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A near RTW trip -Star Alliance - IAD-FRA-BLR-MAA-IXM..Road- BLR-SIN-NRT-LAX-IAD

A near RTW trip -Star Alliance - IAD-FRA-BLR-MAA-IXM..Road- BLR-SIN-NRT-LAX-IAD

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Old Jul 25, 12, 5:26 pm
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A near RTW trip -Star Alliance - IAD-FRA-BLR-MAA-IXM..Road- BLR-SIN-NRT-LAX-IAD

Award Reservation - United Mileage Plus/Star Alliance

Total Miles Flown - 21722 miles

UA952 - IAD FRA - B767-300 8 hrs - - 4080 mi
LH754 FRA – BLR - B747-400 8-3/4 hrs- 4603 mi
SQ 503 BLR – SIN B777-200 4-1/2 hrs 1976 mi
SQ 12 SIN-NRT-LAX A380-800 19 hrs 8775 mi
UA307 LAX – IAD A320 5 hrs 2288 mi

Domestic in India.
SG 3004- BLR – MAA – 167 mi
SG 291 –MAA –IXM – 259 mi

How did this trip come about?

Sometime in fall 2010 a group of enterprising friends from my high school began the process of tracking down our batch mates. In about 6 months we had tracked down of our graduating class and thanks to yahoo groups and Facebook at least half of the members were active in Facebook.

So July 13th Friday was set as the date for our 25th reunion in our high school in Madurai (IXM) a city of about 1.1 million proud residents. I was not going to miss the opportunity to pay my respects to our teachers and spend a couple of days in a hill resort with old friends. School friendships are special.

I have always had good luck with United award reservations if I try in advance. This time it was no different. By February I had scored an award booking from Chicago to BLR via FRA. But work situation had me traveling out of IAD instead. When the ticket was re-booked there was no availability via the Atlantic route for the return journey. I suggested to the agent that I will be willing to come back the longer way via Singapore. She looked and found me a routing via SIN that would be roughly 4500 miles longer than my outbound. I did not mind at all. That would give me a chance to try the A-380 on the SQ12 from SIN-LAX. This routing eventually turned out to be 21722 miles about 1000 miles short of what in some circles is considered as a RTW trip at 22858 miles. I was happy to go in the first place. The longer the route the more fun it would be.

The Journey:

I have not traveled internationally at all this year and I am about to lose my Premier Gold on United by next February. I have no idea whether I will re-qualify in the near future. So I was going to enjoy this trip as much as I can with the promised access to Star Alliance lounges during international travel as a Gold status member. That alone would take the edge off travel in coach on these long haul flights.

It was going to be a short trip. I was going to travel to 4 cities in 5 days while I was in India not counting the 3 days in transit. I set out on July 9th from my home on a lovely Monday evening. And here is the story in pictures and some words


Continued..

At the IAD Airport- My flight is on time



LH 747 Sighting



9th July - IAD-FRA

Check in was quick. My family accompanied me to the airport , I said goodbyes to my wife and two sons and took the escalator down to the security line. On that Monday evening the line was short.



They still operate that ugly people mover in IAD. But I must say it gets you closer to the gate that the new inter terminal train. Also the people mover gave me a chance to get a glimpse of various aircrafts from airlines around the world parked at the gates. There was a lot of 777s with a few 747 here and there. I was just taking pictures without any specific purpose inviting curious looks.


People Mover IAD


BA -747 Bird

The flight:

Boarding started as soon as I reached the gate and soon thereafter I was in my seat. The aircraft was a 767. We left from D7 gate on time.


My ride to FRA


Flight details

The flight itself was uneventful. In coach the entertainment options were slim. I managed to sleep may be two hours and we reached FRA more or less on time. As soon as we got out of the plane I spotted an ATM right by the gate and withdrew some Euros that I may need for an upcoming trip with family in Europe.

As mentioned before I have only a few more months left to make good use of my Premier Gold status before I get dropped in status. Lounge access in international trips is the one big benefit I care about.

