Korea Day 1 (1 Jan 16) – Shopping in Myeongdong and Garosu-gil

Arrival In Seoul

Finally arrived in Seoul Incheon Airport after a red eye flight from Singapore via Bangkok. My friend and I had been talking about visiting Seoul since 2 years ago, we were excited about the trip and hope to see snowing in Seoul during this trip, since we visited in the middle of winter. After collecting our luggage, we headed to the SK Telecom counter in the airport to collect our pre-booked wifi router. More on a short review of the router later. After collecting our wifi router, we headed towards the subway station for our trip towards downtown Seoul. There are 2 sides to the station, one for the normal service, and another for the express train towards Seoul. We went to express train (known as AREX) to get our tickets to downtown Seoul. Taking the AREX saves us around 10 mins, however the most important difference is the allocation of seat for AREX compared to the all-stop train service. For travelers who would want to get some more rest, go for the AREX where seats will be assigned.
Arrival at Seoul Incheon Airport
Seoul Airport Subway Station Building
Got our AREX tickets. Do Keep the receipt as it shows your seats, the staff will check the paper receipt when boarding the train and when inside the train while transiting to Seoul
Inside the AREX Train
Map of the train showing the difference between AREX and the all-stop train services
Scenery of Korea along the way to Seoul onboard the AREX

Check in hotel

The ride to Seoul station whiz past fairly quickly. We headed for the exit that leads us to our hotel. It is around 9.30am and the hotel would not be able to check us in for another hour. Rather than sitting around and wait for time to pass by, my friend and I opted to check out the nearby Lotte Mart. The supermarket opens at 10am. We waited for another 10 mins, queuing up to enter the supermarket with the rest of the customers, locals and tourists alike. When the door opened, customers entered the supermarket orderly. We were given Korean traditional new year cake as we entered the supermarket. The supermarket is no different from any hypermarkets with loads of groceries organised into the various alleys. My friend and I walked around a little and decided to head back to the hotel to check in and wash up, getting ready to explore Seoul.

Arrival at Seoul Station
Taking a wefie before heading to the hotel
Seoul Station
It is a short walk to the hotel from Seoul Station. There are some homeless people sleeping inside the station, however they cleared out during the day and was not distributing anyone using the subway system.
Arrival at the hotel
Hotel is dressed up for x’mas
Took this picture from the hotel lobby while waiting to be served

Change of Plan

Our plan today was to head to Namsan and N Seoul Tower in the morning, followed by heading out to Suwon in the afternoon and spending our night in Gangnam area. Sound like a plan, however the plan did not go as we wanted. As with most travels, one should plan and get ready to adjust the plan as one go along. We left the hotel at around noon and headed to Namsan via the subway. Getting to Namsan by the subway, requires us to stop at the subway at Myeongdong area. We exited the subway station, spent some time navigating towards the cable car station that will bring us up to Namsan. When we arrived at the cable station, we saw a queue snaking from the station. We joined the queue, which was moving very slowly. After around 10 mins, we reach a sign that says “70 mins wait from this point”.  At this point I turned to my friend and say ” I feel stupid waiting 70 mins for a cable car ride, why not we come back some other day”. My friend agreed. Later did we realise it is New Year’s Day. Most of the locals took this opportunity to get out and visit some of Seoul‘s major attractions as well. Hence it hit us that it is a bad day to visit any attractions. My friend turned to me and asked “so what now?”. I proposed that we head to the nearby Myeongdong shopping area as a change of plan, and we did.

On our way towards Namsan Cable Car Station
Some eateries along the way
Eateries along the way to Namsan Cable Car Station
More eateries along the way
View of N Seoul Tower from the cable car station
Namson Cable Car Station

Myeongdong

Myeongdong is one of the major shopping districts in Seoul. There shops for practically everyone, but most of the shops seem to be catering to female visitors. One should cater some time to get one’s bearings when visiting Myeongdong for the first time. I was overwhelmed when I first arrive at Myeongdong, due to the number of shops in the area as well as the massive number of people visiting. As we walked around Myeongdong, we noticed there are tons of shops selling Korean brand of facial care products such as FaceShop, Innisfree, Nature Republic to name a few. These Korean brand facial products are cheaper here in Korea than anywhere else in the world, attracting tourists. Most of the shops here does VAT refund for foreigners. Essentially they will print out a receipt for foreigners, which is required to be produced at the airport when departing. There are some other international brand facial care shops in Myeongdong as well. Frat not for those who has missed their favourite skin care shops, there is always another one down the street in Myeongdong or round the corner. Other than facial care product shops, there are numerous boutiques selling cloths ranging from the familiar Uniqlo to Adidas to H&M and Forever 21. As it is public holiday, it seem most of Seoul has congregated here in Myeongdong. Other than having to squeeze past hordes of shoppers to Myeongdong, the main street is also filled with make-shift push cart stores selling clothing, socks, beanies to name a few. There are also street food on sale along the streets from some of these push carts. As we walked around, we seem to have lost track of time as we were overwhelmed with the shopping scene in Myeongdong. By the time we thought we were done with the shoppings, it is already near evening time. We realise we did not even have the time to head over to Suwon (which is around 1 hour by subway), and decided to head towards Garosu-gil at Gangnam area.

