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Old 21st February 2019, 02:17 PM   #1
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Default A trek in the Indian State of Kerala (CX 77W to/from MAA)

Hi everyone,

So basically, I might have said in my last TR that I would be traveling again this month as something has come up. This time I've ended up going, and flying Cathay Pacific again like I did last time, except this time I flew up to Chennai (MAA). It was the cheapest yet again but this time we had different commitments, and SQ was yet again expensive, like by $500 more and we needed to get to India quickly.

While the TR is more or less the same as last time, I went to different places during the trip, so here's a detailed TR. Currently I'm still on my vacation, so I can definitely take suggestions on what to better add or improve to make the TR a little more enjoyable if needed.
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Old 21st February 2019, 02:18 PM   #2
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Flight: Cathay Pacific Airways Flight CX879
Route: San Francisco - Hong Kong
Aircraft: B-KQF (Boeing 777-300ER, 5.9 years old)
Livery: New
Date of Departure: February 15 (11:20AM), Arrival February 16 (6:45PM)
Seat: 64A (Economy Class)
Configuration: 3-class (Business, Premium Economy, Economy) AKA 77K

It was a mostly cloudy day with a forecast of rain showers arriving later in the afternoon. The temperatures were also pretty cold as February is still Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The traffic on the San Mateo Bridge was still there, albeit, lighter than a usual day because it was a Friday before the recent 3-day President's Day Weekend. Nonetheless, we arrived at the airport on schedule.

Check in was pretty quick as we went to the Bag Drop section and they allowed us to check in. The Y-class line was actually longer than usual so we questioned where we should go. CX should definitely consider an 'Internet Check-In' Line just like SQ. Our gate today would be A7 on the A-side of SFO.



Security lines were pretty long and TSA-Pre did not make it any better. Funny thing was my mom was the only one who gotten that labeled on her boarding pass. I would have wished the same for my dad and I. It took almost 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes we head to gate A7 where our plane would take us.

Our plane B-KQF, a B77K in 10-across configuration, sporting the new livery. This plane was also equipped with time-based Wifi as you see from the wider antenna towards the rear of the aircraft.



[INSERT IMAGE HERE]


Boarding commenced on time as CX870 (The inbound flight arrived only about 10 minutes later). We were called by row numbers after sometime, starting from 65-72, then later 64-72. Unlike last trip, it did not take too long to board and reach our seats.

Once we settled into our seats, we still had plenty of time before departure. The 10-across Y-seat was fine for sitting, but it later became terrible for sleeping and when the front person reclined.



View of the outside before we pushed back:



Captain made an announcement once the doors closed with our flight time to HKG would be a good 14 hours and 10 minutes and we would arrive 45 minutes ahead of schedule. He also advised us that there would be periods of bumpy weather, which did happen unlike last trip when I took CX879. Soon after the IFSM announcement came and the safety video commenced and after 10 minutes we pushed back and started our engines.

Our taxi to the runway was not too long though we ended up in a small queue, but we managed to take off around 11:50AM just before the storm hit and later hitting sunny skies on the way to HKG.







In 10 minutes the seatbelt signs have switched off and the IFSM made an announcement but because this is a Wifi enabled aircraft, she forgot to drop the charade that any device with a wifi or bluetooth function should be disabled. Quite ironic on this to be honest.

Soon, drinks were served and 30 minutes later, came lunch service. Though not shown, I opted for the Apple juice.

I was able to connect to CX's Wifi, so as long as you had an account and purchased a package, you should be able to use it on any number of devices.

Lunch, which was pretty much the same as last time, the veg-lacto ovo meal I usually opt for. It was still very good, with protein. Rice along with some tofu and vegetables, still very good. I enjoyed the salad as well, which was provided. My parents got the same meal as well, the channa masala with beans curry, I had some and it was pretty good, too.



After lunch, ice cream was served on this leg which was Haagen Daz, same like last time, though the difference being it was not hard in rock and hard to have ice cream.

After this, I pretty much dozed off for a few hours, and I noticed the seat to be uncomfortable especially when someone reclined. No one reclined surprisingly last trip on both my sectors. Not that I have a problem, but I could tell the difference in comfort on these seats. My mom somehow found the seats a bit better for sleeping but still not as happy. My dad found it very uncomfortable since he only got a seat behind us in the middle (65B). I also spent periods using the internet as needed.

Mid-flight the same story happened, dinner several hours before landing. SQ usually gives you a second meal 2-3 hours before arrival. The meal was more or less the same as last time but filling. Pasta with celery and salad. Very filling.




Last edited by SQfanatic; 22nd February 2019 at 05:00 PM..
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Old 21st February 2019, 02:33 PM   #3
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This flight was a completely daytime flight. A picture of passing by the Polar ice caps.



