Saturday, December 24, 2022

A Merry Christmas Finale

All’s well that ends well.

We made it to SAN, managed to catch a post-Midnight shuttle bus, and grabbed a few hours of sleep at the Hilton San Diego Airport/ Harbor Island before boarding Alaska #780 at 10:00 AM Wednesday morning.

We actually arrived a few minutes early. The first available flight to Bellingham was the following day, and it was eventually cancelled in the Alaska Airlines pre-Christmas meltdown (or was it a freeze up?) that occurred.

At this point, what with the bonuses for paid business class fares, we have comfortably passed the 100,000-mile mark on Alaska Airlines, even before our Qatar Airways DOH-BKK flight posts.

Our son and two granddaughters happened already to be planning to leave about then for our house, so we hitched a ride with them.

The driving was fine - it only deteriorated later- and, almost before we knew knew it we were enjoying a houseful of children, spouses, and grandchildren for two consecutive nights for our best Christmas ever. The challenges of making our way home made the reward all that much sweeter.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! Our next planned trip isn’t until January 1, 2023.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Weathering Flight Cancellations

Everything had been going so smoothly.

We enjoyed a good flight in JL 6 HND-JFK. 

We tasted fancy appetizers and Wagyu beef, the latter marred by a wasabi sauce.

We obediently kept our masks on and refrained from talking loudly..

We managed a few hours of sleep and had one more bowl of Asian soup near the end of the flight.

We arrived at the JFK Airport Hilton around 10:30 AM and a room was kindly made available. We slept (fortunately) until about 4 before going to dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.

The fun started at about 1 AM, when during the course of a bathroom visit (TMI?), Brian noticed our JFK-SEA flight had been “proactively” cancelled, due to anticipated weather, and perhaps a shortage of deicing stands at a SEA.

Our reroute had us flying tomorrow and ending up in Seattle at Midnight December 23. Thanks to an agent error, Bellingham had been ignored.

For a variety of reasons, we were up the rest of the night trying to make contact with Alaska. It was rather frustrating, to say the least.

An excellent phone agent rerouted us as far as San Diego tonight, and we’ve booked an airport hotel. Tomorrow morning we fly to Seattle. The only flight we could get to BLU is late the following day, so we’ll plan to get home by rental car or shuttle.

We don’t yet know if our planned family get-together can proceed, but we’ll be thankful to be home.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Bangkok to Bellingham in Four Flights

We picked up a bargain business class fare from New York to Bangkok, so our itinerary includes repositioning flights to and from New York. 

Using airport codes, it’s BKK-HND-JFK-SEA-BLI, or Bangkok to Tokyo Haneda to New York JFK to Seattle to Bellingham, with an overnight stay at the JFK Airport Hilton.

We started off the return trip with an AOT Limo ride to BKK in another sporty little Isuzu SUV.

Night has fallen as we arrive, but we catch a glimpse of the world’s tallest control tower at 132.2 meters or 433.73 feet in height. The terminal itself is similarly huge, with all of it under one roof.

We checked in as soon as the JL (Japan airlines) counter opened,!then making our way to the luxurious Qatar Lounge just in time to order dinner before its 8 PM closing.

Kathy’s duck and Brian’s lamb chops were both outstanding, preceded by a shared sushi appetizer.

We washed it down with Gosset Grand Reserve Champagne and a Stag’s Leap Merlot. 

We then made our way to the Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge, by far the weakest lounge of our  trip. Are we spoiled? Yes, and loving it, as Maxwell Smart used to say.

The five-hour flight BLK-HND in a 777 was likewise anti-climactic. We found the seven-across 2-3-2 seating crowded, and with extremely limited storage space, even for glasses and phones.

We can’t comment on the service or food, because we slept in our masks from just after takeoff to a little over an hour before landing. We’ll try them out on our 12 1/2-hour HND-JFK flight. On this trio we’ve previously flown American and Qatar business class. We have to conclude the JL seats are significantly inferior.

We’ve seen other opinions far more positive, like this one:

We’ll definitely climb aboard JL 6 with an open mind.

Being in-transit passengers, we did not have to clear immigration, but instead went through security painlessly and found ourselves outside the JL First Class Lounge shortly before its 6 AM opening.

It’s quite a place, and fortunately our OneWorld Emerald status gives us entry.

It features several distinct seating areas.

It includes a large dining area. 

As in some other lounges we’ve visited, you scan the QR code on the table to order from the menu and have it delivered to your table, using the lounge app.

Brian ordered the “American Breakfast,” still a bit Japanese.

Kathy ordered Ramen. What else?

There’s also an impressive collection of self-serve hard liquor, but it’s a wee bit early in the day for us.

