Tuesday 3rd July 2018

After waking up super early when I didn’t need to I checked my phone to see the time and saw that the burglar alarm at home was going off. I checked my phone and saw that it was probably because of the person coming to feed the cat. So I disarmed the house, cleared all the problems and set it back up again. Nothing looked out of place, the activity log matched what I would expect, so all was fine. The cat didn’t seem to care.

We both rested in bed and watched some TV before we got ourselves ready for the last big internal travel day of the trip. Today we would be heading back to Tokyo on the Shinkansen. We had decided to take it easy this morning so that we would not stress ourselves out worrying about time. We gave ourselves plenty of time goals to ensure we made it to Shin-Osaka on time. We used our last breakfast coupon to get some pastries to go from a place in the station and then we scoped out a way to get to the subway line without steps (which we found).

After going back to the hotel, grabbing our stuff and checking out we made our way through the rush hour crowds of people coming out of the station into the hellmouth. When we got down to the platform, then it became apparent things were not going to be easy. The trains were pulling in almost packed full of people and there was still plenty of people piling themselves onto the train. When we finally found a spot where we could get on, we missed the first train because we were not game to throw our bags into the scrum. Then on the second go (trains were running about one every minute) only Heidi was able to get on and she got rammed into the train with everyone else. So it looked like we were going to seperate.

It took me two more trains before I could get on and i barely made it on with my suitcase and i got crushed in the process. Then I found out the train I was on did not go to Shin-Osaka but stopped short. So I had to get off at another station and risk the whole train jam thing again…. Fun. I made it through though and caught up with Heidi at Shin-Osaka. Thankfully we had given ourselves plenty of time.

We made our way through Shin-Osaka Station up to the Shinkansen platforms and found where we were departing from. We camped out for about 40 minutes or so (after several contemplations of ditching our train and heading for an earlier train to Tokyo, but we didnt). Our train pulled in and we jumped onboard and stashed our bags in the usual spot. We swam upstream to our seats and got settled in for the long (well not really) ride up to Tokyo.

Today’s train was a Hikari and would stop at Kyoto, Nagoya, a couple of other stops before Yokohama, and then into Tokyo. We had the usual seats and just enjoyed the ride. We finally ate our pastry breakfast and I worked on the trip report while Heidi did some of her japanese lessons. The train cruised north as we watched people get on and off. We pulled through stations we had seen in the daylight and some we had only seen at night. Sadly though the clouds were out so there would be no sighting of Fujisan today 🙁

As we pulled in towards Tokyo Station it was sad to be getting off. Waiting there at the carriage though was a staff member from the Shangri-La Tokyo, they were waiting to assist us with our bags and take us to the hotel. It was crazy though that they would offer this. It was not a problem though and they took one of our suitcases for us and escorted us through the craziness towards the hotel. After checking in and getting stuff sorted in the room, Heidi wasn’t feeling to crash hot so she crashed out in the room. I grabbed my rail pass and my camera bag and I headed out towards the station again. I have been wanting to take photos at Haneda for a long time, so that was my goal tonight. It was pretty easy to get out there. Take the Yamanote line to Hamamatsucho and then take the Tokyo Monorail all the way out to Haneda. The best part is the whole thing was free with the rail pass.

I checked the spotting sights to see which terminal was going to be better in the afternoon and it said Terminal 2, so ANA it was going to be. The terminal was great, bright and clean. It felt more like a shopping mall and even had a Lawson in it. So i grabbed a drink and a sandwich (since I had not had lunch yet) and grabbed an elevator all the way to the top floor. The observation deck was on the very top of the terminal and the sun was shining. I spent several hours on the roof of the terminal getting plenty of photos (and sunburnt at the same time). I got some good special liveries and a few airlines I had not gotten before.

After finally watching the weather start to get iffy, I retraced my steps back towards Tokyo Station and met up with Heidi for some dinner. We wandered the surrounding streets as we were both pretty tired and didn’t wish to go far. We came out of the night finding a small, local possibly chain, restaurant and had a great dinner. We picked up some treats for dessert and headed back to the hotel to crash out for the evening.

Wednesday 4th July 2018

This morning I got up early and went to the gym (while Heidi groaned and rolled over). It was relatively easy morning in the hotel as we had a breakfast meeting with the hotel (work requirement). The breakfast at the hotel was great and the pastries were excellent! It was a good morning and by the time we were finished it was around 11am. So Heidi and I decided we would take the opportunity to go out to Omiya & Saitama so that I could go to the JR East Railway Museum.

We took the Shinkansen up to Omiya (since it was free) and then connected on to the local strange subway thingy over to the Museum. When we arrived though, unfortunately there was a big sign saying “Closed”. No reason given (at least in english). Nothing online stating they were closed on the english site. They close tuesdays, but not wednesdays. This was confusing. We tried walking around wondering if it was just that entrance, but nope closed. Turns out that it was closed due to the preparations for opening the new section the next day. So that plan was out because it would be extremely crowded for the next few weeks. Pass!

So we got back on the shuttle thingy back to Omiya and then got back on the train towards Tokyo. We managed to time it pretty well because a few minutes after we got there, one of the Double Decker Shinkansen (the Max) was scheduled. Score! So we got our tickets and headed off towards Tokyo. We jumped off at Ueno so that we could walk around through some of the market streets between Ueno and the next station.
We continued down to Akihabara for some lunch and a bit of an explore through the streets. But during the middle of a pretty tasty lunch, my nose started to spew blood and lots of it. This was not good when I was running short of tissues, japanese bathrooms don’t have paper towels and there was lines to get into the restrooms. Ugh!

I did what i could and it eventually stopped but that pretty much killed my mood for the rest of the afternoon. I just was not in a good frame of mind. So Heidi and I went back to the hotel and settled in to watch some netflix to keep us busy. We ventured out of the hotel for some dinner and walked around the station area to scope out the finally finished Marunouchi side of the station. We happened to find one of the sites of an assassination while we were walking around. Neither of us was all that hungry for a big dinner, so we grabbed some food from the Daimaru department store and headed back to the hotel to relax. Not the best day, but it was still a good day in Tokyo.

Wednesday 27th June 2018

Waking up earlier than we really needed seem to be the way things were going to happen this morning. Sadly it looks like sleep patterns may be off because it just did not go to plan. Instead we bummed around in the room trying to keep ourselves on a relatively normal fashion. Today’s plan was to go for a walk this morning to get some breakfast, then head out to a museum out of town and then who knows what the rest of the day.

So we rolled out of the hotel (which we were really liking so far) and started to walk out of the neighbourhood. We followed the railway lines up towards Nagoya Station and our chosen spot for breakfast. Located in the depths of the surrounding areas of the station was a lot of different, i guess you could call them strip malls. They were rows of shops and restaurants for all differents kinds of things. In amongst this haven of deliciousness was our intended destination. We wandered streets till we found Chapeau Blanc.

