Thursday, November 26, 2015

2015-11-26 DFW-ORD-NRT-CGK-HKG-DFW

2015-11-26 DFW-ORD-NRT-CGK-HKG-DFW


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Dallas times:
land in Tokyo, Japan FRI-27 1:30AM
take off from Tokyo FRI-27 3:00AM

land in Jakarta, Indonesia FRI-27 11:10AM
take off from Jakarta SAT-28 1:35AM

land in Hong Kong, China SAT-28 6:25AM
take off from HKG SAT-28 11:40PM


THU-26-NOV-2015

AA 90 DFW - ORD

Woke at 3:00 AM, plane took off at 5:10AM
Got upgrade to first class.  Breakfast with biscuit (not shown), fresh fruit, 2% milk, steel-cut oatmeal, dried fruit blend, brown sugar, coffee


Landed in ORD on-time.  There is an Admiral's Club and there is a Flagship Lounge, which is only for international first class.  Since I was OneWorld Emerald and AA Executive Platinum and flying in front of the curtain, I was permitted access to the FlagShip Lounge.

FlagShip Lounge

Only had 3 people in it when I got there at 7:30AM but by 10:30AM every seat is taken and it is packed.  It is a small place.  No showers.  Tiny bathroom.  Only 2 computer terminals are available, there used to be 4.  Wonderful buffet.


Three different kinds of sausages, eggs, and potatoes to the far right

Oven roasted potatoes O'Brien and Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Fresh Thyme

Bagels, croissants, danish, muffins


I tried the ginger lime infused yogurt.  As I ate it, I felt tiny crunchy ginger pieces, felt kind of weird but it sort of balanced out with the yogurt flavor.  I didn't try the apple cinnamon pecan parfait.

Too bad I don't drink

I did have the bottled water and the Perrier  

Good coffee machine with hot chocolate as well.  More smoothie items to the far right, did not try them.  Beers in the frig below.

We travel to Japan in December for 13 days.  When we come back on Dec 31st, we land in Chicago (ORD) and here is our plane just landing (it is one hour late landing)


Looks like this UA flight has an issue. These trucks have been waiting with their lights on for 20 minutes. I don't see any smoke or flames. 


It is 11:00 AM and lunch is now on the buffet. I am not eating since I will be eating a fabulous meal on the plane.  Caesar on the left, regular in the middle and fruit on the right

Crackers and cheeses and meats

Then they brought out chicken



Sandwiches as well

Tasty brownies, had two of these little ones but why place brownies next to fruit, do you really want people to make the right choice by placing them next to each other?


Ok, bad news.  Plane is still in the hanger.  Some cargo issue.  Instead of 12:05 PM departure, it is now 12:35 which means I only have 60 min to connect in Narita (NRT). Other bad news is weather is rolling in



Here is JL 9 leaving heading back to Narita. 

More bad news.  Notice my phone is 100% charged.  Always keep it plugged in, you never know.  You might get a seat with no power or power not working.  

So this means I will miss my connection. They just told me they are offering to send me to Hong Kong and they will pay for my hotel Friday night.  Then fly me to Jakarta, Indonesia (CGK) Saturday morning.  I said let me think about it.  Good thing I cancelled my hotel in CGK as I suspected this ORD-NRT flight was frequently delayed and it was a high risk and it is not looking good.

OK, I decided not to take their offer.  I decided to chance it and stick with what I had.

It worked out.  The plane showed up and we got on board.  Still there is less than 30 minutes connection time in NRT.  Let's see how it plays out.



AA 153 ORD - NRT

This is a 2-cabin with business and coach.  I was upgraded several days ago and there are so many people on the wait list.
Good news. Boarding started. Will depart at 12:50. 45 min late. I am in business-class 7L window seat. There is no first-class.  This is a 2-class 787-800 and the aircraft is only 6 months old. 