 

Myeongdong from opposite the street
Other than the shopping area, there is an underground shopping belt at the subway station
Exiting to Myeongdong from the subway station
Myeongdong shopping district
Street food at Myeongdong
More street food at Myeongdong
Shopping paradise
The amount of visitors in Myeongdong is massive!
Some of the shops in Myeongdong
Shopping in Myeongdong
Shopping in Myeongdong
Shopping in Myeongdong

Garosu-gil, Gangnam

It did not take us long to reach Garosu-gil in Gangnam via the subway. Garosu-gil laterally means tree-lined street in Korean. Garosu-gil is around 5 mins walk from Sinsa Station. True to its name, the street is lined with trees and is another shopping district in Seoul. However, the shops here in Garosu-gil is different from that in Myeongdong. Compared to Myeongdong, Garosu-gil feels more upmarket with pictures artist studios, galleries, designer clothing shops and cafes along the ginkgo tree-lined street. There are some shops selling local designer brands here in Garosu-gil. Garosu-gil is not as large as Myeongdong, stretching about 1km. There are also fewer shoppers at Garosu-gil compared to Myeongdong. For those whom prefer a shopping district with fewer people, do visit Garuso-gil. There are also shops selling the popular Korean facial care products shops here. We spent around an hour walking along Garosu-gil, and decided to head for dinner.

Start of Garosu-gil
Me at Garosu-gil
Garosu-gil shopping scene. Compared to Myeongdong, there are fewer shoppers here.
Garosu-gil is a nice place to stroll
Shopping in Garosu-gil
Along Garosu-gil
Garosu-gil
Me at Garosu-gil
Perhaps the only shop with a long line in Garosu-gil. These people are queue to take picture with a gigantic line bear plush toy
Garosu-gil
Shopping in Garosu-gil
Garosu-gil

Mapo Sutbul Galbi

Prior to our trip to Seoul, I did some research on youtube. One of the restaurants that I came across is Mapo Sutbul Galbi. This restaurant mainly serves Korean BBQ and is famous for their pork short ribs. As the restaurant is in Gangnam area, we decide to head over for dinner. As I did not get the address, mainly relying on Google map, it took us around 45 mins to locate the restaurant from Garosu-gil. By the time we reached Mapo Sutbul Galbi, we were famished. As we walked into the restaurant, we realised we were the only foreigner in the restaurant. Although the staffs spoken very little English, upon realising we were not local, she immediately brought a menu with pictures and English wordings. We ordered pork ribs and pork belly. As with most Korean restaurants, other than the meat, side dishes were also brought to the table. The thoughtful staff stayed with us throughout, helping us grill our meat, occasionally peeling away to top up our side dishes such as Kimchi as soon as they are emptied. The staff even changed our grill 3 times during our stay in the restaurant. The pork are well marinated and the side dishes are very tasty.

After walking for 45 mins we finally found the restaurant
Side dishes
Traditional charcoal grill and more side dishes
This red looking side dish is crab. It is very tasty
Side dishes
Pork belly on the grill
Pork short ribs
Kimchi Soup
Vegetables and mint leaves to warp up the meat

Dongdaemun

After dinner, we headed to Dongdaemun Shopping district. Emerging from the underground subway station, the Dongdaemun or the East gate that once surround Seoul stood timelessly by the exit of the subway station. The ancient monument was closed off at the time of our visit, not too sure if it is ever open to visitors to scale. Not too far from the East Gate is the Dongdaemun Shopping district. Dongdaemun opens till late at night, providing shoppers after-hour shopping. There are a few shopping malls that makes up Dongdaemun shopping district. We headed for the Doota! shopping mall, which is again, crowded with people picking up clothings and facials stuffs late at night. The 7-storey shopping mall (with 2 additional basement storeys) is a shopping haven. Doota! mainly sells clothing offering both local designer clothing and some international brands as well. There is a food court on the top level of the mall and some cafes scattered on different levels of the mall. We did not spend too much time here and wanted to hope to the next shopping mall beside Doota!, however our fatigue has set in and returned to the hotel to rest for the night, hoping to recuperate some energy to explore Seoul the next day.

Dongdamun or the East Gate
View of the East gate from the exit of the subway station
Me at the East Gate
East Gate
East Gate
Side of the East Gate
We walked past Cheonggyecheon Stream on our way to the shopping district
Dongdaemun shopping district
Dongdaemun shopping district
Dongdaemun shopping district
Dongdaemun shopping district

 

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[Hotel Review] – Grand Hyatt Erawan (King Room), Bangkok, Thailand (7 – 9 Jan 16)

Hotel Signage

Location

Grand Hyatt Erawan is located in the heart of downtown Bangkok. It is located right behind the famous Erawan Shrine, which sees thousands of devotees coming to offer their prayers to the Four-Faced Buddha. The hotel is within minutes walk from the nearest BTS station – Chit Lom Station. It is also within minutes walk from shopping mall such as Central World, Gaysorn to name a few.

