Asia-Trip – AB,AZ,AF,NH,MU,KA,TG,RJ – Part 3 (Y)

Read this report on Airliners.net.

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Hello and welcome to my 6th trip-report, part 3!

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This map and all other maps in this TR created with www.gcmap.com, copyright Karl L. Swartz.

Previous Parts:
6th TR: Asia-Trip – AB,AZ,AF,NH,MU,KA,TG,RJ – Part 1: Featuring the flights to SIN and back, departing from TXL, arriving two days later in BRI.
6th TR: Asia-Trip – AB,AZ,AF,NH,MU,KA,TG,RJ – Part 2: Featuring the flights to NRT and PVG, a 787-roundtrip and visits to the cities ofTokyo and Shanghai.

This is Part 3:

— PVG-PEK —

PRE-FLIGHT:

Two days after arriving in Shanghai it was already time to leave again. Still not feeling that well I decided to take a taxi to Longyang Road station that morning. From there I took the Transrapid maglev train to the airport, cruising at 400 km/h this time:

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The shiny and modern main hall of the airport, on a level between arrival and departure levels:

I went to the domestic check-in-area (area C) and waited in the line to check-in for my flight to PEK. When I reached the desk not one of the MU gate agents spoke more than three words of English. Finally a supervisor came to me and told me in very bad English “English, international check-in, there English”. So I went to the International check-in, waited in the line, then explained my situation and got my boarding pass. Crazy situation at such a huge international airport. Another interesting thing was that they have baggage scanners directly over the baggage drop-of at the desk. The moment I set my bag down on the conveyor belt the check-in agent said: “Sir, you still have a lithium battery in your bag, please take that into your cabin baggage”. So that is what I did. The departure level:

14:10 departure time for my flight to PEK/Beijing, a codeshare with Qantas, operated by MU:

There wasn’t much to do landside, a few boring shops and Chinese restaurants, a KFC too far away close to the Maglev Station, so I continued on to the airside area.

The stylized skyline of Pudong above the entrance to the shopping area and the security checkpoint:

Airside in the domestic terminal, some shops and restaurants, many seats. Kind of strange is that all shops and restaurants exist about 5 times each. Why bother with different tastes and individual shops? In communism everything is equal, so all the shops are equal, too.

I had more than two hours left until boarding, so I sat down close to the windows and took some pictures:


After some time I visited one of the many “Hope Star Coffee Bars” and ordered Spaghetti Bolognese. And to my astonishment they tasted fine. I even ordered some garlic bread for dessert; to make the other passengers around me happy. ^^


I spent the rest of my time with spotting some domestic flights arriving, but I really disliked that long distance to the windows from the seating areas, about 8m/yards:


My aircraft pulling into the gate, I really had hoped to get another A330. But despite an A330 being scheduled this A321 arrived, boring:


Boarding started on-time, I still had some hopes that we would bus-board an A330, but apparently MU starts Economy Class with row 31 after Biz and later make another jump from 48 to 54 or so. And thus it explained why they started boarding with rows 44-63 on this A321:


FLIGHT PVG-PEK

Date: 03 December 2012
Airline: China Eastern Airlines
Flight: MU 0272
Aircraft: Airbus A321-200
Aircraft Reg: B-6367
Departure Airport: PVG / Shanghai Pudong
Arrival Airport: PEK / Beijing Capital
Scheduled Departure Time: 14:10 / 02:10 PM
Actual Departure Time: 14:10 / 02:10 PM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 16:40 / 04:40 PM
Actual Arrival Time: 16:40 / 04:40 PM
Class: Economy
Seat: 38A (window)

I got a misaligned window and the flight was packed! Load-factor 100%, every seat taken. Good for MU, bad for me. I had hoped for two seats on an A330. Well, can’t change that now.

Legroom was excellent:

Pushback on-time, too:

Taxi-out passing the international terminal:



Take-off:


Inflight wing-view:

The crew did two drink runs and was really active, but not over-friendly. Professional would be the best description.

Soon after take-off we were all asked to close the windows again. So with the best entertainment on a day-flight taken away from me (looking out), I opted to read the communist state-newspaper “China Daily”. Very interesting how they mangage to turn some stories into the total opposite and ignore most facts. Afterwards I watched a TV story on the overhead monitors about houses being build on water in the Netherlands. Quite interesting.


