June 7, 2013 Hong Kong Trip Report.
I originally started planning this trip last July when I booked the “4-mile” deal with United and after they canceled the tickets I said shoot I am going anyways. Michelle and I began truly planning the trip in October when we booked the tickets. So after the jump you have a full trip report from the planning stages to the last flight home.
NH J SJC-NRT
OZ J NRT-ICN
One night Hyatt Regency ICN Airport
TG J ICN-HKG
One night Hyatt Regency TST
Four nights Conrad Hong Kong
CX F HKG-SFO
US Y SFO-PHX
US Y PHX-FLG
What we ended up with was something different.
US F PHX-SFO
LH F SFO-MUC
LH C MUC-FRA
LH J FRA-HKG
Two nights at the Conrad Macau
Four nights at the Conrad Hong Kong
CX F HKG-SFO
US Y SFO-PHX
US Y PHX-FLG
Here is a visual view of our flight plan.
As I said above the genesis of this trip was the purchase and subsequent cancelation of the “4-mile” tickets issued by united. This is where for a brief period a system error caused united to sell HKG tickets in premium cabins for 4-miles each. However, since the DOT is a spineless government agency, they allowed United to cancel the tickets. That being said I decided to go anyways, it was at this point August-September-October of 2012 my stash of bmi miles were converted into British Airways Avios points. While it would have been better to use them in Star Alliance that opportunity ended in May. I found out that with some simple planning and a credit card application that I could turn those miles into two one-way Cathay Pacific “CX” F tickets from the US to Hong Kong or vice versa. As it is my preference to fly F out of hub airports to get the full first experience I settled on HKG-SFO. So, in October I began to look for HKG-USA on CX in first class. These seats were not easy to find. I’m not a fan true red-eye flights; therefore, I was not that interested in booking the midnight flights to the US. I would have if I needed to, but the late night arrival into the US was unappealing. Looking seven months in advance I found two seats on the afternoon flight to San Francisco on CX’s 747. It would be that flight on May 20th 2013 that I would build the trip around.
As I was light in the pocket and therefore light in the award wallet I would not be using just my points for the outbound. Using Michelle’s points and my own I was able at the same time to book the ANA “NH” flight and the other connecting tickets as described above. Everything was fine with the tickets until the Dreamliner grounding happened. Then, I was then stuck in limbo waiting for NH to cancel our flight so we could rebook. Sometime around mid-March 2013 NH finally canceled the flights. I went back to UA to rebook. The UA agent cheerfully rebooked us on the SFO-HKG direct flight in United Business and added on the PHX-SFO segments in United First. I should have been happy; we were cutting the number of connections and getting an extra day Hong Kong. However I was not happy. First, United Business is at best “ok;” I was none too thrilled with having spent my hard earned miles on a UA product when any number of better flights and carriers were out there. Also this left us with additional problems as we were getting late at night, it seemed silly to pay for an expensive hotel in Hong Kong that would not be able to enjoy. A solution presented itself I discovered a Hilton 50% off sale and booked two nights at the Conrad Macau. While two days seems like a lot of time there, we really would only have a day in Macau and that is really all you need.
So in March 2013 here was the plan, Sunday the 12th we would drive down to Phoenix from Sedona and spend the night at an airport hotel. Then the following morning we would fly to San Francisco and onwards to Hong Kong, upon arriving at the Hong Kong Airport we would hop the “Sky Pier” ferry to Macau and spend two nights there. I wasn’t happy with these options and I was constantly looking for a better flying experience than UA business.
After two months of constant fretting, three days before we were scheduled leave space opened up on Sunday’s Lufthansa’s San Francisco to Munich in First. Despite First being wide open on Frankfurt and Munich to Hong Kong there was no space on either of those flights in first so we had to settle for Lufthansa’s new business on their new 747-8i. Well upper deck business it is.
Departure day May 12th 2013
0900 I find out the aircraft coming in from Munich is delayed. Flightaware.com is telling me that SFO is taking 90 minute weather delays. I got a different story from the Lufthansa crew but that’s later. I got my girlfriend to get off work early so we could head to the airport and get the journey started. It was a two hour drive to Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport where we quickly disembarked from the car and headed to check-in. We arrived at the Mr. Chicken automated check-in kiosk and it promptly rejected us for having more than three segments. So, we had to speak to an actual human. The agent got us boarding passes only through to Munich which was par for the course. We went through the always lovey TSA security. People make a big deal about opting out of the AIT scanners. I used to care a lot about resisting, now I just don’t care anymore. I went through the scanners and all the TSA saw was my enormous tripod…camera tripod…that is. We went to the US club to partake of some nibbles before the 90 minute flight to SFO. I took some picture from the lounge.
