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Farewell Miles, with ANA, Thai and Asiana with ANA's International 787 in C

Farewell Miles, with ANA, Thai and Asiana with ANA's International 787 in C

Old Mar 19, 12, 8:03 am
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Farewell Miles, with ANA, Thai and Asiana with ANA's International 787 in C

Farewell Miles - A Mileage Burning Party with All Nippon Airlines, Thai Airways and Asiana Airlines in Business Class (with a BMI Leg)

Featuring the ANA International 787-8.

Hello and welcome to another Kevincm trip report. And yes, it seems I’m knocking them out more than is good for me, but hey - I like writing in my spare time. Well writing is such a loose term. More like ramblings.

Still, it keeps me semi occupied. Allegedly.

Now most of regular readers may fall into shock when the following words are uttered. Yes it’s a BUSINESS CLASS TRIP. Well – just one leg in Economy, but that’s in Europe and that doesn’t count

Will there be a GhettoIFE system though? That’s something you’ll have to find out… and not in the traditional way

Oh, and here's your plug. This has already been on GhettoIFE.com for a few days. I've been waiting till I've published the final bit on the blog before hitting here.

Those who have issues with my grammar, feel free to visit http://boardingarea.com/blogs/ghetto...ers-out-there/ for my reasons and explanations.

Oh BMI *shakes head*. (The Introduction)

BMI has been an odd little airline, right from its start as Derby Air Schools, manifesting it’s way along to British Midland Airways, to the days of Diamond Service, and then to the days being owned by SAS, Lufthansa and a British Sir, to the forced sale to Lufthansa by a British Sir, to now the final days before it’s sold lock stock to British Airways (unless Virgin Atlantic gets it way - which I highly doubt).

And before it’s sold off and becomes a footnote in British Aviation history, I’ve decided to use some of the mileage pile I had to have “one of those journeys”.

Most of my regular readers will know of my “love” (and that's a wrong word, believe me) of Economy Class with iPhones in sick bags. Well for once, that goes in the bin and I become a privileged traveller, and fly business class. Yes, regular readers of my previous reports that going anywhere near forward of the engines for me is a rare occurrence. I’ve done a First Class Trip before, and a couple of Business class trips too, but going near the front of the plane should send most of you into shock

Tradition (what traditions I have) state for best value “Go East” because. And I’m following that advice in my head. But this quickly turns into a game of Mornington Crescent rather quickly (with Mornington Crescent being Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok International Airport.

And I’ll be using the Kevincm set of rules where shunts are blind, Canon Street is closed, Birmingham New Street is a no smoking zone and a move Victoria Coach station will end in knipp. Without a chance of getting out of it).

And there’s a variety of ways to slice it for a Star Alliance traveller!

Of course, which way you can go is dependant on the BMI Call Centre. And we know the BMI call centre is a law unto itself. Therefore knowing where to go before hand is always helpful.

Looking at routes, I like to be semi tax efficient. That’s posh speak for NOT paying the Right Honourable Chancellor of the Exchequer (George Osborn – I have other names for him, but this is a family web site) a pile of tax just because he feels like it commonly knowing as Air Passenger Duty. The fact that on a redemption like this in a premium cabin it’s a whopping 180 just to get on an aircraft requires an extra bit of thought and planning.

So I normally at this point resort to my usual plan of stop over in Germany, where the tax is a slightly more palatable €55. I’d prefer it to be 0, but hey – work with what you can get I say. Whilst Copenhagen or Porto was on the cards as as starting point to save a bit of tax, the costs would had outweighed the cost of positioning.

Some of you may be aware that I can be a self confessed plane geek (when I choose to be mind) and although I don’t go out of my way to take a route because of a plane, I wouldn’t say no if the opportunity arises. And ANA presented that opportunity with its brand new Boeing 787. Whilst this runs Frankfurt - Toyko Haneda, it’s timings are different as this service arrives in the morning, so leaves just before lunchtime in Germany.

What the heck.

I spent a few hours with the ANA tool and Continental booking tools to identify space and found what seemed to be the perfect dates. I wanted to give ANA time to get used to the 787 in service, but I also wanted to try the darn thing out… just because.

Therefore I gave it a month after the commencement of service, and a tag on from Haneda to Hong Kong (so Tokyo would be the heart of the trip, Hong Kong would be the tag on).

A call to the BMI Call centre, and the legs were booked without a problem. Scary. Apart from the near enough 300 YQ and Tax charge – that was equally scary.

Getting back to the UK, I wanted again to be cash efficient after that expensive exercise, which means routing back via Seoul as Asiana has extremely low fuel surcharges. And if I’m blunt I do like a bit of Seoul (yes that’s a bad pun, even by my standards). Going via Bangkok would had been 240 for the privilege, going through Seoul is about 95. But getting seats on the night Asiana flight was… impossible. The Thai flight came up as an option ,but would require an overnight option to connect to the daytime Asiana London flight. I grumbled and accepted this.

And as I thought about it for a week, I thought – you know what – stuff it. Another call to the BMI Call centre, and it was converted into a two day stopover for an extra 9 + 25 change fee.

With the flights set, I tuned my attention to the task of hotels. And as I was planning this, Intercontinental Hotel Group decided to re-price and revalue the rates of redemption's for some of their properties. I took this as a hint, and after a bit of research booked on Points and Cash The Strings (Intercontinental) in Tokyo as it would be close to Haneda when the time came to travel onto the next destination. Additionally, it was right on the Yamanote line which for me – represented the best access points to Tokyo. For Hong Kong, I’d switch positions from last time and stay on the island as opposed to Kowloon, and stay in the Crown Plaza Causeway Bay near the Happy Valley Race course.

For the hotel in Seoul, I hoped that Accor would have a sale. They didn’t sadly. Therefore it was the olde fall-back onto Hotels.com using Quidco, to organise a room. The Ramada Dongdamun turned up at a reasonable 60 a night. This is near the fashion market, and on Line 2,4 and 5 on the Seoul Metro – very nicely connected and convenient compared to say the Intercontinentals on the other side of the river near the COEX . Meanwhile, for accommodation in Frankfurt, Accor actually had a sale on and that would be with one of their MGallery Collection Properties - the Hotel Savigny near Frankfurt Hbf.

