California Dreamin’ (A Tale of Going West): Trip Planning
Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class SIN-SFO / SFO-SIN
Parc 55 San Francisco – A Hilton Hotel
Big Trees Lodge, Yosemite National Park
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Yosemite National Park
Hampton Inn & Suites Merced, also any other U.S. Hampton
Hilton San Diego Airport Harbor Island Hotel
Virgin Airlines A319 Business Class SAN-SFO
Hilton San Francisco Airport Bayfront
SilverKris Lounge SIN T3
You would think that I’d have spent more time cataloguing the T3 business class lounge – however, perhaps because it’s my home city, I’m usually not too excited about using the lounges in Changi Airport. There’re also plenty of reviews already out there, like this one on the Shutterwhale.
That said, I’m not too good for some free laksa. The one offered in the SilverKris lounge is pretty good – the ability to vary the ratio of ingredients is always welcome.
Overall, though, I find the food offerings to be rather lacklustre (sacrilege, I know!). Again, this might be a home city thing – why settle for dry, rubbery chwee kueh when I can get better stuff cheaply at the coffee shop near home?
When situated in a foodie paradise, I think the lounge could afford to up its game when offering dining options to well-heeled premium travellers (also, by extension, undeserving travel hackers like myself). Case in point – why stock maple flavoured syrup? Is genuine maple syrup too pricey?
I’m not particularly bothered by it myself, but given SIA’s image and price point, I’d have thought there’d be greater investment into maintaining an image of using the very best.
Perhaps some of my disenchantment with the lounge came from my excitement to get onboard the aircraft. Having previously sat in (and been impressed by) economy class on an SQ A350, I was pretty eager to get in the air and enjoy the 2013 business class experience on the 15h journey to SFO.
Welcome drinks were served shortly after boarding. I opted for champagne; since I know next to nothing about alcohol (oh hey I like fizzy drinks let’s get this expensive-sounding drink) I can’t comment too much beyond… err, it was nice, I guess. I assume it’s the same Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve that was listed in their menu.
The seat isn’t too different from any other recent SQ business class seat, which isn’t a bad thing. Plenty of space, pretty comfortable.
I’m not a big fan of the design of the foot rest (most likely requiring you to lie/sit diagonally), but it wasn’t too bad; still plenty comfy.
Plenty of storage space for your miscellaneous items throughout the flight. TV screen is great.
The SQ mobile app now allows you to pair your mobile device to your in-flight entertainment system for use as an additional controller – it’s an interesting feature, though hardly necessary, I think.
What I found more impressive/useful was the ability to plug in your personal devices via HDMI and view media on the screen. Yes, the airline’s invested in building up a library of relatively current TV shows and movies for you to browse; but if you’ve got other stuff on hand you’d rather watch, why not do so in style? (particularly useful since it’s quite possible to get tired of the SQ library after 2x 15h flights.)
The seat is relatively easily converted into the lie-flat bed mode – I did struggle for awhile, but once I figured out the unlatching mechanism (which I’ve since forgotten, unfortunately) it was easy enough to handle on my own, which is great since I’m not really a fan of relying on (and waiting for) cabin crew to assist with setup, as is the case on Suites.
I actually received one of those 70th anniversary amenity kits with Laundress products (mine was the black version) when flying out of Singapore. I thought it was an interesting concept, though it’s still not really stuff I’d really use. Probably makes a nice gift, though.
Other than that, you do get the usual slippers, socks and eye mask as well.
The menu cover was branded for the 70th anniversary – despite the branding, I didn’t see all that much local fare like chicken rice that they were supposed to be offering (think the only item offered char siew rice on my outbound trip, which I didn’t get in the end).
I’ll be showcasing the meals from the return journey as well, so this section will probably just make me look like a glutton. We begin with cauliflower and smoked gouda soup, lobster thermidor (via Book the Cook) and a Meneghina doughnut.
For the mid-flight meal I tried the spice coated smoked egg (not a fan) and pan-seared salmon fillet.
Somewhere along the way (I can’t remember when) I got this prawn skewer. It was surprisingly large, although I did wonder why I was never offered the signature satay on either leg of the flight.
From SFO-SIN my first meal comprised the smoke duck, lamb biryani and two desserts (because YOLO) – Gotham “pineapple” (why the quote marks, SQ menu?) and petite patisserie.
Because I thought I should try out their mid-flight snack as well, I requested for chicken kway teow as well. It was surprisingly good.
Salt baked chicken for my final meal on the return flight – thought this one was rather meh.
Generally, I found the worst meal to be merely mediocre (as opposed to actually bad) but generally I was pleased with the offerings and didn’t feel like too much stomach space was being wasted on undeserving calories. That might not sound like much, but we’re talking airline food here and I think SQ offers pretty good in-flight catering on business class (at least, for the Singaporean palate).
As air travellers, we live in a rather privileged era – it was an absolutely surreal experience being able to step onto a plane in Singapore and alight at San Francisco just 15 hours later (and vice versa). It’s still a long flight, and when you want to grab some shut-eye along the way you might start feeling grateful to be in a lie-flat business class seat (flying SQ, no less) and infinitely thankful that strategic credit card spend allows you to access such luxuries relatively affordably.
(Vaguely related – while writing this I was reminded of a YouTube video I’d watched explaining why air travel hasn’t been getting any faster – essentially, lowering cost has been a bigger priority than increasing speed.)
In my opinion, if you are interested in taking a trip to the US (non-stop flights to LA and NYC are supposed to be on the cards for 2018) this is possibly one of the best uses of airlines miles available, allowing you to simultaneously minimise travel time while enjoying a luxurious experience, enabling you to arrive at your destination fresh and ready to embark on your vacation.