Love the touch window dimmer.  There are no window shades.  So how do you make it dark?  There is a button.  You touch the down button once and the window starts to get dark.  Touch it again, it gets darker.  Touch it 5 times and it gets really dark.  Window on left is bright, window on right is fully dark.  You can still see out but it is very faint.

Rows 1-7 are business class, there is no first class. 


Behind and under the seat, here is the mechanism that makes it work.  The cost of the seat to AA is about $300,000.  Each seat is $300,000.  Yes.  Each seat.

Touch screen for seat control.  Bottom left you can see the button to open or close the window shade.



Do you see above on the bottom right of the touch screen it says Privacy Please?  If you touch it, then the outside of your seat, the light lights up that says Privacy Please.



This has TWO power outlets (777-300ER has only one power outlet) plus TWO USBs


It is the new amenity kit with the orange colors inside from the old PSA.  They handed out Bose headsets, these are great.



The purser came by, Christine, and introduced herself, that was very nice of her. She is close to retirement. She asked if there was anything I needed, I asked if they were handing out pj's.  She said AA does not give out pajamas in business even on 2-class. My opinion: It would be nice is if AA would recognize Executive Platinum's by offering us pj's in business class, especially when flying long-haul international.  Other airlines do but AA does not.  I wish AA would recognize us Executive Platinum's.  We have to fly 100,000 miles or more every single year between January 1st and December 31st to maintain our status and we spend a lot of money on tickets.  Recognize us.  It is just a pair of pajamas that cost you a few dollars.  


The plane door was still open. She wrinkled her eyebrows and said hold on, I will be right back, let me check something. She didn't come back but later in the flight she came by and said she rushed out of the plane and went to another gate which had a 777-300ER (extended range) 3-class and asked the gate if they had an extra set of pj's and they said no. They are on the plane and there was no plane there at the time. I said wow, that is amazing that you would think to do that and do that for me. She is in the top 0.001% of AA flight attendants, so I gave her one of my stickers so she would get recognized. No one has ever been that proactive. 


I gave another sticker to a Japanese FA who was so helpful and so Asian respectful to me the entire trip, always calling me by my name. And the hand gestures. "Would you like some water?" And the other hand is like Vanna White with palms open with hand pointing to water bottle. So genuine. So not American Airlines. 

Make sure I knew how to say thank you



The food was amazing


This was the planned route but actually we ended up going very close to the north pole


Actual route


AA shut down meal selection on the website so I called and they said you have to order on the phone. So she had to read the menu to me 5 times over and could not pronounce anything. She read off

Didn't even tell me there was a Japanese meal option, which is what I selected now that I can read the choices. 


Sake as well




Miso soup

Main course
Dainomono
Salmon with egg yolk paste, kabocha-pumpkin, flower carrot, deep-fried kanoko eggplant and French beans.  Everything tasted yummy.  




Seems there is a new dessert - the royale chocolate mousse cake.  It was amazing

I asked if they could customize it by adding one scoop of ice-cream and I have to tell you, the taste was yummy



After travelling 2,054 miles in 3 hours 51 minutes with 4,439 miles (8 hours and 56 minutes) to-go and it was time for bed. Ground speed 501 MPH, true air speed 566 MPH, altitude 34,000 feet, heading 324.0 degrees, outside air temperature -72.4 degrees F, headwind 64 MPH,    Slept for 4 hours.



We went close to the North Pole. I sat on the right side of the plane. I looked out looking for stars but these 787 windows are tinted so you can't see any stars. I did see something low in the horizon as we kept going higher in latitude. Looked like a little moon. What was it?  Why is a moon-ish item outside the right widow which is pointing towards north?  The moon would be in the east setting in the west going across the south.  I checked the solar weather prior to the flight and there is really no activity


As you can see there is no aurora activity.  Sometimes I can see auroras and they are beautiful.  On a 787 it will be hard to see out because of the tinted windows.