Of course, I need to get to Frankfurt to commence this trip. So yes, I’m bagging the local service from Birmingham to Frankfurt. Which is operated for Lufthansa by... BMI. Irony? Somewhat

Seat assignments were easy enough for Asiana and Thai Airways using the LOT Manage My Booking Booking, however trying to assign a seat with ANA was near enough impossible - put it like this: I had to assign my seat at Online Check in (although I did get a window seat - more on that later)

So here’s the final route map:

Map by the Great Circle Mapper - http://www.gcmap.com

Anyway, enough of the gibber jabber, lets get rolling!

Last edited by Kevincm; Mar 19, 12 at 9:49 am
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Old Mar 19, 12, 8:27 am
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The Off!

To BHX on a cold and winter morning.

To say I had a bad nights sleep the night before would be an understatement. Since I was up, I completed my packing and watched the news, with BBC News 24 in the background. I wasnt exactly awake, but my ears pricked up when I heard there was a strike at Frankfurt. And I breathed a sigh of relief that I had booked my connecting flight the next day as if things went wrong, my connection times could had been shaved to nothing

I continued packing (and probably to forgot to pack a couple of things), and settled in. It then of calling a cabbie to take me to the train station

Looking back, I wish I took the 100ltr rucksack...

The call was placed, and I got outside to take the first photo of the trip, and right on cue the cabbie turned up. By 05:15 I was five pounds lighter and at New Street station. Another 2.40 and I had a single ticket to Birmingham International airport.

Early Morning at New Street

Wandering downstairs to the platform the train had just pulled in. I took my opportunity and boarded. Now the problem with public transport is the general public. Heres a great example of a very loud couple of friends chatting laughing out loud. Which is fine and dandy. Except at 5:15 in the morning, the last thing you want are two people who you hear from one end from the carriage to another.

People eh?

The service pulled out on time, and quickly enough the train deposited at Birmingham International where I left the chattering ladies to the London bound commuters and headed for the Air-Rail link. Although I had checked in, I needed to deposit my bag and actually get my boarding pass. Call me olde fashioned, but I do love a proper boarding pass. That and when I checked in I got a express lane pass. This will come in useful in a moment.

Now, as UK Airports seemingly cannot handle the concept of a rucksack, I trapsed the bag over to the oversized bag area. The bag dumped, it was time to through the fastlane. And this was a darn good thing considering the size of the normal queue. Which was long. Meanwhile I was through security and scans in 5 minutes flat.

Guess it does pay to check in normally sometimes....

After briefly looking at how much Dixons Travel wanted to rip me off for headphones, I headed to the lounge for a bit.

Lounge Stop: ServisAir Lounge.

Ive written about this place before and it still fails to impress in any way. But its good for a Vodka and orange. And in better news, it seems Birmingham Airport has actually got its WiFi working. Its just a shame that there seemed to be a distinct lack of power sockets or if they are there theyre almost flush to the floor. But still. Vodka, Orange Juice, Coffee. Not bad things.

The Servisair Lounge

Still boarding time was nearing, and nothing was on the monitors. Something didnt feel right to say the least. I wandered over to the gate, where the gate was shut (with the plane parked up). As boarding time approached, the gate opened, where my boarding pass was scanned, and invited to wait for actual boarding to commence.

Looking at the clock, the chance of making our departure slot was reducing by the second. At this point we were invited to board.

LH959 - Birmingham Airport to Frankfurt-am-Main International Airport
Operated by British Midland International for Lufthansa, Airbus A320
Seat 11A, Economy Class (Exit Row)
477 Miles Flow, 125 Miles Earned + 32 Miles Senator Bonus.

The Photos are at: http://www.photoblog.com/kevincm/201...lufthansa.html

If there was a definition of the word irony, then here it is in full Technicolor. A BMI plane operated for Lufthansa, but in full BMI Brown cow leatherwork, ex Lufthansa seats and BMI Livery on the outside. There were other little touches, such as dual-language signs, and a lovely yellow and blue stripe at the top of the safety card.


The crew itself was British with a Language expert aboard (and looking at their collection of ID badges, Birmingham based).

The plane was boarded with about 70% load but whilst the isle seat was occupied, the middle seat was free. Combined with the massive legroom, this is better than business class up the front (bar the food)

Anyway, the door closed, and the captain came on the speakers explaining that the Frankfurt Airport strike had put a major dent in the schedule with a 1 hour 20 minute delay posted. I began to feel sorry for the people in the rows behind and in front of me a I had a pile of legroom to settle down for the hour. The crew did a full water service through the plane, with a round of top ups.

In the end, we got a 10 minute advance on the delay, and at 8:20, the wheels came up as the plane departed Birmingham.

Youtube Vid:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AM4Ob0yguBM

Climb-out was quick as we left the cloud layer tracking towards The Netherlands, Brussels, Liege and finally towards Frankfurt.

The crew sprang into action once cleared, and the brown curtain was pulled dividing Business and Economy Class.

Food was distributed, and it was Yes, you guessed it this being BMI, it was a Montys Hot Wrap


And again, a constant product delivered quickly and efficiently. The drinks service followed (very much to BMI standards as opposed to Lufthansa a very sad but easy way to tell is that BMI use Pepsi whilst Lufthansa uses Coke). This as a bit more sluggish, but the drinks were free flowing with the flight crew seemingly happy to be there.


Now thats a strange concept these days!

By the time the channel had been crossed, the drinks were done and the cleanups were occurring. Effective and quick. These are things we like.

The crew didnt do a sales round, but were walking through the cabin constantly, checking if drinks were needed or in some cases, extra wraps were wanted.

Beginning decent

Again, the pilot came on the blower over Liege, and informed us of the decent that would begin shortly, and that we would be landing on the Airport workers bone of contention the new runway, which was a way from the terminal

Soon enough the cabin was buttoned down for decent, and I do have a video of it except its completely out of focus so Im not even going to bother publishing it. Dratted windows.

After landing the blame begun its taxi from the end of the new runway, past Lufthansa Technics, Past the T1 Complex and almost all the way the end of T2 until we reached a parking position at the far end of T2.

The mad rush to exit the plane was awaiting me, but I took some time to say thank you to the staff and to wish them luck for the future.

