Sunday, 24 November 2013

Trip Report 14 Part 1 : LHR-BKK-HKT (TG F/TG "C")

It has not been the easiest of years, there are reasons why Trip Report 13 has not been finished and sadly never will be. This may also be the penultimate trip report, I am currently on gardening leave after deciding to resign after nearly 14 years in the job. I will start looking for a new job in the New Year.

Anyway, having quit and been placed on Gardening Leave, I decided to go on Holiday and maybe foolishly decided to spend some of my *cough* money *cough* on a decent ticket. When I realised that Thai would provide me with F class travel for the price of a C ticket on SQ or LH, I decided to go for it, I knew of Thai's reputation for being variable, but I decided it was work the risk. In general, it was and has topped up the milage balance that there may well be one more premium class adventure even if I end up stacking shelves in a supermarket.

Anyway, a cold but sunny Wednesday saw me on a fast and dirty Virgin bemoaning the pathetic thing that Virgin claim is a breakfast compared to the BR breakfast of yesteryear. A swift taxi and HEX saw me at Terminal 3 and trying to find Thai's checkin, which was closed 3 hrs before, except for a Royal First desk. I was swiftly checked in and baggage tagged through to Phuket. As is usual, I went outside and smoked a couple, after all the next one would be in Bangkok, wouldn't it.

Anyway, fast track security was reasonably swift and I was soon through to the joys of Duty Free which as usual I carefully avoided. I bought some stuff in Boots and then proceeded to the London Lounge which is supposedly the lounge Thai use for both their first and business class passengers. Which is not exactly a bnlliant idea. Apart from the piss poor greeting where a) the rude bint couldn't get off the phone to her partner and b) where the dopey cow didn't realise I'd given her the BKK-HKT boarding pass, I suppose it was OK for a business class lounge, except for the broken beer machine. So off to SQ's lounge for some First Class treatment :-)

Anyway finally it was time for boarding and I scampered to the 747-400 to take my allocated seat which was 3F, boarding was a bit of a zoo to be honest. There was a warm welcome and the goodies started flowing, the very nice RImowa L'Occitane amenity kit, the rather good pj's, the Dom Perignon and for those that take them, the nuts. The crew in F can best be described as mature, in generally they did very well, although there were blond moments. There is a bit of a kerfiuffle over someone who wants to get his wife upgraded to F for the meal service, but I just tune it out. We are 10/10 in F, 2 young hiso Thais and 8 middle aged to elderly farang.

Anyway, we push back roughly on time and finally take off about 12:30, however, they seem pretty confident that we will get to Bangkok actually a few minutes before schedule.

Whilst they take orders, the amuse is handed out, it's a deep fried crabmeat ball with some honey/chili dip. Frankly, the crab ball is of UK Chinese Takeaway standard, but the dipping sauce is good.

You get your own individual bread basket on Thai, but no real choice of how it is made up, the bread is also not of the best quality, something that was a recurrent theme in Thailand. The garlic bread was OK and brought around separately.

The caviar comes in a generous portion, but there were no toast points. There were some blini, but they ran out, which was a bit annoying. The woman in front whined for ages loudly about there being no melba toasts. #firstworldproblems

This had me a little worried, bad, bad seared tune but with a tasty salad. The tuna was really bad though.

And this recovered it, pepper beef with mushrooms on a bed of noodle, very peppery rich sauce and an excellent main course.

Fruits and cheese were offered, I turned down the cheese which may have been a mistake given the quality of the cheese on the return leg. The fruits were OK, good for a UK origination.

I actually said I didn't want dessert, because as you all know, I don't eat dessert, but this crew was a bit ditzy and whilst one of the deserts was contaminated with Satan's globes, the little coconut tart was excellent.

Mint Tea - there are many varieties of Mint Tea, TG use a disgusting one. I must say, I really like Thai's tableware and glassware.

Anyway, with all that over there was the usual darkening of the cabin, which was very much encouraged by the crew. Now I would have dearly loved to go to sleep, but sleep is a bit of a precious quantity to me and sleeping in the middle of the day on a aircraft is not something I can usually manage. So I read a large treatise on the Holy Roman Empire and I wrote and I plotted and I found I'd left my Thai guidebook behind *sigh*. I was kept well supplied with water by the crew, although it was made quite clear that they really wanted me to try to go to sleep. I understand this, but I would prefer them to be a little more subtle. I also confused the crew, a couple of them noticed I was reading a book in German and made the assumption that I was German, they started talking to me in TDeutsch rather than Tinglish and so comprehension levels went down the pan. However, nice of them to be so accommodating.

