Source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

Travelling to Thailand, is a relatively safe thing to do.

Considering how many tourists go there, the state of the driving and how much many of those tourists participate in risky and/or risque activities it is astounding most people get home okay! Most end up with nothing more than sunburn! Some tourists, however, get lost or confused after too many drinks and cannot find their hostel or hotel! A number end up in fights or vandalism. Tragically out of the 20 million tourists that visit Thailand, several hundred die and thousands are injured. Most of them are killed in car accidents caused by speeding and/or drunk driving.

Since the high profile  murder of  two tourists  in Thailand this year,  I know that many Thais are dismayed that this event is besmirching their beautiful country’s reputation.

Source: nationmultimedia.com

Source: nationmultimedia.com

Now, the Thai Tourism minister, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul (pictured) has a solution to the tourists who get lost, injured or find themselves at risk of other misadventure.

She wants hotels to hand out wristbands to help identify lost tourists. Each wristband will have an id which will show the contact details of their accommodation. She also has said: “The next step would be some sort of electronic tracking device but this has not yet been discussed in detail.”

What about you? Would you wear a bracelet that said “tourist”?
How would you feel about having an electronic surveillance system that your hotel or the police could follow?

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I was barely out of my teens and I had arrived at Chicago’s Union Station by train on my first big North American adventure! The noise of people, traffic, trains and announcements seemed overwhelming. We needed to get to our youth hostel. This was the days of no internet, no cell phones and no google maps! (Yes, I am that old).

We must have looked lost with our back packs, maps as we struggled to find the bus that would take us from the station to our hostel which was out in the Chicago suburbs!

A homeless guy came up to us and offered help. We firmly and politely refused it. I assume we were slightly terrified! He offerred help again. We refused again. Finally, we walked off and followed the directions the hostel had mailed to us. This meant making a loop around the station. Coming out of a door ten minutes later, we were startled to find him standing there. He laughed when he saw us saying” You know you were 30 yards from this door and you have taken ten minutes to get here“. We felt sheepish, as he kindly pointed us to the number 8 bus and refused our offers of a dollar. “You are my guests here”. 

This experience, amongst many others has taught me to be open to strangers. For every person who has asked me for money in the ensuing decades, I would say 150 people have been helpful, friendly and/or kind. I have  life long friends with strangers who have invited me for meals, bought me coffees and even given me a bed for a night!

So put down your laptop, your kindle, your phone or your book and say “hi” to the person sitting next to you. Ask someone if you can join them for a meal if you are sitting alone in hotel, hostel or restaurant. Accept help and show interest. Who knows where it might end up.

mostlyharmlessOf course, be wary. Not everyone is kind and some people are crazy and sadly some are dangerous. But as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says: humans are “mostly harmless”.

 

 

My sister died two years ago from Cancer. She fought it nobly.  You can understand why I will support (almost) anything that helps support the fight against cancer.

fly for oinck

Here is a simple way you can join in the fight during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month:

 

picture it

Hint: Cover up your frequent flyer number and other personal details.

shareit

For every boarding pass photo posted to Twitter & Instagram with the hashtag #flyforpink, the frequent flyer collaborative of BoardingArea, Milepoint,Freddie Awards, Bonusfeber, Ikvliegveel and Frequent Traveler University will donate fifty US cents to cancer-related causes.

support it

If we can get 20,000 Boarding passes tweeted, then $10,000 will be donated!. The beneficiaries of the#flyforpink campaign are listed here.
Here is one of my Boarding passes. Please add yours.

boadrin pass
Thank you to the team behind this

In the last two weeks, Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), the USA’s fourth busiest airport, has had new very long distance Airbus 380 routes added.

dfw-a380-1000x275

Qantas upgraded their non stop Sydney -DFW service to an A380 from a 747 on September 29th. This upgrade means that the longest scheduled commercial flight in the world is now served by the largest passenger jet in the world!  The flight is approximately  12, 200 km (8,600 miles). It takes 15 hours 35 mins from Sydney to DFW and 16hr 55mins from DFW due to the headwinds!  Thats a few movies on a flight advertised as “just a hop”!

The A380 on the first flight arrived with the traditional Kangaroo on the tail wearing a hat and bandana! Check that out at 6mins 30sec in this Joe Streetman video (after the water cannon salute at 3 mins 38secs):

Bypassing LAX is a much better alternative  as DFW is a nicer airport and I find the connections with One World partner American are much easier. If you are travelling between the middle of the USA or the East coast and Australia, this is a great way to go.

