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A grand-mini tour of the Far East: Toronto to Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong and back –

A grand-mini tour of the Far East: Toronto to Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong and back –

Old Dec 3, 13, 7:18 am
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A grand-mini tour of the Far East: Toronto to Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong and back –

...AC Y+Y, CX Y, MH F+J, CX J and CX J (3 carriers, 5 types of equipment, 6 products, a geeky preamble and lots of pics + comments; plus an aside on a meal in Korea where I had to fight with the food)

Background

(Skip this by all means if you’re after the actual trips, photos and commentary. This section really is for the all-out geeks who want to know the minutiae of the booking and planning process – and the sweet anticipation that comes with all that. Go ahead – I won’t be offended, even if I did spend hours and HOURS typing and editing and re-editing for best results! )

After five long years, I had no more excuses not to go see my folks in HKG, including the dread of 16 hours in the back.

First order of business: find a way to redeem miles I’d been accumulating for the past 15 (!) years on Airmiles. Just as I was looking for a flight to Hong Kong, an ex-colleague invited me to give a talk in Korea. Then I thought of my Avios: this would be a good excuse to try Cathay’s First somehow while I’m in Asia.

Booking a one-way to Seoul from Toronto was actually much easier that I’d anticipated – a few clicks and voila: 5 hours to Vancouver, 1.5 hours layover, 11.5 hours to Seoul. The layover was actually going be a good thing – I could sure use a lounge visit to break up 16+ hours down the back - except I have no status whatsoever with *A, so there went that idea even before it was half-baked. In due course though that would change.

Next was to figure out how to maximise the Avios I had – blow it all on F back from HKG on CX, or spread it around in a combination of F and J? Since this was five months out, I thought I’d have a chance of bagging an F seat, but that was not to be. There were J seats to be had on different days, so that was what I decided to go for (well, more like it was decided for me). So that’s 3 legs out of 6 sorted (YYZ-YVR-ICN on AC in Y; HKG-YYZ on CX in J).

The next challenge then became how to get an F seat somewhere between ICN, HKG and SIN. But as I wanted to get the most bang out of my Avios, that meant also factoring in lounge access. Since CX had recently refurbished the F lounge at the Wing, then the logical thing to do was to do F from HKG-SIN. That would leave me enough miles to also get one intra-Asia J, and another Y segment. From previous experience, Y-ness is always exacerbated when experienced after J or F, so it wasn’t hard to decide to do ICN-HKG in Y. A few taps later – and with the redemption goddess smiling on me, it all came together: ICN-HKG on CX in Y, HKG-SIN on CX in F, SIN-HKG on CX in J.

For those of you in the know, the big horse-fly in that ointment was the notorious CX equipment switcheroo, especially prone to happen to their 744s between HKG and SIN. Exactly why this is only the minions of the Lord of Switch can know. But who cares?! All the warnings from the CX board be damned: I was going to be in CX F!!

And then three weeks out I got the dreaded auto-email notification: the flight had indeed been switched to a 333; differential Avios credited, seat reassigned – drat! Looked and searched and relooked again for days after, CX just wouldn’t switch back a flight with F at any time that would work with the rest of my travel itinerary. Couldn’t say I hadn’t been warned though – what to do?

And then I somehow noticed on the search page there was an MH flight very close to the original CX departure time (I had to connect from the ICN in-bound), with F availability no less. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen that before. So the whole thing would add three hours to the trip, but I would get most of what I wanted (MH F on the A380 instead of CX F on their soon to be retired 744, with access to the F lounge at the Wing), and more (F lounge at KUL, plus the Chef-on-call for F pax – more on that later). So that was decided.

As departure day drew closer, a friend who had some kind of status with AC very kindly offered me two passes to the Maple Leaf Lounge at YYZ and YVR, saying, and I paraphrase: a little something to help make long-haul Y a bit less bad. Needless to say I was grateful, not the least because I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of being fed on board… well I knew there would be food to purchase on the 5-hour domestic (over-priced and fast-food type fodder), and hopefully a main meal and a ‘snack’ (what that would entail would be anybody’s guess) on the 11.5-hour intercontinental. North American carriers of course are known for their often abysmal catering – that is if you get anything at all - and I knew when it came to expectations it was best to keep them at sub-basement level, so anything that might come would be a pleasant surprise. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a rather sad state of affairs.