This little cafe had a fantastic deal. For the cost of a beverage (490 Yen) you would also get all the pastries you can eat. So for $5 you can have pastries and the drink of your choice, that is a bargain. Don’t get me wrong the pastries may not have been the best you will ever eat, but the iced coffee was good, the pastries were decent enough (we went back a few times) and they throw in hard boiled eggs too. What more could you ask for?

All filled up we walked back through Nagoya Station to get our bearings, book some train tickets for the rest of our trip and head out to our destination for the day. We were to jump the same train we took to our hotel last night but this time go all the way to the end. Which we did, via getting stuck in some railway works. It was interesting to see how the city differed from the small amount that we had seen so far. You went from very commercial, to very industrial relatively quickly.

Our destination was the end of the line and the museum right next door, the SCMaglev Railway Park which is the JR Central museum. It mainly covers the Tokaido Shinkansen along with also the new Chuo Shinkansen being built (the Superconducting Maglev). It was an amazing museum with so many things to see and thankfully not crowded at all. We explored all kinds of trains and I had been wanting to come here for quite some time. Although I did not win the lottery draw to drive the Shinkansen simulator, I did get some time driving a normal train (I did good, or at least that is what the lady said).

We both enjoyed the museum a lot and we even managed to have an old train to ourself for lunch. That is right… for lunch. They sell Ekiben’s at the museum (because of course you would) and you can eat them outside, in an old train that is air conditioned. We had our lunch in there and at one point, we were the only ones inside! We both tried not to purchase everything in the store before leaving and we headed back to the hotel to rest a little bit as we were both feeling a little jetlag.

After a couple of hours of resting we walked back up to Nagoya station but this time in a different direction. We checked out some stores in the station area before jumping on a subway over to Sakae. From there we had dinner at a Japanese Curry house (CoCo for anyone who cares) and did some more wandering through shops. We cut things early because I wasn’t feeling good and hadn’t been for a good portion of the day. We got back to the hotel around 730ish and i was passed out in bed by 8pm.

Thursday 28th June 2018

This morning we were heading south to Kyoto. After another pastry breakfast (this time from the 7-11) we headed off to the station. I was definitely not feeling well at all so Heidi made the decision that when we made it to Kyoto I was to ask the hotel about seeing a doctor. We made it back to Nagoya Station with plenty of time and waited for our train. While waiting on the Platform almost six Nozomi trains came through in the small 20 minute or so window. Those trains are really constant! Our train rolled in and we scrambled on with our bags. Soon enough we were in our seats and cruising out of Nagoya towards our next stop of Kyoto. Since this was Shinkansen we didn’t have long to wait.

We pulled into the Kyoto Station and found the nearest taxi rank (on the opposite side to I remember using last time) and we headed on our way to our hotel, the Ritz Carlton Kyoto (thanks work!). Upon arrival we were met by almost 4 staff and quickly sent off to our room. One staff member got a quick hand off of documents from the front desk and we were whisked off to our room for check in. Almost 6 staff helped us from the moment we got out of the taxi, amazing!. We had a beautiful room and even though it was on the floor above the lobby, it didn’t matter. We had a view of the river and it was quiet and peaceful.

After a site inspection with the sales rep, we headed off to get information on someone to go see to get me fixed up. With an appointment made for 5pm, we found the local 7-11, grabbed some lunch and then headed off to Inari station (took 2 subways and a train). After exploring the Fushimi Inari area with the million other tourists who were there, I left Heidi to explore on her own around the mountain while I headed down towards the town to explore. I found a cat cafe, the prices were cheap and included a free ice cream, so I was sold.

I spent a little while there (around 30 minutes or so) before walking off to meet up with Heidi. After heading back to the hotel for a little bit, we jumped into a taxi to head to the doctors. Low and behold after what felt like the quickest doctors visit ever I was given a prescription and then spent more time waiting for drugs than I spent with the doctor! We start to wander the streets after this in search of some dinner and found an Ippudo, however the wait was long, so pass on that! Around the corner from Ippudo was a good looking ramen place, with no wait and plenty cheap too. So we went in there! They had an english menu but we didnt need it because pointy talky ordering worked well.

After a stumble back to the nearest subway station and two trains and a walk back to the hotel, we flopped into bed to rest up before a big day the next day.

Friday 29th June 2018

Today was our big tour day of Kyoto. We were planning on getting in as much stuff as we could. We had arranged a tour guide with the Good Samaritan Club and they would help us get around the city. Our guide was due to meet us at 9am in the lobby of the hotel and we would head out from there. When we got down to the lobby it was full of guides waiting for their groups, so I guess a lot of people do it! Once we met up with our guide Nao we headed off on the subway. Umbrellas in hand today because the rain looked pretty nasty.

This morning we visited the Nijo-ji castle and the Imperial Palaces. The first being the spot where the Emperor would meet his guests and the second being his places of residence. Both were outstanding to visit and not that crowded thankfully. The rain was on and off all morning though so that was annoying. After the morning of the old reign of Japan we headed down to Nishi market for a stroll through and a look at all the tasty morsels on offer. I snagged a croquette for 100 Yen and ate it as we walked (although my guide was shocked since we had lunch upcoming but it looked so good!). After that we bought him lunch around the corner from the market at a place that had Curry Udon. I had a cold ramen dish with plenty of vegies and sesame dressing. It was delicious!

After lunch we jumped on a bus and headed out to the Golden Pavillion. This is where there were tourists and lots of them!! It was beautiful and stunning but holy crap it was like shooting fish in a barrel. From there we headed over to another temple which had less people. By this time we still had some time left with the guide so we headed off to explore a very little known perk of Amex cards in Japan. Apparently there is a VIP lounge inside one of the temples. The guide knew of the temple, but had never seen the lounge before we we headed over. It wasn’t much but it gave free access to a temple and some privacy away from the rest of the city. It was a good way to wind down and finish our tour.

After finishing the tour we headed back towards the city and it started bucketing down. Thank god for hotel umbrellas because we needed them! The rain was coming down hard and fast so we took refuge in a store that had over 300 different ice cream parfaits on offer! Yes please! With that as our early dinner we stopped by a store on the way home for a sandwich and a drink and soon enough back at the hotel after being gone all day. Tomorrow we would be leaving Kyoto and moving on. No doubt we will return.

Monday 25th July 2018

It’s Monday morning, my alarm goes off and I have a needy cat annoying me. Must be the weekend, well not today. Today it is vacation. I get to spend some time taking a trip that my wife and I have been waiting to take for almost 4 years. The day was finally here, but yet I was excited but not overly so. Which is strange, but not really.

A lot to get accomplished around the house today before taking my first flight of the year and the first in at least 7 months. The morning went by quickly but not without its hiccups. I forgot to take a jacket to keep warm if needed (woops… hopefully won’t be a problem) and pretty sure i forgot to arm the house alarm. The ride to the airport was easy and the lyft took mere moments to arrive.

After making our way from our drop off point to check in, the wait took a few moments and we were checked in. It was super simple and our bags were right on the money in regards to weight. We took our boarding passes and headed off to security where we had no issue thanks to clear. Well that was meant to be the thing, however this is where I started to get hassled. Clear was stating that I did not have a Pre Check boarding pass. However I had one printed and a mobile boarding pass that both stated the same. After being verified by Clear they then dragged me in front of a TSA rep to get the same done (which is not meant to be the way) just to prove I am Pre Check (which I already knew).

