Still going through trip photos. Gonna take me another day or two. In the meantime ….
I stayed at Bally’s in Las Vegas. The reason I did was because my boss books the travel for everyone and he swears by Priceline and he told me this was the only smoking room he could get that was directly on the Strip. (And big thanks to him for keeping that in mind when he did my booking!). When I checked in, they told me that the only smoking room they had available for the first night was a suite so I’d get a free upgrade but just for one night; that I’d need to switch rooms the next day. The “suite” was just one huge room, divided in half. The TV was an old style CRT about 20 feet away from the bed and I had to call down to room service to get a remote control.
The next day, the line-up at the front desk was like a waiting line to buy Springsteen tickets. I had to wait 30 minutes at the guest services counter. The one guy working the counter was named Elvis (though he looked more like Chris Rock). He checked my record on the computer and yelled out, “You have got to be kidding me!” What? ”No, no not you, just stay where you are.” What? ”Just keep the suite for the entire trip, no need to change rooms, no extra charge.” Perhaps the “kidding me” was his reaction to seeing that I was only paying $100 per night for the room?
And now, my return home ….
The first leg was United from Vegas to SF. I had two bags – one huge suitcase and one rolling backpack. I knew I was going to be heavy and I know that domestic US baggage rules are relatively restrictive compared to international but I was hoping that if I showed United my entire itinerary I might luck out. Not so much because my main suitcase weighed in at 72 pounds (I was carrying back a lot of stuff from the conference I attended plus various groceries easily found in the US but not in HK). They told me that there was a 50 pound limit per bag, so I had to dump out a huge portion of that bag into my rolling bag and a separate tote bag. I managed to make it without any excess baggage charge but had a lot more to carry on than I would have preferred.
Our plane was set for an early take-off until the pilot announced that a bolt had somehow come off one of the wheels and shot itself across into the opposite wheel. So we had to sit there while they changed one of the wheels on the plane. Yes our flight was delayed. Fortunately I had a three hour lay-over in San Francisco so I wasn’t concerned about making the connection.
Reaching San Francisco, my first thought was to get outside and grab a smoke or two. It was typical San Francisco summer weather – freezing! I thought about going back inside and buying a sweatshirt or something but it was 11 PM and almost all of the shops were closed. (Why do they do that? Why do airport shops close when there are still people waiting for flights? Does their sales volume drop down so drastically after 10 PM? Shouldn’t airport authorities order them to remain open as long as there are flights leaving and people inside?)
One thing I almost bought in the airport was a pair of Dr. Dre Detox headphones. My Bose QC2′s were sounding unusually lame for some reason – they’re quite okay for watching video but just don’t seem to hold up to music as much as I once thought they did. The girl in the shop (the one shop that was open was an electronics shop) told me they were a special limited numbered edition and that they were selling like crazy at US$600. Apparently they are the same as the Studio Pros that sell for $150 less, just a different paint job and a different carrying case in the box. I listened to them and they did indeed sound mega. But I left the shop, did a quick look on Amazon and saw that Amazon has them in stock for $500 and some “used like new” ones for $300. I figured I’d last with the Bose for the flight.
When I went to check in with Singapore, my rolling backpack weighed 14 pounds, double the allowed weight. So I was told I’d need to check that. I yanked out my camera bag and shoved the stuff I thought I’d need for the flight (laptop and charger, iPad, etc.) into a tote bag that they gave me. But I forgot to pull out the extra battery for my Bose headphones. And yes, halfway through the flight, that battery died. Singapore’s own headset was of course cheap lightweight crap and I could barely hear the movie I was watching over the screaming going on around me.
Yes, screaming. Because directly across the aisle from me was a young couple with two kids. One was a baby, somewhere in the 3-6 month old range. The other was a kid I’m guessing was around 2 years old. These two kids took turns crying and screaming for the entire 14 hour flight. Bad enough when they did it separately, unbearable when they were doing it in tandem. The parents seemed completely unable to deal with them. There was a lot of “shhh!” and a lot of picking up the kids and shaking them (not rocking, shaking). It was, in some ways, the worst flight I’ve ever been on thanks to these two inept parents.
This was my first trans-Pacific trip on Singapore Air economy instead of Cathay. On the plus side, the economy seating on Singapore is old school. I find those newer Cathay economy seats, the ones that slide forward within a cocoon of sorts, to be horrifically uncomfortable for long haul flights. The Singapore seats only recline by a couple of degrees but on the whole I found them more comfortable. Singapore’s economy food is indistinguishable from Cathay’s economy food – but at least they feed you two meals and have a snack selection available between meals. Also you may find it worth noting that Cathay charges US$100 to pre-book an exit row seat (a must for me for the extra legroom) while Singapore charges only US$50 for the same option.
I’ve been on similar situations on Cathay and each time, the Cathay staff has leaped into action, also trying their best to quiet the kids with toys, food and whatever else they could think of. Surprisingly, the Singapore air crew just completely ignored all of this. The end result for me was a 14-1/2 hour flight in which I slept 2 hours at most. Fortunately I was not expected in the office today and have the weekend to try to get back into the time zone.