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10 days in SE Asia via UA's Island Hopper, with UA J/Y, SQ/MI Y, and SIN, MNL, & HKT

10 days in SE Asia via UA's Island Hopper, with UA J/Y, SQ/MI Y, and SIN, MNL, & HKT

Old Feb 7, 2015, 9:02 pm
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10 days in SE Asia via UA's Island Hopper, with UA J/Y, SQ/MI Y, and SIN, MNL, & HKT

Preamble and how I booked this: This whole thing has its origins in one of the IAH originating MRs which included Continental’s famed “Island Hopper” flight which takes possibly the least direct route between Honolulu and Guam. I wound up pulling the trigger but didn’t want to do it solely as a MR so I left a full 6-7 days to play with between the inbound and outbound flights. This was booked July 2014, with a routing of IAH-HNL-GUM-MNL on the outbound, then MNL-GUM-NRT-IAH on the return. In typical krazykanuck fashion, I didn’t look to fill out the rest of the trip until January, or about 2 weeks prior to departure.

When filling out the trip, I was going through a few pretty crappy weeks of work so I wanted some relaxation, as well as new cities. So I thought a Thai beach would be nice and decided on a cash + points redemption at the Hilton Arcadia resort in Phuket. That’s great and all, but how to get there from Manila? There weren’t many good options, but via SQ I found saver award space MNL-HKT return, and it allowed a 21 hr overnight layover in SIN. So I get another new city and country, all for 21k SQ miles and about $40. The Manila hotel was the last thing to fall into place (booked from the hotel in Honolulu!), simply because booking a hotel there requires more thinking and research than most destinations. There is a near complete lack of North American hotel chains and the areas of the city can be really seedy, to slightly less seedy. On the plus side, hotels aren’t very expensive. I wound up picking Hotel H2O, a $64/nt Expedia special, which was 2ish blocks from the US Embassy and right on the bay.

And now we’re off! 10 days, 10 flights, 5 cities, 3 hotels, 2 airlines, and 1 no-longer-borderline crazy person!



Sections (links to be added as they come)

Getting to Hawaii (UA253 IAH-HNL in J and the Ambassador Waikiki)
The Island Hopper (UA154 HNL-GUM in Y, transit in Guam, and UA183 to Manila in J)
In Manila, Philippeans (Hotel H2O and sightseeing)
My first SQ flight and a day in Singapore (SQ915 in Y, day in Singapore, and an overnight in Changi)
Getting to and Day 1 in Phuket (MI752 in Y, Hilton Arcadia, and Phuket)
Day 2 in Phuket: a day on a boat (complete with a pax fall into the water)
The great trek home: part 1, all in whY (MI749, SQ916, UA184, UA828)
A few hours in Narita City, and the great trek home: part 2 (transit at Narita and UA6 in Y)

My prior TRs

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...mirates-y.html
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...-week-nyc.html
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...d-combo-y.html
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...els-tiger.html

Upcoming TRs

April: A week in Egypt, guest starring Krazykanuck's Mom and moar TPAC flights in Y!

Last edited by krazykanuck; Feb 18, 2015 at 8:26 pm Reason: added links
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Old Feb 7, 2015, 9:17 pm
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Getting to Hawaii (UA253 IAH-HNL in J and the Ambassador Waikiki)

Day 1: Thursday, January 29

My flight to HNL to kick off this fun fest was leaving at 9:20 am, and given the duration of the trip I SuperShuttled it to IAH as opposed to parking there. I was up a bit before 5, and for the first time ever, the dude arrived 5 minutes early and I was dropped at IAH Terminal C at 7 am. After a quick visit to the KLM Crown Lounge, I met up with AFAM-DFW at the Terminal E UC, since he and I were on the same flight to HNL. After a horrid coffee, it was time to head to the gate.

UA 253, IAH-HNL
United Business (which they call first on this flight)

AFAM-DFW and I had booked 1A and 1B for the 8:30 hr flight to HNL. We had a slight delay getting out of IAH due to heavy fog, but nothing too bad. PDBs were offered once at the beginning.

Once airborne, they took meal orders by row and seat, and not by status, unless they reconciled it in the galley afterward. This led to an odd pairing since the flight was billed as “Breakfast” which makes sense given the departure time, but the meal choices were “chicken and rice” or ravioli. I and everybody else that I could hear chose the chicken. To be fair, it was actually pretty decent (nearly identical to a meal I had IAH-MEX in December, just change Mexican rice for white rice), despite not being very time appropriate.

Prosecco and House of Cards PDE



"Breakfast"




They followed it up with the sundae service which my inner little kid loved at 11 am. I had a glass (or 4) of prosecco with “breakfast” and promptly took a 3 hour nap. Post nap, I cracked a couple of 312s and binge watched House of Cards in preparation for season 3 at the end of the month! The United App remembered where I left off from my last flight, somewhat surprisingly…



With about 90 minutes to landing, they served a cheeseburger as a snack. Of note, the snack basket exploded into a snack tray in the forward galley if you got a hankering for a baby Toblerone. We arrived into HNL close enough to on time, not like we had anywhere pressing to be.



