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An Epic, Nearly Round the Pacific Trip. Please Don't Try This At Home. You Can't.

An Epic, Nearly Round the Pacific Trip. Please Don't Try This At Home. You Can't.

Old Jul 19, 13, 3:12 am
  #1  
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 350
An Epic, Nearly Round the Pacific Trip. Please Don't Try This At Home. You Can't.

Preamble:

Late last year, my 2 best friends announced that they were getting married, with a wedding date set for July this year. I was still in SIN at that time, awaiting my application results for admissions into a PhD programme at the University of Melbourne. The admissions and the funding offers almost did coincide with the wedding announcements, so I knew that I had to haul my butt back to July, especially when it is a wedding concerning my 2 best friends. I actually did book the departure ticket out of MEL before booking my ticket out of SIN to MEL, which can be accessed here (http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...lass-what.html)

Of course, I had to do it this way because I have a limited stash of miles to burn for premium class tickets. Here's the rationale: I only burned 31.5k AA miles for a one way J ticket from SIN-BNE-MEL (a 10% rebate from the normal 35k because I had the Citibank AA Visa Signature card), and then I burned just 30k US Airways miles for MEL-SIN-MEL, because I only had 30k from a previous US Airways Mastercard signup bonus.

"How does one get MEL-SIN-MEL for 30k miles?" you may ask. US Airways has an extremely unique award chart, which lumps MEL and Micronesian destinations such as GUM and SPN within the same amorphous region known as the "South Pacific". So while MEL-SIN-MEL does technically cost 90k US Airways miles for a J ticket, MEL-SIN-Whatever-GUM-Whatever-MEL does cost only 30k miles in J. This is a tactic that I have suggested previously, saying it does only cost 80k miles in J to go from mainland USA to Australia, because it takes 50k miles in J on a roundtrip from the US to GUM using Avianca LifeMiles, and then 30k US Airways miles in J from GUM to Australia roundtrip. Even better, the US Airways agent that handles the booking can incorrectly add in a stopover (some guy did PM me and mention that he wrangled in an 8 day stopover in NGO on this type of award ticket, but YMMV nonetheless, because it is US Airways that you are dealing with).

In any case, I wasn't planning to take a holiday that soon into my PhD, plus I only have 24 days of vacation leave a year. I'd rather clear it at the end of the year when my birthday is nigh. So I took out 4 days of leave for this trip, took a deep breath, and phoned up US Airways after extensive analysis and research with the ANA tool (gotta love ANA). In the end, the US Airways agent ticketed this for $229.30, which included the $50 award booking fee:

19 Jul MEL-AKL (Air NZ J) 77W NZ 124 Dep 1145 Arr 1715
19 Jul AKL-SIN (SQ Spacebed J) 772 SQ 282 Dep 2350 Arr 0640+1
21 Jul SIN-KIX (SQ J) 333 SQ 618 Dep 0125 Arr 0900
21 Jul KIX-GUM (UA J) 738 UA 176 Dep 1115 Arr 1600

The return was:
22 Jul GUM-NRT (UA J) Domestic 772 UA 828 Dep 0655 Arr 0940
22 Jul NRT-PVG (NH J) Shorthaul 772 NH 921 Dep 1810 Arr 2015
23 Jul PVG-AKL (Air NZ J) 772 NZ 288 Dep 1415 Arr 0545+1
24 Jul AKL-MEL (Air NZ J) 77W NZ 123 Dep 0820 Arr 1020

Picked up a night at the Days Inn Guam so that I could walk over to the Premier Outlets and do some shopping (after all, Melbourne stuff is horrendously overpriced), and then a points + money night at the Doubletree by Hilton Shanghai, where I thought as a Hilton Gold I could treat a friend who was interning in Shanghai to breakfast the next day (unfortunately the company decided to despatch him to Beijing instead).

