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Son of BEHEMOTH

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simongr

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Son of BEHEMOTH​

So it begins – the Son Of BEHEMOTH. This is a different sort of journey for me. Obviously the mechanism is the same – a giant metal tube full of wires, champagne and the little people but this is for me a dramatically different journey. BEHEMOTH was the end of the beginning – on that journey I achieved top tier status with AA and HHonors so on SOB I will be travelling as a passenger with status already – rose petals will be strewn before me as I walk and I will be upgraded to suites in every hotel with free flowing champagne at every stage of the journey.

But it keeps coming back to that word – journey. What exactly is a journey? It has many names and some of my favourites are below

Arabic: سَفْرَه، رِحْلَه
Chinese (Simplified): 旅程
Chinese (Traditional): 旅程
Dutch: reis
Estonian: teekond
Finnish: matka
Greek: ταξίδι, διαδρομή
Hungarian: út; utazás
Icelandic: ferðalag
Indonesian: perjalanan
Italian: viaggio
Japanese: 旅行
Korean: 여행
Latvian: brauciens; ceļojums
Lithuanian: kelionė
Polish: podróż
Romanian: călă¬torie
Russian: поездка; путешествие
Slovak: cesta
Slovenian: potovanje
Spanish: viaje

So many name really reflect the complexity of what a journey is. It is however easily defined in the dictionary:

www.dictionary.com said:
jour•ney - [jur-nee] noun, plural -neys, verb, -neyed, -ney•ing.

1. a traveling from one place to another, usually taking a rather long time; trip: a six-day journey across the desert.
2. a distance, course, or area traveled or suitable for traveling: a desert journey.
3. a period of travel: a week's journey.
4. passage or progress from one stage to another: the journey to success.
–verb (used without object)
5. to make a journey; travel.

[Origin: 1175–1225; ME journee day < OF < VL *diurnāta a day's time, day's work, etc., equiv. to L diurn(us) daily + -āta, fem. of -ātus -ATE1; see -ADE1 ]


—Related forms
jour•ney•er, noun
For me though the key definition above is passage or progress from one stage to another. My travels since I changed jobs in May 2006 have been “lumpy” a smallish number of big trips around the world or around Asia. A lot of flights and a lot of miles but not a sequence of recurrent events. As such much of the travel has been about an exploration of the experience of the journey rather than just a distance travelled.

But now on some levels I had moved beyond that. At the conclusion of BEHEMOTH I was “an experienced traveller” so the wonder had left me – not to bring me to a state of being jaded with travel – but there was not as much to experience as new. That in a way disappointed me in planning SOB. If the wonder and excitement was gone then was there a point to the journey and in that sense I do mean the traverse form point A to point B – was it simply going to become that to me. What journey can I make from this travel? What is there new that I can experience aside from simply a different place to eat and sleep? After having moved from journeyer to traveller what can I bring new to this trip?

To my joy there were two answers to this question. Firstly the journey to the journey itself was more complex than a cryptex wrapped in an enigma hidden in a room you can only find when you really need it (you all now my love of the Potter books so you will excuse me that). The second answer was the most obvious one and to my discredit I really should have spotted this first. I am embarking on this journey as a statused traveller – so this time I actually get the benefits that I “worked so hard” to achieve.

So the journey begins but the starting point is not the journey – but the journey to the journey itself…
 

straitman

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simongr said:
Son of BEHEMOTH​


So it begins – the Son Of BEHEMOTH. This is a different sort of journey for me. Obviously the mechanism is the same – a giant metal tube full of wires, champagne and the little people but this is for me a dramatically different journey. BEHEMOTH was the end of the beginning – on that journey I achieved top tier status with AA and HHonors so on SOB I will be travelling as a passenger with status already – rose petals will be strewn before me as I walk and I will be upgraded to suites in every hotel with free flowing champagne at every stage of the journey.

But it keeps coming back to that word – journey. What exactly is a journey? It has many names and some of my favourites are below

Arabic: سَفْرَه، رِحْلَه
Chinese (Simplified): 旅程
Chinese (Traditional): 旅程
Dutch: reis
Estonian: teekond
Finnish: matka
Greek: ταξίδι, διαδρομή
Hungarian: út; utazás
Icelandic: ferðalag
Indonesian: perjalanan
Italian: viaggio
Japanese: 旅行
Korean: 여행
Latvian: brauciens; ceļojums
Lithuanian: kelionė
Polish: podróż
Romanian: călă¬torie
Russian: поездка; путешествие
Slovak: cesta
Slovenian: potovanje
Spanish: viaje

So many name really reflect the complexity of what a journey is. It is however easily defined in the dictionary:



For me though the key definition above is passage or progress from one stage to another. My travels since I changed jobs in May 2006 have been “lumpy” a smallish number of big trips around the world or around Asia. A lot of flights and a lot of miles but not a sequence of recurrent events. As such much of the travel has been about an exploration of the experience of the journey rather than just a distance travelled.