Love the lie flat bed.  Woke up over Russia after travelling 4,619 miles in 8 hours 38 minutes with 2,035 miles (4 hours and 11 minutes) to-go and it was time for bed. Ground speed 567 MPH, true air speed 554 MPH, altitude 38,000 feet (as we burn off more fuel, we go higher in altitude), heading 192.0 degrees, outside air temperature -76.0 degrees F, tailwind 12 MPH,   It is 9:57 PM in Dallas and 12:57 PM in Tokyo, estimated time of arrival 5:08 PM, so I should be able to make my 6:00 PM connection.

I was hungry and there was a ton of food set out for our class. 





Sandwiches - these are really good


Not sure what these were, didn't try them


Yes these desserts were really good

Lots of chips
I had a banana. 

We were chasing the setting sun (reflecting on the engine) and sort of caught up with it since we went close to the north pole. 


Slept more

Got hungry again and asked what else was available





The broth is in the cup to the left


Dried seaweed that you dropped into the broth



You take the top off and pour the broth in the cup and then dunk the udon noodles and, the Japanese flight attendant said, you slurp it



 This was the full moon setting in the west.


Notice that the 787-800 does not have winglets

The Russian coastline and the Pacific Ocean


Did I say I love the lie flat bed?  I love the lie flat bed.  5,015 miles in 9 hours 22 minutes with 1,643 miles (3 hours and 29 minutes) to-go. Ground speed 552 MPH, true air speed 560 MPH, altitude 40,000 feet (as we burn off more fuel, we go higher in altitude), heading 180.0 degrees, outside air temperature -65.2 degrees F, headwind 6 MPH,   It is 10:41 PM in Dallas and 1:41 PM in Tokyo, estimated time of arrival 5:10 PM, so I should be able to make my 6:00 PM connection.



OK, believe it or not, it is time for one more meal service 


This is chicken and yummy.  The camera does not do justice.  Don't think it looks yucky.  It really looks good in person.





Very good dessert

5,725 miles down in 10 hours and 42 minutes with 932 miles to go in 2 hours and 8 minutes

The moon is setting. Technology cannot capture human emotions and neither can it catch the beauty in nature


We landed in Narita, Japan


and there were lots of people standing there waiting to help us get to our connecting flights



I grabbed mine and headed to gate 81. I only barely made it. 


Walk or take the horizontal escalator a.k.a. moving walkway





I change my dollars into foreign currency before I leave home.  But I pay a big price for that benefit.
For example, 90,000 yen means I give Chase Bank $775
Here at the airport, it would only cost me (90,000 / 119.74) = $752.  It would cost me $775-$752=$23 less but I would have to carry USD in cash with me.  I chose the convenience of my neighborhood Chase bank even though it cost me more money.





AA JL NRT - CGK

I boarded Japan Airlines 777-300ER two-class for an 8-1/2 hour flight from NRT-CGK (Jakarta, Indonesia).  That is the same at Dallas to London.  Long flight.  I have no status on Japan Airlines and even though I am Emerald on OneWorld, they rejected my request for free business class upgrade even though the cabin was 92% empty.  I just wanted the lie-flat seat so I could continue to sleep.





More food, it was fine



They were nice to me and give me the first row of coach which was an exit row and got an aisle seat and they protected the window seat to my left and so it was empty.  That was very nice of them.  Even American Airlines does not do that for me as an Executive Platinum.


FRI-27-NOV-2015
Landed at 12:15 AM. Did not need visa-on-arrival as I was only staying less than 24 hours and in-transit to HKG


Jakarta is below the equator




Make sure you look for this taxi company and make sure they agree to the meter.  Even then, upon agreement, when the car got moving, to go 3 miles to my destination, he said it will cost 50,000 IDR.  I said wait a second, your own company, which has a luxury division just 100 feet away, told me it would cost 40,000 IDR and I rejected that and said I wanted a cheaper transport and if I went with you, it would be on the meter and it would cost around 20,000 IDR and you agreed to the meter and now you want 50,000 IDR?  It doesn't help the driver spoke little English.  He kept repeating 50,0000 IDR.




