An International Flight in Business Class on Seats with “Mattress Pads”?

Passports expiring are a hassle for travelers who don’t travel abroad often and then find themselves in a pinch after booking a trip. Unfortunately, this means coughing up expediting fees in order to hopefully get your new passport on time. Such was my dilemma and I found myself in limbo until a few days before a trip to Taiwan because I hadn’t bothered checking my passport earlier.

But despite the passport troubles, I was comforted by the fact that I had miraculously been upgraded on my international airplane flight, so I would be able to try out business class!  I learned that with this came another bonus, the ability to access an airline lounge at the airport (unfortunately, these airline lounges weren’t very impressive because while they had food available, the food always seemed to be out and not refilled)!

Now to the airplane! This was an ANA (Japanese airline) flight that was quite long since I was flying from the East Coast of the U.S. to Japan and then connecting with another flight to Taiwan! In business class, they provided us with seats that could go all the way down! It took me a while to figure out how the chair worked. There were so many buttons, and of course, being an explorer, I wanted to figure out how the seat worked without reading the instruction manual! At the end, I did find and look at the instructions to see if I had discovered all the functions of the seat. To make it feel more like a mattress, they also provided an extra thin padded mat to put on top of the flat seat. It was interesting as I have never seen this all before, but it was not very comfortable. I may be biased because the pillow they gave me was so flat I couldn’t really sleep. Anyway, here’s a picture of the seat commands and then the seating area. There is a table with the magazine rack attached to it instead of the usual magazine pocket attached to the back of the seat in front of you in economy. I found this a bit awkward because I’m used to grabbing the magazines from in front of me and not the side. After the flight, I personally think the table is a waste of space. If anything, it’s really there to take up more space so you have privacy from other people. The TV is in front of the seat. Items can be stowed on the shelves under the TV screen. However, those items just kept falling on me during take off.  But anyway, the benefits of the seat are definitely more privacy and more space! Additionally, all the seats were aisle seats because they were organized that way!IMG_0656

IMG_0653

The next set of benefits is food! They actually serve course meals that try to look fancy. Good luck trying to stay hungry because it seems they stuff you with food, and if the meals don’t fill you, they have light meals as snacks. These include curry, ramen, small sandwich, crackers, and so on! I will say though…you may be too full from the meals to try the snacks though! On this flight, for the meals, there was a choice of Japanese or International(which I assume is more Western style). I chose Japanese for the lunch and for the breakfast…or was it dinner (time zones make me so confused what’s called what on the airplane). The first three pictures are the lunch. The first picture was the same appetizer provided for both the Japanese and International meals. The one thing that disappointed me about all the meals was that there is actually a lot of cold food. The only warmish ones were the miso soup and the fish above the miso(I think). Maybe next time, check to see which meal has more hot food? Dessert was also provided, but I didn’t take a picture. Unfortunately, it didn’t hit me to take pictures of the menu because I’m not sure I can identify all the food in here.

IMG_0660IMG_0661IMG_0662

After that, I binge watched movies or tried to sleep. However, as you can probably surmise from above, I couldn’t really sleep well. The entertainment system in business class allows you to choose movies on demand from their in flight selection. There are also in flight games, including multiplayer which I assume you can do battle against other passengers in. However, I didn’t try them. There was not much choice in terms of games, so I stuck to movies to stay awake. I think I watched four or five movies, some of which I fast forwarded through parts because it was moving too slowly. The last three movies I watched were Inside Out, Terminator, Spy, and Pitch Perfect 2. I can’t remember  the other, if there was one.  After all, jet lag needed to account 12 hour difference (for Taiwan) and 13 hour (for Japan). One more hour would have to be added to account for daylight savings later during the trip. So, not sleeping certainly helped! By the way, they had Back to the Future too! Haha. I guess ANA felt it was a classic or they knew about the October 2015 Back to the Future reference!  Now, the other good news about the system is they provided noise cancelling headphones, so you can actually use those to help you sleep too! Just don’t get tangled in the wire by accident! :p

Below is a picture of the breakfast. Miso soup had more seaweed this time. Grapefruit was the most sour grape fruit ever! So… I learned not to eat grapefruit on airplanes! I forgot to take a picture of the dessert again. I think it was something with red bean.

IMG_0663

And then…I had a stopover at Narita airport before I connected to Taiwan. ANA’s customer service is excellent. The flight was enjoyable, and even though my mouth was super dry during it, the flight attendants figured out that water and not alcohol(which you apparently can get unlimited amounts of to drink) was what I needed. I have to give a shout out to Horii, the flight attendant who was responsible for the passengers in my area. She was super nice, and upon learning that it was my first time flying business on ANA, she and the crew even wrote me a card at the end of the flight wishing me a nice trip to Taiwan.