Overhead PSU:

When we started descending into the Beijing area we had a wonderful approach with a great sunset:


Final approach to PEK with its three parallel runways:


Passing a NH 787-8:

Touchdown with the EK A380 in the background:

Love the yellow-reddish sunlight:


Iconic tower:

Passing a Dragonair A330:

We had to wait for this Air China A330 to take-off before we could pass the center runway:

Parking on a the apron beside this SP Airlines Cargo 737, it took more than 10 minutes for the busses to arrive:

POST-FLIGHT:

Our aircraft after disembarking and before boarding the bus:

It took more than 10 minutes until our bags started arriving:

I then left the airside area and went to the airport express station. Both ticket machines were broken down and only one desk was open selling tickets. There was a queue of about 70-90 passengers waiting. Great!


After more than 10 minutes it was my turn to buy a ticket. At least I thought so. They only accepteped cash and I did not have the needed amount with me. No signs before the desk, so I turned around, frustrated. I went back to the terminal, took the elevator to the arrivals area and searched for an ATM. There were three of them, but only one of the three working. Is this really a international airport? After waiting for 5 minutes it was my turn to use that ATM and get some cash. So back to the train station, waiting behind a now shorter queue of about 50 people. When it was my turn I gave the cashier a 100 Yuan note (the fare was 25 Yuan). He returned me a white receipt and no change. As he could not speak one word of English I gave up and continued to the platform. And what happened? The machine checking the tickets did not accept my white receipt. Some Chinese businessman told me I need a real ticket, not only a receipt. WTF?! A police officer sees me there, comes to me, takes the receipt, goes to the desk where the tickets are sold and then comes back, shrugs his shoulders and gives me the white receipt back. Everything without speaking one word. Probably he is not able to speak a word of English, too. Just when I wanted to turn around to get a new ticket at the desk or take the free shuttle bus to the international terminal another German tourist comes to me and gives me a ticket, because he had one ticket left over. Very nice gesture. I still don’t know for what the guy at the desk took my 100 Yuan, but I was now on my train.

When the airport express reached the metro station Dongzhi-men I got out and went to the ticket counter and tried to buy a ticket. No one here could speak a word of English, too. I showed them the myterious white receipt and my airport express ticket and got a new metro ticket without speaking a word or paying. China is a special place…

— PEKING/BEIJING —

I had to change trains at Jianguomen and then left the metro at Wangfujing, close to my hotel. But I can tell you, changing trains at Jiangumen in the rushhour is CRAZY! You could not walk one meter. It was so packed. It was like in the movies about Japan in the 80s and 90s. There were security people pushing you inside the trains and I had three bags (one large bag, one cabin bag and a backpack). Inside the train there were people from all social levels. Old people sitting on huge bags of food they probably tried to sell at some market, businessmen, casual workers. And everyone pressed together. Some not so strong, smaller people, especially women sometimes missed their station, because they had not enough power to get to the exit, as good behavior was not existent. First let passengers get out, then get in yourself? Unheard of in China. Well, after arriving at Wangfujing I walked about 10 minutes through the pedestrian zone (Wangfujing Avenue/Dajie) to my hotel, the Crowne Plaza Beijing Wangfujing. The pedestrian zone was made up of luxurious shops and hotels, a intense contrast compared to what I have seen on the metro before. A land of contrasts.

The hotel was wonderful, I really can recommend this place. Nice rooms, good design, an excellent restaurant with superb service and fair room rates:

For day one in Beijing I had prebooked a day-tour via Expedia with visits to the Great Wall of China, a jade production site, the Summer Palace and a tea-ceremony. For a uncredible low price I got a car, a driver and a guide for the whole day.

Me on top of the Great Wall of China, a great experience to walk up to the top of it:


After a short visit to the jade production site, lunch there and desperate attempts to sell me some jade figures, our next stop was the Summer Palace, another great place:


The next day I visited Tiananmen Square, the Monument of the Peoples Heroes, the Mao Mausoleum and all the goverment buildings around Tiananmen Square:



Afterwards into the forbidden city:

After the rather long visit at the forbidden city I went back to the hotel, but walked through some Hutongs, old, not renovated residential areas:

I missed out visiting the Temple of Heaven, but despite feeling better the day before, I was still feeling the cold and was freezing and shivering like hell. So I slept for a few hours that afternoon, feeling much better in the evening.

— PEK-KMG —

PRE-FLIGHT:

The next morning I got up at 5:00, checked out and took my pre-ordered taxi to the airport at 5:30, arriving there at 6:20 AM after a ride at breakneck speed. Much too early! I had booked a later non-stop flight to HKG a few month before, but MU first rebooked me onto their flight via PVG and then again onto their flight via KMG.

