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Showing posts from 2007

Can't wait...

It's the sound of those jets at high altitude that does it. I woke to the sound this morning and was instantly transported into the aircraft, looking down at the clouds and landscape below. I can't wait for our next trip to begin, though it is two and a half months away. We booked our hotel in Kuala Lumpur for four nights. Then what? We are thinking of Bangkok. It's sounds fascinating and exciting, though not an easy relaxing city. The other idea we were thinking of was staying in a beachside resort at Penang. B was born there and her family had holidays there as well. I was not particularly impressed when I visited, although the walk up to Kek Lok Si temple was fun, if sweat-inducing. Still, a real resort holiday would be nice as we haven't had a real relaxing holiday in years, and the prices are quite decent. An episode of Jetstar's Going Places documentary was screening today. It featured Osaka and the scenes were instantly recognisable to me. They were up at

Shorthaul international flights from Australia

When it comes to international travel Australia seems like a long distance away from anywhere else. Actually, that's not strictly true. New Zealand is about 3 hours away from Sydney. Papua New Guinea is not far off the northern tip of Queensland. And Darwin is closer to Asia than much of Australia's South. And that latter fact is why Jetstar is setting up a base in Darwin for shorthaul flights to Asian destinations . For those of us in the south almost all international flights other than to New Zealand and the Pacific islands involve big "widebody" aircraft ranging from Airbus' A330 to Boeing's 747. Internally we usually catch the much smaller "narrowbodies": Boeing's 737 and Airbus' A320. Jetstar's plan is that we could now fly the narrowbodies all the way overseas from Darwin and Perth to destinations that could not support a larger aircraft's worth of passengers. Jetstar Asia already to fly to quite a few destinations in Asia f

Hotel reviews

Many accommodation booking websites now include guest reviews on their advertised hotels. The reviews can be a really useful tool in selecting accommodation that is appropriate for your needs, telling what the hotel advertisements leave out. When reading the reviews you will often find that a common theme often emerges for accommodation in a given country. I tend to discount the Americans and Australians who whine about tiny rooms in Hong Kong, Japan (pictured), Europe and London. It's just a fact of life for those high density locations and you could say that our rooms are often too big for our needs. Though I do admit that the hotel in London was at the lower limit and as expensive as hell! I'm noticing another theme for hotels in Kuala Lumpur: bad service. Across the boards there are complaints about rude or lacking service from hotel staff and shoddy maintenance of facilities. I'm not going to pass judgement until I've been there myself. I don't remember any

Changed minds

On the sixth anniversary of our first flight to Europe B and I visited the Flight Centre Europe Travel Expo at Darling Harbour. We knew what we were looking for: cheap flights to Europe. It wasn't until the end when we discovered the China and Korean Airlines stands tucked away to one side. The next day we put down a deposit for flights to Europe with Air China. Korean Air was cheaper, but the deals were only advertised for the October/November period and Air China allowed two weeks for us to make the final decision. I admit that I don't really feel like flying with Air China right now. There's nothing wrong with their flights that I know of, apart from their ancient livery, but the prospect of passing through China again didn't excite me after our trip there earlier this year. Unlike most other Asian transit airports it is compulsory to pass through immigration in China, which means spending more money on a visa as well as presumably collecting and rechecking in you

Music to fly by

I was watching Getaway last week when they showed a segment about drifting down a Daintree rainforest creek. The background music was Enya's Storms in Africa , last heard during the Ansett television commercials in the late 90's. Those were the kind of airline advertisements that really made you want to fly, featuring aircraft flying through evening clouds to Enya's dreamy music. I was quite sad when they replaced those advertisements. A search of the net has revealed that I'm not alone in my opinion, nor in my hope that someone will put the ad on YouTube. I went ahead and purchased Storms in Africa online for the memories of the now defunct airline and to listen to on future flights as well. Music is an important component of my holidays, providing a soundtrack to the experience. Years later I can listen to the music again and recall what I saw and felt on the holiday when I played that music. Music is a matter of personal taste. When it comes to flying I prefer &qu

