Hello, and welcome to the continuation of this Aeroplan adventure to Hong Kong with EVA Air. Here’s the rundown, and the one previous segment, for you before we begin:
BR35 YYZ-TPE 11/20/2016 - You got it! BR871 TPE-HKG 11/21/2016 - You are here BR858 HKG-TPE 11/23/2016 - Coming soon BR36 TPE-YYZ 11/24/2016 - After that one
When last we saw each other, your humble flight-reporter had just secured a seat on the free transit tour offered at TPE every morning and afternoon, a great way to put a dent in a 12-hour-plus layover in Taipei on my way to Hong Kong.
This will be a bit of a shorter flight report, I’d imagine, since it’s a very short flight, here are a few thoughts on that experience.
The morning tour starts at about 8:00, and got back to TPE about a quarter past noon. There are two stops on the tour, and along the way, the tour guide provides some very basic history and background on Taiwan. The emphasis is on encouraging further tourist visits, clearly. That’s fine, that’s the price for a free tour.
The first stop is kind of weak — it’s at a “factory” where they make various Chinese cakes. On the plus side, one does get to make one’s own simple mung bean cake, and sample some goodies along the way. On the minus side, this is largely an attempt to get sales and doesn’t really feel like it fits with any kind of real cultural message or experience.
The second stop is much better, a Daoist temple at Sanshai. The tour guide explained the symbolism and traditions of the temple well, and went into great detail on the beautiful wood and stone carving and spiderweb ceiling building. Unfortunately, it was quite a rainy day, but still a good stop. Also nearby was Sanshai Old Street, a charming little shopping and restaurants boulevard.
All in all, I’m happy for having had the experience, although if timing would have allowed, I would have preferred to do the afternoon tour, which seems more “up my alley” in terms of culture and history content, with a visit to a (different) temple, and a stop at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, which I think I very much would have enjoyed.
By the time we got back to TPE, it was a much busier scene than it had been at 4:00 in the morning. (Surprising that, no?)
I headed upstairs, and since I already has my boarding pass, headed to security and passport control. The lines weren’t very long at all, and in probably less than ten minutes, I was airside and trying to remember where EVA’s lounges are.
I found some signage, headed up to the mezzanine level, and found EVA’s lounges. For those unfamiliar, EVA offers two main lounges — The Infinity and The Star — which share a check-in area between them. The two lounges are “signed” by their name projected onto the floor in front of their respective doors in the central area. My boarding pass is scanned, and I’m invited inside, free to try whichever side I’d like. I’ve got time, so let’s check out both sides, shall we?
We’ll start with The Infinity, which is the decidedly more space-aged of the two lounges in terms of decor and appearance. It’s actually pretty quiet this afternoon.
There’s a small business centre area.
And a little-used main hall area.
No airside views, but a nice look back over the check-in areas at Terminal 2.
Down the end, things get a lot more nightclub in terms of aesthetics, with glowing neon features.
A variety of newspapers and magazines are available.
There’s a fairly large buffet area. We’ll start with the self-serve bar area.
Then… hot dogs? Really? Okay… I didn’t expect that.
Fruit, veggies and salads.
A few hot dishes, including sweet potatoes in the pottery jar.
Cold drinks and coffee.
A few dim sum options.
Chicken, fish, and rice.
Pasta and an sausages, sauerkraut, and potatoes kind of dish.
And finally, various veggies.
By this point, I’m starving — it’s coming up on 1:00 pm, and I last ate about 2:00 am on the flight in from Toronto. I grab a few items to snack on. Everything’s pretty good, and the kung pao chicken has some kick to it.
Alright, so that was fun. Let’s go check out the other side, shall we?
The Star is the decidedly more traditional in its appearance of the two, starting with this long hall. Showers are available.
Into a long main seating area. It’s still not super-busy, but decidedly busier than was The Infinity.
There’s also this “cafeteria”-type area, again, overlooking the check-in area.
