Tag Archives: trip report

Thailand 2014: Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul Incheon (ICN)

Given that my fake red-eye from Hong Kong on Asiana landed before 5am, the airport was empty when I arrived.

Empty ICN

Empty ICN

It also meant that the lounges weren’t open. The Asiana Airlines first class lounge doesn’t open until 6am, but I even had to wait for the business class lounge to open since my flight arrived a smidge early.

:(

ūüė¶

I thus spent about an hour in the business class lounge waiting for the first class lounge to open (here’s a prior review of the business class lounge, albeit in the remote terminal).

A380!

A380 model! This was more exciting when I took this trip 6 months ago since their A380 hadn’t yet been delivered.

6am soon rolled around and I made my way to the first class lounge where I rightfully belonged. ¬†The lounge is tastefully decorated with a library theme. It’s large and open with private TV cubicles, loungers, and massage chairs. Maybe I just felt cold because I was sleep deprived from the fake red-eye that I took, but I thought the lounge was pretty chilly while I was there.

Good-sized lounge

Good-sized lounge

Seating

Seating

Massage chair

Massage chair

Private-ish lounging area

Private-ish lounging area

Since I was going to get on a long flight to JFK, I took a shower in this lounge. They have three giant shower rooms with Japanese-style toilets, which I love, and they had some of the best toiletries I’ve seen in an airport lounge with things like actual shaving cream and a razor that I would actually use at home.

Shower room

Shower room

Pretty good amenities on offer

Pretty good amenities on offer

The food options in the lounge weren’t super appealing to me, but that’s maybe because the breakfast foods on offer were things like Yorkshire pudding, abalone porridge, and sad-looking dim sum. I think I actually preferred the slightly simpler options available in the business class lounge.

Booze

Booze

Hot food

Hot food

More food

More food

More food

More food

Ice cream

Ice cream

There were a number¬†of things that I had trouble identifying. In particular, I had a hard time understanding what all of the beverage options were since everything was in Korean. Yes, I was in Korea, but the lounge attendants that I asked also didn’t speak very good English. So I ended up just getting some cereal and some Johnny Walker Blue (I was definitely inspired by secret breakfast ice cream from Humphry Slocombe).

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

While I understand why people don’t rave about this lounge like some other first class flagship lounges, the Asiana first class lounge at Seoul is tasteful and definitely feels premium to me. The nice amenities in the shower room are one example of something that seems pretty obvious but is often lacking in other premium lounge experiences. I also received an escort from the lounge to the aircraft, which is always a nice touch.

Thailand 2014: Asiana Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon (HKG to ICN)

OZ 746
Hong Kong (HKG) to Seoul Incheon (ICN)
Depart: 12:30am
Arrive: 4:50am
Duration: 3h 20m
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER
Seat: 2K -> 1G

Sometimes I do things that I know are bad for me. Like book fake red eyes. This flight is honestly not very much fun (although if you were to take it now you might get Asiana’s A380) since it departs after midnight, which is after the Thai and Singapore lounge close, and it arrives around 5am, which is before the Asiana lounges even open, and it’s only about 3 hours in the air. Heck, the Asiana first class lounge doesn’t even open until 6am.

When I originally booked this itinerary, this flight was scheduled to be operated by a Boeing 747, and even though it was sold as two classes of service, I was able to pre-select a seat in the first class section of the plane, which would have featured fully flat seats. As it turned out, the flight ended up being operated by a Boeing 777-200ER with angled-flat seats in business class. Oh yay (not).

Not a Boeing 747 :(

Not a Boeing 747 ūüė¶

The business class seat is typical for regional flights within Asia, which is to say angled flat. The business class cabin wasn’t very crowded, so I ended up moving to a group of empty seats.

Business class seats

Business class seats

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Seat back

Seat back

Kinda looks like it's falling apart a little

Kinda looks at little worn down

Seat controls

Seat controls

Angled flat

Angled flat

Not very flat

Not very flat

This is going to be a really boring flight review because all I pretty much slept from wheels up to wheels down. The limited service that I did encounter¬†was quite good, and¬†the flight attendants addressed me by name at every interaction, and I never heard them chatting away as is so common on US carriers even though I saw their mouths moving. The landing at ICN was also one of the softest I’ve ever had.

Anyway, I don’t recommend these fake red eyes, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I took this flight mostly so I could get to ICN in time to take Asiana’s flight to JFK in their first class suites product, so I promise that that review will be more interesting than this one.