All in a pretty good haul. I write this post from the Air NZ Lounge in AKL, and photos will follow soon after, together with the rest of the flights!
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Old Jul 19, 13, 3:14 am
  #2  
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 350
Reserved for MEL-AKL

I get picked up by Jetbus at 0745 with a friend who bound for MCY on a domestic Virgin Australia flight that is scheduled to depart at 0935, while NZ 124 to AKL is scheduled for 1145. I only leave that early because I want to do my lounge hopping - after all, with a newly revamped Silver Kris Lounge in MEL and an Air NZ lounge just one floor below the SKL, I do need time to check them out, right? But meanwhile I blow some money on a McD's breakfast muffin to keep my friend company, because Jetbus did drop us off at MEL at 0830 - still too early for him to board his flight. But finally I breeze through immigration, aided by the Express departure card, and head off for the Air NZ lounge. But not before I see this gigantic fella:

Pretty angry, isn't he?



From Flightaware.com I could see that ZK-OKQ was operating NZ 1 arriving at AKL from LHR and LAX. It usually appears to be the case that the plane servicing NZ 1 into AKL will be the plane that is dispatched to MEL as NZ 123 and returning to AKL as NZ 124, so I was keeping my fingers crossed that my ride today would be on ZK-OKQ - after all, it would be such a shame not to hop onto a plane with a special All Blacks Livery, wouldn't it? Thankfully they did send OKQ to MEL as NZ 123 that morning, which just added to the thrill of flying. Before I left, I did manage to grab some hot dim sum and a glass of Johnnie Walker Black Label on the rocks at the SKL, and some quiches at the Air NZ lounge.

Dim sum and JW Black:



Tried playing some pool in the NZ lounge and gave up - I have the Asian flush syndrome and I figure that my aiming was completely off because of Johnnie Walker (at least, I attribute it to be such). Caught a shower in the Air NZ lounge and proceeded to stalk my good ol' ZK-OKQ with Instagram. Strangely, the showers in the MEL lounge have no shower cubicle doors:



Pool table:



She is such a beauty, I say. Such a beauty. Words just cannot express the way I feel towards her...



Finally, it was time to board, and me being the aviation geek that I was, managed to stand in a strategic position to be the first down the jetbridge, while catching more photos along the way.

Yay! Blame the smudges on the glass for the lack of clarity (and not my poor photo taking skills, please)



The 2 other ladies who were following behind me were rather bemused at this behaviour of mine, until they realised that the All Blacks livery was a pretty rare and special one for NZ #avgeekproblem

The predeparture beverages that were offered were water, orange juice or champagne. The closet alcoholic in me selected a champagne but forgot to check out what kind of champagne it was.

Champagne/sparkling wine predeparture. Cheers from Seat 3A, with my slightly flushed face:



As we prepared to depart, the FAs came around asking us for our choices of pre-lunch beverages. The closet alcoholic in me went for a single malt Glenfidditch, and promptly developed an even deeper Asian flush. Here's the offending beverage:



Lunch was pretty good for a short trans-Tasman flight, and I did manage to convert the seat down into bed mode for a half hour nap before being rudely awakened by the pilots that they were commencing their descent into AKL. Horrors. If only the flight were 7h long.

The menu and the wine list were distributed:





Appetiser. Garlic bread and some smoked New Zealand fish with potato salad:



Main course. Roasted chicken thigh stuffed with brown lentils, soft parmesan polenta and ratatouille:



Dessert: Ice cream! Passionfruit and lemon curd ice cream + cookies and cream ice cream.



And a hot chocolate to wash it all down:



We landed early at 1705 and I decided to clear immigration to get yet another passport stamp. The good thing about Singaporean passports is that they can enter most countries visa-free for a certain period of time, so I didn't need a visa just to clear immigrations. However, it was turning dark and I couldn't see much beyond the airport, so I decided to go back into the lounge and chill. What a waste!

The NZ lounge was crowded at 1705, mainly because of the bank of NZ flights that depart for North America in the evening (NZ 84 to YVR, NZ 8 to SFO, NZ 6 to LAX and NZ 2 to LAX/LHR). Everyone is just sitting around:



More alcohol? Nah...



But I had another shower. Nicer than the showers in MEL.



Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of the food. Too much for the day! So I just wait it out in the lounge until it is time for SQ282 to board...

