Swiss International Air Lines, First Class – Airbus A 340-300: Bangkok to Zürich

Folie1

Introduction

Previously, LX180 left Zürich at around 22h45 to arrive in Bangkok early in the afternoon the next day. The aircraft would then stand around in Bangkok until the evening for a departure around midnight, to arrive in Zürich just in time for the night curfew to be lifted at 06h00 in the morning. Thus, the airline offered a schedule that was ideally suited to the business or premium traveller, who tends to prefer night flights.

With the beginning of the winter timetable of 2014 though, Swiss International Air Lines changed its schedule to and from Bangkok. The outbound now leaves Zürich in the late afternoon to arrive in Bangkok in the morning. As a result, the inbound flight – LX181 – now departs Bangkok at 12h45 as a day flight and arrives back in Zürich at 19h30. Of course, for SWISS the new schedule makes far more sense, because it means much less down time for the aircraft. However, it also shows just how insignificant the Thai market has become for SWISS, particularly in the premium segment, if the optimisation of the aircraft’s utilisation takes precedent over offering the customer an attractive schedule. But to be fair, SWISS is not the only carrier struggling on the route and in fact, recently Thai Airways switched its operation to Zürich to a Boeing B 777-300 which does not even offer a First Class product any more.

Getting to the Airport

The Novotel Suvarnabhumi is connected to the airport’s railway station and terminal via a tunnel. Once you reach the terminal, you can either take the escalators or the lifts to the fourth floor, which is the departures level of the terminal.

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Check-in

Location: Row G.
Facilities: Airport check-in, web check-in. There are self-service check-in machines at Suvarnabhumi, but I am not sure if SWISS uses those as well.
Counters: There are three Economy Class counters, one Business Class counter, a counter for First Class, HON and Star Gold passengers and a baggage drop-off counter.

Check-in for the flight is swift, there is nobody ahead of me at the counter. While one agent is issuing my boarding pass, a young lady appears from behind me to escort me through security and immigration. To access the Premium Lane fast track for security, you will need a voucher which you should receive at check-in.

Immigration is right behind security. From there we head one floor down to the transit level, which is where the Thai Airways lounges are.

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The Thai Airways First Class Lounge

Location: Near the intersection of the D and C concourses.
Type of Lounge:
Thai Airways First Class lounge.
Facilities:
The lounge has a large open seating area. In addition, there are also semi-private rooms, all of which have their own large TV and a computer workstation. There is a separate dining area and a buffet area with a selection of sweet and savoury dishes. In addition, as soon as you are seated, one of the many lounge attendants will come to ask you if you would like to eat or drink anything. The food is served either at your seat or in the dinning room. Toilets and showers are available in the lounge, L’Occitane toiletries are provided by Thai Airways, although I am not sure if the ladies have the same toiletries.
Internet:
Wifi is available, password required.

I only have about thirty minutes in the lounge. But it has already been at least two hours since my last meal and I am starting to feel a bit peckish. So I order a Coke Zero and a green curry with chicken, which is truly excellent. Which is also the reasons why I forgot to take a picture of the meal.

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Boarding

There is only one entrance to the holding area. However, both airbridges are in use; the one to the L1 door is for First Class passengers only.

Just after noon I make my way to the gate at C06. Much to my surprise, the flight is already in the final stages of boarding. So I can walk right up to the counter and then straight on to the aircraft.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 1K, window seat on the starboard side of the aircraft. There are eight seats in First Class. The SWISS First Class seat is more or less the same seat that was introduced by Swissair many moons ago before the carrier went bankrupt. The seat is inspired by the design of the famous Eames chair. The seat and the entire hardware are now getting a bit long in the tooth, quite frankly. In comparison to other First Class seats, this one here offers zero privacy. It has started to look dated and somewhat old fashioned.
Pitch: 83 inches.
Width: 22 inches.
Facilities: 110 volt power port available in First and Business Class but not in Economy. That is about it, SWISS currently does not provide wifi on board any of its aircraft.
Length as a bed: 80 inches.
Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand. The inflight entertainment system is quite simply a shambles. First of all, they have these really cheap no name earphones that have very bad quality. Secondly, the selection of films and music is quite limited, unless of course you do not mind watching Bridget Jones’ diary or Casino Royale – again. The controls of the IFE are also a far cry from what I would describe as state of the art. The system can only be operated by remote control that is now so old the buttons have stopped reacting unless you press on them very hard. And that of course, is if you are lucky and manage to get the screen out, which took me about five minutes, because even the button to release the screen from its holder no longer works properly either.