The weather in Narita area was hotter than in the U.S. Indeed, it was clear in Narita Airport as I found myself even sweating just from sitting in the airport. It was slightly better in the ANA lounge, and of course free wifi in the whole airport did make time pass faster too! I guess the Japanese do not set their AC up very high. The WIFI was not fast, but it at least allowed me to load email and chat. I also checked out some of the stores and found tons of people buying tons of boxes of Royce refrigerated chocolate. I personally did not have the opportunity to try the chocolate. The store attendants told me the chocolate would last 2 hours without refrigeration, and that was infeasible since the flight to Taiwan was over 2 hours. Adding their icebox to the chocolate still would have the chocolate last 20 hours if I tried to take it back to the U.S. with me. So, it was a dud for me, and there was no way I could try the chocolate without wasting a ton. I can’t eat a whole box that fast! ….and I also was too lazy to change currency at the airport while waiting for the connection flight.

On the connection from Narita to Taoyuan, Taiwan Airport, I passed out on a normal seat (not the fancy one from the first flight). Apparently, the lack of sleep had gotten to me. The flight was around 3 hours or so. There was another meal on the flight, which I also chose Japanese. We landed around 10pm Taiwan time, so I think the meal was dinner. However, I forgot to take a picture, and all I remember was a lot of cold food. But all that food on the flights keep you full anyway! I couldn’t even eat all the food even if I wanted to. Anyhow, by the time I reached Taiwan, I felt almost fished out from all the seafood provided in the airplane meals. I started to crave American food, even if it’s not as healthy. But no can do! Because I can’t just eat American food in Taiwan and Japan! That would almost be a crime, right? Must try the food!

A Short Trip to Taiwan and a Skedaddle over to Japan

A Foray into Washington DC: The “Beach” and the Spy

Summer time is for traveling, right? Well…depends. Some friends and I decided to attempt a trip to the capital of the United States. Perhaps, we were lured by the idea of a gigantic beach of plastic balls, or just because we were tourists who wanted to check out Washington DC. We had it all planned out and accounted for the weather which had been predicted to be over 95 degrees. And of course,  weather, being weather, decided to rain instead.

Our first task was to secure transportation, and we did so by using the WMATA metro/subway system. For those of us that have been to NYC, we noted that the DC metro at least had cushioned seats compared to the hard plastic seats of NY subway. There was also more green in the stations because more of the DC subway was outside. Either way, unlike NY, the subway fare is not a one flat fee per ride. The fare depends on the distance/stations traveled.

Our first stop was the National Building Museum, a museum focused on architecture, building, and engineering. But mainly, we were here because of an attraction called “The Beach”. Dun Dun Dun!

Beach Entrance

Entrance to “The Beach”

Of course, our next challenge was getting into line and waiting forever to get tickets. So…there was a line to get tickets, and then a separate line after getting tickets to get into the “Beach” attraction. Apparently, all the parents had brought their kids. The admission for the beach and the museum was $16 per adults and $13 per student. Alas, we had obtained groupons that said $8 for admission for 2 people to the museum, so we ended up paying another $8 each to get into the museum. Word of advice. Either get there early or late. The museum opened at 10am, and getting there at 10:40 resulted in a a lot of waiting. I think between the two lines, we finally got into the beach at around 12pm.

beach inside part panorama

Inside the Beach…closer to the Side with the Sea of Balls

Beach View from Top

Beach View from Top/ Side with Sea of Balls

Upon entering “The Beach” area, we saw a mass of white. The walls and the floor were all white, and the plastic balls which made up the “sea” further away were clear. The “sandy white floor” area contained white umbrella and chairs and a concession stand, but the real attraction was the other half of the area, the “Sea of clear plastic balls”. Naturally, we walked to the far end of the attraction and jumped in to the deepest part. The sea is probably waist height, but it was a bit hard to stand anyway with all those disruptions from people jumping in happily around us. In fact, some of us started sinking deeper and deeper as more people jumped in (and sometimes peopled landed on top of us), and eventually we needed some help to get out of the “Sea”. As with all actual seas, there are sloped areas where the “sea” is shallower. We decided to take it safe after escaping the “drowning” and stick our feet there. That was a bit more manageable.  We finally left feeling accomplished and lol-ing at drowning in the sea.

Afterwards, we swept through the other museum exhibits in the National Building Museum. There actually isn’t a lot. There are building areas for kids, but there really wasn’t too much stuff that would warrant another visit. We enjoyed looking at some miniature houses and mock wind tunnel tested shape of rooves against winds.