Anyway, about two hours out from Bangkok, the cabin lights were slowly raised up and the usual shuffling around started of people trying to smarten themselves up for landing, a decent breakfast was then served, as usual I didn't manage to get photos but there was a small bread basket, a fruit plate and then a choice of dishes, I had an omelette with herbs which I'm afraid was the usual rubbery airline stuff, but the rest with it was reasonable. Decent coffee as well, so I had two cups. We landed at BKK about 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

It was at this point that the only serious problem of the outbound journey occurred, now this wasn't a major end of the world problem but it and the some stuff on the return showed me what I consider to be a defect with Thai's ground services which I understand they regard as being top-class. To be fair, they probably are, if you want to do what Thai want you to do.

You see, on planet Thai, you are picked up by a bint in a golf cart, taken to immigration or transfer and generally given a fast track through the system with a dedicated guide. Sounds good doesn't it. Just one tiny problemette, they don't ask you want you actually want to do. When handed over, my request was to be taken to a smoking area, my guide through the formalities spoke no English, I gestured, I showed my fag packet but the guide just did what he had been told and dumped me in a domestic business class lounge away from my gate. So I immediately left it and went for an exploration, guess what, no smoking areas in the domestic terminal, they are only provided in the international terminal. Quite simply, this is not good enough, if you are going to provide ground services like this (which is nice and better than LH's sink or swim methods at FRA), then you should at least try and meet any wishes your passengers have. However, it must be said, I was through in about 10 minutes, it's just I'd have rather have taken a little longer.

This left me with a decision, do I go out and smoke and re-clear Thai domestic security or do I stomp around and be miserable. It's 7:45 am, my flight boards in just over an hour. I have no knowledge of how zoolike it will be out there. I dig around and find my last piece of nicotine chewing gum, go and find a sunny corner and generally be miserable. I could have tried to reenter the lounge, but to be honest, it didn't look terribly good anyway.

Anyway, boarding is roughly on time for the short hop down to Phuket and there's an awful lot of people at the gate, an awful lot. I hadn't really paid much attention to the connecting flight and there was a bit of a surprise in store for me. We loaded from the gate onto busses, and suddenly I noticed that it was rather warm, rather pleasantly warm and rather humid, rather unpleasantly humid. Of course, loading onto buses once again destroyed the idea of priority boarding. We were taken to a standing 747-400 , oh, I thought, and after one of those rather considerable delays, we were allowed to board. It turned out to be what I understand is Thai's only 747-400 with the old seats which has been relegated to short-haul duties. My business class seat 1A turned out to be a first class seat, which is really rather overkill for the short flight to HKT.

We dithered around a bit, but ended up leaving about 25 minutes late. Which gave me a chance to look around my fellow pax, who were mainly farang and mainly quite a bit older than me and I had my suspicions they were headed for Patpong. To my surprise, there was service on this flight and not just a quickly flung tray. There was a water or juice round, there was a fruit plate, there was a croissant and there was a hot dish. Sadly, the hot dish was some sort of prawn congee and congee is one of the few Asian foods I have just never been able to get into. Oh and there was much needed coffee, not as nice as the coffee on the previous flight but still decent for airline coffee.

Anyway, we arrived at HKT roughly on schedule due to a fairly generous block time and then the fun of arrivals began. You arrive domestic, but you have to collect your bags from international which is a bit of a traipse but it does save that annoying collect your bags and re-check them feature which is such a joy of travel to the USA. Anyway, priority bags normally work very well in Asia, so I was expecting the bag off quickly. Alas, this was not to be, although it was the only failure of priority bags on this trip, and they weren't out last or anything silly like that, they just weren't very quick off the mark.

Anyway, I had arranged a car from the hotel, it was a little more expensive than the taxi prices, but not that much more thanks to the Ko Phuket taxi mafia, so I was carefully scanning the waiting people for my driver. Eventually, I found him outside, not in a terribly prominent position but mercifully next to a smoking area. He went to get the car, I indulged for the first time in about 18 hours. It was bliss.

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