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Archive for October, 2009

Another airline is getting an A380 Oct 31

As we speak, AirFrance will be the fourth airline to recieve an Airbus A380 plane and they are the first European airline to get their A380. The other companies that have A380′s already are Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Qantas. I’m a bit surprised that AirFrance is not making more of a fuzz out of this – the link to information about the A380 on the AirFrance page just leads to a “Page not found” page. Anyway, AirFrance will use the plane from Paris to New York City so hopefully we will get a chance to try it in the future. I had the pleasure of trying out the A380 when I went from London to Dubai in March this year as you might remember from this article.

If you want to keep an eye on the production of A380 you can check out this blog or this production list.

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A travel through Norway – in 1857! Oct 24

Maybe you think that travel guides are a new invention – well, think again. Books describing journeys have been around for centuries but I guess they have changed a bit as more and more people have the chance to travel. I came to think of this the other day when I heard on the news that the book “Northern Travel” by Bayard Taylor has finally been translated into Norwegian. I guess it was about time as it was written in 1857! The book is a tale of Bayard Taylor’s trip to Sweden and Norway and on his trip he gets to visit Bergen, Oslo, the fjords, see the midnight sun etc. Norway has changed a lot over the last 150 years – we have gained full independent once again, we have gone from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of the richest nation in the world etc etc. In that respect I think all Norwegians should read this book to get a glimpse of Norway anno 1857. Taylor describes food in Bergen as being horrible, he talks to the lepers and the lack of hygiene, he describes Norwegian jealousy towards the Swedes etc. If you want to read the book you can actually do it online. Thanks to Google Books you can find it here.

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Condé Nast Traveller: Readers’ travel awards 2009 Oct 13

The travel magazine Condé Nast has released readers’ travel awards 2009 and here the best countries, best cities, best airports etc have been listed. Let’s take a look at the list of best vacation countries:

1. Italy
2. New Zealand
3. Turkey
4. Australia
5. France
6. Egypt
7. USA
8. South Africa
9. Spain
10. India
11. Marocco
12. Greece
13. Mexico
14. Canada
15. Thailand
16. Brasil
17. Argentina
18. Sweden
19. Portugal
20. Kenya

Well, first of all I would like to say that I totally agree when it comes to Italy. Nikki and I have been there several times and our last trip was to Florence and Tuscany and it was one of our best vacations ever (see trip report on http://gardkarlsen.com/florence_italy_travelogue.htm ). I’m also very, very pleased to see that South Africa is ranked on 8th place. I see that Cape Town is also high on the list of best cities in the world and I couldn’t agree more. I think that it will get even higher on the list when they host the soccer world cup in 2010.  I’m a bit surprised to see Turkey so far up on the list…for most Scandinavians Turkey is just a place where you go to find sun, beaches and partytime. I have actually never been there but I would love to visit Istanbul one of these days. You can find the awards on http://www.cntraveller.com/ReadersAwards/2009/Countries/ .

Do you agree on the list? What country is your favorite vacation country?

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Review of Sheraton Hong Kong Oct 12

I stayed at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers in the end of September 2009. The room was booked online at the SPG site and it was 1400 Hong Kong Dollar (approx. about 170 USD). I chose the Sheraton as I’m Starwood preferred guest and as it was located in the same area that I stayed in the last time I was on HK…at Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. I got to the hotel by taking the airport express train into the Kowloon station (costing 90 HKD) and from there I took a taxi to the hotel and it was only like 5-10 minutes and cost 35 HKD (4.5 USD). Click below to read the entire review of my stay at the hotel and see photos and videos :-)

  more…

Still possible to get bargain tickets Oct 11

It is still possible to get your hands on plane tickets at a nice price. I would like to recommend all of you to sign up to the newsletters that airlines offer. If you sign up to airlines like KLM, Lufthansa, Norwegian, SAS you are pretty much covered if you are liviing in Norway. KLM has a sale these days – what do you say to Mexico City for 3800 kroner (670 USD)…pretty cheap in my opinion (well, the dollar is pretty low to the Norwegian krone these days so that brings up the price in dollars). You can see the KLM sale here. Lufthansa is also having a sale and they can offer Buenos Aires for 4800 NOK. See the Lufthansa sale on this page. Norwegian is also having a sale but you have to hurry as it ends soon :-) To get the good prices you have to be flexible and you have to travel outside peak times – but it shows that you can still make a bargain on plane tickets :-)

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Check in – in downtown Oslo Oct 10

According to a Norwegian newspaper it will soon be possible to check in at Oslo central station in downtown Oslo before you take the airport express train to Oslo airport (OSL) – if you are flying with Norwegian or SAS that is. But it does not seem like they are going to go all out on this…you will only be able to check in and then you have to bring your luggage to OSL and go to the baggage drop. In Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia you can also check in at the train station (KL Sentral) before taking the airport express train to KLIA but there you actually check in and drop your baggage which I find to be an excellent solution. But hopefully checking in at the train station in Oslo will mean shorter lines when you do get to the airport. Here is the article (only in Norwegian).

