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Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo

Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo
Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo
via Malaysia and Singapore First Class
March 2019

 

 

With not a single award seat back from Australia after New Years, the cheapest Business Class way home was to buy a roundtrip… in our case Hamilton Island-LAX-Sydney.  Not wanting to waste the return flight and lost free BA Tier Points, I’m completing the roundtrip by flying to Sydney and then coming home via Asia on Malaysia and Singapore First Class.

 

Older and wiser about Qantas’ annoyingly stupid and cheap decision not to spend money and join PreCheck, I headed to the bowels of the Bradley to the “secret” TSA security checkpoint.   I have never seen this checkpoint crowded but tonight was amazing as there was only one other passenger and he was long gone by the time I got to screening.  

Obviously I was in and out in no time and headed upstairs to the T4/Bradley connector and the short walk to the Qantas First Class Lounge.

What are the odds that 3 of the 4 moving walkways are out of service??

Yeah, I'd say I made the right choice about the security checkpoint.  No one at PreCheck but a lot of good that does me.  

The Salt and Pepper squid was excellent as always.

The sea bass not as good as last time.  Note to self:  don't order fish on Sundays.  

And then there was this loud mouth Brit that drank and yapped nonstop until his BA flight was called.

For dessert, the Chocolate bread and butter pudding with marscapone sauce and ice cream was fabulous.

At T-50, I headed out for the walk to Gate 154.

Qantas QF 12
Los Angeles LAX to Sydney SYD
A380-800
10:55pm-8:45am +2
March 3, 2019
Business Class
Seat 11A and the Business Class Lounge Suite

 

Boarding had already started by the time I arrived at Gate 154.  The Business Class lane was wide open and I was upstairs and on board a couple minutes later.

Qantas A380 Business Class is a far cry from First Class on the main deck of this plane.  It is also a far cry from Business Class on the 789 or most good airlines.   Ugly and dated 2-2-2 seating.  And after a couple of hours, quite uncomfortable.  Add in an indifferent crew and this was a long, long flight.

One of the advantages of a window seat is the storage compartments.  Small price to pay for having to hop over your seatmate later on to go to the lav.

 

Good leg room and that handy window storage space and counter top. 

Tonight's menu with the usual Great Barrier Reef cover.

The pre-order Breakfast menu.  

The Qantas amenity kit.  Pretty pathetic although rather fitting for a garbage Business Class product.

Let's check out the IFE...

Apparently Qantas is the internet word for "we've never heard of Wifi mate".  It's 2019 and it's a 15 hour flight for effsake.  But if I'm really desperate supposedly I can message someone on the ground for $1.90 a message.  LOL.

Or even chat with another passenger.  Wow, the guy that thought up this one is probably CEO now. 

Speaking of IFE... so I was watching Red Sparrow for what seems like the 10th time while waiting for service to begin, when the Purser came by to inform me that, so sorry, but they were going to have to reboot because some people were having trouble with their screen.  Not me mind you, but others.  OK, well thank you for the 10 minute break.

We're now 45 minutes into the flight and there was no sign of drink service, at least for me.   I looked over and saw drink service for the middle pair of seats in row 11 and the right pair of seats.  I flagged down the same purser that told me about the IFE reboot and asked him about the lack of drink service.  He replied that the crew was preparing service for the cabin.   When I noticed that others had drinks and indeed table cloths, he said that they had ordered Express supper selections so they get served first.  Say what??  They get served their meal before drinks for the rest of the cabin?   He did offer to bring me a drink... and please close my shades as it will be morning in Sydney when we arrive.
 

And then pretzels/almond mix.

Meal service for non-Express started around 75 minutes after wheels up.   Note to Qantas:  Meal service without a tray works great for 1-2-1 seat but not for a window seat in this 2-2-2 seating since the FA can't reach the A tray table without an effort which this group had no interest in doing.  So we get the flight attendant passing each item after item to me in A for me to place.  I wasn't hungry but took one for the team and the photo op.  Qantas doesn't print a wine list for Business so it's hard to tell what the optons were.  I went with the Pinot Grigio which was the only white.  It was served warm at room temperature.  Well done again Qantas... and please close my shades as it will be morning in Sydney when we arrive.  

