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Journey to the Pearl of the Orient; MEL-HKG w/ QF and CX

Journey to the Pearl of the Orient; MEL-HKG w/ QF and CX

Old Apr 30, 09, 2:58 am
  #1  
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Journey to the Pearl of the Orient; MEL-HKG w/ QF and CX

Part 0 - Shameless plug for past trip report:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...-cju-pics.html


Part I - Introduction

My uncle and aunty recently relocated to Hong Kong, and with my grandparents on an extended holiday there too, my university easter break presented me with the perfect opportunity to visit them. As my sister's school holidays ran for longer than this, the trip was planned such that she would leave first, stay for 10 days and then return with me after my 4 day stay.

All tickets were Qantas Frequent Flyer Award tickets booked via the telephone service centre as they included flights other than QF metal. My flights were as follows:
10 April CX134 MEL-HKG
16 April QF86 HKG-MEL
All up the cost was some 82,000 points and approx AUD$200 in taxes. There was an option of flying QF on the outbound via BNE but i turned this down for reasons that will become clearer as the TR progresses.

So with one week out i was busy at university and work, meeting deadlines in both realms and keeping myself alive with the mantra '... not long now 'til you're out of here ...'.
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Old Apr 30, 09, 3:12 am
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Part II - The Lead up -

No beginning to a break from university would be complete without a large evening of excess to celebrate. To this end after a 10 hour day of work and university i attended a large house party in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton. Many beers were drunk and many an obscenity hurled at passing motorists. I returned home at 4am with a souvlaki in hand and promptly collapsed into bed leaving half of it uneaten.

Good friday dawned brightly through my open window and signaled a large swedish man to begin rhythmically striking my head with a baseball bat. Why? I asked myself, Why? Will i ever learn the evils of alcohol?
However my splitting head was the least of my worries, nor was the fact that in 24 hours i would be winging my way to Hong Kong and didnt even know where my passport was. No, i was preoccupied with the coming of Trance Energy, the European dance music event occuring in Melbourne for the first time. I won't bore you with specifics but a photo summary of the day would look something like this:


After a full day of dancing i made it home at 1am on the day i was due to leave for Hong Kong. My girlfriend had offered to drive me to the airport and would be along shortly. We had planned to leave at 0430 for a 0730 flight, as her car is quite unreliable and i quite like watching planes at the airport.

I hurriedly packed my bag and found my passport, completed OLCI (selecting the last window seat on the plane) and snatched a fitful 1 hour of sleep, bringing my grand total for the preceding 2 days to 4 hours. After a last minute check of my bags and farewell to my parents i was away.
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Old Apr 30, 09, 3:38 am
  #3  
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Part III - Melbourne to Hong Kong

I felt quite average as we sped through the deserted streets, extreme fatigue causing me to imagine conversations that simply had never occurred and to think we were actually running late for the flight when in fact the trip took much less time than expected. A familiar shiver ran down my spine as i strode into the international terminal and once again the departure boards filled me with a wonder and excitement that nothing else in life can replicate.


CX134
STD 0735 ATD 0740
STA 1450 ATA 1500
Seat 56K
Aircraft Airbus A330-X00


Having checked in online (but of course forgetting my OLCI reciept) i was the only person in the dedicated OLCI queue at 0530. There was one agent to service this queue and just as my turn came he was asked to check in a group of Indian students who had been asked to repack their bags to meet weight restrictions, for the third time. I smiled to myself, thinking of my parents being in the exact same situation in the 1980s when they were students in New Zealand. In any case i didnt mind the delay.

Steve was a fantastic check in agent. He verified that i had the last window seat on the plane and that it was going to be a very full flight. I thanked him for his time and skipped off to McDonalds for my ritual pre-flight feed.

I was soon airside and scored myself a (really dirty) seat directly infront of the windows overlooking my ride to Hong Kong. By this stage my fatigue was of epic proportions and i only recall seeing PR arrive from MNL and the gradual lightening of the apron with the rise of the sun.



Boarding commenced and i was soon aboard CX134 with thankfully for me has a 2-4-2 layout in Y. I admired the new seats and praised god for the fact that noone would recline into my space for the next 9 hours.