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The Crew

There are two gentlemen serving the First Class cabin on today’s flight. For some reason, the whole service seems very rushed from the very beginning. One of the two gentlemen in particular seems a bit flustered. Every time he addresses me, it is in High German, even though he is obviously Swiss. And every time I answer him in Swiss German. But that does not stop him from addressing me in High German the next time he comes around. It is not a big deal, but there is nothing really First Class about the experience either.

Amenities

In any case, a cushion, the vanity kit, slippers and the earphones have already been placed at my seat. Shortly after I am seated, the cabin crew also brings me a pajama.

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The Meal

Amuse Bouche

On the ground orange juice is served with an amuse bouche of grilled shrimp on a papaya and chilli salsa.

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A hot unscented towel is served on the ground just as we push back.

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The First Course

  1. Balik salmon with crème fraîche and lemon.
  2. Crab salad with avocado purée and cocktail dressing.
  3. Tomato and mozzarella with Thai basil and pesto.
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The Soup

Cream of carrot and ginger soup with croutons and parmesan shavings.

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The Main Course

Shredded veal Zürich style in a creamy white wine sauce, served with a mini Rösti and broccoli with almond flakes.

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The Cheese

  1. Wildbachkäse.
  2. Glattaler Mutschli.
  3. Gruyère AOC.
  4. Senneflade.
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Dessert

Basil infused Baba Rhum with a minestrone of tropical fruit and apricot sorbet.

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Over all, the meal is rather tasty. The starter looks very appealing and also tastes very nice. The soup is also good and creamy, although the taste of the ginger is too subtle for me to make out. The main is good. The sauce has a nice flavour but the mini Rösti is only so so.

The service comes to a somewhat abrupt end. I do not really know what is going on, but rather than asking passengers if they would like tea or coffee and offering them one of those delectable Sprüngli truffes – which is what normally happens in SWISS Fist Class – today, the flight attendant just dumps the truffes on the bar, clears the tables and vanishes for the rest of the flight. For those passengers willing to sleep, the crew will graciously make the seat up into a bed and will put down the mattress and duvet. However, if like myself, you are not planning on sleeping, then basically you are on your own. I even have to go scavenging for a blanket because the crew are obviously not interested.

During the entire flight, the crew does not do a single drinks run either.

The Second Service

There are about four choices for the second service. However, none of these are actually mentioned on the menu, and I forget what all the options are. In any case, I have:

  1. Vegetarian quiche, which was in fact more like a pie.
  2. With a small salad to accompany the pie.
  3. One bun.
  4. A piece of warm apple tart with slices of fresh apple, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
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The second meal is adequate, even though the savoury item is placed on rather a small plate, which looks a bit forlorn on the large table.

Arrival

We approach Switzerland from the east. Roughly forty minutes out of Zürich, we start our descent while we are still in Austrian airspace. It is a lovely, late summer’s evening and the landscape below is covered in a golden glow.

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Bangkok Airways, Economy Class – ATR72: Luang Prabang to Bangkok

Folie01

Introduction

It is time for me to start thinking about heading home. It has been and fun vacation, what with all the flying in the first week and the relaxing and interesting visits to Cambodia and Laos in the second week. My next stop on my way home will be Bangkok.

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: Shuttle from the hotel.
Journey time: The journey from the Amantaka to Luang Prabang’s new international terminal takes roughly twenty minutes.

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Check-in

Location: Ground floor, the departures level is in the east wing of the building, to the right.
Facilities: Only airport check-in.
Counters: There are two counters checking in the flight to Bangkok.

There is a bit of a queue for my counter, I assume it is because the agent checking passengers in appears to be in training. She takes her job seriously and even calls somewhere to make sure she is allowed to check me in for the flight with my passport. Her supervisor even comments and explains in an apologising tone that he has never seen a passport like mine, and inquires as to which continent Malta is on.