The Room

The room I checked in is the Grand King room. Upon checking in, I was upgraded to the Grand King View room. The difference between the 2 rooms is the view. While the Grand King room faces the back of the hotel, the Grand King View room faces the front of the hotel. Upon entering the rustic room, the entrance to the bathroom is immediately to the right side. The squarish designed bathroom feels compact and luxurious at the same time, extending the rustic feel from the entrance of the room.  There are a couple of cubicles on the left of the entrance to the bathroom. The first cubicle is the walk-in shower with both rain shower and regular massage shower head, and the cubicle next to it, next to the sink is the toilet. There are no additional door to the toilet cubicle. The sink feels rather small, but sufficient for one to place one’s additional toiletries. Opposite the cubicles, by a foldable door that opens to the room, is the bathtub. There are speakers piped into the bathroom, so that one can watch the TV from the tub with the sound from the TV.
Entrance to the room
Rustic feel in the bathroom
Walk-in Shower cubicle
Toilet cubicle
Luxurious bath amenities
Additional toilet amenities in the box
Bathtub
After the entrance to the bathroom is the wardrobe area. There are 2 sections to the wardrobe – the open part and the enclosed part. The open portion of has 5 tier shelving with the safe occupying the centre tier, whiles there are baskets for guests to put their stuffs into for the rest of the shelves. The enclosed part of the wardrobe is purely for guest to hang their clothing. There is sufficient room for one to hang up to 2 weeks of clothing.
Open Shelving
Enclosed wardrobe
Walking pass the wardrobe, the room opens up to the spacious bedroom. Right round the corner, one can find a king bed. The bed is very comfortable and allowed a very well needed rest for the night after all the walking in Bangkok. There is also a pillow menu for guests to choose from different types of pillow to suit one’s need. There is a shelf to the left of the bed with a pot acting as a decoration in the room. The bottom part of the shelf houses a radio and a control for the switches in the room. There is sufficient room for one to place one’s mobile phone while charging on the bottom shelf. To the right of the bed is a bedside table with a phone and another switch control. To the right of the bedside table, further into the room and nicely tucked into a corner of the room facing the window is a couch and a glass top table. The couch is oddly placed in the room, and perhaps intended to function more like chairs for the table than for one to relax in and watch the TV. The large sized glass table functions as both a work desk, with most of the international adaptor powerpoints at the side of the table, and a dinning table. There is a lamp on the table. There is another armchair placed at the glass table.
Comfortable King bed
Couch and the glass table by the window
Powerpoints by the glass table, which also functions as a dining table
Switch controller
Opposite the bed, is a large table with the TV placed onto it, There are 3 drawers on the table for guests to store their stuff. There is a long beach placed underneath the table, which one can use to place their luggage on. Complementary coffee and tea can be found in one of the 3 drawers. To the right of the table, near to the entrance of the room is where one can find mini bar area, with the bar fridge well conceived on the bottom shelf.
The TV is located opposite the bed
Mini bar area
Contents inside the bar fridge
Complementary coffee and tea (the titbits are not complementary though)
View from the room
Lift lobby

Swimming Pool

The hotel has a fairly large swimming pool located on the 5th floor. The free-form pool allows one to dip in and cool off in the hot Bangkok sun. There are a large number of deck chairs to go around and most of them are not situated under trees or any form of shades, providing guests with good spots for tanning. There is a pool side restaurant providing snacks and refreshments for guests.

Swimming pool located on the 5th floor of the hotel

Spa Facilities

The hotel has a spa facilities separately for both male and female guests located on the 5th floor. There is a sauna, steam room, hot and cold jacuzzi inside the spa facilities. There are showers and lockers available inside the spa facilities. Guests can obtain the key from the staffs manning the counter outside the spa facilities. There are ample amenities such as shavers, cotton buds and towels available inside the spa room.

Lockers and changing room in the spa facilities
Amenities inside the spa facilities
Toilet inside the spa facilities
Hot and cold jacuzzis are available inside the spa facilities
Sauna inside the spa facilities

Gym

The gym is also located on the 5th floor of the hotel. The gym is quite well equipped with treadmills, press machines. There is a small counter serving drinks and complementary bottled water next to the gym. Towels are available on the shelves outside the gym.

 

Very well equipped gym located on the 5th floor

Breakfast

Breakfast is served in the Dinning Room located on the 1st floor of the hotel. There are quite a good spread of cuisine available for breakfast, ranging from Western to Asian to Thai to Indian, catering to the differing pallets of the guests staying in the hotel. The spread of food is good enough to last guests through dinner.