Last edited by sporadic; Jul 24, 13 at 2:00 am
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Old Jul 19, 13, 3:15 am
  #3  
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Join Date: May 2006
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Posts: 350
Reserved for AKL-SIN

Perhaps I shouldn't have reserved one full post for AKL-SIN, especially when it is after all a redeye flight with old SpaceBed seats. The 6h in the AKL lounge did kill my brain, I must admit. I wish AKL-SIN on that old SQ 772 was shorter and the MEL-AKL segment on my beloved All Blacks plane was longer. But I digress. Armed with the passport stamp I finally decide to leave the cosy comforts of the lounge and wander around AKL for a bit, not that there is much to see in any case, especially when nearing midnight. Boarding is conducted via a single door (2L), which forces me to go through the same door as everyone else, just that I get to turn left and make my way to 11K, the very first row of the plane. But actually! I have 2 seats to myself. 11H is also empty for the evening:



After 6 flights (I am writing this from the Doubletree by Hilton Shanghai), I realise ONE major problem with my seat selection: I always choose the side that doesn't allow me to see other planes at the terminal as my flight lands. BUMMER. I change into my Lufthansa F pyjamas before take off and order yet another glass of champagne, which is proffered to me as a predeparture beverage.



Takeoff is on time (how could midnight departures from AKL be late in the first place?!), and we are in the air shortly after midnight AKL time. Now if you're 185cm tall and 100kg (ok, I'm actually heavier than that...), I would suggest changing in the terminal - the SQ 772 loos are simply much too cramped to change into my "classy" F pyjamas. But after some huffing, puffing and taking care not to rip anything while changing, I get into my nice comfy pyjamas for takeoff. Good enough.

Nevertheless, the SQ J loos are better stocked than the NZ J loos, though the NZ J loos have a window... Depends on what one is looking for, I guess!

SQ toiletries in the loo:



NZ loo window:



I decide to get some supper when it is served, in any case - stuff that was conjured up by some celebrity chef on SQ's culinary panel, as recommended by the lovely flight attendant. Topped off with an iced Milo, since I haven't had that stuff in quite a while. I eat in one seat and sleep in the other.

Iced Milo:



Smoked salmon appetiser:



Nice soft garlic bread:



Lamb with rice and vegetables:



Topped off with a tiramisu:



I find myself getting into a comfortable position in the SpaceBed, though it only reclines 170 degrees (what a horror!), but yet I find myself unable to actually get into lala land. Excitement at seeing my best friends get married, methinks? I don't know. Or excitement, perhaps, at seeing a lady friend of mine at the wedding whom I might ask out for a date in future? Perhaps. I don't know. She does make a meaner tiramisu, though.

But still, I reason, staying in a comfy position and snoozing is better than staying awake and watching a movie, so I choose to doze until 4am Singapore time (because that was when the flight attendant told me breakfast was going to be served, anyways). I shake myself out of my slumber and turn on a Hong Kong film at 4am, just as the lights come on for breakfast. Having been away from Singapore for so long, I choose the Asian option for breakfast, which on this flight is nasi lemak. With another iced Milo. Nasi lemak from Auckland, indeed. A strange option, given that I have already BTC-ed a nasi lemak on my flight to KIX. I think of having breakfast with a JW Black Label on the rocks, but then decide against it because I don't want to look drunk so early in the morning at the wedding party. I have severe Asian flush because of a lack of aldehyde dehydrogenase, for the medical geeks out there who know what I mean.

Fresh fruit:



Auckland nasi lemak, pretty decent. The chicken was boneless!



Some background on Singaporean weddings: Early in the morning, the groom and some of his best pals (the brothers) go to the bride's house, where they are subjected to a battery of torture from the bride's best pals (the sisters) before they are let in to the bride's house for the groom to receive the bride, where they then offer tea to the bride's parents before going back to the groom's house to offer tea to the groom's parents. The sisters can usually be bribed to reduce the torture on the brothers, but well...

I land at 0640 on the dot at Changi, and the plane HAS to happily park at Gate A15, which is a frickin' long distance to the immigration counters (cut short by the SkyTrain service though). Told my friend who was departing for AKL on SQ281 the next day, if he had a departure gate at A15-A21 I'd just laugh - and he did have to go all the way to A17. Thanks, SQ. These darn far gates are where you park the A330s and the B772s going to the less premium destinations, eh? I came back from TPE previously and we deplaned at A21. My flight to KIX also had to depart from A21. @#$*#$(%*(*!

