Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Moving to Austin: Tokyo to Los Angeles and onto Austin


First up back at the airport was a much needed shower. My preferred lounge for a shower in Narita is the United Club since they sometimes give out pretty good amenity kits. No such luck today with only some generic stuff available.

After the shower, I helped myself to a beer from the only in Japan beer machines.

I got bored and still had about 45 minutes before my flight, I decided to switch to the ANA lounge that was closer to my departure gate. This is the lounge to head to in Narita for business class or Star gold passengers since the food and drinks option are far more superior. There's plenty of hot food and a noodle bar. In spite not being a sake fan, I went on sake tasting at their sake bar but didn't find anything to my liking. I was somewhat disappointed that there's no more Fauchon ice-cream being offered and they downgraded their Japanese whiskey choices.

Snooze Area

Noodle Bar

Work Area
I was surprised to hear my name being paged in the ANA lounge and was requested to look for an agent at the check-in desk. Hmm... upgrade to first on SQ?? Hell no - the agent just wanted to verify that I had a US Visa. Lol - curious how they manage to track me to the ANA lounge in the first place.

The business class line was empty when I got to the gate. I was seated in the front cabin and I couldn't fit my roller in the overhead which then had to be stored in cabinet by one of the stewardess. Might be annoying if you need something from your carry-on during the flight but I bet the SQ stewardess wouldn't have a problem getting it for you.

Seat 12K

Monday, August 13, 2012

Moving to Austin: Tokyo Layover


There were no lines at immigration and with no luggage to collect, I was at the train ticket around a quick ten minutes after getting off the plane. The original plan was to hope on the non-stop Skyliner train to Ueno. With the non-stop train only scheduled to leave in thirty minutes, the girl manning the ticket was kind enough to suggest through broken English and pointing at pictures for me to get on the much cheaper but slower local train that was leaving in the next 5 minutes and would get into Tokyo around the same time.

My brother who works in Tokyo was waiting for me at the Ueno train station. At this point, I let him play tour guide and just followed where ever he suggested to go to. After dropping my hand luggage at a locker at Ueno station, we got on another train to Shinjuku.

Shinjuku is primarily a business area so the area was relatively quiet on Sunday. None of the restaurants were opened yet by now and we just walked around and settled for some coffee while we caught up.

First up on the food trail was some sushi. There was already a long line when we arrived but thankfully, we were seated after only 10 minutes. The waiter did do a double take and wanted to make sure we could finish all the food we ordered as it was supposedly quite a large order. The sushi was fresh and best of all it was reasonably priced for a total of ~$40 USD for both of us.
Sushi restaurant



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Moving to Austin: Penang to Tokyo


Penang airport was still under a much needed renovation and upgrading when I left. Hopefully I'll be greeted by a refreshed airport when the next time I see Penang. Since it was the school holidays, the airport was packed with families going off on holidays including a large tour group on my Silk Air flight to Singapore.

There was no business upgrade availability for the short hop to Singapore so I was stuck in economy for my first flight. I tried checking in 3 bags but the agent initially gave me some grief about it. As a Star Gold, I was entitled to an additional piece of luggage in addition to the two piece allowance but the agent said my Star Gold status was only good for the Singapore to Los Angeles route since Silk Air was not part of Star Alliance. After checking with her supervisor, she did eventually check in the 3 bags for free. Singapore Airlines should seriously just make Silk Air into Star Alliance.

I spent my remaining time in Penang chilling at the landside McD with the wife who would only be joining me in Austin a couple of weeks later. As soon as I got the departure gate, boarding was called. As usual, there was nothing too exciting about the flight to Singapore. It's a short hour long flight with a snack and drink run by the flight attendants.

I was greeted by a crowded Silverkris lounge in Terminal 3. I was not hungry so I just enjoyed some champagne before a quick shower. I got too the departure gate right as boarding was called.

Thanks to recommendations from online seat reviews, I had pre-booked a window seat in the forward business class "mini" cabin of the Boeing 777-300ER. There was only 8 seats in this cabin giving privacy and almost giving a first class experience.

My seat

The "mini" cabin

Since I was just behind first class, I snuck in front before take off to take a few pictures. The TV was larger than business class and seats slightly larger but I could see why there are serious questions as to the need to book first class with business class seats comparable to first class especially in the "mini" cabin.

Moving to Austin: Introduction


For the last couple of years, I've been traveling from Penang to Austin 1-2 times a year for meetings or projects in the Austin office. An opportunity came up to move to Austin for a a year long assignment and I jumped on it without thinking twice. The move would probably mean less travel for work but I figured I'll make up the loss of the miles from churning credit card in the US.
My company only allows travel in economy regardless of length of flight or status within the company. Since my return date was uncertain at this point, I was booked an expensive one way Singapore Airlines ticket by the company travel agent. Booking the flights ourselves and expensing the tickets raises a bunch of questions that I didn't want to deal with. I wished I could have booked the ticket myself as for that price, I would probably have found a business class ticket from Colombo or somewhere else for just a bit more.

The "expensive" ticket did allow for a purposely done long layover in Tokyo where I would get on the 77W red-eye Singapore to Tokyo flight before connecting to evening A380 SQ12 flight to Los Angeles. The layover would allow me to head down to town for some good sushi and meet up with my brother and friends who are working in Tokyo.

I had about ~20000 Krisflyer miles which were going to expire in a couple of months. In general, it would have been better value to just outright redeem a business class ticket instead of upgrading but with no concrete plans and ideas on how to use them after the move to Austin, I decided to spurge and treated myself with an upgrade to business class.