23 hours. That’s how long it took from my takeoff from JFK to my touchdown in Hong Kong.
The single longest of these segments was the first. My (hopefully) 5-star, 14 hour flight from JFK to Seoul (ICN). Curious for the experience, I boarded my very first 777 to find a roomy feeling cabin with fancily contoured overhead bins! The seat was slightly wider than your average economy seat with slightly more leg room and a foot rest. We also had access to AVOD on an antiquated screen in the seat in front of us.
What REALLY set Asiana apart were two things: the service and the food!
Flight attendants were amazingly warm and helpful, quite unlike some of their American counterparts. Every ten minutes or so they came through with trays of water and orange juice. They never neglected or groaned at something a passenger asked or handed them in passing. Every request was answered amazingly promptly!
The lavatories were fashioned with some nice long haul accessories: mouthwash and fancy hand lotion.
For an economy class flight, the dining experience was exceptional. Sure, it wasn’t a multi-course meal you’d find in First or Business, but the portions were just enormous and came in real porcelain with real metal silverware.
For dinner, I chose the Korean option (which had been much hyped online)…traditional “Bi-Bim-Bab,” essentially a bowl of julienne vegetables (pickles, carrots, mushrooms, bean sprouts and something I do not know the name of) and ground meat (beef, in my case), which you add rice to and then season with sesame oil and chili paste to taste. It was served with a seafood soup which I suspected to be octopus or squid, as it had some rings floating in it and a Korean vegetable whose name I don’t recall, but was stunningly spicy! The Bi-Bim-Bab even came with its own instruction manual!
The great entertainment and experience made 14 hours seem much shorter than it actually was!
Unfortunately, we arrived in Seoul just after 4:00am so absolutely nothing was open. I spent over an hour just wandering the mammoth terminal to stretch my legs a bit.
It is a well suited airport for transiting, with an entire fourth level with shower rooms (which were free, but US$8 if you needed soap and a towel!), a transit hotel and plenty of free areas to nap in.
I loved the fact that the entire terminal had wireless internet (as did Hong Kong), but my one big complaint was that there was absolutely no place to recharge any of your electronic devices! This is a bit of a problem, especially when coming off such a long haul flight!
Also, do note that if you go through ICN (Incheon, Seoul’s new big international airport), all the vendors seemed to accept US Dollars for purchases, but at a considerable markup from what the exchange rate was. I stuck with charging things to my credit card…no sense in getting local currency for a layover at the airport!
Five hours later it was a short hop (3.5 hours) to Hong Kong, this time aboard a 747 Combi, which was more recently renovated than the earlier 777.
Finally, after noon local time (and 23 hours after my departure), I was standing in Hong Kong’s glistening new(ish) International Airport. After clearing immigration, I boarded the Airport Express Train, which whisked me to Hong Kong Island in a mere 24 minutes.
More on my first couple days in Hong Kong later!
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