Monday, March 23, 2009

a380 review

I'll admit to a little giddiness when boarding QF32 back to Sydney from Singapore this time, closet plane-spotter that I am. Actually more like lounge room plane-spotter, since the view from the closet is restricted. Anyway the prospect of my first A380 flight was exciting. It was also came with a little hesitation - somehow a 747 still looks more like it actually wants to get off the ground, whereas the A380 comes off a bit more like a road train with wings. And being an experienced Apple fan, I've learned to be wary of 1st generation product releases. On this flight there was indeed a "malfunctioning [something] back up power system [something] will be ok after takeoff." And it was ok, although when we landed they had to keep the engines running at the gate until they plugged the plane into the wall. Just needed an extension cord I guess.

Let's start with the negatives: nothing major to speak of. The plane wasn't especially full, so it didn't seem too unruly getting on or off. Could be a different matter with a full flight. There was also quite an unsettling grinding sound when the flaps were fully retracted after takeoff, and again when they began to be extended for landing. Nothing that I'm sure some WD-40 wouldn't fix. On take off, it accelerated very rapidly and impressively, although certainly seemed to linger on the tarmac for longer than usual - just long enough that you can't help but wonder how much might be left. On landing, it did seem to groan just a little on impact - like it wasn't entirely convinced that it wanted that sort of interaction, but slowed quickly and obediently.

On then to the positives. I like the seats. It seemed like there was more space - both leg room and width. It's probably partly that the cabin feels modern and spacious. And the plane is certainly quiet. Really quiet compared to a regular jet. My noise-cancelling headphones really didn't make that much of an impact (they do on a 747). I think it feels less exhausting because of that.

But for me it's all about the video screen. It's widescreen and it's huge - in comparison to a standard one. And it's much higher quality. Normally I will only choose movies that I think can survive the translation to the small crappy screen (ie, nothing that gets nominated for a cinematography oscar) - but on this screen the viewing is actually involving rather than trying. I tried watching Quantum of Solace on the way over, but just couldn't tolerate the visuals on the small screen, but was able to watch it all the way through on this one. Personal video screens (with video on demand) are the best thing to happen to flight since smoking was banned, so I reckon improving that is the best thing you can do for an economy passenger.

Leery Traveller says two thumbs up.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

iron cord art

It may be worth adding an eleventh criteria to my list below for determining the quality of a hotel, and that would be whether housekeeping engages in iron cord art. The example pictured here is from the Hilton in KL where my iron cord was arranged thusly every day, and every morning I did a small ribbon dance to get it undone. While I appreciate the neatness and elegance of the cord wrapping, it did evoke for me the vaguely troubling image of a stocky German woman tut-tutting every day she came in to find it unwound again.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

a word about potato gratin

Here at the breakfast trough* at the Howard Plaza Kaohsiung, I was amused yesterday morning to see that the potato gratin had been filled out by mixing some fried potato wedges throughout it, looking suspiciously like they had been retrieved from the previous night's bar menu. Fair enough, I thought, if it was going to ensure that there was enough gratin to satisfy everyone. Presumably just a stop-gap measure until someone went to the market for more potatoes that could be added in a more traditional manner. However, clearly the potato shortage is ongoing as this morning I found the gratin had been filled out by the careful addition of hash brown nuggets.

* trough = buffet

whoever gave this hotel a four-star rating is ****ed.

... by which of course I mean that they were completely accurate. To be honest, I don't know half the time what the actual star rating is supposed to be for any given hotel, who has determined it, and what sort of money changed hands to get there. 

So I think it's time for a better system, and I am just the one to design it. It's a ten point scoring system, and it works on a binary basis, by which I mean that there are ten criteria that the hotel either has or does not have. Each of the following criteria is worth one point:
  1. Hangers in closet are free-hanging and ready to steal, not like those annoying ones that leave you with a nub on top while the hangy part stays fixed.
  2. Conditioner is in a separate bottle to the shampoo.
  3. Room service/housekeeping/concierge uses your name when you call them from the room.
  4. Something yummy is left in your room daily - the welcome fruit does not count.
  5. The temperature selector on the air conditioning thermostat has some connection to the temperature it will actually deliver.
  6. There is an easy-to-find TV channel listing.
  7. Internet access is free (bonus point if wireless).
  8. Room is any one of: tasteful, cool, sleek, ridiculously large, has excellent view.
  9. The widescreen TV doesn't stretch every crappy analogue standard-aspect channel it receives, rendering most movies unwatchable.
  10. A firm pillow is available, or can be provided with a minimum of fuss.
Thus I can rate this current trip as follows:
G Hotel, Penang: 5
Hilton Kuala Lumpur: 8
Puteri Pacific, Johor Bahru: 3
Howard Plaza, Kaohsiung: 3.5 (because three pieces of welcome fruit is better than one)

The pass mark is necessarily low, because I want to leave room for a hotel to really satisfy me, and for me to be able to express that. Hence, even though the G Hotel gets 5, I'd happily stay there again. The Howard Plaza Kaohsiung is serviceable, but the Puteri Pacific just makes me sad in so many unexplainable ways.