Overall: I am going to miss BMI when its been subsumed into whoever buys it in the end. The demonstration that BMI gave today reminded me why I loved BMI in the first place the friendly service and the people aboard who fly for the BMI flag. And Im honestly going to miss them when theyre gone. It seems like a lot of the improvements came too late, with various mistakes made by BMIs old management and yes, Lufthansa as well who have to take their fair share of blame of the complete mess-up that has been ownership

With two buses, it seems most people went for the 1st bust they could see.. were as muggins on the 2nd bus had a seat, a window view of the ground action at FRA. As we passed I could see the bird that ANA flew into Frankfurt for today A Boeing 777-200ER. Dont get me wrong, the 777-200ER is a good plane. Just not the plane I wanted to be on tomorrow

The bus made it to the Non Schengen bus arrival area, and it was a hike upstairs to a very quite Immigration point. Past customs (which was manned for once!), it was a case of going through the warren that is Frankfurt International Airport to landside, and finally (phew!) to luggage claim.

Hiking through FRA

Of course, the Birmingham fight was assigned belt 22 down the far end. The good thing was that my luggage had beat me to it at the other end, and was making its way around the belt. Through another set of customs, and I was in Germany.

I took a few minutes to sit down and contemplate my next move. Whilst buying a Frankfurt card in some respects is a lazy way of doing it, it saves on RMVs fares. Of course, I needed to also check in for my flight the next day. Thankfully, it seems someone at Frankfurt Airport has seen sense and now offers 30 minutes of FREE WIFI (and that's still better than London Heathrow...). Miracles take a little longer

After finding out where to buy the card (and finding the counter was unstaffed for a bit), I checked in online, praying that a window seat was available for tomorrow flight. And as its a staged seating, its actually a bit more difficult- you can have a Window Window or a Window Aisle. Thankfully 7K was free, giving me a my precious two windows. And dont look at me in that tone of voice. I like me windows

After getting the e-boarding pass, I found that the hotels sales person had returned, and I could collect my pass after handing over 13.50. For the convenience sake, Ill take it besides Id recover the savings in tram ride costs.

From there it was downstairs, a 15 minute wait for the train, an arrival into Frankfurt Hbf and a short walk to the hotel.
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Old Mar 19, 12, 8:37 am
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Hotel: Hotel Savigny Frankfurt City - MGalley Hotel Collection (Accor Group)
Price Paid: 67.11 (-8.02 in QuidCo Cashback)

Continuing my tradition of only shooting hotels at night...

The hotel which is just off the Platz der Republic is conspicuous by its understatement. However, upon entry it looked very lush and well cared for. After arriving just after midday local time, I was chancing if I could check in and surprise I could!


Up the Spiral Staircase

No card imprint was taken and I was issued a room on the first floor that was next to the elevator (of course, the elevator is a typical German one ie titchy).

Oh well. Cant win them All. Especially at this price. The fact I couldnt hear the elevator says a bit though.


Working area

TV and MiniBar

The room however was boiling hot. And lets just say after putting my stuff down, I crashed for a few hours before waking up drenched in sweat. As the air-con was misbehaving, I opened the window, which reduced the temperature quickly.

In terms of amenities, the room was of a reasonable size, but power plugs seemed to be an issue (I found the best one for the laptop on the bed was near the exit). The bathroom was extremely well stocked with double amenities of soap, shampoo, bath etc.


Oh yes, and the bath water was lovely and hot.

In addition, a large bottle of Evian was placed in the room as a complimentary welcome gift.

Welcome water - note - proper bottle too!

Deciding to actually do something with the day was the next decision, so I packed my bag, and headed off to the Zeal, and after realising I had forgotten a pile of memory cards to take with me (which ruled out the Main Building visit, I decide to do some Creative Photography instead.

No. Not my usual sort of Creative Photography (quiet down the back there ). The Other sort - playing with Panoramas, late evening and other things I dont usually do at home. Here's some bits and bobs.

The Eye of the Zeal

After wandering back to the Rmer, and back to the Hbf and to the hotel, where I packed up the stuff that I had unpacked, and crashed till the morning.

The view from the room" width

I took my leave of the hotel, with no charges to pay, and begun making my way to Frankfurt Airport
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Old Mar 19, 12, 8:45 am
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Meeting the 787...

The Photos: http://www.photoblog.com/kevincm/2012/02/22/">http://www.photoblog.com/kevincm/2012/02/22/[/URL]

A saunter out of the hotel at 9am, and as I was feeling lazy, I caught the tram to the Haptbahnhof (a grand total of 1 stop), and a quick look at the times stated a S8 service was due to depart in 4 minutes.

A quick wander downstairs to the commuter platforms, and the train was on the verge of pulling it. By 09:30, I was up in Terminal 1, and headed over to the ANA check-in area in the far end of Terminal 1.

Big departures board = Frankfurt.

ANA Plugging the 787? Check.

My seat was confirmed, and a boarding pass was issued. My rucksack was taken from me (yes Birmingham Airport – their luggage system can handle rucksacks).

I proceeded to B section security which was… surprisingly quiet. Put it like this: I was through security and through the German border in five minutes flat. Heck, I even had my own security belt to myself. I doubt the cancellations would had caused this much quiet.

Still I made tracks to the gate area (and also keeping an eye out for a Senator Lounge) primarily because I wanted to check if there was still a 787 booked for today, or if it had been subbed for a 777-200. And well – this is what greeted me.

That looks like a 787 to me!

Yup. One Boeing 787-8!

Satisfied that the booked plane was the one I was going to have, I headed to the Senator Lounge. My boarding pass was scanned (as it would had only granted access to an Business Lounge alone)

<strong>Lufthansa Gate 42 Senator Lounge.</strong>

No doubt whose lounge this is...

Wandering upstairs I found myself in the brand new Senator Lounge. And I’ve got to admit, I moaned about the blue/grey theme that Lufthansa had last time. Well that’s all out of the window, and they’ve had the designers in. And it shows with plenty of seating (even though the place was busy), even though it was still the breakfast offerings. Which lets face it, are not that bad. Even the free WiFi (powered by T-Mobile was working correctly)

Self serve area


There was plenty of natural light and resting areas, as well as dark areas for those who are more vampire like, as well as a self serve and serviced bar too.

I even had a view of my plane

My plane from the lounge"

Colour me impressed Lufthansa. Very nice job!!! Now... about bringing your other lounges up to speed with this one please...

