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Tim Foolery

Home » 2018 » September (Page 2)

Monthly Archives: September 2018

M Hotel Singapore

Have you even heard of the M Hotel Singapore?  I hadn’t either, before my stay.  Located a short walk from the Tanjong Pagar Metro Station, the M Hotel really does cater to business travelers.  Found in the central business district and surrounded by densely packed skyscrapers.  This hotel was where Mike stayed for the week while in Singapore. His office is just around the corner.

Check-In

I arrived around 13h00.  My name had been put on our reservation and it was made clear that I would just need to show up, present a photo ID and grab my key.  Not so much.  When I arrived, the four people working reception were chatting amongst themselves and watching something on their phones.  After a couple “Excuse mes” and “Pardons”, one lady tore herself away to help me.  She said Mike didn’t have a reservation, despite the fact that he’d been there for four days already.  She eventually found it, but said I wasn’t listed and he’d have to come back and vouch for me.  Fine…I’d just leave my suitcase and head out to explore.  Since I had taken a shower in Taipei just a few hours earlier, that wasn’t a big deal.  She wouldn’t let me check my luggage – it was only for registered guests.

“MayI speak to the front desk manager please?”

A couple minutes later, the manager arrives, I explain my situation and he immediately says “Ah, yes, Mr. Timothy. Mr. Mike told me of your arrival.  You are in room X on the 24th floor.”  Then he started speaking Mandarin to the woman previously helping me.  He was pointing vigorously at the monitor and appeared to be scolding her.  I don’t speak Mandarin in the slightest, but I know when someone is getting a dressing down.  He delivered my keys with way too many apologies.

The Room

The elevators were a little slow, so once one arrived, it was a bit like Lord of the Flies trying to board.  I had forgotten about pushy Chinese Tourists.  I didn’t make it on the first elevator.  The second one was mine – I barreled through the crowd and made it to my room in short order.

Equipped with a queen sized bed, this room was meant for a business traveler.  The room was a decent size and served our most basic needs well.

Full queen room view

The compact and efficient room.

The minibar was stocked.

TV and minibar flanked one wall.

The work space

This rooms work space was large with lots of power outlets.

Lounge Chair

Lounge chair with a view

While a relatively nice hotel, it didn’t have a relaxed vacation feel to it. We decided to move after just one night.  The hotel did have a pool, but it looked pretty rough and I really wanted to spend at least an hour poolside.  We decided to move to the SO Sofitel for the last two nights of our stay.

Other than the issues at check-in and the hordes of loud Chinese tourists commandeering the elevators, we had one other interesting experience.  While grabbing breakfast one morning, I was enjoying some noodles and dumplings (I hate traditional breakfasts) and a man just sits down with me at the two-top table.  85% of the other tables were completely free, but he chose to dine with me.  He didn’t say a word. He read his news paper and slurped his noodles.  It was so strange – I have never seen anything like this before.

Have you stayed at the M Hotel Singapore before?  What did you think of the property?  Did you hang out at the pool at all?  How many random Chinese people sat down with you at breakfast?

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Duration versus Frequency of Travel

As an American working at an American firm, I get a very limited amount of vacation time. After being at my current employer for more than a decade I get just 15 vacation days each year. That’s three weeks total. That’s not enough to go and do what I want to do, so I have to really plan my trips.  People often ask me if the frequency of travel is “worth it.”  Why go away for such a short period, they ask? For only three full days in Europe is it worth the expense of the airfare, the jet lag and everything else. To that, I say a resounding YES!  If I didn’t love short, frequent trips, I wouldn’t have flown to Singapore for 68 hours last month!

Singapore Gardens by the Bay

Singapore by night

You don’t have to have a month long sabbatical to disconnect and recharge your batteries. Taking a few days can help you reset and re-energize. You just need to be in the right mindset.

Frequency of Travel

Last year, my best friend got married. We had a couple of quick trips to associated with the wedding, but each time we added just a single day to the festivities and made a proper vacation out of the time. Weddings are always busy, but we came into the weekends knowing that we had a single day for a proper vacation and we fully used that day.

For example, the ceremony was in Palm Springs. The wedding events were from Friday through Sunday (not all day though). We arrived on Thursday morning and spent that day and most of Friday properly vacationing. With only two days away, we planned and we executed. Our offices knew we completely out of pocket. We didn’t do any work once we landed in Palm Springs – we disconnected; not even email. We ate; we drank; we didn’t really DO, we just were. It was fabulous.

One of my favorite podcasts, Happier, with Gretchen Rubin, focused on Duration versus Frequency this week. Gretchen and Liz talked about their trips to see each other, their parents their friends and even trips just with their spouses. They posited, and I agreed, more frequent vacations or contact is much better than long duration and much less frequent.

I’ve been a firm believer of this for years and have even written about it here before. If I felt I had to take a two-to-three week vacation each year, I would take just a single trip – and that would kill me.