In the mood to book

As I stood on the beach at Kurnell and watched the aircraft fly overhead on descent to Sydney Airport I felt my travel addiction stir. I felt like attending one of those Flight Centre travel expos (next one November 4 in Sydney, a fortuitous date for us!) and booking a holiday to Europe right there on the spot. Despite the fact that it's mostly tour packages on offer there's something seductive about the expos. Maybe it's the airline stands with their glossy aircraft brochures promising all sorts of comforts and the photocopied special deals. To make a snap decision, then to spend the time until departure fitting in an itinerary. It's a thrill! I feel like finding some way to combine my love of travel with my work. I must look into Operations Research further. It's one reason I am sad to leave one division now as they had an OR group. To combine travel and mathematics. What a dream!

Floriade

It's been quite a few years since we last visited Floriade. When I lived and studied in Canberra the tulip festival marked the end of the dreary colourless winter and the beginning of the far more pleasant spring (albeit one with the hazard of the swooping magpie). The effect is lessened by living in largely seasonless Sydney but I'll take any excuse to visit one of my favourite cities. It is only a two and a half our drive from our house and dual carriageway the whole route. We have travelled this route countless times, but there are always differences to spot in the landscape. As a whole, the fields were quite green, although the poplars lining the start of the Federal Highway were still empty of leaf, despite the looming arrival of the second month of spring. And Lake George was still an empty expanse of green pasture, though I thought I could see some water in the distance. I love that stretch of the highway, steep hills on the right and the mysterious lake on the left. I c

The return of travel addiction!

Our last four trips shared one thing in common. Our last port of call was Japan. With the first three of those I left Tokyo feeling depressed that the holiday was over, unprepared to return to normal life. As soon as I reached Australia I wanted to travel again. I missed the planning, the dreaming, the new sights everyday and the return to hotels where you never needed to do housework. The recent trip to Osaka was the first in a while where I felt satisfied upon our return home. Perhaps six nights is not enough time to get into the travel habit, maybe it was because we didn't stay in Tokyo or maybe we just did enough. I wasn't homesick, but I was happy enough to be home with our adoring puppy. Earlier in the year we spent a month travelling through Hong Kong, China and Japan. I spent months before hand researching and planning to the point where I had to stop for a while just to clear my mind. This last trip I did hardly any planning. My well worn Japanese Lonely Planet liste

Heading home along the Path of Philosophy

On our last day in Japan we packed our bags and caught the train to Kyoto. Leaving our luggage in the baggage office of the architectural wonder that is Kyoto station we bought a bus pass from the tourist office then caught bus number 5 to Ginkaku-ji Michi. The bus was absolutely packed and, though the distance was not terribly far, the ride took almost an hour. It was very hot and almost the first thing we did once leaving the bus was to eat ice cream. Last time we had walked the Tetsugaki-no-michi, or Philosophers' Path, in Kyoto it was early evening and most of the nearby sights had closed. This time we stopped first at Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Temple. I was just expecting a moderately attractive Buddhist temple, but what was so impressive about Ginkaku-ji was the gardens. Soft moss covered the ground beneath maples, leaves bright in the sunshine. Tall bamboo and cedar surrounded the garden, while streams and waterfalls tinkled along with the sounds of the grasshoppers and cica

Koya-san

Kyoto or Koya-San? They both begin with the letter K. They both have magnificent Buddhist architecture. But Koya-San has a pretty train ride and the station is very close to the hotel. So Koya-San it was. We rode the Nankai line to Hashimoto and then changed trains for the ride up to Gokurabashi. It was one of the most beautiful train journeys that I have taken. The line winds its way up into the mountains above a steep gorge past forests of cyprus pine and bamboo. From Gokurabashi there is a cable car up to the top of Koya-San. Actually, it's more of a funicular than a suspended cable car. The track looks incredibly steep but doesn't feel as scary as Hong Kong's Peak Tram. From the cable car's summit station we caught the bus all the way to the Daimon gate, a massive red structure flanked by guardian demons and tall cyprus pines. From there we walked along the road, stopping by at the many Buddhist temples, including the magnificent Garan complex. We had thought t