We board the US A321 for San Francisco. It was short but special flight.
The flight to San Francisco was special because the US Flight Attendant was very concerned with our level of sobriety, in that it was way too high. Here you see my beer and Michelle’s Baileys. The guy did not let our cups run dry for the entire flight. The guy across the aisle from us was drinking beer and asked for Baileys and got both. Sobriety was clearly not an option here. We landed in San Francisco to clear weather, outside of an inordinate wait to taxi across the other active runway the flight was as normal as you can get. We got to the terminal and transferred to Terminal 3 and the G international pier. Rather than mess about with the KrisFlyer lounge we made our way straight to the international terminal and the United Airlines Global First lounge.
San Francisco’s airport designed their international terminal a little differently. The jet bridges and international arrivals are on the same the level. Departures sits on top of arrivals and each gate has a set of escalators to bring passengers down from the departures level to the individual departures gates. So the pictures are from the departures level and look down on the aircraft.
We got to the UA Global First Class lounge. The lounge was nice enough it can best be described as a LH senator lounge with better alcohol rather than a true first class lounge. We got in just at the United late flight to Frankfurt started to push, so the only departures left were the Lufthansa Munich flight in about three hours and the UA flight to Sydney in about five so the lounge was dead except for a few Munich passengers. Due to the limited flights left the catering staff had basically given up on restocking the food, so there were only limited munchies available. What was out included some very sad sushi rolls that had been sitting out for some time. I didn’t want to disturb people inside the lounge and there were wooden blinds so I couldn’t shoot outside, but I did manage these three pictures.
Surfing on Flyertalk.com, I saw that Skyteam777 was posting from the lounge as well. After accosting another random first class passenger I managed to identify him and talk for a bit before our flight started boarding. Apparently he had been rerouted by United and had gotten them to put him on the flight to Munich as well. Skyteam777 elected to be escorted to the plane while Michelle and I made our way to the gate to get on early. The flight was leaving out of G99 at the end of the pier, we walked down and then down the escalator into a very non-German boarding scrum. There was just a mass of people and we could barely get off the escalator. The gate agents call for boarding and the scrum just kind of pushes forward. A woman with a Euro accent shoves past Michelle and I and says “excuse me I have priority boarding.” I look at my boarding pass it says “First Class, 2D” and I look at Michelle’s and hers says “First Class, 2G.”
I turn to Michelle and state “I guess we don’t count.” The guy standing next to us spies our boarding passes and chuckles. I could have barged to the front of the line, but that would have been decidedly not first class.
Lufthansa’s A340-600 D-AIHT (no name) would be providing the lift that evening. This was my second flight on the type, the other being a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to San Francisco in 2011. Lufthansa has three first class seats, the new seats on all long-haul Airbus fleet and 747-8i, the old seats, and the new seats on the 747-400. I’ve done the new seat on the 747-400 and the old seat; this would be my first chance to sample the new seat. The A340-600 is long, like really long, only the 747-8 is longer. Michelle was talking (read demanding J) that on this trip we should (must) fly a plane on the upper deck. I mentioned to her that due to the length of the A346 that in the back restrooms are on a lower deck that we would be traveling on the upper deck. She was not amused. Here are some cabin shots.
It’s a pretty open cabin due to the fact that Lufthansa didn’t install overhead bins over the center section of the cabin. The walls you see around the seat raise and lower at the passenger’s preference. You see them here in the up position. The seat came with a nice set of over the ear Bose headphones and the seat is generally comfortable. The ottoman is small and does not allow shared dining, So, I know what you want, you want food porn.
The Amuse Bouche: cheese wrapped in a vegitable slice in a basil pesto. That thing sticking out is a carrot stick. I think you were supposed to use the carrot stick to eat it, but it didn’t work
Ah the caviar couse. Mmmm. Lufthansa finally fixed the biggest problem with the first class service the vodka served with the course. Lufthanse used to use Smirnoff Red, the stuff you can buy for $10.00 a fifth. Now they have Grey Goose which makes me happy.
So here is the new appatizer set up and the new salad. Where before there were two courses there is now one and all are smaller. The beef on the left front wwas very spicy, and the shrimp on the left was very good. Before Lufthansa present the appitizers sort of with the caviar and on a three tired tower. It took up a lot of space this worked better.
I had the beef for dinner it was well done but jucy and had a good flavor with the sauce. There isn’t much you can do with beef on a plane and this was good.