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Airside

Bangkok Airways sees itself as a bit of a boutique airline that tries to make the whole travel experience as pleasant as possible for all passengers – even in Economy Class. Thus, at its homebase in Bangkok the carrier has a lounge that is accessible to all passengers flying with the airline. At outstations the carrier usually has its own dedicated kiosks where passengers can get something to drink or a small snack upon presenting their Bangkok Airways boarding pass. But in Luang Prabang this does not appear to be the case and I find the signage particularly entertaining, it reads ‘Lounge now not available’. Would it then not make more sense to just not advertise something that does not exist?

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Boarding

The aircraft arrives late from Bangkok, thus boarding starts with a delay of about fifty minutes. Boarding is strictly by rows and I am quite surprised by how strictly this is implemented by the ground staff. As I walk to the aircraft I take my time to snap as many pictures as I can of my aircraft.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2
Seat: 6A, window on the port side. Bangkok Airways operates the ATR-72 in an Economy Class only configuration with 70 seats. At 31 inches the pitch is the same, if not even better, than that on many European carriers. The seats are covered in material, which also marks a pleasant departure from those horrible faux leather seats that seem to be so popular with many airlines these days.
Pitch: 31 inches.
Width: 18 inches.

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The Crew

There are two cabin crew on today’s flight, one male and one female. The female is excellent and makes a very good and competent impression. The male however is, quite frankly, pretty useless. I am not sure if he just does not care or if maybe he may be still new to the job.

The doors close and the cabin crew come by distributing pre-packed refreshing towels (please excuse the hairy legs in the shot…).

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Luang Prabang airport is surrounded by some pretty high mountains on all sides, which makes for a rather interesting departure to gain height. We take off on runway 23 in a south-westerly direction. We then do a right turn, which brings us back over the airfield heading in an easterly direction. Once we are passed the runway, we do a left turn in a south-westerly direction again, once more bringing us back over the airfield.

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The Meal

Choice: There is no choice, but it is possible to order special meals in advance.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.

  1. Mushroom, bell pepper and corn salad.
  2. Noodles with broccoli, carrots and duck (served cold).
  3. Mandarin flavoured sponge cake.
  4. Coke Zero.
  5. Coffee.

Much to my surprise, we are actually served a full meal and it is not even that bad either. The main dish comes with a plastic sachet with some spicy sauce which really is quite tasty. After the meal coffee and tea are available.

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Arrival

Eventually we start our descent, to land in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi at 14h55, only slightly behind schedule. We taxi to an open stand and from there we are bussed to the terminal.

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The arrivals concourse is currently under renovation or reconstruction, so there is a lot of building going on. As my luck would have it, I end up queuing for a visa on arrival behind what looks like a whole aircraft load of Indians. It is quite simply chaos. The passengers, mostly men, seem to be travelling as a group and only a few have printed the PNR/e-ticket confirmation which you are obliged to show in order to get your visa on arrival… Eventually, after 45 minutes it is finally my turn and then I have finally arrived in Bangkok again.

Getting to the Hotel

Transport: Complimentary hotel shuttle bus.
Departs from: Outside the arrivals concourse. As you exit immigration, follow the signs for the Novotel shuttle.
Frequency: Every twenty minutes.
Journey time: About eight minutes.

I never quite understood why they even offer the shuttle to the Novotel at Suvarnabhumi airport. Quite frankly, unless you are travelling with copious amounts of luggage, you are probably better off walking to the hotel. It is certainly quicker. To access the Novotel on foot, simply head two floors down from arrivals upon exiting immigration. Follow the signs to the railway station. Once you arrive at the station, just keep on walking straight ahead. Eventually you will reach an escalator that will bring you up to ground level right in front of the entrance to the hotel.

Pak Ou Caves

The Pak Ou caves are best known for the hundreds of miniature Buddhas that have been placed in them. There are two caves, both of which are accessible only by steps leading up from the landing jetty on the Mekong river.