I have to say this was a really solid business class flight on UA. The crew was awesome, proactively bringing drink refills, addressing pax by name, actually being happy, etc. The catering was decent, dare I say good, caveated for domestic carriers, of course…

We went to our transfer arranged through a service mentioned on our meetup thread, www. Hawaii23.com. Our driver was an off-duty taxi with a new, perfectly clean minivan who got us to Waikiki promptly.

Ambassador Waikiki

I booked this hotel for the night based simply on price. For a 1 night stopover, I really didn’t want to spend $200+ to stay at a Hilton or Starwood, so I went Kayaking. The Ambassador was $105 ai for the night. I was told they upgraded me to a 1BR suite, and while it was bigger, this hotel is definitely showing its age and worthy of its discount price. When I got to my room it was uncomfortably warm since they don’t seem to run the window AC units prior to check in. Makes sense given the high cost of electric in HI, but doesn’t make the best impression. I clicked on the AC in the bedroom and shut the door, and it was perfectly comfortable when I returned. So just an FYI...





View from my room:


Once I checked in I walked to the beach, and then walked to the Wal-Mart to get snacks for the 14 hour Island Hopper, as well as cash for the rest of my trip. For dinner I went to Ramen Nakamura, a highly rated place in Waikiki. I walked over around 8:30 pm and there was no wait for a seat. I ordered the spicy ramen and it hit the spot. Really delicious and about $10. Probably more than it should be, but it is Waikiki… I’ve been to the city twice before, so know to expect things to be over priced in this zip code. I went back to the hotel and packed my bag since riphamilton and I were off to the airport at 5:30 am.

View from the beach near the hotel


View from my balcony, I couldn't see the ocean but I know its out there


I apologize for the differences in resolution between some of the photos. In some situations I didn't have my real camera available/socially impractical and had to resort to my crappy Moto G.

Last edited by krazykanuck; Feb 8, 2015 at 9:27 am
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Old Feb 8, 2015, 11:24 am
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The Island Hopper (UA154 HNL-GUM in Y, transit in Guam, and UA183 to Manila in J)

Day 2: Friday/Saturday, January 30/31

This is really one day that spans 2 due to that silly thing called the international date line. And the Island Hopper. We hit the road from the Ambassador and make it to HNL in about 30 minutes in no traffic. And here is where things threaten to go pear shaped for me. While checking in at the kiosk, I get an angry yellow screen I’ve never seen before that says “see UA rep” at the regular Economy kiosks. She sends me over to the special UA 154 check in counter, where the same message pops up. Now as you may have guessed from my username, I’m Canadian and travel on a Canadian passport. Apparently UA’s system says that the Marshall Islands, where Majuro and Kwajalien are, requires a visa for Canadian citizens.

The following conversation goes kind of like this:

UA girl: “This says you need a visa for the Marshall Islands. Do you have one?”
Me: “No…it’s only a stop, and I was never told I needed one.” (I do realize that it would be my responsibility to know, but it was 6 am and I couldn’t think of anything smarter to say)
Not nice UA guy: “Probably shouldn’t let him on, what if he gets stuck?”
UA girl: “Let me find a supervisor…”

At this point my mind is racing, what if I can’t do the hopper? Take the direct flight to Guam? Screw it all, and just have a vacation here? Honolulu isn’t a bad place to be stuck…

UA big boss woman: “It’s fine, it’s just a stop. Just clear the requirement and let him go.”
Not nice UA guy: “Are you sure…what if he gets stuck?”

And we’re back on track. A stressful 20 minutes later, I get my BP and we go through security. We decide against hiking to the UC since it’s at the opposite end of the terminal and UA 154 departs from a special quarantined gate immediately behind security. We meet up with AFAM-DFW and the 3 of us are ready to go.

Something interesting is that if you check in like I did and get cardstock BPs, you will only get 1 BP that says HNL-GUM. If you check in via the kiosk the way my co-travelers did, you’ll get segmented BPs that divide out each stop. From a practical perspective it makes no difference since the stops don’t seem to have the equipment to scan boarding passes anyway…

#Throwback



UA 154, HNL-MAJ

The first leg of the hopper is the longest at about 5 hours. Shortly after takeoff, breakfast is served and it’s a choice of cheese omelet or french toast. Now I was sitting in row 29 which might explain this, but when I got my meal it was room temperature at best. Potatoes, egg, sausage – all room temp. Not to mention it wasn’t very good either. I’d rank the omelet a bit lower than the Hampton Inn pre-folded omelet’s I hate so much. The bright spot was the fruit. OMG. I haven’t had tastier pineapple than that in recent memory. Probably more a credit to departing HNL than United’s catering abilities, but I’ll let them share the credit. I then proceeded to sleep for the majority of the flight…I also didn’t get off at MAJ, in part since it was raining and in part due to the “visa required” issue and me not wanting to tempt fate.

UA154 after take off from HNL


Cheese omelet





Just a little bit close to the water…

Stop #1


UA154, MAJ-KWA

Majuro to Kwajalein is one of the shorter hops, and featured a juice only drink service. Technically no photos are allowed, but truthfully there isn’t much to take pictures of anyway. There’s a golf course, a bunch of non-descript buildings, and a whole lot of nothing going on. I mean, what do you really expect from a military installation in the middle of the South Pacific?

