Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - CNAC VIP Lounge HKG and Asiana Airlines 722 Business Class (HKG-ICN)

***This post is part 15 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

When we stepped off the jet bridge at Hong Kong International Airport, there were multiple carts awaiting the first class passengers to take them through to immigration. Since I only had a quick layover and needed to get to my departure gate, I skipped over this perk and started walking. Looking back, I realized that I basically didn't get to experience any of the amazing ground services offered by Thai Airways despite booking this itinerary specifically for that purpose. Oh well, better luck next time I guess!

As a business class passenger traveling on Asiana Airlines, I had access to the CNAC VIP Lounge, which is located across from Gate 16 on Level 7. This is a shared lounge serving mostly Mainland Chinese airlines, and some other really random airlines like Air Mauritius, Air New Zealand, Garuda Indonesia, MIAT Mongolian Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, South African Airways, and SriLankan Airlines.

If you're used to Cathay Pacific's The Wing and The Pier lounges at Hong Kong International Airport, I would recommend setting your expectations for the CNAC VIP Lounge low... like, really low. The food was abysmal at best, consisting of a few finger sandwiches with dried-out bread and a single slice of mystery meat, along with some snacks that looked like it had been sitting out for a few hours.

And usually I would cheer at the sight of dessert, but strangely enough, they had small cups of pre-scooped ice cream sitting in a tiny old refrigerator. I just kept wondering how long they had been in there for. There were jugs of chilled juices that I didn't touch, and maybe the only upside, a couple bottles of bottom shelf liquor and wine. I ended up just sticking with water. For the 20 minutes that I was there, I did notice one or two attendants walking around collecting used plates and glasses.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Thai Airways 600 First Class (BKK-HKG)

***This post is part 14 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

With a disappointing visit to the Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge behind me, I decided to move on and focus on the flight itself. While Thai Airways is known far more for its ground services at Suvarnabhumi Airport than the actual in-flight experience, first class is still first class, and I was looking forward to a comfortable and relaxing flight to Hong Kong.

Thai Airways 600
Boeing 747-400
Bangkok (BKK) - Hong Kong (HKG)
Saturday April 7, 2012
Departure: 8:00 AM (scheduled) / 8:01 AM (actual)
Arrival: 11:45 AM (scheduled) / 11:33 AM (actual)
Duration: 2h 45m (scheduled) / 2h 32m (actual)
Seat: 2K (First) 

Boarding was soon announced, and premium passengers were called to line up. I quickly noticed that there appeared to be a large number of first class guests. Once we entered the 747-400, it became clear that all ten first class seats were going to occupied. I guess that was part of the reason why the Royal First Class Lounge was so full earlier in the morning.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge BKK (Or How I Stayed For 20 Minutes)

***This post is part 13 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I really have apologize for this post in advance. Without a doubt, it will be the worst (and possibly shortest) review of the Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge ever written. And honestly, I have to take credit for much of the blame.

I was already quite aware of the Royal First Class Lounge's sterling reputation. We've all read about the amazing accolades, and the numerous glowing reviews from around the blogosphere. My expectations, understandably, were set pretty high. In fact, part of the reason why I even bothered booking such a roundabout way of getting home from Cambodia (REP-BKK-HKG-ICN-LAX-SFO) was to experience the first class ground service offered by Thai Airways.

There were two daily departures from Bangkok to Hong Kong on Thai Airways with their Royal First Class service. Unfortunately, I chose the earlier one. With an 8:00 am departure, I had to make sure I got to Suvarnabhumi Airport at least a couple of hours in advance to get the full lounge experience. I left the Aloft Bangkok at approximately 4:30 am via taxi (make sure you request the meter, or they will try to overcharge you with a flat rate), and with hardly any cars on the road at that time, I arrived at the airport in just over half an hour.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Aloft Bangkok - Sukhumvit 11

***This post is part 12 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Getting from Suvarnabhumi Aiport to the city is actually quite simple. The Airport Rail Link Express Line goes directly from the terminal all the way to Makkasan Station near central Bangkok. While the station itself isn't in a particularly popular part of town, it is conveniently located next to the Metro Blue Line's Petchaburi Station, which also connects with the BTS Skytrain. These lines can get you to many of the more interesting destinations within Bangkok.

To get to the Aloft Bangkok, take the Metro Blue Line south one stop from Petchaburi Station to Sukhumvit Station. Then follow the signs up to the BTS Skytrain Asok Station. Once there, take the Skytrain one stop west and get off at Nana Station. After exiting and heading downstairs, you will be standing at the intersection of Sukhumvit Road and Sukhumvit Soi 11. Head north on Sukhumvit Soi 11 by foot for about 10 minutes, and the Aloft Bangkok is on your left. While these directions seemed technically straightforward to me, it still ended up being quite a trek, especially in the muggy heat of the day. If you have a lot of luggage with you, a taxi from the airport might still be the best way to go.

The Aloft brand follows in the footsteps of its pricier sibling, the W Hotels chain. However, it does seem to be a lot less pretentious in attitude, and has a bit more of a boutique feel to it. The lobby was loud and flashy, but the attendants were very friendly as I checked in. I had booked my stay using the Starwood Preferred Guest cash + points option, which was a great value since the Aloft Bangkok had recently been lowered to Category 1, costing just $25 and 1,200 Starpoints per night. It is important to note that taxes and fees on the cash portion is charged at the discretion of the hotel. Many, including the Aloft Bangkok, do tack on taxes and fees separately, while others don't.

I was given a room on the 18th floor with a king bed and a nice view of the city. While it wasn't particularly large, I really grew to like the overall design and smart space allocation. There was a cozy sitting area next to the large window, which I took advantage of while doing some reading. A simple work desk shared space with the flat-screen television, while the mini-bar was tucked directly underneath. The bed was very comfortable, as were the sheets and duvet.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Bangkok Airways 924 Economy Class (REP-BKK)

***This post is part 11 of a full trip report. The index can be found here*** 

I took a tuk-tuk to the airport, which was quick and painless. The Siem Reap airport is quite modern, with the new terminal having been inaugurated in 2006. Despite its small size, I admired the architecture and clear design effort that went into the construction.

A quick background on this flight: since Bangkok Airways has had a monopoly on the Siem Reap - Bangkok route for many years now, they can basically charge whatever the hell they want. This one-way flight lasting approximately one hour and ten minutes cost a whopping $276.68! Fortunately, the latest news indicates that the monopoly will finally be broken in November of this year, when Cambodia Angkor Air begins service on this route, operating 4x per week. Hopefully, they will increase the frequency as demand picks up (as I'm sure it will).