The caves themselves are not really that spectacular to be honest, but the journey up the Mekong from Luang Prabang is quite scenic and tranquil. The caves are 25 kilometres away from Luang Prabang and the journey upstream will take you roughly two hours to complete. For those who are not so comfortable on a boat, there is the possibility to take a bus from Luang Prabang to Pak Ou village. By bus the journey only takes 45 minutes. However, even the locals agree that the road to Pak Ou is in such a bad state of repair that the longboat up the Mekong is probably the safer option. Besides, the village lies on the other side of the Mekong, so you will still need to take a ferry to cross from the village to the entrance of the cave.

All in all, even if you are not much of a culture vulture, I can highly recommend the trip up to the Pak Ou caves. If nothing else, than at least it makes for a very pleasant and relaxed way to spend an afternoon in the Luang Prabang province.

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Amantaka Hotel Luang Prabang

Here is the link to the Amantaka website.

The centre of old Luang Prabang is fairly compact and located on a peninsula at the confluence of the Khan River and the mighty Mekong. The Amantaka hotel is perfectly situated on the edge of the old town, within walking distance of the morning and night markets and most of the attractions in the old town.

The hotel and villas are very elegantly designed, with light wood fittings and furniture. The suites are fairly large and many of them come with their own private pool.

The grounds of the hotel are stunning, very lush and open. In addition to the private pools, the hotel also has a large main pool right in front of the library. The pool is only 18 metres long, but it serves its purpose if you really want to swim a few laps. However, the hotel does also have a gym with a good range of weight lifting machines and cardio machines.

There is also a spa, and I can highly recommend the Lao massage, which is a pleasant combination of pressure, rubbing and stretching which I found very effective.

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Vietnam Airlines, Economy Class – ATR72: Siem Reap to Luang Prabang

Folie04

Introduction

After returning from Banteay Srei, I spend the rest of my time by the pool enjoying my last day in Cambodia. Eventually, at 15h00 I make my way to reception to settle the bill and then it is time for me to move on.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: The gorgeous old Mercedes Benz again.
Journey time: 20 minutes.

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I leave the hotel just after three o’clock in the afternoon. It is hot outside. Even so, the streets of Siem Reap leading to the temple at Angkor Wat are bustling with vendors and tourists. I think that is what strikes me most about Cambodia: even now, economically the country is still struggling to get back on its feet after years of civil war. But even so, there is something very optimistic about the country and wherever you go, you will likely have some snotty nosed but enterprising kid running after you, badgering you to buy a set of postcards for one dollar. But what you do not see, are people begging.

Check-in

Location: Ground floor, the entire airport is on one level only.
Facilities: Only airport check-in.
Counters: There are two counters checking in the Vietnam Airlines flight to Luang Prabang. Apparently, the flight continues to Hanoi.

The airport at Siem Reap is managed by a French company and is currently undergoing refurbishment and expansion. From the bits that have already been completed, I think the facility is going to look rather nice upon completion.

I admit that I am just a tad surprised to find a Vietnam Airlines SkyPriority sign at the airport. Quite frankly, the place is so small I would not have thought they would bother. But they did. The agent hands me my passport and boarding pass and gives me instructions for passport control and the lounge. Yes, apparently they have one…

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The Lounge

Location: After security, once you have passed through the duty free area turn right. The lounge is where gate 6 would be.
Type of Lounge: Contractor lounge operated by Cambodia Airport Authorities.
Facilities:
Small selection of warm and cold dishes, cold drinks, tea and coffee making facilities, workstations with computers. There are no toilets in the lounge.
Internet:
Not available.

Okay, I confess that I am surprised and just a tad impressed that a) there actually is a Business Class lounge here and b) that my Platinum status with Air France/KLM gives me access to the lounge even though I am flying on an Economy Class ticket.

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Boarding

The flight begins boarding at 16h30. I would say there are about fifty passengers on board. Once again, I take advantage of the fact that you have to walk across the apron to reach your aircraft and that the Cambodians see no problem in me happily taking pictures on the apron. Unfortunately, it is only once I board the plane that I notice I have been assigned an aisle seat next to some woman. So no pictures of our take-off. I wait until we are airborne and the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off before I move forward.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2.
Seat: Originally on 16C, an aisle seat. After take-off moved to 7A, a window seat. Both on the port side of the aircraft.
Pitch: I have no information about the pitch in inches or centimetres. But in any case, it is perfectly adequate and comfortable, even for a flight of two hours.
Facilities: Air vent and reading lamp.