So once into the line for the security I get stuck behind the family that doesn’t know what they are doing but I am stripped down ready to go in moments and then… wait. More waiting, lots of waiting. Finally get through and my Camera bag gets pulled to the side. No word all I hear is “Bag Check”. Just dandy! Doesn’t help that there was like no TSA agent listening to anyone so I had to wait over 10 minutes for someone to finally get to my bag. I waited more for TSA today for a bag check than I did at check in and clear. How is that even possible.

For my bag check they wanted to check my camera lenses apparently. Which I wasn’t aware was a thing for precheck. The guy working it was not that great either and I didn’t want him damaging anything. He asked me how to open the bag and I told him “I would prefer to do that” and he finally let me do that. He went for the lenses and I told him he better be careful with that or the TSA will be footing the bill for new equipment. Soon enough I was on my way and they still couldn’t find a complaint card to make a complaint about the poor service today. So that was convienient.

Next stop was the lounge, after a breif stop by work for a little bit. The Club at SEA was the required lounge to visit today and this was my first real visit. Holy Crap is this place small. Like REALLY small. This lounge is meant to have all the people who are flying international flights, which is crazy. It was like an endless stream of people coming into the lounge and it was rough to find a seat. The offerings were limited but I did not really want that much to be honest.

I made sure to relax a little, try to get into the holiday mood. I was dissapointed that onboard the flight today I wasn’t going to be able to sit with Heidi and to add insult to injury, an aisle seat because the true windows were taken. Not exactly my favorite way to start a vacation. Soon enough we escaped the lounge and headed off to the gate to get ready for boarding.

All Nippon Airways – NH177
Seattle Tacoma to Tokyo Narita
Boeing 787-8 (JA814A)
Business Class – Seat 7K

Boarding: 1250 (Gate S12)
Push Back: 1318
Take Off Roll: 1339 (Runway 16L)
Top of Descent: 1421
Touch Down: 1505 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1511 (Gate: 208/29B)

Boarding came soon enough after what felt like a mountain of children boarded. I swear about ⅓ of the plane was preboarded. Thank god I was not down the back of the bus today because holy crap would that suck. Heidi and I were in the first half dozen or so Business Class passengers onboard and that was when we waved good bye to each other. When I got to my seat the person in 9A was settling in and he said hello, so I said Hi back. I let him know that if he didn’t want his seat to let me know, I would be happy to swap.

Then he said something I never thought I would be happier to hear. “My wife, she is in 7K, will you swap with her”. Win win on both sides!! They get to be together, and I get my window seat. Holy crap this would be the luckiest thing the whole day. I gladly swapped and also made sure to thank them several times over. Every staff member I spoke to after that started to thank me for swapping so the couple could be together. I was very happy to let them know it was not that big of a deal.

I got situated as the rest of the plane came walking past my seat and soon enough we were pulling off the gate. As we started to get ready to taxi all the staff lined up, bowed and waved to everyone. The traditional ANA departure… always a site to behold. The long taxi line out to the North end of the runway and as we went past I noticed two fire trucks having water cannon practice. Fun times!

We took off to the South and turned towards the west and back to the northwest as we started the long haul westward toward Asia. The service took a long time to get started and they handed out the wrong menu to begin with. Which must have been awkward… but still, I wouldn’t need to keep it because it would be the same on the way back. Since the service was so slow i started to watch the first of many movies for this trip to ensure that I kept myself entertained.

Lunch finally began with the canapes and drinks. Because we were leaving the USA it would have to be the western options. I would keep the Japanese options for the departure in two weeks time. So the western menu started with a Cajun prawn thing and some corn soup. The soup was delicious and Heidi agreed because I recieved a message through in seat messaging to confirm it. The main I chose was the beef and expecting it to come out tough when it was actually deliciously tender. The sauce was pretty spicy so that wasn’t what I expected. Finished off the meal with some cheese, the japanese dessert (because I didn’t feel like cheesecake) and some coffee.

After lunch I relaxed the seat back and kept watching my movies. After finishing up the 2nd movie it was time for some more coffee and some trip report writing. Trip report, coffee and a movie, felt like the good old days! I didn’t want to eat all of the food on this flight, it just isn’t that long and with the late start, well I wasn’t that hungry. So i decided to have some of the lighter dishes for the 2nd meal. Ramen, Ice cream and some fruit maybe? I dunno… too many choices.

It had been a pretty easy comfortable flight, getting away in Business class is always fun right? This could be the last long haul flight for a while in the front as well, So I would need to enjoy it.

The rest of the flight went relatively smoothly. As I watched the third movie around two and a half hours out they switched on all the lights (rather than using moodlighting) and got everyone up. It was a tad shocking but it was ok, since I had not slept anyway and kept a good amount of light trying to come through my windows anyway.

As the movie progressed and began to finish I started to choose something for the final service. I didn’t really feel like eating much as it was only a few hours since I had just eaten so I decided to eat the Ippudo ramen (which has always been a good choice on ANA). They did not dissapoint with a nice bowl (albeit not the special ippudo bowl) of noodles and broth for …. Dinner? Or was it lunch again? I dunno… so confused.

We started our descent relatively early but as with any approach into Tokyo they warned of turbulence. Thankfully it was not as bad as that night back in 2009 when it was the roughest approach I have ever had in my life. This time thankfully there was a few lumps and bumps but nothing out of control. As we approached Narita it was the usual routes past Narita township, the AEON mall and then over the hotels like the Hilton and touching down. We were a good 30+ minutes ahead of schedule.

What I didn’t expect on arrival into Narita was a bus gate. Usually the USA flights all get gates in the 50s, as they usually turn the plane right back around. Apparently not us today as we were headed to “Gate” 208. This would be only the second time I have had a bus gate in Narita and that was back in 2013 on the way back from Hong Kong. We pulled up, the crews took a while getting the steps up to the plane and then to hand over paperwork. But finally we were let off the plane and I was the second person off. You better believe I am going to step down and take some photos!

A quick bus tour around the ramp and we were let off at Gate 29B, the bus stop that would let us up into Immigration and Customs. This would be the real battle as you try to get a spot in what is usually the really long line. Today though both Heidi and I breezed through. There was no wait and all and in fact we were both helped in seconds. Last time we came to visit the process took almost 45 minutes for customs, today, no more than 3. We waited longer for our bags to come out than for immigration and customs combined! What I had scheduled to take at least an hour took around 20 minutes!

Saturday 24th June 2017

Why is it I seem to book flights that are first thing in the morning. Do I hate myself that much? Not a good start to my morning as not only did the shower have no water pressure, there was no hot water. Cold showers at 3am… Sounds great doesn’t it? Even checking out of the hotel was a hassle. They had told us when we checked in we would miss out on breakfast but that coffee was available 24 hours, that the yoghurt fridge should be open & possibly some fruit too. Nope! The shuttle should have gone 24 hours too on demand. We got to the desk around 345am & there was no one around. 5 minutes later the lady came up as though we were putting her out & when I said we needed the shuttle “4am only”. So much for on demand.

