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I am a traveler, like my father before me. Around the world in F & J

I am a traveler, like my father before me. Around the world in F & J

Old Mar 6, 2019, 3:05 pm
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I am a traveler, like my father before me. Around the world in F & J

Years ago, I ended my second Thailand trip report with a little bit of a throwaway line while reflecting on sitting upstairs on a Lufthansa 747, which was: “I use a 1990's 81C ticket stub from my father as a book mark, I wonder if it was the same aircraft?” I doubt that line sunk in, if it was noticed at all, being at the end of a photo heavy and writing quality light report. Really that line was for me and not you, a line to preserve in time the reason I was there, on that plane – my father.


The world is a big place, but if you’re here and reading this you probably know the more you see and explore the smaller it gets. As long as I can remember my father was flying someplace, and that’s not a clich. He was putting up miles all over the globe long before I was born, and I’m the baby of the family. Two and three weeks at a time he’d go, we’d stay. My mother with three kids, receiving the occasional phone call and spinning the globe for us to show where dad had landed. When technology improved the phone calls lasted longer, and the kids got to participate. Crackling from across the Pacific we would hear him say “Do you see the moon?” “Yeaaaa” my sisters and I would reply in chorus – one of us running the window the confirm it was still in the sky – “Me too! See, I’m not that far away. Can you believe we’re under the same moon?” Into the mid 90’s technology really took off because we got a fax machine in the house. Cranking and whirring all hours of the day papers falling to the floor to be collected in the morning, my sisters and I now had a way to write to our dad.

Between 1980 and 1999 he flew nearly 4,000,000 miles on United, Lufthansa, and British Air. Bringing home trinkets large and small (he brought a sled from Norway one time!!), tales from the road and make the world smaller for us one moon sighting and Hard Rock shirt at a time. Seriously, what’s cooler than a 5th grader in Rochester wearing a Hard Rock Singapore shirt…nothing! I thought so . By time my oldest sister was in college and I was in high school he was spending most of his time going back and forth between home and Kowloon or Johor Bahru; flying like a bird until one day he wasn’t. In December of 1999 he told us all he had seen enough airports for one life time, and by the summer of 2000 he was retired.

If you’ve ever wondered why I love Hong Kong so much, then I’m sorry to have occupied any real estate in your mind but my passion for the city should be coming into focus. Growing up it was where serious people went to do serious work. Where important people had important meetings and did important things. It was a far-flung hub on the other side of the planet, like a counter balance to Manhattan; where my dad had to go for work.

Twenty years goes fast if you’re not looking. I didn’t have a driver’s license when my dad touched down from Asia for the last time, and now he has four grandchildren…..one of whom is my son. The stone carvings and embroidered 100 children silks in my parents’ house aren’t new anymore and many have found their way to my and my sisters homes. Over the time the stories got stale, then like most of the trinkets got pushed into the corner of a closet. I’ve out grown all of my Hard Rock shirts, and for the life of me couldn’t tell you where the kimonos are. As my mother would say “They’ve gone the way of all good things…” I think that means they’re with my childhood goldfish . For twenty years the half-life of my father’s label “road warrior” decayed, while I kept staring at the moon.

Ever since my first trip to Hong Kong in 2012 my father’s love for the fragrant harbor its people and food started creeping back into his life. While I was literally trying to follow in his footsteps – even if it was for a Honeymoon and not a business meeting – he was proud one of his kids touched base a place he loved so much. Since that first trip I’ve made four more stops in Hong Kong, each one pushing him closer to getting back on the plane himself. Finally, in 2018 the plea to help me spend a big batch of Alaska Airlines miles got him over the edge and we had a plan.

I booked two first class awards from JFK to SIN via NRT on JAL and forward along with a simple note “Don’t be late dad, meet me at JFK.” From Singapore to Hong Kong we’d take Singapore airlines, specifically the A380 because it would be his first time on one, and the route home we both agreed would be a good time to diverge. I can’t go as far as Singapore and Hong Kong and not go further, I just can’t, plus I am in a constant pursuit for new lines on my flight memory – which we will cover later – so he went East and I went West…..then north….then West again .

