Friday, January 15, 2016

Asia Trip Notes # 1

January 15, 2016

Maybe it's true that we travel a lot. However, this trip (for business) was totally unexpected and certainly over the top when it comes to what we have to do. Eight flights and a minimum of 15 meetings have to be squeezed into less than three weeks. Customers, a trade show and a supplier require that we travel to Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, China and back to Korea. Sounds exciting? Exotic? In a sense it does except for the fact that (with some minor variations) we do this type of business trip almost every year.

Going through the Bradley terminal security was annoying. There were not enough security lines. Fast track was not available and where we thought there was enough time to relax in a lounge, we (only) had about 30 minutes before it was time to board the plane.

The Longest Day:

We started the trek to Seoul leaving Monday morning with a 15 hour flight on Korean Air Lines. Following a one hour layover, we then took another KAL flight (7 hours) to Singapore. (No direct flights these days!)

We got an unexpected surprise when we landed at Seoul. All transit passengers, regardless of where they were coming from and where they were going to, were herded into a very small area where there was another re-screening/security process. 

Hundreds of panicky passengers (with short transit times) continued to force their way through a small doorway leading to the security check area. When we finally got through (with less than an hour before our next flight would depart, we had to run from one end of a terminal to another.

To give you an idea what was involved, to get to the security area from our arrival gate would be like walking from Terminal 1 (Southwest) to Terminal 3 at LAX. After exiting the security area, we had to walk very quickly to the departure gate that had a distance from approximately Terminal 1, passing Bradley and ending up at the other side which would be Terminal 7 (United Airlines). We barely made it.

We were very concerned. In our mind, our luggage would not make the flight to Singapore. Thank goodness for attention to detail and the realization by someone - somewhere give our luggage special attention!

We arrived at our hotel at 2:00 AM (Wednesday), in bed by 4:00 AM and up at 8:00 AM to get ready for our first meeting. We were in bed by 10:00 PM that evening.

Let the "grind" begin.

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Of all the Asian airlines, KAL is right up there with Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, etc. Good food, excellent service and, with luck, the flight attendants (almost) understand a question that we may ask such as, "How does the entertainment equipment works?"

Our first, multi-course meal is worth mentioning: Seared scallop with yellow tomato coulis followed by an appetizer comprised of a crab meat salad, prosciutto and melon on a bed of fancy lettuce. The next course was carrot cream soup followed by beef tenderloin with a rosemary brandy sauce. Chilean sea bass and an assortment of Asian entrees was also available.

During the various food services, before serving drinks or tea, the flight attendants would hold the glass up to the light ensuring that the glass was clean. Nice attention to detail.

The top deck has two lounges where normal and specialty drinks are offered along with snacks. Both lounges are quite comfortable.

Even some of the restrooms are spacious.

Our flights were so lengthy and due to crossing the international dateline, we were presented a "Monday" newspaper on our first flight and a "Tuesday" newspaper on our second flight.

Take a look at our neighbor passenger. He must have had a super-strenuous itinerary!

Compared to the United States, there is a distinct cultural difference at the airport gates and on the plane when it comes to "greeting" passengers. At boarding time, the gate attendants bow together in unison. When the plane is ready to take off, the flight attendants will bow together in unison.

Rather than a Korean or an American-style chicken or fish dish, we happened to order beef tenderloin for both lunch and dinner. In each case, a flight attendant would ask us how we wanted the meet prepared i.e. medium rare. That would never happen on an American carrier.

There was one side dish (lunch) that was very strange. It looked like a minced fish. The flight attendant told us that it was Zin-kin. We kept saying, "What?" The flight attendant kept telling us that it was Zin-kin. Ultimately, we learned that it was - chicken!

The champagne, wines and liquors were also quite good as was the desert.

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On our first flight (A380 Airbus), there were about 400 passengers and 26 flight attendants. The plane was configured to carry even more passengers. The flat bed design that KAL provides is probably the most comfortable (and long enough) as airline fat beds go these days.

Taking off from LAX was amazing. Considering the amount of passengers, luggage and all the fuel that the plane had to carry, the mammoth airbus easily lifted off about halfway down the runway.

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Our first Singapore meeting carried on through lunch. Our hosts took us to a department store Chinese restaurant. For this type of restaurant, the food was actually quite good. Each dish had unique ingredients and was prepared in a way that was different from what we would get at home. Most interesting was the dessert and last serving of tea. The dessert was like a chicken soup presented in a large terrine. The large bowl was filled with goji berries and chopped up chicken bones. The bones were removed and the soup was served. There were different types of tea served throughout the meal. The last tea was so strong (to help the digestion) that it was almost impossible to finish.

Jerry and I joked a bit after our lunch - commenting that (most likely) we were going to be really tired of all the rice and tea that will consumed on this trip.


  1. I'm exhausted just reading about your trip over. Are you able to sleep on those long flights?

  2. We were even more exhausted re-living and writing the blog. Yes, without the flat beds and with some sleep that we did get, we would have been "Zombies" before the grind started!