Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Singapore SilverKris Lounge

We took the express train from Hong Kong Station to the Hong Kong International Airport.  The ride itself took just about 25 minutes and was pretty comfortable.  We arrived at the airport and checked in.  There were no lines whatsoever at check-in or going through border patrol.  As I was waiting for EAD to get through security, a woman came up to ask if I’d do a survey for the Hong Kong Tourism Board.  I was through security so I figured this wasn’t a scam.  The survey was supposed to take 2 minutes…after 5 minutes I just walked away.  The survey girl wasn’t pleased, but I was tired of answering her inane questions (how much was your room per night?  How much did you spend on alcohol your first lunch? First dinner? Second Lunch?)  I didn’t know the answers, so I left.

I wasn’t too keen on going shopping at the airport, but I was interested in trying out the various lounges.  Hong Kong is great if you are a Star Alliance Gold member – you can visit the United Club (which we didn’t), the Thai Royal Orchid Lounge  (which we didn’t) and a Singapore SilverKris Lounge.

The SilverKris lounge was quite empty.  There weren’t any Singapore flights leaving within a few hours of our visit to the lounge.  This was my first visit to any Singapore lounge and while the lounge had opened just a few months prior to our visit, it didn’t feel new.  I was pleased we chose this lounge though.

Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge

Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge

The food spread wasn’t as elaborate as I was expecting – probably because there weren’t any real flights in the queue either.  That being said, I had some tomatoes (again, my favorite fruit on the planet), some pot stickers, a “mango drink” and then seconds of each of those. I even tried the most vile BLT finger sandwich ever created (it was just bland, gummy in texture and moist).

Breakfast at the Singapore SilverKris Lounge – Mmmm, Mango Drink.

I wanted a drink. I know, surprising turn of events, isn’t it?  The bar was staffed — or I should be clear and say that it wasn’t a self-serve bar.  I couldn’t find the bar tender – which isn’t surprising considering the lounge was nearly empty.  I managed to track someone down to help me and he and I had one of the best exchanges on the trip:

Me: Excuse me. Could I have some Champagne or Sparkling Wine?
Bartender: Huh? You want a drink? Wine?
Me: Yes. Sort of. Sparkling Wine, please.
Bartender: No. Sorry. We don’t have it.
Me: Sorry, you don’t have any Sparkling Wine? What about that right there? (Pointing to a foil topped bottle of wine).
Bartender: That’s Champagne. We don’t serve Sparkling Wine here. Would you like some Champagne.
Me: But of Course.
Bartender: Let me give you two glasses. We are understaffed for the next 20 minutes and I’d hate for you to wait.

The Lounge was serving a perfectly passable bottle of Piper-Heidsieck.  I was hoping for something a little nicer, but I almost guarantee it was better than what we would have been served at the United Club.   I will admit, I made myself a Bellini with a glass of Piper and a splash of Mango Drink.  It cut it a bit and made it much more enjoyable.

We spent about an hour in the lounge – mooching off the wifi and putting a last minute charge on my various devices.  We then packed up our stuff and said goodbye to the kind yet scarcely seen employees in the lounge and made our way to our gate.

Which of the Star Alliance Lounges do you like best in Hong Kong?  I was hoping to try out the Thai Royal Orchid Lounge, but we didn’t have enough time.  Next time in Hong Kong, I’ll give them a try.

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United Ups Their In-Flight Food and Bev Game

Last night, United announced they are upping their food and beverage game in Economy for International Flights.  Following a year of record profits (up 89% from the prior fiscal year), United is offering complimentary beer and wine in Economy and the option to buy-up to premium half bottles of wine.

They are also changing the meals served in the back of the bus.  From United’s press release:

“United will expand the primary complimentary economy meal to a hearty three-course service, beginning with a beverage and snack of cheese and crackers, baked whole-grain bruschetta chips or Kiri cheese spread and crackers, followed by a generous main course served with refreshed salads and artisan bread.