Next up, the flights, pictures and comments.

Last edited by Capricorn70; Dec 5, 13 at 3:44 am
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Old Dec 3, 13, 8:15 am
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Toronto - Lounge and on the ground

Flights, pix and comments (and the aside on the ground in Seoul)

I’ll just get right to the lounge and flight experience without a blow-by-blow account from the moment I woke up in bed, if that’s all right with you…

Toronto – Vancouver – Seoul; 777 and 767 in Y:

So here’s the Maple Leaf Lounge:







Quite spacious really, and a nice ambience as far as a business lounge goes. It was around 7am and quite busy.

Not a bad spread of the basics…









Unless of course you were looking for booze at this hour – would hate to be you





I could see the forlorn and frustrated face of someone trying to fix a bloody Bloody Mary…





But Malhoumbeau the Mighty Moose had nothing to complain about – how could he? I had set the bar so low for him he practically wept for joy when the lounge passes came through!





Note the toast – it was the photographer’s own – that, and the dark medium cut marmalade with rum from Fortnum & Mason on it. It’s always a good idea to bring your own breakfast for the trip to the airport (home made scrambled eggs with smoked salmon completely consumed in the limo).

My ride to YVR on a crisp fall morning after a big storm skirted us by towards the southeast overnight.



Once on board we settled in, and noticed the snow on the engine cowling and the wing.





Next up - YYZ - YVR

Last edited by Capricorn70; Dec 7, 13 at 8:46 pm
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Old Dec 3, 13, 8:31 am
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YYZ - YVR; lounge

First time I’d seen this operation in daylight – took 45 minutes and ate into my lounge time at YVR *grrr*!











A ‘sexy-ed up’ in-flight service menu in high gloss… $11 for an omelette with sausage and taters! You’ll see a comparable offering on CX later.







Three hours in and almost two movies later I was getting hungry – and I’d thought I might last until the next lounge visit! Bit the bullet and bought a ‘pulled beef sandwich’:





You’ll eat anything when you’re hungry enough, and with anything ‘fast food’ looking, it’s supposed to taste ‘good’, meaning it’s added sugar, salt and fat galore. My only comfort was in knowing that my own breakfast was good and cheap.

Thirty minutes east of YVR during descent – some lovely landscape on an atypically clear day for the ‘wet’ coast.



With the de-icing having taken up almost an hour of my lounge time, I arrived there with only 25 minutes before boarding time of my next flight. This lounge was packed to the gills as there were a bunch of flights to Asia around the same time. It’s also much smaller than the one in YYZ, so I didn’t feel comfortable taking pics.

As it happened it was 11am, and the booze ‘apparated’.



Needless to say the sign on the beer taps also promptly came off.

The lunch buffet was also being laid out at the same time, but I only had about 15 minutes before I had to go, so abstemiousness ruled.



My next ride, a 767:



On the way to the gate – a pretty neat feature I thought. Not sure how reefs and native motifs are related though:



Next up: YVR - ICN
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Old Dec 3, 13, 8:35 am
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Yvr - icn: 767 y

It was chock-a-block on this flight, and I was in the front and smaller of the Y cabins. It felt distinctly more cramped than the 777 before.

First meal service – ‘chicken’ – while flying over Alaska:



With free booze!



Tasted quite decent, but the portion wasn’t what I’d call big.

Some changing landscape of Alaska:





Since I was still hungry, I asked for the other main, ‘pork’ – anti-abstemiousness ruled:





So this was their Korean dish – spicy, with glass noodles.

The IFE was on demand, and the selection of flicks and other programmes was very decent. Since I’d psyched myself up and steeled for whatever Y had in store for me, the time passed much less unpleasantly than I’d expected. So it worked: you can’t be disappointed when expectations are set to nil.

Mid-flight there was a round of drinks, and an offer of cup noodles, which I passed – didn’t want the Y-experience further ‘enhanced’ by MSG, additives and whatever chemicals were used to make that stuff.