But now on some levels I had moved beyond that. At the conclusion of BEHEMOTH I was “an experienced traveller” so the wonder had left me – not to bring me to a state of being jaded with travel – but there was not as much to experience as new. That in a way disappointed me in planning SOB. If the wonder and excitement was gone then was there a point to the journey and in that sense I do mean the traverse form point A to point B – was it simply going to become that to me. What journey can I make from this travel? What is there new that I can experience aside from simply a different place to eat and sleep? After having moved from journeyer to traveller what can I bring new to this trip?

To my joy there were two answers to this question. Firstly the journey to the journey itself was more complex than a cryptex wrapped in an enigma hidden in a room you can only find when you really need it (you all now my love of the Potter books so you will excuse me that). The second answer was the most obvious one and to my discredit I really should have spotted this first. I am embarking on this journey as a statused traveller – so this time I actually get the benefits that I “worked so hard” to achieve.

So the journey begins but the starting point is not the journey – but the journey to the journey itself…
WOW:!:

.... I don't know what else to say. :oops:
 

serfty

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Hey Simon, how about an agreement is reached.

1. We can continue to post here.

2. You do your trip report on another thread, We (I hope) all promise not to post in it. :D

Cheers ...
 

simongr

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Hmm - a discussion thread about a trip report... no pressure on the author to maintain quality ...
 

oz_mark

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simongr said:
Hmm - a discussion thread about a trip report... no pressure on the author to maintain quality ...
No none at all.

Especially not from us hecklers..
 
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simongr

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The journey to the journey

You may know by now that I don’t like to make things easy on myself :) The story of the Next DONE4 Planning thread can be found here . On a day to day basis almost the routing changed as things intersected and shaped the journey. I had initially envisioned SOB as in fact a longer journey than BEHEMOTH. The initial routing was:

syd-nrt-hkg-sin-nrt-dfw-lax-jfk-bgi-lgw-pfo,lca-lhr-hkg-syd-mel-syd

And before the naysayers jump in and critique the routing for being dim and unnecessary – I know. There is an element of extravagance and mileage running and just doing it because I could. If you don’t like it – go and close down the Mileage Running forum (sorry for being a bit tetchy but during the BEHEMOTH Trip Report a few people jumped in and criticised the routing – thanks to all who stepped in a defended me on that :)).

Anyway after the debacle in BGI last time I decided to cut BGI from the trip and also try to get the trip to 16 segments so it could be an Eticket. A few refinements later and then the bigger spanner is thrown into the works as I am asked at relatively short notice to go to PVG for “some days”. At the same time I am leaning against routing to HKG via NRT but unfortunately that first flight can’t be changed without reworking the whole thing. At the same time mrssimongr suggests that we go to DRW for a weekend after I get back from the trip so I add that to the ticket instead of BNE (although due to SWP restrictions I still actually have to fly via BNE). So a final routing is decided

syd-nrt-hkg-pvg-hkg-nrt-dfw-lga,jfk-lhr-lca-lhr-hkg-syd-bne-drw-syd

What stuns me most is that I now class this as a simple trip – but when I look at it – how on earth can one consider this simple?????

For personal reasons as well it becomes more important than ever for me to take my diversion to Cyprus. I am not a person to regret my prior actions. When I left the UK in 2000 I turned to go through security knowing that part of my life was over but have never regretted it – regrets serve no person other than to make you question the decisions that you make – you make the decisions and you have to live with the outcomes – I choose not to use the word consequences as that would imply only bad comes from the decisions you make. As such I have not regretted being so far from my family in the UK as I have made a positive decision with my wife that Oz is the place that we will live. However this is one time that I am very grateful that I can be there with my family.

