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Archive for September, 2009

Eating out in Hong Kong Sep 28

So where do you go to eat and what do you eat when you reach a new place? That is always the question. Well, thanks to couchsurfing.com I met up with some locals tonight and went out to eat with them. We went to a place that by Norwegian standards probably would have been closed by the food inspection services….but it was really excellent. But just to give you an idea of the place….it was pouring down outside and there were just plastic walls to keep the rain out. Inside there were large, round wooden tables with small plastic stools to sit on. The concept here was that we had to wash our own chopsticks, plates, glasses etc in tea! And when I asked for a bathroom I was led to the “back yard” and I just had to pee there. The food was excellent and here is the food presented by Ada :-)

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Flight to Hong Kong – Lufthansa First Class Sep 28

At about 5.30 PM one of the staff came over to me in the lounge and said ”Mr. Karlsen. The flight to Hong Kong is ready for boarding”. So I packed my stuff together and went with him downstairs where I got my passport back from the First Class lounge tiny little passport control and then I was handed over to a driver that took me to her Mercedes S400 Hybrid…she told me that they had only had the car for about 2 weeks so it was brand new. The Lufthansa First class lounge experience was great – the service was impeccable and both food and drink selection impressive – going to a SAS lounge after this will never be the same.

My driver took me to the Lufthansa 747-400 plane and she walked me to the door of the plane before she said goodbye and I was handed over to the staff on board. It has been a long time since I had the pleasure of walking up the stairs to the top floor of a 747. The Lufthansa first class is located on the upper deck of the 747 and there are about 16 seats there. They seem to be a bit old and I understand that an upgrade is being planned in the end of this year. I had seat 83 K which is by the emergency exit so there was lots of space. But note that there is a permanent “trolley” here where they store drinks. Some have mentioned this as a problem but I didn’t think this was an issue.

My FA asked me right away if I wanted something to drink…so I went for the Champagne, The champagne of the day was Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Rare. I have to say that after being through Bollinger, Taittinger, Taittinger Rose and several types of red wines in the lounge, I was not really capable to tasting the fine qualities of the Piper-Heidsieck – but it seemed pretty good. When I asked my FA what kind of champagne I was drinking he informed me and then he asked “Why? You didn’t like it?” – not sure why he assumed that. After about 40 minutes we were pushed back and rolled across their airport to get ready for takeoff. Takeoff feels different when seated on the upper floor that’s for sure. Before takeoff we got slippers, a toiletry bag and pajamas. The FA asked about my size and I was like “I don’t know…what do you think?” He seemed a bit bothered by this – I guess he have heard it before. But I ended up with Large to extra large that was a bit too big for me.   The toiletry bag was pretty big but didn’t really contain that much. Ear plugs in a holder, a tooth brush and tooth paste, a comb, a face mask, a moisturizer and a shoe horn.

After takeoff we got a warm cloth soaked in water. I’m not sure what fragrance that was used but the scent was great :-) After about 30 minutes in the air the first class started their service  by putting a cloth on the table and handing out an appetizer…tuna fish with orange or something like that, I even got a real rose stuck in a hole next to my table. It was a nice touch I guess but it is not something I will miss if they remove it from the service. The tuna fish was great but it would have been great if they staff had informed me about what was being served. I also got menus by the way explaining what kind of drinks and food that I could expect

For starter I had the option of Caviar, crawfish, watermelon with goat cheese and tartar of goose breast. Next course was the option between a salad or spicy lemongrass soup and main course options were prawn, mushroom and pancetta stew, swordfish with beans, pumpkin ravioli and sugar or spice duck breast.
My FA took my order and while I was waiting I watched a bit of Angels & Demons on the TV screen. And this is one area where Lufthansa scores pretty low. The screen for each seat is TINY and can’t be compared to the Emirates option at all. When I flew Emirates A380 on business class I had a 17” screen or something  like that and on Lufthansa it is like 10”. But it is video on demand so you can pause it and stuff but the screen is jus t too tiny. About 1 hour into the flight the start was served and I got a nice portion of caviar. I think caviar is a bit like fois gras….it is great but only in small quantities :-)

I guess the FA had seen that I was taking a lot of photos so she kindly offered to take a photo of me ;.) The female FA did a good job by the way but I’m not sure I understand why she kept on addressing me in German to start with every time she spoke to me. Yes, I know that you would all like people to talk German but it is not really going to happen just because you start your conversation in German ;-)
The caviar was served with lemon, onion and some kind of sour cream on the side. From there we moved on to the salad which was a bit on the boring side but still pretty good.  For main course I chose the duck breast with polenta and spinach. Not bad at all and the duck has a lot more character than e.g. chicken.  But the combination of a chunk of meat, a scoop of polenta and a heap of spinach doesn’t really scream fine dining.

