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To Japan on CX F/J

To Japan on CX F/J

Old Mar 31, 11, 8:21 am
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To Japan on CX F/J

I've decided to do this report as I go, knowing full well that I would never do it once I return back to my normally chaotic life.

I'm sitting in the BA F lounge at JFK, enjoying some smoked fish sushi and a glass of veuve clicquot yellow label. lovely^

Yesterday I took the most important, longest test of my life, the USMLE Step 1, aka the boards for med school. 350 questions, 7 hours, 6 weeks of study

I had to have a big trip as the 'light at the end of the tunnel' from my study hole in the library.

Having sufficiently fanagled enough AA points, I decided to travel to Japan the long way, via HKG. My routing will be as follows:

RDU-JFK-HKG-TPE-FUK
ITM-NRT-ORD-RDU
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Old Mar 31, 11, 8:33 am
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Part 1: The Journey Begins

I began this journey Quite early in the morning. With just two hours of sleep, I hopped on the shuttle to the airport, and, no suprise, found a long line at the AA checkin counter of people waiting to check bags.

Only one couple in front of me at the elite check-in, but they had a surfboard. The lady at check in eyed the large case and asked, "is there only one surfboard in there? If there are two, we'll pull you off the plane and make you pay at the gate." The guy coughed up the $150 rather quickly for the additional surfboard.


spacious legroom on in seat 6A.... /s

At least the economy leg was at the beginning of the trip- I would have been way too spoiled to sit crunched in for an hour after the experience I'm expecting to have on CX.

After walking for an eternity(can you tell I'm lazy?), I managed to switch terminals and find my way to the BA F/terraces lounge. 7:30 AM, and not a soul in sight:


Here is the wine served:




and the liquor:



One negative thing about the lounge seems to be that the automatic towel dispenser seems to be running low on power. I've included an informative video to demonstrate:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwgbdYPNo4c

More to come...stay tuned

Last edited by gates_2; Mar 31, 11 at 11:41 am
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Old Mar 31, 11, 8:34 am
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Part 2: Cathay First Class, or How I never want to fly anything else ever again. Ever

After a long tenure at the BA F lounge, Flight 831 was finally paged for boarding. This was a moment I’d been waiting for. After skipping the very lengthy economy check-in, I was quickly spotted by the crew upon entering the 777-300ER, and made a left, past the mini J cabin, and into the F cabin.
The suite was nicer than I had expected. Pictures don’t really do it justice. I had such a sense of space and privacy. I had selected 1A for the flight. Cathay runs 6 F seats on the 777, in a 2-2-2- configuration, but 1A+B have their own isle, while the 2+3 have to share an isle. There were only 2 others in first, both in 1K+2K, so I had the whole left side to myself- how nice! I could tell that that couple paid for their tickets, as they were escorted from the lounge to the plane.


Seat Controls

My flight attendant for today was Pao, from Thailand, and Agnes, the purser from the Phillipines. Both were flawlessly presented, and the service remained as near to perfect as one could hope. I don’t think they were used to having many young folk in First, so they were both teasing me a bit for my ID, etc..all quite fun.


This distracting screen of attractive FA's popped up every couple of minutes on the screen.

Here is an interesting analogy that I thought of during the flight. Door-to-balloon time is a big buzzword in medicine today. Basically, it’s the time from a heart attack patient presenting at the hospital, to being cathed/stented to restore blood flow through a blocked cardiac artery. The shorter, the better, in terms of survival outcomes, etc...

Well, on Cathay flights, they have a door-to-Krug time (DtKT). And I must say, the 3 minute DtKT on flight 831 was more than sufficient to save me from the potential horror of sitting on my throne without the delicious notes of toasted almond and caramel. 6 minutes and I would have been a goner. I had the biggest grin on my face as Pao asked, “Mr. Gates, would you care for some Krug Grand Cuvee?” I was pleased to polish off my fourth glass just before the doors were closed for push-back.


Delicious Krug

I followed the cue of the older couple, and changed into my Shanghai-Tang PJ’s, which were quite nice. I can see why some people would almost make a point to collect F PJ’s from around the world. Luckily for me, they gave me a size too small, and after request, I received a medium pair to take home. Two pairs in my bag- nice!