I hate you, A21:



Customs and immigration was a breeze, and I had time to pick up the necessary duty free stuff for the parents even before the bags started coming out. #LoveFlyingInJ

The parents picked me up, and off we zoomed to the gatecrash party, where I arrived to see some of the brothers having whipped cream smeared over their faces, and where I arrived just in time to turn into a pole for the groom to pole dance against. Apparently he had to eat a whole chilli pepper as well, before I arrived at 0730. Sexy dances aside, we then had to form a human pyramid - 3 guys at the bottom, 2 in the middle and 1 on top. Now, I have already mentioned that I wasn't that light already, and the sisters wanted me on top (that's where the bribe comes in so that I go down to the bottom!). The groom then had to shout out 5 promises to the bride before we could dismantle the pyramid. Whew. But that being said, during the church wedding ceremony, when the married couple were thanking various people, the groom thanked the brothers for going through all this torture, saying that he actually requested for it, resulting in 6 angry brothers overall...

Knackered from all that, I head home at 2pm, pack the bag for the evening with textbooks that I need to use in MEL, and then have a power nap for half an hour before heading out to meet some friends for tea. Getting home at 6.30pm, it is time to shower up and head off for the wedding dinner. It is a 10 course meal, which unfortunately eliminates any chance of me actually pigging out at the T3 Silver Kris Lounge when I get there...

But still. Hello SKL! Where's my buggy to A21?!?!



I go for yet another shower:



The hot food spread is so amazing, I rue the wedding dinner. If only the wedding was held in Guam...



But with a heavy heart that I couldn't sample all the hot dishes, I pick up my stuff and head for A21 to fly to KIX... Not before having yet another glass of bubbly.


Last edited by sporadic; Jul 24, 13 at 4:32 am
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Old Jul 19, 13, 3:15 am
  #4  
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 350
Reserved for SIN-KIX-GUM

Welcome aboard SQ618!



I hurry into the toilet (noticeably more spacious than the 772ER's toilets), change into my pyjamas and settle back into my seat, requesting yet another glass of champagne prior to departure. The toilet, as I notice, has some orchids inside.



I hit snooze mode and recline the seat to its maximum after informing the flight attendants that I wish to have my nasi lemak for breakfast. Approximately 2h out of Osaka, breakfast service begins.

With fruit:



More iced Milo, but I shan't bore you with yet another photo of iced Milo.

A more authentic nasi lemak, with the bone still on the chicken!



The flight was full in J - good thing I snagged a seat earlier on in the year! Here is a shot of 11A before I deplane:



SQ618 pulls into a gate at the South Wing, and I have to get onto the people mover, go through transfer security, and hop onto another people mover to get to the North Wing. Grrr. But that being said, the North Wing has 3 lounges that a UA J boarding pass can access: the TG Royal Orchid Lounge, the ANA Lounge and the Asuka Lounge. I wonder why UA actually contracts the Asuka Lounge when its Star Gold and its J passengers can use the ANA or the TG lounges, which are (in my opinion) better than the Asuka lounge. That being said, I landed at 0900 and my connecting flight to GUM was at 1115, so there wasn't actually much time to check out each lounge. The TG lounge was pretty quiet and had a decent drinks selection:



And a decent alcohol selection:



And a good view of HS-TGP, the TG 747 painted in retro colours:



But the food selection was underwhelming. The ANA lounge, on the other hand, had better food but poorer selection of alcohol. Even in NRT. I don't think alcohol is ANA's strong point, though I could be wrong on that.

The Asuka lounge didn't have much food, though there was a decent selection of alcohol.



Anyways! So after walking around and seeing other planes, it was time to board. And as always, one of the first few to board. Seat 2A on a United 737:



Takeoff was prompt, and I ordered a mai tai to sample in the air:



A little too sweet for my liking, I would say.