Anyhoo – a little less melancholy – I haven’t even mentioned a G&T yet – you must be wondering if this is truly me writing this! In parallel to my journey (I will try and not to overuse that – I sort of promise) planning, as a result of the baggage trauma of BEHEMOTH I have started “The Great Hand Luggage Challenge” and intend to travel this entire 3½ week trip with just hand luggage – a garment bag and a rollaboard! Now to give you some context to this on the BEHEMOTH I travelled (theoretically only of course given the luggage delays ;)) with a large Samsonite case (weighted in at 31.9KG at LGW), large leather garment bag (with 4 suits after purchases in LON), laptop bag and 20in rollaboard. Now one might consider this unnecessary on a normal trip and perhaps I might accept some criticism in that regard – perhaps I didn’t need the 4 plug multi bar adapater, corkscrew, two pairs of black oxfords, casual shoes, second casual shoes, running shoes, speaker system for the iPod, 5 kg of lead soldiers that I brought back from the UK that belonged to me when I was young and a 6 casual shirts, four pairs of casual trousers, three oompa loompas and a Xenoperdix obscuratus in a Pyrus amygdaliformis – my mother was an Akela and I have been indoctrinated that one should always be prepared – perhaps being prepared for The Day After Tomorrow is a trifle excessive.

As I prepare for this trip we really cut to the bone – imagine if you will this great episode of the Simpsons with Homer as the football coach slowly cutting garments and accessories from the trip – I look longingly at the pile of other Polo Ralph Lauren polo shirts that I am leaving behind and wonder if I will be able to cope with just three… The hardest part of the preparation and planning for the trip is knowing that I wont be buying some of the gifts that I would normally purchase. I know that hard core travellers don’t buy gifts for people (well perhaps other than Jonnie Walker as bribes for Chinese government officials and the Horn Rimmed Glasses Guy in Heroes who used to buy a teddy bear every time he “went overseas” which was in fact a euphemism for disappearing on some job for the Company… I am digressing again aren’t I?)

So finally after a hint of traverse within the route to the journey (see not overusing the [ b ] tags on journey this time we are set SOB can begin and with it a new chapter in the Journeyer’s travels.
 

simongr

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Journey – SYD-NRT
Flight no. – QF21
Class – Business
Seat – 3K

I am flying out on APEC weekend – whatever that means. What it does mean is a public holiday on the Friday before my Saturday night flight to Tokyo. I spend some time preparing my packing for the trip given the luggage constraints but actually have a relaxing day with mrssimongr – working on a few last things for the house and planning for our trip when I get home. There is more than a few minutes of panic at home as my Moleskine notebook that I use for trip reports has vanished :eek: so we troop off to the store to get a replacement (it doesn’t feel the same though as it just doesn’t seem right to be taking SOB notes in a book without the BEHEMOTH).

[aside-ramble]

I guess at this point I can take a minute to better elucidate what travel means to me (here he goes again) and why certain things make the experience more than just a journey. When writing my first trip report I just grabbed a $5 notebook – the same as I used for my normal work notes. But at the commencement of the BEHEMOTHI bought myself a Moleskine notebook. Obviously a notebook is just a sheaf of paper tied together. But as you can see from how I write and how I travel the feel of what I do is almost as important as the actions themselves. I can feel the warmth of the notebook as I write and the feeling of putting the band back on the book makes the experience of writing seem more than just an accountant exploring his ego and more like a writer.

[/aside-ramble]

Fortunately as I pack the last few things and tidy the bedroom before I leave I find my old Moleskine on the floor next to the bed. This is a relief and a nice lift before I take my bags downstairs to begin the journey. The car arrives on schedule and I take my two small bags and drop them in the boot/trunk of the car and finally (for you and for me) it begins!

With it being APEC weekend I am expecting terrible traffic on the way to the Airport so have booked a slightly earlier than normal car but it is only 45 minutes from my house to the F lounge! The somewhat belligerent check in staff is happy to check me in and gives me my SYD-NRT and NRT-HKG boarding passes and after some prompting gives me the Epass for express immigration and security. I know it sounds petty having only had two outbounds from SYD as a either an F Pax or an OWE – but I am little disappointed about this new higher level of service – no documents have been pre-prepared for me as F (obviously not a benefit as OWE) and the little chaps in the check in area seem to just ignore me – all it seems is that it is just a walled off area. I know I joked about rose petals and champagne but something more than a grunt might be nice.

Anyway, as there is no-one in the main immigration queue I pocket the epass for a rainy day and go to a regular counter. I am quizzed on my less than direct routing to HKG but am waved through after some muttering about how I like to fly and am advised not to say that it is nicer up the front…

The first test of my hand luggage challenge is security and not a word is said and no bags are weighed – all good so far. Security is painless thankfully and I am quickly into the F lounge with no issues at all. I am quickly able to confirm that the AFL is being shown in the lounge although in retrospect I wish it wasn’t given the Swan’s performance :(

I enjoy the Tapas plate of some salt cod fitters (super yum), [non]-spicy meatballs (yum), interesting octopus (not normally a choice for me but given a punt and surprisingly nice) and some prosciuttio (which I pass on at this point). This shortly followed by some very spicy calamari which is being brought round a la the SIN F lounge I experienced. Obviously this all being washed down with some Veuve initially and subsequently with some Cape Mentelle (I am really enjoying this visit to the lounge).