My seatmates in 29 B and C, civilian military contractors of some variety, both got off at Kwaj and I wound up with an empty middle seat for the rest of the trip all the way to Guam. The aisle seat had somebody in it every segment but the person kept changing.




UA154, KWA-KSA

Another short hop over to Kosrae. According to Wikipedia, this airport has a runway only 5,750 ft long. On these single island stops, upon landing you can see the plane barely coasting over the water and fences and landing ASAP and hitting the brakes. A couple of times we ran all the way to the end of the runway, do a 180 and drive back to the “terminal”.

Takeoff from KWA


United food, complete with the best pineapple ever


Our reflection over the gorgeous bright blue ocean



Coming in for landing, don’t get this in the US


Kosrae’s finest making sure we stay safe. Interestingly at these small airports, they all dragged out their fire trucks to follow the plane. Guess they have nothing else to do, as for many of these airports the Hopper is the only commercial flight.



UA154, KSA-PNI

These text updates are getting shorter and shorter, since well, the segments aren’t all that different. But the great views just keep on coming.

Seriously, I can’t get tired of these



The only other airplane at PNI!


riphamilton had flagged down an airport employee to try to get a stamp. When she came back and said she could do it, I asked her to take mine as well. At least if she disappeared with them, I’d have company being stuck in Micronesia. In contrast to you US citizens, probably 50% of the stamps in my passport are US entry stamps with an alphabet soup of visa types handwritten on the stamp. Interestingly (at least to me) CBP location codes don’t correspond to the airport, and are usually a shortened name of the city. Houston is stamped as HOU, entry at JFK Airport is NYC, Guam is AGA, etc.



UA154, PNI-TKK

This was another juice only service given the short flight time of about an hour. I’ll only clutter this segment with one island photo, and then the terminal. I couldn’t help but laugh when I noticed UA brought one of those metal carryon sizers all the way out here to Chuuk, though sadly I didn’t think to grab a picture of it.




Why yes I did enjoy my stay. But not sure I’ll be back anytime soon.


This construction zone doesn’t look OSHA compliant. Also, where do I go to the bathroom now?


UA154, TKK-GUM


We were fed another sandwich and Hershey’s bar, no fruit, on the final leg of the flight

Farewell, islands…


Guam

We finally reached the end of the hopper. 14 hours, a few sore muscles, and an unforgettable trip later we landed in Guam. Since this is an international arrival, you have to clear US CBP and Guam agricultural inspection, and go through security again. If you check your bags in HNL and you’re continuing on past Guam, bags are sent on automatically and don’t have to be reclaimed so you can just go through the Guam check, go back up to departures and re-clear security.

Post security I went to the UC and found AFAM-DFW and theBOSman, as well as a finally drinkable complimentary beer, Asita. After one beer, AFAM-DFW and I headed to our gate, while theBOSman was off to HKG.

UA 183, GUM-MNL

Sorry this section is a bit light on details. I was BEYOND exhausted and in the 3 hour flight post take off I managed to be awake long enough to eat dinner and drink half a crown and diet coke.

The crew was busy shuffling carryon bags around since the Y pax decided to bring their lives with them. We had a 2 foot tall Superman that got stowed in the biz class overhead bin, if that tells you anything…

PDBs were offered with a caveat. It was either champagne, or non-alcoholic drinks, as the FA said that’s all they could serve on the ground. I took the champagne and it tasted like crap. It reminded me of the $5/bottle Andre we’d buy in college.

This could have been Andre, complimented the plastic cup well


The prosecco served on the IAH-HNL flight was infinitely better. I fell asleep until dinner was served, which was either the seemingly ubiquitous “chicken and rice” or a new favorite, “beef and rice”. I went with the beef and it was OK. The beef itself was fine, but they put some spices on the rice that I thought tasted terrible. I scooped as much of that away as I could and ate the un-tainted rice with the beef, which was good. I liked the dessert, a really light mousse.

“beef and rice”


I sleepily filled out my Philippians arrival card and the “I don’t have ebola” questionnaire that they require and then fell back asleep, only to wake up on final descent.

Arrival in MNL

For a developing country, I’ve never met Immigration agents so insistent on when you’re leaving. I was even questioned why the signature in my passport didn’t exactly match the one on my declaration card. I recommend having print outs of your full itinerary and hotel bookings, because they will more than likely want to see them, especially the flight where you’re leaving their country. The guy behind me answered “I don’t know” to the question of “how long will you be in the Philippians”. Sure that was fun to answer…

Despite the minor slowdown, she stamped my passport for the normal 30 day visa. After collecting our bags and hitting the ATM/changer, AFAM-DFW and I parted ways. We both opted for the coupon taxi from MNL. 30-40 mins later I was at my hotel, Hotel H2O, and fell asleep within minutes.
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Old Feb 9, 2015, 6:29 pm
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Hotel H2O

For my $64/night expedia special, I was very pleasantly surprised. The hotel is located in Manila's Ocean Park, which has great views of the water from the bar outside the hotel, named Whitemoon, and from my room I had views of the shows they do in what is essentially a mini knockoff of Sea World.