The buffet is a larger area than over at The Infnity, although it has most of the same things, with a few bonus items to boot.
I grab a bit more to eat, including some very mild (and pleasently coconuty) chicken curry and rice, some almost-Swedish meatballs, and some cauliflower and peppers. All of it is pretty good. I accompany it with a Taiwanese beer, which is nothing special, but perfectly passable.
And finally, I can resist no more. I have to try the hot dog. It’s actually pretty good, and goes well with the beer.
WiFi is fast, and surprisingly, not passworded in any way. Time for a corporate shot. Hey… that first flight-report sure looks interesting!
I kill some time getting some work done and playing some games, and soon enough, it’s almost 4:00, and time to make my way to gate C1, from which we’ll be departing today. The loung is located basically at the centre of the terminal, near the “beginning” of the C- and D-gates, you I thought it would be a short walk. But I was wrong. C1 is actually down the end of the concourse, and it’s a bit of a hike.
As usual at TPE, one has to go downstairs from the concourse, where there’s extensive seating in a holding area. IT also affords really nice views of the plane — in this case an A330-200, registration B-16308, which has just returned to Taipei from Macau, and is basically going back out in the same direction again.
Despite it being right on boarding time, there aren’t many people in the gate holding area, so I presume this flight isn’t going to be a full flight. A single wheelchair passenger is invited down first, and pretty much right on time, an agent pulls back the red cordon, and invites business class and other Zone 1 passengers to board.
I don’t exactly get a quick start towards the gate, but I’m the first person to board in this group. And by first, I mean I’m the only person to even get up when the announcement is made.
Flight: BR871 From: Taipei (TPE) To: Hong Kong (HKG) Date: 11/21/2016 Aircraft: Airbus A330-200 Registration: B-16308 Seat: 7K ATD (STD): 16:51 (16:35) ATA (STA): 18:24 (18:25)
This will be my first time on any EVA aircraft other than the 77W, so I’m interested to check it out. Business Class on the 77W is dubbed Royal Laurel class, but here on other aircraft, it’s Premium Laurel class. I guess I get having a gimmick name for your premium product, but having two gimmick names? Okay.
For this flight, I’m in 7K, the starboard window in the second of four rows of business class on these 332s. It’s an angled flat seat, in a 2-2-2 configuration. I really like EVA’s rich, deep greens in its premium cabins, so it actually looks fairly nice, but it is a product that is showing its age.
As I’m boarding, a flight attendant named Cristina welcomes me to my seat, and asks if I’d like blanket, which is quickly produced.
The seat comes pre-equipped with the same thin but very dense (almost beanbag-like) pillow that BR offers in Royal Laurel, as well as a set of noise-cancelling headphones, which appear to be decidedly a step down from those offered in Royal Laurel.
The over-the-shoulder view.
The IFE is fairly small, and is showing its age at this point, especially in comparison to the big screen offered on the 77W.
Cristina takes PDB offers, and quickly comes back with a hot towel, and my requested champagne. It’s topped up once during the (fairly short) boarding time.
A look across the cabin — load in J was well less than 50 per cent. There was one person in row 6, two of us in row 7, row 8 was full with a family, and I forget it there was anyone in row 9, but it clearly wasn’t full. Again, note the “painting” at the front of the cabin, an EVA tradition.
Out the window, an AirAsia X A330 is being prepped for departure as they continue to load bags and cargo for our flight.
Menus are distributed next, and Cristina confirms that I pre-selected the pork online. Unlike Royal Laurel flights, no “special order” items on this flight, even ex-TPE. Drink orders are taken for beverages with and after dinner. I opt for some water and a Spanish red wine with dinner, and some coffee afterwards. Once again, service is very thorough and professional.
Arrival forms are then distributed — I like it when airlines hand these out prior to departure, when there’s some time to kill, and it’s easy to get up and grab a pen.
