United Airlines SAN to SFO
Hyatt Regency SFO
United Airlines Global First Lounge
ANA First Square SFO to NRT
Park Hyatt Tokyo Park View Room
Kamakura and the Great Buddha
Thai Airways First Class on the A380
Best Western Premier Amaranth Suvarnabhumi Airport
Royal Orchid Lounge and Spa at Bangkok
Thai Airways Business Class BKK to CGK
From my arrival yesterday night, I already knew Thai Airways’ ground handling service was phenomenal. That is to be expected since the walking distance between gates and arrivals in Bangkok’s massive Suvarnabhumi airport can be long and tiring. With my boarding pass already in hand, I decided to confirm with the business class check-in desks about my luggage. Similar to Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong and Singapore Airlines in Changi, Thai Airways has dedicated check-in counters for First and Business class. The First Class check-in dubbed as the Royal First is in an enclosed section with sit-down counters. Naturally there is also a dedicated security screening before immigration for the premium passengers. What makes it even more convenient is that the entrance to the Royal Orchid Lounge is just right after the immigration in this section of the terminal.
Although my departing flight from Bangkok was in Business Class since it was a 2-class configuration, I arrived on First Class and hence the gate agent allowed me to enter the Royal First Class lounge. While doing that I also made sure to book a massage appointment at the Royal Orchid Spa. Passengers in First Class are entitled to 1-hour full body massage but I picked a 30-minute foot massage and 30-minute head, neck and shoulder massage instead. With my departure on an early morning, the common seating area in the lounge is pretty empty but all the private rooms have already been occupied. The private rooms have an armchair, sofas, a LCD TV, and a work desk. Though there is no doors, instead it is sectioned off by a glass door. It is like constructing the rooms halfway through! Still, the nice lounge facilities in Bangkok makes it an incentive for premium travellers to come check-in early for their flight.
As I got seated, I was asked for what drinks I would like to have and if I wanted to order any food from the menu. The service in this lounge is very good indeed! In addition to the multiple sectional rooms, there is also a private dining area, an area with workstations and a buffet counter with an extensive spread of breakfast items. As I was waiting for the spa appointment I decided not to get any food first and instead just asked for a cup of iced coffee while reading some magazines from the library that the lounge had.
Halfway through reading my copy of TIME magazine, the attendant informed me that my therapist is ready for me and escorted me to the Royal Orchid Spa opposite. The spa section is separate from the lounge but it is also nicely decorated and I was asked to sit in the waiting lounge while they get ready. They also brought me a cup of tea while waiting, but they did not keep me waiting for long and I was soon off towards the therapy area at the end of the hall. The therapist brought out blankets and the various lotions for the massage and it was as good or maybe even better than what I usually get in Bangkok. Not the best I have had but good nonetheless such that I left the therapist a tip.
After an hour full of relaxation, I headed back to the main lounge for some food. Just nice during this time one of the guests have vacated a private room that I was able to use. Once I got into the room and placed my belongings, a server came forward to take my order. Initially there was only a small placeholder on the table indicating the special offerings they had for the week or month (forgot the details here) but they came back with a full menu when I asked him for it. I ordered a cup of cappuccino and a bowl of congee which took sometime to be served.
The cappuccino came in an illy’s coffee cup and was served in a tray that also had a porcelain bowl of condiments, a small spoon and a small vase of flowers. They certainly do well in presentation. Though I cannot really say this was the best cup of coffee I had in a lounge, but it was a very good cup nonetheless. The porridge came out piping hot after probably a 10 minutes wait and this meant I only had a short time to enjoy the porridge before I need to head out towards my gate. At this point I enquired if there will be any buggy service or anything of the sort but was met with blank stares from the agents at the reception. I guess the excellent ground handling by Thai does not mean sending passengers to the plane, and here I was expecting the full treatment!
With the breakfast done and out of the way, I made a quick pit stop to the bathroom and it turns out they have a nice private bathroom in the Royal First Lounge as well! My experience on the ground in Suvarnabhumi is short of exceptional, since from the moment I passed security it felt like I was in a Thai resort instead of being in an airport. The moment, however, lasts only until it is time to board the plane, since I have to make the trek all the way to another end of the airport concourse and Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport is not one of the nicest airports to walk along with all those bare concrete and tiles that are not covered with plush carpeting. While short of a perfect First Class Lounge experience, Thai’s Royal Orchid Lounge and Spa is still one of the best I have ever encountered!