit out of the way. My favourite part of this lounge was the Long Bar which provided nice views of the tarmac and if one is lucky enough that day, they might end up sitting face to face with a Jumbo Jet. I got dessert of Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream along with a cup of Latte while seated at the Bar to spend the time before my boarding. Ten minutes before my scheduled boarding time, I proceeded to my gate which is closer to The Cabin, and suprisingly, there was already a long queue for boarding, even in the Business Class line. It seems to be another full flight for CX to Vancouver.
Saying Hello to a CX Jumbo Jet at the Pier
Ice Cream and Cafe Latte at the Pier

The Jumbo Jet operating the flight that day was one old bird with the registration B-HUD in Cathay's fleet. With Cathay's extensive purchase of 777-300ERs, it seems that Cathay might even retire their Jumbo Jets. Even with its age, I still find the 747 to be one graceful plane! And I shall have the experience of being seated in the Upper Deck on a Business Class cabin. My first seating in an Upper Deck was on a JAL flight between Narita and Vancouver, though it was an Economy Cabin even at the top.

quirrow Jan 28, 11 1:59 am

cx838 hkg-yvr
The Jumbo Jet operating in the CX838 route that day

Initially, boarding was for passengers on wheelchair only before First Class passengers, followed by Business and Economy on separate lines. Suprisingly I don't remember that there was an additional check on the aerobridge, unlike the later CX flight to Vancouver. My guess is that the separate check was due to the later flight continuing its flight to New York in the United States. Boarding was fast and I proceeded to the upper deck through the stairs. It was a bit of a hassle since I had a carry-on though the extra privacy and 1-1 abreast configuration for the Business Class cabin made it worthwhile. Upper Deck Business Class on a 747 is just like having one's own private space in the skies! It wasn't all good though, since due to the packed flight, every seats on the Upper Deck is taken, and the overhead compartment is narrower and smaller than that on the main deck. This meant I had to take out my windbreaker before I could push my carry-on luggage into the compartment. So much for larger carry-on luggage for Business Class passengers. Because I was one of the first few passengers to board, there was still adequate space for me to place my carry-on, though my seat neighbours in 82A and 83K had difficulty in finding a space for their luggage. In fact the guy on 82A had the same type of luggage load as me, and he also had to take out some of his stuff for the flight before managing to push his carry-on into the overhead compartment. Note to self: Minimize hand carry-on when travelling on the 747's Upper Deck in the future.
Cathay Delight, another CX Signature Drink

Having stowed my carry-on and backpack, I got settled down into the seat as a flight attendant came over and took my order for drinks. Not wanting any alcoholic beverages, I asked for a glass of Cathay Delight. The juicy mixture of Kiwi and coconut milk was nice enough to freshen me up as I observed the checklist being done in the cockpit and the conversations between the captain, first officer and the ground technician. The hive of activity in the cabin really made it difficult to relax or even read a copy of the Financial Times that had been offered by the flight attendant. When my seat neighbour at 83K failed to find space for her hand luggage, there was some reorganization done by the crew and I had to move my backpack closer to my hand luggage, which was fine since it works out to be better for me. I really have to praise the ability of the flight attendants even with the busy flight deck as they managed to not only bring everyone drinks, but also provide newspapers, hot towels and check on passengers on the deck. Definitely an improvement over my Business Class experience on the flight between Jakarta and Hong Kong. As most of the passengers on the flight deck got settled, I was also able to take off my shoes, wear the slippers I have brought from my hotel stay and relax as I sip on the welcome drink.
Footrests while on the ground

