Hong Kong has always fascinated me as a kid. It probably has to do with James Bond films and the British influences in my life. Having worked with a people from Hong Kong and China in general, I figured it’s about time we spent some time in China and specifically Hong Kong.
Shanghai and Beijing were on our short list for this trip when panning, but we figured that Hong Kong should be our first experience.
To get there we have to fly through Incheon which is the airport closest to Seoul, South Korea. We flew Asiana and the itinerary was chosen specifically because of the 747 from NRT (Narita, Japan) to ICN (Incheon, South Korea) and then to HKG (Hong Kong SAR, China).
We took the N’EX aka Narita Express from Tokyo to the airport. Getting through Narita, for the most part, was a breeze except that they decided to have me empty out my bags and x-ray everything twice despite going through the Gold lane (for those with Priority privileges on airlines).
The lounge was our next stop. At Narita, Star Alliance folks have their choice of the United lounge or ANA lounges. Now, the United Lounge is a Global First lounge and was recently renovated. Still, I’m not about to spend time in a US-based airline lounge. I want something with local flavour.
The ANA lounge was our first stop. What a treat! Sushi, the beer pouring robot (okay, it’s really a machine, still…), Sake Bar and the Noodle Bar! It was a nice place to chill before our flight.
From there, we headed to our gate and were off to Incheon… on a 777. *POUTS* And it was understandable that Asiana downgraded the hardware. There were only six of us in Business Class.
The service was awesome! The Ssambap choice was great and the Flight Attendant seemed genuinely pleased that we had made that choice.
The Asiana Samarium Business Class seats on the 777 are comfortable and the cabin was quite pleasant. No amenity kit, and I was not expecting one, but you do get slippers and in the bathroom they offer toothbrushes and combs which you can keep.
Connecting at Incheon, we followed the transit signs, went through security where my bag was torn apart and all my bits x-rayed twice. Once through, though, we headed to the Asiana Business lounge.
When we took our first flight, Asiana has a massive Duty Free catalogue. It is full of cosmetics and perfumes as one would expect, but a HUGE array of cosmetics and perfumes, as well health supplements and products related.
Looking at the Duty Free shops at Inchon, it is perceived that South Koreans are obsessed with looking good and they’ll do anything to stay looking young. At least, that’s how it looks from the outside looking in, as well there is a disturbing statistic that many women have had plastic surgery by the time they’re 21.
For a geek like me, there isn’t much out there in terms of electronics shopping. Interesting given LG and Samsung’s strengths in the country. There is one small shop that sells Samsung hard drives, bluetooth headphones, rice cookers and hot water dispensers.
If you want Omiyage or sunglasses, you’re in luck. Lots on offer at Incheon. If you want Louis Vuitton and other high-end names that bore the crap out of me, it’s there.
The Asiana Business Class lounge is spacious, busy, and offers lockers so you can go and shop until you drop if you want. Food-wise, someone said to me that it’s weird, and it is a bit odd for mid-day. They have a salad with chicken, chips, breads and a few biscuits on offer. Later they actually added a lovely vindaloo, spring rolls and a rice dish.
The people of South Korea are very proud of their heritage and it shows. There are two cultural centres in the airport where you can see presentations of music, dress, and even participate in activities. They specifically call out that the activities are free to foreigners.
Beyond the lounge, there does not seem to be much on offer food-wise. There is a very very small food court that has Korean, Japanese, Quiznos and Taco Bell offerings.
There are some airports that excite the heck out of me – Narita, Hong Kong, Chile, Heathrow. There are airports that I despise – Chicago, Los Angeles (LAX), any airport in New York City. Incheon I tolerate. I actually feel like on the return that I’ll want to poke my eyes out if I have to spend 6 hours at that airport.
Thankfully, they offer layover tours! You also have the option of taking AREX into Seoul. So if you’re bored at Incheon, it’s you’re own fault! 🙂
After about 3 or 4 hours, we jumped on the A380 from Incheon to Hong Kong. There are only about 8 of us in Business Class. There were 3 bridges to the plain – First/Business and Economy on the main floor. Business/Economy on the second. We were on the second floor. By the way the business class bathroom on Asiana’s A380 is huge!
I am amazed that a plane the size of the A380 takes off. It’s an amazing feat of engineering and it’s so quiet on the second floor. If Boeing thinks a 787 is quiet, which it is relative to single level planes, the A380 is quieter, inside.
Scott and I opted for the Western meals – We had the Ssambap previously and didn’t want the same meal. Scott had the steak, I went for the seafood option. All great choices.
Asiana’s service is top notch. In fact, I felt a bit out of my element, but it was nice being taken care of by the great service.
The ride was a bit bumpy and you can tell the A380 does get thrown a fair bit in turbulence. We passed by a big storm system on our way with lightning, so the turbulence was not surprising.
Arriving in Hong Kong, Scott and I unlocked another achievement – Landing on a purpose-built island airport. The new Hong Kong airport is stunning and easy to get through. Interestingly, Hong Kong Immigration does not stamp the passport, but opts to give a piece of paper instead. Ahhh! But I like having stamps in my passport! The sticker I received in Japan is awesome with it’s QR code!
Apparently it saves three seconds per passenger, and reduces errors. That is a significant saving of time.
We picked up our MTR Airport Express passes and we were soon on our way to the Sheraton Hotel and Towers on Nathan Road. We ended up getting out Suite upgrade, which I think, is the biggest room we’ve had to date, and we are completely spoiled here.