Friday, 7 March 2008

Round the World Five - Day 1 (Thu, 6 Mar)

Itinerary: Depart 6th March. Thai International Flight TG911 11:50, depart Heathrow Terminal 3 for Bangkok, arriving 06:10 on Friday, 7-Mar-2008.

Well, Gate 24 turned out to be one of the modernised gates, not too bad at all, although miles from the actual aircraft stand, to which we were taken by coach. The coach toured the elderly luggage centre, past areas I'd never seen before, then diving into a newish road tunnel which led us under the old centre and past the Satellite Terminal at the new Terminal 5 to avenue of big jets out in the open where we found our 747-400. The weather was dry, so transferring from the coach via steps to the aircraft was no problem. We pushed back a few minutes late, taxied east and joined the queue of about 5 aircraft waiting to depart from runway Two-Seven Left. After taking off in a westerly direction, we then looped back over north London for our route over Holland, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, the Caspian Sea, the Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Myanmar and Thailand. This is more-or-less a great circle route.

Although it's now an elderly design, I think the 747-400 is still my favourite, particularly when arranged with business class upstairs, behind the cockpit, as on this flight. New seats had been fitted and seatback individual screens. If you're unfamiliar with the controls, it's rather daunting - the membrane keypad for the electric seat has 16 buttons! As for the entertainment system, there's audio channels, on-demand video channels, games and a satellite telephone. I found 32 feature films and numerous tv shows and documentaries. I watched 'Michael Clayton' (yes, Clooney is on my 'A' list), 'Ratatouille', 'The Devil Wears Prada' and part of 'The Bourne Ultimatum'. Shortly after leaving Heathrow, they served a decent meal, Thai hot shrimp savoury, mushroom and ricotta ballottine (not bad), crayfish tails, fig and chutney (no comment). As main, I had the angler fish with potatoes and vegetables, which was very good, finishing off with a coffee and hazelnut mousse in a caramel sauce and a decent cup of tea. All served with proper napkins, metal cutlery using pottery dishes. Thai's reputation for good service is merited. Travelling east, local time runs faster and we soon cross the terminator (the day/night interface, not Arnie) and start our long night passage to the Orient. As we cross the Bay of Bengal, we have a 'Second Serving', as the airline terms it. This is an early breakfast for those who've changed to Bangkok time or a 'supper' to those who haven't. It's very good, fresh fruit, yoghurt, warm bread with butter and frank cooper's marmalade. Choice of three mains, chicken and ham pancake with trimmings, cheese omelette with trimmings (which I had) or noodle soup with pork.

We sit in a metal tube travelling at 600 miles an hour six miles above the earth in outside temperatures of -60 degrees Celsius eating decent food and think little of it. Isn't that remarkable?

My airport pictures.