Flying to SFO

This blog is always a bit delayed. We’re actually already in Maui and have been in San Francisco for the last week – and yet I am still writing about things that happened last month in Bangkok! Anyhow, our flight over on EVA Airways, a Taiwanese airline, was smooth.


Our airplane in San Francisco after our arrival. Temperatures were cold and breezy, as only a San Francisco summer can be!


Flight over – “Elite” class, which is EVA’s premium economy cabin. Airfare is higher this summer than when I traveled over this past December. Nonetheless, I’m at an age (and height) where a little extra space makes the trip much more enjoyable.


While EVA’s food is generally good, this flight’s food was exceptional. Out of Bangkok, I had a Penang curry beef dinner with a duck pate over salad, fruit, and ice cream for dessert.


Closer look at the beef curry – instead of small pieces it was a petite steak. Very flavorful.


Strawberry ice cream, complete with little strawberry seeds. Of course, it arrived frozen so solid that I had to wait ten minutes to be able to make even the slightest dent in it!


Tawn on the air train to the car rental facility in SFO. Because we arrived in the early evening, there was no wait at immigration and customs. We breezed through immigration in less than three minutes and the bags started arriving within fifteen minutes of getting off the plane. In fact, we were in the rental car driving away from the airport within an hour of landing. Pretty impressive!


Taipei Wrap Up

Despite traveling from one end of Taiwan to the other on the High Speed Rail, I was back in Taipei by ten minutes after noon.  I rushed to one of the subway lines and a few minutes later, met my friend Jay for lunch at a large hotel.


Jay and I worked together during the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival many years ago.  He has since moved back to Taiwan and is running a company that produces and distributes various media with an emphasis on television channels.  After lunch, he invited me to attend a press conference that was being held to promote a competition held by the Syfy channel.


Lin Yu-hsien, Director of the 2011 Taiwanese hit film Jump Ashin, appeared at the press event with two young ladies who, if I understand correctly, work with the tourism board and produce all sorts of internet media.  Their “thing” is that they plank all over the place in Taiwan.  Why anyone would choose to lie face down on a hotel conference room’s carpeting is beyond me.  How they relate to the Syfy channel contest is beyond me, too.  Made for an interesting experience, though.


Afterwards, Jay and I embarked on a somewhat whirlwind series of events.  First stop, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum where we breezed through several exhibits including one featuring works by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.  Maybe we weren’t in much of an art mood, but neither Jay nor I were particularly impressed by the artist’s works.  The one above, “Forever Bicycles,” is perhaps the best-known work in the exhibit.  It is visually interesting but I’m not sure that it really says all that much. 

We also stopped for coffee at the downtown Taipei airport and hung out on the observation deck, which has good views of flights coming and going for “near international” destinations like Tokyo and Shanghai. 

I headed back out to Taoyuan Airport, the main international airport, using the high speed train and bus connection.  As our schedules worked out well, I was able to meet Xangan Jack (made2order), who had just returned to Taipei a week earlier and was helping a chef friend at the Novotel airport hotel conduct a cooking class.  No pictures, unfortunately, but enjoyed talking food and cooking with him and the chef friend, an Indian man who has worked in Taipei several years.

Back at the airport, I zoomed through security and immigration and headed to the lounge, where my carry-on bag was waiting for me in the locker.  Enough time to shower again, change clothes, and catch my breath before boarding the flight to Bangkok.


As I mentioned in my previous post, I used miles to upgrade to business class on this final segment of my trip.  I did this primarily to make sure I had access to the airline lounge, lest I end up stuck at the airport for my entire 15-hour layover.  The other benefit, of course, was that my final three-hour flight was an extremely comfortable one!


Menus were distributed before takeoff along with glasses of Champagne.   EVA has started distributing menus for the economy class on long-haul flights, too, which seems a little silly but at least you end up feeling like your choice of meals is a bit nicer than just “chicken or beef”.


Business class cabin on the A330.  The load on this flight, which continues from Bangkok to Vienna, was light, maybe 40% in business class and not much more in economy.  The man sitting across the aisle from me was also taking lots of pictures so I guess someone else has blogged about this flight, too.