Sporting the first class apparel

There are two lavs on the 777 specifically for first class, so I practically had a private bathroom for the 16 hour journey. The lavs were stocked with Acca-Kappa products, which I found to be quite nice. The amenity kits also had some Acca Kappa stuff, including lotion, lipbalm, and some odd facial mist, scented with sandalwood. I’ve yet to spray my face with that wood-emulsion, but hopefully it is as rejuvenating as it smells!

The meal service began about an hour after takeoff. I really enjoyed the place setting and the breadbasket, filled with all sorts of delicious treats.

Here are the menus:






And the wine list:





The balik salmon and caviar plate was sublime, though admittedly, it was my first time having high quality caviar. Agnes asked if I wanted more salmon, to which I happily nodded. She then proceeded to bring out an entire additional plate, with an even larger serving of caviar.


This was my second full plate

The soup was decent, probably nothing to write home about. It did look very pretty though. I forgot to take a picture- my apologies.

For the main course, I chose the lobster, which was really quite delicious, though somewhat hard to pry from the shell with just chopsticks. I had refused the offer of a fork on principal, and slightly regretted it later on. The portion of lobster was quite generous, and I found myself ignoring the rice and vegetables and going straight for the good stuff.



By this point, I was quite stuffed, so I asked that dessert be delayed. I ended up sleeping shortly thereafter. The seat in the bed configuration was excellent. Pao had made up the bed with a sheet underneath, and a thick and warm comforter on top, turned down on the corner. I crawled in and slept soundly.

The nice thing about a 16 hour flight is you have enough time to drink two bottles of champagne, eat, sleep for 6 hours, wake up with a headache, recover, and arrive at your destination fresh and ready to go. I stopped counting after glass number 8, but I reckon I had to justify the cost of the flight ($0) by consuming $400 worth of champagne. The issue is, on a long haul, the humidity drops to desert-like levels, and it is very easy to become dehydrated over a six hour rest. I ended up resting for another 3 hours in the bed position, interspersed with 3 bottles of water, and then was good to go.

About 3 hours out, I started to get a bit hungry, so I asked for the sliced duck snack, along with some ice cream. The duck was good, but I didn’t care at all for the spicy cheese spread accompanying it. The ice cream was hard as a rock, and I waited 30 mins before attempting to eat it. Earlier I had heard slurping from across the isle, and later regretted not going with the noodle option as a snack. The Tie Guan Yin tea presented was reasonably decent, especially considering it was on an airplane.


Tasty Duck


Wonderful tea

At this point I finally gave up and turned on the IFE, watching Harry Potter. Surprisingly, I found the brightness/contrast on the screen to be quite terrible. I couldn’t see any of the dark scenes in the film, and that was in a dark cabin. Also, while the noise canceling headsets are adequate, they are nowhere near the quality of a similar Bose offering. If you are lucky enough to own a pair of quiet comforts, I recommend you bring them, though I’m not sure about the jack being compatible.
I had asked that my dinner be served 90 minutes prior to landing. The meal service began at exactly 90 minutes prior to landing, according to the moving map display. The light appetizer of fruit was delightful.


Tasty fruit!

I opted for the chicken over the prawns, as I had had enough shellfish for one flight. I definitely made the right choice. The chicken was incredibly delicious, juicy, tender, and perfect. It was by far the best dish of the flight.


Best dish of the trip!

A raspberry cake was a light and refreshing way to end the meal. I opted to include a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue label, as I had yet to try it.


Light, wonderful dessert


Johnnie Blue

30 minutes prior to landing, I changed back into real-world clothes (admit it, you kind of want to walk around the terminal in your PJ’s) and cut myself attempting to shave with the disposable razor in the lav. Sadface.

Landing was a bit bumpy, though it was great to see the lights of Macau on the approach pattern. When flying this route, sit on the right side if you want to see the sunset over China, I was on the left and missed it.
After a brief delay, we deplaned. First class passengers get their own separate jetbridge, which was quite nice for the three of us that used it.

Unfortunately, stepping off the plane was definitely the end of the first class experience. Walking what seemed like a mile, I finally made my way over to HK immigration. It was hot, really hot. I was cued in with a long line of people sweating and jostling about. I wasn’t used to people trying to sneak ahead of you in the cue. A fellow traveler behind me noticed and said, “Yea, this is Hong Kong”, in response. Finally making my way to the immigration counter, I realized why it was taking so long. The immigration officer was texting on her iphone, not between pax, but during the check process. She took my passport, held it, texted for 30 seconds, and then proceeded to scan and stamp. Grrr.