The aircraft is operated in an Economy Class only seating configuration. Some of these aircraft are operated by VASCO – the Vietnam Air Service Company – on behalf of Vietnam Airlines. Or the other way round. In any case, this aircraft is fully Vietnam Airlines branded.

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The Crew

There are definitely two cabin crew on this flight, one male and one female. Possibly there is also a third, but I am not quite sure about that.
Interaction with the crew is zero. They seem okay, but that is all I can say about them.

The Meal

Delivery: Box.
Type of meal:
Snack.

  1. A sweet lime.
  2. A tuna fish sandwich with vegetables.
  3. A small bag of peanuts.
  4. A glass of still water.
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This is rather cool. I was kind of hoping there would be something to eat because I am hungry, but I was not sure what to expect on this flight. So I am pleasantly surprised to find that they are going to feed us. The meal is just right, I think. A small snack to tie me over until dinner. The tuna sandwich is tasty and certainly of a better quality than for example the sandwich I received on Air France on my flight from Zürich to Paris.

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Arrival

Just after 18h the captain comes on the loudspeaker to inform us about the flight’s progress. We will be starting our initial descent at about 18h15 for an expected arrival in Luang Prabgang at18h45, fifteen minutes ahead of schedule.

The approach into Luang Prabang is spectacular. The landscape is mountainous and we meander our way around quite a few high peaks before eventually we are lined up for the final approach.

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The airport is more or less deserted when we arrive. There is just one A320 of Lao Airlines standing around, which does not look as though it recently arrived from anywhere. But perhaps that is not such a bad thing, because the new terminal is experiencing a power cut as we enter the immigration hall…

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Citizens from Thailand and Switzerland do not require a visa to enter Laos. Most countries, including Malta, can obtain a visa on arrival. What you will need if you are eligible for a visa on arrival, is a passport size photo, a completed visa application form, which you can either get upon entering the terminal or which you can download from the internet, and an imbarcation card which should be distributed on the plane. You will also need USD31. I know the website tells you that you only need USD30 for the visa. However, what the website does not tell you, is that you also need to pay an extra USD1 to have your visa processed. Once the visa has been plastered in your passport, you move on to the next counter, where you pay the fees. Once that is done, you may queue to enter the country.

Getting into Town

Transport: Hotel shuttle.
Journey time: 15 minutes.

In Luang Prabang I shall be staying at the Amantaka. Without me even requesting them to do so, they have sent somebody to come and pick me up right after immigration and drive me to the hotel.

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Banteay Srei

Today I visit the temple of Banteay Srei, which lies about 30 kilometres outside Siem Reap. With the traffic and the narrow roads, it takes about 45 minutes to reach the temple grounds. Banteay Srei predates Angkor Wat, it is a temple dedicated to the Hindu gods. The layout of the temple is similar to that of Angkor Wat, with a moat leading around the temple proper and a causeway cutting across to the main entrance. Unlike Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, Banteay Srei was never used by the king and only served as a place of worship for the monks. The entire constructions is on one level only.

Today, the temple is best known for the detail and delicacy of its sculptures, which are mostly still in amazingly good condition. The place is worth a visit, but try to be there just after seven in the morning, it gets rather busy during the day.

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Angkor Wat

It is still dark outside as we approach the temple. Save for the thin light of my guide’s torch we are enshrouded in darkness and the sound of the forest. It is five in the morning and I can already feel the sweat trickling down my back. The gravel crunches under my feet and around us I can hear the sound of the crickets rubbing their legs together to cool themselves. I point this out to my excellent guide and in reply he gives me a quick run down of the best way to eat crickets, which apparently is quite normal in Cambodia.

And then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the temple of Angkor Wat rises before me. I can barely make out its silhouette in the darkness. We ascend the steep steps to the top level of the temple, from where you have a breath taking view of the sun rising in the east. At this time of morning it is just us up here – us and a small lizard clinging to the outer wall, eyeing us suspiciously. Gradually the light increases to reveal the imposing magnitude of Angkor Wat and I become aware of just how privileged I am to have the chance to visit this magnificent place.

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Amansara Hotel Siem Reap

Here is the link to the Amsansara website.