Time passed, and with a few minutes to go before boarding commenced, I made my way down from the lounge, crossing to Gate 41 it seemed most of the airport was taking pictures of the 787-8 that was parked and commencing final loading.

Waiting for loading

And the boarding call was made. I picked up my trash, was beeped through and headed to a new airline to me and a new plane - the ANA Boeing 787-8.
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Old Mar 19, 12, 9:14 am
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ANA's 787 - Part 1 of not sure how many!

Before we go on, on GhettoIFE.com, this was one contiguous post due to the sheer amount of images here. As Flyertalk allows 20 images per post, this could take some time and some parts. Sorry!!!!

NH204 Frankfurt-am-Main International - Tokyo Haneda Airport (Tokyo International Airport)</strong><strong>
All Nippon Airlines
Boeing 787-8, Seat 7K Business Class (Window-Window 5832 miles flown

Boarding the aircraft through the business entrance I was greeted with a bow, and directed towards my suite at 7K. This took me through the first business cabin and then the second cabin, where 7K is the Window seat, next to a pair of windows (as opposed to 6H which was a bulkhead, but nearer to the isle in a staggered suite style)

Home for the next few hours

My luggage bin"]

I was welcomed by the purser, who after seeing my Maroon British Passport spoke to me in English after trying Chinese. Ah. I love confusing people being a halfcast sometimes

A glass of champagne was offered (abite in a plastic glass as a welcome drink).


The crew was mostly Japanese, with an British Crew Member acting as the translator/announcer. From what I could tell, there was a fair mix of crew who were used to the 787, and quite a few not used to it.

This manifested during pushback, when one of the curtains didnt secure correctly. Therefore good olde packing tape was used to secure the curtain.

I think this is outside Boeing specifications...

Even though there was a strike on at Frankfurt, our plane pushed back on time and taxied off.

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F96tiol70Lw

Climbing out of Frankfurt

Contrails Galore

Sun and the Wing - note the raised raked wingtip

With a short takeoff run, the plane was up in the air. The noise levels were.. akin to a A330 (bear in mind, I was sat next to a Rolls Royce Trent 1000), and the air levels seemed better thanks to the new system.

Soon enough the crew were released and menu cards were handed out.

Menu - I'll get some proper scans done over the next few days

Wanting to get this off trip off to a good start (and concentrate on the reviewing), I went for a Diet Coke and the Japanese Menu.

Amuse Bouche

An Amuse Bouche arrived with the diet coke. The amuse bouche was that. The Cheese was lovely, as was the pepper and the pate meat was just right. A lovely introduction.

The First course came... and what a course!

A lovely Zensai (seasonal appetisers, kobachi (tuna) and sunomono (Crabmeat with tartar sauce)

Firstly, the presentation was amazing. Heck people. Someone put some thought into their food. Whatever next in an airline?

Continued into the next post...
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Old Mar 19, 12, 9:29 am
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787... continued.

The fish was nicely done, and the range of tastes and textures was amazing. Simply that. There had been thought from the way the carrot had been cut to the whole putting of the menu together.

The main course came, and that again - was simply wonderful.

A tasty Miso soup, Rice and a Grilled Yellowtail Fish in Teriyaki Sauce

Again, the flavours were wonderful with the fish cooked well. The thought that went into this designing this meal service shows.

The meal was concluded with an ice-cream with plum service. And again, just to show that they are first to fly the 787, theres an chocolate for that.

With the service cleared down it was time to explore the seat and my surroundings.

Firstly lets get onto one of my general bones of contention when flying - In Flight Entertainment Systems. Now the IFE screen is lovely, big and clear and seems to be based on the Panasonic EX2 system, which as an IFE system is a great basis as the controls are easy to use (be it via touch or remote).

Controller and screen

However, a great IFE system is only REALLY great when theres content on it. And the content seemed to be lacking. Whilst there was a good mix of Western Hollywood films, its a very general mix. Thankfully ANA have a wonderful feature aboard their planes - iPod connectivity. The idea (like the Singapore Airlines and United Airlines idea) is that you plug a cable in, and you can use your iDevice to watch on their system (and itll charge the phone at the same time). Unlike United, you ask the flight attendant nicely, and theyll bring you a cable you can use for the flight.

So with a cable and a follow the instructions, I had my GhettoIFE system... or rather a GhettoIFE System Plus. And it looks rather good wouldnt you agree?

GhettoIFE Plus!

Moving on to the windows. And as we all know the 787s have these Electrochromism-based "auto-dimming" window things. Here are a few examples of me playing with the windows.

Wide open on the left, slightly dimmed on the right

Pretty much all the way down...

Black when looked head on

Whilst it dims pretty dark, from an angle, some light does get through. In addition, Im not over hot with the idea that crew can control the light controls from a central place. And I dread to think what will happen when the system one day fails - will it leave everything clear or in pitch darkness?

Anyway, the cabin itself is full of LED lighting. And whilst there were no rainbow displays, there we colour shifts from the Dreamliner blue, to an evening orange, to black at night, with Red and Green lights for the toilets.

Sunset in the cabin

Blues and Greens

Sunset passes the Dreamliner

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Old Mar 19, 12, 9:43 am
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And that of course takes me to the most scary part of the plane - not the plastic composites that make the thing up, but the Toilets. How can a toilet be scary?

When Toto make toilet.

For those who have not travelled to Japan or Asia, there is a love out there for toilets that do more that just flush. A lot around are the Washlet style toilets which have... advanced cleaning functions and more buttons than is good for a toilet. See [URL="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilets_in_Japan"]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilets_in_Japan[, but Im not going into the subject much further.

There is room in the toilet, but as a plane toilet, there is still isnt much of it. There is a window in the 787 business loo - which is interesting if you want to see what you are doing 35,000ft up. And whilst the flush control is a wave or push button thing, the thing were all interested is to the side. The controls for the washlet function. And thats as much as Ill say on the Toto Washlet.

Buttons to fear.

Probably the safest button of all...

Seriously - some things are better unsaid.

The toilet had amenities the usual business class amenities, toothbrush, mouthwash and fresh wipes.

Lets move onto cabin matters, and the seat. The seat is a true flat-bed options (as opposed to Wedge beds that lie at an angle), and it is darn comfortable as a bed.

