Previous Posts from my South East Asia Trip Series:
Siem Reap, Cambodia: Ten Tips for the First-Time Visitor (Frugal Travel Guy)
As I was driving to Koh Samui airport on the day of my departure, my major concern was the Hong Kong airport. I had read reports about how aggressive they were in weeding out flyers with symptoms of infectious diseases, and I was slightly concerned. I didn’t have a hell of a fever, but I wasn’t feeling well. The ailment had hit me suddenly, without warning just a couple of days prior to my flight home. I had never had anything like that before; I’m perfectly fine one moment, and the next thing I know, I’m coughing, the back of my throat is itching like hell, sneezing, fatigue, you name it! The only thing that stopped me from worrying too much was the lack of fever. Well, that and my careless nature, I guess.
Jumping ahead, my transfer at HKG went fine, although there were workers all over the place with digital thermometers who were randomly (or so it seemed) would pick people out of the crowds. Maybe it was a couple of cocktails I downed on the flight from Phuket, but I almost felt OK. In any case, I was determined not to let anything prevent me from enjoying my experience at Wings First Class lounge, but later about that.
At one point in my journey, I almost began to worry. For many years I had always rented a car on my trips and never had a problem. Well, not this time. On the 26th, I checked in my second hotel on Koh Samui, Mai Samui. When I came back from the hotel reception to my car, I witnessed this.
Of course, everyone denied everything. It’s clear that the impression was left by a scooter handle, and theoretically it could’ve happened anywhere. It could’ve happened at Conrad. It could’ve happened at LamaiBeach, the night before. It could’ve happened at Mai in that 20-minute interval that I was at the reception (that would be my bet), but the point is I was SOL. I couldn’t prove anything anyway. The possible consequences, and not my sickness, was what was running through my mind on my way to the airport on my departure date.
The problem was exacerbated by the fact that my flight was departing around 8AM, and I knew from my arrival experience, that Koh Samui Avis girls were not exactly early birds. With a damage to the car, I ran a risk not to make my flight or face some unresolved issues from Avis.
Everything went fine, however. I arrived around 7AM and left the car at their parking place. Went to the counter; they hadn’t been there, so I left the keys with the Hertz girls in the next booth and went on to check in to the departure area (it’s an open-air airport, with some beautiful shops, cafes, etc.). Walked into a huge line for the Bangkok Airways and asked the attendant to cut it for me since I would’ve never made it in time (had failed to check in the day before, something I always do, well almost). Got my boarding pass and got back to the Avis counter, to see the girl had arrived and assured me everything had been fine with the car (well, I asked so my conscience is clear).
I only had about 10 minutes before they would begin boarding, but then I saw the sign for the Bangkok Airlines Blue Ribbon Lounge Club. As a coach passenger I wouldn’t have been eligible for the access, but since I had the PriorityPass (at the time), I immediately knew what my duties were. I walked in and ordered a diet coke, which was just an excuse for making a few snapshots.
The 1-hr flight to Phucket was on a turboprop. The plane was cute, and the flight was very smooth and uneventful with an obligatory Bangkok Airways breakfast.
We arrived at Phuket airport just five minutes after nine, and the Dragon Air check-in booths wouldn’t open until 10AM. That was unfortunate, since I had access to three (!) lounges at HKT and it would cut my lounge time at Phuket to only two hours to sample them all. Oh well…
The first lounge that I was eligible to visit due to my premium-class Dragon Air/Cathay Pacific ticket was Malaysian Airlines. It’s an OK lounge, a little on a small side, with some tasty snacks, beers and booze, and decent WI-Fi speeds. Note, there is no bathroom inside the lounge, and well, yeah, no showers, either, apparently.
But I was curious about the two other lounges that I had access to with my Amex Plat/Priority Pass, the Coral lounge and the Lux. And let me tell you this: if you’re at HKT, skip whatever other lounges you might have access to and head straight to the Coral because it beats the Malaysian and many others I’ve been to with a long, long stick!
