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First Class

Thai First Class
Bangkok to Beijing (~5 hours)

Photo courtesy of CC license from Flickr user FlackJacket2010

This was my first experience in first class and it left me in awe of the difference between coach and first class but also feeling like the experience is not really for me.  I loved it, but I loved business class as well.  I don’t really see the point spending either frequent flyer miles or money for this level of exclusivity.  It was really, really nice, but not so much better than business class.  The seat was pretty much the same seat as I had in South African business class.  Plenty of room but to the point where even I really did not need that much.  The service was attentive to the point of almost being hovering.  They did seem to read clues well though, letting people rest or get work done if that is what was desired.  But what really set the first class experience apart though was the lounge and service on the ground in Bangkok.

Photo courtesy of CC license from Flickr user Richard Moross

Upon my arrival, I was met at the gate and transported to the First Class Lounge.  I informed the agent that greeted me (by name) that I wanted to take a quick shower and then have a massage that is complementary for First Class passengers.  The shower rooms were huge, way bigger than my bathroom at home and featured very soft towels and up scale amenities.  After more than 20 hours in the air, it was very nice to have the chance to rinse off.  The massage was also a great mid-travel treat, that helped relieve some of the aches in my back and was very relaxing.  After the massage was finished there were just a few minutes to sit in the lounge catching up on the news and quickly reading email before another agent came up to get me to walk me to my gate.  This level of personal service really was amazing and might have been even more enjoyable if I had not been traveling for as long as I had been already.

Once on board I was greeted with a very large seat, a set of noise canceling headphones and a glass of champagne.  It was really good champagne and when I asked what kind it was, the flight attendant responded with a…Dom Perignon of course.  Delicious!  I had more than a few glasses on the flights, savoring every sip.  While I would be hesitant to ever pay for the cost of a bottle, it was a step above most champagnes I have had.  I also made sure to sample the scotch, Johnnie Walker Blue Label which was amazingly smooth and quit delicious as well.  This jaunt in First Class is spoiling me and creating some expensive tastes. Drinking was not the only thing to consume, as we were treated to a five course meal.  The service was at a leisurely pace, taking up almost half of the flight.  By the end I was stuffed.  While it was not as good as some landside meals I have had, it was far and away the best in flight meal I have had, featuring scallops, foie gras, veal loin, soup, a selection of cheeses and very, very good deserts.  It was so much food that I was almost feeling uncomfortable by the end of the flight.  
Photo courtesy of CC license from Flickr user Richard Moross

This was a great experience and unfortunately ended with almost 30 minutes of waiting for a gate to open once we were on the ground.  Getting off first was nice, but unfortunately I was once again met with someone holding my name on a sign.  This time it was not to whisk me off to a special place, but instead to inform me that one of my bags had sprung a leak and was now wrapped in plastic.  It seems that one of the many bottles of wine I had bought in South Africa had been crushed (actually three of them).  I thought I had packed them well but clearly not well enough.  The only good thing was that it was bottles of white wine instead of red so while my clothes needed a wash, they at least were not completely ruined.

More stories to come from South Africa, but needless to say, I had more enjoyment flying than I normally do.  I hope that this experience did not spoil me too much for my next trip in coach. I really could get used to having leg room and better service on flights.

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One week until…

Over the last year I have had the chance to travel a ton.  This travel, along with some other methods, has allowed me to rack up a large stack of frequent flyer miles and hotel points.  While my balances are still pretty healthy, I cashed in a large chunk of miles for my trip that leaves in a week.

Here in China, we have the first week of October off to celebrate China’s National Day.  It is a great time for a short break from school, enough time to get away and relax after what has been a pretty hectic beginning of the school year.  While the weather is usually quite good in Beijing, I am taking this week to get away to a place I have always wanted to visit, South Africa.

I am spending most of my time in Cape Town, visiting wineries, seeing the coast and hopefully having some great weather to take pictures in.  Before Cape Town though, I am going to Kruger National Park for a luxury safari.  This is something that I have been dreaming about since I was a very young child and cannot wait to experience.

In addition to these two fantastic sights, the travel itself is what I am really looking forward to.  I used my points and miles to have a luxurious vacation at a very low cost.  I am flying a combination of business class and first class on Air China, South African Airlines and Thai Airways and might be as excited about this part of the trip as anything else.  In addition to taking these very long flights in style, I am also staying at the Westin in Cape Town on points.  Outside of the safari, hotels and flights are only costing me about $400, a bargain for a trip of this magnitude.

I cannot wait for this experience and the chance to share my stories, memories and photos of this place.

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