Overall, my flight on Cathay Pacific was as close to perfect as I could possibly imagine, including the food, service, and hard product. Perhaps as a testament to this wonderful experience, I found JAL J class on the 11-hour ride home ‘merely adequate’ in comparison. I highly recommend this experience if you can swing the miles- I can think of no better use!

Last edited by gates_2; Apr 13, 11 at 7:50 pm
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Old Mar 31, 11, 8:35 am
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reserved

Cherry blossom video update:


http://vimeo.com/22660133

Finding the W was very easy, as it is located in Kowloon station, directly off the airport express train. I was greeted by a man who quickly took my bags, and explained that they would be brought up to my room later. The W is slightly odd in that you arrive on the 1st floor, then have to go up to the 6th floor to check-in.
I’ll keep this part short, but in general the Room at the W was quite nice. I was impressed with the high quality of the bedding. It made for a wonderful first night’s sleep, after the long flight. I’ll let the pictures speak here. The bliss bath products were nice, and there is free water in the room, hidden between the 60 HKD bottles of Fiji.

Entrance to the room








Nice Trendy Bathroom


View from the room



Around 10PM, I decided to go downstairs and speak with the concierge about seeing a night market nearby. I only had one day in HKG, after all. Walking towards the elevator, I saw a man standing there, talking on his phone. At first I thought it was hotel security, but as I approached the elevator, I froze in disbelief.

No. way.

After staring for a couple seconds at each other, I said, “Greg?” (not his real name)

Yes, after flying literally half way around the world, I managed to coincidentally run into an old college friend who just happened to be staying on the same floor of the W. There would have been at max a 30 second window where we would have both been waiting for the same elevator. I’m not much of a betting man, but I think a trip to Vegas might be in order after that. Surreal. He had been in town for a couple of months on a consulting gig, and was heading back to the states the very next morning. Great timing indeed!

Well, that solved my problem of what to do for the rest of the night. After a couple minutes of being completely stunned, he suggested that we head over to Lan Kwai Fong for the evening. Before getting on the tube to Central, we had a reasonable Chinese meal at a restaurant in elements, which he generously picked up (I’m jealous of the expense account- we don’t get those in medicine!)

Getting a bit turned around in central station, we finally managed to make it over to LFK. Now this was a really new experience for me.
LFK reminded me of a big king-of-the-hill type experience. Down on the lower levels, you had the Australian, American, and British college kids on spring break 2.0, around all the ex-pat bars. After we ascended the winding road, we reached the mid level, which was quite happening, but described by Greg as a place for the slightly older bankers and money-makers. This was immediately apparent. Continuing up the hill even more, near the top, we reached the more chill/lounge section of the district. Here, we found couples sharing a quiet meal or drink in chic establishments. I highly recommend checking out LFK at night with a friend if you get an opportunity. Its one big outdoor party!

Waiting on Greg’s friend, who never came, we went to a 7-11 to buy a beer. At first I was quite concerned about the legality of having an open container, as I’ve had friends get citations in the states for such behavior. These fears were quickly relieved when the attendant at the store pulled out a bottle opener and popped our Stellas for us. How fun.


I managed to have my first cuban on the streets of Hong Kong

I managed to avoid most of the jet lag by sleeping soundly from 3-9AM. I wanted to make it back to central to buy some tea, so I quickly got ready and dropped my bags off downstairs. From central, I hailed a taxi(only $18 HKD!) and headed towards a tea shop I had researched, Lock-cha. Unfortunately, I had failed to notice the weekend hours, and arrived to a closed shop. Having no clue what to do now, I started walking aimlessly around the area, killing some time, before stumbling upon another tea shop. Lam Kie Yuan. Entering, I found a nice wall of pu-erh bing-cha, and faintly heard a bit of nihon-go emanating from the back.

Warning: tea talk ahead.

