Asia/Australia 2013: travel overview

by | Feb 9, 2013 | International Travel, Travel

We recently returned from an two week adventure that saw us in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and Sonoma County. Wine, koalas, Grand Slam tennis, tropical storms, and orchids were just a few of the memorable parts of this trip.

By the numbers:

  • 4 cities in 3 countries (plus one in the US)
  • 29,820 miles flown
  • 9 airline lounge visits (DFW, SFO, HKG x 3, ADL, MEL, BNE, SIN)
  • 4 amenity kits each
  • longest day: Thurs, Jan 31 lasted ~36 hours, 14 in the air
  • shortest day: Wed, Jan 16 lasted ~6 hours all in the air
  • the first use of our new Global Entry passes, in the US and in Australia


pre-departure mimosa in RDU; snack in HKG

Flights on Cathay Pacific


After flying most of the day we arrived in SFO, where we had to pick up and re-check our bags with Cathay. Our flight arrived a bit early, and our bags came out quickly – good right? Well, neither of us had looked up when the Cathay counter opened. With only two flights a day, the counters only open 4 hours before each flight. So, we had an hour to kill… thankfully, SFO has some really cool exhibits that helped us pass the time, including a collection of classic board games, a history of mountain bikes, a number of airline models from the 60s and 70s, and a collection of tourist souvenirs from the early 1900s.

bicycle exhibit at SFO airplane history at SFO
mountain bike evolution; classic airplane models used by travel agents in the 60s and 70s

After whiling away some time the Cathay Pacific counter opened with a organized flourish, and we were escorted to the counter. Our check-in person had some issues trying to check our bag all the way to Melbourne, so we said we would pick them up in Adelaide when we changed airlines. We also received our lounge passes, including passes for the Arrivals lounge in Hong Kong.

Security was fairly light, and we were in the lounge a few minutes later waiting for our noodles.

sunset at San Francisco airport  noodles on demand!
sunset over SFO;  noodle notifier – “Your favorite noodle is ready for you to collect if the light is on or vibrates”

dandan noodles and beer
fresh Dandan noodles

near midnight they announced boarding throughout the lounge. Leandra’s boarding pass had some issue with it but the gate agents told us to board and they would take care of it so we made our way to our seats.

on our way to Hong Kong...
long way to go… but the sparkling beverages help

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, we cleared customs. then went to Cathay’s Arrivals lounge near the train depot for a quick shower, change of clothes and light breakfast. That shower felt amazing after 24 hours of travel!


After our full day in Hong Kong we relaxed in the expansive Wing lounge. Leandra found us a nice quiet area upstairs that later turned out to be the temporary first class lounge. Whoops!

With an overnight flight to Adelaide, we had a quick dinner then mostly slept.

Australia has an agreement with the US to allow Global Entry users to go through their speedier electronic passport check, so Eric was quickly through without having to fill in a landing card. However, Leandra failed, apparently because her hair is now shorter than in her passport photo making her ears were visible and confusing the computer! Thankfully she was shown to the front of the passport line and quickly approved. We were one of the first through quarantine/customs, then on to recheck our bags.

Flights on Qantas

We were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed Qantas, both in the domestic and international business class seats. On each flight the flight attendants were very friendly and really seemed to be proud of their airline.


In Adelaide, the Qantas personnel were rather perplexed at Cathay’s bag tags and just reprinted everything to make it easier. Much like Cathay, we were given lounge invites and directed to security. As in most non-US or UK airports, security was fairly painless and quite quick (keep shoes on for example).

The Adelaide lounge was quite large and once again we were able to shower. A key here was asking at the front desk for a towel pack, as they are not in the shower area. Feeling human after a shower, we had a light snack before our short flight to Melbourne. One thing to note is that alcoholic beverages aren’t available until after noon, at which time seemingly the entire lounge descended on the bar area.

Even with the quick flight the flight attendants still personally greeted each person in the business class seating, plus served food including a great cheese plate. Leandra liked the Hewitson ‘Ned and Henrys’ mourvedre and shiraz blend; and since she was the only one who had tried the red and he didn’t want to waste the rest, the flight attendant gave her the remainder of the bottle to take with us!


After checking our bags in Melbourne we were notified about the lounge by no less than three people before we cleared security. The lounge was rather interesting in that they had a very large space (presumably for club members), then a good size space separated by frosted glass for business class that was quieter. We found a nice corner with power for charging our phones and sampled their wine selection which included, in typical Australia-fashion, wines called Fifth Leg and Squealing Pig.

Our flight to Brisbane was surprisingly smooth, especially considering we were flying into the leading edge of a slow moving tropical storm…


The lounge in Brisbane was much smaller than the Adelaide or Melbourne lounges, but still just as nice.


For this 7+ hour flight we were on the upper deck of a 747!

our ride awaits

The interior was quite spacious and very pod-like.

MELtoBRI  redlights

The seats themselves were a little lumpy in the upright position, but after takeoff the attendants laid down padded seat covers that made the seats very cozy. Service was very personable, the food was tasty, and after three movies were landing in Singapore.

Back to Cathay


With an 8:05a departure we were up early to grab a taxi to the airport. Check-in and immigration were easy, and the small lounge had a few things to nibble on before we left. The flight from Singapore to Hong Kong was in a older jet, but we arrived a bit early and quickly made our way through security to the Cabin lounge near our gate. From here we had a great view of the airport.

view from the Cabin lounge @ HKG

Leandra tried the guava-mango offering at the juice bar, and we both sampled a few of the wines before our 12 hour return trip the the US. This time we were on the top deck of a 747, which was unfortunately one of their older jets. The seats were reasonably comfortable but quite narrow.


Of course, this was much better than economy given the duration of the flight, and we both managed to get some sleep on the way over. Good thing considering we were landing earlier then we left!


Our Itinerary

2024 Trips

San Diego, CA (Jan)
Sarasota, FL (Feb)
Madrid, Spain (Mar)
Valencia, Spain (Mar+Apr)
Palma, Mallorca (Apr)
Croatia (May)
Faroe Islands (Aug)
London, UK (Sept)
Bari, Italy (Sept)
Rome, Italy (Oct)
Frankfurt, Germany (Oct)

2022 Trips

Florida (Feb)
NC Mountains (Apr)
Washington DC (Apr)
Valencia, Spain (May)
Hilton Head, SC (May)
Pacific NW (Jun)
Long Island (Jul)
Florida (Sept)
Chicago (Sept)
Poland (Sept)
NC Mountains (Nov)
Euro Xmas Markets (Dec)