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Archive for June, 2012

Access to SAS lounges this summer Jun 27

This summer you can pay to get access to the SAS business lounges in Stockholm (Arlanda), Copenhagen (Kastrup) and Oslo. In the period from May 16th to September 30th you can pay 219 Kroner (about 36 USD) per person to get access to these lounges but you need to have a ticket on SAS, Widerøe or Blue1. So if you have a long wait it might be worth it – you do get access to some snack and drinks at least Winking smile

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Turkish Airlines business class–tried & tested Jun 23

IMG_7389I used Turkish Airlines on a trip to Beijing in May 2012. It was actually my first trip with Turkish Airlines and I chose it as the price was quite good compared to the alternatives for going to Beijing. I have used Scandinavian Airlines a lot as they have had good prices to Asia but their prices to Beijing was a lot higher than on Turkish Airlines and it was one of the reasons for choosing this airline. My trip started in Copenhagen and it was a fairly new Boeing 737-800 if I’m not mistaken. The flight from Copenhagen to Istanbul is about 3 hours and I was seated on 4D on business class. I’m not sure why but it seemed like it took forever to get the people on board this flight – Scandinavian Airlines seems to be better to get people on board more efficiently.

IMG_7393The seat was a proper business class seat with a 2+2 configuration. There was of course an offer of having champagne to start with and they also handed out a big menu where the options were sea bass, chicken breast or pasta. When I wanted some red wine together with the food, the flight attendant asked me if I wanted Turkish or French wine. I have not gotten the memo that Turkey is a great wine producing country so I went for French wine and the FA was like “why does everyone want the French wine?” The various starters were great but the chicken breast was dry as it often is on flights.  My colleague ordered a glass of cognac after the food and we asked what kind of cognac it was. The FA replied that it was “VIP cognac”. It is not a brand that we are familiar with and I guess she could say that we were wondering about her answer. So she went to get the bottle and it was a Hennesey VSOP (so VSOP became VIP) – but all in all we got great service and the FA seemed to be enjoying her job.

IMG_3834As I had a bit of time at Istanbul Ataturk airport I had the pleasure of waiting a bit in the Turkish Airlines lounge. It is a huge lounge and I guess it is needed as Istanbul airport has become quite a busy airport and hence there were lots of people in the lounge. Here you can get something to eat, wine and spirits was available, they have recliners, TV screens and with a username and password you can also get online.

IMG_7397The flight to Beijing was at about 11 pm and I think boarding started about 1 hour prior to departure.  We had to take a bus out to the plane so there was no business entrance into the plane like you often see on larger airports. When we checked in my colleague and I got seats behind each other and when we got into the plane we asked if we could change seats and if the flight was full or not. She replied that the flight was full but it later turned out that there were lots of seats available on business class and we did get to sit next to each other. The Turkish Airlines flight TK020 is a Boeing 777-300ER and the configuration in business class is a kind of strange 2+3+2 configuration.
The seat was good and when inclined it links up with the foot stool (or ottoman) in front of it to form a bed that is almost completely flat (I think it is 177 degrees). Blankets, slippers, amenities pack and headphones were already laid out in advance before I came on the plane which is a good solution in my opinion.

IMG_7404In front of each seat there was a 15” screen and the in in-flight entertainment system seemed to be quite good with lots of movies on demand. But it was kinda annoying to have the control docked in a space next to the seat on the right hand side – it was hard to reach when I started reclining the seat!  I was not that impressed with the headphones – I’m not sure it is noise cancelling or not but they didn’t feel like it at least. After takeoff I got the menu and it was quite extensive. I had a choice of two starters and I chose the potpourri of Mediterranean meze and it also came with a small salad, some yogurt and cucumber etc. It was also possible to get a soup before going to the main meal where I went for the mushroom ravioli.

IMG_7405When they brought in the meal it was served on a tray of course but the various dishes was served on glass plates and I got real cutlery. Each tray also had a small salt and pepper shaker – the only “problem” was that the butter was brick hard! I tried chicken as a starter, I tried the leak soup and finally the mushroom ravioli. At the time I was getting hungry so I found the meal to be very good. After dinner they walk past with a dessert trolley and I asked for the chocolate “fondant” and tiramisu. This was not very good in my opinion – it did not resemble real tiramisu.
The amenity kit was contained in a rather big bag and it contained some lip balm, toothbrush, eye shade, comb/brush, ear plugs, socks etc. The toothbrush was horrible as it was built up by two parts and it kept on falling apart when I used it. The toilet on board the 777 was a bit larger than what I’m used to on the SAS Airbus A340 which means that it is easier if you want to slip into a pajama before you try to get some sleep.