Appetizer of a chicken pate served in crust with salmon roe and salad.


Choice of various breads including garlic toast.  The one of the right is a rustic whole grain bread.


My selection for dinner, poached noodles with braised beef shank and tendon served in superior sauce.  Very tasty, although a little bit of tendon goes a long way for me.


On-board espresso machine produces lattes and other drinks to order with a rock sugar stir stick.


Dessert was a modest fruit plate.


Business class passengers were given an immigration priority lane pass, which was really pointless for a 2:30 am arrival as that is after the last wave of arriving flights and there are no lines at the immigration counters.  That said, I breezed through and was the first to arrive at the baggage claim.  I then had to wait fifteen minutes for the bags to start arriving.  Thankfully, mine were among the first few bags to come off the belt!

Catching a taxi home, I was in bed by 4:00 am, exhausted from my more than fifty hour journey from Kansas City.

On the Way to Kansas City

Now that I’m safely back in Thailand, let me share some highlights from my recent trip to the United States.  This first portion covers the trip from Bangkok to Los Angeles and San Francisco on my way to Kansas City.


Self-portrait on the Flight Information Display Signage.  Thankfully, I scheduled a 12:40 pm departure which meant I didn’t have to get up too early or rush to get to the airport.  Instead, time for a leisurely breakfast before hailing a taxi.


On the climb out of Bangkok, I could still see some lingering effects of the flooding.  While these rice paddies normally have water in them at this time of year, you can see how the vertical boundaries between many of the paddies have been erased.  The water is still high enough in this area to the northeast of the city that water flows across dikes and roads, combining multiple paddies into small lakes.


The connection through Taipei was smooth and we landed about thirty minutes early in Los Angeles in the mid-afternoon.  Here, I snap a photo of my plane before boarding a bus at the remote parking area.  Winds were very high and were blowing offshore, the opposite of the usual direction.

P1180498 P1180479

Los Angeles is a great place to see the world’s largest passenger airplane, the Airbus A380.  Qantas sends multiple planes there daily, one of which is hidden behind the other in the picture on the left.  Singapore Airlines also sends an A380 to LAX (above right) and Korean Airlines and Air France will soon join them, too.


I connected to Southwest Airlines for a flight up to San Francisco.  Had I realized that my 6:00 departure was going to be delayed, I would have hustled over from the international terminal and tried to make the 3:30 flight instead.  While waiting for my flight, a teenager practiced his violin, playing very well for an appreciative crowd of passengers.


A young girl gets her start as an aviation enthusiast, watching the planes as her father “flies” her through the air.


My high school friend Ryan, pictured above with his 2-year old son, picked me up at the airport and we were able to catch up over dinner – Vietnamese noodles! – before I crashed on an air mattress at his house.  While I was only in the San Francisco area for about 12 hours, it was very nice to be able to see Ryan and his family again.


After some coaxing, Elliot decided it would be okay to pose for a picture with Uncle Chris before heading to the airport.


The weather on Friday morning was crisp and clear, allowing for a beautiful view of San Francisco as we took off to the north, climbing towards Oakland. 


After buying Midwest Airlines, Frontier adopted their practice of serving fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies onboard.  A nice touch at an airline that is hard to distinguish from all the other domestic carriers.  After a tight connection in Denver, I arrived in Kansas City about 5:45 Friday evening.


Flying to LA on EVA

Tawn and I flew from Bangkok to Los Angeles yesterday, a journey that was about 18 hours gate-to-gate and went pretty smoothly, thanks to the good service of EVA Airways of Taiwan and an upgrade on the transpacific segment to business class. 


In the EVA Airways lounge in Bangkok we had a bite to eat, including this passable pad thai.  Not bad for something that was prepared in advance and was sitting, covered, under the heat lamps.


And ice cream!  Passion fruit and cookies and cream.  That was a nice treat.


Nice view at the gate area at Bangkok Airport in the mid-afternoon sun.