Take off position

Fully Flat

Legroom - apologies for my legs...

In fact whilst some might think the seat looks a bit narrow, it felt slightly wider than the UA Business seat, but slightly narrower than some of the wedge seats out there. This can be slightly put down to the staggered layout which does compromise space a bit, but creates a private suite feel. Its horses for courses - and liked what i was resting in.

Some more of the seat:


Table Stowage

Window controller

Side table with lit up in Dreamliner Blue

Mid-flight it was snack time. And whilst there was cheese and fruit options, I was yearning for something a bit hotter. So the crew did some noodles for me.

And as you can see it was a lovely thick Udon noodles braised deep fried Tofu on it on top. Not too spicy, but a lovely Delicious taste and a reasonable mid-flight portion.

Udon Noodles

I had hoped that would send me to sleep, but that failed, so I spent time switching between the map, to my GhettoIFE Plus system, to simply closing my eyes and enjoying this rare trip up the front of the plane

With two hours to go, the crew came around for the final service ordering. Of course I went with the Japanese food again.

Hot Towel


The Tray

Again the food was presented wonderfully, with a wide variety of tastes

Bok choy and beancurd"

Fresh steamed rice


Miso Soup

The bok chock and fried bean curd was lovely set of textures, whilst the sablefish was simple and divine. A lovely end of flight meal.

Continued for one more bit...
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Old Mar 19, 12, 9:49 am
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Let it not be said I wasnt hungry on this flight

The crew seemed to be a fair mix, with some flying the 787 for the first time, with some flying a few times. The English speaker was English, with a very BBC Style voice. The crew in business class seemed mostly confident in English, with a couple not so confident. Nothing that a few gestures, pointing and lots of smiling can not get past. Of course there were a couple of reminders for duty free. And yes, I fell to a gift set of ANA 787 postage stamps.

Most. Expensive. Stamps. Ever.

Oh well. Chalk it up to a very powerful yen (something that would haunt me the rest of the trip).

Sunrise in the land of the rising sun

Closing into Haneda

One of the pair of the powerful RR Engines - it took a LOT of attempts to get this shot...]

The plane was cleared down and the final approach into Tokyo, crossing Japan, and down across the bay before touching down at Haneda International Airport.

Tokyo Bay Bridge/Crossing - of that massive exit in Top Gear from the GTR vs Bullet Train race

Decent was a bit bumpy, with it starting 30 minutes before landing.... and for those who dont like hard landings... look away now.

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd2zHYnvPRM

Must be Japan. JAL, ANA, Pokemon Jet....

After a short taxi, the plane came to a halt at Gate 109, where the cabin crew held back the hoards to allow the business class passengers off first. I thanked the crew for their amazing service and went off into the terminal to encounter Japan.

And Thank YOU ANA"]

The International 787 resting after its long flight

OVERALL (PRODUCT): AMAZING.Psst. United. You want to see how business class is done properly? Look no further. The quality of the service was amazing throughout and delivered with a smile and the soft side of the service is excellent. The presented hard product was really good for a business class product, and you were made to feel special aboard. Which is part of the joy of flying.

OVERALL (AIRCRAFT):Im honestly not sure what to make of the 787. Part of me still thinks its a 767 on steroids (in fact the 767-300 and 787-8 are the same size lengthwise (with the 787 being slightly wider), whilst the rest of me thinks it's a shiny new plane.

The cabin itself was bright and airy and had a newish smell to it still. The lower pressurisation point whilst good, didnt do much for me (lets put it like this I wish I brought some lip balm). LED Lighting is all well and good, whilst the windows... I'm sorry - I'm not a fan of those. The reduction in noise alas I couldn't tell as I was next door to an engine turbine.

I do think Boeing has a winner on its hands with the 787 providing its used the aircraft is used for the right mission by the airlines. Business on this craft was 1-2-1, and I could easily see airlines trying to do 2-2-2 or worse on international runs. Similarly, (whilst I didnt wander down the back), with Economy configured in 2-4-2 (which is A330/A340 standard), it is a squeeze from the 767 which (on average) is a 2-3-2. Although knowing some airlines, 3-3-3 is entirely possible.

More a bit later on
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Old Mar 19, 12, 10:33 am
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great photos, especially under the dim lit cabin conditions
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Old Mar 19, 12, 10:34 am
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The Strings by Intercontiental

After exiting the airplane, it was time to play follow the signs to the immigration point - not far away, but still plenty of queues.

Heading towards immigration

I lined up at the non Japanese line and presented my passport, where it was checked, and as opposed to stamping it like most countries... a sticker spat out of a printer and stuck to my passport. Now thats a bit different!

I was accepted into the country and then queued up for the luggage... which sadly took a while. Well not too sad for me, as I wasnt in that much of a rush to get to the hotel. It was just after 6:30 in the morning after all.

The bag finally came out and I walked through Japanese customs and finally through the glass doors into Japan. I then took the opportunity to use Haneda airports WiFi for a bit in what was a very quiet international terminal.

The bottom line was this: I had cleared formalities by 7am, and could not move for 2 hours as I wanted to 1) avoid the Tokyo rush hour and 2) not get to the hotel before 10am to stand a chance of a room. So I spent the time catching up with mail, my friends and also double checking where I needed to go, and comparing that to the Tokyo maps I had on my phone.

After thoroughly confusing myself with were I needed to go, I had two options - take the direct train to Shinagawa with Keikyū Airport line or... do a Simpson's and do the Monorail to Hamamatsuchō , then onto Shinagawa with the Yamanote line.

After buying my Suica card, I was humming The Simpsons Monorail song and headed to the Monorail station.

The Tokyo Monorail is allegedly one of the few in the world that makes money - and with the passenger load, I can believe that without question. It was clean and ran efficiently (if I caught a stopper service to Hamamatsuchō from the Haneda International Terminal), with i crossing through the bay area before arriving at Monorail Hamamatsuchō. It was also here I got my first glimpse of the madness that is Tokyo - the queue to board the monorail heading back to Haneda. A beep of the Sucia, and I was out in the "public" area of the station before hunting the entrance to the JR section of the station.

Another beep and I was within the JR section of the station. Again I took my time, watching a couple of trains pass (least of all I was lost as hell even though I was in the right place), but picking a train that didnt have too many people on it was the prime objective.