Some pictures of the flight maps on the 77K:




















Last edited by SQfanatic; 22nd February 2019 at 12:44 AM..
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Old 21st February 2019, 03:01 PM   #4
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I dozed off for the rest of the flight and woke up an hour before landing and captain's announcement. Also, I had the opportunity to stretch my legs around the cabin, and like the last time I actually bumped into people on the right side as opposed to the left side so you can tell the 10-across 77W has the squeeze in terms of comfort.

Some useful arrival information, which usually comes an hour before arrival into HKG. What's surprising is that some flights after 9PM were shown, and our flight to Chennai would depart at 9:05PM, probably it was not shown because the gate was not determined at that point in time. After landing into HKG, we found out it was gate 33, which happened to be right after we cleared security. The plane B-KQO came from MNL several hours ago but parked at the gate almost 2 hours before preparing for its departure to MAA:









Last shot of the afternoon skies before descending into HKG:


Last edited by SQfanatic; 22nd February 2019 at 12:58 AM..
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Old 21st February 2019, 04:27 PM   #5
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The captain came with an announcement saying we would be landing at 6PM, 45 minutes ahead of schedule with maybe some air traffic delays, but much to my surprise, we did land at 6:04PM and taxi to the gate at 6:12PM. The views into HKG were spectacular and we landed at sunset, which was a beautiful sight to see.

















We deplaned around 6:20PM and proceeded to security and still had an hour and a half to spare. I did not take many pictures of HKG because I had a coffee and an egg-puff at a pastry shop and pretty much stuck around or near the gate for my next 9-across 77W flight to MAA.

Last edited by SQfanatic; 22nd February 2019 at 12:58 AM..
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Old 22nd February 2019, 12:15 AM   #6
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Flight: Cathay Pacific Airways Flight CX631
Route: Hong Kong - Chennai
Aircraft: B-KQO (Boeing 777-300ER, 4.7 years old)
Livery: Old
Date of Departure: February 16 (9:05PM), Arrival February 17 (12:20AM)
Seat: 64A (Economy Class)
Configuration: 3-class (Business, Premium Economy, Economy) AKA 77G

I really got to enjoy some time spending at HKG airport. Because it was the week after Lunar New Year, I really found this exhibit really cool:



Our flight tonight would be operated by B-KQO. It was refreshing to get a plane with the old livery for this leg. This would be the 9-across cabin, which used to fly to SFO on CX870/879 before they switched over to the 77K. Going further in the future, if for some reason we have to take CX, unfortunately, MAA will also be served by the 10-across plane. My parents and I really enjoyed these seats a lot more; well my dad has flown CX in 2017 before we did and he got these seats on the SFO route. It was his third time on B-KQO (Once on CX879, last time on CX632, this time all of us on CX631).







Around 8:30PM, the queue commenced for CX631 for Chennai. We boarded right on time with about 20 minutes before our scheduled departure. It was refreshing to get the 9-across seats on this leg as opposed to the 10-across seats, so probably one last opportunity to enjoy it as CX is converting all their 77W to the 10-across version.

A few pictures of the CX welcome screen on their older 3D map (which was personally better):













View from the aircraft at Gate 33:



A few minutes before departure, the captain made an announcement and our flight would be about 5 hours and 15 minutes to Chennai with turbulence from time to time. Afterwards, the IFSM introduced herself and gave us information about the customs and immigration form which had to be completed by foreigners including US Citizens.

We pushed back 2 minutes ahead of schedule and had a quick taxi to the runway and took off for MAA. After take off, we were served drinks, and later a dinner before most of us dozed off for sleep. I went for a Coke, though not shown.

Last edited by SQfanatic; 22nd February 2019 at 12:59 AM..
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Old 22nd February 2019, 12:22 AM   #7
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After some time, a dinner was served. My meal was the veg-lacto ovo meal which consisted of some sort of spinach pasta with cheese:





Personally the food was okay. I didn't eat much. However, my parents actually had better; they had a paneer in some curry (Very nice) and bhindi masala (okra with spices) and I tried quite some of their's and it was better than mine. To finish off they got a chocolate cake, which I did not receive. They gave their's to me since they didn't really want it.

Once the meal service concluded, everyone slept, but they did not force anyone to close the shades since it was a night flight throughout. I took some pics of the 3D map with detailed information during the last 1 hour of the flight:
















Last edited by SQfanatic; 22nd February 2019 at 12:59 AM..
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Old 22nd February 2019, 01:00 AM   #8
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Because this was an overnight flight, I also had the opportunity to take a walk in the cabin of the 9-across 77W (B77G). However, it was dark so no pictures could be taken. Overall, I noticed the difference in roominess and the fact the cabin was more airy compared to the 10-across B77W.

At around 11:30PM, our captain made an announcement that we were descending into Chennai and the weather would be hazy and warm. For the most part, there was some turbulence during parts of the flight, but towards the last 2 hours, very smooth.

