Lounge Review: Primeclass Condor Lounge Santiago Airport (SCL) Domestic Terminal

This lounge is located across from Gate 26 in the domestic side of SCL. For being a domestic airport lounge accessible via Priority Pass, it’s actually quite nice.

Entrance to the lounge

Unfortunately, there’s no elevator up to the lounge, so you do have to climb a flight of stairs.

Welcome desk

The lounge itself is a smallish room with a skylight. But in spite of being pretty small, they cram in a lot of seats and partitions to give a decent sense of privacy. The lounge also was not very crowded while I was there, which helped.

Seating

Seating

“Business center”

Bar

Kids area

The buffet is pretty decent for a domestic lounge. I was particularly surprised to see sushi (I was not brave enough to try it). I mostly just ate almonds and granola. There’s also a full-service bar.

Raisins and almonds

Sushi

Meats and cheeses

Cereal towers

Sandwiches

More sandwiches

Muffins and donut(s)

Self-service drinks

In terms of being a good place to work, there were a fair number of outlets, and the wifi was decent. There’s also a small play area for kids, a shower (although it was “occupied” the whole time I was there), and a very small conference room (which was occupied by someone who I believe worked for the lounge the entire time I was there). Overall, a very pleasant domestic lounge.

Flight Review: Aeromexico Boeing 787-8 Business Class MEX to SCL

The only widebodies Aeromexico currently flies are 787s (they retired their 777s earlier this year). They fly both the 787-8 and 787-9, and this is a review of the business class product on their 787-8.

Boeing 787-8 to take me to Santiago

Before flying this 787-8 from MEX to SCL, I flew on one of their 737-800s from JFK to MEX on a red eye. It was very similar to a domestic red eye in that the 737-800s feature recliner seats in business class. Not fun for a ~4.5 hour flight.

Luckily, the business class product on the 787-8 is much better. It’s a lie-flat product in a 2-2-2 configuration. There are 4 rows of business class in the main cabin, and 1.5ish in the rear cabin.

Boarding

The seats are not industry leading, but they do go lie flat, so I won’t complain too much. The bulkhead seats have a larger foot cutout, so I would opt for one of those if available. The seats are on the narrow side and don’t have much storage.

Business class seat

Business class seat

Foot rest and IFE at the bulkhead

Seat and IFE controls

Outlets and small storage area

Waiting at my seat were a water bottle, headphones, a pillow, and blanket. The pillow and blanket were pretty decent and fluffy. Pre-departure beverages of water, juice, or champagne were offered, and then amenity kits were handed out.

Amenity kit

Menu

Menu

Drink menu

The refreshment service was served about 40 minutes after takeoff. The tamale my seatmate had looked pretty good. My vegetable sandwich (a pre-ordered special meal) was decidedly less appetizing. It was bread, refried beans, and vegetables served cold. But I enjoyed the fruit on the side, and I liked that they had coconut water as a beverage option.

VGML refreshment meal

Midway through the flight, they set up a snack trolley between the front and mini business class cabins. This didn’t happen until pretty late in the flight (probably around 4-4.5 hours in), so it’s not just available after the first meal service like snacks are on other carriers. They had apples, pears, potato chips, packaged cookies, Twix bars, sliced vegetable (carrots, jicama, and celery), and mini croissant sandwiches.

One thing to note about the IFE on this flight was that it was censored. I watched Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and all of the swear words (of which there are many) were dubbed over.

About two hours prior to arrival, they served the main meal service. My special meal was actually pretty tasty: it was a lightly flavored rice dish with some vegetables. I’ve had many much worse special meals on flights.

VGML lunch service

And for good measure, here are the menus (and special meal) from the flight back from SCL to MEX. This flight is a red eye with the main meal service after takeoff and a smaller meal service prior to arrival (although I don’t think many passengers took advantage). My meal wasn’t as good as the one on the flight from MEX to SCL, but it was still fine.

Menu on flight from SCL to MEX

Menu on flight from SCL to MEX

VGML dinner on flight from SCL to MEX

Overall, I’d happily fly Aeromexico again. Their lounges in MEX leave a lot to be desired, and the 737-800s are to be avoided, but the hard product on the 787-8 is perfectly comfortable, and the service was fine as well (it was significantly better on the flight from SCL to MEX). I would recommend trying to get a bulkhead seat (first row of main cabin or mini-cabin) so you have more room for your feet.