The Amansara is a beautiful facility in the centre of Siem Reap and only ten minutes away from the magnificent structures that make up the Angkor Wat UNESCO world heritage site.

The hotel was initially built as the private villa of King Norodom Sianouk. There are 24 villas in total, some of which have their own private pool. In addition, there is a larger pool for families with children, and there is a lap pool of 25 metres if you feel like doing a bit of exercise.

The hotel is very stylish and while the rooms are very modern and beautifully designed, it has managed to retain a certain old world charm, for example the ancient Mercedes Benz that I was picked up with when I arrived in Siem Reap.

The rate I booked for this trip includes breakfast and dinner and also gives you the opportunity to explore the surrounding area. I have a tour guide taking me around the sights in a Tuktuk, who is very knowledgeable about the country’s Khmer history.

And if you need a bit of relaxation after a long day of taking in the sights, I highly recommend the spa. They do an excellent 90 minutes oil massage which will leave you feeling totally relaxed!

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Angkor Thom

At 6h30 in the morning I meet my guide and we set off in what is the Cambodian version of a Tuktuk for the south gate of Angkor Thom.

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Our first stop is the celestial palace of Bophoun, which used to be the state temple of King Udayadityavarman. The structure is built on three levels, which symbolise hell, earth and heaven. The walls of the celestial palace are covered with relief images of Angkor’s history. In fact, there does not seem to be any flat surface on the walls of the temple.

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There are towers at the corners of the temple on each of the three levels. Every tower has four faces carved out of stone, which face the four cardinal points of the compass. To save weight, the towers are hollow inside. It is not know, if the faces were carved to resemble the king who commissioned the temple or the Buddah to which the temple is dedicated. The temple took 21 years to complete, although it is not known how many people worked on the temple. Upon completion, only the king and two of his monks were allowed to enter the sanctuary of the temple, where they allegedly received the divine inspiration for the king to share with his people.

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The royal palace is just slightly further down the road. Unfortunately, it is not as well preserved at the temple. That is because the entire structure of the temple is built of stone, whereas the edifices with the king’s private chambers were built out of mahogany wood. When the Siamese invaded the kingdom of the Khmer, they raised the capital to the ground and set fire to the palace. The centre piece of the roaly palace is a temple that predates the one of Bayan, it is a Hindu temple.

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If you are visiting the area, I would really recommend making an early start. By the time we leave the temple area at around 08h50, the roads are already starting to get clogged up with tourist busses, Tuktuks and elephants.

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Cambodia Angkor Air, Business Class – A 321: Guangzhou to Siem Reap

Folie05

Introduction

The trips with the A380 were fun. The A380 always is. No matter how often I fly her, I still find her fascinating every time. But this next flight I am looking forward to even more I think, because I shall be travelling on little known carrier Cambodia Angkor Air, the airline of the Kingdom of Cambodia. It just all sounds so exotic!

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Metro line 3.
Departs from: Zhoujiang Street station.
Frequency: Every two minutes.
Journey time: Fifty minutes.
Fare: RMB8.- per person for a single journey. Only notes of RMB5 and RMB10 or coins of RMB1 are accepted by the machine.

The Four Seasons Hotel is connected to the metro at Zhoujiang Street station via the IFF building. As you exit the hotel lift on the ground floor, turn right into the IFF, then right again and take the escalators one floor down. Walk through the friendship store until you reach the exit for the metro on the other side of the shop.

Check-in

Location: Departures are two floors up from the exit from the metro station, row H.
Facilities: Only airport check-in is available.
Counters: There are two counters available for check-in for today’s flight – H22 and H24. There is no separate counter for Business Class passengers.

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Guangzhou sees a lot of interesting traffic by the way, two rows further down from where my flight is checking in, I see signs for an Air Madagascar flight to Bangkok and Antananarivo. Ethiopian and Egypt Air also fly here.

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From check-in I follow the signs for the A gates, which are the gates for international departures. After customs and security I turn right for immigration. The airport is fairly busy, although I suspect this is what it is always like here. A new terminal is already under construction on the other side of the apron. The immigration officer stamps my passport to leave the People’s Republic and sends me on my way with a friendly wave.