A big kid's den in Osaka

The Japanese news has constant coverage of Typhoon Fitow as it heads directly for Tokyo. The Shinkansen isn't running and Shinjuku is wet and windy. I'm glad we aren't staying there this time and hope that we will not feel any effects during our flight back to Australia on Saturday night. Meanwhile CNN would rather talk about microwave popcorn health scares and US senator busted in a toilet. Actually, it's not all crap news from them. They did feature the Chaser's APEC stunt, but with the headline "Who's laughing?" Well, me for one. Legends! Seeing a rose tinted world through our hotel lobby doors Today was a shopping day. The intention was to take it easy. Personally I found tramping around the shops more tiring that a four kilometre mountain walk. Unfortunately most of the shops in Osaka open around 11am, closing at 9pm, so we had to do a lot of walking before shopping. Our first destination was Den-Den Town, the electronics shopping area of Osa

Foxy Fushimi: Wandering in Kyoto

There is nothing like a deep, hot bath after a day of walking. Our hotel room has such a bath. But being Japanese, it is important to clean your body before entering the bath. So we sit down on the plastic stool and wash all over using the flexible shower outlet, now and then pouring a bowl full of hot water over the head. It's a wonderful way to wash away the day's grime. I felt a little guilty over wasting water in the bath, but I did return a lot to the atmosphere through perspiration. Kyoto was hot and sticky. We caught the Keihan line to Fushimi-Inari from Yodoyabashi station, changing trains at Chushojima. These private railways give you a great view of Japanese suburbia that you miss from the Shinkansen. We had left late from the hotel room as I was busy setting up our new Panasonic TZ3 cameras. Still getting the hang of them, hence some blurry photos. Before ascending the hill to the Fushimi-Inari shrine we stopped for some lunch in a small and friendly restaurant n

Kurashiki

It's a shock how much a Shinkansen ticket costs when you don't have a rail pass. But it did mean that we could catch a Nozomi and race along at 300 km/h. But I am getting ahead of myself at very high speed. We caught a Rail Star Hikari bullet train to Okayama, home of the beautiful Koraku-en garden. Today's destination was a little further on, the city of Kurashiki. The name means warehouse village and the Bikan area of the the town retains the old wood and black-tile warehouses, now converted to shops and restaurants. A willow lined canal runs through the area, swans and a punt cruise the waters above giant carp, while a heron searches for smaller fish to eat. Many of the shops sell Japanese sweets, usually featuring the white peaches and muscat grapes of the region. We were overcome by temptation several time, helped along by samples of the wares. The iron glazed Bizen pottery also features prominently. Despite the heat, it was a very pleasant stroll along the canal, a

A long flight

Dotombori Street in Osaka is lined with advertisements for Jetstar's service between here and Sydney. So how was the flight? Pretty good overall, though the air was a little stuffy for my liking. We pushed back a little late and we stuck behind an Air China flight and a Qantas 767 decked out in the Wallabies Rugby Union World Cup Supporters' livery. B fell asleep and didn't awake until we were well into the air. The Airbus 330-200 turned south, taking us over our local suburbs. The cabin crew handed out the amenities pack. I had preordered one for B and she needed the black blanket to keep warm in the cabin. I found the inflatable neck pillow quite comfortable for head support while staring out the window. The black leather seats were fairly comfortable, but I think the blue armrests had been inherited from somewhere else. My earphone jack didn't work, so I couldn't listen to the inflight entertainments: Spiderman 3 and TV shows. We had also prepaid for a portab

Arrived in Osaka

We made it to Osaka. The Jetstar flight was pretty good although I found the air a bit stuffy and carried a really bad headache for most of the flight. Right now I'm exhausted so I'll write more tomorrow. For now, just view photos of the flight .