I passed on the cheese course; I just can’t do it anymore. So here you have ice cream on the right berry cake on the left. That ice cream was rock hard. Seriously if I had picked it up and thrown it, it would have killed someone. The spoon was not the right too for the job at hand, I needed a chisel. I was demonstrating this to Michelle by tapping on in with the spoon and making a nice sound. Unfortunately, one of the flight attendants walked by while was I doing this. The look of pure horror that crossed her face is one that I had only previously seen in horror movies. She basically ran around the cabin to come and offer me a new one. I said I was ok and that it would soften in a few minutes. It was very tasty.
After-dinner I settled in to finish watch “Jack Reacher,” it was bad, no really bad.
As I said above, the flight into San Francisco from Munich was delayed an hour and half. This necessitated some pre-trip adjustments to my travels. Rather than leave the problem to be sorted out by Lufthansa ground staff in San Francisco or Munich I talked to United and got our connecting flight from Munich to Frankfurt moved back an hour. So, what’s the catch? The new flight was the last one we could be on and still make our Hong Kong flight and there would be precious little time to connect in Frankfurt.
Before landing breakfast is served and I have eggs and bacon and it is about as tasty as it can be. We landed in Munich and pulled up to a gate at the far end of the pier. Thanks Lufthansa! We had the longest possible walk to the First Class Lounge. Michelle was going on about her phone, I couldn’t possibly care less. We had about 45 minutes of lounge time and I wasn’t going to waste it on dealing with her phone. The FCL in Munich is a disappointment compared to the FCLs in Frankfurt. It’s smaller and while the food is just as good, the alcohol selection is limited. By limited I mean you can’t get the fine array of aged single-malts that you can in Frankfurt. No JW Blue either, well that is just another first world problem.
I made immediate use of the showers, knowing this will be the last one before we get to our hotel in Macau. Michelle was still going on about her phone. I told her we would fix it when we get to Hong Kong but now is not the time. She didn’t listen to me. Anyways it started to work and she calmed down. When it came to drinks she had a Balblair and I had a Balvennie 12 year old to drink. Yup I still dislike scotch. Well we headed out of the lounge to lovely A321 for the 20 minute flight to Frankfurt.
Lufthansa flight 123 was short and pretty much empty in Euro -Business. Euro Business is nothing more than coach seats with the middle sear blocked. I didn’t pay extra for it so it didn’t matter to me. For a twenty minute flight, Lufthansa served a very nice cold plate and did two drink services. This a far cry from what US carrier would offer. The flight attendants on any US flight of this length wouldn’t get out of their jump seats.
The Cold Plate
Arrival into Frankfurt was interesting. We landed on the new runway and taxied to a hard stand. This meant we would be bussed to the main terminal. “Just great I thought,” our limited connection time would be even shorted. We bussed to the terminal and got off near the new A gates expansion. Michelle and I raced through the Frankfurt terminal. Here is the one piece of advice when it comes to dealing with the Frankfurt airport. Do not apply logic, do not think, just follow the signs. If you do not follow the signs you will get lost. We left from the Z gates directly above us so we found immigration and hopped the escalator up a floor. When we got to the top we headed down the same pier as before just on the international departures level. It’s right then that we heard the all rows boarding call for Hong Kong. That gave us maybe 10 minutes to make it to the gate. I stopped running, they still had one more call, then they would call us by name, then they would shut the door. I wasn’t worried. Also Michelle tripped and was about to get up close and personal with the floor, another reason I called a halt to the hurry. We got to the gate which was empty save for the LH staff and walked on to the flight.
FRA-HKG Lufthansa 796
We got a new plane for this flight and I was excited. I think this was one of its first revenue flights. We were unable to get first class seats on this flight, so I had to settle for business. We were on the upper deck which is always cool. We grabbed the exit row which means we had a solid bulkhead in front of us as opposed to a row of seats. This was nice because it gave us extra table space which is desperately needed in those seats. I stowed my bag in the overhead and the bin made a cracking sound. I stopped and tried again and it didn’t make a sound it occurred to me that the bin had never been used before and I was breaking the seals on it. Cool new plane, daddy like.
We grabbed some water from the pre-departure drink service and started stowing stuff. There was limited stowage, a center console that held maybe a wallet. The under seat storage that held maybe a small bag and a small locker that held a bottle of water, the amenity kit, and some other small items. The seats point towards each other, and the foot wells are separated only by a divider. While you’re not playing footsie with your seatmate, you can if you want to. So if you are seated next to someone you do not know it can be awkward at first.
We took off and service began. It was easy to tell this was business class as opposed to first class. Service was from carts that were moved up and down the aisle, and was more impersonal. The 747 had a wider IFE selection than the A340 and I watched a short documentary on the retirement of Lufthansa’s chief pilot. It was mostly in German, but as English is the international aviation language all the flight deck chatter was in English. It was cool I enjoyed that, after that was done I switched to “The Hobbit.” But I didn’t finish it.