I am enjoying a somewhat topsy turvy game with it fairly balanced but with still almost a full half to go when sadly the F lounge needs to give way to a J seat and I am off to board my first QF A330 flight. I am struck on boarding by the lack of two door boarding that we would get at HKG – it really does devalue the J experience when you have to board with the hoipolloi

As I take my window seat (preferred option on night flights) I look around at the options of seat buddy that I could have had and roll my eyes at the 50+ dumpy woman that I will actually be sat next to. Now I know I will take some heat for that – it’s just it would be nice just once to be sat next to a chatty attractive woman given I dont get to travel much with mrssimongr

As I take a look around the cabin I notice some subtle differences to other airbuses that I have been on. Obviously this is a newer aircraft and the flow of curves around the cabin is definitely different to other aircraft. The Skybed also feels different. There seems to be a large lump in my lower back and the plastic of the seat in front looks lighter. They also seem noisier – and as people are spending much time adjusting them BEFORE take off it makes the whole thing just seem loud on board.

The option of “dining later” seems to be causing trouble for some pax – but I revert to a normal mode of asking for a nice cold beer shortly after take off (rather than a G&T as it is a little outside of the G&T window (on reflection this entire trip seems a little light on G&Ts :eek: ).

We are a little delayed taking off due to the departure of the Evil Overlord (George Bush) on Air Force 1 and 2. Disappointingly we get slightly divergent messages from the cabin crew and the flight deck – a little thing but also a little unnecessary.

I am again asleep on take off and for the first 45 mins of the flight – but strangely I find that drinks are still not being served and a pre-dinner drink is not forthcoming! I foolishly try the AVOiD only to be disappointed again :( The system is dead for the cabin for the first two hours (remember this is a 9:50PM flight out of SYD). I determine that the problem with the system is that it takes time to get going and progressively becomes stable with the cabin row by row and then seat by seat – sadly my seat is the last cab off the rank – and I just don’t have the patience to wait for it to catch up so revert to laptop TV…

Dinner is a fairly unappetising affair starting with an artichoke salad and a veal pie. The veal pie is a nice concept – a traditional footy pie with ketchup/tomato sauce on top - but have you ever tried eating a pie that is in a small ramekin on a plane with airline cutlery? Obviously some of you will have but for the purposes of this story let’s just assume that my eating failings are an enlightening experience for you

A couple of glasses of nice shiraz and I am off to Bedfordshire. Now here is the kicker – the Skybed actually feels a little longer. It might be totally psychological but I do manage to crash out quite well :) I think I get maybe 5 – 6 hours sleep so I view that as a net win.

I wake and immediately given a scorching hot towel and asked if I want breakfast – but am at least given the chance to go to the bathroom before I have to commit to breakfast. I am not normally great a having breakfast straight after waking – I am more of a brunch person. I only manage to pick at breakfast and realise that if I was more in the mood it would be quite nice – soft scrambled egg, smoked salmon and leaf tea.

As we begin our descent the CSM brings me a A$50 voucher for onboard duty free – a darn sight more useful to me than the A$300 voucher I got previously for failed AVOiD – but that was only redeemable against other flights…

I repack my bag and begin my focus on NRT and the JL F lounge, deciding whether to lounge hop and switching my seat on the next flight – I mean c’mon 17A??? DYKWIA???? ;)
 

simongr

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The Conrad Hong Kong

This is my first stay at a hotel when I have some real hotel status and we are certainly talking Chalk and Cheese (mmmmm….. cheese…) in my check in experience.

At the main check in desk I am whisked up to the 59th Floor Executive Lounge for check in. I am not handed off to some other flunky but dealt with by the same person from entry to room. This may not seem a big deal to some people but I do sometimes get frustrated with being overserviced being passed around to more senior people. I just wan t a quick smooth check in service.

No questions are raised or changes to rates as a result of my change in stay due to the impending Shanghai side trip. I had expected at least a rate change due to the pair of shorter stays. The HHonors Diamond benefits are great, spelled out at check in and include:

- Executive lounge access and evening cocktails
- Harbour view with larger room
- Free wireless internet in the Exec lounge
- 4 shirts pressed for free

The in-room experience is also quite enhanced by having a massive room, chocolates and jasmine tea brought up to me a few mins after I get to the room. Overall very nice.