We finally made it to the airport & check in was a mess. People everywhere! This was my first experience with Midway & it wasn’t off to a good start. The thing that made this experience off was that it was not like my other Southwest experiences. No one was there to help, there was no typical southwest customer service, just a typical airport experience of people in bad moods.

After dropping our bags we made it to security where everyone was using the precheck lane up until we joined the line then they opened the main checkpoint & people got confused. Finally got through the crowds & security safely to the other side. Time to find our gate which was on the other side of the airport. One of the last gates. It was strange to me that our plane came into a gate late last night & wasn’t yet on the gate if it had been towed off for either maintenance or something else. This day was getting strange.

Nothing really open down our end of the airport so stuck to what I had on me, but just stumbled around like a brainless idiot. Around 20 minutes before boarding the crew shows up, still no plane. They start asking questions, the gate agent looks around aimlessly, pretty sure this is going to end in a gate change. Seconds later the crew start packing up & heading off, low & behold the plane wasn’t moved it stayed on its original gate. So 10 minutes before boarding was due, they changed our gate to the opposite end of the airport. Sigh. We were going to be delayed.

Off we trekked to the other side of the airport and were the first two people at the gate, even beating the gate agent (who stopped for coffee apparently). By the time we started boarding we were going to be at least 20 minutes late.

Southwest Airlines – WN4652
Chicago Midway to Los Angeles
Boeing 737-700 (N7731A)
Economy Class – Seat 16F

Boarding: 0550 (Gate A17)
Push Back: 0652
Take Off Roll: 0656 (Runway 31C)
Top of Descent: 0827
Touch Down: 0857 (Runway 24R)
Shut Down: 0910 (Gate 10)

Boarding was introduced in the usual Southwest fashion, an explanation of how to line up correctly. There was a lot of people who did not understand how this works & it was the usual shit show while people tried lining up where they shouldnt. It all worked out in the end & we soon got onboard.

Took a seat towards the back, although my favorite seat was open I was scared I wouldn’t be able go use underseat space so left it. Rookie move Mal. After we settled in it was then wait wait wait. We were all on by 6:15pm so around 10 minutes late, but sadly we now had maintenance problems. Yep, gonna be late.

We waited & waited, eventually getting the ok to close the door almost 35 minutes late & being off the gate 45 minutes late. We had the usual Southwest speed taxi to the runway and had barely stopped when we were told line up & wait. As we got clearance to take off the two up front were not messing around, they planted the throttles & when wheels went up they pulled back and climbed out steeply. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a steep climb out on a 737.

As we climbed out the child in the row behind me continued to kick & hit my seat and then the guy in front of me reclined into my face, this day couldn’t get any worse could it? I spoke to soon. Shortly after leveling off I pulled my earplanes case out so it would be easy to grab when it came time to take them out. Well I apparently must have knocked it off at some point & it disappeared. I lost my shit at this point as those earplanes are painful after a while. By this point I had them in almost 2 hours & the pain was kicking in. I needed to keep them in something clean so they wouldn’t put dust or anything in my ears. I lost it.

Heidi smartly got a clean cup & lid from the flight attendant for me to store them in. She’s always smarter than I am. I always tend to lose my shit when I lose something (news flash happened twice on the flight, kinda was like a tired 2 year old). After that since I was trapped in hell I tried to catch up on as much rest as I could, didn’t get much. I napped a little but it wasn’t worth while.

About an hour out I went through my usual rituals getting ready for descent & we started to pass over the grand canyon. It looked good but awfully hazy today. Right on 30 minutes out we started our initial descent towards LAX & about 10 minutes later the pilots gave their warning. Quickish descent over the city & started lining up for the north runways.

Came in right over In n Out as the child behind me started screaming nonsense, and I mean screaming, at the top of his lungs. Did I tell you he was 6? How do I know, well he repeatedly told his parents he was 6. Ugh. Anyway as we touched down we had a fairly prompt exit from the active onto the taxiway, but we were way down the west end of the field. Standing out down there was the new Qantas hangar and boy were they big!! Qantas has to move down there after they pulled down a lot of the older space that American used for the Mid Field Concourse. QF though got the better end of the deal as AA got shafted with old facilities.

We taxied back towards Terminal 1 and as we approached Terminals 2 & 3 it was strange to see them filled with Delta aircraft. Guess the new move is working away. However sadly we were coming into gate 10 at LAX. The Tow in gate! Fun! The pilots came on and gave us a brief to say that we would take a little bit to get into the gate as we had to be towed in and to not stand up until the seat belt sign is off. Thankfully everyone did as they were told.

Not too soon later we were off the plane, into the terminal and waiting for our bags. They took a while but they showed up!.

This trip has been pretty amazing. I can’t believe how much work has gone into it over the last 12 months or so. The planning, the organizing and then in the last month or so the execution of it all. It was so much work, but yet it was totally worth it in the end.

The trip itself was over 22,000 miles (22675 to be exact) and there was both good and bad parts. The good far outweighed the bad. The delays, losing my stuff, all bad. But yet it is fairly small things that happened and are fairly meaningless in the overall scheme of things.

The good outweigh everything here and make this trip the fully memorable journey that it is. Heidi and I had a blast in so many places and it was so good introducing Heidi and her parents to what felt like my entire family. We shared so many good moments and enjoyed doing it.

All of the trip has been sorted out now, putting things away, working out what I brought back and what I didn’t. I have fixed up the majority of my photos (still have all the spotting photos to go) and they are now online at the following links:

Circling the Pacific
Circling the Pacific Pt 2

It is split up thanks to Picasa but otherwise everything is good to go! I loved every minute of this trip and can’t wait to go back to both Australia and Japan again!

Friday 29th July 2016

After saying farewell to our ANA crew we headed to immigration. About 10 steps out of the jet bridge I realized I was still wearing my cardigan from onboard. No one stopped me & there was plenty of staff to do so. Guess it’s mine now! Immigration lines were long but Global Entry was empty. I had problems figuring out how to use it since I had never done it before so the CBP guy came over and gave me a hand. Once u figured out what go do it was easy and helped a lot.

Global Entry didn’t help all that much as we were quickly through immigration but stuck waiting for bags. It wasn’t a huge long wait and before we knew it was off to customs (which was a non event as usual). After customized headed to baggage recheck where after waiting in line for a significant amount of time we were able to check our third bag in (since the other two were good to go). The walk to T3 was a few seconds & waiting at pre check was non existent.

Stopped by the Centurion Lounge for a sticky beak before heading to the United Club. Unfortunately the club had no empty seats so we went to the gate (which changed again) to wait it out.