Thailand 2014: Thai Airways Lounge Hong Kong Airport (HKG)

After the Singapore Airlines lounge, I went to the Thai lounge, which is the only Star Alliance lounge I hadn’t yet visited (the other being the United lounge).

Thai Airways lounge entrance at HKG

Thai Airways lounge entrance at HKG

This lounge is located in the same area as a lot of the other lounges, so it’s easy to lounge hop. It’s open to the terminal like the United lounge. There’s also a separate first class section, but it’s very, very similar to the business class section. The furniture is marginally nicer, and it’s of course a bit less crowded, but you’re not missing out on much if you only have access to the business class side.

Computers for use

Computers for use

Seating

Seating

This lounge features some game stations and massage chairs. I’m not a huge gamer, but I’m a pretty big fan of massage chairs, so I pretty much just camped out on a chair for most of the time that I was in the lounge. They’re definitely a little worse for the wear, but I still enjoyed my chair massage.

Massage chair!

Massage chair!

For food options, there was a pretty wide selection including various Thai foods and ice cream bars, but I wasn’t that hungry after eating some in the Singapore lounge, and it didn’t look all that appetizing to me personally.

Booze

Booze

Drinks

Drinks

Food

Food

More food

More food

Hot food

Hot food

Cold food

Cold food

The one thing that I didn’t like about this lounge was the internet access. I could not get the wifi to work, which is a basic necessity of an airport lounge. It didn’t matter a ton as I just used the Hong Kong airport free wifi, but it drives me crazy when the wifi doesn’t work in a lounge.

Of all the Star Alliance lounges at HKG, I don’t think there’s one that’s clearly superior to the others. Some people will like the food at the Thai lounge better, some will like Singapore’s food better (I don’t think anyone would choose United); some will find the lack of bathroom at the Singapore lounge to be a dealbreaker; some (like myself) will love the massage chair at the Thai lounge. You’re not missing out on much by not going to any given lounge, so I’d probably just go to the lounge that’s most convenient.

Thailand 2014: Singapore Airlines Lounge Hong Kong Airport (HKG)

My first stop on my layover at Hong Kong was the Singapore Airlines lounge. I went there first largely because the lounge closes at 11pm,¬†which is earlier than the other Star Alliance lounges at HKG, and my flight departed at 12:30am. For reference, I’ve also reviewed the United lounge,¬†the Plaza Premium lounge, and the Pier at HKG.

Singapore Airlines lounge entrance

Singapore Airlines lounge entrance

First impressions of the lounge were that it’s very large, but it feels a little dungeon-like because there are no windows, and there’s no bathroom located within the lounge. The decor and furnishings are typical of Singapore Airlines. There was a computer area, several seating areas, a snack area, and a dining area. There was also a separate first class section, but it’s essentially identical to the rest of the lounge. There’s a small sign that says the area is reserved for first class passengers, but there was no one actually checking (unlike the current first class section of the Pier), and the lounge was so empty anyway that it didn’t matter (I think there were 2 other people in the lounge when I left around 9:30pm).

Computer workstations

Computer workstations

Seating options

Seating options

Self-serve drinks

Self-serve drinks

Soft drinks

Soft drinks

There were a number of food options available, including several different hot food options. There was also Haagen Dazs ice cream, and I tried a water chestnut drink that was pretty interesting. The best food, though, is probably the made-to-order noodles, where you can get udon, laksa, or wonton noodle soup. I tried the laksa, and it was very flavorful and a bit spicy. It was a bit seafoody for me to rave about it, but I’d definitely eat it again.

Food options

Food options

More food

More food

More food

More food

Noodle options

Noodle options

Laksa

Laksa

Dining area

Dining area

More dining area

More dining area

Overall, this is a nice lounge. Yes, there’s no bathroom inside which is inconvenient, and there are no windows, so you don’t really feel time passing, but it’s spacious with some decent food options. It’s also located pretty far away from the rest of the lounges (this lounge is near gate 15 while the Thai lounge, for example, is near gate 40).

Thailand 2014: Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong (BKK to HKG)

TG 606
Bangkok (BKK) to Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart: 4:00pm
Arrive: 7:45pm
Duration: 2h 45m
Aircraft: Boeing 747
Seat: 1A

After my lounge hopping to four different lounges at BKK, I went to my departure gate to board my flight to Hong Kong.

