Taking the Airport Express back to HKIA, I already had the boarding pass in hand but I was tipped to head to the Lufthansa check-in desks to get the ground services voucher as I had checked in earlier at the Airport Express counters in Hong Kong Station. The arrival into Hong Kong’s International Airport is always a wonderful experience with its grand foyer.
Since it was a few hours before scheduled departure, not all the counters are open and there was no queue at the 2 premium lines for Lufthansa First/Business and Star Alliance Gold passengers at counter F34. The staff attending to me was efficient and professional, which is more often the case in Asian airports. I also made a point to check if my luggage was tracked as I had such a long layover in Hong Kong and hoped the luggage would be checked through to Paris CDG instead of Frankfurt FRA which was the case when I checked in at Singapore.
Once I obtained the so-called voucher I passed through security check to head airside. There are 2 security check area in the North and South wing of the airport though both lead to the same departure hall. Passengers flying Cathay Pacific First Class gets ushered to a separate First Class check-in area but there was no such premium line in Hong Kong when travelling in other carriers. No matter, as the moderately long line for security and passport check was cleared sufficiently fast. I never had to wait more than 15-20 minutes in both Hong Kong and Singapore, making these 2 airports my choice for transits and visiting.
The thing about having the shuttle voucher is that there really isn’t any fixed venue for passengers to board the buggy, but the voucher is valid for one time service from any point to point shuttle within the airport. I had some time to spare to get some duty free before flagging a buggy that passed by. I was the only passenger in the buggy and as the buggy was travelling quite fast, the stream of air-conditioned wind made it a bit chilly.
Back at the check-in counters, I was recommended by the agents to visit the Thai Airways Royal Orchid Lounge which would be quieter and that was where I told the buggy driver to drive me towards. Since the lounge is located on the second floor, the buggy just brought me to the base of the escalators that led to the lounge which is at the end of the concourse near gate 40 and gate 61.
Entering the lounge was as simple as handing the lounge staff my boarding pass and I was escorted into the roped-off First Class section. There was a fairly spacious luggage storage area beside the reception counter for passengers to store their hand carried luggage.
Behind the reception desk, there was also several workstation cubicles that was empty that evening when I visited.
The First Class section was also empty for that matter and it features a separate bar area, a lounge with comfortable armchairs set in pairs facing each other with a dining table, and a flatscreen TV on a console stacked with all kinds of lifestyle magazines.
While the First Class lounge did not really provide much in terms of privacy, it was quiet and with no one else, it was very private.
Guests visiting the First Class section of the lounge gets to order food from the menu and even help themselves to the buffet counter located in the main Business Class lounge.
Since I had a day of exploring in Hong Kong, I wanted to get a shower first and requested for the use of their facilities. The staff mentioned that it would take about 5 minutes to get the room prepared for my use. Thus I used this time to peruse the dinner menu and made my order for the food since they need some time to be ready as well. After ordering my meal, I was handed the keys to the shower room.
For the shower room, I was a bit disappointed since it was a plain shower room inside the washroom itself. Furthermore the holder for the handheld shower head was broken and they did not fix the issue. This is something I frequently notice in offshore airport lounges (ie. lounges operated by airlines in airports that are not their home base). The water pressure was fine and there was heated water along with a decent range of facilities so it was still alright for a quick shower.
As I finished my shower, I returned the keys to the shower room and returned to my seat where I also obtained a bowl of Tom Kha Gai from the buffet counter to enjoy with my main course of chicken in red curry. While the menu listed the dish as a green curry chicken, the kitchen apparently ran out of green curry and asked me if I am alright if they substituted it with red curry. Since I actually liked red curry better, the alternative works great and altogether they made for a very tasty dinner.
I have to say the food selection in the lounge was fantastic and the buffet counter has food from the common sandwich and salad bar to numerous Thai dishes and Chinese snacks. It would certainly be easy to get a nice dinner even in the Business Class lounge.
Aside from the main courses, there is a tray of Thai desserts, fruits and ice creams! Even the ice cream selection includes fruit popsicles making a nice change from the usual Haagen-Dazs found in the lounges of Asian carriers.
On top of the well stocked dessert fridge, there is also a full drinks fridge beside it. Sometimes I wonder at the amount of food and beverages provided considering the Business Class lounge was also quite quiet.
There was not much people eating at the lounge but it might have something to do with being slightly past dinner time. I also figured the Thai Airways passengers would have departed for their flight by this time.
After my meal, I made a walk around the Business Class section. Immediately I noticed the major difference being in the colour of the upholstery. The seats in the Business Class section are very colourful indeed, a far cry from the elegant colour of the armchairs in the First Class section.
For those not accustomed to this splash of colour, they could relax in the TV lounge which has dark wood panelling and was very quiet and more suitable for relaxing. I figured guests prefer the open air feeling of the main lounge which was brightly lit and more conducive for working or just reading magazines.
At the end of the lounge, there is also a set of gaming consoles with their private televisions that should entertain families with teenagers or kids. Though the gaming area was empty and the consoles and TV was switched off. I did not ask if they were operable either as I had no interest in using them.
Another nice amenity in the Royal Orchid lounge was actually the massage chairs. There was 2 massage chairs, one for the Business Class section and another in the First Class section. I had the chance to get a relaxing massage at one of them when I returned back to the lounge before boarding my flight. Because I figured the need for a bit of walking, I ventured to the United Club which is about 5 minutes of walking from the Thai Airways Royal Orchid lounge.
For Star Alliance Gold members and those flying Thai Airways, the Royal Orchid lounge certainly provides very good food and a nice range of amenities that makes it a pleasure to spend time in the lounge. Though they could certainly upgrade their shower facilities and with the newly renovated United Club, I am no longer sure if I would recommend the Thai Airways Royal Orchid lounge for First Class passengers.