So I agreed.  When we got to the hotel, just 3 miles away, he said 60,000.  I said you said 50,000.  He said airport fee 10,000.  I had to pay him 60,000 IDR cash.







SAT-27-NOV-2015
Woke and put swim shorts on as the hotel advertised pool and work out room and spa. They said sorry that is their hotel downtown not here.  I stayed at the Orchardz Hotel.  $38.  I do not recommend it.  Stay next door at the brand new Swiss hotel for $24 or the POP for $18 or iBis.  Don't stay here. View from my room.  Internet was very slow.


View from the hallway window outside my door, good thing I wasn't in a room facing the traffic


View from my window


Had egg and toast and fruit.  Those are little tiny pancakes, they were quite good.

Took 10:00AM free shuttle bus for 15 minute ride to terminal 2. It is only 3 miles away but a ton of traffic moving very slowly, 25 mph at most, with scooters everywhere just like Saigon. Three stops at domestic terminal 1 first. Watch your bags and look out the window to the left to make sure no one takes your bag while others get off the bus.  What if someone steals walks off with your bag, what will you do then?



I got to the airport at 10:20 but found out the CX (Cathay Pacific) counter didn't open till 11:30. The line starts at 11 and I got in line at 11:15. The earlier you get in line, the earlier you get your boarding pass and you lounge access pass. 

While you wait, I recommend you walk to one end of the terminal. There is a tiny foot massage place with 12 easy chairs, a 60 min massage is 135,000 and 30 min is 75,000. Do it. I didn't have time.

There are a ton of lounges. If you have CitiBank, there is a lounge for you but it costs 125,000 IDR. Every credit card has their own lounge.  As a OneWorld Emerald, I was granted free access to Pura Indah.  I was not allowed to the left, the first class side. It was pretty empty.  I had to go to the right to the business class side.


The food was pittyful.  The first pot on the left was some sort of very skinny french fries.  The second is sliced cucumbers.  The third is green rice.  That was about it.
There was some egg, green rice, and not much else. 


It was hot, crowded, the seats were right next to each other, there were no plugs to be found, only 1 or two terminals for internet access.  Pretty lousy.


I then went to the boarding area.

AA CX CGK - HKG

Had issue need to tell you about. Checked in at counter and got boarding pass. She didn't say anything was wrong or I owed money.  No problems so far. Got to gate and about to board and they said I did not pay airport departure tax of 150,000 IDR and I need to pay in cash now.  Thank goodness I had a printout of my receipt and it showed $207 paid in taxes but they said their computer does not show the airport tax was paid.  They (Cathay Pacific) were just doing their job.  I said call AA and talk to them. They said no time, flight is leaving in 15 minutes, I said you have plenty of time to call and talk to them.  They said no.  Either pay in cash or you can't go on flight. Thank goodness I had IDR cash with me.  I paid the 150,000 and they gave me a receipt. It is the principal of it, not the amount.  So I will have to argue it out with AA. What if I didn't have the cash?  They don't take credit or other currencies.

Took off at 2:10 to HKG.



4 hr flight on Cathay Pacific Airbus 330. Sat in 59C which was exit row.  Two toilets in front of me. 4 hour flight. Lots of people had to use the toilet and I observed almost no one washed their hands. Flight attendant came by and said called me by name and said hello. I was shocked. Cathay Pacific is part of the OneWorld Alliance with American Airlines and they know I am Emerald status (the highest).  Another one came by after take off and again said my name and gave me my very own large bottle of water and asked if I needed anything. I fell asleep for 2 hours and later a woman in different uniform came by (the purser) and said my name again and asked how was my sleep and asked if she can get me anything. I said I would love a blanket and some food. I really wanted to say can I sit in first class or business or premium economy but did not ask.  I already tried at check-in and they said my fare class does not allow for upgrades.  She brought me chicken and rice.  I also noticed they had blocked 59A and it was empty so I had two seats.  What an amazing Asian experience. This does not happen on American Airlines. 

Took the opportunity to watch a Chinese movie with English subtitles. And more sleep. That was a long 4 hour flight. 