Lunch was served, a choice of chicken with pasta or beef with potatoes. I went with the beef #redmeatcarnivore:



Not too bad, not too tough, good enough for me, I figure. What I liked was that the flight attendant addressed me by my last name instead of "Sir", which had that nice personal touch to the service.

Here is a view of the engine from Seat 2A:



After lunch, it was time to sit back and relax, and soon enough, Guam came into view:



Hafa Adai! Welcome to Guam!



Immigration was painless. Much less painless than continental USA international immigrations, I say. Upon walking out of the airport, one is treated to a sea view. How nice!



A van from the Days Inn is there at the airport to pick me up, and off we proceed to check in at the Days Inn. For a night, it was pretty decent. Plus, I managed to book with Pointshound for extra UA miles. The bed was comfortable enough:



Went shopping at the Premier Outlets and got all these for a pretty decent price, plus some US Airways miles for my purchases. Much cheaper than the prices Melbourne would have charged!


Last edited by sporadic; Jul 24, 13 at 5:04 am
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Old Jul 19, 13, 3:16 am
  #5  
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 350
Reserved for GUM-NRT-PVG

I get everything packed and hit the bed at 2230, because I had to wake up at 0430 to get to GUM for a 0655 departure to NRT on UA 828, arriving in NRT at 0940, with a connection to NH 921 leaving NRT for PVG at 1810. I originally wanted a later flight out of GUM to stay overnight in NRT and depart NRT for PVG the next morning to connect to the NZ 288 out of PVG at 1415, which would then give me the luxury of walking around Tokyo at night, but unfortunately there was no I class space in my preferred flight combination, hence leaving me only 8.5h to spend in Tokyo, not including the time taken for checking in or getting onto the Keisei Skyliner to Ueno.

Clearing TSA security was pretty painless at immigration. The GUM agents are generally friendlier. Much less rude. One thing I like about US international airport departures is that one doesn't have to go through an immigration counter, much unlike the rest of the other countries around the world that I have been in. I get into the United Club at about 0530 and head for the instant noodles - hot MSG-laden broths are the best way to start the day, methinks!



But it is too early for soft drinks or hard drinks.

Finally it is time to board, and I proceed to Seats 1H/J; again, no one on the seat beside me. Good! Forms for entry into Japan are also distributed. Though they don't address me by my last name on this flight, ostensibly because the J cabin on a 777 is much larger than that on a 737.



Before takeoff I get a water, and before breakfast I get a Japanese green tea. Fresh fruit is served before the main course:



I go for the omelette. Nice and cheesy!



The rest of the flight after breakfast is relatively eventless, and I manage to catch most of The Croods on the overhead monitor, before we land approximately 20 minutes early at NRT. Immigration is relatively fast and painless, and I make my way down to the Skyliner station, purchasing a roundtrip Skyliner ticket with a day pass on Tokyo's metro lines for 4500 yen.

From the Keisei Ueno station I make my way down to Otemachi to look at the Japanese Imperial Palace, getting an outside shot in the process:



I went up to the entrance and was told that the garden was closed. Bummer. No chance to go in! So I head off to Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ginza.


Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ginza can all be characterised by the presence of high-rise buildings and expensive shopping areas. This, for one, is the Shibuya Hikarie shopping mall:



Shibuya was depressing because I saw homeless old folk sleeping on makeshift shelters on a passageway in a car tunnel, 5 minutes away from the Shibuya Hikarie. It is something like seeing homeless people sleeping on the Las Vegas Strip, as most of the Vegas population look to be at least trendy, hip and comfortably well-off. I then run off to Shinjuku, where I am greeted by the sounds of a political rally as I exit the station:



It is such a hot day that I stop at a McDonald's and am able to order an ice cream float by virtue of pointing and gesturing to an advertisement on the wall:



Of course, the sugar rush was a brief respite to the hypoglycaemia I was about to face, especially when I was rushing through Tokyo without a lunch break to get as much as possible. But in the end, the weather in Tokyo is just too hot, and I end up in the Sony Plaza at Ginza watching these sting rays (and getting some cool air-conditioning).