When dessert came around my female FA just skipped me for some reason…I guess she looked at me and thought “You’ve had enough” or maybe it was just a slip of the mind ;-) But I grabbed my male FA and asked him if I could get the pear tart with brown butter ice cream which tasted great with some decaf coffee and some Baileys. So after a loooong day it was time to call it the night. I went to bathroom and brushed my teeth and slipped into the pajamas and went to sleep. The chair was actually very comfortable as a bed and it felt like it was possible to recline it all the way back to a proper bed. I did sleep until I was woken up for breakfast ;-)


When I was woken I had a slight hang over from the drinks last night but that’s how the cookie crumbles right? ;-) Once again we were handed the cloth that smelled excellent and I also used the opportunity to slip into normal clothing again. The breakfast was a bit strange…the female FA asked if I wanted muesli but what I got was some sort of sour cream mix…and then I got honni corn on the side. I was not sure that that was it…but all of a sudden I was also asked if I wanted some scrambled eggs and bacon. All in all not a bad breakfast but it would have been great to get some information about the options…or maybe I didn’t read the breakfast menu well enough.

All good things come to an end right? And after about a 10 hour and 30 minute flight it was time to land in Hong Kong. After a steep descend we landed at Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong. If I were to give a conclusion of this flight I would say that Lufthansa delivers a very good product from the lounge to the flight experience. The service on board was good and even with their old layout, the seat was very comfortable and gave me a good night sleep. The food amd drink selection was also very nice. One area where there is room for a lot of improvement is of course when it comes to personal entertainment. The screen today is just too small compared to the competitors and even if “Size doesn’t matter” it was still just too tiny. When I checked the price of a round class ticket on first to HK, I think it was like 75000 Kroner (about 13.000 USD). I wouldn’t mind flying first class every time I travel but I’m not willing to spend that much on the ticket ;-) So I guess I have to save up some SAS points again so I can try out first class on a different airline.

Get in touch if you have any questions or comments :-)

A walk through the lounge Sep 27

Here is a short video showing a walk through of the Lufthansa First Class terminal lounge when it was pretty much empty.

Inside the Lufthansa First Class terminal Sep 26

I’m not sure when I heard about the Lufthansa First Class terminal the first time – I have been to some business class lounges over the years but the Lufthansa First Class terminal sounded pretty amazing. So when I booked my award ticket I made sure to go First Class vith Lufthansa via Frankfurt in order to get access (you can read more about who gets access on Lufthansa.com)

The flight from Stavanger to Frankfurt took longer than expected. I think the flight took about 2 hours and 45 minutes!  When I came out of the plane there was a man there with a sign with my name on it and he had a nice Mercedes parked right next to him. So I joined him (he never actually checked my boarding card by the way) and he took me to the terminal building. He was initially planning on taking me to the First class lounge in the B building by I asked about the First Class Terminal so he drove me to the A section and I walked from there. To get to the First Class Terminal you have to walk out of the main terminal building and walk for 2-3 minutes to get to it. When you get there you actually have to ring the doorbell and one of the staff comes to fetch you.

The lady that escorted me in took my passport and boarding card and told me to just enjoy and I would get my passport back later on when it was time to board the plane – it is not that often that I hand over my passport like this but I guess you have to trust them.
When it comes to the lounge….well, I guess there is not that much to say apart from WOW. First of all there are lots of leather chairs spread out in the lounge and there were not many people there so finding a place to sit was not a problem. Each table had a selection of nuts so they have taken the roasted nuts to the next level  :-)

The selection of food seems to be pretty amazing…yes, the Emirates lounge in London was not bad either. But in the Lufthansa First Class lounge they have taken it to the next level. Lunch was pretty amazing with a huge selection of antipasti from a buffet (including huge a huge parma ham and a huge Pata Negra) and there were also several warm dishes including Thai soups, Indian food, risotto and so on, And for dessert a wide variety of sweet stuff including tiramisu, chocolate mousse, panna cotta etc. If you can’t find anything good to eat at this food buffet you either have some pretty weird food allergy or are very picky about what you eat.