Leg room


I feel asleep immediately, missing distribution of menus and vaguely remembering a long takeoff roll. The first meal was served about 2 hours into the flight. I chose the western breakfast and it was fantastic. The first tasty breakfast i have had in the air since i last flew with Air India :-)


After breakfast i played around a bit with CX Studio and was amazed at its speed and ease of use. All responses were instant and i never had to wait for any loading screens. Very impressive! It was quite simply the best IFE i have experienced with the exception of EK ICE on the B777-300ER that i had DXB-BOM late last year.

Extremely bad photo of IFE System


A drinks run was made and then the second meal was served. It was a beef dish of some sort and was similarly delicious.


I had my seat reclined for most of the flight, its not particularly comfortable to sleep on (or in) but initially it does give you the impression of 'reclining' despite just moving your lower body forward. Combined with leaning against the aircraft fuselage it was more than adequate to get some shut eye.

I watched a few more movies and then gazed out the window on approach to HKG. After landing i marvelled at the aircraft from all over the world.

Immigration took an eternity, and i was lucky enough to have timed my arrival with that of approximately 1 million Vietnamiese tour groups. Still, i was out of baggage claim and onto the Airport Express train all in a matter of minutes.

Up next; An international ferry trip - a first for me.
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Old Apr 30, 09, 5:23 am
  #4  
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Part IV - Hong Kong to Macau

I had a day spare towards the end of the trip so i caught the ferry to Macau to see the 'Las Vegas of the East,' as National Geographic so enticingly put it. I made use of the mid-levels escalator (which is by far the greatest piece of urban development i have ever seen) to get from my aunt and uncle's apartment to the harbour and then walked along one of the ubiquitous Hong Kong elevated walkways to get to the ferry terminal.

Arriving at the terminal at 0945, the earliest ferry available was the 1105 TurboJet service. I also booked a return for 2100 that evening - later than anticipated as you can try your luck as standby for an earlier ferry, but you cant change to a later one.

I cleared immigration and entered a large holding area from which 7 or 8 boarding gates seemed to diverge.

A queue appeared to be forming around 1050 and i mistakenly believed this to be a boarding queue, despite the telling absence of a ferry of any kind. The queue moved swiftly and i soon realised that it was for seat allocation. A staff member peeled a sticker off a seat map and attached it to my boarding pass, thankfully honouring my verbal request for a window seat.

Seat allocation queue


Boarding pass


The scene at 1115


At 1120 a ferry arrived at the gate and soon after a mass of people, myself included, shuffled slowly down some stairs, across the heaving gangway and onto the ferry itself.

Arriving ferry


Cabin shot


My seat


Leg room shot - This time on a BOAT!


I filled out my Macau arrival card immediately and put it in my bag. After the ferry left port i actually fell asleep for around 20 minutes, which is rare for me - i normally never sleep on any mode of transport.

Service consisted of staff walking down each aisle a few times offering pax the buy on board menu. I only saw one person order anything - a paper cup of western style tea.

Before long the ferry docked in Macau and with some trepidation i stepped off the boat and began only my second solo travel expedition, although this time was only for the day. The tourist information office was most helpful in pointing me in the direction of Senado Square and for the first time ever i walked out of an asian airport and nobody offered me a taxi. It almost felt wrong.

Next up - a fantastic day in Macau!
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Old May 4, 09, 12:51 am
  #5  
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Part V - Macau

I spent most of the day wandering around the world heritage area of Old Macau, the highlight of which was definitely the ruins of St. Paul's cathedral. Behind the facade of the ruined church, i stood awestruck in an underground crypt where european monks were buried. As usual i tried hard to imagine everything that had occurred in the very place i was standing.

I also visited the maritime and fire service museums and strolled through several casinos in the area. Below are some pics from the day.





Grand Lisboa hotel. To this day, the most impressive building i have ever seen.


I got a little hungry with all the walking - its good to see that even a 400 year old district of Macau has its own McDonalds, this one was in Senado Square.


