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Singapore, Bangkok, a blowout RTW

Singapore, Bangkok, a blowout RTW

It's been more than a year since batmandds and I enjoyed our last RTW.  This year, we've decided to try some new First Class products including Singapore’s new A380 First Suites.  And with our better halves surprisingly agreeing to 4 day hall passes, we are off on a decadent culinary and flight odyssey that includes Singapore First, Thai A380 First and Air France 77W La Premiere.  The culinary highlights of the trip is our day in both Singapore and Bangkok where we’ll enjoy an early brunch at the Maxwell Food Centre and later that day, a 25 course tasting menu at iconic Gaggan in Bangkok.  Now in its fifth year as Asia’s #1 restaurant, Gaggan just moved up to #4 in the world.  From theworlds50best.com...

 

 

ANA First Class LAX to Haneda

We decided to rendez-vous in Shanghai to experience Singapore's new A380 First Suites to Singapore.  While batmandds is flying LAX-PVG in the new Delta One A359 Suites, I found an ANA First Class award seat on their 1am LAX-Haneda 77W, and a Business Class SkySuite award seat on JAL's NRT-PVG 787.  Not much traffic on the 405 at 10pm tonight but the LAX access roads were jam packed.   I gave up on trying for the T4 garage and parked in the T3/TBIT garage.  

Since I had checked in online and had my boarding pass, I bypassed check-in and headed directly for PreCheck or so I thought.  Missed PreCheck closing by 15 minutes and then wasted another 20 minutes at the other end of security with the masses since there was no priority lane.  Yeah, that makes perfect sense LAX.

Up to Level 6 and the Star Alliance Lounges.  My first stop was the Star Alliance First Class Lounge which is FIrst Class in name only. 

Pleasant staff but there is nothing special about this lounge as it has no view, weak serve yourself food options and/or a limited cook to order from a ratty old menu.  An annoyingly loud father/daughter face-timing completed the ambience tonight.   LOL.  I did a round of pics... 

... and then headed for the much more pleasant Business Class Lounge.

The large main part of the lounge.

One of the really cool features of the Business Class Lounge is the outdoor terrace.

Another cool feature is the concourse terrace...

At T-45, I headed out for Gate 154.

ANA All Nippon NH 105
Los Angeles LAX to Toyko Haneda HND
777-300ER
1:20am-4:50am +1 (sked)
1:40am-4:39am +1 (actual)
July 1, 2019
First Class
Departed 3/8
Suite 2A
 
As if a 1:20am departure isn't bad enough, boarding was delayed 20 minutes until 1:10am or so.
 
 

First Class was invited to board just after a couple dozen "passengers with children under two and those needing a little extra time".   We all boarded thru 2L and as soon as the greeting flight attendant saw my boarding pass, she escorted me to my 2A.    Nice cabin although the ANA square is not my favorite seat. Excellent privacy but who needs and wants a wall of storage in front of the window.

As I settled in, our two wonderful First Class flight attendants and the Purser stopped by to welcome me.   And so began nearly 11 hours of exceptional service.

IFE was just OK, although the selection of western movies and music was pretty weak.  I wound up watching the best of a bad lot... The Devil Wears Prada and The Accountant both for what has to be close the 20th time.

With the late push and taxi, we were wheels up at exactly 2am.  Despite the late hour, I decided to sample the menu and then sleep.

Not sure where the champagne glasses were after take-off, but this glass holds more anyway.  LOL.

Tonight's menu with a variety of light dishes, which seemed appropriate given the time of day.

And a respectable wine and beverage menu...

The amuse bouche starters were excellent.

My first dish was the IPPUDO rich-tasting miso "DAICHI" ramen.  Wow, this was spectacular and far more filling than I had assumed.   And more Krug.

Like I really needed another dish but took one for the team with the ANA curry and steamed rice.  WIth more Krug.  Delicious!

One of the First Class flight attendants persuaded me to try some sake before bed. 

Since there were only two other passnegers in First, we each had our own separate beds across from our seats.  My 2D...

I got five hours of airplane sleep, maybe 3 hours of solid sleep and then 2 hours of meh sleep.   I worked for a few hours and watched The Accountant, again.  At around T-90, breakfast.  The Cheese scrambled egg crepe roll with supreme sauce was really good.