Dinner was simple affair, appetizer, salad, choice of main, and dessert. The salad and the app were served together and each of the three courses were preceded by a drinks run. I switched to Fanta because I was physically wasted and Fanta has always been my comfort cold drink. After the second drink run the FA just left the bottle with me. I guess I was the only one drinking Fanta. Here are the pictures from the flight. I forgot to snap a photo of the main course but it was stir-fried beef and it was ultra-tasty.
Appetizer and salad (The stuff under the shrimp is some sort of cheese)
Main Course: beef stake
Dessert was cake with berries and fruit. Again I passed on the cheese plate
View of the new business class seat
Hong Kong is a big airport. It kind of looks like an underlined Y, so like this >-I. We arrive at the end of one of the Y arms and make the 20 mile trek to the transfer station. I say transfer because we were not going to clear customs and immigration in Hong Kong but in Macau. We have about an hour to kill so we spend looking for a cash point which we don’t find and getting ferry tickets which we do find. We then make our way under the golf course next to the airport to the skypier.
Because we were tired and it only cost about an extra ten bucks we bought up to “Super Class” on the ferry. We were the only suckers. They gave us food which honestly looked inedible and we weren’t hungry anyways. We docked in Macau an hour later and cleared Customs and Immigration with no problem. Unlike Vegas all of the Casinos have free shuttles to the Casino Hotels. Which we made use of said shuttle, which quickly got us to the hotel. We checked in and because it was near Michelle’s birthday they gave her a nice cake.
Now the Cotai Sands is a three tower hotel complex. This makes sense because there is a Holiday Inn, a Sheraton, and a Conrad in order of least to most. We got a killer deal which had us staying in the Conrad for less than the price of the Holiday Inn. Interestingly enough the Holiday Inn shares a building with the Conrad. Each side of the building has their own set up, but it is in the same building with only a fire door separating the Conrad rooms from the Holiday Inn rooms. Someone call Chingy.
We were given a suite and we settled in for the night. Here are some pictures from the suite.
We got up at three in the morning with jet lag and decided to wander the complex. We made our way through our hotel and stopped by the casino before heading out. In Vegas the casino is the heart of the hotel,yYou basically have to go through the Vegas casino to get anywhere. This isn’t so in Macau. In Macao the casinos are in the center of the complex, but there are strict rules about who is allowed in. So the complex can’t force people into the casino like in Vegas. We wandered around the casino and without surprise noticed that Midi-Baccarat was the game of choice. Baccarat comes in three flavors: mini, where the dealer has total control of the cards; midi, where the deal deals and the players flip the cards; and large, where the dealer shoe is passed around by the players. The casino had table after table of midi-baccarat but there was also all of the standard casino games. We wandered out of the hotel-casino over the Venetian resort across the street. There we got lost in their luxury mall and wandered back over to the Conrad to get some more sleep.
Our one day in Macau began pretty early. We headed down to the buffet for breakfast. The Orbit Buffet was delicious. It had all the basic breakfast foods plus some delicious dim sum, Indian food, and other Asian foods. We headed back to the room and the people who checking keys didn’t even ask before we got on to the elevator. I got the feeling that word had gotten out that there was an American couple in the hotel and one of them was a Hilton diamond member. Needless to say people remembered us.
We headed out of the hotel to the Cathedral of Saint Paul. It was really the only recommended spot in Macau. There we went saw the façade, and went through the small catacombs. After that we went through the Macau museum which had free entry. It was pretty cool it went over the history of Macau and of the trading culture dominated this area of the world.
After the tourist stuff we headed back to the Hotel. We walked next door to the City of Dreams complex. There we picked up our Hard Rock Café stuff and wandered into the Grand Hyatt. We walked through the casino on the way out and were tempted to gamble. We headed back over to our complex and actually decided to play. We found the craps table. Yeah the craps table and started up. In about 20 minutes we turned about $120.00 into about $400.00. The Chinese guy at the other end of the table, who betting more and consequently winning more, was yelling cheerfully “BEST GAME IN CASINO.” He high-fived us on the way out of Casino.
We headed to the pool where we got lunch and drinks. We just chilled out for the day. For dinner we hit one of the casino restaurants serving Macanese food and turned in early. Around eleven pm we were woken up by a dripping sound in the bathroom. Apparently there was a leak in the ceiling and the hotel moved us to a suite down the hall.