The beautiful 747 that would take me to Hong Kong

The beautiful 747 that would take me to Hong Kong

I received a warm welcome on board. The crew was older than I’m used to seeing on Asian airlines, but they were extremely friendly. The main flight attendant who would be taking care of me this flight greeted me and confirmed that I had pre-ordered a meal, and she remarked how good it looked. She offered me a pre-departure beverage and a hot towel.

As far as I know, this is the shortest route that Thai serves that has a first class cabin. I was lucky enough to get a 747 with a refurbished first class cabin of only 9 seats, and the seats are quite similar to what they have on their A380. The carpet in the cabin is extremely purple, but otherwise, I really enjoyed the cabin and the seats. There was a large closet at the front of first class for larger bags and coats, and the cabin felt spacious. I also appreciated the small touches like the fresh orchids at the seat, and there was plenty of storage at the seat.

My seat, 1A

My seat, 1A

More of the seat

More of the seat

Seat and IFE controls

Seat and IFE controls

View of the center seats

View of the center seats

View of the cabin

View of the cabin

View of the cabin

View of the cabin

Unusual galley location

Unusual galley location

As I was taking pictures, a flight attendant offered to take a picture of me. This is always a small touch that I’m grateful for (I’m not a huge fan of selfies, even though I’m guilty of them too). She was even attentive to small details like making sure my bags were out of the picture.

Even though I had pre-ordered a meal, I was still handed meal and drink menus. Of note, they were serving 2004 Dom Perignon, instead of the 2003 that’s more common on other carriers.

Food menu

Food menu

Wines

Wines

Champagne

Champagne

Dom 2004

Dom 2004

Once we were in the air, meal service began promptly (after all, the flight is only a little bit over 2 hours long).¬†The meal that I had pre-ordered was essentially the only vegetarian option that I saw that wasn’t a vegetarian special meal. First up was a potato leek soup and a full bread basket. I’m generally not a big soup person, but this soup was tasty.

Potato leek soup

Potato leek soup

For my mains, I got a basil mushroom dish and a spicy sour curry. The basil mushroom was decent and pretty spicy; the curry mostly reeked of fish sauce. I would have eaten more of both, but the portion of rice was inadequate for the amount of saltiness. I’m sure I could have gotten more rice, but I didn’t ask.

Basil mushroom dish and spicy sour curry

Basil mushroom dish and spicy sour curry

Next up was a cheese plate, which I initially declined but the flight attendant insisted. She particularly recommended the cheese with the fruit in it, but cheese isn’t really my thing.

Cheese plate

Cheese plate

Finally, I was plied with many Thai sweets. I definitely have a sweet tooth, but I thought that everything that was served was pretty tasty and slightly unusual in a good way.

Thai sweets

Thai sweets

Overall, the food itself was fine, but the service was great. I felt like I was being doted on by an Asian auntie who keeps on plying you with food. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it.

The load on my flight ended up being 9/9, which was perhaps due to the numerous flight cancellations that Thai was doing at the time due to the civil unrest (this flight occurred in February), as my friend’s flight on Thai got cancelled and he had to be rebooked.

All in all, I really enjoyed this flight. People often say that Thai isn’t quite as good in the air, but I was honestly blown away by the service (I ended up writing in to Thai about how great my flight attendant was), the hard product was great, and I’m pretty confident that the food on Thai is better if you eat meat.

Thailand 2014: Singapore SilverKris Lounge at Bangkok Airport (BKK)

The last lounge on my lounge hopping tour of BKK was the Singapore SilverKris Lounge. This lounge is located near the A gates, and the windows of the lounge look out onto a small courtyard instead of the apron.

Entrance to the Singapore SilverKris Lounge at BKK

Entrance to the Singapore SilverKris Lounge at BKK

Windows overlooking a small courtyard

Windows overlooking a small courtyard

The lounge has lots of dividers in the room, which creates lots of semi-private seating areas. It feels a bit maze-like, and it’s a big contrast to the openness of the EVA Air lounge. When it’s not crowded, the increased privacy of the Singapore lounge is great, but it can feel claustrophobic when it gets busier.

Seating and dividers

Seating and dividers

Some say that the Singapore lounge has the best food of any of the Star Alliance business class lounges at BKK, but it didn’t seem that appetizing to me as there were flies buzzing around the food. There were a number of hot options, dim sum, and desserts (including Haagen Das ice cream, if that matters to you), and many people were very happily partaking.

Hot food

Hot food

Dessers

Desserts and pastries

More food

More food

Drinks 1

Drinks 1

Drinks 2

Drinks 2

Drinks 3

Drinks 3

Singapore Airlines wouldn’t be Singapore without its service, and even in the lounge, the service delivered. My camera was dying and I stupidly had checked my charger, but a lounge attendant was more than to help me find a spare charger.