I finally visit Ueno Park before hopping into the Skyliner station to get back to NRT:



The Skyliner drops me back at NRT at 1545, and I go through security and immigration relatively quickly. The United Club is on the way to Gate 43, where NH 921 is scheduled to depart from, so I take a quick stop there, to find nothing really spectacular, though I do grab some sake and a bite of sushi.

I head to the ANA lounge at Satellite 4 and proceed to get a shower. Wow, the toilets have hand sensors to activate the flush! Not bad:



I next proceed to pig out on all kinds of starch available, as evidenced in this picture. Never mind that it is already 4.30pm and that I would have dinner on the plane. This thing just felt good. Lest you think that I am a degenerate alcoholic by no, let me assure you that the drink in the picture is cold Japanese green tea.



JA707A is waiting to next us to PVG as NH 921:



But of course, the NRT-PVG-NRT rotation of NH921/922 is solely operated by JA707A, as shown on flightaware.com. JA707A does not appear to operate any other route. The seats in J are pretty ok for a short flight, and there is ample legroom:



A view of Seat 2A:



Immigration cards into China are handed out prior to takeoff. In the air, I ask for champagne as a pre-dinner drink and get this 187 ml bottle of Monopole Heidsieck:



I go for the Japanese dinner option of simmered flounder and steamed rice. Not bad, though I couldn't really stomach the octopus appetiser, as I don't really like octopus.



We land in PVG on time and I head off to find the maglev train. After all, it is a novel experience, isn't it...? Though my friends and my dad did tell me it wasn't anything spectacular, plus, it only takes one from PVG to some subway station in the middle of nowhere known as Longyang Rd.

The maglev train did hit a top speed of 300 km/h, but it felt like your normal rapid transit subway train. Somehow the Keisei Skyliner felt nicer, I wonder why.

The maglev train at Longyang Rd:



Versus the Keisei Skyliner at NRT:



But all in all, it took me 40 RMB to get from PVG to Longyang Rd, and 20 RMB in a taxi to get me from Longyang Rd to the Doubletree by Hilton Shanghai. Not bad.

I check in close to 2145 and I receive one of those good Doubletree cookies:


Last edited by sporadic; Jul 24, 13 at 6:25 am
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Old Jul 19, 13, 3:17 am
  #6  
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 350
Reserved for PVG-AKL-MEL

As a Gold member (by virtue of the Citibank HHonors credit card), booking a normal room on a points + money rate still entitles me to a suite upgrade at the Doubletree by Hilton Shanghai (subject to availability). Previously, in November, I booked a normal room at the Doubletree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur and was only upgraded to an Executive Floor room; suite upgrades there were limited to Diamond members only. How interesting. But I thought the points + money rate was very decent at 12,000 points + 358 RMB (approx US$60) per night.

But here's a view of the suite - the living room:



The king bed:



The coffee making area:



The social area:



The shower/bath tub:

http://i1270.photobucket.com/albums/...02793014_o.jpg



There was a toilet cubicle in the living room area as well, but of course, I don't take photos of toilet bowls because that would be rather weird, don't you think? But I do take photos of bath robes.



I go to bed at about midnight and get up at 0730 the next morning to check out the property. They have pretty nice landscaping on the property exterior:





I then head to the spacious Executive Lounge, where a good buffet breakfast spread awaits, free for Gold members, of course.



I choose to over-indulge, as always









I next attempt to head out to the Bund to catch some Shanghai sightseeing photos on the Bund, only to mistake the Bund being on the same side of the Huangpu River as the Lujiazui subway station is. Oh well. So I get some photos of "across-the-Bund" instead:

'





I then catch a taxi to get back to the Doubletree with a soaking wet t-shirt. Oh the unbearable heat! It is a 20 RMB ride, compared with a 3 RMB subway ride from Lancun Rd to Lujiazui. I grab a quick shower, change out and head off to the airport, where it costs me 141 RMB. My bags are checked in all the way to MEL and I am given a first class lounge invite to the Shanghai Airlines lounge at Gate 77.