IMG_7407The seat is quite good and when you recline it, it connects to the foot stool in front to give you a long and almost flat bed. It is also great that there is room under the stool as you can store e.g. shoes there. I had a pretty good sleep when flying to Beijing and I actually did not wake up until they announced that we were descending and seats had to be in an upright position. I shouldn’t complain about that of course but when I got the menu at takeoff I did fill out my breakfast menu and handed this over to the FA and indicated that I wanted breakfast but no one woke me up and by the time I did wake up it was too late for breakfast. The 2+3+2 configurations seems a bit strange but it seemed to work out pretty good – there is a small gap between the seats so you can get out without having to step on the passenger next to you – and there is also a small wall that you can raise if you want a bit more privacy. But it can’t compete with the amazing configuration of the business class on Singapore Airlines.

IMG_7410On the way back I flew the same route – Beijing-Istanbul-Copenhagen on business class. The plane on the way back to Europe was also a Boeing 777 so it was very similar to the one that I had when flying to China. Again the amenities were laid out prior to passengers coming onboard – everything was pretty much the same but the toiletry bag was a smaller version with different brand of lip balm and moisturizing cream. It is a bit weird that this has not been standardized.  This time I got a menu with my name on it and the food was once again quite good. IMG_7447The business class was completely full on this flight and it seemed like they were struggling a bit to serve all the business class passengers at more or less the same time so the FA seemed a bit stressed out. One asked me if I wanted some more red wine and I said “yes please” but I never saw the wine. When she was serving dessert I asked for port wine and I think she remembered as she first gave me some dessert and then she ran off and brought me a huge glass of port. Once again I slept pretty well in the seat but again I was not woken up for breakfast even if I had put the sticker on the seat indicating that I wanted breakfast service and once again the breakfast menu that I filled out was ignored. In the end I had to call the FA and ask for breakfast and what I got was not what I had ordered but at least I got something to eat.

IMG_7445From Istanbul to Copenhagen the rather new Boeing 737 was replaced by an older Airbus A321 and it contained seats in a horrible cyan/ turquoise color. Instead of having a proper business class seat and a 2+2 configuration, this plane had standard seats with a 3+3 configuration with the middle seat blocked to give each passengers a bit more space. But once again the service was very good and I got a very good breakfast including one of the best omelets that I have had on a plane.

Conclusion
I think Turkish Airlines long haul business class is quite good. The seat is almost horizontal and provides the possibility to sleep well when traveling for many hours and the service is quite good with a decent menu with various options and several options when it comes to the wine. But it seems like they are struggling a bit with the breakfast menu setup or at least it failed both ways when I used them. The on board entertainment is quite good as you can start watching a movie right away and you can watch it until you land basically – not like SAS where it takes forever to start it and they terminate it like 30 minutes prior to landing.

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Shangri-La Bangkok – Great hotel by the river Jun 19

IMG_7511I have had the pleasure of staying at Shangri-La Bangkok a couple of times. The first time was in October 2011 when I stayed in the Krung Thep wing and the second time in June 2012 when I stayed in the Shangri-La wing. In June 2012 I actually booked the hotel using my Golden Circle points as I was only staying one night. I chose the hotel as the location is pretty good and I am a Golden Circle member and like staying at Shangri-La/Traders hotels.  I travel a bit for work and pleasure and I have stayed at various 4 and 5 star hotels around the world just to give you an idea about the background for this review.

IMG_7513The taxi from the airport cost about 400 Baht (including the 50 Baht airport tax) + the toll station fees of 70 baht.  The reception at the hotel was great as always when coming to a 5 star hotel in Thailand. The staff took care of the luggage of course and we were taken to the reception where we got checked in and I got 1425. This time I was staying in the Shangri-La wing – the hotel has these two wings that both have stunning views of the Chao Phraya River. IMG_7515The room was delicate as always at Shangri-La hotels – a neutral carpet, light wall paper, dark furniture, art on the walls etc. The centerpiece was as always, the over-sized king-sized bed which was quite comfortable. Apart from that there was a sofa by the window with a grand view of the river, a desk and chair and a flat screen TV mounted on the wall in front of the bed. As a Golden Circle member I was also greeted with a welcoming package on the room which is always a nice treat. The furniture under the TV hid a small fridge with a selection of drinks but as usual it is cheaper to buy this outside the hotel (one Coke is 160 Baht) . There is also complimentary water in the room.