United Airlines – UA424
San Francisco to Seattle Tacoma
Airbus A320 (N855UA)
First Class – Seat 2A

Boarding: 1405 (Gate 62)
Push Back: 1431
Take off Roll: 1450 (Runway 01R)
Top of Descent: 1600
Touch Down: 1625 (Runway 34L)
Shut Down: 1632 (Gate A8)

Pre boards were called and then Group 1 which was us. However due to the gate lice we had to push our way to the gate. Pretty sure my camera bag smacked someone blocking the line. That will learn them! Once onboard we found our seat (old worn out legacy United First Class) and waited as the cabin filled up.

Once things died down a little we were offered a drink of choice for our PDB. I just had a water because I was really feeling tired all of a sudden. We pushed back early and had a fairly quick taxi to the gate. I know this because of the timing, not that I saw much of it as I fell asleep twice.

Takeoff roll had us the winner as the UA 320 next to us never took off and most of the climb to cruise I was on and off asleep. Ugh! Once we were at height and the seat belt sign was off I hit the can and informed the crew of my broken seat…. Fun!

Drinks and the snack basket was offered and I took a cookie, banana & a fig bar to tide me over till dinner. I had spent most of the last 48 hrs eating so food was not that high on my list of important things to do. Coffee on the other hand was so I made sure to have as much as I could.

Pretty soon we were on descent to Seattle as we passed over Oregon. The captain came on and told us we were just to the south of Portland (and we were) and we began a fairly on and off descent. We must have done some slow downs as well because we started doing some S Turns just around Olympia. When we left SFO destination winds should have had us landing South Flow however we started a North Flow approach. We were wheels down over Tacoma and started to descend down over Federal Way (passed over Heidi’s parents house) and Des Moines. We touched down on the far left runway (the 3rd runway) and spent a good 5 or 6 minutes taxiing over to the terminal side. We also had to taxi over to the A concourse which added more time.

After pulling into the gate, we had to wait as they “have a problem with the jetbridge so they are getting someone to come look at it” (or so they said). What I really think is that whoever was working it didn’t know what they were doing and screwed things up. We got off after only a 2 or 3 minute wait. Not bad at all considering. As we were getting off I got a text update from United saying that the bags made an earlier flight so they were already here and to go see a staff member. Made a brief stop at work, and then down to baggage claim. Our bags were in storage and they had to pull them out so we could go. Even with that hassle we still made a 5pm cut off for Lyft’s half price deal and made it home shortly after! Well and truly done!

Friday 29th July 2016

We began our journey back to the airport by first taking a Yamonote Line train back to Tokyo Station. It was a bad start as we went to an entry without escalators to the platform and then to make things worse than having to lug my suitcase up steps. We went to the wrong platform but didn’t work it out till almost to the top. Got ourselves back on the right platform and it was ok.

We made it to Tokyo Station and weaved our way down to the N’EX platforms and made it just in time for the 12:03pm train to depart right in front of us. Now we had a 30 minute wait till our scheduled train. We waited on the platform for a while and unfortunately seating was lacking so we had to stand. I ended up eating my Ekiben and repacked it all before we even boarded as I wanted to make sure I had it packed away securely.

We boarded the train for our quick hour long ride out to the airport and unlike the train the night before, this one had free wifi! Made the ride a little bit less tiring. It flew by and before I knew it, we were at Narita Terminal 2-3 Station. Once we left the station Heidi and I got ourselves ready to disembark.

Once off the train and out of the station we made our way up to the check in counters for ANA First Class which is in the Z section. The “ANA Suite” check in was a very private, sectioned off area and while we waited for our staff member to check us in (it was kind of complicated with bags etc already through checked etc). From there it was through a private security channel and into the immigration area. Immigration was heaving and again took about 20 minutes or so to get through. We watched as a couple of Asiana staff paniced when people were still in line as they were trying to close the flight.

After clearing immigration we headed off to the ANA Suites Lounge (they don’t have suites, they just call it that) for an afternoon of plane spotting and relaxing. The lounge had fantastic views of the airport runways and a great relaxing atmosphere. Plenty of food choices and both buffet and cooked to order options. The first thing I did was get my stuff situated, camera set up and leave Heidi with the gear while I went off in search of my usual Tokyo spending habit…… Kit Kats!

I knew exactly where to go as there were two stores close by that always seem to have all the different varieties. Wasabi is always the hardest one to find and today was not my day. I did manage to get the usual Matcha and Sakura, I also managed to pick up some Strawberry and also some Hokkaido Melon (which I have never seen before). Decided against the big boxes of the Strawberry and Blueberry Cheesecake ones, due to space. They would have to wait until next time.

Back to the lounge to settle in with some Pork Cutlet curry and some treats. The desserts on offer were pretty delicious yet strange. I tried an Edamame cake thing that was delicious yet disturbing at the same time. Lots of good photos this afternoon with numerous Oneworld and Star Alliance liveries but the two big hits this afternoon were the BB-8 777-300ER (parked next to our gate) and a Pakistan International A310 (don’t see those very often). After a while we decided to head down a little early to get in some steps and stretch before we were stuck inside a tube for a while.

All Nippon Airways – NH8
Tokyo Narita to San Francisco
Boeing 777-300ER (JA783A)
First Class – Seat 1K

Boarding: 1636 (Gate 55)
Push Back: 1709
Take off Roll: 1731 (Runway 16R)
Top of Descent: 1020
Touch Down: 1046 (Runway 01R)
Shut Down: 1112 (Gate 94)

Plenty of gate lice today as the airport just seemed to attract them, however we hung back till we saw people approaching the First Class lane, then we hurried over to get our spot in line. You could spot the americans a mile away as they were the first ones in line at each lane, no matter how long they had to wait. All wanting to vie to get the most amount of overhead bin space.

We actually boarded a few minutes before the posted time (which is rare for Japan, as usually it is extremely punctual) and we were the 2nd and 3rd people into the Cabin. Lots of photos and greetings and Heidi was given a personal run through of the seat. The crew seemed to love Heidi on this trip (and so they should because who wouldn’t right?) and they spent a good 10 minutes showing her everything. I declined to be shown as I just watched along as Heidi got the royal treatment.

Everything was laid out at the seat waiting for us including a sweater, pyjamas, blanket, slippers, headphones and the piece de resistance, a Samsonite Amenity kit. Rimowa it is not, but damn sure it is good enough! I stashed it all away when I could and spent a good portion of time fighting off the cabin crew from unwrapping it all. We eventually pushed back and started the long way out to the active. I missed a picture of the traditional farewell bow from the ground crew (dammit) and got a few good shots of some of the Star Alliance aircraft spotted around T1.

We made it out to the end of Runway 16R and as we turned the GE90s powered up (I may have made a mess in my pants as usual when I hear that noise so close 😉 ) and towards the sky we went. The climb angle felt steeper up front and as usual with Narita departures, it was a little bit bumpy (though not the worst). Once the seatbelt sign went off, I jumped up to grab my stuff and stash a few things. Phone charge on, glasses and laptop out, shoes off and stashed. Time to settle!

I worked a bit on the trip report before the crew started the dinner service. The menu was presented and drink orders taken. Post Departure beverages were served with an amuse bouche of a few items. The menu looked good tonight and there was no way I was going to turn down the Japanese Menu. All 10 courses of it!