As a Norwegian I also have to mention the drink menu….which is extensive :-) Here you can choose to drink Bollinger, Taittinger, Ruinart etc champagnes, 8 different red wines, 80 different scotch and whiskey’s !, 7 types of gin etc…you get the picture. It is quite nice to sip some good champagne while having some Voss water to keep saturated ;-) Apart from that the First Class terminal has a cigar lounge where you can enjoy your whiskey together with a cigar and they have 4 shower rooms where you can take a shower. I did take a shower and unfortunately the water was freezing. But apart from that the facilities are very nice. There are also a couple of rooms where you can get some sleep if you want to.

The internet is free of course and there are also several small “offices” where you can get access to the internet if you have not brought your own laptop. It does not get much better than this.

Join me at the Lufthansa First Class terminal Sep 26

About to enter Lufthansa First Class terminal in Frankfurt

Flight to Frankfurt Sep 26

The flight to Frankfurt was pretty standard apart from the fact that it took 2 1/2 hours as there was a “traffic jam” at Frankfurt airport. Here are some photos and videos.

How did he know…. Sep 26

I had a very early flight today and I came to the airport at about 5.30 AM. Stavanger airport is getting too small it seems like because once again there was quite a lot of chaos. I went to the lines where you can normally find Lufthansa business class check in but this was all of a sudden replaces by Thomas Cook as there was a plane leaving for “syden” (charter plane to the south of Europe). All of a sudden this SAS employee comes up to me and says without further introduction and like he read my mind “There is a bit of chaos here and the business check in counter is not open. But here is your boarding card” And then he handed me the boarding pass in a Lufthansa First class folder. How did he know that I was the right person to hand the boarding card to?? Anyway, great service from the guy and SAS :-) He told me to just cut in line for the baggage drop as I was flying business but when I came over to the one baggage drop counter the guy there wouldn’t have anyone trying to bypass the line. So he told me to just get in line…and it was loooooong. So I went over to the guy who handed me the boarding pass and he kindly took me to a empty check in counter so that I could drop by luggage there. Thanks for the great service ;-)

Getting ready for Hong Kong Sep 25

Tomorrow morning I’m going to Hong Kong and I’m first of all looking forward to the First class experience on Lufthansa both on the ground and in the air ;-) So I’ll be starting at the crack of dawn with a flight from Stavanger to Frankfurt and after a few hours I’m going to Hong Kong on the upper floor of a Lufthansa 747. This will be a pretty short trip but I have to admit that I’m not very good at packing. There are websites dedicated to how to pack smart and light but I have never been any good at that. I normally start the night before I travel and pack in state of panic I guess and I normally bring too much. But hey, better safe than sorry right? Below is my trusted Samsonite suitcase in the process of being filled  ;-) So what does one wear when flying first class I wonder? I have prepared my tuxedo and hope that will be sufficient ;-)

Trip report from Phnom Penh in Cambodia is ready Sep 22

Nikki and I went to Vietnam and Cambodia during Easter this year. This is the last part of the trip report and this time we have come to Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia. It is not really a main tourist destination and it does not have a number of attractions like some other cities. But we got to experience a city where people were celebrating New Year with dancing and games in the streets. But places like Tuol Sleng S-21 torture prison and The killing fields reminded us about the tragic past of this country with the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Well, here is the trip report with photos, videos, links etc: http://gardkarlsen.com/Phnom_Penh_Cambodia_trip_report.htm . I hope that it can give you an idea of how we experienced the city.

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The future of flying? Sep 19

As more and more airlines are getting into economic problems, it seems like they are coming up with various new ideas on how they can squeeze in more people on each flight. A Chinese airline suggested having people standing on shorter flights and Ryanair quickly picked up the idea and came out with some sketches on how it could be done. I’m not sure they are serious – I just think it is a PR stunt but here is how it could be done:

A British design agency called Design Q has come up with an idea where people are facing each other. So now you get to stare other passengers in the face the entire flight ;-) But if you look at the example below…does ths really allow for more passengers than the traditional layout?

Some of the flights in Norway are very short…Stavanger to Bergen is from 20 to 30 minutes and Stavanger to Oslo can be done in 40 to 50 minutes. I don’t think I would have had a problem standing on a flight for 30 minutes if the ticket was considerably cheaper. And when it comes to sitting face to face – I was transported this way in an Army Hercules plane when I was in the armed forces…I can’t remember that anyone complained about our safety and comfort back then ;-)

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