Finally, some people fault this lounge because it lacks an in-lounge bathroom. I didn’t stay long enough for that to be a problem, but I can see how it’d be annoying if you were there for a longer stay.

Overall, this is a nice lounge, with some good food options and more private seating options. You can find typical Singapore service, which is always a plus, but it might not be the most convenient place to camp out given the lack of shower and bathroom facilities.

Thailand 2014: Louis’ Tavern First Class CIP Lounge at Bangkok Airport (BKK)

BKK has a lot of different lounges, including 4 locations of the Louis’ Tavern CIP First Class Lounge. The one that I visited was near the G gates, and I used my Priority Pass Select membership to get access.

Louis' Tavern CIP Lounge Entrance

Louis’ Tavern CIP Lounge Entrance

The lounge that I went to was just a single room, and it felt relatively small. Given it’s location in the airport, there weren’t any views to speak of, and the room felt pretty dark.

Seating in the lounge

Seating in the lounge

The food options consisted mostly of various kinds of sandwiches, along with some pastries, one hot item, one soup, fresh fruit, Nestle ice cream, and yogurt. There was also the typical selection of beer and liquor, as well as a drink called miracle water.

Sandwiches and pastries

Sandwiches and pastries

Hot items

Hot items

Fruit and food area

Fruit and food area

Booze

Booze

Other beverages

Other beverages and ice cream

The lounge itself wasn’t very crowded, which is possibly due to the fact that they have 4 of them throughout the airport. Each lounge is open 24 hours, which can be helpful for those odd itineraries, but there’s not really any where to stretch out, so I wouldn’t recommend these lounges if you’re looking for a place to sleep.

Another view of the lounge (it's not that big)

Another view of the lounge (it’s not that big)

Overall, it’s definitely better than waiting in the airport, and it’s a solid Priority Pass-accessible lounge, but it’s nothing special. I would also probably not recommend these lounges for people who are trying to overnight at the airport, as I imagine it wouldn’t be very comfortable.

Thailand 2014: EVA Air Evergreen Lounge at Bangkok Airport (BKK)

The first lounge on my lounge hopping itinerary was the EVA Air lounge. Given that I’m Taiwanese, I have fond memories of flying EVA to and from Taiwan when I was younger, but I haven’t flown them in 15 years.

The lounge is located near F1, so it’s very, very far from the Thai First Class Lounge and Spa. I’d say it was at least a mile, as it took me about 25 minutes to walk to the EVA lounge from the Thai First Class lounge.

Entrance to the EVA Air Evergreen Lounge

Entrance to the EVA Air Evergreen Lounge

The lounge is basically a large, spacious room with some good plane spotting opportunities as the windows provide a view onto the apron. The lounge was moderately busy as EVA has a number of flights out of BKK (including one that goes on to LHR), but there was plenty of seating.

Lounge is one long, open room

Lounge is one long, open room

The food options were actually pretty good for a business class lounge. There was Swensen’s ice cream, pizza, pad thai, and dim sum, and I thought the quality of food was quite good for what it was. Then again, I have weird food tastes, but I enjoyed everything that I tried, including the pizza with BBQ sauce. They also had Thai iced tea and Johnny Walker Black, which I did not mix but tried separately.

Food options

Food options

More food

More food

Ice cream

Ice cream

Drinks

Drinks

More drinks

More drinks

There’s nothing flashy or fancy about the EVA Air lounge, but I think it’s a solid choice, and if my flight were departing from a nearby gate, I’d definitely stop by. Of all of the business class lounges that I visited, I think the EVA Air lounge had the best food, as there was a good (although eclectic) mix of offerings and everything was reasonably tasty. I also enjoy watching planes, and this lounge was one of the better ones for that.

Thailand 2014: Thai Airways First Class Check-in and Lounge at Bangkok Airport (BKK)

My previous flight from Koh Samui to Bangkok was purchased on a separate ticket (at the time I was making my reservations, I couldn’t find award space on USM to BKK on Thai), which means that I had to check in again upon arrival to BKK. I didn’t particularly mind, though, as I’d heard great things about Thai’s ground service for first class passengers at Bangkok airport.

