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Thursday, April 4, 2013

MUGA Day #12: Bangkok to Tokyo on the Airbus 380

I got up at 3:30AM after a good five hour sleep.  The Luxury Collection Sheraton Grand Sukhamvit insisted that I leave by 4AM, as I needed to be at the airport three hours before my international flight at 7:35AM.  I left at 4:15 by catching a meter taxi.  The cost, with all toll charges, was 210 baht (around $7).  The airport limousine coming into town a few days ago cost me 2100 baht ($70).  Mind you, the sun is not close to rising, but when I jump out of the taxi, my glasses immediately fog up.  The high today in Bangkok will be 105 F.  I'm not unhappy to leave.  Incidentally, if you ever have this choice, bypass the secure service, even at midnight, and catch their meter taxi.  It is safe and ten times cheaper.

I might have mentioned that the traffic in Bangkok is again bad.  They have two metrorail systems (the Sky Train to the left, and the other one on the right) that don't talk to each other...with a lot of stops throughout the city...and the tuk-tuks have been replaced by a lot of cars and more motorbikes...meaning that the air pollution is not good, but not as bad as before...but the roads cannot today accommodate all the current traffic.  At 4:15AM, it was okay.  So I get dropped off at their international airport at 4:40AM and find that the Thai Air desk is closed until 5AM.  So much for checking in 3 hours early.

However, the first class check-in is incredible.  You don't stand in line but sit in a lounge.  A few minutes later an attendant walks you through express immigration and customs.  A fancy golf cart then whisks you to the First Class Lounge.  I'm there by 5:15AM.  The first question I'm asked is:  would you like to start with a massage?  I decline.  Why, I'm not sure.  Later I learn they have a full spa here.

The huge room sits at least a hundred, maybe two, with private areas, but I'm the only passenger with a dozen staff I can see.  This is not one of those airline lounges where you fix your own drink and pick from a buffet.  You interface through your contact, who comes with an iPad for you to order what you want from their kitchen.  I settle on a Thai fish soup with rice to which I ask for a dollop of Johnny Walker Black Label, plus a Bloody Mary.  In a few short weeks I'll be in DC, which is now 6:30PM.

So here I sit in uber ultimate luxury, pecking at my computer, awaiting my first experience on an Airbus 380.  It is 6AM and there are three people enjoying this decadence.

The Thai Airbus 380 sits 467, with 12 in first class.  Business class has fully reclinable seats for sleeping.  If you want more room to survive Economy, Singapore Air only sits 371, total.  United Airlines does not plan to use this plane.  Emirates already flies 31 (with 59 more in the pipeline) and Singapore Air has 19.  Here is my plane:


And my seat:


How was my flight?  Disappointing.  The problem was that I was expecting a Kings's Throne with a 60 inch 3D TV screen.  Great Expectations can ruin Reality.  The service and food were like United Airlines First Class, passable, but not fabulous and lacking in cultured solicitousness, which prevailed on the Thai Sydney to Bangkok leg.  A nice touch midway was duck soup with Thai noodles, topped with slices of grilled duck, which I enhanced with some Johnny Walker Blue Label.  The champagne was Dom Perignon, but there was no ceremony.  No caviar, but it was breakfast.   Also, I realized later that I really don't like Thai food because of the fermented fish intestine sauce added to everything.  There was an external camera, which gave you an added view of the outside.

Tomorrow?  Lunch with President of Tokyo University of A&T, Tadashi Matsunaga, at Les Creations de Narisawa, the BEST restaurant in all of Asia.

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