In this journal:
- 7-course meals on an airplane, buffet style
- 53°C/128°F temperature
- 16 hour lie-flat business class experience
[25 min/MEDIUM READ]
Qatar premium passengers use the Apricot lounge, but so does almost every other airline. As I exited the elevator, an agent came up and checked my invitation for the lounge, and allowed me inside.
The lounge has a good tarmac view, except to the west, where it was blocked by the jet bridge of gate 17, the one my flight would depart from. By 6:30pm, the Qatar plane arrived from its stopover in Phanom Penh. Lounge food was decent and local, with the only western option being non-al-dente pasta and ghoulish beef goulash. But their pho was okay, and their spring roll outstanding.
Without much time left, I hopped back upstairs and entered gate 17 waiting area. The entire waiting area was a chaotic mess, much like my life. An agent came to everyone to check their boarding zones, even though I told her business passengers do not have zones, she insisted to look at my boarding pass. The boarding started 10 minutes later than the scheduled 6:45pm, and I walked down the jetbridge just to be stopped by another agent. He told me economy passenger cannot take the forward cabin jet bridge, maybe my sweatpants and lit AF fidget spinner dress shirt that I got from a Youtube celebrity was not business enough for him?
Qatar uses a rather old airplane for the Ho Chi Minh route, but thankfully the entire front cabin was nicely refurbished. The seats are in 2-2-2 configuration, but with the cabin barely half-full, it was not a problem at all. The screens were huge(18 inch-ish), and the partition between seats actually extended out quite a bit, which enhanced the privacy of the window seats significantly. So the best option is to check Qatar website constantly, and make sure you get a window seat that does not have a buddy on the other side. The aisle seats do not have privacy at all, with nothing splitting the seat from people walking by.
The sides have good arm room, but this seat severely lacks storage space. On the sides there are no space, as the left was taken up by the life jacket, and the right side was just, an armrest. The newspaper stand at the back cannot take anything, because it is actually very narrow at the bottom, so if you put anything in it, I mean anything, it will fall straight into the abyss under your seat. Thank god the seat next to me was empty, and I dumped everything onto it.
The good thing about this seat is that its tray table is not folded and extremely steady. I tried hard to press it down and it did not even budge a bit. It also locks in place in default position. The menu featured the standard Qatar dine-on-demand, and had a good selection.
After the pre-departure champagne, I was given an amenity kit, pajamas, and a towel. The pajamas seemed to be of great quality, yet strangely there was no slippers, so I had to use my own. We departed on time, and took off into the dark night. Meal services quickly ensued, conducted by the great flight attendants, and I will let the pictures do the talking.
In short, the coconut soup was authentic enough that anyone not used to Southeast Asia food would return it the same as it was served. The mezze was a good regular ol’mezze, and the prawn was okay. The rice coming with it, though, was heartbreaking to an Asian like me: it was powdery and dry, everything rice should not be. Cheese plate was great, and the dessert was acceptable. After this meal, I was ready to barf my guts out as it would be my 8th meal of the day, so I quickly turned to sleep in order to quell the intestine uprising.
7 hours quickly passed, and we safely landed at Doha Hammad International Airport. After bidding farewell to the awesome hostesses, I rushed through the immigration. Nobody was arriving into the place, as most were transitting, so I cleared immigration in no time, except the lady stamped on top of one of my old stamps on a random page she flipped to, which is very lazy. Qatar Airways sponsors visas for passengers who stop in Qatar between 5 and 96 hours, but this information is no longer relevant because literally the day after my arrival, over 80 nationalities were given visa free entry into Qatar. (seriously, what is wrong with Young and his bad luck???)
Upon exiting customs, I had to change currency, but the agency on arrival level was closed, so I had to go up to departures level beside check-in counter 3 to change money. At that moment 1USD is pegged at 3.6 Qatari Reals. The agency charged me 15QAR of service fee for 100USD, so I ended with 345QAR. I changed so much because I heard Qatar was an extremely expensive place, which was again, inaccurate.
I built myself a stopover at Qatar for 36 hours, because I always wanted to see the place, and it was free, so why not? I was told 1 day was enough (another thing wrong as in order to see everything while avoiding the heat, I would suggest 2 full days). I exited to the left side of the terminal, which connected to a room for taxis. Nobody was there so I was immediately hauled off. The taxi meter started at 24QAR, and jumped 1QAR every 500m or so, so it was very reasonable. I got to my hotel right around 12 midnight.
Qatar Airways allow passengers travelling in premium cabins to participate in +Qatar Ultimate program. It gives you a portal through which you can book hotels at a fraction of the cost. I was able to snatch a deluxe suite in the 5 star Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels smack in the heart of the action for 2 nights at 25USD per day. If my ticket was a steal, this package now seemed like an armed robbery. 12/10 would rob again.
The taxi took 15 minutes and cost 48QAR, so it was perfectly fine. It took the receptionist a good 10 minutes to check me in, and since there were 9 buildings scattered around this historical market, I was given a buggy ride to mine. The room was magnificent, like a unicorn sliding down a rainbow level of magnificent, and was big enough to remind me what a single miserable bastard I am.