Not long after check-in and freshening up I head to the Exec Lounge to catch up with family on msn whilst sipping champagne. OK – I admit it – this isn’t the hardest part of the job.

I have a quick day in the office on Monday and my jacket is relegated to a cupboard in the office whilst I go to Shanghai due to the very, very warm temperatures here in HKG. The next few days are planned and we actually realise that I only need to be in PVG until Monday at the latest. What this does mean is another trip with lots of moving around again – something I am getting a little bored of.

Having not spent any time in PVG before and knowing that I will be back in HKG in November I decide to fly back to HKG on the Monday and spend a full weekend in PVG. It is a little bit of a luxury as it will wipe out half a day’s work but I don’t fancy spending three weeks travelling every weekend.

Monday evening I am back in lounge for further excellent service – they already know my drink!!!! As I get back to the room I intercept the turn down service (something I really don’t need as a business traveller who leaves at 8AM and gets back at 7PM and whose room doesn’t change after the first clean in the morning) and am handed a Conrad Bear :) At least I have a gift for Dog2 now ;)

I am pretty exhausted so I am in bed by 9:30PM and set my alarm for 5AM – forgetting that the alarm is set to Sydney time so after my 3AM wake up I go back to bed for a little longer.

On check out I make a further change to my booking and grab a cab to the train station intending to get the train to the airport. In the past I have averaged HK$380 for the ride to/from the airport. In the cab the driver asked if I already had a ticket to the airport which I said no to. He then offered 25 mins and HK$260 to the airport – which sounded fine. I was taken through the “back streets” of Hong Kong and past many places I had never seen but on schedule and on the money I made it to the airport. It would have been great if one of my pens had not escaped into the cab :(
 
P

Platy

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simongr said:
and a Xenoperdix obscuratus in a Pyrus amygdaliformis – .
BUT presumably you will still be taking the forest partridge (evidently no ordinary common or garden partridge in your luggage!) in the infamous pear tree.

(Otherwise you will have to make do with a "flamingo on an Akrotiri salt flat"
or "a griffin vulture in Episcopi")...
 

simongr

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We currently seem to be experiencing some technical difficulties - please enjoy theis brief musical interlude and will be with as soon as we can.​
 

simongr

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Journey – HKG-PVG
Flight no. – CX367
Class – Business
Seat – 17A 16D

The F check in at HKG is a joy as ever. I ask them to change the dates of my flights next week and they advise that they will get the lounge to let me know if it has been arranged. In addition I am advised to use the Pier lounge as that is closer to the gate. A nice touch and a step up from the QF F check in approach (admittedly they couldn’t give me a choice but I walk away from this check in feeling special rather than disappointed).

At exit immigration I use the HKIA FV card again for a speedy exit. One strange thing is that they have to record my details manually but interestingly the immigration staff make the other pax wait until my details have been taken so that I am not slowed down at all :)

It is still quite early – well very early – so it is onto the serftymobile and into the lounge. I am informed at entry to the lounge that they are happy to make the change to my flights but as they are not the ticket issuer they will have to charge me HK$300 for the benefit… I decide it might be better to call the EXP desk and get them to make the change ;)

After a mere 10 seconds seated in the lounge the shopkeeper arrives and offers me my choice of drinks. Now I hope you are both seated and not holding anything fragile such as expensive crockery, a small child or perhaps the still beating heart of your latest victim (just watched an episode of Dexter[/url)) but, phew this is actually hard to type, I actually ordered an English Breakfast Tea… no champagne, no G&T, not even a crisp cold refreshing draft Asahi (mmmm Asahi. Admittedly it IS 7AM and I am planning to work on the flight (more on that later) but still – I am as shocked as you are at this despicable behaviour – I can sense a need to compensate with either a hair shirt or a large G&T when I get to PVG.

But with my EBT in hand I hook up Skype and call mrssimongr who is sadly not well but is at least taking a couple of days off. After that call it is onto the EXP desk to change flights and ticket my AAward for next year.

[aside]

This has been a mammoth task trying to get two RTW tickets in J on the following routing syd-jfk-lhr-lca-syd – not easy by any stretch of the imagination but I have at least managed to get syd-jfk-lhr-lca-hkg in J on exactly the dates I wanted. I think that is best I can hope for. Now just to bleat on another pet topic – the wonderful world of the AAdvantage program. This AAward cost me 300K AAdvantage miles and US$440 in taxes. A similar award if I had booked through QFF would have been over 500K points and probably in excess of $1500 in taxes. As much as I bemoan that few months without F lounge access and not being second from the top of the queue for points upgrades – you just can not argue with those economics, but I know there are those that will ;)

[/aside]

The CS staff makes the change but then has to “check with tariff” to see if any fee applies – I sigh and wait for the confirmation of no fee that takes 5 mins. The CS staff is good though – he apologises for not knowing specifically the rules and being able to answer that immediately and thanks me for all the miles I am putting to the AA program. Again a small but subtle level of quality in the service. Good work.