Not just because of much better food and alcohol line (I was stuffed after the breakfast on the plane and snacking at the Malaysian lounge, so pace yourselves), not just because there was no other pax’s inside, not just because of the foot massage machines, but because they give you one of the best neck-and-shoulders massage you’ll have ever experienced! The lounge is separated from the terminal by a glass wall, and it was kind of weird watching passengers watching me getting the message, sipping cappuccino, and enjoying myself. Good times!
The third lounge was located right by my gate. It was separated by the bead curtains and didn’t really look like anything. I peeked inside, but didn’t bother to enter. Although they had those large massage chairs, so it was not without a virtue.
Asiana First Suite VS. Cathay Pacific First Suite
The Dragon Air business class recliner seat on the route from HKT to HKG was very comfortable; more comfortable than Asiana business from Seoul to Siem Reap in fact, and the plane was newer with a better décor and color scheme. The food was great too, as was the entertainment. Sorry, no pictures of the flight; I had a couple of drinks, watched a movie for a few minutes and dozed off. Cathay Pacific intra-Asia business class wins. Either one, however, beats Air France intra-Europe business class, which is a seat with a blocked middle section. What a disgrace! 🙂
Then it was The Wing First Class lounge at HKG. What can I say that hasn’t been said already about this fabulous club? I’ll better show.
On the way to Siem Reap, I spent a couple of hours at the Asiana First Class Lounge in Seoul. It was a great lounge too. The shower cabins at The Wing are OK, but not as spacious as in the Asiana First Class Lounge in Seoul. The Asiana lounge wins there.
The Wing Showers
But why settle for a shower cabin anyway, when you can get the whole cabana to unwind. The Asiana lounge has a few quiet rooms with massage chairs, but there is nothing like this at the Asiana. The Wing wins by a huge margin.
The Asiana lounge has very nice comfortable chairs, a grand piano and a great food station. They even have Haagen Dazs! How do you beat that?
You beat that with a champagne bar, a regular bar, a buffet and a full service restaurant. Granted, there is no Grand Piano at The Wing, but it still wins overall by a huge margin. Again!
And by the way, Champagne pairs nicely with The Wing Lounge sunsets if you find yourself there at the right time.
The chairs and work pods are actually comfortable; they are not there just for the decoration, but the Asiana lounge chairs are comfortable too. I will be gracious and declare a tie this time around.
Cathay Pacific First Class Suite
There have been a lot of Cathay Pacific first class reviews (which hasn’t been the case with Asiana suites, so read my detailed Asiana report here). My Cathay Pacific flight was every bit what I expected: an unbelievable pampering experience. The seat/bed was super comfy and even bigger than Asiana, something that I did not expect considering how large an Asiana seat is. But most of all, it’s the service delivering unparalleled luxury. Every time my eyes would wander away from the monitor or my computer screen, one of the three FAs serving the three of us lucky first-class passengers, would get near asking what else she could do for me. It was ridiculously over-the-top.
So Asiana or Cathay? The service belongs to Cathay, but the hard product is Asiana’s all the way. The Asiana suite is just too good. Sliding doors provide unparalleled privacy (OK, so I haven’t flown in a Singapore suite, don’t shoot me), and the size of 32″ monitor makes the Asiana suite a winner too. The Bvlgary Amenity kit also has a more luxurious feel to it. While the Cathay seat is wider, the Asiana bed is longer. As to food offerings, I have to declare a tie in this department.
Caviar Service on Asiana
Caviar Service on Cathay Pacific
I’m really happy I’ve had a chance to sample these two truly exceptional first-class products, but from now on, it’s business and coach for me. This incredible luxury is not really necessary. While a business-class seat/bed on a 16-20-hr flight might be considered a necessity for a big guy like me (well, that’s a stretch, I know), anything more than that, in my opinion, is just overkill and the waste of my hard-earned miles. I know, a lot of my fellow hobbyists feel differently about it, and that’s fine. I won’t hold it against them. 🙂
That’s it for my “epic” trip, (sigh). Strictly for extreme aviation geeks, I also have an outside behind-the-gear video of the night JFK descent. It’s too long, though, so I need to cut it first, which means I gotta learn how. Hi-Tech stuff, you know. 🙂 Stay tuned.