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F.East'12-1: Inching towards Incheon

 
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4477
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 8:45 am    Post subject: F.East'12-1: Inching towards Incheon Reply with quote

F.East'12-1: Inching towards Incheon
------------------------------------
Come November 2012, I was supposed to to have a conference trip
to Tsukuba, Japan. It would be my first trip to Japan, and I was
looking forward to it, least of all a round trip on Air India, AI
306 on 09 Nov 2012, returning on AI 307 on 15 Nov 2012.
Some time in October, a colleague asked me if I could prefix the
trip with one to Korea (South Korea, The Republic of Korea), since
he would not be able to do so. Yes, that was fine all right, but
I would have to scram. This would be a Far East F.East for me!
I had never been to these two countries before.

I will describe this trip in four parts:
1. F.East'12-1: Inching towards Incheon
2. F.East'12-2: S(e)oulful Korea-graphy
3. F.East'12-3: The Morning Calm, The Rising Sun!
4. F.East'12-4: Arigato Nippon, Sayonara!

This is the first part, and can be found at the following URL:
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13067.html

In this part, I will describe a somewhat long and winding
build-up to this trip, along with the joys and frustrations of
being in a semi-Government organisation, and experiencing the
associated red tape. This part will see me planning, plotting,
and dreaming, about some similar trips that I had made earlier,
albeit to other destinations, both exotic, and mundane.
I am not a very regular international traveller, so I cherish
each and every trip, and try to ensure that each trip remains
engrained in my memory for a long time to come. I also try to be
at my parsimonious best, in order to avoid some
self-contradictory Government rules, that have not seen much
change ever since early Man walked on this earth.

The build-up to the trip had its share of troubles and tensions.
Initially, it was only to be Tsukuba. As good employees of a
semi-Government organisation, we would have to travel by Air
India. Air India of course, flies to both Tokyo Narita (NRT) and
Osaka Kansai (KIX). Tsukuba is a `science city' tucked away quite
far from Tokyo, and had only recently been connected by a fast
train. The concept of a science city was the Government forcing
science and research institutions to sprout up at a relatively
new location, and expecting growth to follow. The conference at
Korea also had a lot in common. This was tucked away in Daejeon,
another science city. The Air India flights were not daily, and
there were bullet trains on the route to be enjoyed!

To summarise, I had an approved trip to Tsukuba, Japan, and I
wanted to prefix a trip to Daejeon, The Republic of
Korea, to this trip. I was simultaneously having lots of deep
thoughts on the routing possibilities for each trip, even the
first one, but let us take things one at a time. I had to obtain
permission to visit Korea as well, and time was running out.
There was a huge lot of work to be done, and all this hinged on
one approval.

My initial request for support was turned down.
On my senior colleague's persistence, I applied through a
different channel. There was finally approved, and I came to know
about it as I traced the path the document had taken, in the
myriad pathways of the echelons of power in our organisation.
After this, I applied for an invitation for a Korean visa.
There was no response from the Korean end.
A Korean visa would take a minimum of five working days, so said
the website. Things got to the point where I would have to take a
decision on whether time would even permit a Korean visa
application. I called up the organisers, and this worked,
finally. I applied for a Korean visa.
Somehow, the online payment of registration fees was not working,
so a wire transfer it would be. This was something that the
organisers could not trace after 12 days, and many an email
exchange, and phone call. In desperation, I wrote to the
conference Program Co-Chair. This finally worked, there was
possibly some problem in understanding the Queen's Language.

The Wife had `been made aware' of the Japan trip. Her exasperated
reaction on hearing about a trip to the Republic of Korea was,
``Are you now going to North Korea?''
Yes, people often confuse the two Koreas, the Communist North is
officially the `Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea', while
South Korea is the `Republic of Korea'. In a better mood later,
she told me that she was perhaps going to ask me how I was flying
to North Korea, on a rocket, or a Nodong missile. She was at
least contended that my obsession for ex- and current communist
countries was withering out (after two visits in less than 4
months' time, to Moscow, and Beijing, in 2011).

To summarise once again, now my rough itinerary was 04 Nov (Sun)
to set out for Daejeon, PRK and 15 Nov (Thu), to set out from
Tsukuba, Japan. Even the Japan trip was not without its share of
surprises, and disappointments. Air India did not have a daily
flight to Tokyo Narita. This put paid to my hopes of attending
the whole conference, and doing a bit of the tourist circuit as
well. 15 Nov'12 was the last day of the conference. There was an
Air India flight back to Delhi only on that day, and not on the
next. What if the purpose of attending the conference, happened
to be on the last day? I hoped for the best, and was pleased when
the conference schedule was such that I could avoid the last day.
This put paid to some of my tourist circuit hopes, however. There
was a flight on 17 Nov'12 (Sat), for which I would not get the
requisite leave. The only way I could make it back on 16 Nov'12
was to take a JAL or an ANA flight for instance, or an indirect
flight, but the costs were completely prohibitive for a one-way
ticket on both Air India, as well as the other airlines. Added
to it was the small issue of getting permission to fly another
airline, given that Air India flew to Tokyo.