With Christmas around the corner, the flight load was expected and the cabin was decked out in christmas decorations. This really cheered up the old plane a bit. During this time my other seat mate on 81K, who has changed into light clothing and seemed to be ready to doze off during the flight enquired with a crew on moving to seat 80K, and the crew seemed to oblige to his request. Though a while later, the purser came over with the passenger manifest and seemed puzzled at the empty seat at 81K, to which I mentioned to her that the passenger on 81K has moved to 80K. After some discussions with the plane, the purser had to request that my seat mate move back to his original seat at 81K as 80K had been reserved as a rest area for the pilot. However it seemed that this particular passenger is a oneworld emerald member since the purser also took note of his meal requirements and even went as far as mentioning she will get some steamed rice from the First Class cabin since he wanted something light for the meal. Or maybe perhaps it was just to console him for having to move back to and fro from his seat. Flight attendants also distributed amenity kits for passengers during this time, As the captain announced for pullback, the inflight entertainment provided a nice welcome video to greet every passengers onboard. It is always a nice video which I enjoy on Cathay Pacific - the simple touch that matters.
Welcome Aboard a Christmas Eve flight

With pullback occurring at 4.39pm local time, it seems we were more or less on time and due to depart as scheduled. There was a relatively short taxi to the runway before the Jumbo Jet took off for the skies at 4.59pm. Well I thought 20 minutes is still considered a short time between pullback and take off considering it is a relatively busy period for Hong Kong at this time of the year. During this time, there was even enough time for the purser to distribute the menu for today's flight. There was some heavy vibration felt at the cabin and take-off and I suspect it has got to do with the plane's age. However, the ascent of the plane was rapid as we soon cleared the ground and was above the clouds in less than 3 minutes. Well it was just enough time for me to capture some shots on take-off. But as I mentioned before, I am not a fan of these seats which are angled to the aisle for photo-taking and views out of the window. However, they are perfectly fine for comfort and full lie-flat beds.
Menu for the Flight
Taking off from Chek Lap Kok

After take-off, I noticed the mood lighting on the cabin and it was a nice colourful sight. Upon the plane reaching cruising altitude, I proceeded to the washroom to change into comfortable pants and placed my wallet, jeans and belt into my bag. I also made my way down to the lower deck to stretch out my legs and browse for some magazines. Amazingly most of the magazines provided onboard at both the upper deck and main deck seemed to be cleaned out. No matter though since I had obtained some magazines for reading from the CX lounges while on the ground. It was good foresight then so that I had some thing to read in case I felt bored.
Mood lighting on take off onboard the 747
Service onboard the Upper Deck

Back on my seat, I went on to operate the entertainment system, and it was then I noticed that the screen wouldn't latch properly to the holder. That was then I suspected on the viability of my system. And as it was meant to be, the inflight entertainment system on my seat gave up on me. As the pictures below attest, perhaps the entertainment screen can sense what attracts me in ladies as the photo of the flight attendant on the welcome screen became more pleasant after the reboot :P
The entertainment screen went from this...
To this...
Before resetting itself to this...

While the reset was ongoing, the crew served hot almonds as snacks and took more drink orders. This time, I ordered champagne on board and hot almonds was served along with beverages. I also made a note to request for their normal champagne since I wasn't a fan of their Billecart-Salmon pink champagne. Along the way, I also pointed out to the purser serving the snack service about the problem on my IFE. She mentioned she would help me check on the problem and get back to me. And here I was hoping that it wasn't a permanent problem. Though in case of total failure, I could always still count on my MacBook for entertainment. Indeed the purser did come back again later, though by then the system had rebooted itself and I was ready to pick a new movie to watch.
Champagne and StudioCX - that's life on the Upper Deck!

I settled on watching Charlie St. Cloud as it was one of the movie I missed in the theatres and was attracted to it by the trailer which was shown during my CX flight from Bangkok to Singapore. With the entertainment system on, I also just continued to use the noise-cancelling headphones provided by Cathay since they were adequate. Couple the excellent screen with a glass of champagne and a serving of warm nuts, I was ready to enjoy life on the upper deck amongst the skies.