Today we were set to head to Hong Kong, because of the leak the hotel was arranging car service for the short drive to the ferry terminal. We had breakfast again in the Orbit Buffet and the server remembered us from the day before. Breakfast was again delicious and after that we relaxed packed up the room and headed to Hong Kong.
Car service to the terminal was nice and ferries run every 15 minutes. Unfortunately our ferry got canceled so we had to wait about 30 minutes for a ferry. We got to Hong Kong cleared immigration and customs somewhat efficiently and hopped a cab to the Conrad Hong Kong where we would be staying for the next four nights.
We went to the front desk where we were escorted to the Executive floor to complete check-in. We had booked a basic room and because of my diamond status we were upgraded to a peak view executive room. The room was small but well appointed. In the room was yet another cake for Michelle and a fruit plate. The flatware was silver clad and I remarked about nicking it (hey silver is at record highs) however, Michelle vetoed that idea.
What wasn’t vetoed was the need to go see “Star Trek Into Darkness.” So our first official excursion in Hong Kong was to the movie theater. The AMC theater left me asking “Gee why can’t US theaters have a full bar and assigned seating?” That would be awesome. But alas that would mean liquor licenses and some semblance of caring about the user experience. Anyways I digress. The movie was awesome, go see it.
After the movie we chilled out and then headed out to the Hard Rock Café in Hong Kong. It’s in an older area of the city on Hong Kong Island with the Conrad. But it is neighborhood filled with bars and hostels. I suddenly felt very old walking around seeing 22 year olds getting hammered. We had dinner and went to get our shot glasses, but they only had the decorative design not the classic look. I was very sad since I try to keep my collection looking the same.
We headed back to the hotel for a couple of drinks and then to bed, tomorrow would be Disneyland and we wanted to be rested.
We got up early and did a thorough inspection of the room. I noticed there was a substantial amount of black mold on the windowsill. See the pictures below.
I brought this to the attention of the Executive Lounge attendant and she quickly moved us into a king suite with a harbor view. So we cleared out and changed rooms. After that we headed out to Disneyland.
To get to Disneyland we first hopped a cab to Hong Kong station and from there we took the MTR to Sunny Bay and there on the light rail to Disneyland. The train to Disneyland was packed. I thought it was because everyone was going for the grand opening of their new ride. Nope, as we walked with the crowd into up to the park, most of people darted off to the right through a break in the hedges that were lining the pedestrian walkways. Turns out ninety percent of the people on the train were cast members and that at 50 minutes before the gates opened, there was nobody in the park. This is in contrast to Tokyo Disney where at an hour before the park opens the place is already pretty packed with park guests.
Well the park opened and we basically sprinted to the new ride, Mystic Manor. I wish I had gotten some pictures of the place but I forgot. Anyways we got in line for the ride and it turns out it was broken. We collected a “we’re sorry” fastpass and head out. We bumped into another American in the park, a college student from Pennsylvania on study abroad in the park by herself. We hung out long enough to hit Grizzly Gulch, the park’s new roller coaster. Think “Expedition Everest” meets “Thunder Mountain.” After that we split from the other American and headed around the park.
The park was pretty standard mostly analogous to the original Disneyland. However, two other rides standout. First, there was RC Racer, it’s a shuttle ride designed to have “air time” at either end. The other RC Racer ride is in Paris. Next was Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop. We didn’t get a chance to go on it but it looked like a lot of fun.
Toy Story Land with RC Racer in the back right and the top of parachute drop in the back left.
The Queue for RC Racer
We stopped for lunch in the restaurant next to Mystic Manor. It was a Pan-Asian place where you could get Chinese, Korean, Japanese and South East Asian food. I had Chicken Rice popular in Singapore and Michele has some type of curry noodles. Both were very good. As with all things Disney the theming the restaurant was outstanding. There were notes and masks scattered on the walls. One note written by the character featured in Mystic Manor was themed around said that they masks were here because they looked at the character. We noticed on some the masks the eyes moved. It was very cool.
Ahh finally, Mystic Manor, it was time. After lunch we headed over to the Manor where there was a 60+ minute line and showed our fastpass to the exit line. We jumped the line and made our way quickly to Disney’s newest ride. Mystic Manor uses disney’s trackless car system. This isn’t a wire embedded into the floor it is literally a computer designing ride profiles and keeping track of the cars at all times. This ride system was developed for two rides at the Tokyo park. Imaginers took the theme from the Tokyo Tower of Terror ride and created a 21st century haunted mansion. The theme was a member of the adventurer society had brought home a music box that when opened made all of the objects in the house come alive. As we moved around the other cars and interacted with the ride it was very cool.
Model of Mystic Manor
Some theming in the Queue.
This guy is the idol featured in the Tokyo Tower of Terror ride.