My mind thought about Osaka Kansai (KIX)...ah, that wonderful
island airport in the middle of the sea. This would be a delight
to experience! Added to it was a Shinkasen (`Bullet Train')
linking Osaka to Tokyo. Would I be able to twist this in?
The first dampener came from the fact that Air India had no Osaka
Kansai flight back to Delhi, on 16 Nov'12. Second, there was no
way I could make a comfortable Shinkasen connection, which could
itself take around 4 hours, given the distance. Moreover, there
was no direct connection. The conference organisers had advised
attendees to patronise the Narita-Tsukuba bus service, which
traditionally, had been the only way to reach Tsukuba from the outside
world. This bus ran at sparse timings, and definitely not at
night. I was not sure of a train connection on the weekend -
there was some confusion about the train timings. I had been
warned by many senior colleagues that while people in Japan were
extremely friendly, the language barrier was often very difficult
to surmount, at a few places.

Fine, the Japan trip was worked out, but one leg - the onward on
AI 306 DEL-NRT had to be cancelled, approval taken for paying the
official travel agent the cancellation fees out of my grant, and
pray that I get a similarly priced ticket for the onward trip,
now advanced by five days, to Incheon.
This worked out fine at the end, but there was one more item to
be taken care of. Yes, it was getting to Japan from Korea, in
such a way that my earlier hotel bookings would not go waste, or
I lost the conference rate advantage by making a change in an
already booked itinerary. I had very few choices. My work at
Daejeon, Korea was on 06 Nov (Tue) and 09 Nov (Fri) - the latter,
in the late afternoon. Hence, I could not set out on 09 Nov
(Fri). Moreover, I could end up arriving in Japan much before my
hotel reservation period set in. Hotels in this part of the world
seemed to have their booked arrival times set in the afternoon.
I would have to set out on 10 Nov (Sat).
I had a large choice of airlines, even among full-service
carriers. Korean, Asiana, JAL, ANA, Delta and United - these
choices popped out of most on-line booking engines. I also had a
choice of airports: two from Korea, Incheon (ICN) and the older
Gimpo (GMP), and Tokyo Narita (NRT) and Haneda (HND). I was also
looking for flights to Osaka Kansai (KIX), in the vain hope of
getting a good connection there, to see the airport, and perhaps,
be able to justify a Shinkasen (The Japanese Bullet Train) trip.
The flying time was approximately the same for all options, just
over two hours. The rates were not so, unfortunately.
My heart skipped a beat when I found out that there was an A380
option from Korean Airlines, on the ICN-NRT leg.
Wow, would I get to fly on a Whalejet, after all?
I looked up the baggage policy - it allowed only one free checked-in bag.
This was very disappointing for me. I had resigned myself to
taking a bag inside another, much like a Matrushka doll set, to
do the Korea-Japan leg, and then unfurl my cards once in Japan,
and do most of my shopping there, if I found the time. The
timings of the flight left me flabbergasted. It was an evening
flight, giving me almost no photography opportunities. Moreover,
I would have missed the last bus to Tsukuba from Narita airport,
and I did not want to try out the three-train option to Tsukuba.
Narita to Tokyo station, Tokyo station to Akihabara, and
Akihabara to Tsukuba. Moreover, I could not find any information
on whether the Tsukuba Express ran on Sundays. (There was some
confusion on the information available - and time-tables were
quite old). I was apprehensive about travelling at night in a
place where there could perhaps be a language barrier. I would of
course, risk the danger of forfeiting my hotel booking - forget
not getting my first night, if I did not arrive around my
scheduled time, since this was a very good conference rate deal.
Sadly, I tried to look at other flights.
Delta too had the one-bag rule.

Timings-wise, I had now shortlisted four flights:
UA 890: [ICN-NRT] [12:15 pm - 02:25 pm]
JL 092: [GMP-HND] [12:10 pm - 02:15 pm]
JL 954: [ICN-NRT] [01:40 pm - 04:00 pm]
NH 1162: [GMP-HND] [12:45 pm - 02:45 pm]

Yes, all of these would also permit me two checked-in bags.
Now came the small matter of the prices. The United flight (an
ex-Continental one) was the cheapest of all, at Rs.17k.
The Delta one was 1k higher, with the others ranging from 20-21k,
to above 22k, including the Korean Air one. My travel agent
reminded me about two points. First, I had not taken permission
for flying a non-Air India airline between Korea and Japan, and
second (and more important for him), my budget strings were far
too tight to allow me to choose anything but the cheapest option.
Some hectic running around saw the first issue get resolved. A
small consolation for me on the second, was that I would get some
Jet Airways points on the United flight.