The pleasure continued with the dinner service which took place before I even managed to finish my snacks. The dinner menu that night was:

Starters 頭盤
Pheasant and chanterelle mushroom terrine with baby carrot and green beans 野茵雉雞肉凍伴胡蘿蔔及邊豆
Mixed salad with zucchini, kalamata olive, baked cherry tomato and balsamic vinegar dressing 鮮蔬沙律伴意式黑醋汁

Main Courses 主菜
Sauteed sea bass with sweet and spicy sauce, steamed jasmine rice and Chinese mixed vegetables 醬爆魚柳配白飯及中式鮮蔬

Grilled beef tenderloin, potato mash with sun-dried tomato, yellow zucchini, carrot and asparagus 烤牛柳配風乾番茄薯蓉,瓜脯,胡蘿蔔及蘆筍

Stir-fried pork with X.O. sauce, steamed jasmine rice and Chinese mixed vegetables X.O.醬炒肉片配白飯及中式鮮蔬

Saffron fettucini with tomato concasse and Parmesan cheese 芝士番茄醬汁番紅花意大利寬麵

Cheese and Dessert 芝士及甜品

Shropshire Blue, Tilsit Royalp, Camembert Le Pere 精選芝士
Fresh seasonal fruit 時令鮮果
Lemon Meringue Pie 檸檬蛋白批

Tea and Coffee 名茶及咖啡
Passion Fruit Macaroon and Cookies 熱情果味法式杏仁甜餅

Drinks List 飲料

Juices: Orange, Apple, Tomato 果汁:橙汁,蘋果汁,番茄汁

Soft Drinks: Coke Zero, Coke, Coke Light, Sprite, Perrier water, tonic water, soda water and ginger ale 汽水:零系可口可樂,可口可樂,健怡可樂,雪碧湯力,梳打,薑啤,巴黎礦泉水

Coffees 咖啡
Freshly brewed coffee, espresso, cappuccino and caffè latte; regular or decaffeinated 特級咖啡,特濃咖啡,低因咖啡,泡沫咖啡, 牛奶咖啡

Teas 名茶
Hong Kong style milk tea 港式奶茶
Ceylon, Japanese, jasmine 錫蘭紅茶,日本綠茶,香片
Organic selection: camomile, earl grey, peppermint 有機系列:甘菊茶,伯爵茶,薄荷茶

Hot Chocolate 熱朱古力

Wine List

Champagne Deutz, Brut Classic

White wines: Blackstone Winemaker's Select Monterey County Chardonnay 2008 / Drouet Frères Le Mont Fleuri Sancerre 2009

Red Wines: Rodney Srong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 / Robert Skalli Côte du Rhône Villages 2007

Port: Dow's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2005

Aperitifs and Cocktails: Gin, Rum, Vodka, Martini Rosso, Martini Extra Dry, Campari, Sweet and Dry Sherry, Bloody Mary, Screwdriver

Whiskies: Chivas Regal 12 Years Old, Johnnie Walker Gold Label, Jack Daniel's, Canadian Club

Cognac: Hine 'Rare and Delicate' Fine Champagne

Liqueurs: Drambuie, Cointreau, Bailey's Irish Cream

Beer: International selection

CX Signature Drinks:
Cathay Delight - A kiwifruit based non-alcoholic drink with coconut juice and a touch of fresh mint
Pacific Sunrise - A refreshing combination of champagne and Drambuie with the zest of orange and lemon

I liked the salad served for dinner as it was fresh and appetizing, though I thought the appetizer was a bit to heavy for my taste and lacks finesse. For the main course, I picked the sea bass which is specially created by Chef Chan Sui Kei of the Celestial Court Chinese Restaurant in Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers. While I doubt the chef has much to do with my serving, it was a tasty dish nonetheless and matches what it said on the menu cover - Best Chinese Food in the Air. It is also worth noting that there are 2 main courses which are Chinese cuisine with rice. After the main course was the offering of cheese and fruits, and with no particular liking for cheese, I requested for fruits and more grapes which I could enjoy. The lime meringue pie was brought out last with a hot drink service being offered. I ordered Japanese green tea which came along with the small box containing the passion fruit macaroon. Throughout the meal service, I had no shortage of drinks since it was offered and topped up frequently. And to make the meal more special, passengers were provided with a small box containing the christmas cookies to be found in the lounges at Hong Kong. A nice touch nonetheless. To mark the end of the meal service, a bottle of Evian was provided and placed beside every passenger's seat as many passengers have already transformed their seat into a bed, like the one on seat 81 and 82A.
Full lie-flat beds with duvet laid down for a night's sleep