They say the best travel experiences choose you, not the other way around, and my day in Macau truly exemplified this. From my decision to visit the heritage area on a whim, to the sights, sounds and smells i encountered on my many kilometres of wandering my day was amazing and really invigorated my interest in solo travel.

Before long it started to rain and without my own transport i didnt like my chances of seeing the rest of the island, especially as my legs were starting to hurt. My ferry ticket allowed me to standby for an earlier ferry, so at 1730 i entered the Lisboa casino, signed up to their free membership program, and used the card i recieved to board the free shuttle bus to the ferry terminal. Saved myself MOP3 and even scored a shiny card to pick my teeth with ^
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Old May 4, 09, 1:25 am
  #6  
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Part VI - Macau to Hong Kong

The Grand Lisboa courtesy shuttle bus disgorged me and thirty five Chinese gamblers wearing baseball caps in front of the international ferry terminal entrance. The departures board showed a 1800 and 1805 departure which i could potentially get on using my ticket for the later 2000 service.

The standby procedure is amazingly simple. If you wish to get onto a ferry earlier than the one you hold a ticket for, you join the standby queue at the gate from which your preferred ferry departs from. Its first come first served and theres every possibility you'll be waiting for hours as your priority is not transferred to the next ferry should the one you're waiting for be full.

The 1800 ferry departed from a gate directly behind the immigration checkpoint and the standby queue was gigantic, stretching from the gate entrance to the end of the terminal, some 250 meters away. There was no way that most of the standby pax would make it, yet more and more people joined the queue as i watched so that it began to double back on itself around the outer wall of the terminal. Hmmm.

I walked to the other end of the terminal to gate 8, where the 1805 ferry would depart only to find a completely empty standby queue. 'Surely, there must be some mistake,' i thought,'why on earth would people be trying their luck on a 1800 ferry when an 1805 ferry was pretty much guaranteed?' Shrugging an answer to my own mental question i stood at the front of the queue and smirked at my bright idea. Surely enough, within minutes hordes of passengers came surging through the terminal, as the 1800 ferry departed.

The 1805 was delayed some 15 minutes but i recieved a seat (and a window seat, at that) with no problems whatsoever. There was little to see or do on the return crossing as night had fallen.

Newer seat


Leg room shot


I disembarked at Hong Kong and completed the usual immigration formalities. After a short hike to the taxi rank and a myriad of misunderstandings with the locals regarding queuing etiquette i was on my way back to apartment, exhausted, but filled with a renewed sense of wonder for the world that we live in.
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Old May 4, 09, 2:21 am
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Part VII - Hong Kong to Melbourne

The time had come to return to Melbourne and, uncharacteristically for me, i felt no depression at having to return to reality - i guess on a 4 day trip there's really no time to get settled out of your comfort zone.

An early morning start was necessary and after saying our goodbyes my sister and i made our way to Hong Kong Central station, to make use of the in-town checkin offered by the Airport Express service after which we would simply board the train to the airport.


QF86
STD 0850 ATD 1030
STA 1955 ATA 2040
Seat 70A
Aircraft Boeing 747-400


Our tickets to the airport were HKD100 each and after scanning our tickets just meters from where they were purchased, we spent about 5 minutes trying to locate the counter servicing Qantas. Finally i spotted a desk to the right hand side of the check-in area which was shared between all OneWorld carriers. The agent was very quick and efficient, informing us that we already had seats 70A and 70B reserved. In no time we had BPs in hand and headed two levels down to the station.

In-town checkin service.


The trip to the airport was fast and smooth as always and we were treated to the sight of an SIA aircraft coming in to land.


Terminal interior.


Nothing landside really captured our interest so we immediately cleared immigration, enjoying the complementary mints on offer at the counter.

It was at this point that our hunger caught up with us and the search for food was on. I had spied an incarnation of Fairwood, the chinese fast food restaurant and i desperately wanted to get one last hit before i left. However despite 20 minutes of frantic searching we were unable to actually reach it - it was as close as i have ever come to a mirage in a desert. The further we went, the further it seemed to move away from us. I realised then, that Fairwood was landside and therefore out of the question for us, so i resigned myself to eating at Burger King.