The flight was daylight all the way – a shot of the Kamchatka peninsula…



… and making landfall on the east coast of the Korean peninsula a few hours later.





Next up – an aside on the ground in Seoul, where some food you have to fight with.
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Old Dec 3, 13, 8:39 am
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Food you have to fight with in Seoul

Food you have to fight with...

Ok those of you who are squeamish this is a warning: *some viewer may find some of the content (and language) disturbing - discretion is hella advised*

And those of you who have experienced this please forgive me - this was truly a fun and startling experience for someone who's a) a first time visitor, and b) doesn't get surprised by food in general.

So here goes:

Had a DREADFUL sashimi dinner first night I was here - the fish was hacked out of a frozen block of a poor cut, and the pieces were flavourless and still frozen!

Remedied that the following night at a local restaurant - I was the only foreigner eating in Itaewon, aka tourist central, that's how local it was. Found the joint in a write up online, and a picture similar to this outside the place drew me in:



Octopus sashimi Korean style. Looks innocuous enough eh? I thought so too, so in I went and blithely ordered it by pointing gleefully at the picture in the menu...

And then something like this came:



For 17 nano seconds half of my brain went - GSUS! Then the other half went - Whoa now THIS is F R E S H!

And yes the suckers were still very much a-suckin' - at the plate, the chopsticks, each other, my tongue, and the roof of my mouth! SO hella made up for frozen dead fish that's for damned sure!

Kicked myself for not having my camera with me, but as usual, the internet to the rescue!

So there you have it



Next up: ICN-HKG, 333 Y

Last edited by Capricorn70; Dec 5, 13 at 3:36 am Reason: crossing i's and dotting t's
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Old Dec 3, 13, 9:38 am
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Thank you for the report, it is good to see something for us back of the bus travelers. To be honest I'm getting kinda bored of F reports and seeing something that might actually be helpful to me (I travel Y for work) is nice.
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Old Dec 3, 13, 4:37 pm
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Originally Posted by Joely View Post
Thank you for the report, it is good to see something for us back of the bus travelers. To be honest I'm getting kinda bored of F reports and seeing something that might actually be helpful to me (I travel Y for work) is nice.
Thanks - there's another Y section coming very soon!
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Old Dec 3, 13, 4:53 pm
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ICN - HKG; Airbus 330

Seoul – Hong Kong: 333 in Y

After having survived the battle with the ‘pus, the day of my long awaited F flight and lounge access finally came. As I mentioned before, premium travel is best not followed by Y, or the Y-ness will feel more pronounced. So it was with actual anticipation that I embarked on my journey in Y on CX.

I hadn’t flown on CX for many years, and off I went bright and early to ICN. Since I was connecting to F on MH at HKG, I wanted my bag checked all the way to SIN. So I opted to go to the First class desk for that (my BA Ruby status would only allow me to check-in at a business class one). It took the agent a few extra minutes to sort it all out – the CX and MH bookings being completely separate – but soon enough I was all good to go.

My ride that would take me to the F lounge.



During taxi we passed a ‘local resident’ at ICN with its lovely sky blue livery:





I’m sure more than a few of you would agree with me that the silhouette of this bird has the lumpy beluga-like profile of the 380 beat by a mile.

After a quick round of drinks and packets of towelettes, it was time for the breakfast service. Remember the 11-buck breakfast for purchase on AC? This was CX’s offering for a 3.5-hour flight (granted it was an international sector):



Omelette with pork sausage.



Behold, it wasn’t just a glob of eggs – there were veggies inside, and not cooked to death either - all very tasty and hit the right spot.

And then I noticed the details on the plastic containers. This is a classic pattern found in a lot of porcelain from the Ming dynasty, and many china dishes for daily use nowadays still have it. The best porcelain is very thin, and the little rice grains are translucent, a sign of fine quality and craftsmanship of the utensil. I was a bit tickled to find these plastic containers reflected such details.




By the end of the service we were due southwest of Taipei.