And yes, Hamamatsuchō has another purpose - being the home to the Tokyo Pokemon Centre (something one of my friends took advantage of sadly...).

After surviving my first contact with the JR Yamanote line (as well as discovering how sensitive those smartcard readers are and how much change they take out of your pocket - ouch is the word Im looking for), I made it to Shinagawa, and exited the station, headed in what seemed to be the right direction and followed the crowd to the skyways, and to a sign that looked good - Strings by Intercontinental.

After noticing where the 7/11 was and the way into the hotel, I went to the elevator and pressed a button for up - as check in was on the 26th floor of the building.

Continuing my tradition of "taking photos of the hotel at night""]

Hotel: The Strings - Intercontinental Hotel, Shinagawa, Tokyo
Price Paid: 120,000 Priority Club Points+$240 (Cash and Points Rate)

I was welcomed and my bag taken. As I checked in a warm towel was offered and accepted. My reservation was confirmed (after a bit of faffing around thanks to Priority Club giving me... two PC numbers. I've moaned about that already in another entry in on the blog</a>).

As I was early (it was 10am) I was asked to wait for a room to become available. I parked up and did a load of prep work for the next Chicago trip (thankfully theres Free WiFi through the hotel - a wonderful perk).

Atrium (from the 28th floor)

1 hour passed and the receptionist found me sat down, where I was issued my keys for the room on the 28th floor. After pushing the key in the slot to gain access to the rooms, the rucksack was toted upstairs by a porter, and he lead me to the room. The rucksack was placed down, and I was given a brief tour of the room. With a kind bow, he left, and I was left to my own devices, 28 floors up in a place far from home.

The room again was lovely decorated and whilst there wasnt acres of space, it was well used with a decent work area, a decent bed. But what made the room is the view.

The view - daytime

At night

At Dawn

Anyhoo, lets look around the room

The bed.. was a delight. So much of delight I didn't leave my room when I arrived for some time to come (that and the jetlag finally it me with a shovel).


There was a big Flat TV Screen and a reasonable work area with appropriate sockets (along with a wonderful water heater. Think a Rice Cooker style, but for water. That's another clever idea...)

Telly - yes, it's BBC World. Don't look at me like that..

The Water Heater

Wandering into the bathroom there is a well appointed bathroom, bath and shower (again - loving the warm water), but again - another Toilet with WAY too many buttons on it. Amenities were all by Emilies - lovely smellies and nice.<strong></strong>

Too many buttons!!!!

Shower and Bath


Elemis Amenties

Of course, being an Ambassador, there was a Welcome Amenity too.

Welcome amenity

Welcome gift - a Coffee Mug

Being where the hotel was, it made a great base for me (and in fact for anyone heading in from Haneda). For Narita, it's a bit more of a hike due to it being at the southern end of the Yamanote line.

The staff were excellent, with a turndown service each day and friendly. Even explaining the sleepsuit that was left on my bed. It's the little things that matter in hotels - and this hotel has them in depth.

Overall: Lets face it, on normal Kevincm budgets, this would had been well out of reach. As a points and cash redemption, it was worth every single point (even at the new rates).

If you want a plus hotel which has great service and a great view, and is well connected to the JR Network for Tokyo and beyond - look no further than here... although whatever you want to load on your Sucia/Pasmo card... double it. It'll make life a lot easier....
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Old Mar 19, 12, 10:40 am
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Ok, it's time for a One Time Exception - And I've had to cut it down a tiny bit due to the sheer amount that I've written before. In some ways, it's not a bad thing as it'll cut the size of the report down by a few pictures.

One Time Exception: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Lookout, Shinjuku
Price: FREE.

There are two major lookout points in Tokyo. The classic tourist trap is of course the Tokyo Tower. The other (and slightly less known lookout point) is The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

Now if you've noticed in the tagline, there is one lovely thing about this place - it's free! And for Tokyo, it makes it one of the best bargains going. However, you do need to cross halfway across the city to get to it, and if you're lazy, a subway change or two, which can add to the costs on your Sucia/PASMO card.

Once you get to the building, take exit A3 (not A4 like I did and hike around the block once), and follow the signs. Oh, and for those lost in translation: The Tokyo Tourist Board is here - and are helpful to Gaijin who act lost trying to find the elevator upwards .

In the building, there are not one, but <strong>two </strong>observation decks, opening at different times. On my visit, I arrived in time for the <strong>North</strong> tower.

A quick assent up 45 floors, and once again, I was up in the Sky. Well. Sort of

And the views? Well they're not brilliant heading into Tokyo itself, but the views out of the city towards Fuji-san were... amazing at dusk:

Here's a selection.

There are a load more images on the Photoblog

Now, I fell into the other tourist trap, the Tokyo Tower, which whilst had better views of the city, it didn't feel as friendly as the Metropolitan building - mainly due to the opportunities that Tokyo Tower were taking to drain your wallet. There are pictures from that, but I'm working through the trip report. Follow me on Twitter and you'll know when the pictures from the Tokyo Tower are out!
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Old Mar 19, 12, 11:24 am
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After checking out from The Strings at the best part of 6am in the morning I had the two choices again - JR Hamamatsuchō- and Monorail, or The Keikyu line back to Haneda. This time, it was dictated by how many yen was left in my pocket... which by this point of the trip - wasnt a lot.

With 300 yen on my Sucia and a 500 yen coin (and a 1000 yen note), the decision was made for me: Keikyu line.

I beeped through the gate, and lo and behold - an express to Haneda Airport was just about to arrive.

Perfect timing.

Whilst the views were less dramatic than the Monorail ride from the airport, in a way they where much more interesting as there was more of the much more of the older Tokyo and the suburban life. The views changed the closer the train got to Haneda before disappearing into black and out into the International Terminal.

After using the fare adjustment machine to add an extra 100 yen onto the Sucia, I beeped out of the airport, and found a trolley, and followed the signs to departures.

Walk This way...

After finding departures, it was off to the ANA Business check-in lines. Now I dont look like a business class traveller when I travel, so there was an arched eyebrow why I was there, but I was let through and completed the check-in to Hong Kong. I was advised where the lounge was and again, my backpack was taken from me and put into the luggage system (anyone hearing me London Heathrow Airport? Of course not) and I headed off to a security line which had practically no queues, and a very short queue for emigration, where I at last had a proper stamp from Japan put in my passport.

