Warning: Long, and Uninteresting Trip Report
So I said to my self, "Self, why don't you go to Singapore?"
With the help of 2ManyMiles, I was able to book a very reasonable fare (minus some travel vouchers that I accumulated) back in August for a 4 day trip to SIN. I used miles to upgrade one-way and the SWU from Rudi's "Know Your FlyerTalkers" contest the other. This trip would allow me to knock off the state of Hawaii from my "50 States List" (leaving AS, NM, LA, and MS) as well as let me take my first steps on the continent of Asia.
After a long restless night anticpating my trip, I woke up at 4:15a, took a shower and took off to the airport. I parked at Lot2 of Ajax Parking. The Shuttle was waiting for me before I even got out of the chexmobile.
After being dropped off I make my way to check-in. The 1K line at SEA is non-existant and I am waved straight on to an agent. The security line for the D/N Terminals was the longest I have ever seen. Two lines had formed. I did a quick scan and noticed that the one against the wall was feeding into two metal detectors while the closer line was only going to one. Depite the horrible looking line, the wait is only about 10-12 minutes long. I hop on the tram over to the North Satellite.
It was about 5:25a at this point and I decide to run into the 1K line to thank Geri for securing my upgrade on the NRT-SIN leg of my trip. She wished me a safe and fun weekend. I was off…
Thurs 8Nov, UA1499 SEA-SFO- I head to gate N11 for my first flight on a former Shuttle route. It had a mainline 737 livery. I took my seat in 2A and sipped on a glass of water before departure. All 8 seats in First were full and I was one of 2 1Ks. Scheduled shove time was for 600a but due to a "Broken Air-Cart" that was supposed to be used to start an engine, we didn't leave the gate until 635a.
As we taxi for runway 16L, one couldn't have been more amazed at the sunrise occurring behind Mount Ranier. Truly an amazing sight. The captain had turned off Channel 9 but luckily this a/c still had Pink Floyd on Channel 3's Center Stage. Even though I have almost memorized all of the dialogue between the songs, I could never get enough. The Pink Floyd selection on Center Stage was easily the most enjoyable for chexfan since last January-February's U2 selection.
I was sad to see that only beverages were offered on the trip down to SFO. I could have definitely used a bag of Savory Mix. I enjoy a glass of cranberry juice and then a cup of coffee 40 minutes outside of SFO. Even with our late departure from SEA, our arrival into SFO was only 15 minutes behind schedule on a beautiful crisp morning.
At SFO, I head over to the newly refinished RCC so I could have a printout of my itin for the weekend. I knew I couldn't remember all the departure and arrival times and I had forgotten to ask Geri to print one out for me in SEA. Having about 10 minutes before boarding my next flight, I took off on a search to find the 1K Room in SFO. After I was given 3 sets of completely incorrect directions, I gave up and went off to my gate. Lo and behold I stumble across the room, but with a line of about two people, I decide not to bother the agent in there for a set of baggage tags.
Thurs 8Nov, UA67 SFO-HNL- boarding of the B767 was at gate 86. I took my seat in 2G and was very happy to take down 2 glasses of Bouvet before departure (which was 25 minutes late). Being my first flight to our 50th State, I was very surprised to see the personalization of the service. OK, to be honest, it was the "Service with Aloha" drink napkins that impressed me.
After take off I ask for a mimosa. When being served, I noticed that Mai-Tais were being being served to others. Complete with a chunk of pineapple and cherry, I knew what my drink of choice would be for the rest of the flight!
Breakfast options were:
Eggs w/ Tomato and melon (which I chose)
The eggs were yummy and tasty on my empty stomach, and I asked for a third croissant. The movie being shown was the Princess Diaries, but I opted to crack the binding on "The Last Amateurs" by John Feinstein. I knock back a few scores from the book about college basketball in the Patriot League and was happy for the cheese, melon and cracker plate that was served about an hour and 10 minutes prior to arrival.
As we are approaching HNL, the flight attendant was quick to note, "If you look out the left side of the airplane, you can see…" and then "Again on the left side you can see…" Obviously chexfan was stuck on the right side looking at vast amounts of blue.
Now maybe I have simply seen the Brady Bunch in Hawaii episodes too many times, but I was really hoping that a beautiful Hawaiian girl in a grass skirt and coconut bra would be there to lay me (or lei me) when I got off the plane. Neither occurred.