Brian booked a shower instead and found it
quite refreshing. We’re fading a little bit - four hours of sleep will do that - so we’ll have to keep ourselves awake with plane spotting and runway views until we board.

We were the very first lounge customers at 6 AM, and it remained quiet for the first couple of hours. As we prepare to depart for the nearby gate, we see it’s being well used, but definitely not overcrowded.

Sayonara Haneda!

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Back in Bangkok

Bangkok, or as it’s known officially in Thai, Krung Theo Mahab Nakhon, is the capital of Thailand and by far its largest city, with an estimated population of 10 1/2 million people.

We’ve almost lost track of the number of times we’ve visited, and we never tire of the views of the Chao Phraya River from the Millennium Hilton, especially outside on the rooftop Executive Lounge.

We planned this to be a low key visit, having had only three days at home from a previous trip that included a few days in Italy followed by a 23-day cruise that ended in Miami. So it has been.

We enjoyed our breakfasts in the Hilton’s ground floor Flow Restaurant. Soup ranks highly among Kathy’s Asian breakfast choices.

Soup is her favorite, despite the wide range of well-prepared dishes, and she habitually returns for seconds.

We ate dinner twice at Be My Guest, the cheap and tasty little restaurant just steps away from the Hilton on its own riverfront property.

We took the Hilton boat across the river one morning, sailing by the huge new IconSiam Mall

We found ourselves a boat but hadn’t gone far when something literally came back to bite Kathy.

That innocuous looking little red pepper, served as part of an amuse bouche for Hilton Diamond members, was the spiciest food she has tasted in years. She admits her mistake was not spitting it out immediately.

It was time to push the panic button, although not the one we’d spied just previously at the Hilton dock.

It was back to the hotel and our stash of Tums. Her stomach gradually recovered as the day progressed.

The next day we walked over to IconSiam to complete some last-minute Christmas shopping for grandchildren. Shh…

We were also taken by the photo of this restaurant chef, not just any chef but the “Head Chef Chicken Rice Deoartment.”

Now that’s a job title!

All too soon, it was time to check out of the Hilton and check in at the Conrad Bangkok, which is located in an important area near the American Embassy, among others.

The Friday afternoon seven-kilometer taxi ride took nearly an hour and a half. We took pity on the friendly young driver (and conversed a bit using the translator apps on our phones) and paid him substantially more than the 300 Baht (about $8.50) he’d quoted for the trip.

We eventually reached the Conrad and checked in, finding ourselves in a nicely appointed Executive room on the 27th floor, two floors below the Executive Lounge.

Fortunately, we can lower a bathroom curtain .

The elegant Executive Lounge offered more elaborate and varied appetizers than those offered at the Hilton, including duck rolled up in Peking-style pancakes.

We’d walked through the adjacent mall earlier, and almost against our better judgment went for a pizza atvan Italian restaurant mentioned in the Michelin Guide. Not bad and a change for a reasonable price…

This morning we were awakened by a phone call call from our younger daughter, first saying “Riley’s okay,” before telling us our precious youngest granddaughter had been hit by a pickup truck while in a crosswalk with the WALK signal on near her high school.

As the next couple of hours went by, we were tremendously happy to learn she was basically okay, although she may require surgery for a broken bone in her wrist. We were able to talk briefly to her and her mother after they returned home. Yes, the hospital found it unnecessary to keep her overnight  for observation, a tremendous relief to two anxious grandparents.

The rest of the day has been anti-climactic, but not unpleasantly so.The breakfast buffet at the Conrad was an overcrowded zoo, and frankly inferior to the Hilton’s Flow. Tomorrow we eat in the lounge, where we retreated for a Cappuccino while our room was being cleaned. 

Speaking of the lounge, there we spotted this dude in his jammies, or perhaps he’d describe it as lounge wear.

When people say “It takes all kinds,” sometimes we ask ourselves “But why?”

A little later we walked the half mile or so down Wireless Avenue past the American and Czech embassies to the large Lumphini Park.

There was some sort of major event occurring, featuring displays by companies and governments agencies like the post office, but nothing to entice us in the 89 degree F (31.7 C) heat.

We sat down on a bench to relax, when Kathy spied what she first thought was an alligator.

No, it proved to be a darned big Monitor Lizard.

Lumphini Park is known for them.

After that bit of wildlife spotting, we trudged back to the Conrad and rewarded ourselves with a couple of mocha Frappuccinos at the Starbucks in the adjacent mall.

While the Conrad is a fine hotel with more bells and whistles  than the Millennium Hilton, the latter remains our sentimental favorite. They are both excellent properties with friendly and helpful employees.

In perspective, the highlight of our trip is learning that our granddaughter is okay and already back home after the accident. We’re hoping she can make next week’s planned pre-Christmas family gathering at our house. That would be an extra special occasion.