Just before boarding is called I duck into the Tumi store to grab a Tumi passport holder (I think it is the underwear next ;)).

Boarding is painless and the aircraft is the regional config which is ok but not great. Certainly better than Club Europe but this aint no Skybed (hmm think I might need a review of the various J class configurations that I have been flying in recently. Although we board on time we are left waiting for the resolution of a “small mechanical problem”. I am reminded of my last HKG-China flight when we flew around HKG for a couple of hours before landing back at HKG for an aircraft change…

I decide to skip the breakfast having eaten in the lounge and I just grab some tea and get on with some work. I am then (almost literally) struck by the worst recliner on record. Now this only a 2 hour flight and is flying at a reasonable time out of HKG and this person obviously has not just gotten off a connecting flight so I just can not see the need for sleep. It actually turns out that the seat is a little faulty and it allows him to recline even further than standard – so far in fact that I can’t even open my laptop fully – and this is only a small 12.1” laptop.

I do however manage to get an hour or so of work done and am amazed that the recliner doesn’t move for the entire flight. I am pretty fed up as we start the commencement of the descent into PVG and the first indications of landing are announced. I then get pretty bloody annoyed when the recliner gets up and leaves his seat fully reclined whilst he goes off to the bathroom – knowing that they have announced the descent. I ask the cabin crew to raise the seat and even they are amazed at how far it has reclined. Then he comes back and slams the seat back into a full recline!!!!! It is only 30 seconds later that the Captain requests for all seats to be put upright and it takes a couple of prods from the cabin crew to get sleeping beauty to actually sit up. Altogether this was a pretty uncomfortable flight :(

I normally quite enjoy my CX and to be getting off thoroughly depressed is a real shame. At least on my way back I wont be going into the office and can actually enjoy the flight – even if it is regional configuration.
 

simongr

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The Shanghai Hilton

The joy of hand luggage only strikes again as I breeze through PVG airport and straight into the waiting hotel car (mind you it is only a Toyota this time rather than the Lexus I had last time) and am pretty much in the hotel within an hour of landing.

At the Hilton I am met at the door and escorted to the Exec Lounge check in which is actually in the lobby as the Exec floor is being refurbished. I am welcomed by the Manager and there is a lot of fuss about how I am on the 8th floor away from the renovation noise. I keep mentioning the great room I had last time that had been refurbished but they just nod and smile without commenting on that. I realise why when I get to the dingy small dismal unrefurbished room that has been allocated to me. Quite frankly after the flight and the thought of being in Shanghai by myself for a week in this room I am not feeling overly generous when I get back to the lobby to find out what they can do to improve this.

I am told they can not do anything tonight but will move me the next day. It is ok – just not a particularly good way to start my PVG visit. After a sandwich in the hotel my day is made worse by a shocking cab ride to the office which I survive twice as I realise I have left my Chinese cash in the hotel! Mind you although I have to drive twice to the office the cab ride is still only A$9!!!

My evening is pretty quiet as I am quite tired but I have a horrendous night’s sleep – maybe one or two too many glasses of red from the complementary bottle of wine… I did make it to the Exec Lounge bar which takes over the rooftop bar from 6pm to 8pm which is ok. It is however lessened as a large Dutch man is lecturing the staff on how to pour some Vodka and lime drink in quite a demeaning way. It is also a little annoying (but obviously culturally acceptable) that they allow smoking in the lounge.

The next morning I am a little tired from the restless sleep but thankfully I have no problems with the cab this time. I have an excellent banquet style lunch with the Shanghai finance team – some not-Tofu which is surprisingly lovely.

When I get back to the hotel my new room is ok – not refurbished but very large and with some great views of Shanghai. The rooms have overall been a real downer here – hopefully they will be back up to standard when I come back in 2008.

Dinner is at the Bund that evening with the Finance Team. It is amusing that they take me to a western restaurant for dinner (I paid mind you) called Luna. I guess for the Chinese staff this quite an exotic venue :)

The next morning is a little less smooth as the cab gets lost on the way to the office and I then realise I have been mis-reading the map quite badly as well – altogether a lot more shaky.