October 1st saw Emirates replace their daily B777 non stop service to Dubai. Their service takes 16 hours to Dallas and 14 hours 45 minutes away from Dallas (those headwinds again). Both the take off and landing of the very first Emirates A380 service to Dallas are captured in this video by Matt Gee (water cannon at 55secs).

To deal with the changes, DFW reconfigured gates D15 and D16, to simultaneously accommodate two A380s on the ground. The  airport also modified ramps and taxiways in order to accommodate the giant plane.

Now there are more options that make it possible to fly the 380 around the world from Dallas including:

  • Dallas to Sydney to Dubai to Dallas
  • Dallas to Paris to Bangkok to Singapore to Sydney to Dallas.

DFW is the fifth US airport to welcome the superjumbo. The others are:

  • Los Angeles – Air France, British, Korean, Qantas, Singapore
  • JFK – Air France, Emirates, Lufthansa,
  • San Francisco – Air France, Lufthansa
  • Houston – Lufthansa
  • Miami – Lufthansa
  • Washington Dulles – Air France, British Airways
  • Atlanta- Korea

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Etihad Airways Partner Logo FinalMiddle Eastern carrier, Etihad has created a brand for six of the airlines it has shares in

Alitalia and  Virgin Australia do not appear to be included at this stage.

The alliance is open to  any other airline that wishes to join – not just airlines that Etihad has a stake in.

The benefit of the alliance is akin to the other three alliances: One World, Skyteam and Star Alliance, namely integrated networks,  timetables and frequent flyer programs. he frequent flyer program, reportedly, will be designed to provide a standardised mileage across all member carriers with tier benefits, and no blackout periods.

Member airlines will also have access to the parent airline’s centres of excellence, shared sales teams, joint procurement of services and supplies, and shared staff training at their Abu Dhabi facilities.

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Pittsburghurbanmedia.com

Pittsburghurbanmedia.com

I gave the newly launched People Express nine months before it would fold.

I was a little optimistic in my predictions. The airline suspended flights on September 26. This is not even three months since launch. They promised to return October 16 (which is next week). Yesterday the airline announced it would be now be some time in November before flights resume.  Their website is not accepting  any bookings.

The airline is promising refunds for all flights. Refunds which will take five to seven business days. Small comfort to anyone who is booked to fly in the next few weeks who has to make new expensive arrangements. Jetblue have offered to assist with alternative arrangements for affected passengers.

Using the name of the popular (but financially unsuccessful) 80’s airline,  they had begun flying on June 30, from Newport News in Virginia with airline code V2 to Newark, NJ. West Palm Beach, Fla.; Pittsburgh, PA and Boston, MA.

People Express say they are aware of the damage to their brand saying “We know we disappointed our loyal customers and our community. But we have been working hard to regroup. And the feedback we’ve received has been helpful in our efforts to get it right.”  They state that they had carried 55,000 passengers on 517 flights. They have released an “inspirational” promotional video promising to “never give up”. I think it may be too late.

Background

The cause of the suspension was reported to have had its genesis on September 19, when one of its two 737s was damaged by a vendor’s truck  at its Newport News hub. This left the carrier with just one 737. People Express has been leasing both of its planes plus pilots and crew from Vision Airlines. Vision had an earlier incident where they had no pilots for a whole day. These have all impacted on “their ability to provide consistently outstanding schedule integrity.”

The problems on further investigation seem deeper.

Vision has attempted to expand before. In 2010, they attempted to fly to 20 destinations from a Florida base. The plan failed and the carrier was charged with grand theft for non payment of passenger fees it had collected. They also were sued for underpaying pilots flying into Middle Eastern war zones on US Government charter flights.

Vision Airlines was reportedly more than $30 million in the red when they started flying from Newport News for People Express. The service was able to start because of an advance of $650 000 to  subsidise daily service from Newport News to Boston and Newark, New Jersey provided by The Peninsula Airport Commission. The Commission reportedly  didn’t know the amount of Vision’s debt.  

People Express and Vision Airlines have “been put on notice” that they need to pay back a percentage of the grant,  if service is not restored soon. PEOPLExpress have been searching for another carrier to replace Vision Airlines – ideally one with three planes and yesterday said:  “We currently have a tentative agreement with an additional aircraft provider, which will enable us to enhance our platform, including the addition of a third aircraft as a spare. This will alleviate the service issues we have experienced.”

Concerning though, is that there seems to be some confusion over who is actually the People Express chief executive officer.

