Asian Roadshow: Six Nights, Five Cities, Four (or maybe three) Countries

Aman Summer Palace

Business recently brought me to Asia for a whistle-stop tour of five cities.  These trips are tiring, as they typically involve multiple meetings (where I do the bulk of the presenting) and then an evening flight onward to the next city so that we are ready for the next day.

This trip took me to Hong Kong, Shanghai (lunch only), Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo; all cities I’ve been to previously.  For this trip, I was able to include both one hotel I’d been to previously and several which were new to me.

The hotels I selected for this trip were:

Four Seasons Hong Kong

Four Seasons Hong Kong
Four Seasons Hong Kong

Four Seasons Shanghai (lunch, only)
Aman Summer Palace Beijing

Aman Summer Palace
Aman Summer Palace

Conrad Seoul

Conrad Seoul
Conrad Seoul

Four Seasons Tokyo Marunouchi

Four Seasons Tokyo Marunouchi
Four Seasons Tokyo Marunouchi

I’d stayed at the Hong Kong property previously and while I am interested in trying others in Hong Kong, the Four Seasons in Central was within two blocks of all but one of my meetings.  The location, plus my prior perfect stay, made it tough to select an alternate.

I’d been to the Conrad Seoul for lunch previously.  Some of my business associates in Seoul had previously nominated the property as the best in town.  Of course, this time when we stayed there, they were each excited about the new Four Seasons which is opening soon.  Perhaps they’d lost their enthusiasm for the “old” (not really) Conrad.

Air travel, which I typically don’t afford much coverage to, generally was very nice.  My routing was as follows:

Cathay JFK-HKG J
Cathay HKG-PVG J
Hainan PVG-PEK J
Asiana PEK-ICN J
JAL GMP-HND J
Delta NRT-JFK J

AsiaMap

The difference in price for the one-way on Cathay to HKG from business to first was about $18,000.  For a little over $1,000 an hour in savings, I’ll gladly sit in business.  We were in the top cabin for all the other flights.

My flight on Hainan was accidental.  Due to delays arriving to Shanghai (due to ATC delays), my lunch ran late and I missed an earlier scheduled Air China flight up to Beijing.  I moved over to the Hainan flight, which was the next to go.  The Hainan flight to Beijing was also delayed several hours due to ATC holds in Beijing – to the point where dinner was served on the ground while we waited three hours on a taxiway.  (Train service between Shanghai and Beijing was also heavily delayed that evening.)

Hainan has a new miles partnership with Alaska Air, so I was able to credit my flight to my Alaska.  This took a few minutes for the ticketing agent to sort out, but my boarding pass included my “AS” number, so I’m hopeful the miles will post!

Similarly, our flight to Seoul (from Beijing) was delayed due to ATC issues in Beijing.  The Asiana staff was kind enough to find me and my colleague in the lounge and offer for us to move to an earlier (but also delayed) flight.  There were some logistical challenges as we had to exit the secure area and re-clear passport control and security to move to the earlier flight.  This maneuver took some aggressive line cutting, but we were escorted by an Asiana agent which helped reduce (but not eliminate) the jeering calls from other passengers.  (The reason we needed to go through this procedure to change flights was that boarding passes need to have two separate stamps from immigration on them.  I suspect the government authorities review all the boarding passes to make sure they have these stamps after the flight and without this procedure, our replacement boarding passes wouldn’t have had the requisite stamps.)  Cumbersome, but it saved us several hours as our original flight ended up being three hours delayed.

I picked the Delta flight due to the schedule.  It was the latest flight of the day, and I needed as much time in Tokyo as possible, without connecting or spending an extra overnight.

The flight home on Delta was what one would expect.  The cabin crew was highly experienced.  Thankfully, they were generally friendly, but the business class (now known as “Delta One”) experience is nowhere near what carriers like Cathay can offer.

Delta does have wifi across the Pacific.  That was a nice benefit, as the flight had me in air for the entire trading day in New York.  It worked pretty well the entire way.  I had previously bought an unlimited all-carrier Gogo pass.  I was surprised to learn that the “unlimited” pass was limited in that international flights weren’t included.  Full-flight service was $39, plus taxes.

Unfortunately, the power outlet at my seat didn’t work.  A few resets from the flight attendants didn’t solve the problem.  Others’ seats didn’t have the power problem. My device made it without a re-charge…just barely.

Booking late, I was stuck in seat 1D on Delta’s 777-200.  This seat selection proved to be a meaningful mistake.  Beyond the general continuous chatter from flight attendants in the galley, there is an overhead light in the central part of the forward galley which (a) cannot be turned off and (b) is not blocked by a curtain.  As a result, while I had a “lie flat” seat, it perhaps should me accurately be called a “light in your face the entire flight lie flat” seat.

Delta 777-200 Seat 1D - Lie-flat day-light seating
Delta 777-200 Seat 1D – Lie-flat day-light seating

I asked the flight attendant if the light could be turned off.  She said she would check and indeed she did.  A few minutes later she came back to say there wasn’t a way to turn the light off.  She did offer me a second duvet to help further block the light.  This was thoughtful on her part.

Delta, however, should figure out a solution so that the passengers in seats 1A and 1D aren’t forced to face a bright for the entire flight.  I flew on a “J0” fare, Delta’s highest fare because I booked late.  As a result of booking late, this was the fate I faced.  This sort of seating situation makes me much less likely to fly Delta on long-haul flight in the future.

Enough about the flights, let’s get into where I stayed…

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