04 Nov (Sun) night to 15 Nov (Thu) evening.
I was going to be away from home for quite a few days.
What would I take along with me?
Mummy reminded me to take an extra pair of spectacles along.
Yes, she said, what if they drop on a soft downy carpet?
I laughed at the recollection.
I had till now, admired the resilience of my pair of spectacles.
This was a light metal frame, which had fallen on hard and rough
surfaces without it coming unscathed (and unscratched, too) from
the experience. Hard and rough surfaces?
Metalled roads, rocks, cement floors, to name a few.
In Beijing, it had fallen down on the soft downy carpet of my
hotel room, and the one of the lenses had cracked.
I had to make do with my alternate pair of spectacles, since my
high degree of myopia did not permit me to remain in an
un-spectacular/un-spect-ocular state for any extended period of
time. One of the first things I had to do on my return was to
replace the cracked lens.
Ah...this will last me some time, I told myself.
The some time was less than a month, as the other lens now
cracked while I was cleaning it with a soft downy cloth.

Time flew.
04 Nov came in very quickly, and I excitedly went in with my
favourite cab operator, toward IGI Airport, T3.
Check-in was a breeze. I was told that the flight today was
completely chock-a-block, on both the legs.
I was on SMS contact with a prominent Delhi Plane Spotter friend,
Mr. All-stare MacLean.
He hypothesised that I might get VT-ALA `Andhra Pradesh', Air
India's first B777, a B777-200LR. However, ALA nahin ALA re.
I saw a B777-200LR at the gate for the Tokyo Narita flight AI
306. This was `Jharkhand', VT-ALF. ALF's LFs (Load Factors)
looked quite good. Our boarding gate had initially been announced
as 22, which was changed to 09. AI 995 to Dubai (DXB) was a
787-800, and Air India's `New Hope' plane VT-ANH was doing the run
that night. The gate was extremely crowded, and load factors
looked good, once again. The Gulf Air flight pushed back, and an
Indigo flight went past our gate, but there was no sign of our
aircraft. VT-ALD `Gujarat' had landed from HKG.
Did the aircraft do a turn-around, and go back to HKG, I asked.
Sometimes this happens about 2-3 days at a stretch, reported my
well-informed friend. There was a SpiceJet B737-800 parked right
in front of the seating area for gates 09A and 09B. I saw a
B777-200LR come in silently, in the mist.
`The Beauty, and the Mist,' I texted him.
Which one would it be?
It was `Assam', VT-ALC.
So this would be my third trip on the plane.
`Assam' had brought me back from the land of Uncle Sam in
December 2008, and had brought me back to Delhi again, from Hong
Kong in 2010. A trip report covering this leg was the third part
of my series of 2011 Beijing trip reports,
`Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: Beijing, 2011 Part 3'
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12452.html
There was a third `third' associated with this trip, a third meal
option, a Korean one. I hope I have created enough suspense in
the minds of a similar minded reader. As for others not similarly
inclined, well...never mind.

There was just an hour to departure time.
`Let us see how they manage an on-time departure','
my friend texted me.
I remarked that the plane was `Assam', where one of the common
ways of life was as the Assamese put it, `laahe laahe'.
The people were so blessed with the bounties of nature and
generally well-contended, that there was no need to hurry, hence
`laahe laahe'.
I looked at the ethnic composition of my fellow passengers. Most
of them looked like Koreans to me. Indians were clearly
outnumbered!

Doors closed at 11:10 pm.
The plane was very clean from the inside, specifically, the
plastic surfaces. However, the fabric, though clean, showed its
age a bit. I noted two buttons missing on my tethered remote
control for the IFE, which also had a crack.
I had been amazed at the pristine state the plane had been in, in
2010, but this wasn't really so, this time.
A Malaysia Airlines B777-200 pushed back at 11:10 pm, and was
waiting beside us. Captain Rishi Goswami was in command, and Mr.
Ryan Lobo was the chief cabin crew. The cabin crew was a mixture
of very senior people, and a few fresh faces, predominantly male.
We pushed back at 11:20 pm.
I noted with some interest, that our direction of movement
indicated a departure from the main runway, towards the west. We
taxied past a China Southern A321 (or was it a 752, which my very sleepy eyes and food-and-sleep-deprived brain mistook for an A321 - what a shocking mistake!), another Air India B777-200LR, a
Swissair A330-300, a Jet Airways A330-200, and an Air France
B777-200ER. We went past the ARC area, and did an about-turn
on the main runway. Captain Rishi Goswami made a long and speedy
run, as we climbed out into the Delhi skies gently, on the main
runway 28. The other two seats beside me (31H, 31J) were occupied
by two people, who has unsuccessfully tried to persuade me out
of my favourite B777-200LR seat, 31K. To my horror, they managed
to persuade the original occupants of the above two seats to
exchange places with them, and be seated together with me. They
were disturbing, to say the least. They fiddled around with
whatever was close to their hands, and talked loudly. Matters
went out of hand (literally) when the person in 31J (`hurricane
31J') now `took over' the common arm-rest, as if it was
his personal property. My footwear got a right shift, and had it
not been for Air India's very generous seat pitch, it would have
been a very uncomfortable flight, indeed.

