Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
No sooner had I returned from my trip to the USA, I was in holiday mode again – except this time I would be heading East for the first time.
Due to the fact that this trip was taking place just three weeks after my fortnight in the USA (where I’d bagged the Easter weekend), and that this trip would also take place over a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK meant I was taking a bit of a gamble as to weather I would be able to get the time off work. The first day back after Christmas I made sure I was the first to hand both of my holiday forms in and luckily they were both approved.
This trip initially was planned as three nights in Dubai, however things ended up getting more elaborate as the weeks and months went on. First off, I decided to tag on a trip to Bangkok at the beginning – bringing the total length of the trip to seven days. Despite both VS and BA having far cheaper fares to Dubai, there was only ever on way I wanted to get there – with Emirates so I could log an A380 for the first time. Further investigation showed that for around £50 more than the LHR-DXB-LHR sector, I could fly LHR-DXB-BKK-DXB-LHR with stopovers in Dubai on both legs. Booking was made through the Emirates website – and there were plenty of flight options to choose from. Not being a fan of night flights. I chose all daytime sectors.
Following payment, the next most important part of the process was selecting seats!
As I had four sectors with EK, I basically selected seats in each corner of the economy cabin. Best of all was that EK operate their A380’s with an all economy lower deck, therefore being able to grab a seat in front of the wing for the initial sector.
Later on, I added a daytrip to Muscat in Oman and just a few weeks prior to departure another daytrip to Phuket in Thailand was added – more about those in future parts though! So the final journey looked like this:
This series will be split into five parts, basically following the same template as my USA series – Each destination having its own part.
Arabia & Thailand 2013 1: LHR-DXB-BKK EK A380/77W (this part)
Arabia & Thailand 2013 2: Two TG Classic’s to Phuket – BKK-HKT-BKK A300/744
Arabia & Thailand 2013 3: BKK-DXB-MCT with EK/WY – 77W/738
Arabia & Thailand 2013 4: Across the desert with WY – MCT-DXB E175
Arabia & Thailand 2013 5: Catching a whale to LHR DXB-LHR EK A380
This part will cover my journey to Bangkok on an Emirates A380 from London to Dubai, following on to Bangkok on an Emirates 777-300ER the following morning. I’ll apologize now for there being quite a few pictures.
Just prior to departure, I took a look at Gabriel’s report to Bangkok, ( http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/216756/ ) and the following line really stuck in my mind:
I couldn’t imagine being so new to Asia…I did envy her I must say, it must be so amazing your first time out here with all the sights and sounds and smells and food and shopping…
I guess the same logic can apply to me, as the furthest East I had been was my trip to Larnaca back in December. But would it really be any different to going to any other new country for the first time? That’s something I’ve had the privilege of quite a bit over the last eighteen months. Lets find out…
Due to the National Express coach not getting me into Heathrow until 07:00, that meant things were a bit too tight for my liking as my flight departed at 08:30. Therefore I enlisted the help of a friend to get me to the airport. We set off at 05:45 arriving just twenty-five minutes later, some ten minutes before the first coach of the day even set off!
Once at terminal 3 I headed off to the Emirates check in to grab my boarding passes.
After which, I headed upstairs to grab some breakfast from the pub.
Once finished, it was security.
Despite being second in the queue the family in front didn’t seem to want to wake their child up in order to put the pushchair through the X-ray, therefore holding things up. Even once they made it through they still had to be searched. They were still faffing once I had been processed.
Once on my way it was a brief wonder through the departure lounge, grabbing a bottle of water from Boots, before heading to the window near gate 23, although there wasn’t much of a view to be had as something was blocking most of it out.
Not being able to see an awful lot, took a slow walk down to the A380 pier. Interestingly, there were quite a few pianos around.
Upon arriving at gate 7, I found A6-EDG waiting, one of the older examples in the EK fleet having entered service in May 2009 and having an MSN of just 23.
The gate wasn’t open, but a few moments later after the crew had finished their briefing, I was called forward – before boarding had even been announced on the displays. Upon having my boarding pass scanned, it beeped. I was hoping (but not too much as I have no status with EK) it would be an upgrade but it just meant they had to check I had no baggage – the second time in as many flights this had happened.