What do you think? Do you prefer frequency or duration? I know, I’d rather have frequent, long trips, too, but that’s not really an option for most of us. What has been your favorite small duration trip you’ve taken this year?

United Airlines’ New Boarding Process

United Airlines just announced changes to their passenger boarding process. Every couple of years it seems like the airlines (not just United, of course) try a new method for boarding their planes. For a while, it seemed like every airline had an elaborate queueing process, with half a dozen or more boarding zones. These zones caused people to line up long before boarding actually began. Sometimes the passengers getting off the arriving plane were met with a wall of people eagerly lined up to board. It was a mess.

United is trying to fix that issue. How many of you have been to O’hare, SFO, or EWR recently and had your path obstructed by dozens of people in the boarding line, snaking into the main concourse? Well, United’s plan to fix this is simple. Passengers should only line up if they are in Boarding Groups 1 or 2. Groups 3-5 remain seated and then they’ll be called once the first two Groups are on board. That part of the plan seems fine, although I really don’t think it will work. See, if you are in Groups 3-5, you’ll end up boarding through Lane 2…which means you’ll likely still be fighting for your spot in that line.

United Airlines' New Boarding Process

United Airlines’ New Boarding Process

Reorganization

My biggest issue is how the new Boarding Groups are organized. I’m a Premier Platinum flyer with United, meaning I fly 75K+ miles each year and spend $9K with them. Currently, I board in Group 1. Group 1 consists of Premier 1K (100K mile flyers), Premier Platinum and First Class Passengers. We are the first to board the plane after the pre-boarding folks (Uniformed Military, Families with small children, Global Services and people with mobility issues). This is great for me. I board and get situated; I never have a problem finding overhead bin space near my seat for my roller bag. Group 2 included Premier Gold (50K mile flyers), Star Alliance Gold, and certain credit card holders. When I use to board with Group 2, I had a hard time finding space for my bag near my seat – often times I’d need to go back 4-5 rows to properly stow the bag. Now I don’t usually need my bag while in flight, it is just problematic when we deplane. Swimming upstream to get my back is always a pain the neck.

The New Process

The new process adjusts who is in Group 1. Now Premier 1K is part of pre-boarding. Group 1 consists of Premier Platinum, Premier Gold, Star Alliance Gold and Premium Cabins (First and Business Class passengers).
Now I know that on the grand scheme of things, this is a minor issue. The most important part of flying is arriving safely and close to the schedule. One of the benefits for hitting 75K miles each year was to board a bit earlier. If I’m not traveling with my roller bag, I don’t board early.  I wait until the bitter end as I don’t want to sit on the plane any longer than I have to.

The best part of this change is that it keeps the credit card passengers a Group behind us. Once I get a couple more trips under my belt, it may all work out just fine and I’ll actually enjoy this new structure. I’m not sold on it now though.

If I were designing the boarding Groups (purely for selfish reasons of course), I’d have Global Services continue to pre-board. Then Group 1 would be First Class, Premier 1K and Premier Platinum. Group 2 would be Premier Gold, Star Alliance Gold and credit card people (I believe that United makes decent money off these folks). Group 3 would be Premier Silver, Star Alliance Silver and people who purchased Priority Access. The rest of the Groups would remain unchanged.

How will this change at United Airlines impact your travels? Are you boarding sooner or later? Do you not care at all because you just check your bag and don’t have to worry about it?

EVA Air Royal Laurel Class (Business Class) TPE-SIN

Walking down the gate, I take the first left turn and board our Boeing 777-300 through door 1L. Like my last flight, from Chicago, I was seated in a window seat in the second cabin on EVA Air Business Class. This time I was on the right (starboard) side of the plane – I like to mix it up from, time to time, ya know.

The Flight

I neared my seat, a stew approached me, welcoming me on board.  As I got settled she immediately took my drink order. She returned with my drink and took my briefcase from me to stow in the overhead. Such different service than United, huh? I sit down and was handed a warm, moist towel and a glass of champagne. This shorter, non-flagship service, served Delamotte Blanc de Blanc 2007, and not Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame. It was good, but you could definitely tell the difference in their long-haul vs medium/short routes.

Champagne in EVA Air Business Class

Pre-departure champagne

EVA Air Welcome Message

Welcome Aboard

This flight was also quite empty, with only 12 of 38 seats occupied. The four and a half hour schlep to Singapore was pretty damn efficient. I really am not a breakfast guy in general and don’t like congee.  When I saw the beef noodle soup as a breakfast option, I knew that was my selection! It had been 20 hours since I left home, I wasn’t in the breakfast mood.

Beef Noodle Soup

Beef Noodle Soup with all the Accouterments

Beef Noodle Soup

Beef Noodle Soup for Breakfast

A simple fruit dessert

A simple fruit dessert

The beef noodle soup was amazing. I did pull out the 4 inch piece of giggly beef fat immediately though. The soup was a bit bland at first, but after mixing in the condiments (or as the menu says traditional delicatessens), it was great. I usually steer clear of soups on a plane, the turbulence and spilling or burn issues, but I am so happy I didn’t here.