The gent in the center is Danny Elfman who did the music for the ride http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Elfman
As Mystic Manor is the Haunted Mansion ride for Hong Kong Disneyland, the pre-ride show is done in a room similar to the pre-ride show in the Haunted Mansion.
Ahh the cars, again there are no tracks or guide wires in the floor.
The Monkey and the Music Box.
The main character of Mystic Manor.
After the ride we walked around the park. We went to Main Street to see if there was anything good to buy. As we were in Asia there was a very large gold and silver store including an 18inch sold gold Mickey. Alas it was not for sale. Compared to Disneyland Paris there was a ton park branded stuff, I didn’t buy anything because nothing spoke to me. I thought about buying a replica Mystic Manor music box, but it was just too big. At this point it started to rain, hey it was monsoon season, so it was bound to happen. I ducked into to a store and grabbed a generic poncho. The cast member manning the register had name tag that read “Tyrone.” In fact all of the cast members had western names and with the exception of the face characters none of them were western. Well Tyrone pointed out to me that I had a child’s poncho and handed me an adult’s poncho. I couldn’t help myself I said to him, “Tyrone you got it together.” He laughed I don’t know if he got the internet reference.
Here are some pictures from around the park.
The heat and humidity started to get to us so we walked over to the Disneyland hotel. There we relaxed in air conditioning and made use of the free public wifi in the hotel. We ordered drinks and generally relaxed. The hotel had a brass band playing Disney songs to entertain the crowd. It was great to just relax and listen to them. Our move out of the park and into the hotel shows the biggest problem with Disneyland Hong Kong, its size. Of all the parks it is the smallest Disney park, including the original Disneyland. There just isn’t a lot to do there. Small size combined with being way out of town makes it difficult to plan a full day around Disneyland. We ended up bored, hot, and tired as we waited for a dinner reservations.
Dinner was at the high end Chinese restaurant in the park. As it was real Chinese food, I couldn’t tell you what I ate. For the most part it was pretty good. We did commit one serious faux pas during the meal. We were provided with a pot of tea and a pot of hot water as well as a third set of chopsticks. We thought the second pot of water was to refill the teapot. Nope, we tired that and a server very quickly snatched the teapot out of our hands and replaced it. We eventually figured out that the third pair of chopsticks were serving chopsticks and that the hot water was supposed to be used to wash off the chopsticks. Oops.
As part of dinner we got priority seating for the fireworks. We got there early and the hub was mostly filled with people already. A man decided to cross the rope line separating the priority seating from the general seating a polite cast member told him to it was for people who purchased priority seating. Well he ignored her and within a few minutes security showed up to explain it to him. He moved on to the other side of the rope. The fireworks were great, sort of an abbreviated version of California Adventure’s “World of Color.” After the fireworks the park closed and we went back to the Conrad to sleep.
Note the size of the castle, it is about as large as the original Disneyland castle in California.
Days seven and eight were going to be our only full days in Hong Kong proper. Our day started out with a trip to the Conrad lounge for breakfast. After a decent breakfast we headed out. We walked to the subway station which while two blocks from our hotel involved transiting three malls. There we went to Kowloon, there we hit the computer market we backed that up with electronics shopping. After that we paid a visit to the Chungking Mansions.
The Chungking Mansions were described by Time Magazine as the closest you can get to Mos Eisley (the spaceport in Star Wars) in the world. We found it to be a series of low end shops selling various counterfeit goods and Indian food stalls. Again the oppressive humidity pushed us into the Irish pub next door. The pub was clearly a late night place and there was only one other person in the bar. Well it was 11 in the morning but it was still time for a beer.
After that we walked to Victoria Harbor and hopped the iconic Star Ferry back across to Hong Kong Island. Before getting on the boat we went over to the area where the giant duck was supposed to be. Unfortunately they had taken down the massive duck, but there were still some ducks on the pier you could play around on. On the Star Ferry I sang a passible version of “I’m on a Boat” and we generally enjoyed the sea breeze. Then back at the Conrad I discovered that one of my friends was in Hong Kong and we made plans to meet up. Michelle had enough of Hong Kong for the moment and we parted ways.
Me on a duck.
The Star Ferry
Hong Kong Island with the Peak in the background.
Michelle and myself on the Star Ferry
I met up with Rob in the lobby of the Intercontinental hotel in Kowloon after another trip on the Star Ferry. I pointed out to him that I passed a bar on the way to the Hotel, so we quickly made out way to the bar which also apparently served Italian food. All we did was drink, so the food didn’t matter. We headed out to a mall to visit an airplane model shop. I wish I had brought my camera but the shop was literally crammed to the roof with airplane models. There was limited organization and the place was clearly more passion for the owner than a business. I forgot what my friend bought, but I got a Continental Airlines BAE-146, a Lufthansa A340-600 for Michelle, and a Pulkovo Aviation IL-96. I wanted a Pulkovo TU-154 because that is what I was on when I was in Russia, but they didn’t apparently have one.