I walked to the end of the terminal where first class check-in is located, and my roller bag was immediately taken from me upon saying that I was flying first class. My bag was tagged all the way to my final destination, and I was soon escorted to the private security and immigration lines. Then there was the buggy ride from immigration to the first class lounge, which requires you to pass through the business class lounge. To all other airlines, this is how you do it! The Thai Airways check-in to lounge experience was just about as good as you can get. Minimal effort required on the part of the passenger.

Seating in Thai First Class check-in

Seating in Thai First Class check-in

At the lounge, I got a private room, although it’s really not a big¬†deal if you don’t get one unless you want to watch TV as the furniture is nicer outside of the private rooms, and the private rooms aren’t particularly private anyway. Someone came by to take drink orders and provide a food menu. I ordered a couple of the Thai food options and made an appointment for my complimentary massage.

Private room

Private room

General seating

General seating

More seating

More seating

Unused dining area

Unused dining area

The food in the lounge wasn’t great compared to the wonderful food I had been eating throughout Thailand for the previous two weeks. I’d say it was comparable to a mediocre Thai restaurant in the US, which is a little disappointing given how great food in Thailand is, but hey, it’s a lounge, what can you expect. I did enjoy sampling a lot of the Thai desserts, which included a number of things that I had seen but hadn’t eaten throughout my trip.

Self service options

Self service options

Lots of desserts

Lots of desserts

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the massage was also¬†not great. I opted for an oil massage instead of a Thai massage as I had been pummeled enough from all of the massages I had gotten during my trip, but this was probably a mistake, as the oil massage felt like she was just moving oil around my back rather than actually massaging me (on a later trip through BKK, I opted for a Thai massage instead and it was significantly better). The massage facilities are great, though, and I had a nice hot shower afterward. Pro tip: there’s a robe in the closet for you to put on (as for the disposable underwear which Ben at OMAAT has commented on multiple times, I might not wear it in public, but I didn’t feel like I was indecent or anything; maybe Ben is just very well endowed for everything to be hanging out?).

After my massage and sampling some more desserts, I decided to go lounge hopping, which I’ll write about in subsequent posts. Overall, I think the Thai Airways First Class check-in experience is impeccable, and the hour-long massage is a great benefit (multiple other lounges offer shorter massages like the Emirates First Class Terminal¬†and the Amex Centurion lounge at DFW). Definitely a great reason to depart out of BKK in Thai Airways First Class.

Thailand 2014: Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok (USM to BKK)

Koh Samui has one of the coolest airports that I’ve been to. It feels like a resort, with almost everything being outdoors. Of course,¬†the flip side of this is that it can be extremely hot and humid if your flight is departing in the middle of the day, but hopefully you’re somewhat adjusted to the temperatures by the time you’re leaving Koh Samui.

Koh Samui airport

Koh Samui airport

One tip if you’re flying Bangkok Airways is to make sure that you check-in online prior to your flight. It doesn’t matter if you can’t print out your boarding passes or you need to check in bags, but if you check-in online prior to arrival at the airport, you can skip the normally lengthy economy class line and use the much shorter (i.e. non-existent) online checkin line.

Security is a breeze, and you can actually go through customs at Koh Samui even if you’re just on a domestic flight depending on your itinerary (make sure to keep the sticker they give you!). The gates are all open air and because Bangkok Airways is a “boutique” airline, there’s free snacks, drinks, and wifi for all passengers. This gives the whole thing a much more civilized feel, where even economy passengers get decent amenities.¬†Again, one potential downside to the open-air concept is that there are mosquitos, so don’t think that you can abandon your bug spray even though you’re at an airport.

Bangkok Airways waiting area

Bangkok Airways waiting area

Seating in the waiting area

Seating in the waiting area

Food options

Food options, including some attempts at authentic Thai snacks

More food options

More food options

To get to the plane, you take a tram, which adds to the whole resort feel. I enjoy the trams because they allow for better close-ups of the planes.

Walking up to the plane

Walking up to the plane

On board, the flight was unremarkable, which is how I like my economy class travel. Of course, since this is a foreign airline, they serve a meal on a 50-minute flight, and they even cater special meals. Given how short the flight was, they served cold meals, and neither my VGML or my friend’s normal meal was appetizing. Both of us picked at the fruit and left the rest uneaten.

All economy seating

All economy seating

VGML

VGML

Normal meal

Normal meal

Bangkok Airways dominates flights to/from USM, but at least their product is decent and they try to provide amenities to all passengers, so you don’t feel completely gouged by their monopolistic prices. I’d happily fly them again, and in many cases, flying is much more practical than any other form of transport in Thailand.