Our flight out of Bangkok was in the premium economy class, which offers about 6 more inches of legroom than regular economy and one fewer seat across the width of the cabin.  Only a little bit more expensive than economy class – and actually similar in price to what US carriers charge for their economy class – and a lot more comfortable.  The food is nicer, too.  This was the dinner served out of B angkok.


Close up of my chicken and rice dish, which was very nice.


Tawn’s seafood and noodles wasn’t very pretty, although it did taste okay.


In Taipei we visited the EVA Airways lounge, which is available to even their “silver” tier fliers, which is a relatively low bar to achieve.  Two flights from Bangkok to the US is pretty much enough to keep that status.  While in the lounge, Tawn tried some of their congee (rice porridge) which he pronounced was quite tasty.


For the Taipei to Los Angeles segment we cashed in some miles to upgrade to business class, which is a nice way to fly.  Considering I’m not at a point in my life where I would ever consider paying for business class, using miles is about the only chance I have!


Appetizer of smoked duck breast, pate served in a plum, and shrimp.


One of the benefits of being in business class on EVA is that you can pre-order dishes from a special menu available online.  That way you know exactly what you will have to eat.  I ordered lamb chops served with mint sauce, gratineed potatoes and mixed veggies.  Tasty.


Tawn’s dish, which he pre-ordered.  A Chinese style sea perch with three types of sticky rice and steamed veggies.  The sauce is made of fermented soybeans.  Tasty.


Fruit plate


Some sort of a cake, served with chopped pistachios.


During the flight, the window shades were closed, lights were dimmed, and in the business class cabin, there are LED “stars” in the ceiling and a cool blue glow.  The idea is that the ceiling lates can gradually change colors to simulate sunset and then sunrise in order to help you adjust your circadian rythm.  However, they change a bit too quickly for that to happen.


Before landing, Tawn enjoyed congee (“jok” or rice porridge) with a variety of condiments.  Compared favorably with the one served in the lounge before the flight.


Made to order latte with a crystal sugar stir stick.  Very nice.


Special ordered “breakfast” shortly before our descent into LA: chicken noodle soup with pickles and side dishes, made by Din Tai Fung restaurant in Taipei.


Coming in over the central coast area of California as the sun’s rays grow long on the hills, about 7:40 pm.


Coming in over west Los Angeles, about ten minutes before landing.  We were a few minutes ahead of schedule but, even then, it still took about two hours to get through immigration and customs.  In any case, we’re here now!


Flight to Los Angeles

The flight from Bangkok to Los Angeles (and then on to Kansas City) was smooth, thankfully.  I flew EVA Air, a Taiwanese airline that I fly regularly.  Service was good, prices competitive, and the food actually was pretty tasty, too.


Since I fly back to the US about twice a year, I qualify for “silver” status in their mileage program.  One thing I like about EVA, something that sets it apart from most airlines, is that silver tier status gives you lounge access.  When having to show up to the airport so many hours in advance and having long connection times, having access to a lounge is nice.  The picture above is the one in Bangkok, which is by far the nicest of the EVA lounges that I’ve seen.


Good selection of food in the lounge, including this gaeng kiaw waan gai – sweet green chicken curry with rice.  Really tasty!


In Taipei I had a four-hour connection and had some time to look at a display they have celebrating Taiwanese ceramic arts.


This piece is called Skeletal Bottle, by New Zealander Peter Collis.  Beautiful, no?


Beautiful serving bowls.  Wish I could have bought one.


They have three pieces, one unglazed, one with the decoration partially painted, and a finished piece that has been glazed and fired.


On my flight from Taipei to Los Angeles I had booked economy class, which on EVA’s 747 includes seating in the upper deck.  The seats up here have about 35 inches of pitch, versus 33 inches downstairs.  Compare that to 31 inches in economy class on most US and western airlines.  I asked for an exit row seat and got the “window” seat right next to the exit door.  Great legroom but no window.  Plus, there is a little “exit’ sign that was right above the armrest, and kind of restricted where I could put my arm.  Probably should have just stuck with the aisle seat I had a few rows forward.

Not complaining, though.  The seat was pretty comfortable, I was able to sleep about five hours on the eleven hour flight, and the selection of films was good.