Getting into the hotel is a little bit confusing since the taxi will drop you off at the concierge/transport desk on the road, which isn't in the same building as the hotel. You then take an elevator or the stairs, walk into another building, which is the mall/hotel, and take another elevator to the 3rd floor to the hotel lobby.

I took the cheapest room available, a park view without the breakfast package. Park view means city skyline and sea world view. The breakfast can be added on an as needed basis for P610 per day billed to your room, which I did on my 2nd day.







Sightseeing in Manila

I didn't do much here, to be honest. The first day, Sunday, was spent mostly recovering from lack of sleep and sitting on a plane for nearly 20 hours. The only real sightseeing I did was wonder around Intramuros, the 500 year old historical district near my hotel, Rizal Park, and Fort Santiago. I considered finding a bar on Sunday morning to watch the Super Bowl since I was up super early and kick off was at 7:30 am local time, but after waiting 15 minutes for the hotel to successfully NOT find me a taxi, I gave up and went back to the room and had a skype catch up with home.

I took a cab to Fort Santiago, even though it was a 15-20 min walk, because it was hot out and I didn’t want to get bothered by street kids like the day before. But this cab driver was either an idiot, or trying to run up the meter, though probably the latter. Not only did he not make the correct turn, but after driving 1 km in the wrong direction, he tried to drop me off in the wrong area - at the entrance to Intramuros, not Ft Santiago. I could have walked to Intramuros in less time than the drive. So no different than any other place, it’s good to have an idea of where you’re going and how to get there before hopping in the cab. Cab rates are pretty cheap here though so I wound up paying about P85.

Here are some pictures, since I don't have much chat to add. Fort Santiago was neat to see, and pretty cheap at P75 for adult entry.

Old church in Intramuros



Rizal Park



One of the gates in Ft Santiago



Manila sunset from Whitemoon bar



Manila takeaways

To be honest, I was disappointed that I spent two days here. I wish I had just had one day and then moved on to have another day in either Singapore or Phuket. I'm sure there are good places to see for food around Manila, or take day trips since the country is gorgeous, but as a white guy with blond hair, traveling around Manila, I stick out like a sore thumb and was a target for some pretty aggressive solicitors and pedicabs, and street kids. Add on that I don't speak a word of tagalog. I think this would be a more enjoyable place with somebody who knows the city or doesn’t seem too obviously out of place.
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Old Feb 9, 2015, 8:57 pm
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My first SQ flight and a day in Singapore

A day in Singapore, and baby's first SQ flight

My SQ flight from MNL-SIN left at 8 am, so given Manila's unpredictable traffic and since I wasn't on any normal sleep schedule, I left the hotel around 4:30 or so. Sidenote: whenever I asked the people at the hotel how long it would take to get somewhere, or an estimate of cab fare, they would just shrug and say "it depends..." Not helpful guys. Anyway, with no traffic we were at NAIA terminal 3 in really short order and for a shockingly cheap P200 taxi fare. I was in line for SQ check in a few mins before 5, and they didn't open until about 5:15 while their website says it opens at 5. Meh. Where do I have to rush off to... Oh right, to the lounge!

Once I paid the P550 terminal fee, which I wouldn't have known about had it not been for Google, I went to the Pacific Club lounge. It's on the 2nd floor with a nice view of the tarmac and had some lite bites out for breakfast, as well as a full bar for those so inclined. I fired up a Flat White from the coffee maker (we just got them at Sbux in the US and I was curious) and had a bit of food. It was pretty good, especially the little carrot cake bites.





The SQ gate to SIN is directly below the lounge, so walked down and noticed the temporary KrisFlyer lounge is just a walled off part of the terminal. SQ no longer has a real lounge at NAIA since they moved from T1 to T3 a few months ago, though I assume they are working on building a permanent location. They check BPs and put you into a holding pen. Like any logical airline, they board back to front, save for premium cabins and *A Gold/KF elites. Not like UA where everybody and their dog has group 2 boarding, and then go window seat to aisle seat. So we were boarded pretty quickly.

The current SilverKris lounge next to SQ’s gate.



MNL’s Terminal 3 – this serves as a comparison to T1 which we’ll visit on the return trip



SQ915, MNL-SIN


The time has come, krazykanuck’s first SQ flight. Granted in Y, but whatever, it’s a three hour flight. I was excited to experience the much lauded airline.

Upon taking my seat, I noticed the army of well-appointed and color coded by seniority flight stewardesses and stewards. One of the stewardesses delivered a hot towel, earbuds for the IFE system, and a printed menu prior to take off.

Soon enough we were off from Manila’s NAIA and headed SW toward Singapore. I seem to have misplaced my MNL-SIN menu somewhere along the trek, but here’s what I had. It’s nice that SQ offers complimentary alcohol in all cabins. Following the meal, I had a couple of whiskeys while watching a movie until arrival in Singapore.

Great service from an attentive and pleasant crew, good food, free drinks and beyond adequate IFE options all in economy? It’s no wonder to me now why SQ is always ranked so highly.

Chicken with garlic rice and…that’s either egg or potato on the left. I don’t remember. It was good though.




Ok, Singapore, we get it…



Once we landed I was through immigration in no time. The guy didn’t ask a single question, just looked from my passport to my face. Works for me… My checked bag was tagged all the way to HKT so I proceeded immediately past Customs to the MRT station to buy a 24 hour tourist pass and head into the city.