Lounge Review: Salon Beyond Citibanamex Mexico City Airport (MEX) Terminal 2

The Salon Beyond by Citibanamex is another lounge at MEX accessible via credit cards. In this case, I used my Citi Prestige card to gain access.

Logo

List of cards that offer access

The lounge is just a large room with lots of comfy (but aging) chairs. There’s also a small area with dining tables. In terms of decor, the Amex lounge is nicer.

Seating

Seating (and view of not buffet buffet)

Bar seating

Kids Corner

Like the Amex lounge, however, nothing is self service. But unlike the Amex lounge, no one offered me any food. There’s a small “buffet” with a sign that says that you’re not supposed to take things, so I just stared forlornly at a fruit plate before someone gave it to me. I believe there was hot food on offer made a la carte, as I kept hearing the word “chilaquiles” in other people’s conversations with the lounge staff, but I didn’t actually see anyone eating any hot food, so who knows. Perhaps if you speak Spanish, you can get access to other food.

Liquor selection

Food (that’s not self service)

Also, the wifi was slower in this lounge than the Amex lounge, so assuming you have an Amex Platinum card, I’d probably head over there instead of use this lounge.

Lounge Review: Aeromexico Salon Premier Mexico City Airport (MEX) Terminal 2

I visited this Aeromexico lounge first during my layover since I was flying Aeromexico. When I arrived at 6am on a Friday, the lounge was quite crowded with most seats taken, although it cleared out a bit within 15 minutes.

The lounge is essentially a larger room with a smaller offshoot. It’s honestly tiny given that MEX is a hub for Aeromexico. Similar to US domestic lounges, it honestly doesn’t offer much to passengers.

Bar

Seating

Counter seating (too) close to food

Seating

Seating

Spa

The food options for breakfast were not great. A couple of pastries, fruit, yogurt, and cereals is all you’ll get. I did like that they had papaya, though, as at least it’s better than the sad melon melange you usually find in US lounges.

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet

Drinks

Drinks

Drinks

The other thing I liked about the lounge (there honestly wasn’t much) was that they had a whole bunch of coconut water. Perfect after a dehydrating flight. Aeromexico also offers coconut water in flight (and there were ads played on my flight for the brand that they carry).

All in all, not a lounge worth visiting.

 

Lounge Review: Amex Centurion Lounge Mexico City (MEX) Terminal 2

The Amex Centurion Lounge in the Mexico City Airport has been recently renovated and reopened. This lounge is accessible to those with an Amex Platinum or Amex Centurion credit card. There are Centurion lounges in both terminals, but this review is for Terminal 2.

Entrance to the lounge

The design of the renovated lounge reminds me of the Centurion lounges in the U.S. It’s pretty spacious with lots of different seating options. There are two floors to the lounge: upstairs, you’ll find the spa (and shower room), dining room, and tables; downstairs you’ll find a cafe/bar area, a small children’s area, and couches. There’s also a zen room tucked away (with a separate staircase from the rest of the upstairs). Centurion cardholders have access to a separate space.

Downstairs tables

Downstairs couches

More seating downstairs

Bar area downstairs

Upstairs dining area

Upstairs seating options

Upstairs seating

Zen room

Only self-serve refreshments in the lounge? Found at the zen room

Shower room

Shower room

Nothing is self service in this lounge, which means service can be slow(ish). There’s also potentially a language barrier (I am to blame for not speaking Spanish). But the hosts were generally attentive in offering drinks and food.

One thing that’s different about this lounge from Amex lounges in the US is that a lot of the food and drinks appeared to require payment. I was given a laminated card that said I was entitled to some food, but they have a more extensive paid menu of food options.

Complimentary menu

Fruit and granola

Overall, it’s probably the nicest lounge I visited in MEX in terms of sitting (although it did get quite crowded by the time I left), but I’m not a fan of the weird a la carte menu.

Review: Dan Lounge Tel Aviv Airport (TLV)

The Dan Lounge at TLV is accessible via Priority Pass (there are actually two of these lounges in different parts of the airport).

Entrance to the Dan Lounge

There aren’t very many airport lounges at TLV, which is why I think this lounge was so crowded when I visited. Tons of people, to the point where I had to wait a little bit to find a seat. It’s also not a huge lounge–it’s just a long rectangular room–given how many airlines it’s serving.

