Ashnil Mara Camp, is located in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve and on the banks of the Mara River. Ashnil Mara Camp was my choice of accommodation during my 3 day adventure safari hoping to…View Post
SIN to PVG
01:15 – 06:35
Following on with my flight from Brisbane to Singapore (link below), we connected to our flight to Shanghai from the same terminal at Changi, meaning a relatively easy transit.
This time, we were travelling on SQ’s 777-300, previous reports of this aircraft had also warned me about the uncomfortable seats and poor IFE system. Boarding was on time, and once again I was pleasantly surprised by a refurbished aircraft.
This time, we were in the bulkhead row, which meant extra legroom and once again there was a spare seat next to us.
Shortly after boarding, the captain advised there were currently restrictions for flying into Chinese airspace due to congestion and our departure would be delayed. It seems this is a common occurrence for this time of day, due to heavy traffic with multiple long-haul flights to Europe.
The crew once again kicked into action, and we were given hot towels, menus and another economy class first for me; a pre-departure beverage. I thought that only happened in Business/First Class.
We began our pushback and were airborne at 01:56, the captain advised favorable flying conditions tonight meaning our arrival into PVG would not be considerably delayed.
With this being a late-night departure, to maximise rest for passengers, the meal and drinks service was combined. RJ had the Western option, which she found too salty, again no complaints about my choice.
Tea and coffee was served approximately 1 hour prior to arrival in PVG and we landed at 06:41, only 6 minutes behind schedule.
I took this opportunity to thank the cabin crew, who gave us tips on what to do during our stay in Shanghai.
Disembarkation was relatively quick and we were soon hit by the heat of Shanghai, not too dissimilar to Brisbane on a summers day.
Overall, another pleasant experience with Singapore Airlines, definitely highly recommended.
Grand Kempinski Hotel Shanghai Review
Guest Blogger Vishal Patel and his fiancée (RJ) present: Grand Kempinski Hotel Shanghai review…..
With RJ’s conference being at this hotel, for convenience, we decided that it would be best to stay here too. The Kempinski brand has a strong European heritage, with hotels in over 30 countries. Our hotel was located in the Pudong region, which is the main financial/business district of Shanghai.
It was an easy taxi ride from the airport, which cost 150RMB (Approx $30AUD), there were lots of taxi touts at PVG looking for business, but having been pre-warned of this we ensured that we went to the official taxi stands.
I had previously advised the hotel of our early arrival into Shanghai and they advised that they would try and ensure that our room was ready on arrival – this was not to be the case.
The staff on check in advised that we had been upgraded to a river view room which would be ready in an hour and we were accompanied to the executive lounge on the 28th floor whilst we were waiting for our room.
The executive lounge is an impressive space, and boasts superb views of Shanghai. There are several meeting rooms, a lounge area and a dining area.
We both opted to have breakfast in the lounge and within 10 minutes a member of staff came to inform us that our room was ready and we had been upgraded to a suite on the 9th floor.
The suite was certainly impressive, with all luxuries, including a rainfall shower and our own personal sauna! However, the views were not so impressive, with part our room overlooking a construction site. With it being RJ’s birthday, the hotel arranged a cake, which I find is always a nice touch.
After 2 nights, RJ requested that we be moved back into what was supposed to be our original room with the river views. The suite was fantastic, but the space was wasted on us.
The hotel staff were very accommodating of this request and moved us very promptly into another suite on the 18th floor, boasting river views. This particular suite was a little smaller and had no sauna, but a bath tub instead. Throughout our stay, housekeeping was always excellent, with the room being serviced daily and a turndown service also provided. Beds were comfortable and like most hotels there was also an in-room comfort menu. RJ and I are both picky when it comes to pillows, I was happy with the ones provided in the room, but when RJ requested pillows from the menu, we were told that they weren’t available.
We chose to eat breakfast in the executive lounge on all but 1 of the days. Breakfast consisted of a variety of buffet items and a small range of made to order items. Whilst the quality of food was good, the variety did not change during our stay and by the 3rd or 4th day, we both were a little bored of the options provided.
We did have breakfast on the ground floor café one morning, but found this to be very crowded and although there was a wide range of options, we both preferred the peace and quiet of the executive lounge and it’s impressive views.
Besides breakfast, the executive lounge also provided:
-Afternoon tea from 14:30-17:30, which included snacks and tea, coffee and soft drinks.
-Happy hour from 17:30-20:00 included alcoholic beverages, hot and cold snacks.