 

Dessert section
Fruit section
Wide spread of pastries available for breakfast
Beverage section, coffee and tea are available as well
Salad bar
Different types of bread available
All these are just for breakfast
Chefs preparing eggs and waffles for guests in front of the cooked food section
Indian Cuisine for breakfast

Service

The service in the hotel is truly 5-star. One will be treated like a VIP the moment one alights the cab. Staffs at the concierge are readily to assist us with our luggages and escorted us across the expansive lobby to the check-in counter where their check-in counterparts will assist us further. The concierge staff greeted us and opened the door for us whenever we walk past them. The staffs at the check-in counters truly embrace the warmth of the Thais, greeting us with a smile and went all way out to arrange for a room that we requested through booking. The proficient staffs processed our check-in very speedy and ensured that we did not have to wait for too long before handing over the keycard to our room.

The great service is not only found at the lobby and the main entrance to the hotel. Even the housekeeping staffs made us feel pleasant and welcomed in the hotel. We bumped into a couple of them during our short stay at the hotel. They never failed to smile and greet us whenever we bumped into them. I requested for additional bath amenities and extra pillow, the housekeeping staff got them delivered to us rather fast and as always with a genuine smile on his face. The staffs outside the spa facilities and the pool is always smiling and readily made us feel welcome to use the facilities in the hotel. There is always smiles hanging on the face of the staff at the spa facilities counters whenever we walked past them. The staffs are always ready to answer to any questions that I raised.

The service at the Dinning table is a mix. On the first day of our stay,  the staffs made us feel welcome and ensured we were brought to our table almost immediately. Plates were cleared whenever we left our table to grab more food. However, it was not so on our second day of stay at Grand Hyatt Erawan. Perhaps due to the crowd, the counter at the front of the restaurant was not manned by anyone. We were made to wait for 10 mins after admitting us into the restaurant as the staff was frantically looking for table to us. The chefs at the egg station cooked our eggs with care. There was once I wanted to grab some pancakes. A thoughtful chef, instead of giving me the one on their table, made a new one for me.

 

Check-in counter
Drinks are available at the check-in area

Overall

I had a pleasant stay at Grand Hyatt Erawan. The sleep quality is excellent and the room is well designed with comfort in mind. The facilities in the hotel were top-notch and the availability of the spa facilities to the guests without additional charge. The services that I had received during my stay with the hotel is fantastic. The staffs made me feel welcomed and were seen smiling and greeting guests. With the convenient location and the excellent hardware and service, this hotel is well worth a stay for visitors visiting Bangkok for leisure or business alike. I look forward to stay in a different type of room in Grand Hyatt Erawan the next time I visit Bangkok.

[Hotel Review] – Four Points By Sheraton Namsan (Deluxe Room), Seoul, South Korea (1 – 7 Jan 16)

Hotel Signage
Quirky sculpture in front of the hotel

Location

Four Points by Sheraton is the latest addition of Starwood Preferred Guest Hotel Chains to Seoul. The hotel is opened in May 2015 and is barely 6 months old at the time I stayed there. The hotel is very well located next to Seoul Train Station. Coming from the airport via the Airport Express Train (AREX), guests can walk to the hotel via its underground tunnel which linked the AREX to the subway system in Seoul. The hotel is reachable via Exit 12 of the subway entrance.
Around the hotel
Around the hotel
There are no lack of amenities such as shopping, convenient stores (there are 3 at the ground level of the hotel) and cafes. The Lotte Outlet Mall, located above Seoul Train Station is mere minutes walk from the hotel. Myeongdong shopping district is a couple of subway stations away from the hotel. The hotel is located at foot of Namsan and N Seoul Tower.

The Room

The hotel has only 2 categories of room, namely Superior and Deluxe Room. I stayed in the bigger Deluxe Room, measuring 33m sq. Upon entering the room, a earth toned decor sight welcomed the guest. The earthy theme room gives a warm and cosy feeling, especially in a cold winter morning. Immediate to the left of the door is the wardrobe. The wardrobe is rather small, capable of storing 2 thick winter jackets, a couple of sweaters, a couple of jeans and a few T-shirts. There is a safe stowed on top of a 3 tiered drawer well tucked inside the wardrobe, providing more storage space for guests. An ironing board and an iron can also be found tucking into one corner inside the wardrobe.
Wardrobe
Further down is where one would find the entrance to the bathroom. The bathroom is also decorated in a earthy tone. To the left of the entrance to the bathroom is where one would find a walk-in shower, with both a rain shower and a regular shower head. Next to the Walk-in shower is the toilet, which has no separate door. The toilet has a bidet and is automatically warmed, which is essential for the cold winter. To the right of the entrance to the bathroom is the sink and vanity area. Due to the size of the room, only one sink is available in the bathroom. Having one sink has its merits as it frees up space for one to stow their toiletries onto. The sink area stretches the entire width of the bathroom. There is a 2 tiered drawer below the sink area, which provides more storage space. Right at the end of the bathroom, between the sink and the shower/toilet area is a bathtub. The bathtub is rather small and is separated by a glass panel from the rest of the bathroom. The lighting inside the bathroom is ample, which does not make it look dim.
Large sink area and bathtub
Walk-in shower
Large mirror  in the bathroom gives the impression the bathroom is huge
Toilet bowl with bidet
Bathtub
Vanity kit. The toothbrush is being replaced daily
The hotel uses quality bath amenities produced by a subsidiary of Loccitanne
Bath amenities