We had taken off some forty five minutes behind schedule.
After lunch, except for a cup of tea, I had resisted temptation
in taking any nourishment. I had wanted to save it up for the Air
India dinner. We had a wheels-up at 11:45 pm, but the dinner
service started only at 12:30 am. The members of the cabin crew
did not look the pro-active type I had seen on my two previous
trips on Air India to Hong Kong, in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
I was in my favourite seat 31K, which implies proximity to the
galley in the vicinity. the aroma of capsicum (bell pepper) had
drifted in and out, getting me quite restive.
When the dinner cart finally came in, there was no snack, or a
drinks run. Bang came in the dinner. Yes, they came straight to
the point. The cabin crew appeared to rush it in, and be done
with it. I had asked about a non-vegetarian option, but the
gentleman was not too encouraging of my dietary preferences. It
would take some time, he said, and handed us the vegetarian
trays, instead. I was extremely hungry, and did not mind it too
much. I started the dinner with the bread roll, which was nothing
to write home about. There was a rock-hard butter chiplet (the
type I like). With the carbs and fats into my cavernous belly, I
turned my attention to the Indian green salad that had tickled my
olfactory senses for quite some time. Yes, there were small pieces
of capsicum, with similar-sized offerings of cucumber, carrot and
cabbage. I had this with the small size of a lemon, and a pinch
of salt and more than a decent sprinkling of black pepper.
I turned my attention to the hot box near me, which had been
thoughtfully placed on a small rectangular tray. There was a nice
vegetable Biriyani inside, with aromatic long Basmati rice, and
small pieces of carrots, French beans and peas, with some
coriander leaves thrown in for good measure. This was very well
done - neither was it too dry, nor too runny. The left side had
some red lentils (masoor/malka dal, to the Delhi'ite), which went
very well with the vegetable Biriyani. A highlight of the
preparation was that it was done with a very small amount of
oil, which met with my eager approval. Unfortunately, this
turned out to be the only attractive part of the dinner.
There was a carton of some standard curd/yogurt.
The sweets were two Gulab Jamuns with shreds of pistachio/pista.
It was fine, but nothing exceptional.
Then, as the reader may expect, I went in for the coffee, which
was a dampener, as it usually is.
Just a word about my seat companions. 31H hardly ate anything.
31J's try looked as if a small hurricane had struck it. The
contents were splayed all over, with him taking small pickings
from a few things around, and leaving a lot of it untried, but
may the reader note, not untouched.
Hence, the hurricane comparison.
All this while, I had opted for my usual music videos on the IFE
PTV. I usually patronise old film songs both on the video, as well
as the audio channel, and today was no exception.
The trays were cleared at around 1am, and the lights dimmed.
I would try to catch some eye-shut now.

Captain Rishi Goswami landed on the sea-side runway. This is the
South runway, and we had come in from the east. There was a
sudden announcement about landing in 10 minutes, prior to this,
and the cabin was hurriedly prepared for landing. Sleepy souls
stirred up, as the plane landed at 06:40 am local time. In spite
of the late take-off, we had covered up a lot of time during
the cruise. We parked with a DragonAir A330-200 to our right.



The halt at Hong Kong would be for an hour and 10 minutes.
There wasn't much to see outside the window.
There was a cabin count, and a check for baggage and boarding
passes. Would this be another full flight? I noted the plane
filling up rapidly, at least in the economy section.
There was a change of crew.

We pushed back on time, and it was back to the sea-side (south)
runway, where we took off towards the east.
This leg of the flight was completely different from the previous
one, both in terms of the crew, as well as the food.
Captain P. V. Chanakya was in command.
Captain Swati Rawal was the First Officer.
She had a characteristic Marathi accent, and gave us a large
number of details about the flight, some time after the
meal trays were cleared.

Yes, the announcement said that breakfast would be served on the
flight. There were three cabin crew in the area I was seated in.
A cheerful young lady Pallavi, who resembles Smita Patil a bit; a
senior gentleman, and a cheerful senior lady from the North East.
The two ladies engaged in pleasant talk with passengers around.
The plane had started its take-off roll when the latter rushed
back to her seat, and gave an embarrassed smile to passengers
around, whom she had earlier briefed about the emergency exit row.
As soon as the seat belt sign went off, the senior lady jumped
into action in the galley area, firing up the ovens.
Extremely inviting smells filled the cabin.
I tried the old film songs section of the audio selection, to try
to divert my attention from the obsession with food.
For a while amazingly, it worked.