BK French Toast fingers. mmmmmm.


Some last minute shopping briefly captured our interest and soon we were at Gate 19, gazing at our ride to MEL.

Registration unknown


The departure board stated that boarding had been revised to 0930 so i went for a walk while my sister had a brief nap, during which time a QF A330 (probably to SYD) pushed and began to taxi.



At 0945 an announcement was made that invited all premium pax and those requiring assistance to board. As usual we waited until general boarding had been called and the line started to dwindle. A cursory check of bags was made in the airbridge itself and the CSM welcomed us aboard and cheerfully directed us 'alllllll the way to the back.'

A chinese tour group occupied the 5 or 6 rows in front of our seats so it took around 5 minutes to get from row 64 to row 70, as they swapped seats and small parcels or clothing and food across the aisle. This amused me mildly.

Seats 70A/B are towards the rear of the aircraft, as it begins to taper to a point and therefore there are only two seats - the best situation if you are travelling as a party of two. The IFE screen size was average, but still better than the system on my SYD-HKG-SYD sectors of the The Korean Odyssey.


Leg room shot


Pushback was at about 1010 and we were airborne by 1030. Captain John Poletta apologised for the delay citing mechanical issues that had now been rectified (of course).

My sister had requested the vegetarian meal and hers arrived soon after the seat belt sign was switched off. It was an unedible mix of boiled beans and rice and was frankly disgusting. I am not a fussy eater and generally eat anything thats placed before me (including, on numerous occasions, my travelling partner's meal when they couldn't stomach it) but even i found it hard to enjoy it. We hoped the regular options would be more palatable.

Sadly, we were left wanting. I chose the beef over the fish and received a tough, chewy and weirdly-flavored beef dish with simple boiled vegetables, accompanied by a warm bread roll that appeared to be made entirely of cardboard. My sister's request for a spare regular meal was met with a promise to see if any were left that never eventuated into the crew returning to her. It was probably for the best, as i left most of my meal. Thankfully she was still content from Burger King back in Hong Kong.

Possibly the worst airline meal i've ever eaten.


Icecream was then offered as well as hot chocolate or peppermint tea.

Haagen Dazs


The hot chocolate was fantastic and certainly earned some much needed kudos after the horrendous meal. I killed some time watching the limited IFE options. There were few movies and fewer TV programs but i was never bored so i guess the system fulfilled its role. After experiencing the wonder of CX Studio on the outbound flight, i was quite annoyed at having to wait up to 30 seconds for screens to load.

Soon the second meal was served. I chose the pork noodles and thankfully, it was quite nice. My sister's vegetarian meal was horrible again, but her request for a pork meal was fulfilled and she found it tasty too.

Second meal.


I watched a few episodes of a TV show whose name escapes me before the crew prepared the cabin for landing.

A quick sidenote regarding the QF Crew uniforms - the CSM who had greeted us at the door, made cabin announcements and had even served the economy cabin coffee after both meal services was dressed immaculately in a fine, well cut suit and a classy silk tie. His name badge was large and shiny and took pride of place on the breast of his jacket. I was very impressed and felt a renewed urge to quit my course at university and realise my childhood dream of becoming a flight attendant (that dream is currently on hold until i complete my university education in two years). However another male flight attendant who assisted with rubbish clearing wore a simple, ill-fitting black tunic, shoes that i havent seen since i last wore school uniform and simple, cheap looking black trousers. He didnt even have a name badge. I was disappointed to see the disparity between uniforms. A completely irrelevant point in the context of a trip report, to be sure, but something i noticed given my aspirations to emulate both (well, only one really) gentlemen in the future.

The CSM announced that he would play a 'short' (read: long and boring) video regarding arrivals procedures at MEL and general information about Melbourne. After a summer spent being ear-bashed by EK over the IFE system and being unable to watch what i wanted during that time, this distressed me greatly. Thankfully the video didnt appear on my screen or my sister's, but i was still peeved that QF would consider disrupting IFE enjoyment by all pax for information that would only be required by a few. Surely, directing those who are interested to the appropriate area of the IFE system is more appropriate?