Yeah, that looks about as appetizing as AA domestic salad.

I pre-ordered the Spicey pulled pork ciabatta.

Which was actually pretty good, at the least the few bites that I had.

After dinner, I waited patienty for someone to clear up the plates.   My patience ran out 25 minutes later when I gave up and rang the call button which nearly blew out my ear drums as it reverberated thru my headset...  and please close my shades as it will be morning in Sydney when we arrive.

I made my own bed and got six hours of on and off reasonably good airplane sleep.   With some 6 hours to go, I carefully made my way over me sleeping seatmate and explored the cabin.  Interesting crew seats.

And then the front part of the upper deck.

The Qantas Business Class snack offering.  Pretty pathetic compared to what American offers.

Then there was a completely empty Business Class lounge area, which looked far more comfortable than my dopey 11A.   With no one else there, I decided to relocate and squatted for a good 5 hours.  Much better than sitting in that Business Class seat.  Even better when I discovered the IFE controls and power outlets hidden away in the little cubbies.

I watched Bohemian Rhapsody and The Meg, both for the 2nd time. 

After 3 or 4 hours, a flight attendant stopped by and asked if I'd like anything.   I requested the taste smoky bacon, egg and herb tart, although initially she had no idea that it was on the menu.  

It was quite tasty.

More IFE with some dude doing his exercise routine.

Back in my 11A, on approach on a beautiful summer morning in Sydney.

Mercifully, this 15 hour ordeal on one of the worst airlines in the free world was finally over.  Qantas A380 Business Class would be my last choice on this route when AA, VA and DL all offer 1-2-1 seating.  Even United is better despite their 2-2-2 Dreamliner seating.  At least it is a comfortable 2-2-2 and they have Wifi and far better IFE.  

At SYD, starting the long trek to the Transit/Transfer checkpoint.

Which was easy today as there were only a handful of transit passengers.

After a security check, it was upstairs to the International departures concourse.

And the always pleasant Qantas First Class Lounge.

With numerous morning departures, the lounge was pretty packed this morning at around 9:15am.

My first stop was for a much needed shower.

And then breakfast with one of the best views of any airport lounge.

And a much calmer lounge an hour later after most passengers had departed.

Malaysia Airlines Sydney to Kuala Lumpur

 

While the LAX-SYD flight was free, I had to figure out how to get home.  Rather than another boring SYD-LAX nonstop, I decided to take the scenic route home with using AA miles for Malaysia First Class from Sydney to Tokyo via Kuala Lumpur on their A359 and A380.  My only other experience on MH was when Mrs. SFO777 and I flew Malaysia's A380 First Class from KL to London a few years ago.   Malaysia has had issue of late, between losing two planes a few years ago to an apparent revolving CEO door and confusing and at times rather strange directions.  Like despite have First Class cabins on many plane, MH announced in December that they were eliminating "First Class" and replacing it with "Business Suites".  No idea what the rationale is but for all intents and purposes and based on my experience today, it is still First Class just with a different name.    Malaysia's beautiful A359 at the gate in Sydney.

Sydney SYD to Kuala Lumpur KUL
Malaysia MH 122
A350-900 (A359)
1:10pm-6:30pm
March 5, 2019
Departed 1/4
Suite 1K
 

Yo Qantas, another airline with Wifi... unlike you.

Malaysia's First Class on the A359 is a single row 4 seat cabin.    Not the most luxurious First Class cabin, with pretty bland and boring decor.

Since I was the only First Class passenger today, I had no problem taking pics.

And the Business Class cabin, starting at Row 2.

Since the A350 is not as wide as other long range twin engine planes, the suites are as spacious as other First Class suites.  More like Business Class Plus.

My god, who picked the color scheme on this one?

Today's menu...

Considering Malaysia has great and unique cuisine, I was surprised to see a mostly Western menu.   

On the other hand, the wine list was quite respectable.

The Malaysia First Class amenity kit...

... meh.