I am finding PVG quiet difficult as a non-Chinese speaking single traveller. Coupled with the tiredness that is following this trip I have a quiet night in the hotel again – not the most fun way to spent a Friday night :(

Saturday morning is spent relaxing in the hotel as again I have a restless night. I spend a good while using Skype to speak to mrssimongr about the granite selection for our new kitchen – something I am actually a little sad to be missing. I am just about to set off for the Bund to actually do some sightseeing when the heavens open – I have a feeling that PVG really doesn’t like!

The rains do clear so it’s straight into a cab and down to the Bund. I finally feel like I am getting to experience something on an Asia trip for once. There have been just too many trips that have been spent transiting to other parts of Asia that I feel like I haven’t really visited Asia yet – and that was a driver for taking this job!

As I am al little later getting down to the Bund I just stroll and soak in the atmosphere and the buildings. There are some truly stunning late 19th Century colonial buildings along the river. I also have a chance to reflect on China as a concept (bear with me for a few minutes on this). We have known through school and the news that China is a big country with a big population but I don’t think I have really understood the meaning of that. I look around Shanghai – a city of 20 million people – that is as much as the whole population of Australia and this is just one city of many. The scale is unimaginable but here I am trying to imagine it. Even looking around this small speck of a part of a city there is a massive range of wealth, circumstances and structure. The lives of the ordinary people are just so different. Just watching the store and restaurant owners how they go about their lives is really as alien as you expect it to be. It is almost disconcerting to be here – I really realise how far outside of my traditional experience as I have ever been. The more I think about it (you have a lot of time to think about things when travelling alone – perhaps too much time given I am up to page 14 of notes on this trip report and am only up to flight three…) the more you think about the traditional way we view the world is going to be thrown off balance – western cultures are just overwhelmed by the volume of people in the second world. Who would have thought 40 years ago that the world would be seized not in battle but simply through weight of numbers?

I stroll back up the bund away from my reverie and actually hail a cab. Now this may not sound like a big deal but this is officially the first cab that I have hailed for myself in China! As I ride back to the hotel I am quite proud of myself. Although I have flown a lot I would not say that I have travelled a great deal – my experiences over the past year are very much hotels and cabs and offices rather than places (with the little exception of my four glorious trips to NYC). With the trip this afternoon I really feel like I have moved a little closer to actually experiencing China rather than just being there.

A quiet evening in again (I should really try and get out more to restaurants by myself next time) and a relatively early start. A smooth check out process is interrupted as I am called back by housekeeping to retrieve my phone and charger that I left in the room – good customer service there :) The journey to the airport is much enhanced by the Audi A6 this time – overall a delightful experience. There is a lot of cloud/smog around so I am relieved that the airport is all clear when I get there.

At check in I am asked if I want to move to the earlier flight – which when they indicate is KA, I politely decline. I am allocated seat 1K which I find a little unusual given the regional configuration. After a rather slow exit immigration process I make my way down to the lounge level and try to get in the JL lounge that is closest to the gate only to be refused entry as I am not on CX metal – or so I am told! There doesn’t seem to be much point arguing this with the lounge staff and stroll up to the KA lounge – which is not great but has the distinction of being at the absolute other end of the airport.
 

simongr

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Journey – PVG-HKG
Flight no. – CX367
Class – Business
Seat – 1K

I hook up the free wi-fi in the KA lounge (an improvement over the prior visit), grab a cold beer and some neat little sandwiches. It is not long before we are approaching boarding and given the massive walk to the gate I leave a little early – which is a good move as it takes at least 20 mins to walk – this is the point at which I somewhat regret the hand luggage only rules…

Finally I am on board and I almost collapse with shock. This is not a regional config CX aircraft – it is a three class A330 – so my 1K is in fact a First class seat!!!! Fully flat beds on a 2 hour flight :) I am so looking forward to this flight that I wish it was a little longer in fact.

I opt for the asian meal which is beef in black bean with rice and accompanied by a very good Australian Shiraz. Although this is a long haul aircraft they only play the regional IFE which is a little disappointing as it is just TV shows without any movies of note. I grab a bit of Laptop TV and then watch an episode of Top Gear which has me almost in tears of laughter – Jeremy Clarkson is really just the greatest!

The staff are great and attentive but they do disappear quite early in the flight along with the shiraz ;) The Haggen Daas is again as hard as rock but does eventually melt enough to be eaten.

