Sunday, February 9, 2014

Penang to Los Angeles via Bangkok and Tokyo

This trip was from November and I'm only getting to writing a post about it now. My return trip from Penang, Malaysia took 2 days. My conference ended by noon and had a car waiting for me to take me back to my hotel where I packed up and headed to the airport. My hotel was the Hotel Equatorial Penang and it was a really nice large conference type hotel. It is the number 1 ranked hotel in the area called Bayan Lepas, which was just a few miles from the university where my conference was located. 

My first of three flights on the way home was in the late afternoon on Air Asia, which is the Southwest Airlines of Southeast Asia. I've flown them twice now and really like them. Their fares are quite low, but you have to pay for everything extra like legroom and baggage. My flight was just over 1.5 hours to Bangkok. Air Asia flies to Don Muang Airport in Bangkok which is the old airport. I had to stay one night in Bangkok because my next flight left from the new Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport very early the next morning. So there were no nice connections from Penang. 

The Penang airport is relatively large and has a nice airy terminal. Even though it has jetbridges, Air Asia uses stairs in both the front and back of the plane. With this setup, it's possible to load the plane very quickly.

I booked the first row so I had a ton of legroom. Since they charge for baggage, the overhead bins filled up quickly. I had to make sure I got everything out of my bag that I needed for the entire flight.

I pre-ordered a meal because it was almost half the price than if I bought it on board. The boarding pass shows what meal you ordered and I presented it to the flight attendant to get my nasi lemak. It is a Malaysian dish with rice and curried chicken.

The nasi lemak was really good and actually really cheap. I think it was only a few dollars. And, yes, those are little dried salty fish. I wish they didn't have their eyes looking at me, but it tasted fine.

We arrived at Don Muang Bangkok airport just when the sun went down. I had to take a taxi to the Doubletree Sukhumvit, where I would sleep for a few hours. The taxis in Bangkok are really cheap, but communicating your destination can be a little difficult.

My flight the next morning left at 7:00am, which meant that I had to wake up around 4:00am in order to get to the airport by 5:00am. I hate early morning flights almost as much as I hate overnight flights. By the time boarding had started the sun was already up. My flight from Bangkok to Tokyo Narita was on a United 747-400. The flight was packed.

I had a bulkhead seat on the aisle in the middle section. This plane didn't have a personal TV at every seat so the movies played on the main screen on the wall. They played the Internship and Star Trek. I watched the first movie, but couldn't keep my eyes open for the second one. The flight was just under 6 hours and it arrived in the early afternoon.

They served breakfast, which was ok and nothing special. One of the main noticeable differences between US and foreign airlines is the food. US airlines' food is usually not good and this was no exception.

About one hour before we landed in Tokyo, they served this fraction of a sandwich that took all of 2 and half bites to eat. It just had a slice of meat and slice of cheese. I don't even know why they bothered with food.

When I arrived in Tokyo it was early afternoon and quite a dreary day. I had about a 3 hour layover so I took the opportunity to walk around the terminal and take in the ANA lounge which is amazing with amazing food and views of the planes.

By the time my flight left Tokyo, it was dark so I didn't take any pictures. My flight from Tokyo back to LAX was on one of United's brand spanking new 787s. It really is a very cool airplane. Their seating in coach is 3x3x3 and my seat was on the aisle in the middle section. Fortunately there was no one sitting next to me so the lack of extra legroom was fine for me because I could stretch out sideways.

They served dinner right after take off with a sort of Asian-inspired entree that wasn't all that great. It's not like I expected it to be anyway. I wasn't all that tired so I watched a bunch of movies. I watched the new Star Trek movie, This is the End, The Heat and possibly one other movie that I can't remember. I did get a little bit of a nap on the overnight flight.

About 1.5 hours before landing they served "breakfast". It was fine. The flight landed around 11:00am and parked at the United terminal 7. I had never arrived from an international flight in terminal 7 and I don't think I ever want to again.

This is a shot of the very cool looking wing of the 787 from the 3rd door which was right by my seat.

This is the 787 that brought my back home and I was yelled at by a United employee for trying to take a picture of the plane. She said that this was a federal area. So what! Had this plane parked at a different gate and arrived from Houston, I could've taken its picture. I had been up for over 24 hours so I was quite cranky and not in the mood. The immigration process is ridiculous. You have to walk for what seems like forever underground. I have a feeling that you actually walk to terminal 6 where they have immigration lines. The Sydney flight landed right at the same time and the lines were quickly filling up.

I belong to Global Entry which is supposed to get you through the line super quick because you just deal with a kiosk instead of being grilled by staff who treat you like a criminal. They only have 3 kiosks and the line for Global Entry was twice as long as the normal line. It was so stupid. After clearing immigration it was another long walk to the bags which were waiting for me. It was a very quick trip to SE Asia for me and I was certainly glad to be back home.

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