Despite the late departure from LAX, we arrived at the gate a few minutes early.   All in all, an excellent flight.  Great service, food and drink.  And our flight attendant even lowered the cabin temp to 20C/68F when I asked.

Our arrival gate was very close to customs...

... where at 5am there wasn't much of a line.

My Blacklane driver was waiting for me as I exited customs and we were on the road to Narita by 5:25am.

With very little early morning traffic, we arrived at Narita Terminal 2 at 6:20am, about 90 minutes after landing at Haneda.   The place was eerily quiet.

And then I found out why.  The JAL counters don't open until 7am.  LOL.   After confirming that I was One World Emerald, the agent setting up the check-in area invited me to sit inside until the counters opened. 

Although the JAL counters open at 7am, security or at least security at this end of T2 doesn't open until 7:30a.   When Priority security did open, there was no one in line and I was thru in no time. 

Directly after security is the newly renovated JAL First Class and Sakura Lounge.  The old First Class Lounge was pretty depressing and in need of a make-over.  But at least it had nice tarmac views.

The new First Class Lounge is upstairs on Level 4.   

Much of the lounge seemed to be food and dining related and seemed to be an improvement over the old lounge.  But not much in the way of a views from most of the lounge.

I headed for a quiet seating area while I waited for my turn in the showers.

Some nibbles while I waited for the pager to signal that a shower was available.

Once my noisy pager went off, it was a rather circuitous route to get to the shower which was actually located in the Sakura Business Lounge two floors below.   Yeah, that make a lot of sense.

By the time I had finished my shower, it was close enough to boarding that I decided to just go to the gate.

Although Gate 65 looks close numerically, it's at the far end of the concourse and nice healthy trek.

Tokyo NRT to Shanghai PVG
Japan Airlines JL 873
787-9
9:40a-12:00p
July 2, 2019
Business Class
Seat 3K

Boarding began promptly and efficiently at 9:20am, just 20 minutes before departure.

Massive Business Class cabin on the 789 that extends into two cabins.  I chose 3K in what turned out to be a sparsely selected front cabin.  

Color me spoiled by First Class cabins, but this seat seemed really tiny...

... and not that comfortable.  I can't imagine 12 hours sitting in this one.

IFE technical quality was excellent.  Unfortunately, more dismal movie selections.

After take-off, our wonderful cabin crew jumped into action.  Today's menu.

Wow, the Japanese menu looks outstanding. 

 The Western Menu, not so much.

My usual G&T to start.

And my Japanese meal.  Gorgeous presentation.

Wow.  This meal was sensational.   Certainly one of the best Business Class meals I can recall... and on a short 2.5 hour regional flight.

We landed at PVG on time.

And pulled into our gate at Terminal 1 right on schedule.

All in all, a very impressive flight with great service and food.  And a bargain at only 15,000 Avios.

OK, connecting in Shanghai from T1 to T2 is not for the impatient or those in a hurry.   The long, long, long trek to Immigration/Customs.

Thirty minutes snaking my way to the front of the line, and I was officially back in China.

And then the even longer trek from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2.

And finally in Terminal 2.

Since I had already checked in online and printed my SQ boarding pass, I head directly to International departures, where it was another twenty minutes for passport control and security.   

Despite at least five daily PVG-SIN flghts, Singapore does not have its own lounge and relies on sorry Star Alliance partner Air China. 

LOL.

LOL 2.

The check-in desk with pleasant staff.   First Class to the left, Business Class to the right.

Air China First Class Lounge.

The lounge staff was pleasant and eager to please, and checked back frequently.   There were both serve yourself and order off a menu options.  Lots of choices, some of which looked pretty good, others not so much.  

Nothing says Air China First Class like plastic utensils. LOL.

The First Class Lounge Menu was rather substantial with lots of yummy looking studio perfect food pics.  Color me skeptical that the kitchen is going to produce anything close to this.

At around T-50, we left the lounge and headed for our nearby Gate D75.

Our SQ A380.

