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How to apply for an India e-visa

How to apply for an India e-visa

Visiting India anytime soon? Be sure to apply for your visa prior to your trip to avoid any issues with the Indian immigration authorities on arrival. This is a short guide on how to apply for a visa yourself.

Step 1: Applying an e-visa online

You can apply for an e-visa if you hold a passport from anyone of the countries listed on the Indian immigration website (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html). Do check the link out to see if you qualify. Major passports should have no issue applying.

India Visa

If you qualify for an e-visa, proceed to this link https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/Registration (valid as at 9 March 2018) to apply.

India Visa 1

Have the following details prepared prior to applying:

  • Port of Arrival
  • Estimated date of arrival
  • Visa Service (eg. Tourist / Medical / Business)
  • Recent colored photograph (dimensions 2in X 2in) size less than 1MB
  • Copy of Passport page containing personal particulars
  • Typical details required for form filling
  • Occupation information (Industry, employer etc) including past military experience
  • Places to be visited during this trip and also whether there have been past visits to India before
  • An Indian reference and a home country reference*

Don’t freak out when you see the Indian reference requirement. Just provide the name of the hotel you will be staying at and their relevant details like their phone number and address. It worked for my application.

While the forms aren’t too difficult to fill in, it will take some time to finish. So do allocate perhaps 10-15 minutes if you are going to apply for one. The Indian immigration authorities should definitely streamline the process.

Step 2: Paying required fees

Once you are done with the forms, you will have to proceed to pay the visa processing fee. While I would have preferred it to be a one stop process, payment is to be done separately (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/PaymentCheck link valid as at 9 March 2018). You will need to have your Application ID when you make your payment. It cost me around SGD35.

I hope you found this mini-guide useful for your trip to India. Please remember to like and follow for more useful tips!

PS. I was originally supposed to fly to India last Saturday. However, I had to reschedule in light of my work obligations. No worries! I will still update with new content.

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Kaohsiung, Taiwan: What to see and do at Ruifeng Night Market (Including buying a whole box of Taiwanese Instant Noodles!!!)

Kaohsiung, Taiwan: What to see and do at Ruifeng Night Market (Including buying a whole box of Taiwanese Instant Noodles!!!)

If you read my earlier posts, you would have guessed that I visited Taiwan recently. As part of that trip, I visited yet another Taiwanese Night Market: Ruifeng Night Market. I previously wrote about my experience visiting Ziqiang Night Market and Liouhe Night Market here. Ruifeng presented a totally different ball game altogether.

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Unlike Ziqiang and Liouhe, Ruifeng isn’t a night market that runs parallel and along the sides of a road. Instead, its a market squeezed into a large open space. The stalls are set out in rows with pathways cutting through that are no wider than 5 abreast. So it may be a squeeze walking through these paths as you browse the stalls. Do expect to face mini-jams when you are there as people tend to just stop abruptly to either to look at something or buy that delicious snack from one those bright eye catching stalls.

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My personal favorite is the grilled beef cubes (and I strongly recommend you try this). The chef will blast a juicy chunk of  steak with a blow torch searing both sides with that beautiful brown crust before cutting it down into bite sizes:

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There are also small eating areas managed by certain stalls that sell more substantive food instead of snacks. So if you want to have a proper meal, it is still possible:

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While I had branded Liouhe Night Market as being touristy (and with that, touristy prices applying), Ruifeng brings that to a whole new level.  If you are trying to find a lively place to spend your evening Ruifeng is one such possible spot. The atmosphere was great but I would prefer a less crowded environment.

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Th night market offers not only food and some shopping but also some friendly entertainment like archery or BB guns.

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Try your hand at one of these games. An easy game to win at such night markets are the BB guns. Super easy if you know what you are doing. A few tips to be a marksman for the day (I managed to get a 30/30 that night before being shooed away to the prize gallery):

  • Know your “master” eye. Unlike in the movies, not all of us aim with our right eye. If you are aiming with your right eye when your master eye is your left, you are doing it all wrong!
  • Hold your breath. Yes, you should hold your breath before taking a shot.
  • Squeeze trigger lightly. You don’t want your gun going off target, do you?