Ms. Pallavi first asked around for those who would prefer an
Indian vegetarian breakfast. My companion grudgingly ordered one
of these, and when he started, I wondered, had I made the correct
decision? I noted two chutneys, one of them being the heavenly
coconut one. The smells from the main box took my senses away.
This had a nice upma block in the middle. The upma was
embellished with lightly fried dry fruits. To the left were three
small uthapa(m) disks, and on the right, a dry potato-based
preparation. There was a flat packet also on top, possibly
housing a parantha/barota, to be had with the curd- or
cream- or white-butter-based accompaniment.
The aroma of the spices took my breath away.
Oh...could I change my decision now?
When Ms. Pallavi came to me, I shamelessly asked her again, what
the choices were. Indian vegetarian, or a continental
non-vegetarian, she replied with a smile. I was waiting for the
pause, and a third item to follow...the increasing duration of
the wait told me that an oriental option was not available.
My pulse quickened, I had to make a quick choice.
The person in 31H had refused breakfast.
Would Ms. Pallavi assume the same for me?
`The non-vegetarian option,' I nearly blurted out.
given the very large number of Koreans on board, I was actually
looking forward to a Korean dish, much like one which was served
on my last flight out of Hong Kong (this was the 2011 Beijing trip),
where the third option was a Korean one, for dinner. The third
part of my Beijing trip report, featuring this third option can
be read here:
`Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: Beijing, 2011 Part 3'
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12452.html

The lady smiled at me, and handed me over a tray.
A different set of smells now permeated the air-space near me.
I would keep the suspense for a bit longer.
I would start with the items common to both the choices.
There was a nice croissant, served with a butter chiplet, and a
very nice strawberry preserve.
This set the tone for a very good meal.
The croissant was soft and tasted fresh.
The butter had my favourite rock-hard consistency.
There was a nice fruit bowl, with four papaya slices.
On top was a small sweet plum.
This disappeared into my approving oesophagus in no time at all.
There was a nice strawberry yogurt.

While my anticipation rose, my companion's attitude to the
heavenly food, tried to draw me with an equal and opposite force.
He picked at the platter like a sparrow, and from his body
language (yes, the pun is intended!) indicated that he was done
very soon. He had not touched the croissant or the accompaniments.
Some part of the upma offering made its way into his middle.
What! uppu-madu, the delicious and healthy preparation of
rava/suji/semolina/Durum wheat, with a pinch of salt, was
possibly one of the best ways to start a day.
Many of us do not know the difference between rava and atta,
given that they are both wheat products. It is interesting to
know that atta and maida (refined wheat flour) come from the
ordinary wheat, Triticum aestivum to the biologically-inclined.
Durum wheat is a tougher and coarser variety, Triticum durum,
with its own different taste.
I sincerely apologise for the diversion, I was in the midst of
describing the aftermath of hurricane 31J.
The fruits got a royal miss.
The yogurt was lucky to get a try.
But yes, just so.
The flat packet retained its mystery for me - the person
perhaps had decided that he knew what curiosity had done to the
celebrated feline. His lack of inclination increased my disgust.
And frustration...what a waste, what a waste!

With a sense of purpose, I opened the hot box Aluminium foil
covering, served on a small tray, lest the appreciator touch the
hot surfaces. To the left were some delicately sliced medium
potato disks, which had been lightly tossed in a slight amount of
oil. The cooking medium was olive oil. In the middle was a large
and fluffy omelette with uniform consistency. There were some
mushroom slices on top of the omelette, and a chicken mince
sausage completed contents of the main box. It was delicious, to
say the least. Ms. Pallavi came to offer beverages, and as usual,
tea was offered first. She told hurricane 31J that this was a
slightly light tea, since many passengers from the Far east did
not like strong teas like we Indians do. Should she get a
stronger tea? Yes, please. The person in seat 31H, 31J's `fast
friend' (he did not seem to be even slightly hungry) rendered Ms.
Pallavi's attempts to have him try the fine spread, in vain.
As usual, I waited for the coffee. It was the senior gentleman,
this time. Surprise, surprise, this was a tasty coffee blend, but
a bit light for my tastes. I think I guessed why. A bit stronger,
and it would have been the perfect finish to a great breakfast.
Ms. Pallavi cleared the trays very promptly.

Captain Chanakya made a textbook landing at Incheon.



As we got to our pre-assigned gate, I noted with some delight,
that the flight I would take in a few days' time - UA 890, was
parked right beside us, a Boeing 777-200ER. A Korean 737-800 had
just taken off, and an Eva Air Airbus 330-200 was taxi'ing
towards us. I entered the terminal from an aero-bridge, and
looked forward to a three-train ride to Daejeon from Incheon. One
of them would be the KTX, the Korean Bullet Train!
This and more, will come in Part 2,
2. F.East'12-2: S(e)oulful Korea-graphy
Stay tuned!