Pajamas are not provided on such a short flight( which is really a no brainer, why would you need them?) We were not provided an amenity kit, which was disappointing. Since I didn’t get the Rimowa kit out of Chicago, I was hoping I’d get one on this leg. A bit disappointing.

After the meal was cleared, I ordered another glass of champagne and a water. Dropping the seat into a bed I decided to get some more rest.  I knew I’d have a long day ahead of me (landing at noon meant I had at least 10 hours of activity ahead of me).

I snoozed off and on over the remaining three hours of flight time. We approached Changi Airport and unlike the last leg, the stews were calm and gracious, closing out their pre-arrival duties about eight minutes before the wheels touched down.

Since we deplaned from door 2L I was the third person off the plane and quickly made my way through immigration, customs and to the airport’s train station.

Changi Airport

Changi Airport

In Conclusion

I was really looking forward to experiencing and comparing EVA 777-300 service on both long and short haul flights. The hard product was the same, which I love. The service and food was really top notch as well. The real differences were the PJs, amenity kits and the really awful entrees on the long-haul.

The only other time I’ve flown a regional Business Class product in Asia before was between Bangkok and Hanoi, Taipei and Bangkok, Bangkok and Rangoon and Bangkok to Soeul all on Thai Airways. Those Thai products differed greatly and of them all, I’d prefer to stick with EVA. I’m flying Singapore to Bangkok later this trip and can’t wait to compare that product.

What do you think about EVA’s Regional service? Does it seem crazy to you that an airline would fly an internationally configured long-haul aircraft in a short 4.5 hour hop? I wish United would fly Polaris Business Class flights from Chicago to the west coast!

EVA Air Infinity Lounge

After hurrying off the flight from Chicago, I quickly made my way to the EVA Air Infinity Lounge.  EVA Air has several lounges available in Taipei, but I decided to visit just one.  As I made my way to the lounge, I was struck by how absolutely dead this major airport was at 04h15.  Empty hallways as far as the eye could see!

The Airport

The Departure Board

The departure board – no flight departures for hours.

Empty hallways at TPE

Early morning and empty terminal

Empty hallways at TPE

Soon these halls would be filled with excited travelers, not so much at 04h30.

Entering the EVA Air Infinity Lounge you are greeted by several staffers, plus an inquisitive robot.  The robot seemed mostly to distract people entering the lounge.

EVA Air Infinity Lounge

EVA Air Infinity Lounge

The Lounge

My first order of business was to grab a shower.  It had been nearly 20 hours since I had last showered.  While I wasn’t working out, I did feel quite gross.  Maybe the gallons of champagne I drank had something to do with that.  I immediately swapped my boarding pass for a shower key.  Every time I take a shower at TPE, I struggle to figure out how to actually enter the shower area.  I can’t offer guidance either, as I try a dozen different ways to get in and then it finally clicks.  Just ask for help. I’m too stubborn to do that though.

The shower room isn’t anything fancy, but it is clean and has hot water.

Accessories in the shower room

The private shower room is stocked with fresh toiletries and towels.

Bulk Products in the Shower

Bulk shampoo, conditioner and body wash were waiting in the shower.

Private Shower Rooms must have a toilet, right?

Not too fancy of a toilet, but it did have several bells and whistles, that I didn’t try out.

After the shower, I felt like a new man.  I wasn’t very hungry, but I did force myself to grab some water, more champagne and some ice cream.  The lounge was relatively quiet this early in the morning, which allowed me to get a little work done and relax before my next flight.

Video Arcade or Lounge?

EVA Air Infinity Lounge looks like an arcade from the 1980s.

Video Arcade or Lounge?

The EVA Air Infinity Lounge has ample room for guests.

I had spent the last 15.5 hours eating and drinking, so I wasn’t too keen on the idea of breakfast food.  Plus, I had another 5 hour flight in Business Class in just a couple of hours.  I’ll skip this meal.

Self-serve beverage station.

Self-serve beverage station.

Breakfast Pastries

The breakfast pastries weren’t all that appetizing

Chilled Breakfast Case

Yogurt, butter and other chilled breakfast items

En Route to the Gate

I got a little tired of just sitting around the EVA Air Infinity Lounge, so I headed off to explore TPE and make my way towards the gate.

Pilot Hello Kitty

I don’t understand the infatuation with Hello Kitty, but I do dig the aviation themed kitty.

Boeing 777-300

My flight from TPE to SIN. Love this Boeing 777-300.

Sanrio Planes Crack Me Up

While not exactly THE Hello Kitty Plane, this Sanrio livery was hot.

I’ve never had much time to spend exploring TPE, but I’ve been pretty pleased with my time there.  Unfortunately, EVA Air doesn’t offer any stellar ground services like Thai Airways, Singapore or Lufthansa does, so there really isn’t any reason to push for a longer layover.

Have you spent much time in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport?  What should I be on the look out for next time I transit?