Upon entering the gate, I grabbed a newspaper and headed down to the cafe style seating, followed by watching what was going on outside.
Better view from inside the holding pen
One of the newer additions to the VS fleet, having entered service in Nov. 2012
Boarding was called at 08:10, and unusually it was pretty organized. Due to being in the forward cabin, I was one of the few directed to door A and also one of the last to board. Must admit boarding by zones seems to make the whole process a lot more organized than by seat number.
4th May 2013
A380-861 / A6-EDG
Seat: 50A / Economy
Off Stand: 08:38
On Stand: 18:42
Once on board, I found the A380 to be pretty much as expected – very roomy.
Bad view while the jet bridge was attached.
Once everybody was on board, the captain welcomed everybody and gave a very detailed speech about the flight, the route and much more. Unfortunately, the PA wasn’t too loud so it was difficult to hear most of it although I managed to just about hear that our flight time would be six hours thirty minutes, cruising altitude would be 39,000ft. And that we would be flying over Dover.
Looks good to me!
Once boarding had been completed, the hot towels were handed out – not experienced this in economy for many years!
Pushback was actually a couple of minutes ahead if schedule. There was somebody sat in the aisle seat, however the middle seat remained free. Great! The safety video was played during this time.
We then made the taxi out to 27R.
It started raining along the way
Something a little smaller blocking our path
Waiting for something ahead to move, then it’s our turn.
Passing the BA farm
Annoyingly, the person sat in front was the type of passenger who just didn’t care for the rules of the air. As soon as he sat down, he put his seat into recline, then he was up fiddling with something in his bag in the overhead locker during taxi and then finally taking on his phone during the takeoff roll. He also spent almost the entire flight snorting and clearing his throat – lovely.
Better legroom shot now I have some light.
After departure the menus were handed out. Being neither a fan of lamb or anything curry related, I was slightly out of luck today.
Busy in the Channel today!
Once we had reached our cruising altitude, breakfast was served. It consisted of a croissant, fresh fruit and a Danish pastry. Also much better than previous flights that I’ve been on at this time of day where they just dish up lunch at 10:30am – yes I’m talking about you VS!
Can I have some tea with this milk?
Very good it was too. Much better than any of the breakfast offerings I had been given in Y in a very long time!
After this, I explored the ICE IFE system. The system itself wasn’t too bad, however the very poor headsets let the system down a bit. Due to the two-pronged type of plug there wasn’t any option to use my own either. I later asked if there was an adaptor available however. The crew said there was although I never actually got it.
Once again I put the latest Bond movie on – as the last time I watched it on the way back from Atlanta, I fell asleep half way through!
About the only thing that interests me in inflight mags.
Not much of a view today
The crew were pretty good with the drink runs – coming through the cabin a good few times throughout the flight.
Later on I went for a wander down to the back.
Again, something normally reserved for premium cabins
Rear cabin overview
The forbidden stairway
On the way back, I felt the crew let themselves down a bit. The drinks run was in progress, and despite them being at the front of the rear cabin, I had to wait until they had served the entire section. I did ask twice if I could pass, but it was met with “can you wait until we’ve finished”. After waiting in the galley for a good fifteen minutes, one of the other crew members mentioned to them that I had been waiting for quite a while, and yet it was still met with “we’re nearly done”. I was eventually allowed to pass after about twenty or so minutes. Luckily I didn’t have anywhere important to be.
I arrived back at my seat just in time to catch the drink service for my section.
It was ok, however as I mentioned earlier I’m not a huge fan of lamb so didn’t enjoy it too much.
The rest of the flight was spent watching top gear on the IFE and then following the sky map for the final hour.
And finally, the stars came out.
Descent started at just before 6pm local. As had been the case for most of the flight, the conditions were quite cloudy and hazy so there wasn’t much to be seen until at a relatively low altitude. During the descent Mr. 49A was told no less than four times to put his seat upright. He made the movements as if he was going to, waited until the crew walked off and then didn’t bother on each occasion.
Morning came around pretty quickly again
Descent was made out over the desert, turning 180 degrees to the right and then back in the direction of DXB
Touchdown was made as just before 18:40 – with a reasonable bump and quite a long rollout.