To the right of the entrance to the bathroom, just before the room opens up to the sleeping area is a 6 tiered cabinet well hidden from the sight. This cupboard provides extra storage space for guests. I did not realise there is this cupboard until the last few days of my stay.

The well hidden cupboard

Further into the room is the sleeping area. I like the clever utilisation of the limited space in the room. The King bed is placed in such a manner that maximises the space. The King bed is very comfortable and provided me well needed quality rest throughout my stay in the hotel. However I do find the pillows a tad too soft. The hotel does provide pillow menu, which I did not use, offering guests options to the pillows other than those provided on the bed. Due to the limited space, there is only one bedside table, which has another 2 drawers for storage. Opposite the King bed is the work desk area. Here is where one would find one of the 3 telephones in the room (the other being located at the bedside table and the toilet), as well as a couple powerpoint sockets with international adaptors for charging of electronic gadgets. There are limited but sufficient powerpoint sockets in the entire room. Above the desk is a Smart LED TV, which faces the bed. The work desk stretches half the depth of the room. Located beneath the TV, under the work desk is a compartment with complementary coffee and tea as well as an empty small fridge.

 

King Bed
Work area
Powerpoint sockets on the work desk
A small vanity mirror to replace the usual large mirror found in most hotels. The complementary bottled water is being replaced daily
Phone in a corner of the work desk
Coffee and tea
Empty fridge located beneath the TV
Large Smart LED TV
Work desk at a glance

Next to the King bed, just in front of the floor to ceiling 3-panel windows is a coupe of arm chairs and a small coffee table. Due to the limited space in the room, we used this area to rest one of our luggage while another luggage was left on the floor. As the hotel building is closely located with other buildings, most of the rooms would have views of the buildings next to the hotel. The staff told us this room has the most privacy as there are no buildings in front of it.

Armchairs and a small coffee table in front of the floor to ceiling window
View of Seoul from our room

Service

The service that I received throughout the hotel was superb. The great service started prior to my arrival to the hotel. As I will be arriving early, well before the official check-in time, I emailed the hotel to arrange for an early check-in. The reply to my email was very prompt (within a few hours of my sending of the email), and an early check-in was arranged. The great service continued during my check-in process. The lobby of the hotel is located on the 19th floor of the hotel, upon my arrival, I was warmly welcomed by the staffs at the check-in counter. The staffs spoken good English, which made checking-in a pleasure. However the staff did not give mention to my being a SPG member. Initially we were told that checking in is at 12 noon. When I mentioned about the email respond that I have received, the staff apologised and went on to check about the said email. Mere minutes later, she returned and apologised again about missing the email. As it was still early, the staff requested that we wait for another hour for the hotel to ensure the room is in tip-top condition. This is what service is all about, instead of insisting on the standard check-in time, the staff immediately apologised before checking the records. Since there are still time for us to kill before checking-in, we left our luggage at the concierge and went to the nearby mall to shop a little. When returning, the same staff recognised us and told us our room is ready for our occupancy. She had our luggage brought out promptly and soon we were on our way to our room.

 

Christmas decorations at the entrance on B1
Ample signage is being placed to notify first time guests of the location of the check-in lobby
Check-in lobby is located on the 19th floor of the building
Lobby area and entrance to the restaurant where breakfast is being served
View of Seoul from the lobby

The great service and attention to details did not stop there. I noticed that during the daily make-up of our room, the staff took pride in their work and kept the room in tip-top condition. One instance that struck me the level of attention to details the housekeeping staff has. Our toiletries in the bathroom sink was messy before we left the hotel to explore Seoul. When we returned to our room, the toiletries were being placed in a tidy manner. A few occasions we bumped into the housekeeping staff in the corridor on our way out, the staffs greeted us with a warm smile and quickly made space for us in the corridor.

The attention to details is impeccable in the hotel

As the shower gel is a tad watery, the usage of the shower gel is quite fast. Every night we had to call the front desk to deliver more shower gel to us. The staff (by the name of Frank), whom is the one whom took my call, delivered the shower gels personally with a smile on his face. It is Frank whom delivered the shower gels to us almost every night, and that smile never ceased on his face.