IFE was pretty good with a reasonable selection of movies, from Hollywood and Asia.

Good storage space throughout the suite.

We pushed back on time but then returned to the gate to resolve a minor technical issue and then headed back out 45 minutes later.

On our way to KL.

Right after take-off, my personal flight attendant, Elyana closed the curtains to wall off the cabin from the masses in Business and Economy.  And as the only passenger in First, it was pretty much a private experience.

Elyana was well intentioned but her service lacked some of the typical refinements of more experienced cabin crew.   My satay starter was excellent but she neglected to bring my champagne until after I was done.

And then she brought both the Champagne and Shiraz at the same time.  LOL.

Both were excellent.

I had asked for the caviar first and then the seared tuna after.   I'm guessing that it got lost in translation, as she and presumably Purser Aaron decided to serve both at once.  It was an impressive display of food, so much so that Elyana decided to take a picture of it as well, after she saw me take one.

The tuna was

While the caviar was OK, the tuna was bland and pretty much tasteless. 

For my main, I made the mistake of going with the Braised Brisket of Beef.  Lots of fat although the sauce was good and made the brisket palatable.   Overall pretty disappointing. 

Next up was the cheese plate, which was quite good.  With a couple more glasses of the wonderful St. Hallatt 2013 Old Block Shiraz.

And finally, delicious Hokey Pokey ice cream.

While Elyana made my bed, I headed to the lav to change.

Reasonable comfy bed and I was able to sleep for nearly 4 hours.

And a smooth touchdown at KUL after nearly 8 hours.   

Overall quite a pleasant flight.  Service was well intentioned but just a little unpolished compared to the flawless service on my connecting flight to Tokyo.     

Malaysia Golden Lounge Satellite at KUL
First Class Lounge 
 

From our arrival gate, it was a short walk to the center of the international terminal.   No passport control as you either connect to another international flight or go to passport control to enter the country. 

Lots of lounge signs but with no clear direction to get to any of them.

More lounge signs.   There are indeed escalators to the upper level but the are hidden and accessible only after you leave the concourse and go down a narrow unmarked hallway.  Very strange.

The Emirates Lounge was obvious, being near the center of the terminal.    But I had to search for the Golden Lounge.  Finally, a sign.

There it is.  Now I know but definitely hard to get to unless there is some secret elevator and entrance that I missed.

A little confused by the Satellite designation.  Does this mean that there is another main lounge somewhere?

But once inside, it was clear that this indeed was a major lounge, the name notwithstanding.   After checking in at the counter, Business is to the left, First Class to the right.  Even MH staff isn't buying into the Business Suites thing as the lounge dragon welcomed me to "our First Class Lounge to the right".  LOL.

The First Class side is very impressive.

 

Since there is a dining room, the serve yourself options are somewhat limited.

After relaxing for a bit, I headed for the dining room.  Beautiful decor and setting, with a excellent staff and service.  

A lot of miles on the First Class menu which oddly enough featured mostly western options.

Yap, yap, yap.  Yes, we all want to hear about your day.  Oy.

Tiger Beer to start.

The very strange napkin, not much bigger than a cocktail napkin.

I ordered the Won Ton soup which was pretty awful.  But hey, the lavosh and breadsticks were good.   What a dissapointment and a total waste of a gorgeous room and setting.

Back in the main lounge, the desserts were tasty.

At around T-55, I headed out for the walk to Gate C37.

And the security check.

Kuala Lumpur KUL to Tokyo Narita NRT
Malaysia 88
A380-800
11:35pm-7:15am +1 (sked)
12:40am-7:50am (actual)
March 5, 2019
Departed 3/8
Suite 1K
 

With a complete absence of gate lice, boarding was orderly as the Gate Agent asked for "Business Suites" passengers to board first.  None of the handicapped-wheel chair brigade-families with small kids or those needing extra time-BS like back in America.

I've always liked the suites and decor on the A380.  Nice big comfy suites and seats.  And flawless service tonight from a wonderful crew.

My 1K.

This A380 is showing its age with some chips and bruises here and there.  