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Main hall of the MU terminal, lots of shops and quite a long walk to the domestic check-in area:

FIDS:

While checking in at the counter the friendly lady serving me discovered that she could not check through to HKG and told me I would have to go to the transfer desk at KMG. She appologized and gave my bag a first class priority tag, because I would just have a little more than 90 minutes to connect at KMG.

Passing the security took about 15 minutes, the queues were moving incredible slow, nearly every bag had to be inspected and multiple belongings scanned again. I had to give them all my SLR lenses for a special inspection. All women had to get out of their long winter knee-length boots. The comrades must be quite afraid of terror against their communist regime. Airside:

I had more than one hour until boarding left, so I tried to get wifi-access. There are computer-terminals all over the airside-area providing a wifi-code if you swipe your passport through them. But none of them were working. I tried at least four or five or them. The woman at the information counter could not help me, too. So I sat down at the first level to wait for my gate getting announced. After 20 minutes my gate was announced to be 41, so I walked down to the ground level were this gate was located. This meant bus-boarding.

An MU aircraft in front of the domestic terminal:

FIDS, gate 41 and a on-time departure expected:

Boarding started 2 minutes early and only very few people went onto the first bus. I realized why, i waited more than 10 minutes in the bus until we started the short hop to our aircraft. This with a temperature of -5 deg C and open doors, engine and heating not running.

Long queue to board the aircraft:

FLIGHT PEK-KMG

Date: 06 December 2012
Airline: China Eastern Airlines
Flight: MU 2035
Aircraft: Boeing 737-700
Aircraft Reg: B-5255
Departure Airport: PEK / Beijing Capital
Arrival Airport: KMG / Kunming Changshui International Airport
Scheduled Departure Time: 08:25 / 08:25 AM
Actual Departure Time: 08:25 / 08:25 AM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 12:00 / 12:00 noon
Actual Arrival Time: 12:00 / 12:00 noon
Class: Economy
Seat: 03R (window)

I got a bulkhead seat, 03R, directly behind the short business class section. The captain announced a delay of 20 minutes without mentioning a reason. So 20 minutes later pushback was under way:

Passing some heavies at the international terminals:





The huge Bizjet apron:

We taxied to the center runway and after waiting for an AirMacao A320 to take-off, it was out turn to line up for take-off:

Take-off:


As mentioned before we took of from the center runway, which is called 36R. At the same time another MU 737 took of from the right runway, which is runway 01. We flew a perfect parallel course in northernly direction, we just outclimbed the other aircraft. When reaching the mountains north of Beijing both aircraft, ours and the parallel flying 737, turned left to go onto their final course. You can see the other aircraft on the second photo beside our engine and in the third photo in the center of the image:



We had a wonderful climb over the mountains to the North and West of Beijing, it looks like a really intresting landscape:

Again reading the communist newspaper China Daily, look at that lovely group photo! The leaders of all the states and governments I would trust with all my heart combined:

The breakfast or lunch looked really disgusting, so I did not touch it. And that was the first time for over 20 years that I did not touch anything from an airline meal. The other passengers however all ate their meal, so I guess this was something good in China/this part of Asia.

Wing-view:

Good knee-room at the bulkhead:

Fixed armrest, but also a free middle seat:

Not much room for my feet due to the bulkhead:

I tried to close my eyes the rest of the time, but did not manage to really sleep, so I watched the landscape flying by and also some episode of “Time for Laughs”, which were really funny. The more we flew in southernly direction, the more the landscape changed. The woodless mountains changed to green covered mountains, with red sands inbetween.



Rice terraces everywhere when we came closer to KMG:



When we started our descent the captain announced an arrival time of 12:25. This meant we would be 25 minutes late and I would have a mere 65 minutes to collect my bag, check-in again and board the next flight. Descent into KMG:

Final approach:

Landing:

Passing the new terminal at KMG, which was the second largest terminal in China at this time, with over 60 gates, build for some 30 million pax:

The iconic tower. Seems like a copy of the one at PEK:

Waved into our apron parking position:

The business class section while disembarking:

POST-FLIGHT:

Our aircraft as seen from the waiting bus:

It took another 10 minutes to reach the terminal, so we were there at 12:35 (60 minutes left). It took another 10 minutes until my bag arrived (50 minutes left):

— KMG-HKG —

PRE-FLIGHT:

After I got my bag I went to the international transfer desk, located airside, right beside the baggage claim. But the desks were not staffed. Bummer!