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Pro Tip (Where to buy carton boxes of Instant Noodles while in Kaohsiung, Taiwan):

For my Singaporean and Malaysian readers (actually, it applies to all my readers ><), if you are wondering where to get cheaper Taiwanese instant noodles to bring back home instead of buying from the many Family Marts and 7-11s around your hotel, Ruifeng offers a great opportunity as it is located close to a local supermarket. Supermarket = cheaper instant noodle prices!

The best part is that the supermarket has a packing area near the entrance where you can pick up carton boxes for free to pack your purchased products. Yes, it comes with carton boxes and also tape to seal those boxes with.

You can now check-in a whole box (or boxes) of instant noodles at the airport! Of course, there are many other supermarkets but if you are already at Ruifeng, why not just tick that off the list of things to do. You can then take a cab back to your hotel with your box of loot.

Address: Carrefour Nan-Ping Branch, 813, Taiwan, Kaohsiung City, Zuoying District, 南屏路369號

Kaohsiung, Taiwan: One day Cijin Island Guide

Kaohsiung, Taiwan: One day Cijin Island Guide

Hello, all! Just came back from my Taiwan trip.

One highlight of my trip was my tour of Cijin Island with my colleagues. Cijin Island is a small thin strip of land/ island lying at the entrance to Kaohsiung’s port. This island offers plenty for its visitors both in terms of things to see and do and also offer an opportunity to feast on seafood while in Kaohsiung.

Getting to Cijin Island

There are two main ways of getting to Cijin Island. Both involve taking a short 5 minutes ferry ride from Gushan Ferry Terminal. You can get to the ferry terminal either by the metro and alighting at Sizihwan station or the light rail at Hamasen station.

We took the light rail since there was a stop close to where we were staying. For those who are reading this blog for the first time, I typically stay at 85 Sky Tower Hotel while in Kaohsiung. My review of that hotel can be found here.

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The ride was slow paced since its more of a light rail than a metro line. It, however, allowed us to have a good view of the sights along the shoreline including, the Pier 2 Art Centre, the Iron Bridge (crossing the Love River) and Hamasen Railway Cultural Park where you can find disused train tracks!

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From Hamasen Station, the ferry terminal is a short walk away. There are a number of ice shaving shops along the way. While you can always grab yourself some ice shavings, there are other shops on Cijin Island as well.

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The cost of the ferry is 40 per pax. The cost of the light rail is 30 per pax. This is assuming you pay in cash. If you have their local transport cards, discounted fares apply.

Things to do while in Cijin Island

The most important thing to do is, I think, to hire for yourself a mode of transport. Either grab a bicycle or a battery powered bicycles (either 2 seaters or 4 seaters) as they will allow you to cover great distances while on the Island and allow you to not only explore all of the sights but also feast on cheaper seafood outside of the main tourist belt. My suggestion is to get a battery powered vehicle as it may be too tiring to cycle for long.

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Talk to the salesperson who you are renting the bikes from. They will normally offer a short introduction of the things to see along the route and also they own personal suggestions of where to eat.

We covered the many sights along the way in our 4 seater:

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One possible itinerary is to go along the coast and hit all of the main sights like the Rainbow Church, the huge ass clam and the Wind Power display before heading for lunch. After lunch you can then turn back towards the other half of the cycling route and finishing off at Cijin Star Tunnel, Fort and Lighthouse.

