Thai Airways Review

Since it was a 9 hour red-eye from Bangkok to Melbourne, we decided to cash in some United miles for a Business class ticket on Thai Airways. I hadn’t flown this airline before, so here’s a full review of the experience for those of you who geek out on these kinds of things.

Check-in was unexpectedly pleasant.  They basically escort you to a line-free counter where you take a seat as they process your documents and tag your luggage:

Thai Airways
Sadly I didn’t get a photo of the awesome sparkly fingernails of our clerk.
They have a special security screening area just for First and Business class passengers on Thai Airways. Suffice to say there was no line – the staff sprung into action as we headed their way, turning on all the machines and helping load our bags onto the conveyor. The immigration area was similarly empty… there were 3 counters for only the 2 of us.

We reclaimed our VAT and then I spent the rest of our baht on duty-free nail polish before we headed to the lounge.  Sadly, there was no champagne but an otherwise stocked bar, a vast selection of hot & cold food, fast wifi, and a spa.

Royal Silk Lounge in BKK
The main lounge was very long with lots of comfy arm chairs
Because we were flying Business (aka Royal Silk) class, we were each entitled to a 30 minute complimentary neck and shoulder or foot massage. I definitely took advanatge of that, even though I already had a 90 minute massage earlier that day.  It was a decent massage in a peaceful setting, followed by tea and cakes. I suppose I can overlook the lack of champagne since the complimentary massage was such a great experience.

Royal Orchid Spa
Massages happen on these comfy chairs in a private cubicle.
For some reason, they made everyone get rid of all their liquids at the gate…  this seemed odd since we cleared security ages ago. I basically had to dumb a bottle’s worth of water into a trash can.

The plane was a Boeing 777-300, with a great arrangement of seats: 1-2-1.  The middle seats alternated between cozied up againast each other (for couples traveling together)

Thai Air - Royal Silk

Or separated by the middle console, for people traveling individually.  This is a great design – everyone gets an aisle and you don’t have to feel awkward about sleeping next to a stranger if you are traveling alone.

Thai Air Royal Silk

The seats has crossbody seatbelts (like in a car)… would these actually be better for you in a plane crash?  If so, is it really fair to make safety a premium service on a flight?

The seats lie completely flat, and even my 6’2 companion was able to get comfortable (though it was a little tight for him). They also have a built-in massage function, which I can only describe as “subtly gropey”.

Thai Air Control Panel

While there was no champagne in the lounge, they had proper champagne on board which they served prior to take-off (and during the flight) in glass flutes:

The entertainment system was the usual UI disaster – tough to use with either your finger or a remote, the type was too small, and there were gratuitous animations that just made the UI seem sluggish.  They had an adequate selection of films to watch, but no exterior cameras as part of the flight info. It was a red-eye flight so we didn’t use it for very long.

The service was hit or miss. The German had very attentive staff on his side of the aisle – welcoming him, checking if he needed anything, bringing biscuits with his tea, etc. My side was very slow and sometimes forgot I had requested more water or a cup of tea.

The food was an absolute disaster – some of the worst I’ve had on any airline in any class. The bread was stale, dry and cold. Even the pineapple was mostly mealy and the English Breakfast tea was horrible. (And I’m not a tea snob! I really don’t know how they managed to make it taste so awful.) There wasn’t a single vegetarian option for any course. (We bought our tickets via United who rarely has my requested vegetarian meal on their flights, so I’m not at all surprised they didn’t have one for me on Thai Air.)

So all in all, a bit of a mixed bag…  it was certainly nice to be able to nap, though we still arrived discombobulated and very hungry.

Singapore: Part 1

We took a red-eye from Dubai to Singapore on Singapore Air, which is now my favourite airline.  Even in economy, the flight was actually pleasant!

Singapore Air
While you’re watching a movie, the remote displays the remaining flight time.

When we booked the flight, I was surprised at the selection of meals they had available – everything from specific allergies, to religious meals, to non-carb, and of course, vegetarain. The flight attendants were all very friendly (and have some pretty nice uniforms, too). And the seats were well-designed… there’s a cup-holder for your drink, a small mirror embedded in the tray table, and the entertainment system had a cool second-screen display on the remote. Considering it was an economy flight, this is the best food we’ve had, the largest pillows & blankets, and the most leg room. If you have the chance, I highly recommend flying them.

Singapore feels really easy to me.  I know this is partially because I’ve been here before (unlike Dubai or Cape Town), but also because its so clean and safe, easy to get around, and everyone speaks English. I’m particularly impressed with the metro, which is very cheap and easy to use – we went across town for less than $1 and the driverless trains are always perfectly punctual. People even stand back and let others exit before getting on! So civilized!

We started our visit by staying near Orchard Road, which is the main shopping street. After Dubai, I didn’t really need any more mall time, but there were also lots of dance classes in the area, cinemas, restaurants, etc., plus easy access to many other parts of the city.

I jumped at the chance to go see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (the latest Tim Burton film). The Chinese subtitles were only slightly distracting, and the large cinema had really nice reclining seats with headrests. I loved the film and would like to pay a visit to wherever Miss Peregrine shops. While Singapore is far from being a cheap city, we later relalized we paid less than $13 for the 2 tickets, so it was nice to learn that not everything is expensive here.