quirrow Jan 28, 11 2:00 am

cx838 hkg-yvr cont'd
After the meal service, I went to the galley and requested to switch the amenity kit to the female version as I wouldn't need the amenity kit and had intended to pass it to my sister for her use. The amenity kit also lacked a lip balm which is the one that I need for long haul flights. In addition, I requested for another writing kit and obtained one with a Christmas and New Year greeting card included inside the kit. With the new amenity kit, I extracted the toothbrush and proceeded to wash up, then return to my seat to complete the movie and recline the seat to a full lie-flat bed position. Unlike the flight between Jakarta and Hong Kong which provides the thin blankets, this flight provided me with a thicker comfortable duvet in white sheets which looked cleaner and softer to the touch. I tried to lie down and get some shut eye, but realized that with the duvet, it can get quite warm and I was only able to get some shuteye for around 2 hours before I woke up. I decided to order something else as a snack and just because I could, I ordered one of the noodle soup and the ice cream. I also checked out the galley and obtained some apple chips. While the crew were preparing my snack, I switched on the inflight entertainment again to select something else to watch while snacking. With intention to get back to sleep after my snack, I chose a short program and selected the Top Gear Specials. The wide variety of programming by Cathay Pacific truly makes StudioCX one of the best inflight entertainment system in the skies!

Snacks 小食

Crispy jumbo chicken wing with blue cheese dressing 珍寶雞翼伴芝士汁

Assorted sandwiches 精選三文治

Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream 雪糕

Braised beef shank in noodle soup 清湯牛腱湯麵
Prawn and wood fungus shui gow dumpling in noodle soup 鮮蝦木耳水餃湯麵

The noodle soup was great in my opinion and I would gladly have another bowl if not for the fact that I was quite full and didn't want to look like a glutton. To help me get back to sleep, I also ordered a serving of Bailey's on the rocks which I enjoyed while watching Top Gear. Before I could finish the Top Gear episode I was watching, the IFE went dead again, as if signalling to me to get back to sleep. Well since I was beginning to get drowsy, I returned to lie down on the seat. Just before I got a shuteye, the IFE seemed to have completed the restart, but I just left it and went back to sleep since there were still a good 4 and a half hours to get to Vancouver. This time round, I managed to sleep for nearly 3 hours before the clanking of the dining trolley woke me up. I realized it was time where they served brunch onboard and the menu for brunch was:

Starters 頭盤

Orange or apple juice 橙汁或蘋果汁
Pink guava smoothie 番石榴乳酪飲品
Fresh seasonal fruit 時令鮮果

Fruit yoghurt 鮮果乳酪

Assorted cereals 天然穀麥

Main Courses 主菜

Omelette with pan-fried pork sausage, back bacon, oven roasted potatoes and braised bean ragout 雞蛋奄列配豬肉腸,煙肉,馬鈴薯及燴豆

Dim sum served with chilli sauce: Pork siu mai with scallop, shrimp fun gor, chive and pork dumpling, beancurd roll with vegetables 精選點心配辣椒醬:帶子燒賣, 鮮蝦粉果,韭菜豬肉餃及齋腐皮卷
Apple pancake with chicken sausage, vine ripened tomato and button mushrooms 蘋果班戟配雞肉腸,番茄及蘑菇

Bread Basket 麵包藍

Assorted breakfast bread served with preserves, honey and butter 精選麵包配果醬,蜜糖及牛油

Tea and Coffee 名茶及咖啡

I was able to head to the washroom to freshen myself up before returning to my seat as the purser motioned for a flight attendant to bring an additional fruit platter for my breakfast starter. I didn't really like the fruit combination which consisted of a papaya, though the choice of pink guava smoothie was excellent for breakfast. Amongst the main course choices, I picked the apple pancake as it seems nice and I wasn't disappointed as it consisted of a nice soft pancake wrapped over diced apples. Kind of like an Apple Pie except that its wrapped with pancakes. The portion was also just nice for me though it was also because I had a snack mid-flight, otherwise it might be a bit small. I passed on the bread but had a Hong Kong style Milk Tea to end my breakfast as I continued watching the Top Gear Special episodes which I stopped watching halfway as the IFE system rebooted itself.
Daylight over the Pacific