The plan was to walk and eat and explore his memories, and that is exactly what we did! Below is my complete route. Madone59 Sr. took United via Chicago home, or as he called it “His old ride,” and I can’t say I’m not a little jealous of how quickly, and drama free his return trip was.



SA 285 HKG-JNB J (Old)
SA 060 JNB-LOS J (New)


Next Up, Chapter 1: Flatbeds and flashlights

Last edited by Madone59; Aug 16, 2020 at 2:45 am Reason: tpyo
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Old Mar 6, 2019, 4:03 pm
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What a lovely ode to your father. I feared you were writing this due to recently losing him. It was a joy to learn you were anchoring the reason for getting your father on the road with you. Well done.
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Old Mar 6, 2019, 9:25 pm
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Looking forward to this report!
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Old Mar 6, 2019, 9:49 pm
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hot damn! this is going to be a good one! looking forward to it Madone59
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Old Mar 6, 2019, 10:32 pm
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Really looking forward this report!!!
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Old Mar 7, 2019, 2:59 am
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Looking forward to this epic, four continent RTW adventure!
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Old Mar 7, 2019, 9:27 am
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What a moving introduction to your TR!!
Looks like a great trip - so looking forward to the rest with loads of photos of course.
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Old Mar 7, 2019, 10:13 am
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It's been a long time coming...Madone59 returns! Now we just need to page JohnRain
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Old Mar 7, 2019, 10:17 am
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Will be reading this with great interest!
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Old Mar 7, 2019, 1:05 pm
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I love the heartfelt words about your father and the wanderlust that it spawned in you. Some of my fondest travel memories are of trips with my parents as we moved to Japan, back to the US and then much later to the UK and eventually back home. I've never forgotten those flights and today still love to get on a plane and go somewhere. I look forward to reading about the journey.
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Old Mar 8, 2019, 12:07 am
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What a wonderful and emotional introduction. You really touched my heart with this as I did something so similar with my dad nearly 10 years when we did a round the world on SQ, overnighting in Frankfurt, Singapore and Hong Kong along the way. I'm really looking forward to seeing and feeling your trip.
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Old Mar 8, 2019, 3:48 am
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What a lovely and emotional introduction!
I wasn't fortunate enough to go on such a trip with my father but I did it on two occasions with my mom and it was perfect, as I'm sure yours was too...
Looking forward to discovering this very special jouney.
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Old Mar 8, 2019, 4:22 pm
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I flew from Charlotte to New York (JFK) on Delta the night before our trip started. There was no need to start such a long trip with a zero-dark-thirty uber ride, never mind any risk that may be absorbed in getting to JFK and onto JAL on time with separate tickets. There is zero to report from my short Delta flight or the Fairfield Inn New York JFK Airport Marriott I spent the night in other than "The Devils Alarm Clock." Who invented the god forsaken device, and why did they think I needed to be able to read the time while staring at the side of the clock not sleeping? Luckily I found strength in the lord, and defeated the horned one with the word of god.....yup I opened the bible and stood it up to cover both screens. Later that evening I was deeply in need of more holy spirit and called on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon to cover the brightest microwave on earth. I assumed it was a landing light for JFK, but in the holy name of sleep I took the risk and blocked it out.

Fully lie-flat seats were introduced by Air France and British Airways in the late 1990's, but by then the ol' man was deeply committed to United and the Star Alliance so as far as I know, and he can recall he had never enjoyed one. Weeks before the trip I had let him know that I had booked us into first for the long flight to Narita and that the flight to Singapore was only two cabins so we'd "downgrade" to business for the rest of the trip. It did not completely sink in. Not having flown much during what many here reflect on as the good old days of first class I can't speak to the difference between service in the 80's and 90's and service today but I can tell you from start to finish my dad was blown away. This may as well have been the Etihad Residence, or a private G6 for all he cared - he was sublimely out of his depth from takeoff to touch down.