We met up with a former Apple colleague who lives in Singapore. It was great to see him and meet his wife. They took us for our first “hawker center” experience. Its basically a bunch of food stalls – kind of like if food trucks never moved – so you have access to all kinds of tasty food for very reasonable prices. Satay (aka “meat on a stick”) is very popular, plus there’s Indian, Japanese, Chinese, etc.  And its all very affordable.

Hawker Center
The German enjoying the meat-fest!

And then there was a stall which sold “cold desserts”, which sounded very appealing in the extremely muggy weather.  This turned out to be shaved ice with all sorts of strange toppings, including corn, red beans, coconut milk, etc. After the third bite of indistinguishable gummy stuff, The German declared he’d had enough.

Cold Desserts
They tasted as strange as they looked.

We followed it up with a drink at the sister bar to a place we loved in Cape Town. It was Friday night and everyone was out on the streets. Its so nice to be out late and not worry about which streets we walked down or how we were going to get home.

Sriram & Tanya
Our former colleague, Sriram, and his wife Tanya at Operation Dagger


One of the highlights from my last visit to Singapore was the champagne brunch at the Grand Hyatt. More than a buffet, they have 7 different cooking stations where chefs are preparing sushi, malaysian cuisine, british-style roasts, eggs, oysters, etc.  The cheese table was an impressive array of imported cheese and accompaniments, and I could go on for days about the desserts, which seemed to run the length of the dining room. And the best part? Every time you took 2 sips of your Perrier-Joeut champagne, they were there to top up your glass!  We stayed for hours, then took tipsy selfies on the way back to pass out at the hotel.


Now we’ve moved into an incredible house in a residential part of the western side of the city.  Some American expats that I found through Trusted Housesitters needed a dog and cat sitter for 10 days. We were pleased to discover that not only are the people and the animals very nice, but the house is a gorgeous modern home with a pool table, small swimming pool and blazingly fast wifi, plus its just a short walk to the metro.

Pet Sitting in Singapore

I think this is going to work out just fine…


Turkish Air Review

Before I start with all the dusty photos of me in safari clothing, I thought I’d give you all a glimpse of Turkish Air, which was a surprisingly fabulous flight!

I have never flown Turkish Air before, but we wanted to use our miles for the flight to Rwanda so this was basically the only option.  My friend Tim said they were nice, but I wouldn’t have expected our journey to Africa to be some of the nicest flights I’ve ever had! I’d rate them second only to Singapore Air. (Though I’ve never had the chance to fly Emirates.)

So for the plane/airline-geeks out there, there’s a detailed review below. (The rest of you will probably find this boring so you should maybe stop reading now.)

We were looking at two back-to-back 13 hour flights so I used my United miles to buy us Business Class seats. It was well-worth the miles, even though the second flight turned out to be only 6 hours. (Not sure why the United app said it was longer – though a pleasant surprise to find out it was 19 hours of flying instead of 26.)

The seats on this plane are very well-designed. There are generous amounts of leg room, plus a small cubby to hold your shoes and smaller bags, the top of which becomes part of the bed when you lay down.

A terrible photo of the seats.

The seat has a lot of buttons. (I’m still not sure what MR and M+ were for.) And there was an external lombar cushion as well. The table rotates 90° in case you need to easily get out of your seat during the (fairly long) dinner service. In other words, they really thought about how to make people comfortable.

Any ideas what MR and M+ are for?

In addition to the standard amenity kit (toothbrush, socks, lotion), they also provide slippers! This is a fantastic idea – its much easier and more comfortable to wear slippers instead of jamming your swollen feet into your shoes every time you need to go to the toilet. And they also provide noise-cancelling headphones for the in-flight entertainment system.

Before takeoff, they come around with fresh juices – orange, lemon & mint, or strawberry & lime. And they really do taste fresh. The flight attendants introduce themselves to you, and sincerely welcome you aboard. The hospitality on both of our flights was really impressive – people seemed genuinely friendly and happy to help. They should give lessons to United.

You’re then presented with a ridiculously large menu – one side is for pre-ordering breakfast, while the other half is dinner. They give you a pen to indicate your breakfast options which is collected by the chef. Yes, the chef. He’s wearing a chef’s hat and jacket, and was presumably making our food.

Dinner service starts with nuts, wine, and a flickering tea light. The fake candle was a nice touch, and they had a really nice wine selection. (Tattinger Reserve was their onboard champagne – I approve.)

Next you’re presented with a plate of small appetizers. My vegetarian meal almost never makes any of my flights, but it didn’t seem to matter this time. There were 3 things on the plate: I enjoyed the spanakopita and gave the shrimp to The German. We weren’t sure what the third item was, so neither of us ate it.

What followed was a selection of more appretizers from a trolley they wheeled down the

Appetizers from the trolley, with my tea light in the corner.

aisle. There was a huge selection of things like mixed chickpea salad, baba ghanoush (which was very good), watermelon & feta, etc. This was accompanied by warm bread with a side of oil & herbs or butter.