Busy lounge

The food options were not that extensive when I visited. There were a bunch of breads/pastries/cereals, there were a couple of cold foods like salads and yogurt, and that was about it. I had some oatmeal, which was about the only hot food I could find.

Food

Food

Food

Drinks

All in all, it might be marginally better than waiting in the terminal, but given how crowded the lounge was and the poor food options, this lounge isn’t really worth a visit.

Review: Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp Petra, Jordan

Over the summer, I took a short trip to Jordan from Israel. On this trip, I stayed at the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp near Petra.

Entrance to the camp

Fire pit

The camp is pretty large. I was on a decently-sized tour (~30 people), so it’s not some boutique experience, even if you stay at this place yourself. That being said, it was pretty cool to stay out in the dessert, and the views were great.

Lots of tents

View

The tents are pretty basic. Just two beds with lots of blankets. I was there in July, so it was pretty warm and toasty most of the time. There is some electricity in the tents, but it cuts out pretty early in the evening, so you can’t charge things overnight. The tents also don’t have locks on them, except from the outside, so it’s actually possible to lock your companion into the tent. Make sure to bring ear plugs, as there’s very little noise insulation. That being said, because we were hiking in Petra all day, I slept pretty well.

Inside a tent

There are communal bathrooms with hot running water. You should probably bring flip flops/shower shoes of some sort. Also a flashlight/your phone to get to and from the bathroom at night. It is in the middle of the desert, so they have to get water delivered, so sometimes, there wasn’t any water. So you might want to wake up early to make sure you can use the bathroom before the water runs out if the camp is crowded!

Bathroom

Bathroom

Bathroom

We had breakfast and dinner at the camp. This was just buffet style food. The food was fine, but you’re not staying in the desert for the food.

Food

Food

The best part of the camp was the fire pit. A huge circular are with lots of pillows and blankets to chill after a day of hiking in Petra. There was tea and hookah available (and wifi! albeit slow wifi).

Nighttime

Would I stay here again? Sure, if someone else wanted to. It’s an interesting and kinda fun experience. It’s not really camping, and it’s not really a cultural experience, but it’s an easy, decently comfortable way to spend the night in the desert.

Review: Club Aspire Lounge London Heathrow (LHR) Terminal 3

On a recent trip to London, I had the chance to check out the Club Aspire lounge at LHR Terminal 3. This lounge is relatively new and accessible via Priority Pass (in Terminal 3, you can also visit the No1 lounge using Priority Pass).

Entrance to the Club Aspire Lounge

The lounge isn’t huge, but it’s got a variety of seating options. There are communal tables to work, smaller tables if you just want to sit with a traveling companion, and recliners if you want some rest.

Seating

Seating

Loungers

The food selection in this lounge isn’t extensive, but the food that was there seemed to be of decent quality as far as lounge food goes.

Hot food options

Cold food options

Snacks

All in all, I would probably choose the No1 Lounge above the Club Aspire lounge if you’re just looking for a Priority Pass accessible lounge (but I’d say that Cathay Pacific lounge is still my favorite lounge in Terminal 3 that I’ve visited so far).

Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class HKG to SFO

Although I’d flown Cathay Pacific long-haul multiple times, this was actually my first time flying them long-haul in business class.

My initial impressions of the cabin were not great. The cabin did not seem to be adequately cleaned before the flight, and some things seemed to be falling apart. Part of the armrest was coming off (and you could see wood underneath), there was a napkin left at my seat, there were stains, etc. It seemed like the plane needed a little love.

Business class seat

Business class mini cabin

Foot space and IFE screen

Controls and storage

Tape fixes all

I was seated in the mini-cabin right behind first class. This is just two rows of business class, so it feels pretty intimate and private. The bulkhead also has additional foot space since it’s the bulkhead. There was a pillow, blanket, and headphones already at the seat, and the flight attendants came around offering pre-departure beverages.

View into first class

In spite of my quibbles about the cleanliness of the cabin, it’s still an awesome hard product. There’s space to put things under the ottoman, there’s a shoe compartment, storage on the side, counter space, etc. The seat goes lie flat and has good privacy, and it feels plenty wide.

Business class bathroom amenities

This flight was catered as supper, snack on demand, and then breakfast prior to arrival. I’m not sure why they serve breakfast prior to arrival as the flight lands at 8pm. While the more typical lunch and dinner menus often have one vegetarian option, there was very little vegetarian food on this menu, so make sure to order a special meal if you’re a vegetarian on a supper flight.