(story continues here http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...l#post21149782)

Last edited by sporadic; Jul 24, 13 at 8:39 am
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Old Jul 20, 13, 8:58 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: SYD
Programs: OZ*G, VA gold, NZ*G (Elite), QF bronze, Hyatt Explorist, HH Gold, Bonvoyed ("Gold")
Posts: 5,124
Originally Posted by sporadic View Post
"How does one get MEL-SIN-MEL for 30k miles?" you may ask. US Airways has an extremely unique award chart, which lumps MEL and Micronesian destinations such as GUM and SPN within the same amorphous region known as the "South Pacific". So while MEL-SIN-MEL does technically cost 90k US Airways miles for a J ticket, MEL-SIN-Whatever-GUM-Whatever-MEL does cost only 30k miles in J. This is a tactic that I have suggested previously, saying it does only cost 80k miles in J to go from mainland USA to Australia, because it takes 50k miles in J on a roundtrip from the US to GUM using Avianca LifeMiles, and then 30k US Airways miles in J from GUM to Australia roundtrip. Even better, the US Airways agent that handles the booking can incorrectly add in a stopover (some guy did PM me and mention that he wrangled in an 8 day stopover in NGO on this type of award ticket, but YMMV nonetheless, because it is US Airways that you are dealing with).
Now *this* is very interesting information, thank you! I have been trying to figure out a satisfactory way to get to Palau from Sydney, and I think you have just led me to it. Now all I need is one of US Airways' frequent mileage purchase bonuses and I have the makings of an excellent scheme...

Oh, and nice report too!
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Old Jul 20, 13, 9:21 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: ANC
Posts: 5,360
Should have stayed at the Sheraton Laguna! Wasn't that much more than Days Inn but I really liked the property... On the western side of Tamuning close to GPO too (and yes, stuff was really cheap there, compared to Australia )
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Old Jul 21, 13, 6:55 am
  #9  
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Join Date: Feb 2006
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When are the pics coming? Looking forward to them!!
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Old Jul 21, 13, 7:19 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Singapore, Little Red Dot
Programs: IHG Platinum AMBASSODOR, HHNOURS Gold, Krisflyer Member, SPG Gold Member
Posts: 117
Looks like its gg to be an awesome post sporadic! looking forward to it!
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Old Jul 22, 13, 9:05 am
  #11  
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 350
Originally Posted by mad_atta View Post
Now *this* is very interesting information, thank you! I have been trying to figure out a satisfactory way to get to Palau from Sydney, and I think you have just led me to it. Now all I need is one of US Airways' frequent mileage purchase bonuses and I have the makings of an excellent scheme...

Oh, and nice report too!
I would suggest SYD-BKK-NRT-GUM-ROR, where you can snag TG F on SYD-BKK and BKK-NRT (plus that buggy trip and the full body massage!)
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Old Jul 22, 13, 9:07 am
  #12  
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 350
Originally Posted by belfordrocks View Post
Should have stayed at the Sheraton Laguna! Wasn't that much more than Days Inn but I really liked the property... On the western side of Tamuning close to GPO too (and yes, stuff was really cheap there, compared to Australia )
Tell me about it. I went wild at Ross and bought 4 pairs of shoes for just about 100 USD. Had to buy an extra duffel bag to fit 'em all in! Would've gone for the Hilton if I was staying longer, with the free breakfast and all as a Gold. But because I was gonna wake up at 0430 for a 0655 departure... The Days Inn sufficed. Am now at the Doubletree by Hilton Shanghai, with a complimentary suite upgrade on a points + money rate
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Old Jul 22, 13, 5:59 pm
  #13  
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Originally Posted by SgtRyan View Post
When are the pics coming? Looking forward to them!!
Coming soon! Trying to sort them out to see what to upload and what not to! (Definitely not my fat frame taking up the entire BusinessPremier bed in full flat mode )
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Old Jul 24, 13, 8:37 am
  #14  
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Should've just dedicated the last post to the Doubletree Shanghai. Oh well! But now we're nearing the end. The last legs from PVG-AKL-MEL to conclude the mileage trip.