Landing was smooth and only slightly behind schedule. Quarantine took FOREVER. I was directed to the right hand red channel queue and watched fuming as the left hand red channel queue sped past me. After being OKed, and not making it onto 'Border Security' we walked out of the terminal at just the moment that my mum pulled up. We were home in 20 minutes.

Last edited by afterDawn; May 4, 09 at 2:23 am Reason: spelling. doh.
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Old May 4, 09, 2:31 am
  #8  
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Part VIII - Wrap Up

CX's hard product was fantastic - i really couldnt fault any aspect of the flight from that perspective. The crew were not particularly hospitable but on balance that really wasnt an issue. Despite the days preceding it i loved most of my time aboard CX and would gladly do it again.

QF was rather disappointing. The aircraft showed its age and the catering was terrible. I would avoid QF 747 operations on international routes where asian carriers compete in future (unless the price is right, of course, im booked on QF MEL-SYD-SIN-MEL in November for $700AUD).

However any travel is a priveledge, and i loved the opportunity to see more of the world. Its truly a passion of mine, and its given me great pleasure to write this TR.

I hope you had as much fun reading it, as i did writing it. Feedback and questions are greatly appreciated, as always.
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Old May 4, 09, 3:12 am
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I'd not considered a side trip to Macau, but after seeing your report i think i'll give it a try next time im in Hong Kong.

I see you had "visa" on your ticket, was this on demand at the terminal?

Thanks for writing the report.
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Old May 4, 09, 4:04 am
  #10  
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Originally Posted by Gatwick Alan View Post
I'd not considered a side trip to Macau, but after seeing your report i think i'll give it a try next time im in Hong Kong.

I see you had "visa" on your ticket, was this on demand at the terminal?

Thanks for writing the report.
A 30 day tourist visa was issued free of charge on arrival in Macau, but the 'Visa' on my ticket was record of some sort of promotion TurboJet were running on the day that gave you HKD30 off the ticket if you paid on a Visa card.

Definately try a side trip to Macau if you've got time, one or two days would be ideal - its a surreal and amazing place to visit.
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Old May 4, 09, 6:44 am
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Very Nice Job afterDawn! loved the fast food stops!
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Old Nov 1, 09, 6:01 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
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Originally Posted by afterDawn View Post
The CSM announced that he would play a 'short' (read: long and boring) video regarding arrivals procedures at MEL and general information about Melbourne. After a summer spent being ear-bashed by EK over the IFE system and being unable to watch what i wanted during that time, this distressed me greatly. Thankfully the video didnt appear on my screen or my sister's, but i was still peeved that QF would consider disrupting IFE enjoyment by all pax for information that would only be required by a few. Surely, directing those who are interested to the appropriate area of the IFE system is more appropriate?
From what I understant this 'short' video regarding quarantine and other arrivals information is an mandatory requirement by the Australian Government, which requires airlines to show it to all passengers regardless of whether they are a visitor or retuning citizen. (source: http://www.daff.gov.au/aqis/avm/airc...ines-operators - Section 8)

Originally Posted by afterDawn View Post
A quick sidenote regarding the QF Crew uniforms - the CSM who had greeted us at the door, made cabin announcements and had even served the economy cabin coffee after both meal services was dressed immaculately in a fine, well cut suit and a classy silk tie. His name badge was large and shiny and took pride of place on the breast of his jacket. I was very impressed and felt a renewed urge to quit my course at university and realise my childhood dream of becoming a flight attendant (that dream is currently on hold until i complete my university education in two years). However another male flight attendant who assisted with rubbish clearing wore a simple, ill-fitting black tunic, shoes that i havent seen since i last wore school uniform and simple, cheap looking black trousers. He didnt even have a name badge. I was disappointed to see the disparity between uniforms. A completely irrelevant point in the context of a trip report, to be sure, but something i noticed given my aspirations to emulate both (well, only one really) gentlemen in the future.
Qantas Cabin Crew uniform photos are avalible here: http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airl...de15/global/en. In my opinion I dont think the Qantas unifrom looks to bad, the flight attendant you are refering to may not be wearning the standard issue uniform...
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