Main-course meals will include new dishes designed by United’s team of chefs, including:

  • Home-style turkey meatloaf in spicy barbecue sauce, served with sweet potato mash, mixed vegetables, an artisan ciabatta roll and amaranth mango salad;
  • Tuscan ravioli with roasted red pepper sauce, served with a petit artisan ciabatta roll and mixed-grain salad; and
  • Udon noodles with stir-fried vegetables and ginger soya sauce, served with a petit multi-grain baguette roll and apple wheatberry salad.

For the final course, customers may enjoy a premium dessert, such as gelato, sorbet, ice cream or mousse.”

I’m all about United trying something new.  I’m mostly interested in the premium wine selection – I’ve heard that it is actually quite acceptable, although I haven’t tried it yet.  Take a look at the full press release here.

Standard Economy Meal on United

 

Take it for what it’s worth – United improving their food selections isn’t really that hard to do, their food is awful.  I say this as a monogamous United guy too – I’m not just bashing an airline I don’t fly.  As long as I can still get my vegetarian chickpea entree I’ll be happy — and now that I can get that with some free wine, I’ll be even happier.

Does this change impact who you choose to fly?

Hilton HHonors – Free Points

You don’t see me write much about the Hilton HHonors Program.  I don’t stay at Hilton Properties much – as frequent readers know, I’m a Starwood-guy and I don’t have enough hotel stays in a year to keep status at two chains.  I do have Gold Status with Hilton through the Citibank Reserve Hilton HHonors card – for the annual fee of $95 you get Gold Status, which to me is worth it for the minimal perks you get

  • 25% Additional Points when staying at a Hilton property
  • Bonus Points at check-in (amount of points depend on the type of property)
  • Complimentary Breakfast (unless you choose the points above)
  • Room Upgrades, if available (and subject to availability – but I will say that I’m very fortunate when it comes to this perk, I get upgraded about 4 out of 5 times when I stay)

Anyway, the purpose of this post is simple – in the past Hilton allowed you to sign into your account with a 4-digit PIN, which isn’t all that secure.  They now are making you set up a modern password to access their system and if you do so before April 22, 2015 (next Wednesday), they’ll give you 1,000 points. Now 1,000 points will Hilton won’t get you anything, but it will show as activity in you HHonors account and will reset the time before your miles expire.

These points can help you stay at a beautiful Hilton Property like the Waldorf Astoria when you come visit Chicago.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago – photo courtesy of Hilton.com

Head on over to the HHonors site and update your password today.  Why waste an opportunity to keep your account active?

 

Transportation in Hong Kong

I hate renting cars.  If I had my way, I’d never rent a car when we travel.  Sometimes that just doesn’t work and sometimes it could, but you’d be missing out on a beautiful drive (like this one).  Most of the time I can get by with taking public transportation or taxis – it ends up being more freeing for me and it helps keep the cost of travel down (even with the cost of taxis you end up spending less than you would by renting a car and parking and fueling and tolls, etc).

Hong Kong is not a City that I’d like to drive in — hell there are few places in which I’d like to drive.  Why bother when you are in such a great City with amazing transportation.  We ended up taking taxis a few times, the Metro at least a dozen times and the Star Ferry half a dozen times.

The Hong Kong Metro was great. Like Paris, it seemed like we were waiting no more than 3 minutes for the next train — even when we just missed one.  The trains were pretty packed most of the time.  Unlike Chicago, the train cars are fully connected – you can walk between cars, which also means you can cram more people in the area between the cars.   We were able to get anywhere we wanted to go via Metro (well, except our hotel, that is).

Packed Subway Car - Not Rush Hour

Packed Subway Car – Not Rush Hour

Another view -- look how far back this pack car stretches.

Another view — look how far back this pack car stretches.

You can either take the Metro or the Star Ferry to get between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.  We did both options several times.  You can use your octopus card (like Chicago’s Ventra Card or London’s Oyster Card) on the Metro and on the Star Ferry.  The Star Ferry costs 2.80HKD (~$0.36USD) – by far the cheapest way across the water. The ride takes about 10 minutes and you don’t need to pre-book a ticket or a time, just show up and ride.