I make my way to the Shanghai Airlines lounge at Gate 77 after burning through the remainder of my RMB on various snacks and souvenirs. It has a nice open air concept:



The first class lounge has a good spread of hot food and alcohol, as can be seen here:







ZK-OKF is to operate NZ288 from PVG to AKL today. NZ sends a 772 on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays ex-PVG (Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays ex-AKL), while the flight is operated by a 763 the rest of the week. The difference? Flat bed seats in J on the 772 and recliners on the 763. Obviously then, I'd choose a Tuesday/Friday/Sunday departure ex-PVG for a 10.5h overnight flight.

But well. I board the flight, settle into Seat 4A, and we get ready to rumble... not yet. While the crew are busy settling the paperwork, we miss the departure time of 1415 and are forced to sit at the gate for another half an hour before we obtain clearance for departure. Meanwhile, I just indulge in an episode of Family Guy and knock back some champagne again. Quite interestingly, a majority of the cabin crew operating this flight are Chinese - is it to cater to a large Chinese demand in PVG for flights to New Zealand I wonder? Most passengers were also Chinese, if I recalled correctly.

The view of the J cabin towards the cockpit:



We take off at 1450 finally, but with good tailwinds we are only projected to arrive 5 minutes behind schedule. Before lunch/dinner is served, the captain comes out of the cockpit and talks to each J passenger individually about the delay, which I felt was a very nice touch on the part of Air NZ. The J cabin was 17-18/26 full, if I estimated correctly, and that would have meant quite a fair bit of talking on the part of the captain.

Some nuts are served up as a snack, which I take with jasmine green tea:



Followed by an appetiser of ham, feta cheese and watermelon, which did taste somewhat odd:



This appetiser was followed by roast lamb:



And finally topped off with ice cream:



I change into my pyjamas after eating and get a good 6h of sleep on the nice comfy BusinessPremier bed. By then, the time is approximately 2200 NZ time, and I wake up again at about 0345 NZ time in preparation for breakfast. The blueberry smoothie that was served was fantastic, and looks even better with mood lighting:



Fresh fruit:



The main:



The seat in full flat bed mode, very comfortable indeed:



We land at Gate 2 in AKL, where it is a short walk through transfer security. Upon deplaning the customer service manager addresses me by name, which is yet another really nice touch on the part of Air NZ. I was more satisfied with the NZ288 flight than the NZ124/NZ123 flights.

I head to the lounge and get more food. Some bacon and egg pie, with beans and pancakes:



I see that the Hobbit jet (ZK-OKP) came in from LAX as NZ 5 earlier this morning, while the All Blacks jet came in from LAX/LHR as NZ 1. Based on my earlier deductions I would have thought that I was going to get the All Blacks jet again today, but no... Strangely it was dispatched to BNE as NZ 135. What about the Hobbit? It went to relax! The fella taking me back to MEL as NZ 123 was ZK-OKO, a generically coloured plane that last operated NZ 57 from NAN the previous day! What a bummer...

Ah, Hobbit jet in the distance. I'll see you in future!



I contain my disappointment as we board NZ 123 from Gate 2. I get another champagne to drown my sorrows, and as we are up in the air, I opt for a banana and honey smoothie:



Fresh fruit:



Ham steaks!



Mood lighting in the cabin:



Soon, it is time for ZK-OKO to bring us back down to earth at MEL, where we come to a halt beside the pair of great QF A380s operating to LHR and to LAX:



Just you wait, QF A380s. I'll fly on you some day!

Till then, this concludes my Circle Pacific report! I will attempt to go on another one in December, with a tentative routing of:

MEL-BKK (TG J)-SGN (LH F)-SIN (SQ J) (stopover)
SIN-BKK (SQ J)-PEK (TG F)-TPE (BR J)-GUM (BR J) (destination)
GUM-KIX (UA J)-BKK (TG F)-HKG (TG F)-SIN (SQ J)-MEL (SQ J)

It should take me 70k UA miles and approximately US$300 in taxes and fees? Keeping fingers crossed. Overnights in SGN (Park Hyatt Saigon), TPE (friend's house), KIX (Intercontinental Osaka), BKK (some cheapo airport hotel), HKG (Conrad Hong Kong). We'll see how it goes!
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Old Jul 24, 13, 9:17 am
  #15  
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Nice report. Always interesting to think of some different redemption angles.
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