Stickers may be fine, but a lovely thunk of a stamp is always preferred

It was then off to the ANA Lounge after spotting a friend at the window who had come in from Frankfurt

And Hellooooo Stranger!

ANA International Lounge
Noodles Consumed: Well...

After accidentally heading the wrong way (going left instead of right - the left side is JAL, the right side is ANA), I made my way up to the lounge, and was greeted. My Boarding Pass was scanned and accepted, and I made my way in.

As you go in, you can see the model airplanes to the side (including a dreaded Pokemon plane).

Then it expands into a big lounge, with seating areas, work areas and food. And whilst there were there was a custom Udon noodle bar. Well it would had been wrong not to take advantage of it

Food Area

Noodle Nom

With 3 choices, I went for the Eel topping, and it was very nice. The noodles were lovely and soft, and the topping was flavoursome.

You know, I could sort of get used to this sort of thing.

The main lounge area (part of it...)

As I stayed in the lounge, it started to busy up, and the movements outside started to happen, with the Internationally configured 787 being towed away, and replaced with a 777 that was to head to Seoul at the same time the bird I was due to be on was due to head off to Hong Kong.

I forsee a race.

Soon enough, boarding time came around, and I thanked the staff, and headed downstairs to the gate, where boarding had been announced for the flight. Talk about good timing here kids.

The Chariot to Hong Kong...

My boarding pass was beeped, and I was allowed aboard.

NH1171 - Tokyo Haneda Airport (Tokyo International Airport) - Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok International Airport
All Nippon Airlines,
Boeing 777-300. Seat 12A

With a very polite bow I was greeted and sent down to 12A, passing the bigger old style First class seats at the front of the plane, down to the 2-3-2 of business class.

Thankfully, 12B wasnt occupied. This proved handy later on in flight as it gave me somewhere to dump my trash (and also power my laptop - but Im jumping ahead of myself).



After getting on a plane, and packing away my stuff, the first thing I do is read the safety card. And its force of habit - the simple reason being is in an emergency, I want to get out alive. It is therefore good manners to know the layout of the plane and where the safety equipment was. And I spent a good few minutes reading the card, then hunting the life jacket (I always locate the tab of a life-jacket release so I know where it is in my mind).

Eventually I found it to the right of me, between the seats, but up high to my shoulder rather than down below near the floor.

After that confusion, I settled in, checking the menu and waited for the doors to close. Meanwhile the flight attendant came to say hello to me. In three Different languages (Japanese, Cantonese and finally English). Ah the games I love to play when being half Chinese

I was offered an English paper and welcomed aboard properly.

The doors closed a bit early, and the safety demonstration was given manually (as in business class, monitors had to be stowed for take off, landing and taxi), and remember what I said about a race? Both the Seoul Flight and the Hong Kong flight pushed back at identical times, with the the flight I was on seemingly given way.

In the seat pocket was the menu, as well as more slippers. Lets put it like this: I wont need slippers in the flat for some years to come after this trip.

Our plane did a fair old taxi around Haneda Airport (passing a techops section and the odd Pokemon Jet) until we had lined up for take off. We were held for a short while, then the bongs were give.

Pika... chu? Pikachu!

The result is below

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezy3m2YlqLs

After climbing out, there were some pretty nasty bumps. Thankfully as the climb continued, the air eased up and service could commence.


And well. Since I only had one glass on the way out, it would be rude of me not to have a bottle...

One Bottle

Or two

Maybe two

Perfect for gazing at how long that 777-300 wing is...

Big Wing. Heavy Wing!

Moving on the meal service arrived, and again, I went with the Japanese option. This was made up of:

The Kuchidori
Kelp-marinated salmon suhshi, Deep fried soft shell prawn, Rolled conger eel with burdock roots and Japanese Rolled Omlette

The Otsukrui
Soy Marinated tuna with gated yam

The Shusai
Grilled Makeraeral, Rice with green soy beans with Miso Soup and Wagashi

I'll let the pictures do the talking.

(More in the next post)
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Old Mar 19, 12, 11:29 am
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(Previous post continued)

And once again, it was simply impressive. A great mixture of flavours of textures, with everything cooked well so the flavours were not destroyed. The rice didnt taste overcooked, and the presentation was simply great.

Again - like someone actually thought about the service they were conducting.

Excellent service.

The service was rounded off with Ice cream, which went well with the Champers I was still drinking.

The desert of champions!"]

The flight continued on its merry way as the service was cleared down. With a comparatively long leg to Hong Kong, it was a chance to test out the seat in its various configurations.

In relax mode..

In bed mode

The seat had an acre of seat pitch, and is a full wedgie bed. And yes, I was sliding down it.

The staff were on-hand, and I couldnt count a period where up to 10 minutes one of them was shuffling up or down the isle, topping up water, seeing to customers needs.

Moving onto IFE, this had an older generation of the ANA In Flight Entertainment system. Sadly, after watching the 787 documentary again (I did that a few times ON the 787 ta), so I resorted to attempt to type up some of the trip report. Which itself became a problem as the power plugs are at elbow level when sitting in a business class seat. And theyre near the armrest. This becomes a problem if you have to use a power converter, with a big UK style plug too. Amazingly it fitted so I managed to watch the world go by and do a bit of work at the same time.

Slippers are the in-thing with Asian carriers...

Business Class in Flight - note the 2 x 3 x 2 seating

Over Taiwan, there were a fair few bumps - bumps enough to put the crew into their seats for a few minutes whilst we cleared them.

Descending into Hong Kong

Soon enough they were released for final cleardown as the plane begun vectoring for Hong Kong.

Youtube:; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyBjn3LqGRE

After a short taxi off the runway, the plane docked at the pier and we were invited to disembark. Again, the staff held back the hordes in Economy whilst Business Class was allowed to disembark. I politely exited the aircraft and thanked the crew.

Overall:Again, Japanese service is a completely different beast to any other service in the world. And it was delivered with a smile and understanding that was brilliant. The hardware used for daytime flight was appropriate.

Put it like this: If the chance to fly ANA came up again - I wouldnt say no.