A 24 hr tourist pass is S$10, which provides unlimited rides on buses and trains. You pay S$20, and $10 is refunded when you return the card. The Changi ticket station only accepts JCB and Mastercard cards, as well as cash, so don’t expect to pull out a Visa or Amex. I regretted leaving my no-FX fee MCs at home since I didn’t realize the number of places in Asia that are MC only.

Since it was about 12:00, the first order of business was lunch, so I went to Maxwell Food Centre, a collection of food stalls not too far from Chinatown or Downtown. I took the EW line train from Changi to the Tanjong Pagar station and walked about 10 minutes. When I got there, food heaven! If only I was better at understanding the menus…  I eventually decided on a steaming heap of Pad Thai for S$4 and went about finding a place to sit, learning quickly that seats with office ID badges on them was code for “Reserved”.

Maxwell Food Centre







After lunch, I went to visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which was a pretty easy bus ride away. I walked for about 10 minutes west and picked up the bus that took me straight to the gates of the gardens. What a beautiful place, especially to be open to the public for free. It clouded over a bit and began to drizzle, but the rain turned out to be a false alarm and the clouds disappeared pretty quickly.

Stumbled across a wedding photo shoot at the entrance…









To leave the gardens, I took the MRT from the NW corner of the park which is on the Circle Line and I wanted to get back to the downtown core to visit Merlion Park. An easy ride, and I popped above ground at Raffles Place where I found some Wifi to check some times and other info, as well as grabbed a water at 7-11. This was my first shock to how expensive drinking is in Singapore. AFAM-DFW had told me that eating is cheap, and drinking is really expensive, in SG. I now understand…



After the obligatory photo at Merlion Park it was getting close to 5. I wanted to hang around until the Marina Bay light show at 8 before going to camp out at Changi, so I took the MRT a couple stops and a walk to Little India and had dinner at the Banana Leaf. It was very good, and while not a bargain, it was on par with what I’d expect to pay at home. I was just annoyed that they charge you for the stupid moist towelette they bring you! That’s a new one for me. But for <S$20 for a really tasty Indian food dinner, I’m not complaining.



I spent the next 90 minutes just wondering around the Boat Quay, the Marina Bay area, and just in general checking things out. After that I watched the light show, and headed back to the airport to figure out if I could kill a night and sleep in the lounge.

Just some people exercising on the Boat Quay



This furry guy is tired out already



Marina Bay at dusk







Exiting Singapore passport control was just as easy as entering. Based on posts here, I had been told the Skyview Lounge in T1 was the best Priority Pass lounge, and as a bonus it was open 24 hrs. I arrived and parked myself in a corner to catch up on emails, Facebook and the like and put my feet up after 10-11 hours of walking while enjoying a couple cans of Tiger. I also used the business center to begin tapping out the first bit of this TR since I really had nothing else to do but sleep. At about midnight, I found a place in a semi-closed off room on the upper level of the lounge with a perfect recliner and ottoman for sleeping. After setting an alarm on my phone and setting some music I fell fast asleep. Nobody bothered me for the entire night and I woke up a bit after 6. My flight to Phuket was at 8:45, so I had some breakfast and a couple cans of Diet Coke to try to wake up. Then I went to wonder around the airport a bit, as well as change some money to Thai Baht.

2nd level of the lounge, my little nap room is the room on the far right of the frame

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Old Feb 9, 2015, 9:52 pm
  #6  
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quite an interesting jaunt here! cannot wait to see the rest!
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Old Feb 11, 2015, 8:46 pm
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MI, SIN-HKT and Hilton Arcadia

MI 752, SIN-HKT

Before this, I’d never heard of Silk Air. It wasn’t until I read the SQ inflight magazine that I realized it was the regional part of SQ that ran all the narrow body equipment. I didn’t really have any expectations for this short, nearly 2 hr flight, but was curious how it differed from full line SQ.

Boarding was right on time, and being a vacation destination, the crowd of people was a grab bag of couples with kids, a friendly trio of British couples, as well as others. It was a pretty full flight down to Phuket this morning.

Silk Air runs either A319/320s or Boeing 787s. Our flight this morning was on a relatively new Boeing complete with in seat power and Silk’s wifi powered personal device entertainment, very similar to United’s system. The benefit is you don’t need to have anything pre-installed, just connect to wifi and open the web browser.

Before departure, the FAs handed out a packaged moist towellette. Shortly after takeoff on the short 1:45 long flight, they began serving breakfast. Silk doesn’t give printed menus, but we had two choices for breakfast. I don’t recall the other one, but my eggs and potatoes were delicious. It was actually served hot with a drinkable cup of coffee. While it doesn’t specify in the inflight magazine or on the non-existent menu, like SQ they are happy to make a bloody mary or other cocktail if you ask.







After eating I turned on the PDE and while it worked well, the selection for US shows was pretty weak. This is the option under comedy TV shows:



For a short enough flight, I had no problem watching an episode or two of Wipeout but if you flew this a lot I can see it growing old pretty quickly. Soon enough we were landing in Phuket.