---
Links to my previous trip reports:

40. Straight to Vizag, no zig-zag, Sep'12
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13049.html

39. Routes and Shoots: The Garden City, August 2012
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13030.html

38. 2012: Jabalpur in July
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13001.html

37. Calcutta: A Short and Sweet Trip, June 2012
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12982.html

36. Indore again in 2012, April
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12937.html

35. Can't Cut Calcutta Calls! CCU, Mar'12
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12909.html

34. Tinsel-town ahoy! Mumbai, Mar'12
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12885.html

33. Indoor/Indore in 2012
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12835.html

32. Colour Range over the Orange City: NAG, Jan'12
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12803.html

31. AI strike(,) PAT in the back: Patna, Jan'12
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12781.html

30. Regressive TR: Shuttling between Delhi and Mumbai
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12742.html

29. No Eyesore in Mysore; Part II: Mysore Memories; HAL Museum
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12730.html

28. No Eyesore in Mysore; Part I: Mysore
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12686.html

27. Hampi Hamper, Part 2: Hampi!
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12661.html

26. Hampi Hamper, Part I: Banashankari, Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12623.html

25. JAI Ho! Jaipur, Sep'12, My Double Standards?
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12592.html
(This is out of sequence, only to report on something that is
very recent, circa Sep'12)

24. PNQ: PeNning Queued Reports, Dec 2011
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12557.html

23. Little BHO-Peep, Nov 2011
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12496.html

22. The Call of the Vaigai! Madurai, Oct 2011
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12465.html

21. Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: Beijing, 2011 Part 3
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12452.html

20. No Panda-monium: Beijing, 2011 Part 2
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12389.html

19. North By Northwest...er, AI and CA: Beijing, 2011 Part 1
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12348.html

18. Going Bananas over Oranges: Nagpur, Aug'11
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12333.html

17. To the City of Joy and back, on Air India: Aug'11
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12238.html

16. To Chennai, Mar'12 with a Celebrity Captain!
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12196.html
(This is out of sequence owing to sheer excitement, and nothing
else!)

15. Marble Rocks, Marbles Rock; Jul 2011
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12157.html

14. The Fish-Eye Beckons! Madurai, on Air India. Jul 2011
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12136.html

13. To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 3: Monino!
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12091.html

12. To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 2: The Central Museum
of the Armed Forces
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12016.html

11. To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 1: The Overall Trip
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11717.html

10. The City of Lakes: Mother's Heart, Heart of the Motherland
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11556.html

9. Mostly Indoors, in Indore:
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11533.html

8. Inter-metro Shuttling on AI: DEL-BOM on AI810, BOM-DEL on AI888
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11449.html

7. On the cusp: DEL-BOM on IC863, BOM-DEL on AI660
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic11160.html

6. DEL-BOM on IT308, BOM-DEL on IC166
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10986.html

5. DEL-MAA on IC439, MAA-DEL on IC802
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10809.html

4. DEL-PNQ on IC849, PNQ-DEL on IC850
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10510.html

3. DEL-MAA on IC429 (A321), MAA-DEL on IC7602 (CRJ7)
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10401.html

2. DEL-NAG-NDC, NDC-BOM-DEL on G8
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10169.html

1. IGI T3, AI 314 DEL-HKG and AI 311 HKG-DEL
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic10018.html


Last edited by sumantra on Sun Mar 10, 2013 9:11 pm; edited 2 times in total
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sabya99
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How lucky you are, this time Japan and Korea! I would like to read more about the airport built on manmade island on Pacific ocean.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sabya99 wrote:
I would like to read more about the airport built on manmade island on Pacific ocean.
Thanks a lot Mr. Ganguly - I was not so lucky with regard to Osaka Kansai. I have heard some wonderful things about the airport, but this eluded me this time. I will describe the Seoul Incheon airport and the Tokyo Narita airport in some level of detail, with lots of photographs, in parts 3 and 4 of the report, and much of the Korean Bullet train experience, in Part 2. I have been very lucky to be able to visit some places both in the country, and outside, on my official trips. I hope my luck holds in the future, too!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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Theairplaneguy4ever
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Arigato gozaimashita Sumantra-san!

Your TRs never fail to keep the reader entertained.

And indeed, a wonderful international trip you had I believe!

Air India yet again has impressed you I believe. Their consistent international product would impress anyone then again.

There's always that flight where you've got the most annoying seat mate ever and I believe this was the case for you!

I'm really looking forward to the next segment featuring United and your experience on board it.

Btw, could you perhaps include a small segment on the journey to Tsukuba? I'm sure it would have been an interesting experience.

Thanks again for this wonderful TR and now I must go eat something, your descriptions have made me hungry!

