Day 1: Vancouver to Taipei
After over 6 months of planning, this was it – our honeymoon around the world! It’s been a year since my last trip around the world which was such an amazing experience I had to do it again, this time with my fiancée. Spring break has become our go-to time to travel because of lighter crowds and milder weather as compared to summer. So even though we planned our wedding for the summer, we decided to have an earlier “honeymoon”. Of course, there’s no way we would have predicted what happened in 2020, but looking back we were very glad we were able to at least partially complete this trip while we still could. We went on this trip before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and before Canada or the US imposed travel restrictions on any of our planned destinations. At the time of departure, Taiwan, Singapore, Maldives, UAE, Czech Republic, and Denmark all had little to no cases with no sign of community spread. Things were business as usual right up to the week of departure when Seattle, where I lived, had an outbreak. I was thus very glad to be getting out of there and going to comparatively safer destinations. Italy, South Korea, and Iran had just started their outbreaks, so I was very closely monitoring the situation and was prepared to divert or cut short parts of the trip if needed. Ultimately, we took the necessary precautions, masked up, and decided to go for it. Spoiler alert, we did not get sick from the trip.
We met up in the evening at Vancouver International Airport to check-in for our first leg to Taipei, via Seattle. We packed relatively lightly for the 3-week trip, with only one carry on suitcase and one backpack each. We decided not to check anything in for this leg and proceeded through security. After traveling domestically in the US quite a bit last year since getting my Nexus Card (and TSA-Precheck), I wasn’t used to the full security check at YVR. Both of our backpacks also required extra screening because they needed to swab our iPads for some reason. Nonetheless, we were soon cleared and got through US Customs with ease.
YVR is one of my favorite airports in the world, but I haven’t had a chance to travel through it since 2017 as I have been living in Seattle. This trip was booked using ANA miles as a business class round the world itinerary. One of the restrictions was that we have to start and end in the same country. Since my fiancée would be returning to Canada, we would need to start in Canada. YVR’s airside operations are separated into Domestic, US Trans-border, and International. As our first stop was Seattle, we were cleared to the US side which was relatively small and didn’t have many amenities. We decided to head directly to Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge, which I could access as a Star Alliance Gold member despite being on this all-economy flight.
I loved this model Boeing 787 at the front desk of the lounge – hopefully one day I can have one in my house. We found a spot in the back corner of the lounge, with less people and more privacy.
There wasn’t much in terms of a dinner spread, with a simple pasta dish and soup as the hot options. The chips and salsa were pretty good though, which my fiancée enjoyed. The lounge was surprisingly big and had good views of the apron with lots of windows. Air Canada had recently renovated their International Maple Leaf Lounge at YVR, but that’ll have to wait for another time.
This was the Turbo-prop AC8101 taking us to Seattle, in Air Canada’s new “raccoon” livery. I really liked the old “toothpaste” livery (I say these nicknames with love), but this one is starting to grow on me. We departed on time for the short hop to Seattle. We were seated in row 1 which had some extra legroom on this very small plane. Unfortunately, one of our suitcases wouldn’t fit in the overhead bins so we stuck it underneath an empty seat. This happened to me once before on this same flight so I wasn’t surprised. We were only in the air for about 20 minutes before landing at Sea-Tac just before 9pm.
We had quite a bit of time to kill before our 1:20am flight to Taipei, so we went through just about all of Sea-Tac. My fiancée was craving some McDonald’s fries so we went there until she finally resisted the urge. Instead, we went to the N-Gates to a Vietnamese restaurant called Bambuza, which is part of Priority Pass. Priority Pass cardholders get $28 off per person, for a total of $56 for the two of us. We got a Shrimp vermicelli bowl, spring rolls, mango juice, and Thai Iced Tea for $50 – good thing it was free. The food was objectively okay, but must be judged against the bar of free US airport food, in which case it was pretty good. After the light dinner, we went to the British Airways Terraces Lounge at the S-Gates to chill before our flight.