I walk out of the gate area in HNL and was very surprised that there was a drive and shuttle right there. I later found out this was the inter-terminal Wiki-Wiki Shuttle and not an entry point. I am amazed at the wonderful temperature, but I was just a little upset at the abundance of clouds. I make my way through the baggage claim area and find the queue for the taxi stand. I ask around if anyone was going to Waikiki. I end up sharing a cab with a lady heading to the Royal Hawaiian that was right next to the Sheraton Waikiki. On the drive to Waikiki, I was immensely upset when the cab driver had to turn on his windshield wipers to take care of the rain that was coming down. Of course it is the chexfan luck that I go to Hawaii for the first time and it rains. Oh well. We split the $24 cab and I head into the lobby for check-in.
The El Cheapo "No View" Room- I booked a <$70 room on the Sheraton website for a "no-view room". Upon checkin the lady noticed that I my status as a Starwood Platinum Preferred Guest. She goes behind the counter and comes back and starts typing away. She makes a phone call and says "I need just one". She hands me the key to room 2202. At that time a second hotel employee came over and presented me with a purple lei. Even though she wasn't sporting a grass skirt and coconut bra, I was so happy.
It was my intention to drop my stuff off in the room and then go explore Waikiki. I go up to the 22nd floor to check out my room and was pleasantly surprised when my "no-view room" turned out to be the Napo'o Kala Suite. There was also a basket of hawaiian gifts waiting for me. I was tempted to stay and play all afternoon in the spacious suite, but I realized that I had to go "do" Hawaii that afternoon.
I drop by for a chat with the tourism desk and they inform me that it would have been nearly impossible to make it to the USS Arizona Memorial. I was sorely upset but ask for alternatives. The gentleman suggested to hike Diamond Head. He gives me directions on how to get to the bus stop, but I insist on walking directions. It was about a 40 minute amble along Waikiki, past the Zoo and up Monsarrat Avenue to the Diamond Head Visitor's Center. The actual "hike" up Diamond Head was a mere .8 mile and 560 foot vertical and was nothing more than a slightly rugged tourist friendly path. Maybe I've just been accustomed to hiking in Seattle, but I accomplished the suggested 90 minute roundtrip in about 35 minutes (and that was with taking pictures at the top!).
I walk back down along Waikiki beach, snapping some pictures here and there and stop to get my usual tourist souvenirs for the family and roommates. I end up at the International Village, which I realized is Hawaiian for "cheap tourist cr@p".
Hawaiian TV Starts at 7!
Already trekking along in my bathing suit, I go for a quick dip into the Pacific to refresh. From there I head to the Happy Hour at the Sheraton's Sand Bar for some Mai-Tais (for a dollar more, they made it a double). I was thinking that if kokonutz, geo1004 and auh2o were there, many comments would have been made about the abundance of fruit in my cocktails. Then I realized, I didn't care and I kept on ordering! I watched the sunset as Happy Hour ended and I knew the plan for the rest of the night. I showered and went off to a Japanese Tapanyaki restaurant knowing that I could make it back for Survivor at 800pm. My timing was nearly perfect as I entered my room shortly before 8. I turn on CBS and almost start crying as I see on the screen, "Executive Produce: Mark Burnett". I missed this "breakthrough episode" of Survivor3 and was sadly upset. But it was nothing that a few Mai-Tais couldn't… and wouldn't take care of.
I get back to the room around 12:45 and pack for the rest of my trip. Friday morning I awake, shower, check out and head to the bell stand for a cab ride to the airport. I was lucky to find another traveller heading to HNL so we split the fare.
Fri 9Nov, UA827 HNL-NRT- I check-in and took off for the RCC. Although the RCC was clean, spacious and neat, I was a little upset that they didn't have anything to nibble on.
I took my seat upstairs on the B747 at gate 7 in 13A and had an empty seat next to me. I have two glasses of pre-flight sparkling wine (served with "Shuttle by United" drink napkins) before departed 3 minutes early for a takeoff from runway 8R.
I had a Kirin Ichiban (my first beer of the trip) to go along with my bowl of nuts after departure. Shortly following, I settle in to watch Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Angelina Jolie's Costume Designer definitely earned two thumbs up from chexfan!
Lunch started with Parma Ham and asparagus along with a Garden Salad starter. Options for the main course were: Filet with mushrooms and asparagus, Obento, or Stir-Fried Szechuan Shrimp with rice. I ordered the latter and was pleasantly surprised. Dessert was a Chocolate Caramel Mousse cake that was mediocre at best.