Cheers

Theairplaneguy4ever
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Theairplaneguy4ever wrote:
Arigato gozaimashita Sumantra-san!
Arigato, Adi-san - thank you very much!

Theairplaneguy4ever wrote:
Air India yet again has impressed you I believe. Their consistent international product would impress anyone then again.
Adi, I had expressed a tinge of disappointment at the somewhat falling standards - mainly in the hard product, while the soft one continues to be quite delightful, though there have been some blips. On this trip, as well as some trips after that, I have seen some tired interiors and broken IFE handsets. The food also has not been what I have seen in Air India across quite a few years of travel, though even in these recessionary days of cost-cutting, Air India has often delighted me, in the food part.

Theairplaneguy4ever wrote:
I'm really looking forward to the next segment featuring United and your experience on board it.
Thank you, Adi - this will come in part 3 of the trip. The next one is a description of the Incheon to Daejeon segment, and the stay in Daejeon. I have quite a few pictures for this, as well as spotting at Incheon in Part 3.

Theairplaneguy4ever wrote:
Btw, could you perhaps include a small segment on the journey to Tsukuba? I'm sure it would have been an interesting experience.
Yes, this will come in Part 3 again, and to some extent in Part 4 as well. I think have have quite a few pictures here as well. Part 4 will have pictures of plane spotting at Narita.
Thanks once again for your kind words, Adi!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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ameya
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great TR Sir. You have been to so many places across the country and now across the world. Always nice to read your international TR, getting some info from the Assamese to the Japanese and Koreans.

I wish you would have gone to DPRK. One of the countries which I would like to visit and have enjoyed the TRs on airliners.net of the conducted tours.

Back to your TR, annoying people are all around... Wish they had got down at HKG.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ameya wrote:
I wish you would have gone to DPRK. One of the countries which I would like to visit and have enjoyed the TRs on airliners.net of the conducted tours.
Thank you for your kind appreciation, Sir! Yes, I would have loved to visit the DPRK too, and like you, I have followed the two prominent trip reports on A.net with great interest. They have a really exotic line-up of very well-maintained ex-Soviet aircraft and the Tu-204! This brings up The Wife's comment about going there on a Nodong missile, to mind.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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Spiderguy252
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mmm...an international one for a change. Made for yet another excellent read - though you might want to consider trimming that signature, which is elongating itself with every passing TR! Smile
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spiderguy252 wrote:
Mmm...an international one for a change
Thank you, Varun - I do not fly international as regularly as you do, so the trips are few and far in between. In the last few years, I have been quite lucky to have been able to make about one international trip a year - I have been very lucky indeed.
Spiderguy252 wrote:
though you might want to consider trimming that signature, which is elongating itself with every passing TR! Smile
Yes, Varun - the list is turning out to be longer than one of my shorter trip reports. I have paid heed to your advice, and transferred the shameless self-advertisement to a site. This is a bare-bones one, unimaginatively called `Sumantra's Trip Reports', at the following URL:
https://sites.google.com/site/sumantratrip/
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

...a quick update. Mr. All-stare MacLean updated me on the ferry flight return of Air India's first unintentionally wingletted 77W (which also fuelled rumours about a possible wing-tail merger with JetBlue): VT-ALK `Chhattisgarh' yesterday evening (13 Mar'13) as AI 140 (the flight number of the now-defunct BOM-JFK flight, in place of the usual AI 170!), and VT-ALC `Assam' coming back from Paris after a 4-5 hour Delay at CDG, Paris (a repair issue). I asked him when Assam would cede to Ukraine - his reply was, ``laahe laahe' Razz
Cheers, Sumantra.
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Nimish
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lovely TR Sumantra - I particularly enjoyed the initial planning/ approval stages, those parts are both challenging and fun! What I did not like was the feel of the first flight, seemed quite horrible to be honest. Late departure, no drinks, lack-luster staff - seems like the worst side of AI.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nimish wrote:
I particularly enjoyed the initial planning/ approval stages, those parts are both challenging and fun!
Thank you, Nimish - I am glad that I described something that most of us aviation enthusiasts do before a journey - find interesting ways and means in terms of routing, and aircraft, and on official trips, find a way of combining a passion and hobby, with no apparent perpendicular dissuasion from official quarters!
Nimish wrote:
Late departure, no drinks, lack-luster staff - seems like the worst side of AI.
add to it, only the main course being tasty enough Sad However, I have seen worse on the old Air India (except the food, of course - that was even better before the austerity measures, on both the old Air India, and Indian Airlines), but on the whole, my experiences have been more good than bad!
Thanks once again, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 12:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra, another interesting TR!
Best part was the planning & approval section...gave an insider look at the approval process (and the associated anxiety Smile ) in a semi-govt organization. Even before I completed reading that part, I knew your flight path is already inching towards Incheon! Bureaucrats are no match to an avid traveller like you!