Although there was a wide variety of savoury and sweet options available, this did not change on a daily basis. Some of the options are placed out for Afternoon tea and left through to the evening and do go stale, the croissants in particular. RJ doesn’t eat pork and beef, the lounge staff were accommodating and ensured that vegetarian options were made available.
Overall, a very pleasant stay at the Grand Kempinski. The staff are very welcoming and accommodating, the rooms very comfortable. Some more variety of food options for breakfast and in the executive lounge would be nice, but that’s just the foodie in me being particular. Anyway, we didn’t come to Shanghai to eat in hotels!!
Welcome in the first of many guest posts on The Two Roads.
Over the next few weeks, Vishal Patel will be posting with his adventures in Asia.
Vishal is a 30 year old Brit, who moved to the sunny shores of Brisbane, Australia several years ago and like myself is a foodie, wine, whisky and travel lover.
Todays he brings you a Singapore Airlines economy review..
Outbound Itinerary: 22/7/17
BNE to SIN
18:00 – 00:15(+1)
3821 Miles Flown
Singapore Airlines Economy Review
Almost four years ago, I made a big decision to move to the land down under, and what a good decision it was. Since the move, I am travelling more than ever before and am fast becoming an aviation enthusiast. Whereas some dread the thought of the long-haul flight, I embrace it and love the feeling of excitement in the build up to and during the journey.
When my fiancée (RJ), mentioned the possibility of a work trip for her to Shanghai (PVG) and Hon Kong (HKG), I immediately leapt into action researching flights, things to do and most importantly; what to eat!
Being based in Brisbane (BNE), we tend to always have good flight options, and I expect this to continue to increase with the construction of the 2nd runway.
Following my flat-out refusal to fly with one of the mainland Chinese carriers (due to a bad experience), we were left with 3 options:
- Qantas – Outbound leg to Shanghai (PVG) would include an overnight in Sydney and direct return into BNE from HKG
- Cathay Pacific – BNE to PVG via HKG and once again a direct return to BNE from HKG
- Singapore Airlines (SQ)– Outbound and return flights via Singapore Changi (SIN).
With potential travel to India and U.K scheduled over the next 12 months, we also took into consideration Frequent Flyer points and status.
Having flown with SQ last year on a trip to India, I was blown away by their level of service in economy and thus made the decision to stick with SQ for our long-haul travel.Check In
With a late departure from BNE, it allowed me to work in the morning, and we arrived at the airport at 16:00. The journey to BNE is always uneventful and we were at the check-in counter only 20 minutes after leaving home.
Since RJ was travelling for work, she had to process a business visa for China, but having done some prior research, I was eligible for the Transit Without Visa (TWOV). This allows you to spend 24,72 or 144 hours in the Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.
This is where things became difficult, as I was technically boarding the flight without a visa, the airline must manually override the system and inform Chinese authorities that I will be applying for TWOV on arrival.
Having done prior research on the TWOV, I ensured that I had details of hotel bookings, visa information and onward travel details to hand.
Full credit to Vanessa at the SQ check-in counter at BNE, who was excellent, despite the process for check-in taking around 45 minutes. She also informed us that it was a relatively light load to SIN this evening and we would have 3 seats between the 2 of us.
Security and immigration are always a breeze at BNE, unlike at Sydney and Melbourne. With 30 minutes until boarding, there was plenty of time for my compulsory pre-departure beverage.
SQ has recently started to withdraw it’s Airbus A330-300 and has replaced them with the much older Boeing 777-200(ER) on this route. From all previous reports, these aircraft are certainly showing their age, and in economy class, seats are reported to be uncomfortable and the In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) systems are poor and lack the full variety of options.
SQ has recently refurbished one of the 772(ER) aircraft and after tracking the inbound flight, much to my disappointment, this was not the aircraft we would be flying on today.
However, much to my surprise, on boarding, this aircraft had undergone the refurbishment too!
We took our seats (43G/K), after a friendly welcome from the cabin crew and as promised at check-in, there was a free seat next to us. Even though these seats are recycled from the 773ER, they were very comfortable and offered good recline. Seat pitch is approximately 32 inches, with a width of 17.5 inches in economy.
Pushback began shortly after 18:00 and we were air bound at 18:12. The captain advised a flight time of just over 7 hours, which would have us landing in SIN ahead of schedule.