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Experience with Thai First Class – Bangkok to Frankfurt Oct 04

The flight from Bangkok was supposed to leave at 11.55 am but it was a bit delayed. In the beginning I was informed that it was delayed by one hour so when we got to that stage I started asking the staff in the lounge when boarding would start. They just told me to relax and they would let me know :-). So all of a sudden I was told that my flight was ready and one of the lounge staff took me over to C6 and I went on board. I think I must have been the last person on board as as soon as I sat down it seemed like we were closing the door and were pushed back.

I had seat 2A on this TG922 flight and the seat was located in the very nose of this 747 and on my flight and of the 10 first class seats I think 7 were taken. The configuration here is not bad at all as the seats are big and with an ottoman. But there are only 4 seats that are connected so make sure you get one of these if you are traveling as a couple. The headset and toiletry bag was already handed out to the seat and the toiletry bag includes stuff as mouth freshener (good idea), Evian face spray??, lip balm, tooth brush, eye shades, socks etc but no ear plugs. Slippers were also handed out already to start with. A pajama was handed out and it was in a pretty funky purple Thai color…I think I prefer the dark blue Lufthansa one.

When I first sat down I was of course offered champagne and it was Dom Perignon vintage 2000 and it was not bad at all. Takeoff from Bangkok was pretty uneventful even if it was raining pretty badly and soon after we got more champagne and some large nuts. What was a bit strange was after a while in the air it felt like drops of water were dripping from the ceiling. But when closer it seemed like it was small pieces of ice – I guess it was condense water which got frozen but it was weird seeing this fall into the cabin.

The menus were handed out in a big folder and included both the food menu and the drink list. There were two servings on this 11 hour flight and I’ll get back to that later on. The drink list included wines such as Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume 2006, Rully 1er Cru 2000, Chateau Haut-Sarpe Grand Cru Classé St. Emilion 2004 and Pommard 2002. I didn’t mind that the serving didn’t start right away as I had to check out my seat and take pictures of the details there. As I mentioned, the seats come with an ottoman which can be used to keep your feet on. But it also acts as a chair if you want to dine with someone – quite clever. The table was huge so it was not a problem serving two people on it. The TV came up from a hatch in the side panel and was a medium size TV…I would still like to see something like the Emirates TV. But the selection of TV and movies were quite good and I enjoyed several movies during the flight.

A bit less than an hour after takeoff the food services started. The FA came over to me and took my order and it started with a mixed chicken with Chinese sausage as an appetizer. From there we moved over to caviar with garniture – the garlic bread that was served on the side was way too hard. And the small butter that was handed out had the Thai Airways logo on it but it was brick hard. On the Lufthansa flight the butter had been left out a bit so it was easier to spread on the bread – details, details.

Next dish was something called Lobster bellvue and it was cold lobster served with mozzarella and tomatoes on the side and some balsamic mayonnaise– I have to admit that I’m not that crazy about lobster….this lobster was too tough in my opinion.
For the main dish there were various options . lamb chops, stuffed chicken breast,  beef in green curry, tiger prawns in chili sauce etc. I went for the lamb chops served with vegetable and mashed potatoes on the side and it was a great dish – I enjoyed it with some red wine of course.

When I had finished the main course the FA came around with the cheese trolley and asked if I wanted some cheese. I’m a sucker for cheese so I accepted this of course…but I think that I got the world’s largest portions as I got big pieces of brie, blue cheese etc. Served with port wine it was excellent but there was no way I was able to finish all of it.
The meal was rounded off with a simple dessert…some candy and a choice of coffee and drinks. I have to admit that I like to round of a meal with coffee and Baileys but they did not have any Baileys on this flight so I went for some Otard 1795 instead. Back home this bottle will cost you close to 400 USD – too bad that I don’t have a clue about cognac so that I could really appreciate it.

After the meal the lights were turned off and I was watching the rest of Monsters vs. Aliens before I slipped into the pajamas and had some sleep. There seemed to be two toilets for the first class passengers and they were always clean. But when I went back to the toilet I had to “squeeze” past one of the seats and a curtain that was separating the First and Business class section I guess. The seat was not bad for sleeping in but I think I would have to say that the Lufthansa seat was a bit more comfortable but maybe it is not fair to compare as the Lufthansa flight was a night flight and the Thai flight was a day flight.

After about 5 hours after the last meal the lights came on partially in the cabin again and it was time for second serving. I guess I should have been full after the previous meal but strangely enough I was ready for more food. After a couple of canapés we got the first dish which was marinated beef served on vermicelli (glass noodles thai style) and served with smoked salmon with a shrimp mascarpone and apple filling. This dish didn’t really work for me. Then I got a large portion of lobster soup which was very good but once again the portion was a bit too generous. There were several options for main meal: sliced veal Zurich style, cider braised pork chops, chicken curry Pa-naeng and wok fried stuffed prawn mousse. I went for the boring option…sliced veal. The veal was served with a great thick sauce and it was excellent. The meal was rounded off with a Lemon almond tart which was not that good.