Water was offered a little after all the trays had been collected, and the same rice grain motif was on the plastic cup. I thought this was nice ‘branding’ despite the fact that CX’s name or logo was nowhere to be seen.



About half an hour from HKG, somewhere over the South China Sea, it was decided that a straight red line on the flight path map wasn’t good enough, so an extra zigzag was added:





Does anyone want to venture a guess what the pilot was trying to avoid?

A few out-lying islands, and a bunch of ships – holy shipping lane!







Perhaps the pilot was still trying to figure out if we had dodged something a few minutes back – not once, but twice – that he overshot our destination!



But when I saw Macau in the hazy distance I knew we were heading the right direction again.





Next up: Cathay Pacific First class lounge at the Wing at HKIA

Last edited by Capricorn70; Jul 26, 14 at 6:50 am
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Old Dec 3, 13, 5:21 pm
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The Wing at last - part 1 of 2

Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge at The Wing at HKIA

We landed and parked just about as far from the Wing near gate 4 as possible – at gate 68! I did know about that before landing though, since the arrival gate was posted on the IFE, and I had time to look at the airport map to figure out how to get to the lounge at the opposite end of what was the world’s longest terminal when it was built. Transit security check wasn’t bad either, but the walk took a good 15 minutes! Good thing I had 2 full hours at the lounge before I had to schlepp all the way back – not quite gate 68 thank goodness, but 62.

When I finally got there the very first priority was to get a Cabana, and luckily one was available, but with a catch:


Notice Malhoumbeau’s sad face!

No matter, I was happy to have a place to leave my bag. I then gathered up a few bits and bobs and made my way to my second stop:



The much photographed welcome champagne counter near the entrance

Between a bottle and another vessel of bubbles:



How better to enjoy a glass…



… and to take in the view?


Then it’s off to the Haven bar…


And here are the 3 menus of drinks and dishes:







Next up: lunch at the Haven restaurant

Last edited by Capricorn70; Dec 5, 13 at 3:32 am
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Old Dec 3, 13, 5:22 pm
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The Wing at last - part 2 of 2

Lunch

Since it was just past noon, the timing was perfect for a spot of lunch – good thing I was getting peckish again too. After a quick once-over of the buffet bar – more on that very soon – I found a nice table in the middle of the restaurant. To my right was the entrance…



And to my left the buffet…



The spread looked nice, with a very good variety of dishes in a range of styles of cooking and cuisines.








Here’s my selection:



Russian style salad with squid, grilled veggies, dim sum pieces and a fried shrimp cake.

Abstemiousness ruled again since I had actually ordered lunch before I went up to the buffet bar. Here’s the lunch menu:



And what I ordered first:



Quite glad to see the prawns weren’t huge. They were flavorful and the texture was good. Then I saw the next table was having this:



And this was definitely a hit: the intense flavours of the assorted mushrooms were augmented by the pungency of truffle, and the poached egg added to the richness of the sauce, all complemented by the fresh and al dente pappardelle.





There was also a wine pairing suggestion on the menu, and it was a very good one:



Alas I don’t have the jargon to describe wine – all I know is that I loved it and how nicely it went with the dish.

At this point I’d whiled away 45 minutes – the service was prompt, and the servers were keeping up with the rapid coming and going of diners with good efficiency - which left me just enough time to finish the meal with dessert and coffee.

All through the previous three courses I kept in mind what I’d seen when I first took stock of what was on offer at the buffet – my MO is always to see what dessert I want, then order courses to leave room for it without going overboard. So I decided on this duo:



Tiramisu and mango pudding. Although the former was serviceably unremarkable, the latter more than made up for it – I’d missed the intense flavor of the fresh mangos in this part of the world, and those commonly available in North American markets are so inadequate in comparison. Note also the very sensible portion size – by the time I’d polished off the pudding and 1/3 of the Tiramisu – which the nice cappuccino helped wash down - I was again a very happy camper.

On my way out I took a couple of quick shots of the Business Lounge to the left of the entrance:



I walked down the length of it about ¾ of the way and looked back at the entrance. Rather quiet I thought.

Next up – how better to relax after a nice lunch than a bit of lounging in the soft-lit cosy seclusion of the Cabana?



