Part 1: Traveling to Sydney, Australia – October 2014

Australia has always been near the top of our list of places we wanted to visit so we were obviously very excited for this trip.

As you can see below, we started our trip in Las Vegas and flew to Los Angeles Airport (LAX) for the beginning of our international trip. Our flight to Sydney, Australia was not exactly what one would call direct. We stopped in Seoul (actual Incheon right outside Seoul), South Korea and Bangkok, Thailand before we landed in Sydney.

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We flew Asiana Airlines from Los Angeles to Seoul in Business Class, then Thai Airways from Seoul to Bangkok in Business Class, and then the final leg was again on Thai Airways but this time in First Class. The two longest segments were in lie-flat seats so the entire journey was not too arduous.

We had 5 hours in the international terminal at LAX before we caught our Asiana flight. LAX in general is a very run-down airport but since they did a complete remodel of the international terminal, it’s now the nicest terminal I’ve been to in the US. In addition, they also have the nicest lounges I’ve ever been to as well.

We went to the Star Alliance Business Class lounge while we waited to board. We enjoyed the buffet for dinner, knowing full well that there was another full dinner coming once we boarded the plane.

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The lounge overlooked the rest of the terminal.

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One of the unique aspects of this lounge is that it has an outside patio, which I’ve never encountered at an airport lounge. It was night so the pictures did not come out as well as I would have liked but it was an impressive space to see. There were multiple fire “features”as well as a wall with running water seen directly below. This lounge patio overlooked the runways so it was also great for airplane watching with all of the international jumbo jets.

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We boarded our Asiana Airlines flight and were immediately impressed with the level of service and care that the Asiana flight attendants showed us. They were dressed impeccably and unbelievably friendly, really a stark difference from what is the standard on US airlines. The business class seats were spacious with a pillow, blanket, and amenity kits waiting at the seat for us.

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They passed out menus that had both several Western dinner options and one Korean option (Asiana is a Korean airline after all). Both Judy and I chose the Korean dinner and it turned out to be the right choice.

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I have to say, I loved the Korean bibimbap (seen below). I was so impressed with it that I ordered it again during our layover in South Korea, even though I really wasn’t hungry.

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After dinner, we converted our seats into “bed” mode and actually slept the rest of the way, waking up very rested in Seoul.

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Once we deplaned, we headed over to the Asiana Business Class lounge, which had a very “library” feel.

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After leaving the Asiana lounge, I had another meal of bibimbap at a restaurant in the terminal. What can I say, I’m now a big fan of bibimbap.

Our flight to Bangkok was on Thai Airways in their Business Class. It was certainly nicer than what US airlines use domestically for First Class and the interesting purple color scheme was just a bonus.

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It was a relatively short 5 hour flight from Seoul to Bangkok and once we had landed, we had a, for lack of a better word, a personal “greeter” come onto the plane to meet us and escort us off the plane to a waiting golf cart. Evidently this is standard for Thai Airways First Class passengers and because our next flight was in First Class, we were given this treatment.

Our greeter escorted us off the plane, through security, and then directly to the Thai Airways First Class lounge. We were introduced to a lounge staff member who then took us to our own private room within the lounge. We really had a great first impression of Thai Airways and it only got better after that.

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Another lounge staffer came and asked if we would like a complimentary hour long Thai massage. Obviously this was a no-brainer so off we went for our massages. After the massages, we made use of the shower suites within the lounge to take showers before dinner.

The shower suites were very nice with hygienically sealed towels and toiletries. It was an amazing way to freshen up between long flights and we felt great afterwards.

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Within the lounge there was a sit-down restaurant just for First Class passengers. We ended up being in the lounge for roughly 4 hours (including the hour long massage) and we only saw a couple of other passengers the whole time. There was about a 2 to 1 staff to passenger ratio the entire time, which seemed very extreme.

When we ate in the restaurant, we were the only people there so it felt very private. Since we were in Thailand, I had to order the Pad Thai. It was good but not the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had. However, for a free meal in a great atmosphere, I think I will survive.

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The total layover was 5 hours and our flight was scheduled to depart around midnight so we started to feel sleepy. We had been told that we would be escorted to the plane when it was time to board but because we were starting to fall asleep, we decided to leave the lounge a bit early so we could walk around a bit. As we were walking around the terminal looking for our gate, we had a staffer literally run up to us and apologize that he had missed escorting us. It was a slightly awkward moment since we were the ones who decided to leave the lounge without waiting for any escort. Either way, he was very friendly and got us to our gate and onto the plane so no harm, no foul.

We were flying Thai Airways First Class on a 747 from Bangkok to Sydney. Since it was very late, once the plane was in the air, we told the flight attendants that we would be skipping the dinner (not that we were hungry anyways) and had our seats converted into beds. After having been awake for quite some time and with the time zone changes, it felt wonderful to stretch out and go to sleep.

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After a good 6 hours of sleep, we woke up and were offered breakfast. You will notice that Judy is wearing pajamas. Since this was our first time flying in international First Class, one of the things we discovered is that First Class passengers are given branded pajamas that they get to keep. Changing into pajamas and having a bed to sleep on makes a world of difference on long-haul flights.

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The First Class cabin only had two other passengers so it was pretty wide open. The First Class cabin location is in the nose of the 747 with the pilots on the floor above us so that was a very unique experience. Flying in the very front of the plane without a cockpit in front of us was odd but as we watched the sunrise come up, it was an awesome experience that is extremely difficult to describe. Definitely a memory we will never forget.

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After breakfast we changed back into our clothes (and packed away the pajamas as keepsakes) and heard the announcement that we would be landing shortly in Sydney. As I mentioned earlier, Australia has been high on our list of places to visit and in less than an hour, we would be in Sydney, Australia.

Part 2: Sydney, Australia

Part 3: Melbourne, Australia

Part 4: Traveling from Melbourne, Australia

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