Shanghai PVG to Singapore SIN
Singapore SQ 831
A380-800
4:50p-10:20p
July 2nd, 2019
First Class Suites
Suite 1K and 2K

 

The original idea for this year's RTW was to fly the new Singapore A380 suites and Thai First, which I hadn't flown in years.  We'd both done the regular 12 seat SQ A380 First Suites cabin multiple times, but not the new 6 suite cabin.  The cheapest and easiest SQ new First flight is PVG-SIN.  It's only a 5 hour flight but timing worked perfectly.  It was a reasonable deal at the Standard award price of 98,000 KrisFlyer miles.  It go much better as my 53,000 miles Saver seat waitlist cleared and I got a 45,000 mile refund.  

Prior to any boarding call, the gate doc checker saw our First Class boarding passes and directed us to the left lane and told us we can go ahead and board at our leisure, which we did.

The new Suites First Class cabin is on the upper deck and is just six very spacious and elegant suites.  

1A/2A and 1K/2K are perfect for a couple as the suite divider drops down and transforms the two into the ultimate commercial travel experience.  Simply amazing.

Lots of cool storage space.

Our wonderful stewardess Evelyn with the first round of champagne.

SQ Suites have two lavs at the front of the cabin.  One small lav and this larger one.  No shower but attractive and very spacious.

Today's menu...

And wine list...

And we're off...

After take-off, the closed door make the suite very private.

My huge flat screen, adjustable at the touch of a button.

We both switched to Krug to begin today's taste test.   Dom or Krug? Dom or Krug?

Both the seat and tray table swivel for optional sitting and dining positions.

The heavenly SQ satay starter, chicken and lamb with onion, cucumber and spicy peanut sauce.

And more bubbles for both of us.

Today's route...

Showtime, SQ style...

I passed on soup and salad, opting to try both starters.  The Smoked Goose Liver Paté with apple celery salad and mango fig chutney didn't do anything for me. 

But the Warm Scallop and Mushroom Ragout in puff pastry was excellent. 

OMG, the lavosh was divine.

For my main, I went with the Chinese menu and Shi Quan Shi Mei, from SQ celebrity chef Zhu Jun.  Scallops and Yunnan Melon, Braised Pork Belly with Bamboo Shoots, Stir Fried Lily Bulb and Broad Beans, Braised Baby Abalone on Egg Noodle.  Everything was delicious with my favorite the abalone and egg noodles.

And dessert...

Mont Blanc Cake with vanilla ice cream.

After dinner, we asked for our beds to be made, mostly for the photo op.  Unfortunately, one of the beds did not go fully flat... even with four cabin crew member working on the problem.

Close enough.  For a couple, this is spectacular.

 

We pulled into the gate a few minutes ahead of schedule at roughly 10:15pm.   What an amazing experience.  The SQ First Suites hard and soft products are simply out of this world.   And for a couple, this is now the finest commercial travel experience in the skies.  Bravo to SQ and our wonderful crew for a spectaclar flight. 

Talk about luck.  We the only passengers entering Singapore at the time we were there.  Out in no time and at our downtown hotel 20 minutes later. 

For our quick overnight, we chose Six Senses Maxwell, a brand new small boutique hotel located just two blocks from the Maxwell Food Centre.  We got a great deal by booking with Chinese OTA trip.com, formerly Ctrip.com.  No idea how we got the rate we did and it was a little disconcerting that our confirmations stated "... the supplier inform us don’t the let the hotel note you make from trip.com, if not, it may cause unnecessary trouble to the guest's check-in..."   Huh?  LOL.  Just to be safe, I did call the front desk before I departed and pleasant staffer confirmed the booking without any issue, and we checked without a problem at the quoted rate.  

Lovely decor although pretty small.  But perfect for a quick overnighter.

Stunning ground floor bar, where breakfast is served.

Even though we weren't hungry, our plan was to have a late dinner at Burnt End, an Aussie BBQ restaurant, rated #10 in Asia and only three blocks from the hotel. 

Unfortunately, despite their website claiming they were open until midnight, the kitchen closed at 11pm or 15 minutes after we arrived.  Not nice. 

We headed back towards the hotel and decided just to get a drink or two.  We found a really cool bar called The Wall... great atmosphere and an excellent bartender making great drinks.

Morning pics of the hotel...

'

... as we walked towards the Maxwell Food Centre.  Hmmm, looks a bit like a street scene from Crazy Rich Asians.

We arrived around 9:30am while a lot of the food stalls were just setting up for the day.