I hung a right and walked the long corridor in search of the LH Senator lounge. The agent there suggested that I go to the other lounge that is closer to my gates as I need to pass through another security line. I did that and soon was admitted into the LH lounge.


SenatorLounge_FRA


welcome sight - coffee and refreshments


One of things I like to do during international trips is to not miss the chance to read the Financial Times and the IHT and I relaxed over a cup of coffee and read those two newspapers. I also caught up with my email. Used the skype app to call my family to let them know all is well and that my journey has commenced in earnest. I also sent off an update to my high school friends who were tracking some of us that were coming from other countries for the reunion.



Fortified by a breakfast of cereal, and two cups of coffee I was ready for the long haul flight that would take me to Bangalore by late night on Tuesday July 10.


BreakfastTime

I had one task before I boarded my BLR bound flight. It was to buy 2 bottles of Scotch to be consumed at the reunion in the resort town of Kodaikanal. More about that later. That accomplished I made my way over to the gate. Predictably it was quite busy. July is a busy time for traffic towards India and our flight was full.


Flight details FRA-BLR



To be continued..

Last edited by hsubbu; Aug 1, 12 at 3:22 pm Reason: edited for typos and grammar
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Old Jul 29, 12, 7:57 pm
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FRA-BLR

This was again a routine flight. There was nothing noteworthy about the meal or the entertainment. I moved up two rows upon a request from another passenger whose family wanted to sit together.

We landed in Bangalore on time and I exited the aircraft and joined the line for OCI/PIO holders. After a routine check of my passport and OCI booklet attached to it the immigration officer sent me on my way. When I reached the baggage hall, the first bags started arriving. I was quite impressed. Information desk was manned at that time and I asked where the ATMs were. I deliberately passed over the Citibank ATM to the left of the arrivals area as I have a prejudice against Citibank from my experience several years ago in regard to exchange rate conversion on a remittance. I walked out ignoring the usual touts for taxis, located the building to the left that housed at least 4 or 5 ATMs. ICICI Bank was not one of them but there were 4 others that I could chose from. I withdrew adequate cash and then took short walkway that led to the taxi ranks.

By now it was probably well past 1 a.m and the place was still bustling . I had done some research and was aware that official taxi service at BIAL were Airport Taxi , Meru cabs. I was confident I will not be taken for the proverbial ride. The standard rate was Rs.17.50/km with night surcharge is what their website said. I was going down to K.R.Puram area on Old Madras Road a distance of about 39 kms. My cab was a Mahindra Logan and the ride to KR Puram area was quite comfortable and took around 45 minutes.

Last edited by hsubbu; Aug 1, 12 at 3:26 pm Reason: part 2-spell check and grammar
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Old Jul 29, 12, 8:02 pm
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The next day I had to visit family members in the other end of the city. It happened to be my nephew's birthday and as is the custom every year in their family, we went to the ISKCON temple in the evening. A delicious dinner was served in the temple cafetaria after the main service and after a quick visit to a cousin's house we returned to my sister's house to retire for the night.

The next morning I left for Chennai which I have always known as and called Madras since I was a child. For me it shall remain Madras. Jet Airways was more expensive than Spice Jet. SpiceJet is now part of the media conglomerate SunTV Group. My brother in law dropped me at the bus stop for the BIAL Airport bus which took nearly 1 1/2 hours to get me to the airport. I got a free tour of the northern suburbs of the sprawling city at that morning hour. Rush hour was just starting and unremitting congestion in the roads seemed to be the norm.

Some impressions from the bus ride to the airport


typical scene on the roads cars and two wheelers


the airport bus


McDonalds with the local signage


Ulsoor Lake a spot of green


Mekhri circle an important junction


street scene juxtaposition of 2/3 and 4 wheel vehicles

Last edited by hsubbu; Aug 1, 12 at 3:28 pm Reason: continuation
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Old Jul 30, 12, 2:49 pm
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Thanks for writing a great trip report.