My friend and I split on the MTR, he had to fly out soon and I wanted to get back to the hotel. Michelle and I didn’t really do much that afternoon. We were both so tired and I was a little drunk. We had some snacks in the lounge and generally relaxed I did shoot a timelapse video from my hotel window. It came out about as well as I could expect.
For dinner we decided on Underbridge Chili Crab. Seriously, that’s the name of the place and it is awesome. The lounge agent asked us if we had reservations, we did not, so she called up the place and got us in. We headed down to the cab stand outside the Conrad and told the bellman where we wanted to go, he was thrilled for us. We got to Underbridge Chili Crab and were quickly seated. We ordered a medium crab, medium spicy and large light beer to split. The crab was wok fried in chili, garlic, and other spices. It was delicious and spice. The crab was basically caked in garlic so we had to dig through the garlic to get to the crab. It was one of the most amazing crabs I’ve ever had and it cost. The total bill for one crab and a beer was about 700 HKD or about 100 USD. Well there went my Macau winnings.
After the crab we headed back to the hotel and called it a night.
This would be our last full day in Hong Kong. We skipped breakfast at the hotel and headed over to Hong Kong station to get some Dim Sum. We wandered around the mall and the station until we found Tim Ho Wan’s Dim Sum. We knew we were in the right place because at 0930 the place was packed. Tim Ho Wan’s has one Michelin star, which is a big deal in the foodie world. They are famous for their baked pork buns. Now I have been a fan the steamed variety, so the baked buns were new to me. When I’d bit into the bun the sweet bread combined with the pork made it one of the best things I have ever eaten. We had some other items but the baked buns were the best.
After the sweet sweet food at Tim Ho Wan’s we headed to the bus depot across the street and hopped the bus to Victoria Peak. After a somewhat long journey the bus dropped us off at “The Peak.” The Peak isn’t really the peak of Victoria Mountain, but it is close enough. We walked along the trail that circles the peak and it was pretty cool looking down on Hong Kong proper. I said previously Hong Kong is a mall culture, the peak proves it. There was not one but two malls on the peak. We visited one before taking the tram down to the city center. That mall had a Hard Rock Café shop, not a café, just a shop. I grabbed my classic looking shot glass. Michelle after an adventure with a squat toilet purchased some trinkets from another shop. We had a coffee, well really a tea, at the coffee house and we headed back down on the tourist tram.
View from the peak.
The peak mall. Yes that is a mall on a mountain.
After getting another cab and getting back to the Conrad, we hung out until I decided I was feeling peckish and wanted noodles. I fired up the Google and found a noodle shop that had a Michelin star and we headed there. Ho Hung Kee Noodles was a pretty humble place. It was also tiny and packed. Whether or not it was normally packed or not I don’t know. The shop had signs up that this was their last day in that location and people were snapping all kinds of pictures. We had the wonton noodles in broth and it was ok. I’m not a fishy broth kind of person, but it is what it is. At six dollars this was even cheaper than the dim sum this morning and ranks as the cheapest Michelin star restaurant meal in the world.
After that we headed back to the hotel and wandered the streets around the hotel. There really wasn’t much there. I think we took a nap as well. Hey it can’t be all go go go. At night we headed out to the night market, where the only real thing was the people selling stuff. All the stuff was fake of course. Apparently Beats headphones are the thing to counterfeit as they were for sale in basically every stand. We stopped for dinner in one of the food stands that lined the market. Michelle had hot pot chicken rice and I had razor clams. The clams were great but they did look like the face sucker from Alien. We sat next to a couple from Los Angeles and had a nice chat about everything. After spending no money on counterfeit Burberry we headed back to the hotel for our last night in Hong Kong.
My Razor Clams
We got up at a decent time, had breakfast, and checked out of the hotel. We lugged all of our stuff to Hong Kong station where I checked my bag , now filled with dirty laundry, for the flight to San Francisco. The was nobody in line at the premium check-in desk for Cathay Pacific other than a couple ahead of us. They however took up both desks and apparently were lost checking-in. The economy agent took pity on us and called us over where we were smoothly checked-in for CX 870 747 service to San Francisco.