Quiet morning in JFK

At check in I requested we get moved from row two to row 1, as my favorite seat 1A was open:
Me "Excuse, me. Are seats 1A and D available, and if so may I trouble you to switch us from row two?"
Agent "Not a problem at all Mr. Madone. Row one is available, and I will move you into seats 1A and..."
Dad "No no no no I don't want to sit in row 1!"
Me "Why not dad? It's row 1....it's....it's (desperately searching for something that doesn't sound like an arrogant travel nerd who thinks row 1 is better than row 2 by papal law) it's fun"
Dad "You're welcome to sit in seat 1A, but I don't want to be in a bulkhead seat where there's no room to store my bag"


Me: "Dad. I understand, but this is a trust thing and I think you will enjoy seat 1D, but the load is light today so if you don't you can move to 2D I am sure"
*Agent shakes head yes*
Dad "Ok, fine. I will try it"

Geez, you'd think I was asking him to sit on the wing or selling him magic beans; and with that we were off to security No first class security line was a bit of
a surprise but TSA moved so quickly the wait wasn't much of a bother and we were heading to the Lufthansa lounge before we knew it.

TSA agent doing a little on-line shopping

This is like my Batman signal - shine the light and I'll come running.........like a moth to a flame


The JFK lounge features a third floor Lufthansa first class dining area which is a point perfect recreation of it's Germany lounges. Impressive continuity.

This lounge had wonderful views which allowed for some very good and very dorky plane spotting!

My father charging his phone which had no data plan or international service. You do you man, you do you.

One minute prior to scheduled boarding we left the lounge and headed for the gate.

Our ride to Tokyo


Right this way

Boarding had begun by time we got to the gate and I was done taking photos, so we breezed right through and down the jet bridge where I got to do something all travelers love to do - turn left! I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said my heart rate didn't raise, and I didn't get a little flush as a pivoted onto my left foot. It's been a while since I've turned left at boarding and even longer (summer of 2017) since I had traveled abroad, but just like riding a bike you never forget and it all came back to me.

JAL's beautiful first class seat. By modern standards of suites with doors, and mega flat screen TV's this hard product is a bit antiquated I will admit, and I don't think anything drives that point home more than the tv's quality and size (which is lacking) but this seat is really really comfortable.


Etro amenities - be-still my heart


Spilled wine from a previous flight - hopefully this gets a scrub when we land in Japan.

This is poor form in a F cabin - it feels like old US Air with their credit card sign up forms.

Cheers, and sorry for the beach ball folks. Dad is a bit private.

After meeting our lovely flight crew we were seated, pushing back and heading for the runway.

Right past another JAL 777, and a parade of heavy metal

Bye Bye JFK!

Aloft and ready to enjoy, let's check out the menu, but first I must admit to a mistake. Oceans 11 had it right when Linus said "You know, you lose focus in this game for one second...and somebody get's hurt." I lost focus, made a mistake and didn't pre-order a meal. I am sure if any of you had been there you would have marched me back to row 52 to serve my punishment for such a rookie mistake, but I simply forgot.

Knowing JAL was pouring the cheap stuff at the gate I didn't bother finishing that celebratory glass as I was holding out for the good stuff. The serious bubbles!

For lunch my father moved to my footrest where we enjoyed double service and the view out all of my windows.

amuse bouche - m'eh

Really JAL?

Senior got the Japanese starters, followed by the lobster roll

I opted for the double-trouble - foie gras AND caviar

Great bread setup!

The beef - very good!