The meal began and it was all so good. Exactly as I remember having it in business a while back. The courses were so well plated, physically beautiful yet delicious at the same time. Course by Course kept on coming and a lot of them were served together at the same time. I ended up having some green tea with the latter courses and it complimented the food well. After all of that I was offered the choice of dessert and I selected both the japanese and one of the western options. The western option was a good cleanse but the japanese dessert was just simply amazing. A mixture of red bean and matcha… my two favorite things!

After dinner the crew made up the seat into bed mode and I relaxed into the rest of the flight. I gave it 10 minutes or so of watching a movie before giving in to the sleep. I lay down on the bed and tried to take a nap. The seat was pretty comfy in bed mode with a thick mattress pad and a nice doona as well. The blanket was soft and comfy if you needed it. The pillows just were not big enough for my liking, but isn’t that always the problems on most flights. The rest of the seat was great there was ample storage and thankfully ANA had not removed the overhead bins.

I got just under 2 hours of sleep before it was getting pretty bumpy (although no seatbelt sign ever came on). So I went back to enjoying my movie as the sun came up outside. Time to start waking myself up as the time outside was similar to a time I would be getting up in the real world. This journey was slowly coming to an end and unfortunately I was getting a little bit sad 🙁

As one movie finished and another one started the smells of breakfast began to waft throughout the aircraft. Time to get myself slowly ready for the impending rush of people wanting to do things. The last part of the flight flew by. The crew offered breakfast items from the menu and also from the snack menu. I took a couple of different options that were mostly breakfasty since it was that time of the day. I did go against the grain and got a pork cutlet sandwich just because I wanted to try it. It was worth it though because it was delicious!

As we started descent the crew came by to give us a little gift full of lots of ANA star wars jet goodies including playing cards and some other random stuff. The cloud cover was pretty thick below until all of a sudden it cleared and we turned so that SFO was in a spot I couldn’t see… typical. After that we had to track almost down to San Jose before turning back North to line up for a landing. We thankfully did not come in on the same runway that Asiana crashed (they had a L landing we had a R) and we touched down nice and easy. Pretty good right?

We pulled off the active and headed towards the taxiway where we then parked for another 10 minutes or so waiting for our gate. It was United 747 central on the ramp as I saw at least 6 in all different states (at the gate, on the taxiway, being towed). By the time we hit the gate, they did not have us waiting long before the first class guests were ushered to the door. They held back Business class and made sure that we were first ones off the flight. That was nice of them. Heidi and I grabbed our gear and headed for immigration… it was good to be back home… kinda.

Thursday 28th July 2016

Woke up way too early this morning to make sure we had as much time as possible in the airport. Since Changi is sooooo huge and there is so much stuff to see we didn’t want to have to rush. Got some coffee from our butler (yes, I said butler) and saw a little nice presentation they had left for us on the balcony (some kissing swan towels). After paying our bill we headed off in an Uber to the airport. We were sad to be leaving the Raffles but super excited for the day ahead.

Back when Heidi and I first started dating we were planning a journey to Japan. Heidi & I were both planning on coming back from Tokyo in Suites and in fact I was considering proposing to Heidi onboard. Things changed when we actually got engaged and we had to cancel the trip (thanks immigration). So we were finally able to ensure that on this trip back from Australia, we were going to do suites.

We rolled into the Singapore Airlines First Class check in and their were porters and staff waiting for us at the driveway. The porters took our bags and the check in staff showed us through to a desk. We checked in and there was a lot of typing as it was a US flight, they had to make sure all the APIS data was intact (I tried doing it before we left, but it never stuck). So that took a little while and then it was out of check in and into the private immigration channel. A smile, no questions just stamp stamp stamp.. “Have a nice day” and that was it, we were out of Singapore.

Straight out of immigration and up the steps to the Lounge complex and into the Russian Doll of airport lounges. Heidi was asking us where the lounge was, and I explained it was a lounge within a lounge within a lounge. Off to the Private Room and time for some breakfast. We were escorted all the way in and showed to a table. Coffee and food ordered shortly after and you could also help yourself to a limited buffet. Not sure if the set up was as good as the First Class Lounge (you had to ask for most things that would have been self service) and there was very little in the way of liquid refreshment on show (so knowing what you could have was tough).

Heidi had a bowl of noodles, I went with Bacon and Eggs and Toast along with a bowl of cereal. Didn’t want to eat to much as we were going to eat well onboard. Our time in the Private Room was extremely relaxed and I enjoyed it all. The staff helped me organise some duty free onboard (they couldn’t make sure that we had it, but they did tell me how to make sure we got it onboard first.

We left the Private Room a little bit early to go and explore the airport a little and get rid of the last of our Singapore Dollars. We came across the butterfly lounge right by our gate, so that was awesome! Lots of free flying butterflies just floating around. We went through security at the gate (as it is designed in Singapore) and we found a spot in the boarding lounge. We had no real wait at security but didn’t look like we would have to wait long to get onto the aircraft.

Singapore Airlines – SQ12
Singapore to Tokyo Narita
Airbus A380-800 (9V-SKN)
Suites Class – Seat 2D

Boarding: 0850 (Gate B2)
Push Back: 0946
Take Off Roll: 1013 (Runway 20C)
Top of Descent: 1715
Touch Down: 1747 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1755 (Gate 45)

Wheelchairs and kids were shown onto the aircraft (there was plenty of them) and then a few minutes later they called boarding for Suites Class guests. We were right next to the boarding lane and we were shown onboard shortly after. Down the jetbridge and then allowed into the first door. There was a staff member blocking the first door access and she let us through once she saw the gold boarding pass.

Once we stepped onboard we were shown to our seats by the first of our crew for today. He gave us a brief introduction to the suite and also took our Pre Departure beverage orders. Heidi went with the dom, i stayed with sparkling water for the moment. We went through so much fun taking photos of everything and just playing with all the nooks and crannies. The crew were great and they looked after us so well.

The stewardess on our side (green dress makes her a senior i think) had a familiar name. It was none other than Janesis who has been written about so much online. It was great to meet her and she really did look after us. She brought out menus and all the goodies for us like amenity kits (which I topped up from supplies in the lavatory) and pyjamas. We put in our orders for lunch and let them know we would delay our lunch till around 1ish singapore time as that would give us plenty of time to rest and catch up on life.

After we had a delayed push back thanks to a lack of refuelling trucks we finally hit the taxiway for the active runway. Bit of a long taxi and also a wait behind a number of aircraft for our turn to depart. Soon enough we were in the air and headed north towards Tokyo. We had a quick drink of Champagne each while we snacked on some Satay (Heidi went with Dom, I went with Krug). After that we watched as the two crew put our suites into bed mode. It was such an interesting process to watch.

Lying back in bed it allowed me to watch some tv in some privacy and write a bit of the trip report. We got to relax in total comfort before lunch. Once our lunch time rolled around it was time for the show to begin. We headed over to another seat and we had a couples dining experience. Heidi sat in the seat and I sat in the ottoman. The place was set and we started what was to be a 2 hour lunch. Course after Course kept on coming and it was delicious all the way.