And then we were off to a late lunch, stopping at a stall by the Verizon Center for savory crepes made by “Crepes by the Walk”. These crepes are pretty good. I tried them a couple years ago. But this day, there weren’t as good. We got the California Brunch crepe, which contained cheese, turkey, tomato, mushrooms, egg, avocado, and …I think that was it? The avocado was a little hard this time, and the crepe just didn’t taste as satisfying as it used to. Maybe they changed management? You can still see them make the crepes in front of you, but there were noticeably more flyers and signs covering the stall to obscure the view. Gelato from walking distance “Pitango Gelato” was pretty decent though, and great because the weather was heating up.

Auric Goldfinger's Car

International Spy Museum – Auric Goldfinger’s Car

Villain Car

Green Car from…. one of the more recent Bond Movies

And then…spy museum! What do you know? A line out the door too on this one. I’d probably just recommend going on weekdays to visit attractions instead of weekends. It was crowded inside the museum too. Since the ticket prices are over $20 per persion, I would definitely recommend trying to find a coupon. This museum also isn’t worth multiple visits unless the special exhibits are very interesting to you. The “special” exhibit was for the Spy Museum was a focus on the villains in the James Bond movies. First, we were led to an identity room, where we had to choose an identity to pretend to be. Unfortunately, that was as far that went because that information was never used further in the exhibit. The rest of the exhibit featured information/history about espionage items and events some props from James Bond with film clips and items such as those cars in the pictures above. There were also “fact or fiction/real world or film world” trivia questions scattered about that were interesting to learn about. The most hands on experience was crawling through an air duct.

After some other random stuff, someone wanted decided to check out Ray’s Hell Burger, which is a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. So, we went, and  I ordered the Soul Burger, and I have to say it is rather lacking compared to the other burger place I tried in DC called “Duke’s Grocery“. Duke’s burgers were more flavorful and prob more expensive too. Nevertheless, the tax rate in Arlington and DC are both 10% right now apparently, sooo..I’d prob suggest going to Duke’s.

RaySoulBurger

Ray’s Soul Burger

DukesProperBurger

Duke’s Proper Burger. The one in the middle is the straight up Proper Burger without any additions.

Macraproni Grill: A Tale of a Macaroni Grill Letdown


Image Credit: Picture taken from Barrie Summy’s blog. Hehe. The blogger states that it was a result of microwaving mac without water.

 

This is not a DIY post at all,  but this incident was so outrageous I had to post because it has been bugging me a couple of months now. A couple months ago, I visited a friend in Northern Virginia. Having stayed out for a while, we lost track of time and found ourselves looking for a place to eat dinner at around 8pm. My friend suggested Macaroni Grill, a place I have never tried.  I can’t remember what day it was, but I think it may have been Friday. Any way, it’s supposed to open til 11pm on Friday and Saturday and until 10pm on the others days. We got in at about 8pm.

The restaurant was dimly lit for mood lighting reasons, I suppose. The service was slow and terrible. It appears that only one waiter was waiting even though a couple more were standing off to the side. Mind you, I am not familiar with the restaurant hierarchies. Some of them may have been bus boys, but I don’t think so. We had two different waiters come by, female and male. The male waiter ended up being our waiter, but after waiting for so long for him to come back, the female waiter took our order for us.  The food was absolutely mediocre. Maybe it also took longer to make because it wasn’t peak hours. The whole experience was so bad I can equate it to waiting for Godot..except Godot actually shows up and is terribly disappointing.

Here’s the part that rubbed both my friend and I the wrong way. Restaurants are in the service industry. While waiting for our food, the lights were suddenly turned up really brightly. We heard laughter from the staff. There were other customers in the store beside us. The “mood lighting” was gone, and the brightening lights seemed to be a sign that they were going to close shop. Basically, they were trying to kick all the customers out before closing, which by the way wasn’t even close. It was maybe 9pm.  My friend and I left around 9:45pm after we ate as quickly as we could.

I will never ever go there again, if I somehow end up in that state again. I also do not recommend anyone to go there unless management/worker attitude has changed. Clearly, the workers  and manager there do not understand the idea of being in the service business. While I understand it may just be a job to them, acting the way they do will certainly not help the business. Less business equates to them potentially being fired due to lack of capital. Needless to say, I did not tip them well. I should have not tipped at all, but it didn’t feel proper.

 

ImprovArtz’s Rating of Restaurant:

Location : Virginia (I think it was Alexandria on the Kingstowne road because I was thinking about how they were acting like kings when I heard about the road name..sort of but not really…in their attitudes. )

Service: Almost nonexistent

Wait to Order Food: Long

Wait Time for Food: Long

Wait time for Drinks and anything else you ask for: Long

Lighting: Dim until they want to kick you out and turn on the lights to the brightest setting to blind you

Food: Mediocre

Who knows… maybe some other location might actually be decent, but this location, assuming I got it right, should probably be closed.