After some odd looks (white man buying pu-erh?), I managed to make my way to the back, and chatted with the Japanese family being served gong-fu style. I wanted to try a couple of the cakes before I purchased them, as they were fairly pricey ($300-$500 HKD). The first cake was not good, at all, despite the 10 years of aging. The trilingual shop worker seemed fairly surprised that I didn’t like it, though I was quite nice in politely declining to purchase that one. I settled on a 60 year-anniversary cake, produced in 2007. I think it will have fine aging potential. Also picked up some Wuyi Yancha, Da Hong Pao, for a relative steal of $200 HKD. It’s much more expensive in the U.S. After this, it was off to the airport to fly to Japan.

Last edited by gates_2; May 3, 11 at 7:44 pm
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Old Mar 31, 11, 8:40 am
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Part 4 The Wing at HKG, Cathay J HKG-TPE-FUK

After arriving via train, I made my way through security and managed to find The Wing. I only had 90 minutes before my flight, so my visit was rather short. Not many pics here- I felt like too much of a schmuck.


Finding the first class section, I saw the first class dining area, and decided to have my first meal of the day around noon. Quite tasty, and I washed it down with a glass of nameless cabernet. The peninsula staffs the dining area, and I found the service to be relatively good. They were serving Moet Imperial for those interested in the bubbles.



The first section was packed, and not that nice. The internet on the few computers available in the general seating area was terribly slow. The internet connection I had in Haiti was faster. Not joking.


After this, I decided to make the marathon hike over to gate 46, which involved a short shuttle train transfer. I arrived just as they began boarding. On the plane I went!

I was greeted by the lovely crew, and as this flight was only 12/30 in J, I received fantastic individual service on both legs. I was always addressed by name, and after the first time, all 4 FAís remembered my name each time they came by.


I was underwhelmed a bit by the J seats, though I couldnít ask for much more on these rather short flights. Cathay does have a full 3 class flight HKG-TPE, which I had originally booked. Imagine having the suite for such a short time!


Old style seats


Delamotte brut

We were in the air quite swiftly, and dinner was served shortly thereafter. Now, this dinner service is quite impressive for a flight that is less than 90 minutes in the air. I lost the menu to this one, but the prawns were decent tasting, though I was quite full after the nice meal in the lounge.


Imagine being served this on a 1.5 hour flight in the U.S.


I enjoyed a glass of Johnnie Walker Gold as I nibbled on my meal.

Arriving into TPE, I was rather underwhelmed by the airport, and was happy that I had chosen to forgo any longer stay in the country. (I know I know, you canít judge a country by its airport, but I did anyway!)


This was the nicest part of the terminal. Yuck.

The second half of the flight from TPE-FUK was on the same plane with the same crew. They welcomed me back enthusiastically. Load was about the same, 12/30, mostly Japanese. This meal service was fantastic, I loved the beef hot-pot style dish. Slightly sweet, but very tender and flavorful. Very impressed on such a short flight in J. Bravo!


Delicious beef


I arrived in Fukuoka around 8:30 PM, and was literally the only white person in the entire airport full of people. Got some weird looks with that one, as well as from the immigration officer who was confused as to where I was staying, and as to why I had no cash on me (ATM all the way).

To be continued...

Last edited by gates_2; Sep 8, 11 at 8:46 pm
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Old Mar 31, 11, 8:41 am
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almost there
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Old Mar 31, 11, 8:41 am
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and last one
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Old Mar 31, 11, 8:53 am
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pics not working
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Old Mar 31, 11, 2:22 pm
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Originally Posted by david-alexis View Post
pics not working
Pics working for me.
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Old Mar 31, 11, 2:26 pm
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Originally Posted by qbrain View Post
Pics working for me.
Yes. +1.
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Old Mar 31, 11, 3:03 pm
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they're showing up for me; good start to the report...keep it coming...
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Old Mar 31, 11, 5:59 pm
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My tremendous jealousy notwithstanding, I am really, really looking forward to this TR. And congrats on completing your exam. ^
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Old Mar 31, 11, 6:47 pm
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Pics working for me. Looking forward to the rest!
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Old Mar 31, 11, 9:20 pm
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Unhappy

Only could see the lounge pics.
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Old Mar 31, 11, 9:47 pm
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Originally Posted by ladyteathyme View Post
Only could see the lounge pics.
other than the 1 leg pic, i think there are only lounge pics
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