Landed in HKG, filled out form, went through immigration, then customs, out the door to the left and bought round-trip Airport Express to Central (Hong Kong island - last stop). Circle $24.20 on the receipt when you sign it to pay in USD. 


Train came in 4 min. There are stops at Tsing Li, Kowloon, and Central. Only takes 24 minutes. Very clean and quick. 

I have been in HKG every month for the last three months.

Here is a business convention advertised at the airport. 


Exit and look for the elevator bank. Pick the one on the left.  It only goes down one floor. Get our, go down the 5 steps or the ramp. Go to MTR (the name of their subway system) machine. Touch your destination station. It will tell you the fare HKG $5.50. Try to put in coins, not bills. There is a maximum amount it returns if you put a bill in. You will lose money. Don't do it. Push adult and it will kick out the change in coins and a one-way ticket. 

Turn around and tap it in the "turnstile" and go to the right. Look for, in this case, the blue line. I made a mistake and took the red line as that is what I always take since I am only going one stop to Admiralty where I stay at the Conrad Hilton. When I got on the red line this time, it was packed at 9:30PM with tons of people. I looked on the map for Fortress Hill stop and realized it was blue line not red line. Got off. Blue line was right next to me but going wrong way. Couldn't figure out how to find the other direction. It said exit or escalator to outside only. Found steps. It said 77 steps. Carried suitcase up. Found it. Went 4 stops. But which way now?  Left? Right? Straight?  Luckily I had put in Fortress Hill MTR to my hotel address while I had free wifi at the airport and it gave me the directions. Still, do I go out exit A or exit B?  Do I turn left or right?  This is always a problem. It it worse in Beijing where there is very little English. 





SUN-28-NOV-2015
Up at 4:00AM checking emails. Clicked in email from CVS and it says access denied. Clicked on customer service and same thing. Censorship of CVS?

Staying at iClub Fortress Hill on Hong Kong Island. Part of Regal Hotel group. Paid $16 plus 14,357 United miles. Fastest internet speed I have ever had. Each room has its own access point, so I just click on my room number and it is dedicated to me.  Small room with one king bed, lots of mirrors to make it look big. I am in the 36th floor (highest) and can see the harbour to my left and peak to the right. 


Creative use of space, can store suitcases under bed




Very nice harbor view at dawn


And peak view.  I got both views from my room.  I want to know how their repair or replace  all these outside air conditioning units.

The terrace on the third floor off the lobby and breakfast area is lovely.  Very quiet.  Has three items for the workout room.  Wonder what happens when it rains.


The breakfast is pitiful with awful choc and other muffins and coffee and tea. 



All construction is still with bamboo




Someone living on the roof.  Why waste space.  Who needs air conditioning or heat.  




Time to pack up and get on MTR and get on Airport Express and get to airport and be first in line to check in. No upgrade. Keep hoping and praying. My daughter said to her grandmother hoping and praying is not a technology. Grandma was hoping and praying grandpa would bring her winter coat when he picked her up at the airport. My daughter said call him and tell him to bring it. Don't think he will get the message by you hoping and praying. 

Yummy dessert shop along the way


Calculate the price of gas.  Convert HKG dollars per litre into USD per gallon.  See what you get.



I checked out and walked one block and stumbled on this market. He was taking some eels out of a tank and slicing their head and putting the movie body in a metal bowl






I grabbed the MTR, put in 10 HKG for 4.50 fare and got change for one way to Central.


and took it a few stops to Central.


It was mobbed at 9AM on a Sunday morning. A swift walk to the Airport Express.


Long walk underground


Follow the signs




It came from in a few minutes. 24 minutes later I was at the terminal. 





View from the right window





Got to the terminal and they have a holiday decoration up






No line to check in OneWorld Emerald


The Wing First Class Lounge

Everything you see here is free.  As much as you want.