Following lunch, the Purser came by and personally greeted the 3 1Ks who were sitting upstairs. About an hour and 30 minutes out of Narita, a pre arrival snack of Braised Herring & Chasoba or Fruit & yogurt was offered.
Thanks to Mike Newman's Narita Layover Page, I agree on the idea of heading into Narita City during my 5 hour layover. At our final approach I look out the window to see Japan drenched in rain. Sporting a backpack and a long-sleeve shirt I reconsider taking the Keisei Line to Narita. Upon our 35 minute early arrival, I realize that I had to do this b/c I don't know when or if I would ever have the oppontunity again.
A Quick Trip to a Temple
I breeze through Customs and Immigration at NRT and change some left over Dutch Guilders from this summer into Yen.
I purchased a 1-way ticket to Narita City for 250Yen and make my way to the train track. The city of Narita is only two stops away from Terminal 1 and less than a 10 minute ride. I hop off of the train and make my way to the street and city center. I find the McDonald's landmark and make way in the drizzle to the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. I amble down the way and it finally hits me that I am in a completely different country on a completely different continent. I don't know if it was the lack of being able to understand anything written or the fact that 6'5" chexfan was easily a foot taller than 95% of the people on the street. But it was a very unique feeling.
Feeling that the rain is starting to soak in, I stop at a store on the immaculately clean street and purchase a Hello Kitty clear plastic umbrella for 300Yen. I considered it a steal! I continue walking down the road and see the Three-Storied Pagoda from a distance. I make my way up the stairs and through the Niomon Gate. I wandered through this courtyard in complete amazement. I feel like I had been there before, but then I realized that was just the Japan Pavillion at Epcot Center.
I make my way up some more steps and enter the Great Main Hall where a Buddhist (I think) ceremony was taking place. I stare in awe at the fire, the chanting and incense burning. I later find out that it was Goma, which was the Sacred Fire Rite, that is a mysterious temple service in which people pray to Fudomyoo, the main deity of Naritasan Temple, for the fulfillment of the people's wishes.
I snap some photos and then make my way back to the train station. A young, friendly Japanese female helps me understand the ticket machine and I pay 250Yen for my return trip to NRT.
Automatic Beer Machine!
I go back through Customs about an hour and 45 minutes before my SIN flight. I find an internet café and log onto Flyertalk for a quick 10 minutes. I then made my way over to the RCC by gate 22. Simply walking into through the door, I realize this is my favorite RCC! I decide to take the escalator up. I walk around and the place is packed. Nonetheless I head off to grab something to drink. I find the drink spot and stop dead in my tracks as I notice the most amazing BEER Machine in the world! All you had to do was push a button and it poured a perfect beer and then topped it off with a near perfect head of foam. After my third beer, I was still in awe, but I make my way to 28A for my flight to SIN.
Sat 10Nov, UA897 NRT-SIN- you have to walk downstairs at this gate and a bus drives you over to your awaiting plane. As the bus drops you off at the bottom of the stairs, you attain full appreciation at the size of Boeing's 747-400. You just don't realize how big the aircraft is until you stand at ground level next to it. I make my way up the stairway and then up to the upper deck where I take my seat in FlyerTalk's favorite Business class row- 15!
Dinner started with Sauteed Scallops and Lobster w/ Thai Chili Sauce, asparagus, bell pepper and macadamia nuts.
Choices for the Main Dish were:
Panfried shrimp & bacon rolls over chinese noodles
Roasted Breast of chicken w/ pink peppercorn sauce
Seered Salmon w/ yuanji-marinade, steamed rice, vegetable medley & ****ake mushrooms
I was pleasantly surprised with my salmon choice as it was quite tasty. Trying to cutback on the calories, I declined the peach cheesecake for dessert.
Knowing that arrival in to Singapore was just short of midnight and my plans were to leave at 7am I popped a few Tylenol PMs to try and get some sort of rest for my evening in SIN!
I awake about 30 minutes outside of arrival logging about 4 hours of sleep. To ensure I was set for the night, I downed a can of Red Bull and went through cutoms.
Who Needs A Tour Guide?
