January 22, 2013 RGN-BKK-ICN, RGN Proper, TG Y, and OZ J
Before I get to the new stuff, let me back up for a moment. On this trip I took four different carriers in international F. LH, TG, KE, and SQ. Each carrier has its own personality that permeates not just the F cabin but all levels of service. LH is known for German efficiency, TG is known for Thai Hospitality, KE is known for being an up and coming carrier, and SQ is known for exclusivity. Of those four carriers and really any air carrier I prefer TG. TG bills flights as “Royal Orchid Service” and you’ll hear that at the start of every flight. Just those very words harken back to the days of when flying was romantic and something to look forward to. While today’s flying experience is decidedly something less than romantic, TG I get the feeling really wants you to actually enjoy the flight, even if flying is not that enjoyable.
Anyways on with the show.
This section will have limited pictures, just because there wasn’t really an opportunity to take a lot of pictures.
I arrive in RGN not knowing what to expect. I have no plans for the five hours that I am supposed to be in RGN and no idea really whether or not I am actually going to be allowed into the country. Supposedly, RGN has gone to visa on arrival for all US citizens, not just those arriving from Myanmar Air flights. I did not use a visa service, nor did I attempt to get a visa in advance from the embassy. I had my visa form, $20.00, and a dream. With great surprise and a total lack of bribery, visa on arrival worked like a charm. Within twenty minutes of arrival I was out the door, through customs, and into Myanmar. Now of all the places on my list of places that colpuck wants to go, Myanmar is pretty close to the bottom. However, in the few hours I was there the city charmed me and I kind of want to go back. But I am getting ahead of myself. Before I even left the airport I had to decide what to do with my damn luggage.
Any expedition into the untamed wilds of metro Yangon would be complicated by my inability to speak the local language, the fact that I look like a gringo tourist, and that I had a suitcase as well as a backpack containing a laptop, cannon DSLR, and an iphone. I went over to the tourism desk and began the complex negotiations to hire a car to take me around the city. We settled on a price, destination, and that the tourism desk would hold my luggage. I gave them my luggage with the knowledge that I would probably never see my suitcase again. I figured that is just the cost of doing business in a third-world country. The backpack was coming with me though, they may get my clothes but they were not getting my electronics.
My driver was a guy named Cuddy I think and we set off for Shwedagon Pagoda. He took me out to his car, which was a fairly new Toyota that even came with seatbelts. I went to put mine on and he looked at me like I was crazy. Cuddy didn’t bother with such things as seatbelts. In fact he had a metal buckle with smiley face on it stuck in driver side seat belt clip in order to disable the seatbelt alarm. I just buckled the seat belt behind me, in order to turn off the alarm and respect cultural norms.
I regretted that decision almost immediately. We passed the airport guard armed with an AK-47 again confirming that I was not in Kansas anymore and headed out. Cuddy in addition to being a cab driver was also a philosopher. I knew this because he frequently deep in thought. So deep in thought in fact that he frequently missed red lights, pedestrians, made illegal u-turns, and my personal favorite drove on the sidewalk.
Outback Steakhouse’s motto of “No Rules, just right,” (don’t lie you read that in an Australian accent.) while applicable to the situation was just a little scary. Going down the sidewalk outside of Yangon University (Where President Obama spoke) all I could think about was not dying and this quote.
Eventually, we made it to Shwedagon Pagoda. I had to lose my shoes and socks at the shrine, but it was awesome. The pagoda is the most famous shrine in Burma and the one of the cover of all of the guide books. Cuddy didn’t speak any English, so he just simply pointed and grunted at the various things I should take pictures of. Stationed around the pagoda were water coolers with communal cups. Judging by the amount of people I saw hauling 5 gallon jugs of water around this I assume is the primary method of water distribution. Cuddy offered me a swig from the cup he was using, but thoughts of cholera and mono danced through my head, so I passed.
After the Pagoda, He took me to a coffee house on the main lake in town. We sat in slience having tea and coffee. I wanted a coke but I wasn’t going to say no to his hospitality. He’s a couple views of the lake.
After that, Cuddy brought me back to the airport. RGN is a small but modern airport I think there is eight gates in total. As I was traveling in Y on this segment, there was no lounge access for me. Also, the TA demanded that I weigh my suitcase, which I got back with nothing stolen. Noticing that the bag weighed 11 kilos she demanded that I check it. She offered to check it all the way to LAX, but rather than risk an OZ-KE transfer, I short checked it to ICN. In the RGN airport the gate areas had the now ubiquitous water coolers, here they had disposable cups so I was able to drink my fill without fear of dying from various Oregon Trail diseases.
The flight to BKK was a brief as the flight to RGN, only now I was in Y and on an A330 as opposed to business on an A300. A meal was served, it was the same as the business class meal I had on the outbound, minus the main course. So, I had a fried fish appetizer and coconut dessert. We landed in BKK and I was already missing the cart service from my F flight that morning. Now, I had to walk BKK and it is no fun, no fun at all. I found my gate and the Business class lounge near there. It was packed, and the internet was atrociously slow. I think TG uses a shared 3G connection for their internet and it is terrible. I grabbed some dim sum and then left the lounge. I tried to get into the Asiana lounge aka the Louis Tavern CIP lounge, but the matron told me to take a hike. I was in OZ business, so I was a little confused about using the lounge. With no improvements to be had, I went to the gate for my flight to ICN.
BKK-ICN at this point was a red-eye. There had been an equipment swap which left me in 2A, I asked for an aisle and was told no. What I didn’t know until I got on the plane was the swap was to the new J configuration. OZ calls it the “Quadra Smartarium” seat, I just call it a derivative of the EK business seat. It’s fully lie flat and I was out like a light. I didn’t eat though I grabbed a copy of the menu on my way out the door in the morning. I was slick enough to grab a couple of shots and here they are. The menu is on the airlines menu page if you want to read it.
Sorry for the blur, I was using my iphone to grab the shots. I promise better ones in the following editions. Tune in for the next exciting adventure of KE F.