Around midnight, we started landing into MAA after our IFSM welcomed us and advised us of completing our customs forms.

A few pictures of the IFE after landing tips:







Overall impressions on this leg? Excellent service as the last leg, the food was fine and sleeping was very comfortable on these Cradle seats. I would definitely miss them when I fly Cathay Pacific next time.
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Old 22nd February 2019, 01:01 AM   #9
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Upon arrival into Chennai, we proceeded to the immigration/customs counter to give our immigration cards and passport before proceeding to the domestic terminal. After this, we collected all our baggages and proceeded to the domestic terminal. I can tell you in Chennai, it's very seamless to transfer from one terminal to the next. In Delhi, you would have to take a bus and it's honestly not as convenient whereas in Chennai, you can walk but take an elevator to the next terminal.

I will anyway be crossing this airport on the way back so I will update how the transfer the opposite way goes in the next couple of days.

Once we entered the domestic terminal, all we could think about and do is sleep, as it was the dead of the night. Our next flight would be to Coimbatore on Air India (Operated by Alliance Air). We found out that the flight was delayed for operational reasons (From 5:40AM to 7:30AM). We checked in around 3AM, and went past security which was pretty quick.

A few pictures of Chennai domestic terminal and some shops. It really looks nice, honestly:





And here, surprisingly, similar to Delhi, you have two American name shops: Krispy Kreme and Coffee Bean/Tea Leaf. In Indian Airports, at least the ones I've been to, it's very rare to find these kind of shops. Not that I was craving to have anything from there, but I was surprised. I'm sure Bangalore would have something similar.





Well, there's a place called Tiffin's that I recommend. I had dosa, idli, and vada for breakfast. It is fast food, but it was really delicious. I think I'll be eating at this place for dinner on Saturday night before I head back to the US. If I decide to, I will probably take and post a pic. Stay tuned!!

Around 7AM, we went to our bus gate to board our flight to Coimbatore. The flight took 1.5 hours, and the airline provided a sandwich for breakfast. It was a veggie sandwich and I was not really in a position to eat as I had already had dosa at the airport. We landed at Coimbatore around 9AM, and to our surprise, our bags were the only check in bags to be collected from the carousel (weird, huh?)

Once that was done, we booked a prepaid car to take us to Pallakad (The actual city name is Palghat), which is 1.5 hours of a drive from Coimbatore to Northern Kerala.

Next up: Coimbatore pictures and Palghat pictures. Stay tuned!!
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Old 22nd February 2019, 08:55 PM   #10
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Nice TR so far...

The krispy kreme and coffee bean in MAA domestic terminal? Because its surprising that the international terminal has no such shops but domestic has. It should have been the other way around.

Are you a vegetarian? Why dont you try the Indian Veg Meal on planes? Just Curious.

Looking forward to the rest
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Old 23rd February 2019, 12:09 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by balajih67 View Post
Nice TR so far...

The krispy kreme and coffee bean in MAA domestic terminal? Because its surprising that the international terminal has no such shops but domestic has. It should have been the other way around.

Are you a vegetarian? Why dont you try the Indian Veg Meal on planes? Just Curious.

Looking forward to the rest
Thanks balajih67 for your comments and feedback. Yes, I was quite surprised when I saw this in the domestic terminal. It should be the other way around, or if you can have it in both, that would be neat.

Yes, I am a vegetarian and for some reason, I do enjoy having meals with more protein. On SQ, I have had Indian vegetarian meals, which are primarily South Indian, and some that are usually paneer curries. On CX however, there were some meals my parents did not enjoy at all, and a little more surprisingly than not, my mom actually talked of switching herself to having an Oriental vegetarian meal. This religious purpose was a little different so the type associated was not a pilgrimage.

On pilgrimage trips, it's a little more strict, but those kind of trips I tend to only take every 4 to 5 years.
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Old 23rd February 2019, 11:04 AM   #12
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A few pictures of Coimbatore from our car journey as we were heading to Palghat for one night. Coimbatore is not only the birthplace of a friend of mine that passed away due to suicide 2 years ago, but it is a temple town. Additionally, it has a military base in India. We had the option to take SQ to CJB, but prices were much higher than CX + the local flight combined.











We reached Palakkad sometime around 12PM (Noon) as the drive wasn't too bad and the traffic was reasonably light the entire way. For this trip, we stayed at the Four N Square Residency, which is a fairly recent hotel. The room and bathroom is modern, and to open the door you just wave your key at the door and it'll open (RFID style, similar to the last few hotels I've stayed at in the US, this being the first hotel I've stayed at internationally containing this).