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For lunch, we had it at “Wan Er”. It appears to be a more of a no frills restaurant where their chefs prepare dishes and place them on a counter. You take the dishes that you want and pay for them at the designated counter using vouchers which you can purchase from their main counter for cash (third pic below). Don’t worry, any excess vouchers can be swapped back for cash. You can park your bicycle nearby. The battery powered bikes come with a key so you can just remove it while you feast away. Our little feast here was only a 1000 Taiwan Dollars and we had scallops, abalone, a huge fish, some kind of mock abalone and some broth:

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We finished off the day at the main street on Cijin island after returning our bikes. There were plenty of stores there selling both touristy items and also local eats. We decided to pop into a ice shavings shop for our well deserved ice shavings having burnt large amounts of calories climbing up to both the Fort and also the Lighthouse:

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For those who still have some time left, you can also consider popping over to the other side and visiting the British Consular Residence which lies on top of a hill also overlooking the small gap leading into the harbour. It is a short walk away from Gushan Ferry Terminal and offers pretty decent scenic views of both the Lighthouse and also the harbour itself.

Remember to like and follow if you have not done so!

Quick update – February/March plans

Quick update – February/March plans

Sorry Guys!

It has been a quiet February so far. While I had some ideas on what to post, I was struggling whether to work on them. I prefer higher quality posts to just posting for the sake of posting.

No worries. I have a few items planned for the next few weeks.

I will be heading over to Kaohsiung, Taiwan again later this week for work. Fortunately, I will have some free time there to attempt to do up a few quality posts for you guys. Expect to see places to go to and places to eat at. Surprisingly, the Taiwanese like to give their restaurants names like “Chicken Big Brother” or “Cow Second Brother”. I will hopefully be able to cover one or two of those restaurants this time around. Until then, do check out my earlier posts on Kaohsiung here.

I will also be doing short updates leading up to my trip to the Golden Triangle in India (i.e. Delhi, Agra and Jaipur). I hope the mini guides will be helpful for all those heading to India (e.g. How to apply for visas online before visiting India and booking the dreaded railway tickets). God willing, I won’t have to shift my travel dates due to work obligations.

Meanwhile, have a look at this hidden gem in Singapore (Photos were taken at CHIJMES). It looks really pretty with all those lights. Very dreamy… Perfect place for a drink or two with your SO. For my foreign readers, CHIJMES was previously a convent/school that was converted to an entertainment facility showcasing various restaurants and pubs! Cheap booze anyone? (Tip: If you want happy hour prices, stay away from the main square and head deep into the interior corridors for better prices!)

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Travel Hack: A better way to find cheaper (cheapest) flights

Different travellers have their own “travel hack” on how to get the cheapest travel deal.

For some, it means booking on a Tuesday (Don’t ask me why but there appears to be some rumour that that the cheapest deals are on Tuesdays). For others, it might mean arranging your holidays such that your flights are scheduled on less popular weekday slots or odd hour slots. Then you have package deals on Expedia where bundling gets you a better value than you would have had booking separately. Why not also include the price guarantees offered on travel sites?    

Is there a simpler way? Something like a “An Idiot’s Guide to Travel Hacking”?

Have a look at Matrix Airfare Search.

This search engine is amazing as it offers what appears to be an independent search of  available flights (Note: the engine appears unable to identify budget airlines). “Independent” here is reflected by the fact that the engine is not managed by a travel agency. The operator neither sells any tickets nor earns any commission from your purchases. The site will show the relevant airlines and you can either book your tickets directly with the airline online or through an agent. If booking via an agent, Matrix will provide you the relevant booking codes.

Use the site as either a confirmation of your other price research or as a preliminary search to get a sense of the price for a particular leg.

Make sure to search both “Cheapest Available” and “Business Class or higher” options when using the search feature. Sometimes you may find good bargains where flying business will cost you just a few hundred dollars more. For example, for my upcoming trip to Delhi from Singapore. A direct return flight via Jet Airways would have cost me S$400. Flying business class via Malaysia Airlines with a stop in KL would just require a top up of another S$400. Definitely worth the bit more for a better flight experience.