IMG_7522The room also included a large wardrobe with hangers, ironing board, iron, a small safe, robes and slippers. The bathroom was also in line with other Shangri-La hotels that I have stayed at around the world…a combination of neutral marble tiles and dark tiles. The sink was in black marble finish and the bathroom also featured a bathtub, shower corner (with a proper glass door) and a toilet. The selection of amenities are not as extensive as when you stay at the club level but you still get a tooth brush, soaps, shampoo etc. When I checked in the duty manager came to greet me and said that I should get in touch if I had any additional requests – later on I did go to the front desk to ask if I could get the L’Occitane shower products and not the standard shower amenities as I love the small of the L’Occitane products. I know this is just for the club rooms but I was hoping the guy would give me a break as I’m a Jade member but apparently not.

My friend stayed at the club level and at 5.30 PM he invited me to the Horizon lounge on the 24th floor for evening cocktails. The lounge has again a stunning view in many directions and there are lots of tables right by the windows. Here they had a small selection of snack and a pretty good selection of wine and drinks that we could enjoy while watching the sun go down over Bangkok.

Conclusion
IMG_7527Shangri-La Bangkok is a great hotel and it has a great standard as you will find in many other Shangri-La hotels in Asia. The room is lovely, the reception that you get at the hotel is great and if you stay at horizon level you will be able to enjoy breakfast and evening cocktails in the horizon lounge on the 24th floor. The hotel is located near the river so it is easy to get around by skytrain as it is located near Saphan Taksin skytrain station. But you can also easily take a river boat bus to go e.g. grand palace. If you want a great hotel and want to stay by the river in Bangkok, you should definitely check out Shangri-La as one of the options.

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

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Marini’s on 57–there is a new rooftop bar with a view in town! Jun 18

IMG_4007I have gone to Kuala Lumpur (or KL as it is also called) for a number of years now and I normally stay at Traders hotel in KLCC. Over the years I have seen new buildings pop up around the area and one of the latest edition is tower 3 or menara 3 right next to the Petronas Twin Towers. When I was visiting a client in the Twin Towers in June 2012 I looked down on Menara 3 (which is 57 floors by the way) and it seems like there were tables and chairs setup there and I decided to check it out. When I went there the same evening I discovered that you enter this place by going to the main entrance of menara 3 (facing towards Mandarin Oriental hotel) and there is a lift up from there. I was a bit surprised by the lift…high ceiling, lots of buttons as it seems to have the potential to stop on every floor and it felt a bit slow. Well, it only takes 60 seconds to the top so I guess you can’t really complain Smile

IMG_4048The first night we came after sunset and we were thrilled to see that you can get a table both inside in the bar (which has glass walls and a great view) and on tables outside. When seated outside you can of course enjoy the KL heat while enjoying the great view. The restaurant and the cigar lounge was not open at this stage so this is just a review of the bar itself – the restaurant is due to open in July 2012. But back to our visit – we went there with some friend and we were a group of four. As an avid traveler I have been fortunate enough to visit a few places around the world and for some reason I love rooftop bars with a view. On this night it was easy to see that the staff was a bit inexperienced and it is no wonder as they had only been open for a week. IMG_4011One example is that the waitress managed to serve the wrong drinks to all of us. The tapas/snack that we had was OK but I think the staff needs to know a bit more about the food…as a trick question I asked the one waitress what kind of cheese we had on the cheese platter and she had no idea. I have to admit that I didn’t really expect her to know it either so it was a bit mean of me to ask a question like that. When we ordered the panna cotta I think they totally forgot about it so in the end we had to ask for it a couple of times but it was worth waiting for: the panna cotta was very good and the same goes for the tiramisu and dark chocolate that came on the dessert platter!

IMG_4052We also went there a couple of days later when they had a soft opening for the sunset happy hour. We got there about 6 PM so this time the sun was still up and we sat outside again. From the outside you get an amazing view of the sun setting in KL and at the same time you are also so close to the Petronas Twin Towers that it almost feels unreal. Once again we tried some of the snack and also tried some of their cocktails and the drinks were very good. I think this will be a great place once the staff gets a bit more experience. The location is great and from the 57th floor you get an amazing view of more or less the whole city and if you get there on a nice day you will experience a great view to the sunset in KL. I’m already planning to go back to Marini’s on 57 to check out the restaurant and the cigar lounge when I return to KL in September J Thanks to Ginny Lotto for the invitation to the soft opening and for introducing us to some new and exciting cocktails. This place is going to be one of THE places to go in KL. Check out the webpage or their facebook page.

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

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