The hotel has a restaurant called Annalakshmi Grand, which I'm not entirely sure is part of the whole Annalakshmi chain of restaurants, started originally in Chennai. But we only ate for lunch and dinner for the first day. Unfortunately, luck had it that the next day there was a hartha (strike for political reasons) that forced the closure of all businesses which include stores and restaurants (not hotels though). While I didn't take actual pictures for lunch or dinner, what I ate was mostly curd rice, and shared a thali with my parents. For dinner, it was dosa and to finish off, butterscotch ice cream.





After freshening up and taking some rest, we went out for shopping in Palakkad just before we went to a temple we planned to go to in the evening. The weather was a scorching 95 degrees Farenheit, but it felt more like a dry heat vs. an actual humidity. The evenings cooled down significantly with no humidity noticeable in sight. Probably common in Northern Kerala as opposed to Southern Kerala (Trivandrum).

I really liked this huge lamp (unfortunately tilted sideways) that the store we went to put up for display:



In the evening, we went to a temple in Palakkad for some religious rituals but we weren't there for too long that evening, just to give the temple a saree for religious purposes. Next day morning, we came and more pujas were done and we were there from 6AM to 9:30AM. The area around it looks more like a village but I really do like the natural beauty of nature around it.



What I especially liked is that there was a jackfruit tree around it. Around this area you can hear nature sounds like animals, like roosters, birds, and another sound which I believe sounded like a cat meowing but not too sure.

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Old 23rd February 2019, 11:32 AM   #13
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After 9:30AM we went back to Palakkad to take some rest before we headed for Cochin Airport and flew to Trivandrum that evening. It blew my mind that there was a hartha and it caused all businesses to be closed. Traffic was much lighter around these roads. However, here are some pictures of Palakkad.



















We left around 4PM that evening and we made a stop in Thrissur for a late lunch/early snack break before heading to Kochi Airport. It took only about 2 hours to reach. Our flight that evening to Trivandrum was by Air India, which came from Delhi (which happens to be the one my mom took in February 2016 when she flew AI from SFO to DEL).
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Old 23rd February 2019, 11:33 AM   #14
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Kochi Airport in the International Terminal looks amazing. They even have a food court, which I believe many Indian Airports lack (yes, you can get food but there's not a proper food court per se). The only airports to my understanding that have a food court are: Kochi, Bangalore, and New Delhi Airport. Mumbai could have one as well, but I'm honestly not sure. We checked in for our Air India flight to TRV which took no more than 5 minutes.

I really like these line of elephants just before heading to the airside. They're not real but the depiction of this looks really cool



Past the airside, a few photos of Kochi Airport:











So one thing I like about this terminal is the large duty free shops and the food courts have a great choice of all types of Asian food. Because I had a dosa a few hours earlier, I went for the noodles and the hot and spicy tofu which were excellent overall.

Because MI will be pulling out of TRV, I think depending on the situation, I may consider COK next, but the flight arrives at 9 or 10PM so connecting will be more of a challenge whereas Chennai it's a little easier, and you have more options even in the early morning. I can also consider taking EK or AI, but there are also better ways to plan such scenarios and be a little more flexible.

That said, boarding commenced on time for our Air India flight to TRV. It was a smooth flight overall, only about 40 minutes. We landed around 10:30PM and disembarked 10 minutes later through the aerobridge, got our baggages and proceeded out later.

Because of the A/C problem at my grandmother's house my dad and I decided to stay at a service apartment for shower and sleeping. Next trip one of my family members will work to replace the whole A/C unit. So we took our bags and stayed at Ramas Garden, just outside of Sree Varaham at West Fort/Swathi Nagar.

Stay tuned for pictures of Trivandrum. After that: Trivandrum Airport (Domestic), Chennai International, and CX to HKG and SFO. Thanks for reading so far.
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Old 23rd February 2019, 03:42 PM   #15
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So when get to Trivandrum, we check into a place called Ramas Garden, which is a service apartment at West Fort in Swati Nagar. The staff warmly welcomed us and gave us a room on the 2nd floor. There are no elevators here, sadly so one would have to use the stairs. The place is very comfortable for sleeping and showering and is more like a Bed and Breakfast, if you want to call it that.



The next day we did not do much, it was a chill day, so we pretty much hung around MG Road and Sree Varaham from time to time. On Wednesday however, was Pongala, which is a religious festival exclusive to Trivandrum for Attukal Devi. The streets that day were closed to traffic due to the festival. Basically it's a women's festival where they cook chakra pongal (which is a sweet made with rice and jaggery). Many places seemed to close early and the next day, the festival went from 10AM to around 2:30PM. I got to see some of the festivities during certain periods from West Fort, where I was staying. Here are a couple of pictures:













Notice the smoke being polluted in the air due to the people who cook the old fashioned way using bricks and fire to cook pongal in the pot.





Soon, pongal is ready to be blessed by priests and eventually served to family members/friends:

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