There are also better examples like this where the options on Expedia although cheaper is just slightly cheaper than if you had flown business:

Expedia: Singapore to Kaohsiung, Taiwan (Assuming you are unable or unwilling to fly Scoot):

Vietnam Airlines Economy S$830.50

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH)

1.25pm – 9.55pm

13 February 2018 (KHH- SG)

7.30am – 7.25pm

 

Cathay Pacific Economy S$1,387.60

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH)

6.50am – 2.10pm

13 February 2018 (KHH-SG)

9.25pm – 11.55am

 

Matrix: Singapore to Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Vietnam Airlines Mixed S$1,125

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH) (Economy)

1.25pm – 9.55pm

13 February 2018 (KHH- SG) (Business, Part)

7.30am – 7.25pm

 

Vietnam Airlines Mixed S$1,624

11 February 2018 (SG – KHH) (Business, Part)

1.25pm – 9.55pm

13 February 2018 (KHH- SG) (Business)

7.30am – 7.25pm

This opens up a lot of options for you.

For example, instead of flying economy on Cathay and paying S$1,387, you have the option of flying the cheaper Vietnam flight at S$1,125 to experience Business Class for one part of your journey or topping up slightly for the S$1,624 flight for a more complete Business Class experience.

While using Matrix doesn’t guarantee that you will find cheaper tickets, it opens up more options to choose from. I hope you will find it useful and will incorporate it into your holiday planning.

Remember to like and follow for more travel hacks and tips!

My (not so) near death experience – Fugu dining

My (not so) near death experience – Fugu dining

I always dreamed of trying and experiencing something unique. Sort of like marking significant milestones in my life. One such milestone is cheating death by eating Fugu or what is commonly known as pufferfish or blowfish.

Fugu? What is Fugu (Pufferfish aka Blowfish)?

For those wondering what Fugu is, National Geographic nicely describes this deadly fish as:

ABOUT PUFFERFISH

Biologists think pufferfish, also known as blowfish, developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines on their skin to make them even less palatable.

Toxicity

A predator that manages to snag a puffer before it inflates won’t feel lucky for long. Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

I was about to put something 1200 times deadlier than cyanide on my plate and hope to almighty God that I don’t die from it.

Well sort of.

Pufferfish, if prepared correctly is not toxic. Only certain parts of the fish will cause death if ingested. The emphasis here is “if prepared correctly”.

If done wrongly, I would be 6 feet under.

Evidently, I didn’t die. If not, you will be the first person reading a blog entry from the other world.

How does Pufferfish Taste Like?

I had it in Tokyo, Japan after my whirlwind tour of Hokkaido with my girlfriend where we visited Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Sapporo and Otaru. It was our last meal in Tokyo and we wanted to try something unique.

We went for Fugu at Torafugu-tei near the famous Shibuya Crossing. You can’t miss it since it has a huge ass Fugu right above the store front!

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This restaurant serves a variety of Fugu called “Tiger Blowfish”.

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Great to know that the restaurant serves “Only the safest product”

There’s a la carte and also meal courses on offer. When we were there, there were two courses on offer. One going for 4,980 yen before taxes. The other going for 6,480 yen before taxes. While we were a little puzzled by the menu, there appears to be only minor differences with the menu (the more expensive comes with “Deep Fried Blowfish” while the cheaper menu instead comes with “Blowfish under-skin”), we decided to go big (if it’s going to be our last meal after all) and ordered the 6,480 yen set.

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First up, came the Blowfish Skin. If you had jellyfish before, it has a similar chewy texture. It was very refreshing due to the sauce it was served in. It was citrusy like a mix of soy sauce and some kind citrus fruit. The grated ginger (that reddish thing) was not overpowering and helped balance out any fishiness (although I didn’t feel that the dish was at all fishy in taste). I would have loved it even more if it had been a hot summer day as the dish was served chilled.

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Blowfish Sashimi was up next. Surprisingly, unlike our typical experience with Japanese Sashimi, it was not served with wasabi. Instead, again you find a small portion of ginger on the side to go with your soy sauce. There was also a slice of lime, if required. This was, I think, the key point in the meal as you get to experience the actual taste of fugu. Its surprisingly neutral tasting and very “clean” tasting. It doesn’t have a taste per se unlike Salmon and/or Tuna. Or it’s just me not having grown up with fugu and not recognising a “fugu” taste. The flesh is very firm and slightly chewy. Likely from all that muscle gained from puffing away? I actually felt something while having the sashimi. My lips felt slightly numb. Was it just my brain working overtime or was it really true that a master fugu chef will just leave a slight amount of toxin on the flesh to tease diners?