Inside the Star Ferry -- yes, another Chinese couple taking a selfie.

Inside the Star Ferry — yes, another Chinese couple taking a selfie.

The Star Ferry crossing the harbor - a view from our Ferry.

The Star Ferry crossing the harbor – a view from our Ferry.

Hong Kong is such a great City and the excellent transportation options is just one of the reasons.  The well thought out transit system makes a quick trip like this one so much easier – you aren’t wasting time or money in taxis or with a rental car.  In and out and across the City is as easy as can be.

Do you dig the transit in Hong Kong as much as I do?

Hong Kong Tailors

I was introduced to Ronnie of Rocky’s Hong Kong Fashions by a friend here in Chicago in 2011.  I met him in a hotel suite in the Gold Coast neighborhood.  I had an appointment and stopped off at the front desk.  My ID was checked, I was given a key to the room and sent on my way.  I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into, but I was excited to see what he had to offer.

My friend met Rocky (Ronnie’s uncle) in Hong Kong many years prior and had been getting shirts/suits for years.  I figured I’d give it a try and if I hated the product, I’d just chalk it up to a learning experience and if I loved the shirts, I’d consider it a win.

I was told to bring my favorite shirt to my initial meeting – a suggestion I gave to my friend EAD when we visited Ronnie in Hong Kong.  I didn’t realize how many options you have on a man’s dress shirt: pockets or no – if yes, pointed bottom or flat? Pleated back or smooth? Pleated sleeves or smooth?  One of 6 or so collar choices.  Don’t even get me started on the cuff options (French, Barrel, Number of Buttons and positioning, rounded/angled/squared edging.)  Luckily, I brought my favorite Hugo Boss shirt and said, just copy it.

On my first and subsequent visits – and EAD’s first visit, we sat down and looked through dozens of fabric books – flagging shirts that interests us.  I probably have 40 shirts from Ronnie – some traditional fabrics, while others are more elaborate.  I prefer the more elaborate designs – why have a custom shirt if it looks like what everyone else wears.

I didn’t fly to Hong Kong for another shirt (Ronnie comes to Chicago once a year and we pick up another dozen shirts or so).  I was here for a tuxedo.  Our fitting was one hour after our arrival in the country.  We went straight from the airport to the Sheraton – Rocky’s is immediately across the street from the hotel.

We were offered a beer and were measured by Ronnie.  I picked out the fabric and decided on the various options on the suit (lapel types, buttons, vents, etc).  The toughest part was deciding on the lining.  I didn’t want something simple but a classic tux needs a bold lining – something you’ll only catch a glimpse of while walking or when the jacket is taken off.  I settled on a black and silver paisley that provides a great pop of excitement in a traditional setting.

Our first official fitting was the next day at 16h00 – less than 24 hours after our arrival.  The basics of the garment were ready to go.

My first fitting for the wedding tux.

My first fitting for the wedding tux.  Ronnie checking the fitting of the jacket.

Our second fitting was 24 hours later – on Saturday afternoon.  The suits fit perfectly and we walked out with them.  We could have had our tuxes within 24 hours, but we didn’t want to return for a fitting earlier that day – we wanted to explore the City.

The first time I met Ronnie, in Chicago, I had ordered a suit. He measured me and sent me the fully finished suit back a few weeks later.  There were several issues with the suit – the pants had a HUGE rise, and the jacket just fit oddly.  I sent took photos/videos and Ronnie had the suit rebuilt.  I wasn’t 100% in love with the new suit.  The issue, I think, was the fittings.  We didn’t get a chance to do a couple of proper fittings — we did while in Hong Kong.  Now I’m very excited to send suit and sport coat orders off to Ronnie and get new clothes in a week or two.

I won’t ever buy a shirt or suit off the rack again.  Not only do they fit me perfectly, but they are much less expensive than you could find here.  Ronnie visits Cities all over the world each year.  If you are interested in setting an appointment, let me know and I will coordinate.  If you are in Hong Kong swing by and send my greetings.