We made our way over to the new A380 terminal, however we were the only A380 around.
As usual, as soon as the parking brakes were applied everybody was eager to disembark. And as usual, there was a bit of a wait. However moment later we were off and I was into a new continent.
Transfer over to immigration in the main terminal was via an underground transit. It was a bit of a queue for the train, so I logged on to the Wi-Fi just long enough to receive and reply to an email from a friend who had just arrived in the Cayman Islands. Once at the main terminal, there was around a twenty-minute wait at passport control. It wasn’t too busy, just badly organized. A few others and myself were moved into different queues at least three times, yet the queue we were in originally ended up clearing long before us.
Oh well. Eventually I was processed by one of the officers, who were dressed in the traditional Arab attire.
Once through security (again?) I could bypass baggage claim and head out to find the shuttle bus over to the premier inn for the night. Not all that well signposted and I had to double back on myself a couple of times but I found it in the end.
I was checked in quickly and made my way up to my comfortable room.
I grabbed some room service, used the free Wi-Fi, took a walk up to the roof, listened to some music and then got an early night after popping a couple of sleeping pills (due to it being around 7:30PM in the UK) as I had to be up early in the morning.
The following morning, my wake up call came at 6am – or 3am UK time. I made my way down stairs and waited for the busy shuttle to the airport at 06:30. Most passengers seemed to get off at the Emirates HQ.
Once at the airport, I went for a bit of a wonder as I arrived a little earlier than anticipated.
I eventually headed to grab my boarding pass.
Looks good to me
It was then through security.
I was stamped out of the UAE a little over twelve hours after arriving. It was then a bite to eat at Costa and a wonder through the B gates.
Upon checking the fids, I noticed there was a gate change, so caught the train over to the much quieter A gates.
Upon arriving, I brought an adapter so I didn’t have to use emirates’ awful headphones again and then waited at gate A2. I attempted to use DXB’s free Wi-Fi, but it didn’t work all that well.
I sat and watched the various arrivals in front of me, but due to the design of the terminal, taking photos was impossible. I saw the VS and BA flights arrive plus many EK 777’s including the 1000th delivered.
The gate opened at just after 08:30. I made my way downstairs and grabbed a paper.
I flicked through the paper and boarding was called at 08:55. Again there want the mass stampede towards the gate and at 09:10, I made my way on board.
I was soon aboard my second 777, and my first 777-300ER in the log.
5th May 2013
777-300ER / A6-EBC
Seat: 32K / Economy
Scheduled: 09:40 /19:05
Off Stand: 09:55
On Stand: 18:43
I was welcomed on board by the crew all along the aisle and asked how I was doing by all. The crew seemed a lot more welcoming and friendly than yesterdays.
I settled in to my assigned seat of 32K.
Not bad legroom, but not as good as yesterday
Plus the IFE box was slightly in the way.
This jet had the older ICE system. Still served its purpose well though.
As boarding was completed, it was obvious this flight would be pretty empty – as I had the whole of row 32 to myself. Can’t say I’ve ever had 10 seats to myself before!
Most of the passengers that were onboard seemed to be French
Menus and landing cards were handed out, shortly followed by the hot towels. Glad that they had something I liked on the flight today.
The British captain came over the PA shortly before departure and again gave a very detailed description of the route and flight info. We were given a reasonable flying time of five and a half hours. He also mentioned a slight delay to departure as five passengers hadn’t turned up.
Push back was made behind schedule and after a quick taxi out to the runway, we took off at around 10:10. After departure we made two right hand turns to fly back past DXB and head for Bangkok.
Around thirty minutes after departure the crew started their service however it was stopped soon after due to hitting some turbulence as we passed Muscat.
Not long after, the drinks service resumed.
I also watched a bit of family guy. Annoyingly the headphone adaptor I brought made everything sound like it was underwater – so back to the cheap airline stock it was.
Almost as soon as the drinks service had finished, the lunch service began. I chose the Chicken – and very good it was too!
Followed by Curb Your Enthusiasm
After this all the window shades were asked to be shut and the stars came out.