So I had to go airside and the take elevator up to the departure level:

I went to the FIDS and searched for my 13:35 departure to HKG. When I saw the flight not displayed I really got the strange feeling, that something must be wrong!

Opposite of the large FIDS display was the MU international ticketing desk, the only desk staffed at this time, so that is where I went to:

I showed the two ladies staffing the desk my booking and the emails about the changing of the bookings, first via PVG, then via KMG. And I told them I was checked in at PEK in the morning and told there I would be checked in again at KMG. The two ladies now got angry, not with me, but with their colleagues in PEK. They told me flight MU733 between KMG and HKG would not operate this day and the agents at PEK must have known that. They also said that this is typical for their colleagues at PEK, they should have rebooked me, but instead left it to their colleagues in KMG to solve the problem. While I was told to wait, one of the ladies started a phone-call to PEK. Some shouting and angry chinese rants later, she came back to me and told me, no problem, I should not worry, she will find a solution for me, I would arrive in HKG that evening. I was not overly pleased, but happy that at least someone was taking care of me. The lady led me to the counter of KA / Dragonair, where the check-in was just opened. Five minutes later I had my new ticket on KA, the bags were checked in to HKG and I even got a window seat. As a added bonus the KA check-in-agent told me I could ask the lounge-agent if I can wait there for my flight, as MU messed up:

The KA flight would leave 1:50 minutes after my booked MU flight, so I had a lot of time at hand. First logical step, explore the new terminal at KMG:

As the terminal turned out to be shiny and new, it was also rather boring. So I turned around and went back to the lounges. The FIDS showing my KA flight to HKG:

I went to the lounge serving MU guests and was let in. I spent my time there, ate some rice, drank some Cokes and called the hotel in Hongkong, because I would arrive later and would need a later transfer from the airport. Interestingly out of the 12 or 13 guests in the lounge, three of them were Germans, too, one was a US-journalist, two were Brits and multiple others were Chinese looking, but speeking English, so I guess from HKG or SIN. Quite an international group of people for a city like KMG:


10 minutes prior to boarding-time I left the lounge and walked slowly to my gate, number 77 at the far end of the terminal. Here a TG A330 at the next gate:

My aircraft, the KA A330:

I found that booking error by MU quite amusing now, I got lounge access, could fly on a new airline and got another A330 in my books (instead of the scheduled MU 737).

Waiting area at gates 77 and 78:

GIDS:

Boarding started 1 minute after the re-scheduled time (21 minutes late) and everyone ran to the gate seconds after the announcement. I did not care, as the load seemed to be very lite, I guess around 40 percent. The wing of our A330 as seen from the jet-bridge:

FLIGHT KMG-HKG

Date: 06 December 2012
Airline: Dragonair
Flight: KA 761
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300X
Aircraft Reg: B-HWF
Departure Airport: KMG / Kunming Changshui International Airport
Arrival Airport: HKG / Hongkong Chek Lap Kok
Scheduled Departure Time: 14:55 / 02:55 PM
Actual Departure Time: 14:55 / 02:55 PM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 16:55 / 04:55 PM
Actual Arrival Time: 16:55 / 04:55 PM
Class: Economy
Seat: 31A (window)

After taking my seat my neighbor in the aisle seat immediately started talking to me, a friendly man from Scotland, regulary visiting Kunming for work. When boarding was announced to be completed he changed to the aisle seat of the middle block, so both of us had more room. Pushback started about 1 minute after boarding was complete and with about 10 minutes delay we started to taxi to the runway:

Taxiing to the runway:

Lining up and taking off:



Stich of two photos of this fantastic scenery we were flying away from:

Some more impressions of the landscape around Kunming:




Legroom was excellent:

As soon as the fasten seatbelt signs were switched off I moved to the aisle seat and continued the interesting conversation with the guy from Scotland. He had fascinating stories to tell, as he wittnesned some cities in China grow from a few 100.000 to millions inhabitants, Kunming is only one example here. It grew apparently from under 900.000 in 1990 to over 7 million now. When you think about it, it’s just crazy. Explains why the new airport was badly needed and why it got such a huge terminal.
While we were talking dinner was served and it tasted excellent. One of the tastiest airplane meals for me so far:

The standard inflight wing-view:

Two seats for me, I am loving it. ^^

After dinner I walked around the cabin and took these photos, I really like the colourful and fresh look:


Seatback and IFE with PTV, but no AVOD:


As we came closer to Hongkong the clouds got thicker and the scattered/partly covered ceiling turned into a fully covered, fluffy sea of clouds:

After I had returned to my seat, the scottish guy and me continued our chat about China until we were asked to fasten our seat-belts as the descent had started. As seen on the IFE we passed Hongkong in the West and flew into a holding there, where we flew some rounds:

Sadly I did not manage to get a good shot from the CX A330 which flew parallel to us in the holding, but after two rounds in this “racetrack” we continued our descent into HKG, approaching the city from the Southwest. Descending through the clouds:




The clouds we hanging low this day and so it took a while until the dark South China Sea came into view:

After a quick right-turn we were aligned with Hongkongs northern runway and touchned soon after that final turn:

Taxiing to our gate:

Parking beside some international airlines:

Directly behind us the CX A330 which flew parallel to us in the holding turned into the gate next to us:

I waited again for most people to disembark and then was allowed again to visit the flightdeck. First stop, business class, i like these old school recliners:

The lights of the flightdeck were already turned down, but the captain asked me “should we turn on all these fancy lights again?” and to my reply “I wouldn’t mind” he and the FO turned on all the lights again. Sadly the images didn’t turn out to be very sharp. The flightdeck of our A330:

POST-FLIGHT:

After I had thanked the cockpit and cabin crews for their service and friendliness I continued on to the immigration. First step, down to the airtrain:

The way to the immigration was rather long, but it took just under 5 minutes to pass through. After waiting another 5 minutes my bag arrived on the carrousel:

— HONGKONG —

After I had picked up my bag I walked to the transfer desks for hotel buses. It took a while finding the right desk, but after my third try and some discussions I found the right desk. They first thought I am not their guest, but after my second try at the first desk I went to, they realized I am the guy they should get into Hongkong City. It took 10 minutes for the bus to arrive, then we drove of to Hongkong, passing Kowloon on the highway and arriving on Hongkong Island about 40 minutes later at my hotel: the Hotel de Edge by Rhombus. I did not leave my room that night, ordered another dinner to the room and then slept, so I could get up early on the next morning.

The room:

View from my room onto Victoria Harbour:

My hotel as seen from the street, after a good breakfast:

I spent day 1 of 2 crossing nearly the whole Hongkong Island by foot, at least that was my feeling. I started the day with the shops at Des Voeux Road West, selling everything out of the sea:

After a long visit to these shops and a short stop at the hairdresser, I turned around and walked back in easternly direction. Passing Des Voeux Road West again and Wing Lok Street, I walked up the steep hill along Morrison Street:

I had lunch somewhere up there on the mid-levels, before passing the markets around the Upper Lascar Row. Next important stop was the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road:

On Hollywood Road you’ll also find some very nice cars:

And in a shop on the same road I saw this photo-book:

Walking Hollywood Road uphill to the Escalators:

After taking the escalators of Shelley Street up to one of the highest streets of Hongkong Island, Conduit Road, I walked the whole way back down. I think the next photo shows how mountainous Hongkong is:

I stopped at some shops for photo-equipment on the way down, passed the markets of Li Yuen street and the noble Des Voeux Road Central to Hongkong Central Station. From there I walked to old and historic Legislative Council Building, which is located right beside the famous HSBC Tower:

I walked up Gardon Road next, passing the St. Johns Cathedral, with the HSBC Tower making an appearance in the background:

A few hundred meters up the Gardon road there is the “valley station” of the Peak Tram, which I took up the hill:


The Peak at Hongkong Island:


I stayed on the Peak for hours, even had dinner there, it is a great place and watching the sun set above Hongkong Island and Kowloon in the background can not be described. I later took the Peak Tram down again and after a short walk down Garden Road I took the normal tram to Sutherland Street station at the Des Voeux Road West, right behind my hotel.