Our destination today.  

Since Tian Tian didn't open until 10am, we explored the centre.

While we waited, we had a few starters to whet the appetite waiting for the main event.

We decided to queue and took turns finishing our starters and holding our place in line.

What do you know.  Tian Tian has better utensils than the Air China First Class Lounge.  LOL.

And finally... two medium Chicken Rice meals.  SGD 5 each. 

Yeah, glad we came early.  

And back to the hotel to check out and head for the airport.

We arrived at Changi just after 11am or about 1h45m until departure.  We were planning on going to The Private Room but didn't do our homework and wound up going to Terminal 2 where our SIN-BKK flight was to depart instead fo Terminal 3 and First Class terminal entrance.

So we took the train to T3 to explore.

And got to see The Jewel.  OK, now that was prettty cool.

By the time we got to T3 and walked towards check in and departures, we agreed that this was now too much hassle and too little time.  We'd both been to The Private Room numerous times, and find it somewhat over-rated any way.  So we took the train back to T2, passing thru The Jewel again.

... and the SilverKris First Class Lounge.

Pleasant bar...

... and comfy seating areas.

Dining room...

... with a nice selection of serve yourself food options. 

The biggest surprise shock of the day was the champagne.   OMG.  OMG.  Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millésime 2006.  Are you serious?  This amazing champagne retails for $500 a bottle, and it was just sitting out on the serve yourself liquor contour.  The funniest thing was that I had just poured myself a draft Tiger beer when batmandds pointed it out.  Needless to day, I didn't drink a drop of the Tiger.  We wondered who screwed up and mistakenly put out this champagne, which is better than anything served in The Private Room.  We each enjoyed three glasses and killed the bottle and then watched as a staffer brought our another bottle.  Wow.

Sadly, it was time to head to our gate for our flight to Bangkok.

Singapore SIN to Bangkok BKK
Singapore SQ 873
A330-300
12:50pm-2:20pm
July 3, 2019
Business Class
Seat 12A

 

Since we spent a little extra time in the lounge with our third glass of Rare, boarding was well under way by the time we got to the gate.  We boarded immediately using the left Priority Lane.

SQ's regional A330 is 2-2-2 but an updated and comfortable version.

Today's menu...

... and wine list.

I had Booked the Cook and ordered Lobster Thermidor...

... which was very good.

We arrived on time and then walked to Immigration to try our the new no invitation Fast Track, which now relies on your boarding pass.

Not a lot of signage but we had faith that it would be there...

... et voila.

Worked great with no one in line ahead of us.

After Immigration, we went looking for Left Luggage to stow our rollers until later that day.  Information Desk told us to look for the Q lane.

There it is.  100 Baht (or roughly USD 3) and we were done.

I guess we won't be doing any modelling this trip.  LOL.

Back downstair at arrivals, our Blacklane driver was waiting for us and we were on the road.

And here we are just after 4pm.

We hung out for a while at nearby Marriott Mayfair before heading back to Gaggan.

Gaggan
Bangkok

 

At around 5pm, we walked back to Gaggan to make sure we were in plenty of time to secure one of the coveted few seats at the Chef's Table for our 5:30pm seating.

Gaggan staff enjoying their pre-game meal at what appeared to be an auxiliary kitchen across the alley.

Just before 5:30pm, we were escorted upstairs to the Chef's Table for what turned out to be an amazing and memorable evening of fabulous food, good wine, great music and great entertainment from an incredibly talented and outgoing staff including Polish-American sous-chef Radek Zarebinski and an amiable young American sommelier Ottara Pyne.

The menu is 25 simple emojis, representing the 25 different tasting menu courses.

We both opted for the wine pairing, which included nine different wines.  Pours were generous as were the refills.   

Our entertaining sommelier Ottara...

... and sous-chef Radek who entertained us for more than three hours with food and wine descriptions for each course, with a varied background of music throughout.

Gaggan's iconic Yoghurt Explosion.

Uh-oh.  Time for the blindfolds and no peaking...

Talk about trust.

Getting ready for Fire.

Our nine wines for the evening.

At the end of the night, applause and hugs all around.

And a brief chat with the man himself before heading off to the airport.   What an amazing experience that we will remember for a long time.   An experience that touches all the senses. Bravo Gaggan!