In this journal:
- business class around the world
- free all-you-can-eat fine dining
- an Iranian A340-300
[15 min/SHORT READ]
This is a part of the 2017 Qatari Hop trip, now, for clarity and succinctness sake, this part has been spun out of the original ultra-long journal as a separate segment. No major change to the content is made. If you want to see all the parts, here is a directory.
- Cathay Pacific Pier/Deck/Shanghai Lounge Review (this journal)
- Doha, also Qatar Airlines A330 & B772 Business Class
- Buenos Aires, also Qatar Airlines A330 & B772 Business Class
- Ho Chi Minh City
- Cathay Pacific B777 Business Class/The Wing First Class Lounge
There was a time, long long ago, when I was not crazy enough to jump on every single great ticket deal. There was a time, long long ago, when my remaining sanity was able to dissuade me from clicking “book” for a ticket for the sole purpose of flying. There was a time, long long ago, when I was naive enough to think I would actually find a girl and settle down. But those days are behind me, and we are here to GET THE PARTY STARTED DAWG! (oh, did I say cringe alert?)
This has now become the standard procedure: a great deal pops up, I scream into the void, I book the ticket, I hit myself in the head with my “club of regret”, and I go to the airport. An awesome deal with Qatar Airways popped up on July 30th: depart from Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, fly anywhere for 500-700USD round trip in Business. Booking or not booking was no longer a question, but where to? Amongst the options all around the world, I opted for the furthest: Buenos Aires. I wanted to make the loudest bang with my buck, so of course I wanted the most miles from this already insanely good deal. Leaving from Ho Chi Minh City on August 8th, I got to get there first. I booked my positioning flights to Saigon via Cathay Pacific, arriving 1.5 hours before the flight to Doha was scheduled, and coming back 3 days after my arrival on the return so that I could see Vietnam. Quickly, a week passed, and I was on my way!
(note: this journal contains teen slang and profanity)
new addition to my travel map
Day 1: Shanghai—>Hong Kong—>Ho Chi Minh City—>Doha
Day 2: Doha
Day 3&4: Doha—>Sao Paolo—>Buenos Aires
Day 5-7: Buenos Aires
Day 8&9: Buenos Aires—>Sao Paolo—>Doha—>Ho Chi Minh City
Day 10&11: Ho Chi Minh City
Day 12: Ho Chi Minh City—>Hong Kong—>Shanghai
The flight from Shanghai to Ho Chi Minh City is in economy, with the rest in Business.
I left home after a simple meal. 6 o’clock metro was awfully full, and I got to Pudong Airport just in time to catch the morning rush. If a hectic airport is a zoo, then Pudong is a fucking wildlife park. I checked in with Cathay Pacific in first class lane thanks to my American Airlines executive platinum status, and the agent, contrary to what I have heard, did not check my visa application to Vietnam. She may just be incompetent, though, as she was not quite sure what she was doing the whole time.
After obtaining my boarding pass, I continued to clear immigration and security, after a good 20 minutes, I was through. The Cathay Pacific lounge was located at gate 69 (insert immature joke here to capture 12-year-old readership) right next to the exit of security, and it was quite decent for a remote station lounge.
[2020 UPDATE: this lounge has been completely renovated and you can find the new lounge reviewed in British Airways first class journal]
The lounge also has 18 workstations, taking up 1/4 of the space, maybe that is a bit excessive? Also all those Mac’s needed passwords, so you cannot just come up and use them. The food selection was decent, and I had dim sum with Shanghai porridge for my breakfast.
There was also a long bar facing the tarmac. It was empty, and honestly, not really useful. Quickly the boarding was called, and I had to get to the gate.
My flight to Hong Kong departs from Gate D228, which was on a separate floor 3 levels down from the normal departure gates. This “terminal” is for remote stands, and is mostly used by budget airlines like Spring (imagine Ryanair, but with old Chinese ladies spitting on the carpet) and cheaper ones like Juneyao. Apparently budget cuts have forced Cathay into their ranks. If you continue the analogy that Pudong is a wildlife park, then here must be the feeding zone. Chaos reigns this floor, as old ladies arguing, kids running around screaming, and impatient travellers prematurely clustering in front of the gates were all happening at the same time; if I were religious, I would think that Lucifer himself was announcing boarding for his Netherland Express.
The good side of the bus ride is that you get to see the extremely diverse traffic in Pudong. Just a quick glance netted me a Garuda Indonesia A330, Luftansa A380 and 747 (ya don’t usually get to see both of them together outside MUC or FRA), a Hainan 737, Singapore 777, and my ride to Hong Kong: a Cathay Pacific 773. I boarded the plane and was informed by our talkative captain that our flight will be delayed due to ATC traffic restriction. Chinese military occupies the majority of airspace here, so all planes during morning rush had to share the leftovers. At 10:30, we finally pushed back from our stand.