I am still scratching my head trying to figure out why you would *not* call this a RTW trip.

One definition of a RTW is that it crosses all degrees of longitude. Approx. 22,858 is the distance around the globe at the tropics. Also, you went to Singapore which is very nearly at the equator (approx. 70 miles north). Awesome journey any way you look at it!

I would certainly call this an around the world trip, although Guinness might not agree.
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Old Jul 30, 12, 4:31 pm
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Originally Posted by MaxSpeed View Post
Thanks for writing a great trip report.

I am still scratching my head trying to figure out why you would *not* call this a RTW trip.

One definition of a RTW is that it crosses all degrees of longitude. Approx. 22,858 is the distance around the globe at the tropics. Also, you went to Singapore which is very nearly at the equator (approx. 70 miles north). Awesome journey any way you look at it!

I would certainly call this an around the world trip, although Guinness might not agree.
Thanks a lot. I was afraid I will get a slap on the wrist on a technicality if I called it a RTW trip. It was tiring on coach but the purpose of the trip and the fun I had getting there and while there was worth it.

And even on coach Singapore Airlines is way better than most US carriers.

Still writing the next part with pictures.
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Old Jul 31, 12, 12:39 pm
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I did a trip similar to this and agree with you that the Singapore Flt 12 SIN-NRT-LAX legs were the best!

I think I had a premium economy window seat on the upper deck with only two across seating. Lots of storage space on the side. The A380 was fabulous and the cabin crew was extremely friendly.

Of course, just before I flew, the scandal with the wing crack issues had just hit the fan and this caused me a little concern. I could see "scars" out on the wings, so I convinced myself that this was one of the birds that had already been repaired.

Regards,
Max
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Old Jul 31, 12, 1:37 pm
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Wow! What a great trip report! I'm glad you had a wonderful flight. Hope you fly on A380. I'm glad you enjoy the trip.
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Old Jul 31, 12, 6:01 pm
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BLR-MAA-IXM

The bus reached the airport after 1-1/2 hrs. While this slow mode of transport to the airport may not be to everybody's liking, I did not mind it. I had a newspaper and a novel to keep me occupied. I was taking pictures, watching the street scenes. I was glad that I could travel like a local. Paying Rs.150 beats paying Rs.1000 any day. And I was on my own dime.

Check in was quick and I cleared security and by now I was hungry. Over the last several years I have gotten into the habit of eating a western style breakfast of bread or cereal. But this trip I was going to immerse myself as much as I can into the local way of living. So I got myself a traditional south indian breakfast consisting of a bowl of ven pongal (rice cooked with lentils, with a dash of cumin, pepper, cashew, oil, ghee with liberal dose of sambar- a sort of chowder made of tamarind and pigeon peas. Delicious. Here it is .

Delicious traditional breakfast

I was hanging around the gate area for a while, read the newspapers for a little bit. I really liked that they had at least 4 different English newspapers laid out in a stand in the gate area to be picked up for free.

Boarding was announced and we were bused to the remote stand. SpiceJet operates the Q400 Bombardier on many routes. For me this was the first time flying this aircraft


my ride to MAA


Another SpiceJet aircraft taxiing to the gate


InFlight magazine

We left on time. I was in row#1 and watched outside as the aircraft climbed rapidly, banked and headed east towards Chennai.

I was not supposed to be on this flight to MAA at all. My original travel plans had me riding the rails on the overnight train to my hometown with some friends. But something else came up and my parents had to be in Chennai. So I decided to meet them there instead. So on this trip, I missed the chance to travel by train. I will make up for that in my next trip.

Last edited by hsubbu; Aug 1, 12 at 3:30 pm
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Old Jul 31, 12, 8:23 pm
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Just above the clouds on the climb out of BLR




Bus from aircraft to the terminal building

Landed on time in Chennai. Waited for about 10 minutes for my parents to pick me up outside the arrivals area. They had left home 5 hours earlier to meet up with me and we were to spend the night at my sister's place in Chennai. We got caught up on family matters and retired for the night.