And a pretty dated IFE controller although not a bad as Qantas.   Looks like the cleaners haven't visited this one for a while.

Tonight's menu which assumes that everyone has eaten and just wants to sleep.

At around departure time, the captain announced a delay as one of the doors was not showing as closed.  For the next 45 minutes, as many as seven MH techs were on board to troubleshoot, walking back and forth between the door and the cockpit.

 

As the delay dragged on, our wonderful First Class flight attendant decided to serve satay at the gate.  

Naturally, as soon as she delivered the satay, the captain announced the problem has been fixed and we would be pushing back in a couple of minutes.   The satay?  No worries, our FA didn't bother or rush us to finish.

This satay was better than the earlier one and the sauce a lot thicker and richer.

Since it was not midnight to my body, I was hungry and requested the delicious Nasi Lemak from the Breakfast menu.  With another glass of the lovely Taittenger Comtes.

I went to the lav while my bed was made.   And slept for a solid 4 hours.

Some breakfast pastries to take the edge off.

And arriving at the gate, ready to deplane.

I really enjoyed this flight despite the short flight time.  Exceptional and flawless service from a crew that takes pride in their jobs.   This was truly First Class service and I have no idea why MH has chosen the confusing route of renaming it to Business Suites.

10 Hours in Tokyo

With roughly 10 hours before my Singapore flight back to LA, I decided to go into the city.    The long, long walk to passport control.

A look back at our MH A380.

There was a healthy looking queue but it only took about 10 minutes to get to a passport control/customs agent.

I arrived and Terminal 2 and decided to head over to Terminal 1 to check my bags for the day, since Singapore departs from T1.

On my way up the escalators to the departures level 4, I stopped for a much needed shower.

And a bargain at only ¥1000 for 30 minutes.

I had trouble with online check-in on my SQ app so I headed to the SQ counter to see if it was open.  Fortunately, they were and a pleasant NH agent was happy to check me in and issue my boarding pass.

After check-in, I stowed my rollerboard and backpack for a reasonable ¥500 for the day.

And then headed for the JR Line's Narita Express.  A roundtrip foreigner ticket was ¥4000 and included subway connections.

The Narita Express is comfortable, fast and at $17 one way, a cheap way to get into the city.   The 55 minute trip is reasonably comfortable with nicely reclining seats.  No power outlets but there is wifi although I didn't need it because my Verizon plan includes same-as-home roaming in most countries for $10 a day.

Arriving at Tokyo Station was the easy part.  Getting to lunch was another story especially since I had never taken the Tokyo subway system.  From a little pre-arrival research, I decided to go to the Kagurazaka district for lunch before walking the scenic route back to Tokyo Station for my 3:03pm Narita Express train.  My first stop was the JR Info kiosk where a very nice agent gave me instructions to get to Iidabashi station.  How cool is this? 

Except that something got lost in the translation and in my comprehension.  Getting to the correct platform was easy.  But I read Chou Line local (yellow car) two stops as take the local two stops from Tokyo Station.  How hard can that be?  Finding the yellow local train was an entirely different matter because as I discovered much later... there is no yellow train from Tokyo Station.  And Iidabashi is actually 4 stations away.

After 2 orange Express trains came and went, I decided just to take an orange train and get closer  I learned that the electronic station stop guide in each car illuminated the stops. I decided to take an orange train that showed a stop at Ochanomizu (2 stations before Iidabashi) and Ichigaya (one station after Iidabashi).  Close enough I figured.  

Much to my chagrin, as soon as the train departed the station two before Iidabashi, Ochigaya disappeared from the station stop guide.  So I wound up at the stop after that one, Yotsuya.  Got off there and took the next train (orange)... back to Ochanomizu.  OK, this is getting hilarious.  Got off there and finally saw a yellow train...but going the wrong direction.  Up the stairs over the tracks and down to the opposite platform and I was at least going in the right direction.  And mercifully, within a couple of minutes, a yellow local train going in the right direction. 

Now definitely older and marginally wiser, I arrived at Iidabashi station about an hour after arriving at Tokyo station.   And headed up to the heart of Kagurazaka.