Quick summary of service differences between SQ and MI:

-SQ provides hot towel prior to take off, while MI uses a packaged moist towellette
-SQ has in seat IFE (KrisWorld) with a much wider selection than MI’s PDE (which I think is only on their Boeing planes so far)
-SQ provides printed menus, MI doesn’t

Getting out of the airport and to the hotel

Thai immigration wasn’t a big deal to get through, only moderate lines with probably a 5 minute wait. I opted for the shuttle van to the hotel as it was only 200 baht. It was a little annoying that they make a stop at a travel/tour agency to try to sell you crap, but at least I knew it was coming. Some of the people in the van didn’t.

Hilton Arcadia Phuket

After what wound up being a driving tour of Patong Beach as we dropped everybody else off, we finally got to the Hilton. I waited at the entry pavilion for a few minutes before the shuttle van came by and dropped me at reception. I couldn’t find a check in desk for Hhonors elites, so just queued as best as I could. Check in took longer than I’m used to since they took a copy of my passport, manually ran my credit card for the hold/deposit, etc. Soon enough I was off to my room 491 in the Lotus Wing.





I thought the room was a great size with a nice view, along with simply being well appointed. The bed was very comfortable, the shower was one of the better ones I’ve had in a hotel. I also enjoyed the fruit and dessert plates that were left on the table as a Gold welcome gift.

I spent the next couple of hours relaxing by the pool and going for a bit of a walk down Karon Beach.



In the Panorama Lounge every day they have a happy hour with free snacks and drinks. I went by and enjoyed a couple of beers while watching the sun go down.



After this I went up to Patong Beach to buy a couple of things for my boat tour tomorrow, such as more sun screen and a hat to wear. I could have bought this at or near the hotel, but figured I could probably pay the same in return cab fare + buy the stuff at an actual store, vs. pay the extortion level prices at the hotel.

As I learned from Googling, most of the taxis in Phuket are non-metered cabs, affectionately known as the taxi mafia. The good thing I noticed here is that the prices are negotiable, provided that you don’t need to get where you’re going and prepared to walk away. I managed to get them to take 300 baht instead of the requested 400 baht both directions to and from Patong Beach, which granted is still a rip off since a metered taxi would have been probably 2/3 of that based on the rates I found online. But the trouble was finding one. The transport/taxi desk at the Hilton wouldn’t even call me one even though I had a phone number… he said it was “from airport only.” I only saw one the whole night walking around Patong Beach.

Next up: a full day going around on a Speedboat with Phuket Sail Tours, visiting secluded beaches, monkeys, and a village built on stilts!
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 10:58 pm
  #8  
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Full day on a speedboat tour off Phuket

I woke early since the van to pick me up for the tour was coming at about 6:45 am. Of course I was on time, surprisingly the driver was on time, and we waited about 30 minutes for the other 4 people to show up. We took off for the roughly 1 hr drive from Karon Beach to the boat dock/office of Phuket Sail Tours. I really recommend them, and as somebody who has done this kind of thing along with package vacations in the past, these guys are top notch.

Upon arrival, they have a light breakfast included in the tour fee. I spied unidentifiable sandwiches, toast with a wide assortment of spreads, jams, Nutella, peanut butter, as well as a full cooler of juices and sodas. I had a delicious and nutritious Coke Light with 2 pieces of toast with Nutella. On the boat, they had a huge cooler filled with water and soft drinks, as well as fresh fruit and snack bars.

Once everybody had arrived, the company owner, “Captain Mark”, either an Aussie/Brit who has spent far too much time in Thailand, gave a quick overview of where we’d be going and introduced our guide for the day, Sompong.

This post is going to be light on words and heavy on pictures, as the tour and every place was just absolutely gorgeous. I certainly don’t see this same kind of natural beauty in Texas.

One of the most interesting/scary parts of the day was when one of the older women on the boat tour fell into the water. We had stopped at Kho Panyi for lunch, which is a really interesting town built on piles attached to an island. The boat dock was a floating dock without railings and she didn’t realize it narrowed going onto the walkway and wound up turning around and started walking without realizing there was no dock there. She began flailing, it was obvious she couldn’t swim, and one of the other guys on the boat (a police officer from Michigan) jumped into the water and held her up until she was helped back onto dry land! He was then taking photos with them for the rest of the day, as he was their hero (they were an Asian family traveling together).









Monkey!





Lunch was awesome, and far more than anybody could eat. Everybody at the table was stuffed. Everything from the chicken curry, crab, soup, tempura shrimp and chicken, veggies, followed by coffee/tea was delicious.

The town of Kho Panyi from the water



Their iconic floating soccer pitch (blue and white dock is the one the woman fell off)


LUNCH!



#lostintranslation



We arrived back at the dock around 4:30 and I was returned to my hotel around 5:30. After a quick shower I popped up to the lounge for a couple of much desired beers and a Singapore Sling. My first one, and I was pleasantly surprised by the taste!



I didn’t plan on doing a whole lot since I’d have to leave pretty early in the morning for the airport which was about an hour drive with no traffic, so I sat on my balcony enjoying the evening with a beer I had purchased the night before at Big C. Think of it as a Thai version of Wal-Mart, but that’s where I bought some high test sunscreen and a stupid hat for the boat trip. I paid 59 baht for a hat that says LA, since it was the cheapest hat I could find.