A very very little desert

After nearly two wonderful hours of dining and a whole bottle of champagne later - hey no one else was drinking it, and I was not about to let it go to waste - it was time for a nap and the crew had made up seats 2A and 2D for us to use as beds. I crawled into bed enthusiastically but I hate to say it, I really do...this bed was really bad. In a trip report that includes South Africa Airways old business class product I can't call JAL's First bed "awful" but it is the worst first class mattress pad/ bed I have ever slept on edging out the SQ777 by a hair. Congratulations SQ you're recycled gym class tumbling mat is out of last place. While the mattress pad was not as hard as SQ's it was just too thin, and the single pillow was wholly inadequate. Just comparing the pillows JL F falls far short of the three business class products I fly through the rest of this trip, and it took three pillows to not be in neck pain.

So there I am in my nest of thin pillows, finally dozing off, and about to fall asleep when I see a flash of light from the row in front of me. Another flash, and another so I sat up. I realized the light is coming from my dad's seat, and I stand up and find him wielding a flashlight.....where did he get a flashlight?? We're a few hours into a 10 day trip and I am wishing I had read that bible instead of just blocking my clock with it - lord give me strength - he was looking for the power outlet....but where did he get a flashlight!?

Me "Dad, what are you doing? Is everything OK?"
Dad "It's OK, go back to bed. I need to plug in my lap top"

*shines flashlight in my face as he looks up at me*

Me: "Who's flash light is that? Turn it off! Here, I'll turn on your seat light and plug in your computer"
Dad "It's my flashlight!"
Me "WHAT? Why did you bring a flashlight? That's no key chain light"
Dad "In case I needed it...like right now!"
Me "Get some sleep man, we've got a lot of flying left" and I walked back to 2A to suffocate my self with one of the pillows.

After four or so hours of restless sleep it was time for a second meal and a movie or two. First a look around the galley bar and a look at the bathroom amenities

Bidet - first time I've seen one of those on a plane

Two bowls of noodles and several glasses of blue tea was what I needed - thank you @cph_flyer for the recommendation!!

A quick look at the north of Alaska

The 15 hours 25 minutes flew by with a little help from the complementary WiFi which was so fast I was able to make several calls via WhatsApp that were crystal clear!

One more meal before touchdown. Very good shrimp

100 photo limit

Last edited by Madone59; Mar 22, 2021 at 9:03 pm Reason: typo
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Old Mar 8, 2019, 4:23 pm
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Part 2 of part 1

100 photo limit

Our extended taxi from runway 34 was a great plane spotting tour

It was good to be back on the ground and to take a well needed walk, but even better to be heading towards JAL's first class lounge. This beautiful space has nearly endless tarmac views - it's a lounge where you could really lose track of time nestled in the quiet


Dining room - not much of a food selection to speak of and we never saw or were offered a menu so I assume that was it.


Fresh from a great shower it was time for a beer and a little [more] plane spotting

After some showers, snacks and beers we decided to take a long and slow walk to our gate to get a few more steps in before heading down to Singapore. Oh, a gift shop!

Waiting for our flight and watching Emirates arrive

Boarding the Singapore flight was a bit of a cluster, and surprisingly disorganized for Japan but it wasn't long before we were back in an airplane

CONTEST ALERT: First person to post who is interviewing whom on the screen in the background get's a JAL biz amenity kit (US shipping only)


Dinner time. I chose the Wagu and thought it was really good.

These regional J seats are a bit narrow, and the angle really gave the sense of moving sideways but regardless I grabbed nearly three hours of sleep.

Blurry eyed and ready for real beds we arrived in Singapore a little before 1am. Immigration was painfully slow, and the scanner did not like my fathers finger prints, but we eventually made it through to baggage claim and into a taxi.

Next up, Chapter 2: Humidity and Food

Last edited by Madone59; Jun 8, 2019 at 7:14 pm
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Old Mar 8, 2019, 4:48 pm
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I am just glad to know that someone else besides me carries a flashlight. LOL

I am really enjoying this TR, in part, because I am enjoying you sharing it with your Dad. Good show.
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