My lunch destination today was Kyourakutei, a one Michelin star soba restaurant.  It's located in an alley in Kagurazaki about a 5 minute walk from Iidabashi station.  I joined the queue waiting for a table and 15 minutes later was at the chef's counter with a great view of the action.

Kyourakutei specialise in the art of making noodles using grain like locally sourced seeds.  They have their own millstone to ensure all their noodles are freshly milled on the day that they are served.  

Ordering was easy as the menu is in both Japanese and English.  I just pointed to my selection.  Hot soba and mixed tempura combo.  With a Kirin, the tab was just ¥3300.  My lunch was fabulous.

I have absolutely no idea and don't really want to know.  But it ate it anyway.  Mrs. SFO777 was aghast when I showed her the pic.  "I'm not kissing you for a week" was her reaction.

With 90 minutes to catch my 3pm Narita Express, I decided to walk back to Tokyo Station. 

Graduation day...

... at The Nippon Dental U.

Kitanomaru National Gardens Park.  

The Nippon Budokan arena and concert venue.

And then the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace...

With a few cherry blossoms already in bloom.

Exiting the gardens on the opposite side at the Otemon gates.

Thanks to iphone maps, heading towards Tokyo Station.

And finally the classic architecture of Tokyo Station.

I arrived at the platform just in time to hop on the earlier 2:33pm train and was back at Narita by 3:30pm.   What a cool break and few hours in Tokyo.

Singapore Airlines First Class to LAX

At around T-45, I headed down one level to nearby Gate 45.

Tokyo Narita NRT to Los Angeles LAX
Singapore SQ 12
777-300ER
6:30pm-11:30am
March 6, 2019
First Class Departed 4/4
Suite 1K
 

Remarkably calm lice-free boarding area with each lane clearly identified by class.

Although I was first to be asked to board, my SSSS entitled me to a near full body cavity search prior to boarding.  It was rather amusing that the first explosives test produced a large EXPLOSIVES DETECTED on the nearby monitor.  That would have been a cool pic if I'd had my wits about me.  After a change of gloves, the cavity checker re-swabbed and I got the green light.  Not quite sure where her first set of gloves were earlier in the day though.

I was welcomed on board by Purser Philip and First Class stewardess Chea, who with steward Freddie, provided 10 hours of simply amazing and flawless service.   The elegant single row 4 seat First Class cabin.

The first of many glasses of 2004 vintage Krug.

Very cool Bang & Olufsen headsets although I went back to my Bose which I found more comfortable and more noice cancelling.

The SQ First Class amenity kit.  Very nice with Lalique products that one can take with you and use at home or on the road.

Tonight's amazing menu...

In the air, the fabulous Singapore satay.

Showtime, SQ style.

Caviar with a chilled glass of vodka.

Next up was the Carrot Saffron Purée Soup with sautéed prawn, leek and deep fried young ginger.  Delicious.

And more Freddie Mercury...

Simply delicious fresh curl lettuce salad, with cherry tomatoes, cress and bocconcini cheese.

For my main, Lobster Thermidor from the Book The Cook menu.  Fabulous as always.

My wonderful cheese course... Camembert, Pepper Jack, Bleu des Neiges and Mimokette cheese.  And a glass of port.

Dessert.  OMG, to die for.

I went to the lav while Chea made my bed for the night.   Amazingly comfortable and I slept like a baby for 5 hours.

A little breakfast before landing.

A rainy morning in LA and an unusual daytime landing to the east.

After a long taxi, we pulled into Gate 159.   And the long trek to customs.

What a great way to end this fun trip.  Thank you Singapore for an amazing flight, one of the best flights in a long, long time.   

The lines for both Priority security and susbequent passport control were pretty short and I was into the main T1 departures concourse in short order.   The massive queue for the United Club, with an appropriate massive POS bringing up the rear.

The one positive about United is the close in location of the club and gates.  Other than that, can't think of many other positives.

At the far end of the concourse, one level up, is the ANA Suite Lounge, their First Class Lounge.

There is really nothing special about this lounge but there are some good views and comfy seating options.