I also realized I needed transportation to the airport for the morning. The taxi mafia charges about 1000 baht from Karon to HKT, a metered taxi would have been probably 500-600 baht but since the hotel refused to call them…sort of a non-option, and finally I found a private car service for 750 baht, but they were fully booked according to the front desk person who spoke to somebody in Thai.

Since I really didn’t want to be late/miss the first of FIVE flights home, I cursed myself as I booked the hotel car to the airport. 1,400 baht. Ugh. But at least it would get charged to my room and I’d pay with my Hilton CC, so bonus points and it saved me from having to change more USD to baht. Also it’s the hotel, they’re not going to not show up, so it seemed like a risk/reward tradeoff. Advice to others: book a private car early.

Next: Silk Air to SIN, SQ to MNL, transiting at MNL (including the lounge!), UA184 MNL-GUM, UA828 GUM-NRT.
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Old Feb 15, 2015, 8:29 pm
  #9  
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The great trek home: part 1

Writers note: really hope all the views and lack of replies are due to yall being so stunned you can't actually formulate a response, and not due to me sucking at writing a TR. If it's the latter, please let me know and I won't bore you all in the future.

The next morning and Phuket Airport (HKT)


I woke up pretty sleepily and was happy I had packed the night before. I threw on some clothes I’d wind up wearing for far too long and headed to the lobby. I was checked out in a fraction of the time it took to check in. I handed over all the Thai Baht I could find and charged the balance to my new Hilton CC. Once I had finished check out, the woman directed me to the waiting Toyota to take me to the airport. We loaded up straight from the check in lobby (as opposed to having to take the shuttle van/bus/trolley/whatever to the front arrivals lobby) and were off! The driver was anti-chatty which was fine by me at a pre 6 am time. I was dropped at HKT right around the time Silk Air opened their check in counters.

Thoughts on HKT


The first thought that comes to mind is “dump”. There is a Burger King and Subway landside, and a bunch of trinket shops airside. Once airside, the seats aren’t comfortable and the carpet and everything looks absolutely ancient. Thankfully I had access to the lounge though Priority Pass.

Donation box....for what??



Coral Lounge @ HKT

This is one of the crappier lounges I’ve been to in the PP system, which is fitting given the airport its in. It’s tucked in the corner of the departures area, and feels moderately like a fish bowl since the walls on 2 sides are glass and allow you to watch the people deplane from international flights.

The biggest annoyance was a screaming kid and its bigger brother that their parents didn't pay any attention to. Thankfully their flight was shortly after I entered, and my headphones and Spotify helped bridge the time.

Food is pretty meh. Lots of fruit and other things of non-substance. There was fried rice. I remember that. There were also cans of Chang, Tiger, and Coke. I stuck to coffee from the machine given the early hour. That and it was pretty good.

See the arriving passengers...



Dumpy terminal



MI749, HKT-SIN

In contrast to the full flight we had down here, the load factor on the return was probably 20%. I think there was all of 1 person in business class. They handed out Singaporean newspapers to people on request.

Similar to the flight down, breakfast, inflight PDE, and power plugs. I had a bloody mary to go along with my breakfast and it was all pretty tasty. Beyond that, there is very little to say. It was a very pleasant, virtually empty flight.



Transit in SIN

Having just been here, I headed straight to the lounge for more food and some cans of Tiger. This time I hit up the SATS lounge since I didn’t want to change terminals to go to Skyview Lounge. The hot food was pretty good and I spent much of the time using a real computer.

SQ916, SIN-MNL


Our ride!



In contrast to my prior SQ flight, this was on an Airbus A350 compared with a Boeing. I thought the A330 seat was way more comfortable as the Boeing one was a bit hard. Similar to the flight from HKT, loads were incredibly light on this flight. There were probably 10 pax in the economy mini-cabin I was in. Lunch was a shrimp salad, with wok fried beef and rice with veggies. It was very good.

Load in the front economy cabin (taken post-take off)



Lunch, which was very tasty.



IFE setup on the A330





Transit at MNL


Since SQ uses T3 at NAIA, while UA uses T1, I got to clear customs/immigration and get another stamp, collect my bag and go to the terminal transfer area. NAIA runs a shuttle bus on some undefined schedule between the terminals that runs airside compared with outside the airport. I had to wait 20-30 minutes for it to show up at T3, and then it was another 15 minutes to get to T1. It drops you at the departures drop off. You need an itinerary to get into the terminal building and then they put your bag through the xray machine.

The UA line was out of control. Between the flights to Koror and Guam, and the fact that the lines weren’t open yet, it took about 45 minutes to get my bag checked and get BPs. I went to the terminal fee desk and based on a tip from BangkokFlyer understood that you are no longer required to pay the fee if you are a transit pax with <24 hrs. I said this to the fee dude, handed over my inbound SQ BP, he looked really confused for a moment, stapled the old BP to my outgoing BP, and I was off without paying the fee.

Sorry for the blurry pic, this is the UA line.