Shortly after take-off the cabin crew went to work, and the level of service is where I think SQ excels above all other airlines. Hot towels and menu cards were handed out followed by something I have never experienced in economy class – 2 drink services before dinner!
RJ and I both chose the Asian option for dinner and there were definitely no complaints about the food from us. People always dread airline food, but I generally have no issues with it and from previous experiences enjoyed the offerings from SQ. Post dinner, there was a separate service for dessert and tea/coffee.
The flight was relatively uneventful and with me being one of those people who cannot sleep on planes, the cabin crew ensured that my drink was always topped up. Approximately 90 minutes prior to our arrival into SIN, refreshments were served. RJ chose the Western option and I stuck with the Asian option and again, we were both very happy with the taste and quality of our meals.
Having flown a lot with Qantas and Emirates, this again is where, in my opinion SQ differentiates themselves above the others. In most cases a ‘refreshment’ is always a cold, soggy sandwich. These dishes wouldn’t have been out of place as a main meal.
We commenced our descent into SIN and touchdown was at 23:24, 50 minutes ahead of schedule. I was previously worried about our tight connection at Changi and missing our connecting flight to Shanghai, but no issues now…
Stay tuned for the second part of my flight report from Singapore to Shanghai.
TWOV Link: Transit With Out Visa (China)
Vishal Patel Twitter: Vishal Patel Twitter
Top 5 Bars in Sydney
On my visit to Sydney in February 2015, I discovered several bars I refer to as my must try, you could call them my Top 5 bars in Sydney. I thought I’d share them with you all! I’ll be honest here four out of the five on this list were on one night, but the research was all for the benefit of you all…
The Barber Shop (89 York Street, Sydney)
For those that know me, I hate shaving; I regularly go to a barbers for a wet-shave and on this holiday it was no different, my friend Vishal recommended this barbershop in Sydney and off I went. During my shave from a charming lady from Manchester, mentioned that the Barbershop has a cocktail bar open from 6pm, at first, I was a bit sceptical given the size of the barbershop but we were quite keen on visiting and giving it a try.
Up the steps is a massive bar serving craft beers and some interesting cocktails! The old fashioned is a winner!
Pssst a little tip..… if you step out into the outdoor area look to your left, you’ll find yourself in a little court yard, looking like a service area, look to the fare left, you will see a black door, go through it and downstairs…. It’s the next bar on the list…
Baxter Inn (152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney)
Baxter Inn, is another gem it’s been in the World’s Top 50 bars for the past few years and is a whisky specialist. Some of you may recognise the name as they recently had a four night residency at Dalloway Terrace in London, showcasing their whisky based cocktails.
The Baxter Inn has this prohibition style feel to it, inside is a vast array of whiskies from all around the world, ranging from $8 to $200 a shot. The three-column menu starts at the ceiling and hits the ground, my recommendation would be to find a price point, and let the barman do the choosing. For those not wanting a whisky straight up, go for the old-fashioned, one of the best I’ve had…
Mr Wong (3 Bridge Lane, Sydney)
Mr Wong is a Chinese restaurant/bar, and was a recommendation from a friend in Sydney. The bar has an intriguing décor and a cocktail list to match. My favourite had to be the simplest one, fresh green apple juice and Nikka whisky. It got to the stage where both Vishal and I simply needed to head over to the bar holding the money and just nod our head to the barman, no words were needed for our order! Friends also tell me that it’s worth trying the food too. One for my next visit…
Blu Bar on 36 (Level 36, Shangri-La Hotel, 176 Cumberland Street, Sydney)
With floor to ceiling windows to admire the stunning view’s of the Sydney Opera house and the harbour bridge. It’s a relaxed and sophisticated environment, a great place for a date. The bar staff are brilliant, always happy to have a conversation and even if your cocktail isn’t on the menu they’ll be willing to make it for you. Yes, you know what I requested an Espresso Martini, and it wasn’t too bad at all! My advice, get there early for a table at the window for the stunning views as the sun sets….
Lobo Plantation (209 Clarence Street, Sydney)
Not too far from Baxter Inn/Barbershop, another underground bar. Named after Julio Lobo a Cuban sugar baron, they offer over 250 different types of rum. My favourite was the Mr Magoo mixing pineapple rum, Lillet Blanc, cacao, lemon juice and ginger beer. A good crowd and great vibe.
I may be heading back to Sydney in 2018, have you got any bars that I must try? Or do you have your own Top 5 Bars in Sydney? Share them with me, I’d be keen to try out a few more…