I slept like a drunk sorority girl, and woke up way later than the breakfast time, though it was not included in the fare and cost a good 70QAR. But if anyone wants to have breakfast, lots of restaurants offer food at less than half of that price. I wanted to check around the area, but when I checked the weather, holy mother of Arceus I was scared straight back to the depths of my air-conditioned room.
I only dared to venture outside when the temperature dropped below 40 degrees after 4 o’clock. As I exited the building, my glasses instantly fogged over, and my skin immediately started burning. But I had to venture on, for the sake of the blog. Ugh, things I do to get the attention of cute girls…
Next to Souq Waqif was a pedestrian underpass, through which one could access the famed Al Corniche, a giant promenade by the sea. What also welcomed me on the other side was the Pearl statue.
Continuing down east on Al Corniche was the famous Museum of Islamic Art. The 500m walk down the shoreline was more like a walk of shame than an afternoon stroll in this kind of temperature.
The museum was an architecture masterpiece. Light was sufficient coming in from all sides that the enormous lobby did not even need a bit of artificial light.
The artifacts represented inside were absolutely fascinsting. Enormous amounts of Qu’ran in different languages, and caligraphy as well as carvings on different surfaces were professionally exhibited.
Before I could fully explore the museum, it was closing time. After being kicked out, I traced my way back to Souq Waqif.
Souq means market in Arabic, and this one was famous for a reason. The maze seemed to go on forever, and the old white mud buildings appeared to be hundreds of years old, despite Souq Waqif was actually just a tourist trap. Come on, who would still build mud markets when you have literally the highest GDP per capita in the world? Real Qatari markets nowadays are hyper modern malls with crazily over-the-top embelishments.
I returned to my hotel after walking around for a bit, slightly hungry from the heat. Dinner had to be done close, so the Yemeni restaurant I saw on my way back had to do.
The restaurant was very traditional, with old fashioned ground seating for groups on carpeted rooms, which unexpectedly brought two of my favorite activities together: eating and pillow fort building.
I opted for traditional Yemeni food Salta, and it came with a bread the diameter of the Moon’s. I barely managed it, despite the fact that I used to be blacklisted in multiple buffet restaurants. The dinner was much cheaper than expected, costing just shy of 30QAR.
After my dinner, Souq Waqif suddenly came to life. Stores opened; people came out of nowhere; and merchants started actually selling stuffs. I wandered through the lively market, enjoying my day at Doha to the fullest.
I went back to my hotel after my legs gave out, and passed out from food coma.
I woke up at 4:30 am to catch my flight to Buenos Aires. After checking out, a taxi ride by a kind Kenyan took me to the airport. He was from Nairobi, and we chatted the whole way when he realized I was in his hometown Nairobi last year!
The taxi ride cost me 38QAR, fuck, now I have over 150QAR leftover. Whoever says Qatar is expensive must have been scammed hard or live below poverty line. Premium passengers have a special check-in area separated from the common folks, and it was gorgeous.
The check-in is done in individual blocks, with a lot of privacy. The agent was highly competent, and looked like he was very aware of the sale I was on. After checking my Argentinean Tasa de Resiprocidad payment, he printed my boarding pass and gave me the direction to Al Mourjan Business Lounge, the best in the world.
The special treatment did not end there, as there was another area for immigration just for premium passengers. The lady stamped on top of the other lady’s stamp on top of my old stamp, quite a stamp-ception going on, and waved this eager-to-check-out-Al-Mourjan guy pass. I scurried pass the giant teddy bear towards the lounge entrance.
In front of the escalator to the lounge, an agent scanned my boarding pass, informing me of my boarding time. The escalator passed 2nd floor, where economy transfer passengers do security checks, which was a circus show.
What is there to say? This is a stunning place to spend a good 5 hours, or 50. The large crowds swarming certain areas did not detract from the beauty of this lounge. My first stop was the famous deli area, where the decor rivals that of a designer studio.
After enjoying a grilled sandwich custom made, I moved on to the beautiful dining area. Yes, that deli was just a little side area for people who were not interested in a full-on breakfast. The restaurant was located on the second floor, which I had to access with a spiral staircase.
Unfortunately, instead of restaurant-style food ordering, the morning rush hour forced it into a buffet. (you know your life is bloody awesome when the problem you have is getting a free buffet instead of service) I got myself a Brut champagne and started scavenging for food.
I devoured the food as maintaining weight to attract the opposite gender had proven useless time and time for me, so I no longer cared about my appearance. I still wore the same dress shirt and sweatpants, because those were the only clothing I brought.
I rushed towards the gate as the boarding had already commenced, and I found out it was another remote stand gate. (what the fuck Qatar? putting a 777-200LR into remote stand?) I was asked again to show my reciprocity fee payment receipt. Thankfully premium passengers get their own bus, but even that filled up quickly.
But apparently this is still not top of the food chain, as 2 passengers got a ride in an Audi to the plane. But to my knowledge, there is no first class on our 777-200LR??? Did I miss something?