The hotel provides complementary transfers to some major shopping and tourist attractions. There was this time we waited for the transfer which never came. We called the lobby from the ground floor, a staff came down to us moments later and found out more information from us. She went on to find out what happened to the transfer and got us a cab, which she assured us that the hotel will pick up the tab for our transport to Myeongdong (one of the stops for the transfer). Most hotels will cook up some excuses or simply told the guest the transfer did not happen. However this is not the case at Four Points in Seoul. The staff took the initiative to get us a cab, and passed us a card with the destination written in Korean and told us to pass to the cab in the event the cabby asked our destination. She even spoke to the cabbie on our behalf.

Complementary transfers to major shopping districts and attractions provided by the hotel
Small bus that provides the transfers

Overall

I had a pleasant stay in Four Points by Sheraton, Namsan. Although the room is a tad small, The sleep quality is superb. There are no lack of storage space in the hotel room, and the clever utilisation of the limited space ensured guests has maximum space to move about. The bathroom is spacious and is very functional. The service around the hotel is great with the attention to details by the staffs and their generosity of the smiles on their face. The staff in the hotel seem ready to assist guests in solving their problems. I would recommend this hotel due to its location, the quality of sleep and the services rendered by the staffs.

[Airline Review] – Thai Airways (TG408) SIN-BKK/ (TG656) BKK-ICN – Business Class (31 Dec 15)

TG408 SIN-BKK

On The Ground

Singapore

Dnata Premium Check-in

Thai Airways uses the Dnata Premium check-in lounge in Changi International Airport for its premium passengers. The lounge is located behind Check-in Row 3 and 4 in Terminal 1 of the airport, where the Thai Airways Economy class is located. The lounge is decked out in earth tones with arm chairs for passengers waiting to be checked-in should there be a crowd. There are also beverages available for waiting passengers. Data Premium check-in lounge is also utilised by several other airlines checking in their premium passengers such as Qantas. As I was walking into the lounge, a friendly ground staff welcomed me and escorted me to the check-in counter for Thai Airways. It is apparent that only 1 counter is being used for the Airlines. The check-in lounge is empty at the time, I was prompted welcomed by the check-in staff and check-in was speedy. There is a corridor that leads into the immigration area at the lounge. Soon I found myself clearing the customs and in the airside of the airport.
Entrance to Dnata Premium Check-in Lounge
Passengers get sit-in check-in
Waiting area with beverages and reading materials available should there be a need to wait
Direct access to immigration control
Direct access to immigration control
This door way leads to the immigration

Lounge

Thai Airways has a dedicated lounge located in Terminal 1, on level 3 of the transit area. A friendly ground staff welcomed passengers utilising the lounge. The lounge is rather small, but good enough for passengers waiting for their flight. A large portion of the property is being dedicated to passengers for their resting. There are some finger food (mainly Thai cuisine) available between the entrance of the lounge and the passenger waiting area. Beverages are also made available behind the food counters. Magazines and newspapers are also available nearby the food section. There is another section where can access internet from. There are no shower facilities nor toilet at this lounge. The nearest toilet is outside the loge. There are also powerpoints at each seat for passengers to charge their electronic gadgets. Despite the size, the Thai Airways lounge is rather comfortable to rest in while waiting for the flight. From the looks of it, the lounge seem to be rather under utilised as there wasn’t many users of the lounge. The food offering is rather limited.
Entrance to the Thai Airways Lounge
Passenger Rest area. The lounge is decked in the Thai Airways purple theme
Passenger rest area
Passenger rest area
Reading materials for passengers to pass time
Cold Beverages
Beverage counter
Finger food available
Finger food
Fried rice and Tom Yum Soup are also available
Internet access area

Changi Airport Transit Area

Changi Airport Transit Area is like a shopping malls, with loads of duty free shopping from cosmetics to luxury brands such as Hermes, Burberry to name a few. There are no lack of shops to keep transiting passengers occupy while waiting for their flights. There are other facilities that are made available such as roof top gardens, rest areas and even a theatre. For this trip, I spend most of my time in the lounge, hence leaving little time for me to shop around.
Shopping in Changi Airport Terminal 1
Thai Airways used gate D32 for their SIN-BKK leg. At the time of my checking-in, most of the passengers were already waiting for boarding. I like the Changi Airport waiting area as it allows passengers to look into the tarmac at the bird that they will be boarding momentarily. This flight seem full as passengers almost fill the waiting area. As with most airlines practices, Thai Airways boarded their Premium passengers and passengers whom require assistance first before the rest of the passengers were boarded.
Gate D32
Looks like a full flight to BKK
TG408 getting ready for its flight to BKK

Bangkok

Lounge

There are several lounges spreading across Suvarnabhumi Airport for Thai Airways. There are separate lounges for passengers flying their business class and first class passengers. There are 4 lounges spreading across the airport for Thai Airways Royal Silk passengers. 3 of the 4 lounges offer shower facilities. The largest of the lounge is located at Concourse D. The lounges offers similar finger food as the one in Changi Airport, mainly sandwiches and dim sums. Beverages are also being offered in the lounges. All the lounges offer the same food. Passengers awaiting for their flights can visit any of the 4 lounges or even hop around the lounges. No announcements will be made for any flight leaving, hence passengers are urged to watch their boarding time closely. The lounge is rather cosy, decked out in the familiar Thai Airways purple as seen in the lounge in Singapore Airport. A huge proportion of the lounge area is set aside for passengers to rest. I had the chance to use the shower facilities in the lounge while waiting for my next flight. The shower room is as good as those found in a hotel room. The shower room is large with a toilet bowl and a wet area. Thai Airways uses Thann shower amenities in their shower room. A towel is provided by the friendly lounge staff as they prepare the shower for passengers.