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Blowfish hotpot. Yep, we graduated from the raw food portion of the meal. So, what happened was the restaurant staff had laid out a sort of paper bowl in the middle of the table that is above an induction heater. The bowl had a metal piece in it that heats up the broth. The broth was very simple (essentially a piece of seaweed to give some flavour). I guess the idea was to not overwhelm the delicate taste of the blowfish. Any heavier and/or stronger tasting broth would have covered the little taste of the fugu. We were told to cook between 6-7 minutes per piece (longer for bigger pieces and shorter for smaller pieces). The flesh, when boiled, was tender. There was no fishy smell at all. For those who are used to having fish soup of some kind, you will normally assume to soup to have some kind of fishy taste/smell to it. Oddly, there was none. It really goes towards showing how neutral tasting the fish actually is. I did try drinking of the broth towards the end. It was a pleasant tasting soup with a slight sweetness from all those vegetables that came with the hotpot. But not much taste attributable to the fugu itself. HINT: Don’t drink too much of the broth. One or two spoonsful is/are good enough as the broth has one more task to perform.

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Midway into our hotpot came the fried blowfish. Make a guess what did it taste like. Like fried chicken, of course. Honestly, I believe you can actually pass off fried fugu as a nice piece of fried chicken. The entire thing was crispy and tender. Absolutely delightful.

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Blowfish Porridge. Well, there is no blowfish involved here. Instead, the staff will prepare the porridge at your table using the broth leftover from the hotpot. They will add in a bowl of rice to soak in all that goodness before pouring in an egg for flavour before topping it off with some spring onions and some soy sauce. It was more than plenty for the two of us. We found that the waitress was a bit light on the soy sauce and we decided to add it a bit more. The porridge evolves with time. At first, its watery before turning thick after absorbing in all that broth. I found it to be very filling and my advice is that if you think you are already about full, you might want to ask the waitress to cut back on the rice so that you won’t have too much porridge.

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We ended our meal with a small dessert – a mini ice cream sandwich.

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Post fugu meal – I didn’t die!!!

As time ticked by, I knew I was safe. I cheated death.

Would I recommend Fugu? Yes! Definitely. I do think most should at least try it once during their lifetime. But do remember to have it at proper establishments with proper fugu chefs. While deaths do occur, they can be attributed to amateurs who had no idea what they were actually doing.

Have you tried fugu? Let me know in the comments.

As usual, please remember to LIKE and if you haven’t done so already, please FOLLOW!

 

My Backpacking Experience on Business Class: Part II

My Backpacking Experience on Business Class: Part II

This is a continuation of my previous article where I shared my experience flying business class for the first time whilst backpacking. You can’t blame me for flying business if the tickets were so cheap (Approx SGD1100 return). For that poor chap who grumbled to his significant other as to when they could afford to fly business, it ain’t so difficult. Hehe. I guess my business class seats costs just slightly more or if not the same as their economy seats. The joys of travel hacking.

Checking in at Haneda Airport

It had been a fast paced holiday for the both of us. In a matter of 7 days, we covered Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Sapporo and a tiny weeny bit of Tokyo. And we were now at the tail end of our trip. But unlike other trips, this was still going to be an awesome experience. We were flying business back to Singapore!

Checking in was easy. Although I could sense some confusion among the JAL airline counter staff. They took some time to process my tickets. They claimed that there were errors or some problems on their system.

Haha. =D I think, they were just confused by the odd nature of my ticket. You see, we had just spent a week long layover in Tokyo and were trying to continue with our single flight from Bangkok to Singapore (Hint: That’s part of the hack).

After a few “Is there any problem with our tickets” and a few “We are sorry. We are checking your tickets’ validity”, we were issued our business class tickets. Yahoo!