Water is boiling



Kettles are ready


Many flavors of tea leaves



And so much to eat











There is a full restaurant behind this wall and there is a buffet, it is set up for breakfast right now with scrambled eggs, etc.  If you don't like the buffet, you can order off the menu.  Don't make the mistake I made the first time I went there.  I asked how much.  There are no prices on the menu.  That is because it is all free.  Yes.  Free.  Eat as much as you want.  As many times as you want.  It is all first class food.  Business class has their own lounge.  This is only for first class.


Smoked salmon


Veggies


Eggs


Can't remember


Dim sum


Salads


Sushi




I waited around 20 minutes for breakfast to turn into lunch.  Look at the options they brought out for lunch.

BBQ Pork



Seasonal vegetable



Spring roll



Pan roasted fish cakes


Chicken and pork sausage



Braised port shoulder



Duck fried rice



Assorted Dim Sum



Mango pudding (in the round cups in the back) was amazing,  The other item is Wolfberry and Osmanthus Jelly



The green tea angel cake is amazing



The tiramisu is amazing



Raspberry cake.  Yes, I tried everything.  Wouldn't you?



Sandwiches



The Peninsula (Hotel) Chocolates.  Melt in your mouth.  The Peninsula Hotel is a 5* hotel with 13 Rolls-Royces at your disposal.  The Hotel runs this First Class Lounge.  This is their first class food.



The mango passion fruit cake.  Yes.  It is good.



More chocolate


Cheeses, jams and jellies and breads



Let's just say you did not like anything on the buffet.  Really?  Here is a menu, you can pick anything. For free.  Order more.  As much as you want.  All free.





OK, I had to eat and run.  I did not have time to take a soak in the bath rub. Yes, a real bath tub.  I didn't have time to take a shower.  I didn't have time to lay down on the day bed.  All in a private room all to myself.  I didn't have time.  I had to run.  To the next lounge.  To check it out.

The Bridge Lounge

This was my first time to this lounge, I think this is more for business class, it is not as fancy

The food is definitely not first class - looks more business class




Good selection of salads







I like there is a deli and a pizza oven and they will make custom food for you.  This lounge is more for families







Self-service area for desserts and coffee


They do have showers that look good



Business area






The Pier First Class Lounge




Free massage


AA 138 HKG - DFW

Unfortunately I was #17 on the upgrade list and had to fly behind the curtain


Food was awful


No lie flat bed.  Traveled 1,898 miles in 2 hours 56 minutes with 6,512 miles (10 hours and 17 minutes) to-go. It is that far from HKG to Tokyo.  Ground speed 657 MPH, true air speed 560 MPH, altitude 31,000 feet (as we burn off more fuel, we go higher in altitude), heading 68.0 degrees, outside air temperature -52.6 degrees F, tailwind 96 MPH,   It is 4:46 PM in HKG and 5:46 PM in Tokyo, estimated time of arrival 1:03 PM in Dallas.




Guy to my left kept putting his elbow into me and waking me up.  Interesting.  In his culture, he thought his right armrest had his seat number on it and he said that is his armrest.  Isn't that interesting?  He didn't realize we had to share it.

Traveled 5,150 miles in 7 hours 28 minutes with 3,417 miles (5 hours and 57 minutes) to-go.  Ground speed 699 MPH, true air speed 555 MPH, altitude 33,000 feet, heading 91.0 degrees, outside air temperature -58.0 degrees F, tailwind 144 MPH,   It is 9:27 PM in HKG and 2:27 AM in in the middle of the ocean where we are right now, estimated time of arrival 1:24 PM in Dallas.



Traveled 8,619 miles in 13 hours 23 minutes with 14 miles (0 hours and 13 minutes) to-go.  Ground speed 286 MPH, true air speed 293 MPH, altitude 11,390 feet, heading 144.0 degrees, outside air temperature 37.4 degrees F, headwind 5 MPH,   It is 3:11 AM in HKG and 1:11 PM in Dallas, landing at 1:24PM.




And we landed.  Took off at 5AM Thu, landed at 1:24PM Sunday.