The airport express train to the airport was just as smooth and quick as promised. HKIA is a single terminal but has two check-in terminals. Since we checked-in at Hong Kong Station we quickly made our way to security and immigration. We got to the airport way too early. So, we took out stuff to the new CX Wing lounge and dropped it there. After looking around quickly we decided to go lounge hopping. First, we went to the Qantas business lounge, their first class lounge was closed, and had a drink. We were the only people in there. Despite the fact that was on the arrivals level and had no windows it was a nice lounge. On the way there we passed a Disney story where Michelle had to feel up every item before buying nothing. We also walked past the Singapore lounge which I used briefly on my last trip through the airport. We proceeded down the terminal and walked to the UA club which we used though Michelle’s club membership. I let mine membership lapse. After a drink and some snacks we walked to the CX Pier lounge and thought about hanging out there. We noticed the gate for our flight had been posted and it was set to depart from over by the Wing lounge. So, we made our way back to that lounge stopping for Michelle to buy some books from the bookstore.
We got back to the Wing with enough time to have a nosh at the sit-down restaurant in the lounge. It was catered by the Peninsula hotel and the food was delicious. We noticed that there was a complete jerk sitting on the other side of the room, just basically abusing staff. I guess money/frequent flyer miles/status doesn’t buy class. I tried to tip the staff on his behalf but they couldn’t take tips. I did write out a nice note for them complementing them on their ability to handle difficult guests. Anyways I had the Risotto which was amazing. I forgot what Michelle but it was equally as good. After the restaurant we used one of the cabanas in the lounge to shower, bathe, and relax before boarding. Right before we left the lounge we grabbed a ginger beer from the lounge because we can’t get them where we live.
At the gate we quickly cleared the additional flights to the USA security check and relaxed in the gate area. We saw a man get paged by the gate agent and pulled down to the tarmac where he was surrounded by police officers. I don’t know if they found something in his luggage or he was on the no-fly list or what. He was still down there when we got on the plane. They called for boarding, business class and economy class had their own lines while first class got to board whenever they pleased. I always liked being the first person on board, so we boarded early. The person behind me also in first class commented on the Flyertalk.com tag on my backpack. He was also a member of Flyertalk.com and we kibitzed for a bit about air travel and what not. What was discovered was the vast difference in pricing for airline award tickets. He used American Airlines miles and paid 66,000 miles per–ticket plus $20.00 or so in fees. I paid 105,000 British Airways miles per-ticket and about $240.00 in total fees.
Anyways, after that we all settled into the flight. I had the western meal and breakfast which were both quite good. For dinner I chose the chicken which was quite tasty. You can pictures of the meal below. Cathay is serious about first class and they kept the lavatories locked in order to prevent business class passengers from using them. In fact when I went to the lav once, the flight attendants were in the process of running off one of the business class passengers. The lavs are locked and unlocked via a simple switch hidden under the metal lavatory sign on the door. All you need to do flip the sign up and slide the switch over.
Nuts and the CX specality cocktail, the “Cloud 9”
I feel bad about this shot because it is blurry, but that is the mushroom soup.
Chicken with creamy mushrooms and pumpkin.
Hazelnut cake with vanilla sauce and chocloate ice cream. Again I passed on the cheese course.
Breakfast with eggs that were cooked on board.
Michelle relaxing in seat 1A in her Shanghai Tang Pjs
The flight itself was quite bumpy, in fact several times we ended up flying through some severe turbulence and the flight crew had to ask the flight attendants to take their jump seats. One sure way of telling when it is going to be bad is when the flight deck makes that announcement. If you’re on a flight and you hear that, it is time to strap in.
It was a quick flight and we landed pretty early. Alas I had to pee and I quickly made use of the facilities after we parked. Thankfully, even though the lavs on the plane had windows there were shades to keep the ground crew from getting a free show. I have global entry but rather than abandon Michelle in line I stayed in the normal customs line. It was SLOW mostly due to an Asiana flight that had gotten in before us. After Customs we checked in for our US Airways flight to Phoenix. As we had a longish layover we bought a walk-up first class ticket on United in order to use the International First Lounge to get showers. Rather than be complete jerks and hang out there all day we got showers and left. We walked to the standard United Club and relaxed there until our flight to Phoenix. I used the time in the United Club to cancel the walk-up F ticket.
We got to Phoenix on time and transferred over to our Flagstaff flight. However, the Flagstaff flight went mechanical. It was about 2030 and everything in the airport was shutting down. The only option for food was a little kiosk near the gate where I spent $35.00 on two sandwich wraps, two bags of chips, and two drinks. Outside of the chili crab this was out most expensive meal during the trip. Eventually, the flight left an hour late and we got back to Flagstaff. From first class on a 747 to coach on a crj-200, the trip ended not with a bang but with a whimper.