After this meal the lights were turned off again and I’m not sure why this was done – were we expected to sleep again? I guess that is the challenge of long day flights. But after close to 12 hours and 9000 km it was time for landing in Frankfurt
It was not a problem having such a long flight when seated on First class of course. I had lots of great food and drinks and the entertainment options were not bad at all. So the big question is…which was better: Lufthansa First Class (see http://gardkarlsen.com/blog/?p=470 ) or Thai First Class? I’m not sure I’m able to pick a winner here. Even if Thai has newer seats, the Lufthansa seats did feel very comfortable. And the food serving on both flights were very nice. But if I also include the lounges in advance I would have to say that Lufthansa is the winner.
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments.

Greetings from Royal First Class lounge Bangkok Oct 01

After the stay in Hong Kong and a short stop in Bangkok it is now time to go home.  So this morning (October 1st) I took a taxi from Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi airport (pronounced something like su-waan-na-poom if you wonder) and it was a slow process as the remains of the typhoon Ketsena made it pour down. But I got to the airport eventually and walked over to the Royal First sign outside of the airport and a guy in Thai airways uniform helped me with my suitcase and escorted me to the First class check in area located at the one end of the terminal. Check in was fast as I was the only one there but it was a bit of a surprise when I had to pay a 700 Baht (21 USD) airport tax – I have not done that in a while at Bangkok airport – I guess it has been included in my tickets before.

From check in I was escorted to the immigration control where I got my passport stamped and through the first class security control where there were no other passengers. And right behind security was the escalator down to the lounge. I thought I was there already but this turned out to be the regular business class lounge. But as soon as I came down the escalator a small buggy car turned up from nowhere and I was asked to get on to be transported to the First Class lounge. I know the business lounge is kinda long but I still feel silly being transported in a small car when I’m still capable of walking ;-)

I was pretty much alone in the Thai First class lounge and it was of course with some anticipation that I entered the lounge – after all this lounge has been voted the best First Class lounge in the world in 2009 by Skytrax . So how would it compare to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal experience? (see previous entries on http://gardkarlsen.com/blog/?p=457 and http://gardkarlsen.com/blog/?p=466 . As in the business class lounge I was met by lots of staff greeting me with the traditional wai and I was led by one girl to the seating area. In this lounge you can choose to have a separate room with a few recliners and a TV or you can sit in recliners in the main seating area. The lounge looks pretty exclusive with the large chairs, the soft carpet and this use of dark wood on pillars and walls. I did ask if I could take some pictures and a guy escorted me around and proudly showed me the Skytrax award that is on display in the lounge itself. There is of course a business center where you can use a PC, a separate dining area, a smokers lounge with great ventilation etc.

The food selection was not really that impressive – all the hot food was to order and not buffet style and I had the option of spaghetti Bolognese, spaghetti cabonara, wonton soup, chicken in green curry Thai style, pork in teriyaki and I think that was about it. So all in all the food selection is not spectacular if you compare it with the Emirates lounge in London or the Lufthansa First Class terminal. The drink menu is also a lot shorter in the Royal First lounge but I think that most people will find something they like as they can offer cocktails, beer, port, a couple of red wines and Moet & Chandon champagne.

Another difference from First Class Terminal in Frankfurt compared to the lounge in Bangkok is that the lounge in Bangkok is located above one of the main areas of the airport and you get the constant buzz from the rest of the airport. I think I prefer the serenity of the First Class Terminal ;-)

There are also 4-5 shower rooms at the First class lounge that seemed to be very nice and also 4-5 slumber rooms were you can catch some sleep.

One great thing about the lounge in Bangkok is that fact that you have a Royal Orchid Spa. If you have been to Thailand you know that getting a message is quite common so even at the airport they have a spa. When I first arrived I was asked if I wanted a message and I said sure of course. Initially I asked for “just” the neck and shoulder message but everyone I talked to asked me I wanted the 1 hour full body massage….so in the end I caved in and agreed on that. The spa is located just a minute walk away from the lounge and I walked over there and got a lemongrass drink and a cold cloth while I was waiting, But soon I was led into a spa room and told to get undressed and take a shower and get ready for the message. I would of course post some pictures of myself in disposable underwear but in fear of scaring away new readers I think I will avoid that ;-) Anyway, it was really, really nice to get a one hour massage at the airport while waiting for the flight.

After the massage I went back to the lounge, had some teriyaki pork lunch and enjoyed a few glasses of champagne before I was told that my flight was ready for boarding. My flight was due to leave from C6 and a lady walked with me to make sure that I went the right way (not that I had been drinking THAT much) and once I got to the gate it looked like I was the last one there….perfect timing in other words. But more about the flight in the next chapter

So what is the conclusion? Which lounge is better…the First class lounge in Bangkok or the Lufthansa First Class terminal? Well, I have to say that I think Skytrax is wrong. The Lufthansa First Class terminal is far better than the First class lounge in Bangkok. First of all the First class terminal in Frankfurt feels more exclusive as it is separate from the main terminal and you don’t get the noise from the airport as you do at the lounge in Bangkok. The food and drink selection at the Lufthansa first class terminal is far better than in the lounge in Bangkok. But I have to say that having a one hour full body massage as a part of the service at the lounge in Bangkok was very, very nice.  But in the end…the Lufthansa First class terminal wins in my opinion.