Sunday, January 6, 2013

Upgrade to Premium Economy on ANA from Tokyo Narita to LAX

I had about a 27 hour layover in Tokyo, so I stayed at the Hilton Narita very nearby the airport. It's a nice hotel and it only cost ¥4000 about $48US. So including breakfast and access to the gym, this was a great deal. They even gave me a late checkout at 2:00pm because my flight didn't leave until 5:00p the next day. This hotel has shuttles to the train station and a local shopping mall. I took the shuttle to the mall to get something to eat and I found a place in the food court that sells one of my favorite Japanese foods, takoyaki. If you don't know what it is, then google it because it sounds much less appetizing than it actually is. The next day at checkout I headed back to the airport via the shuttle bus. Since I have gold status with Star Alliance, I was able to use a separate check-in area. There was no line and I walked right up. At this point my flight was leaving in about 2.5 hours. In my mind I was going to see if there was a way to upgrade myself to premium economy just to have a better seat and some more comfort, although ANA is plenty comfortable. I just thought I'd splurge and give myself a Christmas gift. So when I gave the agent my passposrt and asked to make sure that my seat was on the aisle, she confirmed that it was. I then asked if there were seats available in premium economy. She said that she would check and said that there were. Before I could even ask how much it would cost to upgrade, she said that she would give me a seat because coach was oversold and they needed my seat. SCORE. What a Christmas gift and I didn't even have to pay for it. I was excited to see ANA's new 787, which is about a year old now I think. This was the best picture I could get of one of them. I just love the 787s and you can see how large the wings are. 
This is my 777-300ER awaiting passengers. I took this from the ANA lounge where I ate soba and sushi. It is the best place to watch planes and I could've stayed there for hours. 
It was rainy the whole day and by the time I boarded the plane it was almost dark. This shot was taken from the jetway. 
Here's a shot of the bulkhead row of the premium economy cabin. There are only 3 rows of these seats. They are arranged in 2x4x2. I was on the aisle in the middle section. The seats are much bigger and more comfortable than coach. They also have a pretty good recline. They are about the same as domestic first class seats. The meal service is exactly the same as coach and you have to use the same lavatories as coach too. The service consisted of a dinner after takeoff and then breakfast about 2 hours before landing. They had snacks and drinks available in the galley during the rest of the flight.
This is another shot looking to the right. These bulkhead seats have a ton of legroom. This flight was slightly less than 9 hours long. The tailwinds are considerable in the winter months. Compare this with the fact that my flight 6 days earlier in the opposite direction was 12 hours.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Around Bangkok

This is the banner from the conference I attended at Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University in Bangkok. 
This conference was 5 days long and the conference shuttled foreign participants to and from the hotel near the city center every day. I never realized how terribly awful the traffic in Bangkok is. From the Centara Grand to the university was only 4.3 miles. It always took over 45 minutes to get to the university in the morning. In the evening it took about 60 to 90 minutes to get back to the hotel. At that rate, one could actually walk faster. 

I used this calculator in a workshop and I have never seen this one before. It's called a TI-84 Pocket SE.   It's much smaller than the ones we use. 
I need to get one but they were selling them for around $180US and I thought I'd pass. I'll wait until I get to Singapore or some other country to buy it. This was a shot from the double-decker shuttle bus one of the mornings. The street was lined with people and we were not moving at all.
This palace was very near the university and earlier in the month they held a celebration for the King's 85th birthday. Apparently there were hundreds of thousands of people who attended. If you are not familiar with the Thai people, they absolutely love their king and his picture as well as the Queen's and the Crown Prince's are everywhere in the city. He is the longest reigning monarch in the world and became king when he was only 19 years old. He was born in Cambridge, MA while his father was at Harvard.
The university was celebrating a milestone anniversary this week and the campus was being prepared for the royal family to visit. So the conference arranged for a couple of tours. I chose to go to the Grand Palace even though I had been there before. It was nice to have a guide this time and we were told all kinds of stories and history of Bangkok and the royal family. This picture is one of the most famous landmarks in Thailand. 

This picture shows the Emerald Buddha which is located within a temple, but taking pictures is not allowed.  So this is the best I could get.