Miascor Lounge

So as you can tell, T1 is a dump compared to T3. Many of the international airlines have abandoned T1 for T3. I assume UA hasn’t because of cost reasons, but maybe I’m wrong. I got into the lounge and they kept my BP and handed me a numbered card with a United logo taped to it to reclaim my BP when I left. This was a new one for me, but after an hour of trying to check in I was so thirsty I didn’t care to figure it out.

Thankfully they had my good friend Jack Daniels and his buddy Coke Light in ready supply. With one of those in hand I took time to survey the lounge. Holy packed. And without sufficient AC. After a few minutes somebody turned on a couple of fans, and even better, once the Saudia flight was called, about 2/3 of the people cleared out. The boarding announcements in the lounge are made by one of the employees who walks in a circle calling out “United flight XX, now boarding”. Her voice was far nicer than the normal PA.

The interesting part was going to the bathroom. It is located just outside to the left as you exit the lounge. There wasn’t any running water, anywhere, due to a "temporary water interruption". If you wanted water, there was a barrel with scoops available.

#fancybathrooms #notatChangianymore



I decided to grab some dinner from the buffet and chose the chicken of some kind with rice. It was actually pretty good. Since I had a good 3 hrs in the lounge I was busy googling what to do with a 7 hr layover at NRT, and chatted with a dude continuing on with Royal Brunei. He had recently come from NYC in SQ Business, so I was just a little jealous. After that I got to chatting to a gentleman on my flight to GUM, but he was going to HNL to connect back to SFO. After spending quite a while in the lounge, our boarding time came and went, but since they announced in the lounge I didn’t worry about it. A little bit later, the woman walked in a circle announcing “United flight XXX to Guam, now boarding”

Food. The thing on the left is an attempt at a mini-pizza (not very good) while the chicken and rice was pretty tasty.



A half full lounge



At the gate, it was like TSA theater gone moronic. Despite having already gone through security, they wanted to look through all carry on bags, and then passing that, you went to the shoe dude where you sit in a chair, he takes off your shoes and looks in them before putting them back on. Low cost of labor countries sure find interesting tasks…

We boarded probably 30 minutes late due to a medical passenger taking longer than scheduled to board.

UA184, MNL-GUM

I slept pretty much the whole flight, since I’d been up for some unknown number of hours and had a few whisky beverages in the lounge. They served a meal. I slept through it. Aforementioned buddy going to SFO said it wasn’t very good, when we crossed paths deplaning.

Guam. Again.


Seeing as how I did the whole GUM transit thing a week before, I quickly got through immigration and customs, all while collecting yet another visa code that I don’t understand. Time was important since I originally had a 70 minute connection, which had been cut given our late departure. Thankfully Precheck was open at TSA and I got to the gate with boarding already underway.

#whatdoesthismean?



UA828, GUM-NRT

Arriving mid boarding, I went down the Group 2 lane and boarded quickly. I really hoped for an empty seat next to me in this 2-5-2 layout 777. Alas it didn’t happen, but at least my seatmate was a semi-normal American who worked teaching English in Japan. For this flight, I was awake long enough to eat breakfast and go back to sleep. It’s not like there was anything else to do.

UA Y breakfast: scrambled eggs with fried rice and fruit



Arrival at NRT

We arrived at NRT on time and at this point I realized a fault in my packing. I’d packed for the beach and warm weather, since Manila, Singapore, and Thailand are all warm. Japan…isn’t warm. At all. Looking back right now, the high on Feb 7 was approx. 50 degrees F. Now keep in mind I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I realize I’m going to be cold. But what kind of insane traveler would I be if I let being cold stand in my way of visiting Japan for a few hours?!?!

I only had a few minute wait to get through immigration and then I was on the other side. I converted a little bit of USD to Yen since I’d read the machines are cash only (which was then confirmed at the machine!).

Up next: Narita City, me looking like an unprepared idiot in a t-shirt, and some eel for lunch!

Last edited by krazykanuck; Feb 15, 2015 at 9:56 pm
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Old Feb 15, 2015, 9:44 pm
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Only comment is I dont think thats an A350, none flying yet, A330 I believe !
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Old Feb 15, 2015, 9:57 pm
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Originally Posted by BRITINJAPAN3
Only comment is I dont think thats an A350, none flying yet, A330 I believe !
You seem to be correct! I have updated the TR. I must have been lost between airlines and planes....
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Old Feb 16, 2015, 12:00 pm
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The entry stamp to Guam

"#whatdoesthismean?"

I believe it stands for Agana, Guam, the capital city of Guam.
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Old Feb 16, 2015, 5:34 pm
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Originally Posted by opushomes
"#whatdoesthismean?"

I believe it stands for Agana, Guam, the capital city of Guam.
I was referring to the C1 visa class, as I'd never heard of it.
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Old Feb 16, 2015, 6:15 pm
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Originally Posted by krazykanuck
I was referring to the C1 visa class, as I'd never heard of it.
C1 is US transit visa, valid to stay for up to 29 days.
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Old Feb 16, 2015, 7:46 pm
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Originally Posted by cloudybw
C1 is US transit visa, valid to stay for up to 29 days.
Figured that out after the fact. I'd never needed one as a Canadian to visit/transit and since I have needed a visa I've always had other visa statuses. I now have 4 different US visa statuses in my current passport..
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