And what seclusion wouldn’t be enhanced by yet another glass of bubbly? The Moose was keen on trying the Peachee on the Haven bar menu, so I obliged:



I will spare you all pics of the shower – suffice it to say the rain and waterfall set up made for a very nice way to relax.

It was now 40 minutes before my F flight on the Whalejet, and as I was leaving I overheard the attendant telling a passenger there was a waiting list of four people for the next available Cabana – needless to say I felt lucky to have gotten one and smiled all the way on my hike back down to gate 62.

Next up: Jonas' Journey, of sorts.
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Old Dec 3, 13, 6:35 pm
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In the whale(jet)'s belly - part 1 of 3

Hong Kong – Kuala Lumpur: Airbus 380 in F

I was actually glad to walk a bit, since I knew my next meal would be in less than two hours!

Before we get to that, here’s my ride – sort of:



In the fore a 767, then a 777, then the 380. See how their relative size shows up neatly in profile?



This bird really is huge!

By the time I got to the gate boarding was well underway. The agents at the gate were very nice, and printed out the BP for my connecting flight to SIN. Without being asked, they informed me – addressing me by name - my bag had been loaded, and my Chef-on-call item was also on board. All that took less than two minutes.

The air bridge for the lower deck was used by Y and F passengers through door L1 (upper deck front half was J, the back was Y in MH’s configuration).



As I stepped onto the plane I handed over my BP, and the FA promptly addressed me by name and led me to 1A, all of 3 meters to the right.

The 744 have a distinct advantage in terms of privacy for the F cabin (whether in the nose or on the upper deck) – no other passengers will parade through it. With the 380, unless the second door is used on either deck – which may not always be feasible for operational reasons - the embarking passengers through the F cabin doesn’t do anything to create a feeling of privacy, which I’m sure for F passengers would be desirable, if not expected.

Once I put my carry-on down I took a quick once-around, including the main stairs up to the J cabin:







Two out of eight seats were taken up by passengers, with two pilots occupying the middle seats in row two.

A quick visit to the loo was in order before I settled in:



Not massively spacious, but the mirrors created a nice Tardis-esque effect. The orchids and wood veneer were nice touches too.







The seat itself was very roomy – neither Malhoumbeau nor I could fill it up:






Leg room was of course ample:



A hot towel was promptly served, and I noticed that the china dish had a nice pattern on it:



I was asked next what I wanted to drink, but was told no alcohol would be served while on the ground. So a glass of water and MH’s signature drink were delivered next. Forgot to ask what was in the drink, but it was a bit like a virgin Bloody Mary, but sweeter and tangier:



The LSD screen was certainly a feature that you can’t miss:




Next up: still on the ground
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Old Dec 3, 13, 6:36 pm
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part 2 of 3

Still on the ground

Next up was the menu, delivered in a leather folder with MH’s logo embossed on the front:











To my right was more space to put stuff, both on the surface, and inside the compartments beneath the upholstery.



We were soon taxiing, and the tail-cam provided a great view:





Just as we were turning to line up for takeoff I took a quick snap shot out the window:






Another nice feature of the 744 is that you could almost see straight ahead in row 1 because of the curvature of the fuselage, which at this moment I missed a bit.

Considering just how massive this whale of a jet was, the take off was really quite smooth, in that I didn’t get the feeling of being pressed into the back of my seat to the same degree during acceleration as on some other jets, such as the 767 on AC the day before.

And then we were rotating:







Next up: in flight

Last edited by Capricorn70; Dec 3, 13 at 6:42 pm Reason: details and precision matter!
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Old Dec 3, 13, 6:37 pm
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Part 3 of 3

The whale aloft

As soon as we leveled off our third taste of bubbly of the afternoon promptly came:



And with nuts too of course, but these had been served with pre-departure drinks actually.

The FA told me the bottle of Dom would be all for me, since the other passenger wasn’t drinking – no complaints from me or Malhoumbeau on that count! I’m no connoisseur of champagne, but I definitely preferred this bottle to the Moet or the Veuve at the lounge.