The Lounge

Location: Near gate A112.
Type of Lounge:
Premium Lounge contractor lounge that is used by just a few airlines, including Cambodia Angkor Air.
Facilities:
There are no toilets or showers in the lounge. Other than that, the lounge does have a few computer work stations and a small selection of hot and cold dishes. Apparently this is just a temporary lounge, though.
Internet:
Free airport wifi is available, but you will need a Chinese mobile to receive the password.

Premium Lounges operates two facilities at Guangzhou. The larger one is just a few steps behind immigration. Even though it says so on the lounge invitation, this is not the lounge Cambodia Angkor Air uses. Instead, they use the smaller lounge near gate A112. The place is empty and surprisingly pleasant. The views of the apron are excellent.

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Boarding

Priority Boarding: No.
Boarding for the flight starts on time. There are only two of us in Business Class and judging by how quickly boarding is completed, I think Economy Class is probably not sold out either.

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About ten minutes after our scheduled departure time at 13h25, the captain comes on the mike to welcome us aboard. He also informs us that we have an ATC delay and therefore will not be departing from Guangzhou until 15h35, with a delay of more than two hours. We are going to have to wait on board the aircraft.

Quite honestly, I am not really surprised about the delay, given that so far not a single one of my flights to or in China was on time. Eventually though, we depart with a delay of only sixty minutes. By the time we reach Siem Reap, we are only running thirty minutes behind schedule.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2
Seat: I am sitting on 3A, which is a window seat on the port side of the aircraft. The cabin is in the configuration and branding of Vietnam Airlines, who lease the plane to Cambodia Angkor Air. Only the head covers are Cambodia branded. There are four rows in Business Class, which means a total of sixteen seats. The seat is wide and very comfortable for a flight of only two hours. There is even a foot rest which can be raised quite far up and the recline is decent. But there is something very old school about the seat too: the controls are mechanical rather than electric.
Pitch: No information available.
Width: No information available.
Facilities: Reading lamp, air vent.
Audio and Video: The safety on board instructions are given via the overhead video screens. In Business Class every seat has individual video screens. However, apparently Cambodia Angkor Air does not have an inflight entertainment system.

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The Crew

The service in Business Class is conducted by a charming and very pretty female flight attendant. As soon as I am seated, she welcomes me aboard and asks me what I will be drinking. A short while later she returns with a glass of orange juice and a cold towel. During the delay on the ground she comes to ask me if there is anything else I would like to drink. And I order a sparkling water.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice, then sparkling water.
Towel before the meal: Cold towel served on the ground.
Choice:
There are two choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.

  1. Mixed salad with Thousand Islands dressing.
  2. Chicken with rice and vegetables.
  3. Fruit
  4. Something that tastes very artificially of mango.
  5. Bread and butter.
  6. Tea or coffee.
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The meal is interesting, to say the least. The salad tastes of plastic. There is a taste of je ne said quoi that is only amplified by the salad dressing, which is about just as bad as that god awful stuff Lufthansa serve from a jar in First Class. The main course though, is tasty enough, although I am not really a fan of chicken on a plane. The fruit you cannot really go wrong with anyway, but that orange mango thingy…? The meal concludes with a cup of coffee. And then I lean back, read and enjoy the view outside. It is only now that it occurs to me that this is first blue sky I am seeing since I arrived in China. In the cities the pollution is so bad that you rarely see the sun, let along a blue sky.

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Arrival

Eventually we start our descent into Siem Reap. From above the place looks very rural. The nice thing about this small airport is that there are no airbridges, Jay! So I am going to have to trundle along the tarmac and take a few pictures along the way. Oh happy day…!

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The terminal is undergoing renovation and the arrivals hall looks very new. In addition to the e-visa I had to apply for ahead of my trip to Cambodia, every visitor must also complete an immigration form before queuing to enter the country. As I enter the terminal building, I am picked up by a gentleman representing my hotel, the Amansara. He escorts me past immigration and asks me to wait while he goes to have my passport stamped. As easy as cutting Swiss cheese…

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Getting into Town

Transport: This really old vintage Mercedes Benz.
Journey time: The journey to the Amansara takes from the airport takes me right past the temple at Angkor Wat and takes roughly 25 minutes. I think I am going to like it here…

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