Thursday, October 29, 2009

Air China Review

Not to be confused with China Eastern Airlines, which also provides cheap flights from Asia.

And not China Airlines, which is a carrier from Taiwan.

Air China has its hub in Beijing and it flies all over the world.

I did a little research on the Internet before choosing the carrier and when I search "Airlines" + "China" These images came up...

Of course, most of the pictures were from China Airlines, and so I booked my tickets and decided to try Air China which was a member of Star Alliance which gave me mileage on my United Miles Program.

Flying from Singapore Airport to Beijing was relatively fine, the food as expected is really terrible and the plane had no functioning reading lights. Overall, the seats seemed badly maintained and the food is really inedible. But since it was a midnight flight, I was not bothered much as I was just interested in sleeping throughout my flight.

Beijing Airport looks relatively new and clean, however, I don't understand why even as a transit passenger, I was considered "in China" and my passport was annoyingly chopped and I had to fill in immigrations forms just to be in Transit.

The airport however was pretty interesting and had nice designs which were rather photo worthy.

There are several restaurants to get some food during your transit, and they serve pretty decent food there. I tried the beer in Beijing Yan Jing Beer and it was ok, and cost only US$2.20 per bottle at a restaurant, not too bad at all.

Well having beer for breakfast was not really a good idea, but after the first 4 beers, it did not matter at all, and I had another 4 before getting on the flight to New York. (8 beers in 6 hours)

There are few stores that sell things, and they look awfully marked up. So much that after a few stores, which sold $10 tea for $50 and $20 shirts for $200, I decided not to shop at all!

There was a visit the villages fair and there are some interesting exhibits.

The Stool dancing by the villagers is very interesting, and never been seen outside China. I guess beside being a seat, and a weapon, it can also be used as a dance prop!

I watch the plane getting loaded with luggages and sat at the boarding gate. There were lots of people from China, and they all seemed to bring all their luggage with them onto the plane. All of them seemed to be carrying lots of heavy luggage up the flight, and they were crowding at the gates hours before the gate was open. They were very excited to get on the plane even when the seats were allocated, and there is no advantage on getting in early.

The conversations at the gate was loud and simply annoying. Everyone was on their phones and talking as loud as they could and even when they are all going to New York, they kept complaining about how American Culture was bad and they had a superior culture that will never cause the world's economy to collapse. They also blamed the US for causing climate change.

There was lots of chaos at the boarding gate before the flight and many people had special requests. I was upgraded to Business Class, and then downgraded again and the flight was finally delayed for 1 hour and no explanation was given.

During boarding, I was at the entrance and they asked if I transited. I said yes and stood aside for 30 minutes while everyone boarded, and later they "reconfirmed" my luggage and let me in. I was wondering if my standing there was necessary, and the crew just seemed incompetent as human beings.

On the flight, there was chaos again as the people who forced their way on the flight earlier, were seating randomly in the plane. My seat was taken and the person that took my seat had his seat taken. It was like musical chairs, but not fun at all. Everyone seemed to ignore the stewardess and I got my seat, but the confusion that continued lasted for more than 10 mins. Everyone was on the flight talking loudly on their phones here as well.

The people on board seemed to be flying for the first time and it took another 10 minutes to get them into their seat belts. Then the plane flew and when I thought the nightmare was over, when the immigration forms were given out, there was another outcry of help all over the flight and majority of the passengers needed help with the form.

Reading lights do not work on this flight again. There was generally chaos and randomness going on as passengers seemed to be up and walking about all the time, kids running around, out of control and even several men who attempted to smoke their "electronic cigarette" on the flight.

The food that came was basically awful. The sauce was too salty, and rice a little dry and mushy at the same time. There was no fruits and nothing edible there. I simply just had more beer. I was shocked to see passengers asking for more food and then keeping it in their bags. Then after dinner, as I was sitting at the emergency exit row (to stretch my legs) I just realized that 10% of the people go to the toilet without closing the doors. The men pee with the doors open and the ladies do it too! This was a culture shock to me as I approached them to tell them that the door is "close-able" and "lock-able", but after closing the door, they opened it again and said that it was too small inside!

Then came the kids who were like animals. They ran around, destroying things and pee'ed on the floor of the toilets. Their parents do not seem to mind and said that they were "just kids" and it was ok to litter or pee randomly. "WTF!!!" The whole culture talk that I heard earlier about their superiority in culture just went down the drain as their kids are throwing trash on the ground and peeing on the floor of the toilets!

The whole flight was really annoying and simply bad. Not because the staff was bad, but rather, the passengers were out of control and annoying. I don't even think the crew could do anything when almost everyone was annoying and not obeying the rules.

Finally when the plane was about to land, the crew had to make each of everyone sit down as they were trying to get their luggage before the plane landed. Then after buckling them in, they simply got up once they felt the plane had landed. Many rushed to the doors even before the plane stopped, and there was -- chaos again.