I nabbed one of the free Tourist maps and nab a cab for Downtown Singapore. On the reccommendations of PremEx2000 and essxjay I ask the driver to take me to LauPaSat. The drive took about 20 minutes and set me back $19sgd. The only way to describe LauPaSat was that it was a 24 hour food bazaar with a multitude of different types of cuisine. I got a quick bowl of noodles with shrimp for $2.80sgd. I get my bearing on the map and head north to Boat Quay (1250a). The walk took me through some pretty dark sections of road, but I wasn't even close to being scared of my surroundings as I realized that Singapore is truly very clean and very crime-less, and oh yea… SO UNCOMFORTABLY WARM!
Working up a nice sweat, I arrive at Boat Quay and notice it's a tad after 100a. I walk past all the bars and dance clubs knowing that my crusade would be unfruitful if I didn't make it to my Holy Grail- The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel.
I walk up North Bridge Road past the Parliament House and St. Andrew's Cathedral. A block or two later, I arrive at the Long Bar! Almost dripping in sweat, I order my first ever Singapore Sling. The darn pink drink set me back $18.29sgd but I got my Singapore Sling so it didn't matter. The Long Bar was an Oasis with its air conditioning turned on. Maybe b/c it was 120a, but there were only about 6 other people in the entire place. The bartender made a Last Call and I took a Tiger Beer in (which set me back 14sgd). I pulled out my map and tried to come up with an itinerary for the rest of my stay. I just didn't want to leave the air conditioning, but I knew that I only had 5 hours left in SIN.
I made my way west past the Singapore Art Museum and Singapore History Museum to Orchard Road. It looked like a nice shopping place, but nothing was going on around 210a. I made my way back towards the Singapore River and walk past Clark Quay. Things were wrapping up here at 220a but I am shocked to see a Hooters Restaurant! A dance club is still hopping to some unique Asian-Techno-Funk Music, but I don't need to dance and work up a bigger sweat. I head back a few blocks to Boat Quay, and make my way to a British type bar, where I ordered a large Tiger Beer that set me back $14sgd. I kicked my legs up at 235a in front of a huge fan and watched a World Cup qualifying match between Germany and Ukraine. The first beer went down amazingly easy and a second was ordered at that bar's final call at 245a.
Things started to wind down at about 300a and I was shoo'd from the bar. I amble up to the bridge where the cabs seemed to be. It seemed too early to head back to Changi, so I decide to walk around the block and put back my final can of Red Bull. Nothing much exciting was going down so I flag down a cab at 320a.
What's So Great About Changi?
I get back to Changi for a $18sgd fare and find a completely dead airport. I head to the bathroom and do a feable attempt to freshen up. I walk around and nothing is going on except for the 24 hour Starbucks. I order a grande Caramel Macchiato and read some of my book.
At about 415a activity stared going on around the United ticket counter. I was finished with my drink and head on over to check-in. I received my boarding passes all the way through to Seattle as well as a pass to the SATS Premier Lounge.
I find my way to the lounge. Upon presentation of the entry certificate, I pleadingly ask if there is a shower. The receptionist asks if I need a towel. A smile comes across my face and I reply, "Can I have two?"
To me, the lounge was unimpressive but the lemon-lime movenpik sorbet did hit the spot even though it left a weird taste in my mouth due to my recent teeth brushing.
Quick Interlude Joke:
Q- How do you know the tooth brush was invented in <insert hick state here>?
A- Because if it was invented anywhere else it would be called a teethbrush!
OK, I digress.
It's now about 500a or so and I decide I am going to make my way over to the other Terminal to visit the famous Silver Kris Lounge. I follow the signs and find the sky-tram which would take me over to the other terminal. Armed with my Star Alliance Gold Card, my Business class boarding pass, and a seat map of United 747's I am ready to gain admission. Only one problem… the train doesn't start until 600a.
Disgruntled and upset I head back towards my gate. I see an internet café and Singapore Post sign and decide to get some stamps to mail some postcards. I sat down to start writing and I notice another's carry-on with a familiar flourescent yellow luggage tag. I have had many close FT Luggage Tag encounters only to discover they were Delta Priority tags. But this was an honest to goodness FT Luggage Tag from Colorado Springs! I go over and and introduce myself and have the pleasure to meet skofarrell as he was nibbling on some noodles! It turns out I wasn't the only insane person on this trip!