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While it may seem a bit frightening especially since deep down you know the reason why their systems are raising mini-alarms, I didn’t really feel much panic/scare. Somehow, I had faith in JAL’s staff making things happen (actually I think for most decent airlines) when dealing with Business Class passengers. You can say its some form of privilege or them going an extra mile to make their customers happy.

Sakura Lounge at Haneda Airport

This lounge didn’t disappoint. If you remember my earlier post, I actually complained about the food on offer at the Bangkok lounge. Their Haneda Lounge is much better.

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First off, as I am a beer fan, I was completely blown away by their beer dispensing machines. Yes, machines with an “s”. One was for Asahi. The other was for Kirin. This ensures that each schooner is always a perfect schooner with that nice layer of foam crowning the glass. For those who don’t frequent such lounges, lounges typically either offer canned beers (Booo!!!) or beers on tap (eg. SQ’s lounges at Changi). While tapping your own beers seem fun, the overall glass of beer may not be perfect. So a plus one for the beer dispensers! There are also other beverages on offer if beer is not your thing.

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Second, the food spread was better. Like the Bangkok Lounge, the lounge had the usual fare like curry rice, miso soup, bread basket and salads. Unlike the Bangkok Lounge, this lounge also offered other stuff like dumplings, siew mai, udon, spaghetti, sushi, different types of soups. While I would have preferred a more western offering (the variety was still very Japanese oriented), the food was satisfactory.

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Third, the lounge actually has lockers available for guests. I believe this is a good feature to have especially for lone travellers who don’t want to be bogged down by their hand carry. They can just deposit it in one of those lockers and retrieve them when they leave the lounge.

Fourth, shower facilities are available as well. I always appreciate a shower just before boarding especially if I had been out the whole day before the flight. Hehe. I made sure to snap a few photos for your guys this time around. Very inviting right?

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Business Class : Haneda Airport to Changi Airport

Okay. If my Bangkok-Narita flight was awesome, this flight must be “awesomer”. Is that even a word?

The seats are more spacious or appear to be more spacious since the airline did away the mini-cabins that I described in my earlier post. Instead of constricted cabins, the seats are now more open concept based so you don’t feel wrapped in or forced into a small area.

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Everything feels right. The seat reclining buttons are now located on the arm rest within easy reach from your fingers. This was unlike my earlier experience where the buttons located in an awkward position.

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There is also a cabinet attached to each seat. In it was a thoughtfully placed bottle of water which was a nice gesture especially for those drinkers who may need to hydrate after those many glasses of champagne. While I did not drink champagne, that bottle of water came in handy after I downed a bottle of sake ><

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An interesting thing I found while on the flight was the toiletries displayed in the washrooms on board the plane. You have the usual toothbrush and mouthwash. You can also find eye masks displayed. Do not confuse this with the eye mask you wear to block out the light while you try to catch some sleep. This eye mask is similar to the face mask (the kind you put on your face to help moisturise/beautify your skin) but for your eye region. Something odd but definitely a plus point for me!

The menu for the flight:

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As usual, since this is a night flight, there’s a late night snack on offer. This time round some kind of pastry. It was a nice experience as I did not have to ask for the night snack. The crew had offered it when I ordered my drinks. Hehe, I could have forgotten about the snacks but for their reminder.

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Breakfast was either Japanese or Western. I went with Western after my bad experience with JAL’s Japanese breakfast on the flight in. I guess it was a good choice with the smoked duck and the omelette. You can’t go wrong with that kind of combination. The omelette was, however, slightly dry (i.e. overcooked). The best I had so far was on SQ’s business class. The omelette there was actually moist. JAL, please do something about it!!!

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Verdict

Would I fly JAL again? 100% yes. While I find the food can always be better, the price (if I can continue my travel hacking) is definitely affordable and a bargain especially when flying to Japan.

Please remember to like if you enjoyed reading this port. Follow if you don’t mind supporting this blog.

A heads-up: Do drop by again soon. I will be flying Malaysian Airlines’ Business Class in March from Singapore to Delhi (Found a real bargain for the tickets SGD810 return!). Expect Malaysian Hospitality and more awesome reviews for you all.

 

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