And then, before the main course, they offered pumpkin soup. (The volume of food on this plane was ridiculous.)

Its worth noting that almost everything was served on actual plates with real glasses and decent cutlery. And the most adorable salt & pepper shakers! (Which weren’t entirely easy to use, but I still appreciated the theme.)

Adorable salt & pepper shakers! (And note Muhammad Ali in the background)

While I didn’t love my main course (gnocchi), The German had a steak that looked like it was plated in a restaurant.

Next was the dessert trolley. They had cheese, fruit, chocolate lava cake, baklava, and fresh strawberries with whipped cream.

And just when we thought they couldn’t possibly offer us anything else, they came by with a huge selection of tea (with macaroons). It was ridiculous.

Return of the trolley

Hours later, dinner is finally over and they come by to make your bed. They add a pad to the length of the lay-flat seat, and give you with a nice big pillow and a thicker blanket.

A few hours before landing they wake you for breakfast. I was particularly impressed that they don’t just flip on all the lights at once (like the harsh ending to a nightclub)but gradually raise the lights on a dimmer. And everything has a warm hue to it so you don’t feel blinded.

The in-flight entertainment system had tons of movies and tv shows. They also had the option to view the cameras outside the plane (which I love). And when we approached the end of the trip, a notification came up to let you know there was connecting gate information – so handy! (I have many criticisms of the overall UI for the system, but we had a short connection so I was thrilled for the gate info.)

The best part about it all? I wasn’t freezing! This is the only plane ride in memory where I didn’t need a blanket and a coat to stay warm!

So if you have the chance, I highly recommend Turkish Air!


Budget Airlines

So just so you don’t think it’s all fancy pastries and champagne, we have been trying our best to minimize transportation and accommodation costs. We walk a ton or take public transit, are using frequent flier miles for flights whenever possible, and have stayed in some pretty crappy hotels (when we can’t find a reasonable AirBnB or aren’t staying with our awesome family or friends).

So this morning we took a 7am flight from Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris to Copenhagen on (Yes, the airline has the stupid “.com” in their name.)

We we originally planned to take the first train to the airport at 4:53 am, which would have gotten us there with about 75 minutes to check luggage and go through security, and only cost €20. The timing made me nervous, though, as you never know how long the lines will be at the airport or if we will get lost getting from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3. And my previous experiences at CDG always involved chaos and what seemed like miles of walking through the terminal.

With the current rail strike, our hotel said there’s no guarantee the first train would run, and we already experienced the effects of the strike when our train to Paris from Reims was cancelled and we had to wait 4 hours for another one. I thought we might be able to take a bus, but the schedule wasn’t working well with our flight time and my local friend implied the neighbourhood where we were staying wasn’t that great. A taxi would be €55 and Uber would be cheaper (if we could get one – it’s not very popular in Paris it seems).

So we set our alarm for 3:30am with plans to grab a taxi if no Ubers were available. We tried desperately to go to sleep early. It seemed like moments after we finally fell asleep, the hotel called our room (11:04pm) to ask if we wanted a taxi ordered for 4:30am. Sigh.

At 3:30am the alarm jolts us awake and we get ready rapidly. Check-out of the hotel takes 30 seconds, an Uber is there in less than 1 minute, and there’s absolutely no traffic so we get to the airport in 25 minutes instead of an hour…

…which means we arrive before 5am. And while we aren’t the first people there, its pretty deserted. And it’s too early to check in. So we are first in line and breeze through check-in and security rapidly  – murphy’s law since we had plenty of time to spare.

The terminal is small and dirty – the tables & chairs have food crumbs on them, and pretty much every chair is stained. There is only one water fountain and it doesn’t work. They had signs everywhere that they were testing new furniture and to take a survey about it on their website, but the wifi login screen redirected in some kind of never-ending loop, so I didn’t get to tell them that whatever chair they pick should get cleaned daily.  🙂 Given that we are the second flight out of that terminal, I’d hate to see what it looks like in the evening.

After some incomprehensible announcement in French, everyone rushes the gate agent to load onto a bus. They did their best to get every passenger on one bus, so its pretty cozy. Then we drove to the plane, where we watched the ground crew for 5 minutes or so before everyone was permitted to run from the bus to the plane.

Absolutely everything costs extra on this airlines – a glass of water or juice was €2.60. Picking seats was an extra €5 per ticket so we didn’t bother, which means we wound up across the aisle from each other (even though it seemed like there were plenty of opportunities for us to be seated together). And check out the leg room!

The German had to move seats twice because his seats were broken – the first seat didn’t have the bottom cushion part attached, and the second one was stuck in the reclinedposition. The person in front of me also had an auto-reclining seat, which meant the back of his seat was uncomfortably close to my mouth. And the plane was pretty much as clean as the terminal.

I laughed out loud when the safety announcement concluded with “It’s time to get comfortable and enjoy your flight”. Ha! Good luck with that!

So it’s not all glamorous out here on the road – we’ve just prioritized food & wine over convenient transport and nicer accommodation.