More to come in a bit!
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Old Mar 19, 12, 11:50 am
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After negotiating Hong Kong immigration with what I thought was a long wait for Hong Kong (30 minutes) it was time to sit down and work out my next move, and work out where was going next. Abusing the free WiFi at HKG therefore was a must. It was then a case of buying a 3 day octopus pass with Airport Express tickets loaded, loading an extra HK$50 on incidentals (such as Ferry, Tram and Bus ride and then heading to the island.

Airport Express is of course its usual quick self, depositing me at the Hong Kong MTR station 24 minutes after picking me up at the Airport.

A quick check, and realising there was no shuttle bus to the hotel, I wandered into the Hong Kong to Central connection and was instantly reminded of how long a walk it is from the station to station. Well it is longer when you have a 20kg solid backpack on you with another 10kg in the front.

The MTR is its usual self (actually a good reason why I dont particularly like the MTR. Too much pushing, shoving, etc with walks that seem longer every time I go through a station - part of the reason why I switched to tram, bus and ferry when I could). Eventually, I make my exit into Times Square, a quick double back and I reach my digs for the next two days the Crown Plaza Causeway Bay.

Hotel: Crown Plaza Causeway Bay
Price Paid: 30,000+$120USD (Points and Cash).

No, I will NOT take pictures of the outsides of hotels during the day!

I wandered into the hotel, and queued up with the masses. I then went to check in, and presented my Ambassador card. This promoted a raised eyebrow from the checkin agent and a bit of tooing and froing - after a minute was taken to the Priority Club Checkin.

Oops. (Although in my defence, I couldn't see the Priority Club Check In point)

I was welcomed as the agent tried unpick the damage that had been done with the reservation, and welcomed me formally as a Platinum Ambassador. I was then told of I was upgraded to a corner room with a view of the Happy Valley Race Course (nice), breakfast was included in the rate (very nice) as well as nibbles in the bar after 5:30 (very nice indeed) as well as Internet Access (Excellllent!).

The agent also checked when I was leaving and extended by an hour too.

With that, I was shown to the lift, and reminded to shove my keycard in the slot in the elevator to get get access floor level access to the room.

The after settling in, and opening up the blinds,a view of the Happy Valley was before me.

The Happy Valley before me

The room itself was a lovely size, and the views were... great. Not as amazing as the ones in Tokyo (that will ll be hard to match anywhere I suspect). What made this room different are the amenities in it - from the bathroom that looked out onto the world.

A bathroom with a view

Toiletries and Water


Desk connectivity - note the Media Ports and USB Charging

But it was the little things around the room like a USB charging socket, an a iPod dock to charge your phone or watch your media on.

And "normal" plugs (well, normal to to me anyway - those of you who aren't a resident of the British Isles won't appropriate yet another adaptor in your collection )

Flat Screen TV with iPod Dock (and DVD player)"

Its little touches like that, that make one hell of a big difference.
Soon enough, a welcome fruit plate turned up as well. Hang on, am I in a Crown Plaza or a Intercontinental here?

Welcome Amenity

Anyway, after settling down, I decided to enjoy the evening, and headed to the bar, where it was drinks time and nibbles time. As there is no lounge here - it's drinks at the bar.

I can live with that.

Pool and Art

Pool and art

After being fuled for the evening, I escaped into town, and over to the Kowloon.

Another day, and it was time to take advantage of the buffet breakfast. Well it's included in the rate, so why not?

Now this is a big buffet they have, form sushi to noodles, to western stuff, to cold and even a custom omlette and Noodle bar

Raw.... to...


...To cooked!

And Dim Sum too!

Overall: If you want Intercontinental Service without the Intercontinental cost, this the Crown Plaza to visit. Excellent and friendly service, whilst being lovely and friendly throughout. Just make sure you're at least an IC Ambassador to get the best of the place....
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Old Mar 19, 12, 11:58 am
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One Time Exception - Tin Cheung Camera, K11 Shopping Complex, Tsim Shau Tsui.
Camera sensor clean, HK$570

When your camera is dirty, its a darn good idea to get the camera serviced as soon as possible. Normally the main cause of trouble for DSLR users is dirt on the sensor - what can't be blown away needs a darn good clean.

And if youre not confident or havent got the kit to clean it with, its time to research and get desperate to find a fix or someone to clean it for you.

Now whilst Tsim Shau Tsui has oodles of camera shops, most of them are... yes. Well put it like this - I wouldnt go in and barter with them on discounts and rely on them being in Hong Kong when I next visit (even if it was a glass filter from $600 to $540 to $300 after walking out of the door in mock disgust later when I can pick up a decent one elsewhere for a slightly less prettier coin).

After sorting out getting my chops engraved in Man Wa Lane, I headed over to TST, and found the shop in the K11 place (Exit A3@ TST - go past the 2nd hand Tin heung Camera shop, and go around the corner).

The shop is what I'd consider more of a "proper" camera shop than some of the places down Nathan Road which have flashy Neon tubes and prices that can be... eye-watering.

After explaining the problem, I was given two options - option 1, buy the kit myself and do it myself or option 2, get the sensor cleaned there and then in 30 minutes flat.

I went for option 2 - Thatll do nicely as they say.

I dropped the beast off at the camera shop and walked around the K11 complex (which has 1) a useful supermarket in the B1 level 2) Is connected to TST/TST-East stations and 3) Has 30 minutes free WiFi.

30 minutes later I popped back, and the sensor was clean again.

I paid the cash and walked out a lot happier than I went into the shop.

The fact an hour later, the camera decided that the floor of Man Wa Lane was a better place to be than my camera bag is besides the point (and whilst annoying the hell out of me, releasing MORE dust - thankfully that could be blown away).

Ive said it once, and Ill say it again this Canon 50D and me are not getting on in any respect. Except I can live with things normally. Before going mad. Well there has to be some madness for me for doing all this Economy flying normally.

Overall: Digital Camera sensors are wonderful things, but ultimately annoying when a bit of dirt gets on the sensor. Whilst others are confident and cleaning them, Im not confident. Having a few contacts around the world when you're in need can only be a good thing.

Hong Kong was a short break, doing the sights, the night show, and of course the Temple Street Market which is a favourite hobby of mine least of all I can practice bartering, and of course, enjoy the lights of the city.

Temple Street Market

Over to the island
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