We find out we are on the same flight to NRT and we had a wonderful conversation to pass the time for our 700a flight (I think he was impressed with what I did in SIN from midnight to 3am). We make the way to our gate, but I had to find a Singapore t-shirt before we left. I meet skofarrell on the plane, as we continued chatting. I took my seat shortly before take off and we were off to Japan.
Sun 11Nov, UA890 SIN-NRT- OK, I was seemingly running on fumes here but it finally hit me that I was going home. We left SIN about 35 minutes late due to a late arriving cruise connection (I guess). For breakfast, we were given the choice of:
Poached Eggs on Corned Beef Hash
Singapore-style Noodles w/ Shrimp, Crab, Bean Sprouts, Mushrooms & egg
I opted for the last choice and it was good. I just didn't like the crab shells that seemed to be a part of every bite I took! To drink I had an Kirin Ichiban.
I sat back and watched Marky Mark Wahlberg in Planet of the Apes. I was quite excited to see this 'unedited' movie, but I have to say I just didn't get the ending. Oh well. Good thing I was enjoying my book…
About an hour and 45 minutes prior to Arrival, we were given a choice of Spaghetti Bolognese or Grilled Cajun Chicken w/ artichoke, bell peppers and a Kalamata Olive Salad. Determined to compare USAirway's Cold Chicken Plate, I order the Grilled Cajun Chicken. I guess it's not fair to compare US'd domestic cold chicken to UA's Chicken plate so I won't. I ask for another Kirin to go with the chicken and the FA also gives me a bag of Otsumami.
About an hour outside of NRT, skofarrell waves me over to the left side of the plane for an amazing view of Mount Fuji. There were many people who commented that they had never seen it so crisp and clear before. They said I should feel lucky. And so I did!
Skofarrell wanted to check some prices on some high-tech video equipment, so I shadowed along, providing the useful information of the USD to JPY conversion rate. He doesn't buy anything and we head off to my favorite RCC. I offer to get his beer for the pure sake of being able to play with the "Aamzing Beer Machine" again. We each have two beers and I was off to SEA and he to ORD.
I'm going home! The flight wasn't on the board so I was frantic b/c I didn't know if I missed the flight. Luckily it just wasn't posted and I had plenty of time to wander down to gate 17. Having some leftover Yen, I pickup some stamps, postcard and UltraMan toy and Hello Kitty gift for my roommates. I write and mail the postcards and board the Triple 7 to SEA.
Sun 11Nov, UA876 NRT-SEA- I ended up sitting in the bulkhead window seat, (13A) next to an executive for Starbucks Asia. We had a pleasant little chit chat and I suggested that if he didn't want to think for an hour and a half to watch "Legally Blonde". He did, as well as I (for the 6th time in the past two months), and thanked me for the cheap laughs.
I don't remember what I ate b/c just like Jackson Browne, I was "Running on Empty". Whatever it was, it was fine. I popped four Tylenol PM at 12:20a Seattle time and was out like a light!
I woke shortly after we bagan our initial decent into SeaTac at the amazement that I slept on a plane for 5 and half straight hours.
Seeing as I was in the bulkhead row, I was the first to breeze through Immigration. The Immigration agent asked me how Singapore was and I replied, "Hot!" He laughed, stamped my passport and sent me on my way.
Having all my bags on me, there was no reason to wait at baggage claim. I declare my $30 in souvenirs and the lady sends me on my way. But not so fast. Since I was the first person off of the flight, I was to be "sampled" at Customs.
It was a quiet 815a on a Sunday morning. And the customs agent asked for me to put my bags on the table. So I threw my backpack up there and he said, "This is all of your luggage?" I reply "yes sir" and nod my head. He goes through a usual set of questions, "When did you leave? Who do you work for? Who paid for the ticket? Why did you go?" I answer the last question, "For Frequent Flyer Miles" I would think being honest I'd have no problems. But he didn't like that answer. "I've been doing this for 21 years and I have never heard that reason before." At this point, my bag's contents are completely out and everywhere on the table. I had brought home some macadamia nut candy from HNL and he asks me why I didn't declare them. I replied that I was unaware that I needed to declare a product that I bought in the United States. "Where did you buy these?" he inquired. "Honolulu," I reply. "You went to Hawaii, Japan and Singapore since Thursday?" he asked. "Yes sir" I reply. At this moment he shook his head and stuffed my things back into my backpack, typed something into his computer and finally sent me on my way.
I get back to my house shortly before 9am on Sunday
morning. A mere two hours after I left Singapore!