Never really understand why the crew feel the need to do this on a daytime flight. Especially as it was the morning in both Dubai and Bangkok.
I then decided to watch a film, the guilt trip. And true to form, I fell asleep before I got to see the end due to being in complete darkness and my body clock not quite knowing which time zone it was in. Although due to only missing around fifteen minutes I was able to rewind and catch the end.
Overflying India. About as close as I want to get to it!
After this, there wasn’t a huge amount of time left.
I decided to head to the rear galley – and once again ended up being stranded due to the drinks service commencing – although at least this time they offered me one!
Upon arriving back at my seat there was just over an hour to go.
Around ten minutes before descent, the American first officer came on with a very brief update – saying it was a beautiful evening in Bangkok and welcoming everybody to Thailand.
Shortly before descent, it got pretty cloudy outside – didn’t look like a beautiful evening from where I was sat…
As we neared Bangkok though, the weather cleared up and we were treated to a great sunset. There were quite a few turns and the speed brakes were deployed for most of it – so guessing we were a little fast.
Passing Don Muang
Touchdown was at around 18:40 and we made a speedy taxi over to the terminal, passing the TG A380 along the way.
Once on stand, it was quite a long walk to immigration. I stopped to pick up a Wi-Fi card along the way, but it didn’t work.
Once at immigration, there was hardly anybody there and I was handled with no fuss or barely a word said in a minute or two. Why can’t everywhere be this easy?!
After that it was out to the train station to the city, stopping at Subway for a bite to eat along the way.
It took a little longer than expected due to the train breaking down along the way and having to wait for another in a very bland looking Makkasan station.
Upon finally reaching the Phaya Thai station, staring up at the Baiyoke building , down at the endless traffic, in unforgiving heat, looking at an unfamiliar alphabet whilst getting the odd waft of the street food with only Asian faces around, Gabriel’s quote finally hit home. Yes, this was a true culture shock! Never experienced anything quite like it.
I made the short journey on the busy, but welcome air-conditioned skytrain to the Asok station.
Upon arrival at the Asok station, there was a reminder of home. Mad after travelling 6000odd miles, taking 36 hours and the first thing you see upon arrival is this:
The final leg of my journey was made on foot.
I eventually arrived at my hotel, the Ramada suites at around 21:15 and was welcomed in with a friendly bow. Again, something I wasn’t used to.
I spent the rest of the evening down by the pool making an update to the trip report, although this didn’t last all that long due to the uncomfortable heat.
I went back upstairs, grabbed a cool shower, sat in the aircon and watched a bit of HBO – just for a bit of familiarity in this seemingly crazy city.
The following morning I headed down for some breakfast by the pool.
After which, I went for a walk around the local area for a bit. Once again the heat took a little getting used to – within about 30 seconds of being out, I had an unhealthy shine going on! After around thirty minutes, I headed back to check in for tomorrows flight.
After this, I went to check out the reclining Buddha. As I didn’t want to burn myself out too early, I hopped on the hotels complimentary tuktuk to the end of the road, although it didn’t help all that much.
Bangkok is the sort of place where you break out into a sweat standing still!
I went via the river, as had been recommended by a few people.
Upon arrival, it was out through an interesting marketplace – so much different to anywhere else!
The reclining Buddha was very interesting and there were some picturesque buildings around.
Before long though, it got just a little bit too hot for my liking, so I headed back into town along the river to check out some of the shopping malls.
The MBK Centre especially was very interesting. Much like a giant flea market, full of questionable goods!
I spent a good couple of hours wondering around, and trying to see how low one of the vendors would go on a set of Bose headphones – around £50 in the end. If they sell for £250+ in the shops how on earth can they be genuine?! On the way out, I did see a shop that sold some more genuine articles however – and the prices reflected that.
At around 16:00, I headed back to the hotel to cool off and shower.
Later that evening I met up with local a.netter win1290, and we had a very good meal at the new Terminal 21 shopping Centre, which is themed like an airport.
Followed up with some ice cream – great to meet you and have a chat Win!
Following this, we walked back to the hotel, I bid farewell to Win, and headed off to bed, as I had an early start the following morning – but that will have to wait for part 2!