Crab appestiser followed by Cream of spinach, followed by a salad and then followed by the main course. I went with the Laksa as my main and it was such a great lunch. I didn’t need to add any further spiciness to it at all, it was pretty much perfect. After the main came the dessert course then cheese and fruit. Finally we were presented with a tray of chocolates accompanied by a hand created card celebrating our honeymoon. It was such a fantastic gesture. Janesess even made Heidi a hand made flower and gave us a card to post our photos on facebook and to write nice things about them (we were going to anyway).

After lunch we had about 90 minutes left in the flight and returned back to our double bed to relax a bit more. As we started to get closer and closer to descent it was time to get ourselves back into the groove of things and get back ready to hit the ground in Narita. I returned to the window seat and got everything into its place. We took a photo on the steps with the crew. I started to think back over all of the flights I have taken so far in my life and I have to say this is my favorite flight. The food, the service, the seat, it was all perfect. You can’t ask for better than that.

After all was said and done we started to approach Narita. The approach into Narita was pretty easy. We touched down around 25 minutes late and it was a great taxi to the gate. There was a great variety of aircraft and it was also the rush hour departure period. There was way to many 787s on the ground. I saw Air Canada, JAL and about a dozen ANA’s including one of the first two built (they have a special livery). We pulled into the gate and at that moment it was all over. We were standing in the boarding area of Main Level Door 1L as they waited for the jet bridge to connect and ok the doors to open. It hit us both at that moment it was time to leave.

We headed off the flight, away from the gate and into Narita Airport where we had to go what felt like the entirety of Terminal 1 to get to immigration. When we got there it was like hell had broken loose. The foreigners line was HUGE. It took us a good 30 minutes to get through the queue and then it was out to our bags which were already waiting for us. We were quickly able to clear customs and within 5 minutes of officially being in Japan we had tickets for the next N’EX to Tokyo Station.

Monday 25th July 2016

It was a slow start to the morning with a final run through my old neighborhood (Heidi went for a “prance”) and breakfast with my folks. We made the final touches to our packing and then headed off to the airport. I didn’t really want to say goodbye, but I was excited to get back into the air. We gassed up the car at the airport thinking we were going to get rammed on the price and surprisingly it was pretty much on par. The drop off for Avis was not that great as there was not a single person present at the return area and then when we took the keys back to the counter, they didn’t seem to care at all. If we had not taken a photo of the kms driven, we would have had to go back to the car.

Checking in for the flight took a little bit, but that was mainly because Heidi and the Qantas Staff member were talking about Kate Spade, they seemed pretty excited as well. After that it was pretty effortless to get it all done. We checked our bags and all of them totalled up to the allowance for just one person. It was pretty funny. After stopping for a few minutes to get our departure cards filled out we headed down to security and immigration.

Security didn’t have much of a wait at all, but it took a while after they made me empty out all of my camera equipment into trays. Such a hassle. My laptop had to go for 3 passes through the xray and then get swabbed for explosives. Heidi got selected for secondary thanks to a “random” beep which was pretty bs if you ask me. What should have taken just a minute or two, took almost 10. O well! At immigration we were funnelled out through the smart gates (I wanted a stamp 🙁 ) and Heidi was totally confused (i had never used them and she was looking to me for guidance). I was just doing as they told me so I had no idea either, not a good start.

After claiming some tax back on my new boots (thanks TRS!) we headed off to the lounge. Unfortunately the Qantas Club was closed so all Qantas pax were headed off to the Plaza Premium Lounge. This was the first contract lounge in Brisbane Airport and barely just opened but it was still pretty nice. Plenty of food and drinks on offer (not that great on the cookie options) but Heidi and I had some snacks from Mum and Dad, so we were covered. I went for a bit of a walk to figure out the gate area, grab the reg on the aircraft and just get in some walking. Heidi stayed put doing what she usually does, playing on her phone. We relaxed with our snacks and some coffee for a while before heading to the gate.

Qantas Airways – QF51
Brisbane to Singapore
Airbus A330-300 (VH-QPG)
Business Class – Seat 4A

Boarding: 1145 (Gate 85)
Push Back: 1208
Take off Roll: 1222 (Runway 19)
Top of Descent: 1726
Touch Down: 1753 (Runway 20R)
Shut Down: 1800 (Gate C13)

The gate area was fairly full and we waited for a while to board. The flight attendants were already headed onboard as we got there, but the flight crew showed up 10-15 minutes later carrying some coffee. Showing up late to the flight thanks to a coffee stop is a little bit lame. But eventually we got to board. I was excited to try out the new Qantas Business Class seat but we all boarded through 1L meaning that unfortunately we couldn’t take all the photos we wanted to as everyone was boarding through the one door.

I got settled eventually and Heidi was enjoying herself spreading out and was planning on getting snuggly once we got airborne with the big giant doona waiting out the seat. We pushed back about 7 minutes early (proving that you can get onboard faster when you are not dealing with Americans). We had a long taxi out to the Active today at the far end of the runway. We went past a newly repainted 77W from Air New Zealand and a Thai 787 (although it was on the wrong side of the plane). No holding at the active, it was a slow turn to line up and then the engines went to take off power and out we went.

Climbed out from Brisbane’s Runway 19 today and a few bumps as we banked North West towards Asia. While we were waiting for push back orders had been taken on lunch, but once in the air the purser came through to give out immigration cards and speak to everyone. The crew working our aisle took our drink orders couple by couple and brought them out one by one, making for what felt like a more personal service.

While lunch was starting to be served I decided to try and start watching a movie, unfortunately that was not going to happen as every time I tried to watch something, it wouldn’t start. I had to ask to have the system go through a full reboot for my screen and it took almost 15 minutes for that to happen (which by that stage i was just having my first course arrive). Lunch was pretty decent, but the service was fairly slow. It didn’t worry me with this being a daylight flight, I was not in any hurry for any sleep. I was going to be up all flight 😀

After lunch progressed I reclined back down into a more comfortable position to watch a movie and just enjoyed the flight as the Australian coast passed by below. About 3 hours out of Brisbane we passed the final parts of the Australian Coastline and headed out over the ocean, towards Asia. Watching as the blue passed by below meant that our time over Australia was finished, and there was no going back, that part of the trip was fully over.

I relaxed in to watch another movie and do a bit of writing, watching as the flight went by. The cabin was pretty much dark apart from a few windows open (why you would want to sleep on a daylight flight is crazy to me). The flight had been fairly good, the crew were a little indifferent but not horribly so. The new Qantas Business seat was not too bad. This was a very different seat to what had been had before with the Skybeds (either Mk1 or Mk2). I had not flown in this specific maker of seat but have flown similar (Swiss & ANA). This one wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t perfect either.