Location of the lounges in Suvarnabhumi Airport
Entrance to the lounge
Entrance to the lounge
Finger food in the lounge
Beverage counter
More food
The lounge is decorated in the Thai Airways purple
Me in the lounge
Rest area of the lounge
Grabbed myself a coke while in the lounge 
Shower room
Wet and dry area of the shower room
Thann Bath amenities
Food and beverage area of the lounge
Food selection
I like to decor of the lounge, gives one a cosy feel

Passengers flying with Royal Silk Class are treated to 30 mins of either foot massage or shoulder and neck massage. The massage service can be found at the Royal Orchid Spa. As one walks into the spa, friendly ground staff welcomed passengers and enquire which treatment will one be taking. After which, masseuses are already standing by escorting passengers to the massage area. The ambience in the Royal Orchid Spa screams of zen and tranquility. The entire area feels more like a proper spa then an airport lounge. I opted for the foot massage and the professional masseuse is very skillful in her trade. The massage took away the aches and pains I had on my legs.

 

Entrance to the Royal Orchid Spa
Entrance to the Royal Orchid Spa
Christmas decorations in the Royal Orchid Spa
Masseuses leading the way to the treatment area
Very professional massage service

As Suvarnabhumi is a large airport and the facilities as well as the gates are spread out, one is advised to cater more time for transit or even to get to their gates. As arrival and departure are located on different levels of the airside, one is advised to cater time to get to the departure hall (passengers will be subjected to x-raying their belongings and removal of boots before access is granted to the departure level, where the lounges are located).

Bus taking us to our flight

The Cabin

TG408

TG operates Boeing 777-300 for their SIN-BKK leg. The aircraft is decked with the signature Thai Airways purple in the cabin. The 34 shell seats Business Class cabin has a 2-3-2 configuration, with the first row in an odd configuration of 2-2-2 seating. Each window seat has a generous 2 window panels. In the Economy Class cabin, this flight has 330 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration.

Walking down the aerobridge
Friendly pursuer greeting passengers 
Business Class Cabin
Each window seat has 2 window panels
Business Class Cabin

Both lavatories for Business Class is located at the front of the aircraft, just behind the door to the cockpit. The lavatories are a tad cramp for a Business Class cabin. Compared with other airlines, the amenities in TG lavatories are slightly limited, with only hand wash, moisturiser and perfume. There are tissue and handkerchiefs available in the lavatories as well. No toothbrush or mouthwash is available, perhaps due to the short flight time for this sector. One thing I like about the TG lavatories is the sensor tap.

Sensor tap and sink area of the lavatory
Toilet bowl
Other amenities found in the lavatory

TG656

TG operates A330-300 for this BKK-ICN leg. As with the previous flight, the aircraft is decked with the Thai Airways purple in the cabin. There are a total of 36 seats Business Class cabin with 2-2-2 configuration. In the Economy Class cabin, this flight has 263 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration.

TG 2-2-2 configuration in Business Class Cabin
Amenities such as amenity kit, slippers and headphones are already placed on the seat
Slippers are also provided on this leg, other than in-flight socks found in the amenity kit
Thann amenity kit for all J-Class passengers
Dinner and wine menu is being distributed when passengers got settled into their seat

Both lavatories for Business Class is also located at the front of the aircraft, just behind the door to the cockpit. The lavatories onboard feels more premium than the previous leg with the wood trimmings.  Compared with other airlines, the amenities in TG lavatories are slightly limited, with only hand wash, moisturiser and perfume same as the previous leg. There are tissue and handkerchiefs available in the lavatories as well. No toothbrush or mouthwash is available, however these are already distributed in the amenity kit. The taps onboard this aircraft is also sensor operated.

Toilet bowl
Sensor tap and sink area
Perfume and moisturiser
The wood trimming makes the lavatory feels more premium

The Seat

TG408

TG uses shell seats in this flight, with a pitch of 70″ and 20″ wide. The seats are capable of reclining to 170 degrees, which provided an almost flat bed for passengers whom would like to snooze during the flight. Leg room is superb in this cabin. The seats feature a massage function, which essentially is adding some form of vibration to the seat, hardly any massage at all. The seat controls are located on the left side of the seat. The headphone jack is located under the right armrest, together with a power socket. There are no USB plugs on the seats. An additional reading light is located on the top of the seat, other than the ones on the ceiling of the cabin. There are a couple of cup holders and some slots for reading materials behind the seat in front of us.