As the service began, the first step was to deploy the massive table:

7

Massive both in size and in heft.

Soon after the table linen was laid out, out came the cart for the satay course:



One skewer of chicken and lamb each…



… and the cart promptly went back to the galley – I guessed the other passenger (seated behind me) wasn’t having any. I wonder what happened to the rest of the satays?

The rest of the table setup:


And close up of the nice ornament:



[Just saw BahrainLad's new video TP in F on the BA 380 (http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...ba-f-a380.html), and it reminded me of something I'd wanted to note here about the individual pepper and salt shakers. Previously on BA F trips I appreciated their mini S+P mills, and on this MH flight I did notice the plastic shakers, which I thought was a small but not insignificant element, at least to someone like myself who'd notice. It is down to such details that set one carrier apart from another I think.]

Malhoumbeau appreciated the bottle as much as I:



Decent garlic bread:



And a delicate appetizer, the marinated lemon prawn:



It looked very clean and crisp, and tasted refreshing with good flavours.

After the plate was cleared the FA came to say the main course would take a bit longer to heat up properly.



It was worth the wait, and certainly a good choice among many others available to book via MH’s Chef-on-call. The simplicity of it was great, and the sides were all heated through. The lobster itself stood up to the reheating remarkably well - not rubbery, and full of flavor. For a ‘light meal’ this certainly was filling!

Would have loved to have more choices for desserts, but between Haagen-Dazs and fresh fruit I chose this:




To be fair the FA did suggest I have both, but seeing this was 4:30pm somewhere between two time zones it was good enough.

And as I settled down to watch a movie from the extensive IFE programmes…



… a nice cup of coffee with choccies were the perfect finale.



All too soon the F flight came to an end. My connection to SIN was only 45 min away, so there was no time to go to the lounge unfortunately. By now I was tired, so it wasn’t a big deal.


Kuala Lumpur – Singapore: 737 in J

A rather unremarkable shuttle service really, except if you consider it’s a 45-minute international sector, and there was a hot snack after rounds of hot towels and drinks:



Salmon quiche and apple crumble, with sparkling water.

It’s entirely possible to have efficient and friendly service even on a short flight like this, but then again this is Asia, not North America.

Next up: CX J lounge at SIN

Last edited by Capricorn70; Dec 5, 13 at 7:04 pm
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Old Dec 4, 13, 5:32 pm
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CX Lounge at SIN

Skyview Lounge - CX J lounge at Changi

After a few days in Singapore, and a lot of yummy street food, it was time for another flight. For some reason I was expecting a regional J product, but it turned out to be CX’s new J cabin on a 777, which I somehow kind of took note of when I first selected my seat, but didn’t fully register.

As I stepped up to the J check-in counter, the agent informed me it would be the ‘new business class’, notwithstanding the fact that it had been 'new' for a while now? Anyhow, in short order my bags were checked and I was given a lounge invitation.

Here’s the entrance to CX’s Skyview Lounge:



Notice what’s next door:



This is where you can get little fishies to nibble on your feet, supposedly to rid you of epidermal cells past their shed-by-date. Not for me – who knows where their nibbly little lips have just been… [ed. only if you absolutely must know what it'd look like: http://www.google.com/search?q=fish+...ed=0CAkQ_AUoAQ]

As it was coming up to 12pm, the very decent hot buffet was all set up to go:













The dimsum steamers actually had two layers with different dumplings in each. I also noticed there was a selection of instant cup noodles, which, like I said before, I’d rather not touch.

Here’s the booze corner:



Found a nice quiet spot to enjoy my spoils:





In the meantime my ride arrived from HKG:



Another shot of it at the gate:



Next up: ‘new’ J on a CX 777

Last edited by Capricorn70; Dec 5, 13 at 7:18 am
Capricorn70 is offline  
Old Dec 4, 13, 8:23 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: cyyz
Programs: ac ELITE,aa,nwa, Priority Club
Posts: 373
Enjoying the TR, thanks for the effort.
Re the zig zag in HK, it was probably just some turns to eat up a couple of minutes due to a delay getting into the airport.
Looks like you've enjoyed yourself so far.
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