More pictures would have made the reading even better!
Waiting for the next parts...
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 6:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PAL@YWG wrote:
More pictures would have made the reading even better!
Waiting for the next parts...
Thank you very much, Sir - though in confrontation with bureaucracy, I have often ended second-best. Yes, I will have more pictures in the remaining parts, and will try to post them soon!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sri_bom
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 24, 2013 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice report Sumantra.

The only complain if I have to complain that is Smile more pictures please. As your writing style is unique I am sure it will be more fun to read with pictures.

Also noted the struggle to get approvals for your flight. To be honest getting approval for a trip even in a multinational organization now a days is not easy, although not as bad as government sector.

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sumantra
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sri_bom wrote:
To be honest getting approval for a trip even in a multinational organization now a days is not easy, although not as bad as government sector.
Thanks a lot, Srinivas - there will be a lot more pictures in the coming parts. As per Mr. Ganguly's suggestion, I will structure the report better, with more BBCode and less ASCII text. Approvals: I guess the world is conspiring against us aviation enthusiasts! Smile In some private, the travel desk of the company gives an employee no choice.
Cheers Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're quite popular huh, meet an acquaintance in every airport Laughing

The DEL-HKG dinner run didn't sound too good, almost an hour into the flight and no drink service hmmmm.
I'm glad the breakfast on the Seoul flight was good. The last eggs breakfast I had on AI was years ago on a SIN/BKK flight heading to BLR and it smelt as bad as it tasted, nowadays I generally pick a south indian option if they have one.

I would love more pictures ..... people (I) get lazy to type details when we can just upload pictures- please don't let that happen!
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stealthpilot wrote:
You're quite popular huh, meet an acquaintance in every airport Laughing
Ha ha - it sounds much like a sailor having a wife in every port. Actually, most of these trips are for conferences, where I usually bump into people with similar interestes.

stealthpilot wrote:
The last eggs breakfast I had on AI was years ago on a SIN/BKK flight heading to BLR and it smelt as bad as it tasted, nowadays I generally pick a south indian option if they have one.
Eee..k - smelt as bad as it tasted! Yes, the South Indian options are generally quite well done, in spite of the relative complexity of executing a good job. As I wrote, I was regretting my non-veg choice in the breakfast, as the South Indian (veg) option looked and smelt divine, till I also took a few bites, and re-assured myself that my choice was not terrible, after all.

stealthpilot wrote:
I would love more pictures ..... people (I) get lazy to type details when we can just upload pictures- please don't let that happen!
Sure, Sir - there will be many more coming! Only Ameya, perhaps can pull off a grand trip report without any pictures. Lesser mortals like me have to put in clicks, irrespective of the quality, resolution, or...whatever Smile
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2013 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, the joys & frustrations of trip planning s!
You dream about one which may happen, and the next day, it all comes crashing down. However, you still had various options to consider throughout!

A brilliant TR sir!
'Lahhe lahhe' people, are found here too, except that the laahe levels are a bit too high for my liking. But then again, that is life and that is how it all happens.

Hurricane 31J, FLG, etc, we all have a few bad co passengers, don't we?
Haha!

Regards
Jishnu
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2013 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jbalonso777 wrote:
Hurricane 31J, FLG, etc, we all have a few bad co passengers, don't we?
Yes, Jishnu, I remember `FLG' Smile I am glad you could associate with the tedious process of route planning - I have seen you doing it, too. It is very nice to see you back on AI.net - do you not owe us quite a few reports? By the way, it was a pleasant surprise to see you pick up Part 1 of my trip the day I posted Part 5 - I really delayed it quite a lot. It is great to see you back on the forum!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2013 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes sir, I am catching up with a lot of TRs now.
I suppose there will be a few random replies here and there over the next few days!
So, I will need to wait to read your part 5, along with Ameya sir's Russian delight.
I too, have a TR in progress, hopefully it will be done in a weeks time!

One thing I forgot to mention: I am one of those very few people who actually want to visit a few random places, one of them is: North Korea. Rolling Eyes
People think its because of the internet memes against Kim Jong-un, but I express my views from the amazing Grand Air Tour TRs on A.net, and the scenary there is absolutely breath taking!
This surely is 'an unknown part of the world', where not many people go deep down to figure out what's really there!

Regards
Jishnu
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PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2013 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jbalonso777 wrote:
I suppose there will be a few random replies here and there over the next few days!
Random? No Sir - I value your feedback immensely, and look forward to that!
jbalonso777 wrote:
I too, have a TR in progress, hopefully it will be done in a weeks time!
I look forward to that, too!
jbalonso777 wrote:
...but I express my views from the amazing Grand Air Tour TRs on A.net
I am quite with you on that one, more so from the aviation point of view. I have been tracking old Soviet aircraft from an early age, and would love to catch a ride on them, in addition to visiting exotic places.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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