Business Class seats 
Ample leg room
Seat controls
Headphone jacks
Powerpoint in the seat
Reading lights and divider
In flight reading materials
Aircraft Safety card
Dinner and wine menu was distributed when we got settled down onto our seats
Storage on the back of the seats in front of us
Fully reclined seat configuration

TG656

TG uses shell seats in this flight, with a pitch of 70″ and 20″ wide. The seats are capable of reclining to 170 degrees. This is important for flying on an overnight flight, which provided me with a good rest. As with the SIN-BKK leg of the flight, leg room is superb in this cabin and I can stretch my leg all the way. These seats also has a massage function. The seat controls are located on the left side of the seat. The headphone jack is located under the right armrest together with 2 USB jacks. There is also a power socket under the arm rest of the seat. An additional reading light is located on the top of the seat, other than the ones on the ceiling of the cabin. There are a couple of cup holders and some slots for reading materials behind the seat in front of us.

 

Seat at lounging mode
Seat fully reclined for sleep mode
There are a couple of USB jacks located beside the Headphone jack
Powerpoint socket under the armrest
Seat function control
Aircraft information card
Contents of seat pocket

In-Flight Entertainment

TG408

The AVOD onboard features a 15″ touch screen TV with no lack of movies for passengers to watch onboard and the movie selection is quite large. There are also latest Hollywood blockbusters available. The controller for the AVOD is located under the armrest on the left of the seat. Noise cancelling handphones are already distributed on the seats when I boarded the aircraft.
Large 15″ TV
AVOD control is located under the armrest
AVOD controller

TG656

As with the previous leg, the AVOD onboard features a 15″ touch screen TV and a huge selection of entertainment options from movies to TV shows to games to music. The controller for the AVOD is located under the armrest on the left of the seat. Noise cancelling headphones are already distributed on the seats when I board the aircraft.

 

15″ AVOD TV screen
A newer model of IFE controller
Back side of the IFE controller

Meal Service

TG408

As with many premium class, pursuers came around serving welcome drinks upon passengers got settled into their seats. A warm towel is also being distributed upon settling into my seat. This is also when the pursuers distribute menus and came around later to take orders for the meal.

Welcome drink. The purple drink is TG’s signature “Violet Breeze”, a must try non alcoholic beverage
Menu
Wine list

Moments after the seat belt sign is off, the pursuers sprung into action, with one going around distributing pre-meal nuts and drinks. The rest of the crew prepares the meal. I opted for the prawn meal, which is flavourful and not too spicy. As this is a short flight, there are no separate servings for appetisers and main course. With all meal all served at once, this feels more economy (except that it is presented in nicer china) than premium class.

Nuts and drinks are served as soon as the seat belt sign is off
I opted for the tasty prawn
My friend opted for the chicken

TG656

Same as the previous leg,  pursuers came around serving welcome drinks upon passengers got settled into their seats. A warm towel is also being distributed upon settling into my seat. This is also when the pursuers distribute menus and came around later to take orders for the meal.

Moments after the seat belt sign is off, the pursuers sprung into action, serving meals for passengers. This time round, due to a longer flight time, there are time for the crew to split the meal service into appetiser, main course and dessert. I opted for the braised chicken, which is a delight. After the trays are being cleared, the crew came around checking with passengers if they want coffee or tea. During the flight, when I was sleeping, I woke up to find a bottle of water being placed by the crew in the cup holder in front of the seat.

Meal Options
Beverage options
First course – appetisers
Main course
Dessert
Tea after meal

Service

Service onboard both legs are impeccable. Crews exhibit the warm of the Thais with smiles seen throughout both flights. They are attentive and thoughtful. Service is prompt and meals are cleared in a timely manner. The crew are seen patrolling the cabins throughout both legs to ensure that all passengers are well taken care of. Even for a short 2hour SIN-BKK leg, the crews are seen smiling and acceding to the requests of all passengers. TG offers a book the meal service for all premium class passengers, however the options are rather limited. I did not utilise this option as I prefer the “surprise” factor when it comes to meal onboard.

Overall

TG is becoming one of my favourite airlines. With warm service seen onboard both legs of my journey from SIN to ICN. Crews are seen walking up and down the cabin and serving drinks throughout the flight. I like the fact that a bottle of water is being place for passengers while they were sleeping so that one can be kept hydrated. This is a very nice touch, whereby most other airlines do not provide. TG provides oversized pillows and quilt (not those fleeced blankets) in their Business Class, which is great for sleeting. In terms of hardware, the cabin seem aged and seats are not 180 degrees recline, however it still provides a great sleep for my BKK-ICN leg of the flight. The entertainment system onboard allowed me to keep entertained, making the flight time seem short.