The flight is over almost before it has begun and we have another cloudy/polluted descent into HKG – I am really looking forward to the day I can see blue sky and the sun in HKG. After landing I have another huge walk to immigration (I estimate 6 moving walkways) but at immigration the HKIA FV card proves to be invaluable. I am planning to grab the train to Central again but have buried my HK$ in my bag somewhere and am not having luck finding it so it is off to the ATM again – I am a little reticent about that as I don’t have many days left in HKG and I don’t want to be left with too much currency for once. The train I is a breeze again and this time I take a cab to the hotel which is much easier. I do note though that another Cross pen has bitten the dust on the aircraft – that’s two for the trip so I think I really need a pen holder!
 

simongr

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Jul 10, 2006
Messages
14,426
The Conrad Hong Kong - Redux

At the Conrad I am again whisked up to the 59th Floor for check in – but this time not quite as many Exec benefits – no free pressing for a start. The room is ok but considerably smaller than my last room and no jasmine tea on arrival :(

Feeling more adventurous and being on a bit of a mission I take my first trip to the Wan Chai Computer centre – an absolute geek Mecca. Due to my onward journeys and the hand luggage only constraints I actually buy nothing – on this trip. Next time when I am not constrained by so many factors I might be in a little bit of trouble ;)

Due to the movement of work around to accommodate the work in Shanghai I have a productive few days in the HKG office – although it is nothing I couldn’t have done in Sydney (and perhaps more easily as well) but the option of going back to Oz was not an option – one of the drivers for SOB was to combine a trip to Asia and the US on one flight cost. Over the next few days I have some terrible night’s sleep so I am actually completely exhausted by the end of the trip.

Being more familiar with the stores around the office I decide to grab a pair of Tag Heuer sunglasses that I have had my eye on in Sydney for a while and splurge to put in prescription lenses. The amazing thing is that I had Googled for these glasses a couple of times and could not find any stockists – except for the opticians in our building :)

The lounge in the Conrad is a great improvement over the PVG Hilton but the timing is a little off. The lounge opens 5pm – 7pm. Given my average day finishes at about 5:15 – 5:30 (it starts at 6AM with the overnight emails from the US) and with some travel time back to the hotel and dumping my gear I almost miss the lounge a couple of times – almost that is ;)

The three days in HKG both fly and drag at the same time. I really want to be in NYC at this point so that I am in theory on my way home and also able to buy a new iPod Touch

As I have a early PM flight to NRT I work in the hotel until about midday as I have a heap of stuff that just needs to be emailed out. Checking out is a smooth process and in fact the room service bills looks a little light. I decide on the train to the airport and the train to Central from the hotel. Again due to the massive walks between the hotel and Admiralty and at Central – I should really have gone with the cab to Central option – you live and learn.

This is my first Central to Airport routing and am very pleased when the train brings you out level with the concourse – although not entirely level with the JL check in area. I do however manage to find the JL check in desk and am quickly checked in. I haven’t pre-selected my seat for the JL flight and I am little further back than I would expect as a OWE. I am directed to the Sakura lounge which I thank them for knowing that I am off to the Wing ;) I still have no checked luggage and wander to security – where I am in fact turned back for having two bags???? WTF??? This didn’t happen last week… I am told to go back to the check in desk and arrange for two bags with the check in staff – all very strange compared to what happened last week. I then realise that a little chap put some little tag on one of my bags last week and this must be what is meant by pre-arranging it with the airline. JL’s process is a little more labour intensive and I am escorted back to security by a member of staff.

Second time lucky I am through to immigration where my favourite new card – the HKIAFV – glides me through immigration, in fact I am sent to the HKG Nationals queue. The only annoyance is that the JL check in is at the opposite end of the terminal from the Wing (very close to the QF/BA Lounge actually) so it is a long walk to get my glass of Moet – but I survived. Over lunch I catch up on emails and get a further update on Tscharke’s quest for EXP. Sadly I think all hope is lost for him now :( although it’s not over until the Rubenesque lady sings.

After a relaxing couple of Moets it is time to find gate 11. As I head down to the departures area and check the boards I am furious to see that Gate 11 has been changed to Gate 40!!! Furious that is until I actually recheck my BP and see that I am in seat 11 rather than gate 11. I think this is an indication of things to come for the rest of the journey – now that I have crossed the threshold of two weeks (almost) I think I am focussed too much on the next 2 – 3 flights rather than the flights I am taking. Not a good thing to not have “your head in the game”…

So it is off to the serftymobile (underground people mover) and Gate 40. I actually have a few minutes before is called so I duck up to the Sakura lounge which is 2 minutes from Gate 40. It is not very inspiring – like a more open version of the BA/QF lounge. There is no separate F lounge – just a screened off F area which has no different food or drink that I can see – just a lot less people. I am not sure as a OWE whether I am entitled to use this section but as I am only going to be here 10 minutes there is not much point in even trying. I have just enough time for a quick call home and then it is off to my first JL flight!!!
 
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