Future?

All of this suggests to me that People Express will be hard pressed to start again. There are many similarities between People Express and the start up Air Australia which flew for just two months. Their demise makes it easy to predict the future for People Express:  I cannot see them making it through the US winter. Airlines need more than a vision, hope and a prayer.  Capital, sufficient planes, consistent service and a good reputation which People Express seemed to have burnt through. I feel sad for them but this is business.

People Express Customers can e-mail: customerrelations@flypex.com or add a message at www.facebook.com/flypex. Good luck.

 

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While in Berlin, I had to check out the 25 hours Hotel, Bikini Berlin.

Ultra new, ultra cool and ultra embarrassing,

It is located on Budapester Str., near the Berlin Zoo in the listed Bikini-Haus building, not far from Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The hotel website says that it “is popular…thanks to the restaurant and bar on the top floor with a 360° rooftop terrace and first-class views of the city and the Berlin Zoo.”

It neglects to mention that the design of the bathrooms at the restaurant allows people on the ground to see lavatory users… in full detail through the floor-to-ceiling glass in its bathrooms!

article-berlin-0731

Source: nydailynews

The Hotel has reportedly put up a sign saying: “Please be careful, not only the monkeys are watching.”

You have been warned!

 

Do you have a photo of your luggage? - Seriously.

A picture of your bag, laptop case, or briefcase will help should it be lost or stolen. It is so much easier to describe a lost bag by showing its picture.
Don’t store the pic in your case! I keep one on my phone and one “on the cloud”.

20141006-190551-68751856.jpg

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Most of my trips work but none has worked as well as my last three weeks in Europe…

20141005-101155-36715918.jpg
Twelve flights with six airlines and five rail trips plus numerous metros and buses took us to six countries.

 

I walked the 141km (84 miles) from the Irish Sea to North Sea along Hadrian’s wall

hadrian

 

I also ran my first marathon!  While my finish timings could have been faster, I was thrilled to finish!

marathon

 

All in all, a very satisfying trip -reports coming soon!

Excuse me” a woman said to me tentatively at Bangkok airport, “ I have been hearing your accent and was hoping you are an ally.”

She pointed to two matching suitcases. “We bought one at home . We just bought the other one here in Bangkok airport. We worked out that we paid way more than we would have back home. “

When she and I discussed the price, it was clear she had indeed paid much more than she could have. A lack of research, poor knowledge of the exchange rate and no bargaining confidence had cost her money.

I have made it my discipline while travelling is to be as efficient with money as possible.

20140921-200759-72479047.jpg

Here are seven of my disciplines;

1. I Know what i am prepared to pay for stuff. I keep a list of things I want with the prices I have found on my iPhone. A quick google while standing in a store will bet me what the real cost is. If it is a local item eg a shirt or a craft item, I try and resist buying the first one I see. It’s amazing how many “handmade” pieces crop up again and again!

2. When in the middle of a remote market in Burma or a restaurant in England or patisserie in Paris, it’s hard to know what the real currency exchange rate is. I try to know automatically what the true cost in my home currency -whether it’s using the XE app or a paper based method

3. Airport prices are usually way more than anywhere else. That goes for so called “duty free”. I have been shocked at the prices items are sold for in airport duty free store. Sometimes I could go down town in a cab, buy what I want and come back and still save money!

4. I do not buy in tourist areas. We avoid them back home, why do we frequent them overseas? A cost of a sandwich around some parts of london is triple that of identical sandwiches sold streets away. Restaurant prices on Singapore’s Clark quay are many more times what locals pay in their own restaurants. In Bangkok, tourist oriented boutiques charge 20 to 30 percent more than a Thai person would pay at one of their own stores. Follow the locals!

5. I Pleasantly ask for the price if you pay cash. Sometimes they will drop the price. Of course this is meaningless in cash only market stalls

6. If it’s a bargaining culture-know the way to do it- politely. If it’s a non bargaining place, do not force them to do so. As a westerner, I get embarrassed at the nasty lengths, some of us go to for a few cents off a price

7. Ask if a place will give a discount for a youth hostel member or AA member or senior citizen (whatever category you are in)

8. Know the discounts attached to your credit card. Sometimes department stores or amusement outlets will give a reduction for holders of a visa or Amex card

9. When I get “ripped off”, just chalk it up to experience!

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Just published my 900th post. Thanks for following along my blog.

I continue to be wild about travel and hope to share what’s important to me for a while longer.

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