I was welcomed to board through door L2, and since I got myself seat 6A, I did not make the legendary left turn upon entry. This was just the start of my first world problems, and why I believe this product is somewhat disappointing for such a long route.
777-200LR with Qatar’s business class has configuration of 2-2-2 spread across 7 rows, with the first 4 in a cabin between doors 1 and 2, and the last 3 barriered off from economy. A lesson I learned was that one shall not trust seatguru. Seat 4A is marked red because it does not have a window, so I avoided it and picked seat 6A, even though this seat has someone beside me so I had to hop above him every time I do something (no direct aisle access with all seats on a plane that one has to stay in for 20+ hours is already a crime). The problem is that I later realized seatguru simply meant the closest window to seat 4A is blocked, and the other 2 are perfectly fine, and seat 6A has that problem as well, but it does not show anything! I ended up avoiding a problem to end up in the same one, now with a person to jump through every time I wanna do something!
The other problem is that the bed is not lie-flat!!! I repeat, the bed is not perfectly flat!!! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? Yes, it was rather close, but so was JAL’s Osaka to Los Angeles route, but even they put it as angle flat. To me, this seat is worse than the other, as the back and the leg portions make a 10° angle with the butt section, making side sleepers’ spines snap like snowpeas freshly picked off the vine. It is not horrible, but really concerning to priveliged kids like me.
Another issue is the blankets. The pillow was acceptable, but the blanket was flimsy and thin, and the problem is that IT.IS.SO.SMALL!!! It measured at most 4ft by 3ft, and if I had it covering my toes, it would not even reach my manly chest! Oh also, do not select seat 5B and 5H! They are right behind the curtain of the galley, extending about half way into the width, so someone finishing their loo job could walk directly into you, and not to mention the non-existant privacy.
Rant over, now let’s get to some positive things. This time the seat is much roomier, but the partition got smaller, so privacy is less than the A330. The storage is large, but the table is folded and shakes with the wind, and mine got stuck a few times. There are slippers at the seat, and even a place to put them, but no headsets were present… huh, so it is still mostly negative?
The crew were warm and well-intentioned, and offered to make my bed when I went to change. They cleaned out the bathroom every time someone used it. The food was very delicious, and presentation is top notch. Oh also, their breakfast smoothie was heavenly.
Normally this flight would cross straight through Arabian Peninsula, but due to the political tension going on in the region we had to circle around the peninsula via Oman and Yemen. What my seatmate told me was that it took 2 hours longer than usual, and it was great to know him better via my Chinese language skills so that it made me jumping over him to get to the bathroom less awkward.
It was rather fascinating to see such a high number of Chinese passengers on this route, which was something new for me. 8 premium passengers, to my count, was Asian, and many more were in economy cabin. Never knew there were that many fellow Asians in this beautiful continent.
15 hours to Sao Paolo was quite easy, given you are in a seat with 70+ inches of pitch; after 2 naps and 3 meals, we landed slowly at Sao Paolo airport.
We passed a TAP A330, a Luftansa B747-800, a South African A340, and parked right beside a KLM A330. Passengers to Buenos Aires were told to remain seated, and quickly door L2 opened with passengers pouring out. I expected half of the passengers continuing to Argentina, but I was so wrong, over 90% left at Sao Paolo. Maybe Argentineans are just not that into travels?
Once all passengers heading to Brazil disembarked, the crew sprang into action, and more Qatar ground staff hopped in to join the workforce, with the crew of the next leg participating as well. I have never seen that many staff working at the same time on a plane; it was like spring cleaning on an airplane!
Within 20 minutes, the plane was like brand new inside, with no trace of the carnage before. I could have bet that usually takes a lot longer in the US. 😛
Shortly after that, the crew from the previous flight rotated out, and the new crew offered me pre-mid-again-departure drink, towel, a new menu, before the chaos from the 5th freedom flight from Sao Paolo to Buenos Aires started boarding began. Alas, the cycle of the flight began again shortly, within minutes it was near full.
The leg to Buenos Aires was an easy 150 minute ride, and the premium cabin was filled again with almost all new passengers. I reckon it must be rather cheap compared to local operators in order for Qatar to fill that many passengers.
I could not believe, after 22 hours of flying, I was finally at the other end of the world. For those who claim the world is small, just look at this gruesome journey, but thankfully business class came to my rescue. Qatar has some of the best products in the sky, and everyone working seemed to be proud of their achievement. I salute an airline that is against diminishing their service to a metro ride in the sky. Hang in there, Qatar.
Qatar A330 Business Class Grading
- Ground Service: 180
- Hard Product: 130
- Soft Product: 180
- Food: 185
- Value: 180
- Total: 855 【AWESOME】
Qatar 772 Business Class Grading
- Ground Service: 180
- Hard Product: 150
- Soft Product: 180
- Food: 190
- Value: 180
- Total: 885 【AWESOME】
In the next journal, I continue my journey through Argentina, and return to Vietnam with another review.