The ride was quite uneventful, as the plane was barely half full. The agent at the lounge moved me to a window seat in the middle of the cabin, and said they would do their best to prevent others from sitting beside me, and voila, the 2 seats beside me were empty, and I dare to say it felt more spacious than the business class.
The meal was acceptable, as there were 2 choices between western and eastern. To westerners, this eastern vermicilli must be an affront to humanity, but to my Chinese stomach, it is actually not bad!
2 hours quickly flew by, and we were informed by the captain that HKG traffic controller was busy handling the morning rush, and we had to be in a holding pattern for another 30 minutes, resulting in the final landing to be about 60 minute late, but that is Chinese air travel for ya.
We landed at 12:45, and I quickly ran through the transit check. The business class lounge the Bridge/逸連堂 was right next to it, and was the first one for me to visit. (the Chinese name is MUCH more poetic than the English one)
I was warmly greeted by an agent at the bottom of the escalator, and quickly I was permitted inside. Before letting me go, she recommended me to go to the first class lounge down the hall as my Emerald status with Oneworld enabled so, which I would do for sure later, emphasis on LATER. I turned right to check out the canteen and the long bar. It certainly deserved its fame, as the tarmac view it boasted was no joke.
The canteen was self serve style, and the food could only pass as decent, for it being Cathay’s hub business lounge I expected slightly more. Nevertheless, for someone who was re-incarnated from a starving horse, I managed to down another meal into the stomach.
The other side of the lounge was a deli and a relax area, much quieter than the right side. The food selection was actually slightly different, so it is worth checking out if you ever visit the Bridge.
I had no interest to dwell, because there is somewhere much better waiting for me. A few hundred meters down was the Pier 玉衡堂, and it was FABULOUS, like Nicholas Cage with wavy blonde hair kind of fabulous. Yeah, THAT fabulous.
The Pier has a business section and a first class section which are separated, so be mindful which one you go in. The agent welcomed me inside, and what I saw made me never want to sit in the terminal again.
The lounge was very quiet at the time, for it must be the sense of superiority drove all those peasants away.
Despite the severe lack of occupants, the cabana service was still booked up all the way till 4 o’clock, so I could not use it, for my flight departs at 4:20. (insert immature 13-year-old jokes here)
With my hopes to have someone rub my back in awkward silence crushed, I was forced to go to the dining area at the end of the corridor. It was lunchtime, but I managed to take a picture of the breakfast menu sitting in a corner.
For starters, I had the duck breast, which was okay, and the main course lamb chop was significantly better. The dessert, though, was marvellous. The lovely mango pudding gently wrapped around the sticky red rice, which exuded a mild fragrant unique to the blood-red grain. The texture was perfect, with the rice striking a perfect balance between softness and stickiness. The caramelized sugar complemented the nature sweetness of the mango, while taking out its tart aftertaste, leaving a satisfying trace of happiness long after each bite.
I did not have much time to enjoy, though, as my flight was to board soon. I swallowed more food and washed it down with champagne before running towards the gate. Now it was the critical part: my connection to the separate ticket on Qatar is short, so if this flight delays, I die.
The flight was another uneventful one, except this flight was almost full. I secretly giggled under my voice, as my legroom would soon expand from 31 inches to 60 inches.
Ho Chi Minh City
Upon landing, I rushed out towards the front, as I had just 100 minutes to connect a separate ticket in a less popular airport. It was considered extremely risky by other frequent flyers, but hey, I ain’t no regular flyer. Edgelord is my middle name, and I pick my teeth with a fidget spinner.
Contrary to reports I read online, connecting in Ho Chi Minh was rather easy. The signage was very clear, and the agents were highly competent. Qatar Airways even has a separate counter for connecting passengers.
The agent told me the above sign basically means she would only show up 3 hours before departure. I personally suspect if one does not have the visa and arrives before 4:30pm, that person would be stuck in this “limbo” zone after immigration but before airside. Maybe other agents can also check you in, or maybe online check in can be a solution, given that if they take mobile boarding pass. The agent actually commented on the cheap ticket I got, and found it fascinating, but I bet with the amount of people who are on this bandwagon, she would get bored quite soon. 😉
The tiny door beside the counter was the re-entry area, and it was as full as the room of girls who want to pursue me: absolutely nobody was there. Yet after I finished my check-in, someone magically showed up to flippantly check my passport.
Right inside the door was an x-ray machine, but it was unmanned. The agent told me to wait, and within a minute a man showed up. I intentionally placed 2 200ml bottles of juice I took from Cathay lounge, and they did not give a single fuck that I took liquid over 100ml. After that was an escalator to the departure level, and right beside it on the level was the elevator to the lounge.
I entered the lounge, and eagerly waited for my first ultra-long haul business class trip in one of the best carriers in the world to begin. Qatar, do not disappoint me.
-=ForeverYoung|Qatari Hop 2017=-