As usual with BR, service is excellent and attentive, and the flight is definitely well-staffed. At one point, I counted nine EVA flight attendants in their green uniforms in or around the J cabin during boarding. They didn’t all work business class, mind you, but still.
Legroom is more than adequate, but one gets the feeling this angle-flat seat is going to have a bit of a slope to it.
Finally, we push back, providing a better look at the Air Asia X 330 next to us, and the CX 330 next to it.
And look who’s next to us on the other side — a big bird from the Middle East.
It’s a short taxi, and there isn’t much traffic, so we’re quickly lined up, and off into the late afternoon sky over Taipei.
A nice view of the Taipei coast an the mountains as we climb.
FInally, we’re above the clouds — eventually settling into FL40 according to the pilot — and in the setting late afternoon sun as we race towards it. A very peaceful and pleasant time to just watch the world go by for a few minutes.
There’s not long to wait, though — dinner service begins very quickly with a hot towel.
And then the meal — drinks and all — is presented all at the same time.
The starter was… okay. It didn’t really click with me, but the ratatouille underneath was very tasty.
The main is simple and reasonably good, although not terribly flavourful. I felt like more could have been done with the veggies. They were prepared nicely, tender crisp. But they just felt like they were an afterthought, as opposed to any kind of actual feature of the meal. The meal felt small, but by the time I was done, I was pleasantly full but not stuffed.
The bread basket was offered, and I’m never one to turn down garlic bread. Ever. This wasn’t as exquisitely fantastic as the garlic bread ex-YYZ, but it was still very good.
Dessert is a simple collection of fruit. It’s good, but not as fantastic as the fruit I’ve had on BR 77W flights. Maybe that’s special Royal Laurel fruit.
With dinner over, it’s time for hot towel number three of the flight. Keep in mind this is a 500-mile flight.
And then a cup of coffee, which is good and hot.
I’m feeling pretty exhausted at this point, having been up since before 2:00 am after “plane sleep” the night before. So I decide to forego exploring the IFE system in favour of a quick dump of caffeine, and hopefully a bit of a power nap afterwards. So I put the bed into “flat” position. Yeah, it’s angled flat alright. Like Lufty Slider angled.
That said, I find it comfortable enough, and I quickly drift off to sleep, getting probably a half-hour nap in before I’m awakened by the captain announcing we’re about to start our descent into Hong Kong.
Descent is smooth in the dark, and we touch down just about on time.
It’s a short taxi (by HKG standards), and look who we stop next to. We began this flight with an EK 388 on our port side, and end it with an EK 388 on our starboard. Perhaps it’s a sign. Hmmmm…
Interesting to note that we were actually the filling on a sandwich on A380 bread, with a Air France whalejet on our other side.
The flight attendants say their goodbye, and we’re quickly let off the plane. Next to us, there’s a solid stream of humanity coming off the AF 388. Oh good.
We’re past the joint of the Y that is T1 at HKG, but I decide to walk rather than take the train available at the junction. I always feel it’s faster that way, and indeed, there isn’t a see of French-speaking humanity in front of me when I get to immigration, so perhaps I’m right.
Immigration is quick, and I wait no more than two minutes more for my luggage to appear, so I’m quickly landside, where I buy a ticket for the Airport Express to Hong Kong Station, and prepare to head into town to get some sleep, and plot what’s next.
We’ll pick up this series with what comes next.
Thanks for reading this one, and hopefully I’ll see you next time!
EVA Air / The Infinity
Taipei - TPE
Hong Kong - HKG
As usual with EVA, the service was excellent. Catering wasn’t fantastic, but was more than acceptable given the short duration of this flight. The hard product was okay, but not fantastic. Angled flat is a bit passé, and this interior is showing its age to be sure, despite being immaculately clean. Of course, we know that EVA knows this, because as we saw with Horace’s post a few months ago, they’ve already started putting a new J product on at least some members of their A330 fleet. All in all, a perfectly acceptable experience for this short 500-mile hop.
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