The next morning after breakfast I opted for a walk to the Sheung Wan station, which is just 8-9 minutes by foot from my hotel, so did not take the tram that day. I took the Island and Tsuen Wan line (changing trains at Central) to Prince Edward station and started the morning with a peaceful walk through the flower market and the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden:

Afterwards it was time to see something off the beaten path, so I walked along Boundary Street and La Salle Road to the entrance of the Kowloon Tsai Park, which was a very important place for aviation when the old Kai Tak airport was still operating:

Checkerboard Hill the infamous visual navigational aid inside the park, right inbetween football/soccer fields and tennis courts:


As a true a.nutter next step was to climb up Checkerboard Hill. The climb is quite steep and a little bit dangerous. There is a fence around the hill, but the gate behind the tennis courts is always open as I was told. And this turned out to be true. This is view in the direction of the old Kai Tak airport:

Zoomed-in views of Kai Taks runway, skyscrapers now right at the path where once 747s flew right over the roofs of the neighbourhood around Kai Tak:


Another telezoom-view of Kai Taks old apron, everything gone except for the radar tower:

Via Iverness and Grampian Road I reached Pricne Edward Road West, which took me in easternly direction to the old Kai Tak airport. The road leads to a lot of old social housing projects, which are very interesting. This area is definitely not comparable with some more posh districts in Hongkong. Down at Prince Edward Road East I reached the elevated roads which led to the terminal building at Kai Tak. The terminal had already been demolished this year, so I was a few month late. This sign was hanging at the roadblocks of the elevated road:

I walked up the elevated road to get a good overview of the field which once was one of Asians most important airports:

The only thing left over from the old airport was the ground control tower, a few concrete areas of the old apron and about 50 meters of the original runway. Here are a few photos of the area:





I walked the Prince Edward Road back in westernly direction until I reached the shopping center Grand Century Palace after 45 minutes. I rested there for 15 minutes and visited some of the shops before I continued my march to the markets between Fa Yuen Street and Sai Yeung Choi Street, which are traffic free zones on the weekends. I went into some camera shops there to get my hands on some Nikons and Canons, as I was planing on getting a new camera. Btw, I think I never think I have seen so many people as on these streets. Shoppings seems to be the hobby number one in Hongkong:


After a 60 minute stroll through the streets with shops and market stands, I walked down Nathan Road:

It took me another 20 minutes to reach the Yau Ma Tei Temple, another very nice cultural place in Kowloon, last stop that night was the Temple Street night market:

I had planned to visit the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade with the bell tower there and the great looks over to Hongkong Island, but I was too tired. Two days of walking up and down the streets of Hongkong were enough. I took the metro back to my hotel, showered and relaxed for an hour. Afterwards I took the tram to the Escalator, where I had discovered a nice pub the day before. I had dinner and some drinks at there (the name is Peak Bar). A lot of British tourists or inhabitants with British roots made the visit very entertaining:

One of guys at the next table took this photo of me:

— HKG-BKK —

PRE-FLIGHT:

The next morning I packed my bags again, had breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then checked out. With a 10 minutes walk (which seemed very long with my bags) I reached the Sheung Wan metro station again. Just one station later I had reached Hongkong Central. From the metro stetion of the Island and Tsuen Wan lines it takes about a 8-10 minute walk underground to the connected station of the airport express. I took the elevator to the ground level, bought a ticket to the airport and went to the Airport Express check-in desks. All major airlines have check-in desks at the Airport Express stations at Hongkong Island and Kowloon.

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As I had already checked in online the evening before, I just had to drop my bag there and 10 minutes later I was sitting in the train to the airport:

The legroom was ultra tight, but I had two seats for myself, so this was okay:

Half an hour later I had reached the airport, where I could pass the check-in-area and directly pass through security.

Some shops between check-in and security:

FIDS: My flight leaving from gate 60, apparently on-time:

After passing security, more shops and restaurants:

Just when I wanted to take some photos of the apron my camera reported a full memory card, so I had to buy a fourth card. Afterwards I took this photo, I love all the widebody aircraft at HKG:

After some spotting I took the airtrain to my gate:

Walking down the long way to my gate:

I reached my gate about 60 minutes prior departure time and 20 minutes prior boarding time:

The Thai A380 which would take me to BKK, the reason why I opted for the one-stop-route instead of a non-stop flight to HKT:



FLIGHT HKG-BKK

Date: 09 December 2012
Airline: Thai Airways
Flight: TG 601
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
Aircraft Reg: HS-TUB
Departure Airport: HKG / Hongkong Chek Lap Kok
Arrival Airport: BKK / Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
Scheduled Departure Time: 13:25 / 01:25 PM
Actual Departure Time: 13:25 / 01:25 PM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 15:10 / 03:10 PM
Actual Arrival Time: 15:10 / 03:10 PM
Class: Economy
Seat: 51A (window)

Boarding started right on time, around 40 minutes prior to departure. As just a few people made an attempt to get onboard I strolled to the gate expecting a very light load. PTV showing the tail camera, love this feature:

Activating the map feature showing our route to BKK:

Thais aircraft fleet in their inflight magazine, nice feature with such a diverse fleet:

The inflight mag, this month with a special story about the 77W:

Look at all these different tails rising behind the curvature of our wing:

Just prior to pushback a huge number of people boarded, I guess some travel group as the load factor went from about 25% to 95% in just 5-10 minutes. Pushback still started on-time and we passed a huge number of CX aircraft:



With no wait we took of and had some great vortix streaming over out wing:



Legroom was excellent:

The IFE box on the other hand I found very disturbing, as it took quite some room away and the seats went up to the wall, with no possibility to put one foot between seats and wall:

Wonderful weather for some flights that day. Have a look how the wings curvature was gone now due to the lift raising up the outer part of the wing:

Thais IFE-AVOD-system was one of the fastest systems I encountered so far, including the SQ 77W. Loved it! I watched MIB3 on this flight, a good and funny movie:

This photo showing the insane thick walls of the A380, I think with some optimization we will see 11-abreast soon on these whale-jets:

More or less right after take-off (10 minutes) lunch was served, which was tasting fine:

Mood lightning:

What I found interesting is that you could start watching movies on the ground on TG aircraft. The movies were paused for announcements, but continued afterwards without user interaction. But for landings movies had to be stopped after starting the descent. I just finished my movie, when the announcement was made that our descent had started:

The inflight-map, nearly there:

Some wonderful clouds on approach to BKK:

Vortix forming again when the spoilers where raised to burn-of some excess speed:

The cabin at final approach, without mood lightning this time:

Final approach into BKK and landing:


See how the outer wing drops again after the spoilers killed off all remaining lift:

BKKs interesting design not to be overlooked:

Some Orient Thai classic 747-300 aircraft resting in the hot sun:

Arriving at our gate C3:

POST-FLIGHT:

Passing through the international termin to immigration and to the domestic part of this airport:

FLIGHT BKK-HKT

PRE-FLIGHT:

FIDS, showing my TG 16:55 / 04:55 PM departure to phuket delayed by 30 minutes:

After reaching a main hall, where I could turn left for international transfers and arrivals or right for domestic transfers, I apparently turned right, just to run into a checkpoint. TG agents checked there if you already got a boarding pass for the next domestic flight. I could pass through and walked straight on with multiple other pax from my last flight, too. When we all realized that everything was empty around us we turned around and found we had gone in the wrong direction. I blame TG or the airport here for missing signs. Have a look at the next photo, the TG checkpoint is behind this improvised wooden wall to the right. Apparently you would walk straight ahead. And that is what we did. But you would have to do a 180 after the checkpoint and walk in the direction from where the photo was taken. Who should know that without any sign?

Because of the delay I opted to have a second lunch at the local BK. Hamburger Plain FTW:


After I had finished my lunch I continued to my gate, a bus-gate at the ground level:

The gate area was very crowded, but there were enough seats available:

Boarding started a few minutes before 5 o’clock, at our scheduled departure time:

A 747 waiting for us instead of the scheduled A330, that made me happy, as this was my first 747 since 1997:

Date: 09 December 2012
Airline: Thai Airways
Flight: TG 217
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Aircraft Reg: HS-TGO
Departure Airport: BKK / Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
Arrival Airport: HKT / Phuket
Scheduled Departure Time: 16:55 / 04:55 PM
Actual Departure Time: 16:55 / 04:55 PM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 18:15 / 06:15 PM
Actual Arrival Time: 18:15 / 06:15 PM
Class: Economy
Seat: 57A (window)

The flight was totally packed and there were flights between BKK and HKT about every 30 minutes on different airlines. I really wonder if it wouldn’t be better to have more direct flights to Europe from HKT instead? After boarding I took my seat at the window beside a couple from the United Kingdom. The oldschool PSU seen above my head, no vents, how I hate this:

The airplane was totally hot, probably having been in the sun for multiple hours without any fresh air being pumped into the cabin. I was really happy when the pushback finally started at 5:30 PM. Passing some foreign and Thai heavies while taxiing to the runway:




Following a CX A330 to the runway:

With the engines now running for some minutes, finally the A/C kicked in and it got colder in the cabin. Wonderful sunset:

The CX A330 taking off:

Lining up on the runway:

Take-off:



Legroom was excellent again, the best so far on my trip, you could really stretch out:

Lots of room for my feet, too, no IFE box here and no strut of the seats in front of me close to the wall:

The IFE with PTV and AVOD was okay, but older non-HD monitors compared to the A380 and fewer choices of programs. But it still was fast and had a lot to offer. Despite being turned on, while on the ground, the IFE was turned off inflight and just the map was shown. This was fine was me, as I could watch the sunset on this short 80 minutes flight to HKT:


The served sandwhich looked disgusting again and I opted not to eat it, like most pax around me, too. The orange juice tasted not very natural and the tea was only acceptable with a lot of sugar. What a LCC-service on this domestic hop:

The last rays of sunlight, can’t get enough of these conditions:


The cabin after the sun had settled and darkness surrounded our aircraft:

I used the remaining flight time to write down the events of the day in my travel log, which is just an evernote notice on my smartphone. While I finished writing down the last words the descent started. We had flown down the East Coast of Southern Thailand and now turned right for the final approach over Phuket:


Landing:


Parking next to a Transaero 767:

It took a while until I could get up, as there was only one bridge for the aircraft at HKT and First and Business Class pax took their time getting out first. Anyway, I waited for most pax to get out first anyway, so I could try to get into the flightdeck again. Despite the Captain and First Officer just having dinner they allowed me to visit the flightdeck. If I remember correctly, this was my first 747 flightdeck visit since 1994. It had been a TG 747, too, back then. But I can’t remember if it was a -400 or classic model.

POST-FLIGHT:

The airport was very hot and when going to the baggage claim for my flight, I was told I would have to go to another room, where all bags from international flights would arrive and another customs checkpoint was located. The agent had recognized me by my blue sticker I had got at the TG checkpoint in BKK. I really was lucky at this point, that my bag had made it to all countries on this trip:

— PHUKET —

As one of just a few pax I was not singled out for a customs check after I had picked up my bag and then took a cab to my hotel in the southeastern part of Phuket. The Radisson Blu at Panwah Beach. I had booked a 7 night stay with an all-inclusive-package featuring a free upgrade if rooms available. To my total surprise for this time of the year I got an upgrade to a Beach Bungalow. Fantastic!


I relaxed at the beach for the first two days, really needing this after month of work, and two weeks of crazy flights and hurting feet from all my sightseeing trips:


On day 2, around noon, German female dive instructor Jana from the local scuba-diving center arrived at the pool, offering test-diving in the pool for newbies and interested people. I asked if I could do swim rounds underwater with the equipment as I had not been scuba-diving for 12 years. When I explained that I had more than 100 dives in my logs, I was allowed to dive in the pool without any explaing and shortly after I wrote my name on the list for the next two days. So I spent days 3 and 4 in Thailand on the dive boat, diving at some interesting locations, especially the wreck of the MS King Cruiser. It was great to do some diving again after such a long time, but it felt like it had been yesterday that I took my last dive, so no learning curve for me there:


The last two days I wanted to go diving again, but my sanity won and I opted to stay at the beach and pool, as I wanted to come back to Germany relaxed. I used these days to finish my two books I had taken with me on the trip, one about the history of the football club FC Bayern and the other about the history of the 747 by Boeing legend Joe Sutter. I can really recommend everyone to read Joes book!

***FINAL WORDS:***

Despite a lot of flying, I’ve been to Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, Hongkong and Phuket now. And I love Tokyo and Hongkong. They are totally different, but both were fantastic in their own, unique way. Thailand was the perfect mix between relaxing and scuba-diving, a paradise on earth, that I really did not want to leave.

The airlines:
– MU domestic really not that great, the crew “professional”, the gate staff at PEK apparently not doing their job, the agents at KMG at least very helpful.
– KA did a fantastic job, great food, friendly cabin crew, uber friendly cockpit crew
– TG fantastic, too, friendly as they are known to be, excellent legroom, great IFE, good meal on the international sector, LCC-catering on the domestic one

The airports:
– PEK domestic: rather boring, not that modern airport, wifi not working as it should, security lines much too long, but at least on time
– KMG: great airport, brand new, friendly staff from MU and KA, nice lounge (with just a little bit limited offers), efficient and on-time
– HKG: fantastic airport, despite some longer ways to walk it always has a airy, modern feeling, seems perfect for connections, but also for O+D traffic
– BKK: too hot, hectic feeling, missing signs, at least modern, but not perfect
– HKT: older airport, with a little bit weird layout on arrival regarding the baggage claim, but it does it job just fine for that touristic location

Part 4 will be featuring my return to Berlin, Germany via BKK to HKG with TG and from there in Business Class with RJ via AMM to TXL.

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