I have been to this lounge once before, about a year ago, before going on the exact same flight. Given the late hour, there wasn’t much food besides some sandwiches, soup, and snacks. There were some cup noodles that enticed us a little bit but we decided to save our stomachs for the feast onboard. I took a shower in the lounge and was pleasantly surprised by the full body shower heads.
All refreshed, we went back downstairs to begin boarding our flight - EVA Air BR25 to Taipei. Up until now, we haven’t seen much indication of COVID-19 with everything appearing business as usual. That changed at the bordering area where we could see the vast majority of passengers and all the staff had surgical or N95 masks on, so we did the same. Taiwan has done an excellent job containing this virus, in part to the vigilance of its people. Once on board, we promptly wiped down all the surfaces of the large Royal Laurel Class seats. We were sitting in 2D and 2G which are the two center seats in the 1-2-1 layout. We were promptly given a pre-departure beverage, hot towel, and a piece of dark chocolate.
Then came the menu, slippers, and pajamas, while the flight attendants took our orders for dinner and breakfast.
Both of us preordered our main courses online, which all business class passengers can do for free 3 weeks in advance up until 48 hours before the flight. The online selection is much larger and has more luxurious/expensive items like lobster and abalone. After take off, we were given the new Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kits. I really enjoyed the one from last year, which I use extensively while traveling. I am glad they came out with a new one to add to my collection.
As we hit our cruising altitude, meal service started with a drink and an amuse bouche of seared tuna and mozzarella. I opted for the 2008 VC Vintage La Grande Dame Champagne – a must on Royal Laurel flights. This is the best champagne offered in business class by any airline so I definitely took advantage of it with the seafood themed dinner.
Next came the appetizer, which was grilled shrimp with avocado and mango salsa. This was very tasty and refreshing. The flight attendant also came around with a bread basket, so I got some freshly baked garlic bread.
For the main course, I had the lobster and my fiancée had the abalone.
I love how easily they make the lobster come out of the shell. The light ginger sauce was great, not overpowering the lobster – although it was a bit overdone. For dessert, we got a fruit plate with a chocolate eclair. I also enjoyed some chamomile tea before bed.
This “light” dinner service is amongst the best out there for business class. Many airlines either don’t serve food or only a small snack on these red-eye flights past midnight. While EVA Air does shorten the service by removing the salad, soup, cheese, and full dessert courses, it keeps the essentials so you don’t feel like you are missing out.
After dinner, I changed into my new PJs while the flight attendant set up the bed with a mattress cover and a bottle of Fiji water.
The seat then transforms into a flat bed and a hefty down blanket makes it quite cozy and comfortable. The star lit ceiling gives it a nice ambiance.
I got a solid 5-6 hours of sleep before waking up for a snack. There were a few options to choose from and I went with the Roast Duck Noodle Soup, with some chili sauce on the side. Pro tip: always get the chili sauce on EVA Air, it’s amazing.
I watched Jumanji on the IFE afterwards – a lighthearted funny movie. With about 2 hours left on the 13 hour flight, breakfast service commenced. There was a western option and two different Chinese options. We got one of each of the Chinese options and both enjoyed them thoroughly.
The cabin lights were kept off for those that opted to sleep through breakfast. I finished the meal with a large plate of fruits as well as a cappuccino – always a treat to get espresso drinks in the air.
As my second Royal Laurel experience came to an end, I am happy to say it was as consistently excellent as the first time. Service was impeccable, amenities were plenty, and the food was delicious. My fiancée also loved all aspects of this flight, which was her first business class experience. Now she says she can’t go back – what have I done.
Aside from the mask and gloves, there was no deviation from regular service on this flight. We filled out an extra health form that asked us if we had symptoms or had recently visited one of the hot spot countries at the time. At around 5:30am local time, we landed at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the health check and customs took, which only required handing in the form, providing a local phone number and walking through the thermal cameras. We were in the arrivals hall by 6am, ready to hit the ground running.