I had a very bad experience, and not entirely from the plane with the non-functional lights and the bad food, but mostly from the other annoying passengers on board!

My advice: the $$ saved... Totally not worth it. Don't fly Air China.

Score: 2 / 10


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Heritance Kandalama Review.

Heritance Kandalama is a luxurious hotel built by Kandalama lake on a rock, and it oversees the lake, giving it a spectacular view and a view of rock fortress of Sigiriya.

Located in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka, my initial thoughts were: "This trip is going to suck and the Heritance Kandalama hotel better be nice" and I was pleasantly surprised that a hotel this far away from the city could be that nice.

View Larger Map

The bathroom:

I like the size of the bathroom, big and spacious is always good. The layout was pretty okay, and it gave me a sense of luxury. I would say, having a tub and a shower is pretty nice, and I liked the 2 sinks spaced apart. After trying out the showers and bathtub, I would say that they were finely made with attention to details. Even after a hot shower, the mirrors do not fog up. This is a great thing.

However, I still do not like artificially ventilated toilets. If the toilets were a little smaller, I would feel claustrophobic. To me, having a toilet that allows natural lights in and not using just lots of bulbs is definitely a must, and I was very disappointed even in this toilet as the hotel claims to be very Eco-friendly, but the whole dark toilet says otherwise.

Though the Heritance Kandalama Hotel was a Geoffrey Bawa architectural masterpiece, the toilets failed to inspire me, and I liked the little things that a lot of hotels do: Sharing the same cupboards with the room and the toilets, and this was also missing in my room.

The Bed

The bed was pretty comfortable and the room was spacious. The layout of the room was very nice, and it allows a panoramic view of Kandalama Lake. The bed was big and luxurious, though the pillows were a little soft.

The Room

Heritance Kandalama rooms were all very simple, I did not like the chairs in the rooms with Panoramic views at all. (See above) These chairs were hard and uncomfortable, and were only good for putting stuff on it. However, there are some "Plastic Chairs" that were much more comfortable in the balcony. I like the simple layout and the built of the windows and doors, but the choice of chairs? It boggles my mind that they would sacrifice comfort for looks... But what looks? The room is just plain. Give me some nice chairs to relax in while I have my tea and view the lake.

The larger rooms actually do have bigger chairs and more comfortable chairs, so I guess I have to deal with the chairs I have. Overall, I like the plain room, but not the chairs -- Unless you are in the luxury suite with big chairs.

The Entrance and Building

Heritance Kandalama has a great view and a distinct architecture.

The entrance is impressive especially after a long pathway of greenery on both sides. You get to a rock and it looks like the whole Heritance Kandalama Hotel is built on that rock.

The simple architecture on the insides do stand out at night, and it is pretty to look at.

The stairwell area seem very luxurious and spacious and is very pleasant to look at.

Well, I was very much wishing the night was over so that I can behold the great view of the morning lake, and I was awed by the beauty of Kandalama Lake in the morning.

The whole area transformed overnight, from pitch blackness to beautiful scenic view. It was very impressive.

The whole landscape changed. It was dark night to pretty lake... And waking up early to take in the fresh air and waiting for the sun to light up the lake is a breathtaking moment, photos alone cannot describe.

The amount of Greenery here is amazing. There is wildlife just at your door steps.

I walked down the corridor and it was very relaxing and pretty.

The views kept getting better, and it made up for the uncomfortable chairs.

Heritance Kandalama looked a lot more impressive in the day than the night, and the views were absolutely fabulous.

Wildlife is just right around the corner.

The Food

I am not impressed with any food in Sri Lanka as yet but when I was in Heritance Kandalama, I could feel that most of the food was made with -- Love.

Buffet was average with a wide selection, so pick a little. Some of the food at the buffet were excellent, while others a little salty. But overall the food was great and the deserts sinful.

The Pool

The pool is great, dipping in the infiniti edged pool with monkeys surrounded by nature is amazing. There are 3 pools in Kandalama, and I tried 2 of them, will probably have to try they last one the next time I'm back.


The service in Kandalama is simply amazing. The staff is rather attentive and you can have all sorts of customized 1 - 1 exclusive dinners at Kandalama.

There is a Village dinner where you pick your own vegetables, a "Cave in" dinner where you have meals in a cave, a "Bawa dinner" where people dress up serve you like royalty privately at a corner in the hotel...

You can get away with all sorts of customized dinner, and the staff will do it for you.


Heritance Kandalama is located near the ancient town of Dambulla.

Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the 2,000-year-old cave temple at Dambulla and the Sigiriya rock fortress are just minutes away from the Hotel. Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, ancient cities that date back to before the beginning of the Common Era, as well as the Minneriya wildlife sanctuary are situated within driving distance. Kandy is also not far away.


I had a great time at Heritance Kandalama, and I hope to visit it again soon.

--Reviews Guru

Other interesting and related blogs and links

Trip to Eco-Paradise 1
Trip to Eco-Paradise 2
Kandalama Heritance