The seat had its foibles for sure, but it was still pretty decent. I wasn’t happy that it was not really great for reclining while eating or working. You had to pretty much have the seat fully up while doing either of these things, there was not much choice. In bed mode it was great but the armrest on the outside was very annoying (I couldn’t figure out how to move it). I liked the fact that if I put the seat into bed mode the screen moved down so you didn’t lose a good viewing angle. There wasn’t much storage space in the seat I was in, however the middle seats had plenty. I was happy with the amount of space as the overhead bins were still intact. Taking them away would have made for a really bad experience.

The IFE system was very good, extremely responsive and was from what I could tell, an Android based experience. My favorite part was that if you wanted to check the inflight map during the video, it just paused the video in the background and picked it back up the second you went back to the movie. There was plenty of choice (although I had already seen some of it from our last flight over the water) across all categories and I wasn’t hard pressed to keep myself entertained.

As we approached Singapore they were going to run an afternoon service, however I declined in favor of getting a decent meal on the ground in town. This felt like a better idea than trying some of the items, that I didn’t think was all that great. The fun part of the service though was that all the options were offered in a Chinese Takeout Box. Something a little bit different. The fruit I got instead was a good snack in my opinion.

As we approached Singapore, I managed to find the Ready for Takeoff series on the IFE and spent most of the time watching that all the way up till landing. The approach to Changi sent us all the way out and around so it gave us a good look of all the housing around the island. On finals into Changi we came in over a bay area and even spotted a couple of hovercraft of some kind.

The landing was smooth and we taxiied back to Terminal 1 as we landed on the T3 side of the airport. Lots of good things to see to begin with including one of the 50th Anniversary SQ A380s and a Scoot 787-9. Once we pulled into the gate we didn’t have to wait long to get out and it was a bit of a walk to immigration but nothing horrible. It is so strange to be just let out into the terminal and not into a sterile area before heading off to immigration. Security is done at the gate in Singapore and it means that everyone is mingling in the terminal.

Immigration was a breeze (the guy didn’t even speak to me) but because we were through so fast we had to wait a while for baggage. We got our bags (eventually) and trudged off down to the Ground Transportation desk to arrange a car to the city. Cabs are fairly cheap in Changi but when arrive in the middle of peak hour, and metered cabs also get levied at that time, it was easier to just get a flat rate cost car into our hotel (was about $10 extra). Pretty soon we were being whisked away to our hotel.

Wednesday 20th July 2016

We pulled into the gate and were off the plane relatively slowly but once we were off it was bedlam. A full A380 full of passengers along with also other flights that had hit the ground. It was a mess! The lines were stretching back past the duty free store into the terminal itself which was scary. I had to make a quick stop at the duty free store to pick up some stuff for mum and dad (that was a mistake, hello dealing with a US card) and then it was on my way to the line.

I had pushed Heidi to go on ahead after I got held up in duty free and we were separated. I got stuck behind several flights worth of crew in the express path. When we landed we had 1 hour till our flight boarded so less than an hour to make that baggage cut off. Well, that was not going to be easy at all. By the time we got through immigration to the baggage belts (Border Security was being filmed apparently, didn’t see them anywhere) we had about 30 minutes to make that cut off. This was doable if our bags came out quickly. What do you think happened? Our bags were the last two off the plane, and it was past boarding time by that stage.

So we made it through Customs super quickly and the staff told us where to go for connections. We made it up to the Qantas Domestic terminal and a staff member pointed us towards the Service desk to get rebooked. Thankfully i knew already the 1010am flight had space (thanks to Cranky Concierge) and it should be easy for them to fix that up. We reconsolidated a bit of baggage and went to security which was its true, Australian amazingness. Not a single person ahead of us at security and friendly people who wanted to help. It was effortless!

We got through and headed up to the Qantas Club where we were able to get a snack and a drink (although all the coffee machines seemed to be broken… what the hell!) and we were able to call home and let them know of the new arrival time (just an hour later). Everything was able to calm back down. Unfortunately not enough time for a shower today or even a change really, just enough time to clean my teeth and feel somewhat better.

The QF Club had great views of the ramp and of our gate in particular. What was fantastic was that we were able to watch our plane pull in. Not just any plane, it was one of Qantas’s two Retro Liveries. I was hoping to get to see one while I was here, but flying one was a double treat. A lot of people were at the window taking photos when it rolled in and I was super excited. We started to head towards the gate not long after that which took about 5 minutes or so.

Qantas Airways – QF612
Melbourne Tullamarine to Brisbane
Boeing 737-800 (VH-VXQ – Retro Roo II)
Economy Class – Seat 18A

Boarding: 0956 (Gate B22)
Push Back: 1006
Take off Roll: 1028 (Runway 16)
Top of Descent: 1150
Touch Down: 1213 (Runway 01)
Shut Down: 1217 (Gate 24)

I had barely been at the gate to take a few more photos when 2 old ladies were pre boarded and then seconds later a very informal “come on in guys” to the line of people waiting happened. There was a good 10 people onboard before they made an announcement. I had totally forgotten just how pleasant flying could be. As we stepped onboard there was the traditional wall plaque of the Qantas logo, but this one was the retro logo, which gave it the old “Flying Kangaroo” name as it was a Kangaroo with wings. Couldn’t get a photo at the time but I was determined to do so later.

We got ourselves sorted in the seats and boarding was set for about 25 minutes, so way less than in the USA and although the flight wasn’t 100% full today, It still pushed back 6 minutes early. Take that Alaska! This was the first flight on this trip so far where we had been on time. Crazy! The push back took a few minutes and then it was off to the runway where we were number 3 for line up. But that number 3 had to wait for a number of arrivals first.

By the time we lined up there was another 6 or 7 planes waiting to go after us. We were up and into the air pretty easily and within a minute or two the seat belt sign went off. Service started quickly and they had everyone covered with headphones and also with newspapers. After that it was a good 10 or 15 minutes (on a 1 hour 45 minute flight) till they had the snack trolleys out. Only one pass through of the drink trolley today (I made sure to get coffee to keep me going through the day) and some snacks. No real choice it was both Savory and Sweet snacks today and i traded my savory for heidi’s sweet. Good Luken and May cookies on offer this morning of which I only had half and kept the other half for later.

I was watching TV shows on the tablet for most of the flight and just relaxing looking out the window. I did manage to get up and take a photo of the Retro Roo logo by the front door (I made sure to ask about going forward into the Business Class cabin which would have been required in the states but the Qantas crew just laughed and said not to worry). Even though this aircraft didn’t have the BSI it had the newer QF seats and even a space lav fitted. That was a first time experience for me and it was quite the difference involved.

We started descent over the Gold Coast Hinterland and unfortunately I was on the wrong side so didn’t see any of the coast but I did get to see plenty of the city as we came in over it. It looked so different and just so built up now in comparison. Everything seemed so different. I was shocked. Heidi had fun poking fun at me as I was shocked at how different everything seemed.

We landed on Runway 01 and had a nice quick taxi to the gate. Everything at the airport looked familiar from the airside portion of things, but once we got to the terminal, it all ended there. I got off the plane into what seemed like a whole new airport (although to be honest I wasn’t flying Qantas much in those last few years) and met up with Mum and Dad. First time in almost 3.5 years. It was good to be home.