Along the way, I also opened out the way as I saw sunrise over the Pacific and as we flew closer to Vancouver, the cloud cover became thicker. With the breakfast tray cleared, I went to the washroom to change back to my jeans and return to my seat to hear the pilot making an announcement 30 minutes before scheduled landing. Shortly after that, the IFE system was disabled leaving me with just the inflight map. In fact the timing made me miss the last few minutes of the second Top Gear Episode I was watching. After we crossed the cloud cover, I noticed the grey skies over Richmond and rain streaks could be seen on the windows. It's just another rainy winter weather in Vancouver. I never remembered landing in Vancouver on a sunny day in the winter for the last few years I've been there.
Reaching Vancouver

Our flight landed at Vancouver International Airport at 11.56 am local time, and the plane soon parked next to a Korean Air 777. Disembarkation was quite slow since I was on the upper deck, though I had not much trouble extracting my luggage from the overhead compartment. I packed my belongings into my back before making my way down into the main deck and disembarking via the aerobridge. In my opinion, YVR is one of the best airport in North America with its earthy tones and the terminal's use of glass to let natural light into the hall. The large amount of artpieces scattered around the terminal is also synonymous with Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest. In fact the huge waterfall and wooden artpiece before the immigration always make waiting for passport control a relaxing time in the airport. This time though, queues were short at the immigration counter and after a short while, it was my turn to hand over my passport. I was asked a couple of questions like my purpose of visit, when I intended to leave and where I would be staying at. After the chop of approval, I went in search of my checked luggage and true to the priority baggage tag, I started to see my luggage as one of the first few to appear on the carousel. The short immigration queue and fast baggage claim meant that I was out of the airport into the arrivals hall in less than 25 minutes. Just goes to show that North America could be as efficient as Hong Kong at the right time and location!
Arrivals at Vancouver

My first trans-pacific flight on Cathay Pacific's Business Class is a nice experience and I was able to arrive relaxed and refreshed. The variety of meals, snacks and entertainment options onboard are great and adequate, though one could notice some cost-cutting in the premium cabins. Service on this Business Class was excellent and it was definitely much better compared to the one on my flight between Jakarta and Hong Kong. The business class on the upper deck of Cathay Pacific is perhaps one of the best places to be in at the skies on an intercontinental flight, unless one can get on the First Class.

matthandy Jan 28, 11 3:00 am

What a great report and amazing photos! What lens did you use? Something wide with a very large aperture I'm guessing.

I agree with your CX upper deck comment, it really is a great place to be.

QFBoy Jan 28, 11 11:55 am

I love your report! And what fantastic photos! What camera do you use??

roadwarrior365 Jan 28, 11 12:23 pm

Thanks for the great report!

avm2806 Jan 28, 11 1:11 pm

have to agree on your comments on CX studio - as far as quality of content is concerned it is a wonderful entertainment system... While the middle easter carriers are more known for the IFE, I find CX's selection to be just perfect..

quirrow Jan 28, 11 2:01 pm

Originally Posted by matthandy (Post 15752352)
What lens did you use? Something wide with a very large aperture I'm guessing.

Originally Posted by QFBoy (Post 15754844)
I love your report! And what fantastic photos! What camera do you use??

I use a Nikon D90 as the body, and a 16-85mm lens on the ground, with a 35mm f/1.8 lens onboard.

Thank your for all your comments, will update the trip again when I have gone on the next few legs of this trip.

carolinaaaflyer Jan 28, 11 10:05 pm

Very nice reporting.

allset2travel Jan 28, 11 11:42 pm

Enjoy your report. Thanks.
Never been to the Cabin @ HKG, now have some idea from your report. Would have appreciated some pics.
I will be on CX888 D (HKG-JFK, with stop at YVR) later this summer. Your report on hard product and service gives a glimps of what to expect (though metal might be different).

johndeere19 Jan 29, 11 7:41 am

Great TR and photos, thanks!

toast24 Jan 29, 11 1:24 pm

Love this report! Have been curious about the Circle Pacific on oneworld for quite a while.

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