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Business class amenity kit

For my supper meal, I had pre-ordered a Jain vegetarian meal. The VJML supper consisted of a cold, spicy chickpea salad, fruit, rice, lentils, okra, and green beans. Pretty decent for a special meal.

VJML supper

After supper, I slept for about five hours. The seat was super comfortable, and the blanket was large and not too hot.

Breakfast was served prior to arrival. I started out with fruit and bread. One thing I noticed was that the VJML fruit plate was different from the fruit plates that other people were getting–not entirely sure why since fruit is obviously vegan.

Fruit plate

After fruit and bread, people were offered cereals and yogurt.

Granola

For my VJML entree, it was a main of Indian breakfast items. I honestly can’t believe it was meant to be served as I received it, since there was very, very little curry in the container. It looked like the curry had spilled out of the container, but there was nothing to replace it, so it was mostly just white carbs.

VJML breakfast

Overall, I was a little bit disappointed by this flight. While Cathay Pacific has a great hard product and can sometimes have amazing service, the service on this flight wasn’t very good. The service felt cold, I wasn’t welcomed on board, I was never addressed by name, etc. Heck, I’ve been addressed by name flying economy class on Qatar (and on Cathay for that matter).

Review: Year of the Durian’s Malaysia Durian Appreciation Tour

I love durian. It is probably my favorite food in the world. And so when I heard that there would be a Year of the Durian tour around New Years in Malaysia and I didn’t have any other travel plans, I jumped at the opportunity.

If you’re a durian fan, you may have encountered Lindsay’s blog Year of the Durian. It is, as far as I know, the number one English-language resource for durian out there. It started as a project where Lindsay went on a year-long trip following the durian season around Southeast Asia. More recently, Lindsay has started organizing and leading durian tours of Thailand and Malaysia, in addition to organizing a durian festival at the Bao Sheng durian farm.

Now, durian season in Malaysia is typically during the summer, but because of the strange weather this season, there was a pretty sizable second durian season around New Years. And so Lindsay organized a New Years durian tour of Malaysia.

The tour lasted 9 days, started in Penang, and ended in Kuala Lumpur. Here’s the outline of a typical day:

  • Light breakfast (usually lots of fruit like mango, rambutan, soursop, melon, etc. and something savory)
  • Drive to a durian farm and learn about durian (e.g., about a particular variety such as Blackthorn or Musang King; about strategies for selecting fresh durian)
  • Feast on durian for lunch (there were always non-durian foods available for lunch, but I mostly ate durian for lunch)
  • Drive to some sort of fun activity (e.g., hiking, rafting, visiting elephants)
  • Eat a delicious dinner (if you have any room for more food)
  • Feast on more durian after dinner

In other words, the tour was absolute heaven for a durian lover like me.

A selection of durian from the very first durian tasting of the tour–one of my favorite varieties of durian from the entire tour was D2, which is pictured in the bottom left

Typical fruit selection at breakfast (that’s a cempedak, not a durian)

Feeding elephants durian

Enjoying a waterfall swim

In terms of the durian, we tasted over 30 varieties of durian over the course of 9 days. If you’re not familiar with durian, you can think of the different varieties like you might think of different varieties of apples (e.g., Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Fuji) or wine. And it really was all-you-can-eat durian at every meal. The non-durian food was awesome as well–easily the best food I’ve ever had on any sort of organized trip. As Lindsay said during the tour, the tour is largely about managing your appetite, since there’s so much good food and durian available.

Besides the durian, the best part of the trip was the other people. Because we were essentially driving around Malaysia in a van, we spent a lot of time together. And the sorts of people who love durian enough to come on a durian tour are pretty awesome. Lindsay was also an incredible source of information–she knows so much about durian, and she knew exactly where to take us for the best durian (e.g., durian can be very finnicky, so two farms right next to each other can have vastly different yields or quality of durian).

All in all, this was an incredible trip. Lindsay said that she’s planning on expanding and doing tours of Borneo and Indonesia in the coming years, and I definitely want to go on more of these tours. If you love durian, you should definitely consider going on one of these tours! Make sure to sign up for the Year of the Durian mailing list so you can get the inside scoop on when tours are upcoming, as they can fill up fast!