The next morning my parents dropped me off at the airport and continued their journey back home. I checked in my bag, got some breakfast at the fast food place off to the side of check in. Again traditional south indian breakfast it was for me this morning washed down with some milk laden coffee. Not the kind I prefer these days but I was not complaining. For those that pass through MAA airport, the fast food place is "Balaji Restaurant' . Decent stuff at reasonable prices. I got some sweets at the popular Krishna Sweets shop in the departure hall. Then it was time to go through security. Boarding started soon after. My flight had arrived from BOM with continuing service to IXM.




Spice Jet's Boeing



A common boarding method in these parts


Chennai airport aerial view




Dry River bed in the hinterland


Approaching Madurai IXM

I never get tired of visiting my hometown. Usually it is by long distance bus or train but this time around a packed schedule forced me to take a flight. Regardless a visit to the place one grew up always sets my heart aflutter.

I would be seeing more folks from my extended family including my grandmother who raised us. And of course there was the reunion with the prospect of meeting buddies after 25 years. There was much to look forward to.

Continued..

Last edited by hsubbu; Aug 1, 12 at 8:09 am
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Old Aug 1, 12, 8:05 am
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Hometown and the school

My uncle had sent a car that picked me up from the airport to take me directly to my high school. Interestingly I was the first one to make travel reservations 6 months prior and the last one to arrive at our school that morning for the half day program.

There was just the right mix of sentimentality , deference to teachers, unbridled enthusiasm amongst old friends. We made a donation to the school library, our teachers were more than happy to learn that for the most part we turned out to be more than alright in our lives. Lunch there and then the gang left on two coach/bus to a hill town of Kodaikanal 3-1/2 hrs by road at an altitude of 6000 ft. I had to meet my extended family so I did not join them then. I caught up with them later that night. Would not miss the evening proceedings obviously.

We spent Friday night, Saturday and part of Sunday there. Suffice it to say, a lot of delicious food and sizable quantity of liquor were consumed, countless stories were told and re-told, there was much dancing and singing. We also made a commitment to carry out some sustained philanthropy in our own limited way on the 3rd morning. We left feeling very happy that we came all the way. Some of us had traveled thousands of miles burning up valuable vacation time risking family disapproval to make it and were we glad we did. In short we were like kids in a candy store. It was special. Our friends are still lighting up Facebook with pictures and comments. Enough said, moving on.


Back to BLR
Got a ride from a buddy in his well appointed Toyota Innova to Bangalore. A drive of a little over 7 hours. That accounts for the 'road' part in the title of this thread.

Spent the night again at my sister's place. Next morning went to Frasertown area to take care of some business relating to my personal finances. Then an autorickshaw ride to my brother in law's office. Had lunch with him near his office and headed home by 4 pm.

I wanted to ride the new suburban rail which has opened just opened one segment to public. It was not to be on this trip. Made a mental note to ride the metro next time. I like to use public transit especially, wherever it is available even if it is not the best option. It runs a short stretch from Byappanahalli to M.G. Road. Right now it appears to be of not much use to the general public because of where it starts and where it ends but a good start that will help in the long run. The usual side effect that one can see is most roads in its path are dug up and traffic is a mess.


Elevated Metro rail


Metro's Halasuru (Ulsoor) station

Forced myself to sleep nearly 2 hrs as I needed the strength to get through the next 30 hrs of travel including layovers that would take me home the long way. I do not sleep well on planes even when traveling in business class. I am lucky if I get 2-3 hrs of sleep on a 12 hr flight.

Left my sister's place around 7 pm and waited for more than 1/2 hour for the airport bus that never showed up. Then we went to Hebbal junction where all the routes to the airport and points north converge. Within minutes the airport bus arrived and I was on my way.

Continued...

