CX451 TPE-HKG 26/JUL B747-400, 3A, First

Boarding had already started, but there was nobody in line at the C/F class side of the gate, and so I walked right up to the counter, returned my transit card and strolled down the jetway to door 1L. There was no crew change in Taipei, and “my” flight attendants pretended to be surprised by my appearance by saying “Mr. airoli, so surprised to see you again so soon! Welcome aboard, how are you today?” and the like. We played that game for some minutes while I was offered another Cathay Delight, and the ISM informed me that there would only be one other passenger in First on this sector. This turned out to be a quiet gentleman seated in 4K, where I could not see him at all. He was sleeping during the entire flight, and I thus had the entire nose of the 747 plus all of the First class attendants to myself. Service, as you might expect under these circumstances, was as personal, courteous, and friendly as one can imagine. I had the impression that after having seen how much I enjoyed myself on the NRT-TPE segment, and having realized that I’m not a serious business type guy, but a happy leisure traveler (yes, I did wear a dress shirt, but still…), the flight attendants allowed themselves to be a bit less distant and a bit more tongue-in-cheek style friendly, as shown by the dialogues upon deplaning and reboarding in TPE. Maybe that’s just my imagination, but I thought that they had quite a bit of fun on this flight as well…

As the aircraft was cleaned in Taipei, my hardly used Morning Post had also disappeared, but the flight attendant was more than happy to offer me a new one, which I leafed through during taxi, almost overhearing the trademark “Brace, Brace!”. I paused for a moment to enjoy my last 747 takeoff for a while, and then continued for a while until the menu was distributed:

menu cover menu

The wine list was again the same, and I was terribly impressed by the extensiveness of the menu for this flight, which was announced to take just 75 minutes. I confessed to “my” flight attendant that I still wasn’t really hungry, but she said that the food ex Taipei was reported to be very good and that she really thought I should try. I had her reassure me that she would not be angry if I didn’t finish everything, and we then agreed that I was to try the appetizer and the fish main course. While one flight attendant laid my table (again with everything from bread plate to butter to several sets of cutlery and glasses), the other approached with a champagne flute and a bottle of Deutz, saying “I suppose you will again have a glass of champagne with your starter, Mr. airoli?” I had had no intention to do so, but as she had already opened the bottle (I had heard a faint “bop” seconds before she appeared), I didn’t have the heart to turn her down. While writing these lines, I now wonder whether there was some sort of vicious calculation behind this course of action, based on my “I’m still stuffed” comment earlier on. If so, I shall hereby scold the cabin crew! So I sipped on my champagne when the appetizer and the bread basket where presented. And indeed, the flight attendants were right: The seafood was fresh and tasty, and of course again nicely presented. I still did not manage to finish all of it, wanting to keep at least some room in my stomach (as if there would have been some left….) free for the main course. Suffice to say that I shouldn’t have, for the main course was not very appealing neither in presentation nor in taste. In fact, I found it to be very unremarkable, and it somehow reminded my of the “Friday fish course” that our cafeteria used to offer back in high school. Just a lot of sauce and a bit of unidentifiable white fish underneath it all. Yes, the veggies and the rice were good, but they’re not what the main course was supposed to be all about… I comforted myself with the thought that I had really eaten enough anyway, as well as with an excellent glass of Meursault white wine, which the crew again poured at my table after letting me taste it first. When clearing away my still pretty full plate, the flight attendant inquired politely if I did not like it and if I’d rather like to try the beef (the other main course on offer) instead. I appreciated the gesture, but really had had enough and thus declined both the beef and the dessert offered. From the description in the menu, the latter did not appeal all that much to me anyway as I find the combination of coffee and melon ice cream a bit odd. “My” flight attendant could hardly hide her disappointment and asked me with a hint of despair in her voice if she could at least offer me another ice cream from business class. I had to decline this offer as well, but told her that the only thing I’d like would be a cup of green tea. Sure enough, it appeared in no time and helped me digest all the food Cathay had served me in the past 5 hours. I listened to The Corrs on StudioCX as we approached Hong Kong, and determined that July 26, 2004 would most certainly be remembered as one of the better days of my life… We touched down in Hong Kong on time, and with that the moment had approached to say goodbye to the crew that had taken excellent care of me on that day. I bid them farewell, hopped on the people mover to the front of the terminal, and unlike last time walked right up to an open immigration counter, where I was processed without delay. After a visit to the restroom, I walked to our assigned baggage claim carrousel, which started turning in that very moment. Not much later, the first bags appeared, and as in most Asian airports I have been to, the various luggage tags really seem to make a difference. In other words: My bag was the very first one to appear. I grabbed it, rolled it through customs and onto the airport express for a last trip into the city.

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