Last edited by hsubbu; Aug 1, 12 at 3:36 pm
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Old Aug 1, 12, 2:01 pm
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Your itinerary
= IAD-FRA-BLR-MAA-IXM..Road- BLR-SIN-NRT-LAX-IAD
= IAD-FRA-BLR-SIN-NRT-LAX-IAD + additional stuff
> IAD-FRA-BLR-SIN-NRT-LAX-IAD
= RTW

Since an RTW is nested in your itinerary, I think it's fair to say you did an RTW.
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Old Aug 1, 12, 7:49 pm
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Leaving Bangalore

The bus ride from Hebbal to the airport at that hour took only about 45 minutes.




Bus bay and short pedestrian crosswalk to the terminal

I held out my Mileage Plus Gold card and joined the SQ Business class line for check in. I requested for and got a hand written admission card to the business class lounge.


Clear signs at the terminal

A short escalator up took me to passport control. That was done quickly and then security was over in short order and I went looking for the business class lounge.



At the lounge getting connected to the internet was easy. I grabbed a small sandwich and coffee and got online to check emails.



BLR-SIN SQ 503

Continued...

Last edited by hsubbu; Aug 2, 12 at 4:48 am
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Old Aug 11, 12, 9:43 am
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There was a little bit of drama before I boarded the SQ 503 to Bangalore. I dawdled at the lounge and forgot that my flight departs 11:05 p.m and not 11:25 pm. A few minutes before they closed the aircraft gate they made an announcement on the PA by my name and an agent met me at the lounge and escorted me to the jetway. I was embarrassed but also told myself how often am I going to get the pleasure of being nicely escorted to a waiting aircraft.

I settled into my seat and the captain announced push back and we were on our way. . On an airline like SQ even coach class presentation is done in style. About most US-based airlines on coach the less said the better.

My vegetarian Dinner Menu looked like this:




The meal presentation


Yes indeed! the recipe for the storied Singapore Sling drink reportedly invented at the Raffles Hotel

I ate the standard vegetarian offering on that flight, drank lot of water and managed to get about 1-1/2 hours of sleep.



We arrived on time in Singapore.

Some pictures of the Changi airport post-security area.






Busy morning at Changi


View of passport control from the transit area


I started looking for the Star Alliance lounge. Once I got up to the upper level I was advised to go to the Gold Lounge





I did not have much time at the lounge. I had some coffee got online and wrote a little bit of this Trip Report and then it was time to get in line for boarding


[B]My ride at the gate the impressive A-380 that will take me over the seas back home stateside[/IMG]




Those enormous A-380 wings



[B]A-380 Economy cabin before everybody got on[/IMG]

The seats were comfortable and even though I was seated in the wing area it did not feel noisy. I was able to sleep an hour or so until Tokyo Narita.

We reached Narita on time and again I managed to locate the ANA/Star Alliance Lounge



There was also a nice scale model with stats for B 787. One day I hope to be on this most modern aircraft.





I very much appreciated the unusual pressure controlled 'rear wash' feature of the toilets in Narita airport. There were a lot of buttons and I worked them with care and came out after a pleasant experience.

We arrived in LAX on time and I was glad that I arrived back stateside without any significant incovenience. Everything went according to plan/schedule.



Passage through Passport control and customs was uneventful. Being unfamiliar with the LAX layout, I hiked quite a bit with a big check in baggage to my terminal instead of taking the shuttle. Got through security and made my way to the United Club. Spent a couple of hours there. Nice coffee and snacks.





A chat with a fellow traveler at the lounge who told me he was on his way to London on vacation. Walked over to Baja Fresh for some dinner and waited at the gate for my flight to board.

It was an evening flight out of LAX that would arrive at IAD after 1:30 a.m. We landed on time, I gathered my bag at the baggage claim stepped out to the taxi ranks and took the 10 minute ride home. Glad to see my family and grateful that I could make this trip.

Now there is another trip report to be written on a family vacation that will take us to 3 cities in Europe and 4 cities in India over a 3 week period. That is a story for another day.
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