C'mon Aussie at Sydney Airport

Woke up just before the alarm sounded and quickly washed and packed the last items into the bag. B drove me up to the bus stop along with our bags, then returned the car to the garage and walked back. That way the neighbours don't see that we are off on holidays. Out the window of the bus I could see "godlights" shining through the grey overcast sky. We caught the train to the airport, arrived early. As we were walking along the departures area B spotted someone. "He's that rugby player!". I looked. She had mistaken Andrew Symonds for Lote Tuquiri! The whole Australian cricket team was unloading their green and gold bags from a truck in preparation to fly out to the 20-20 Championship. A pretty exciting start to our trip!

On the eve of departure

Tomorrow we fly off to Osaka. Almost everything is packed, I have copied umpteen video files on to a variety of storage devices. I know I won't watch most of them, but at least I have the option. I should be excited, but as usual, a few morbid thoughts cross my mind: what if the aircraft crashes? What if there is an earthquake? What if the house is burgled while we are gone? What if something happens to our dog? There is not much more I can do about any of those things so I put them in the back of my mind where they belong. It's interesting how we find often find flight so frightening in comparison with the statistically more dangerous activity of driving in a car. For me I imagine that most car accidents are sudden, that death will probably come quickly. However, aircraft crashes may be preceded by long periods of time where the plane is falling out of the sky or shaking wildly. Even after a high altitude explosion you may be conscious as you drop to the ground (as is suspect

Feelings for Japan

It is only a week now until we depart for a week's holiday in the Kansai district of Japan. I am currently part way through Pico Iyer's The Lady and the Monk about the author's year in Kyoto, one of the cities that we intend to visit on our trip. The Lady and the Monk is a lyrical exploration of foreigners who arrive in Japan looking for answers to their self through Zen Buddhism or perhaps just for the companionship of a local lady. It also describes Japanese, especially the lady of the title, Sachiko, who seeks to escape from the formal confines of her role as a Japanese wife through her friendship with the author. This will be our fifth trip to Japan. What draws us back? What are we searching for? I admire the elegance of Japan, the quality and essence which they imbue into their creations. Yet I cannot be, do not desire to be, Japanese, confined by tradition and society into fixed roles in life. Our first trip to Japan was in 2003, also during early September. We b

airliners.net

I finally got myself an account at airliners.net , an aviation freak website, and posted a few trip reports. QF And AO: SYD-CNS-KIX, NRT-SYD On 767's (pics) Just A Day Trip: QF: SYD - CBR How Many Airlines? Adventures In China (pics) SYD-ICN-AMS: Asiana, KLM Y Class In 2004 (pics) I'll be adding more later.

In sickness and in health

I popped over to the campus medical centre this morning for a flu vaccination because I really don't want to get sick for our upcoming holiday. There is a very nasty strain of influenza A going around at the moment and I hope that I haven't left it too late. It's no fun being sick on a holiday. Last year we flew up to the Gold Coast during which time I was suffering an awful cold. I'm sure splashing around in the cold of Wet'n'Wild probably didn't help either. I'm always getting the sniffles prior to trips to Japan. It is an especially bad country to have a cold in due to their customs relating to respiratory illness. Blowing your nose and coughing in public is frowned upon and the wearing of masks is encouraged. Not silly at all, although sniffling away without using a hanky is really quite difficult. I had to make many trips to the restrooms to blow my nose in private. The Japanese customs were a very nice change from those of the Chinese during our

Hotel television

You've just returned to your hotel room after a tiring day wandering around a foreign land surrounded by signs and conversations that you struggle to understand. You enjoy the challenge of communication and the immersion in a foreign culture, but now that hotel room door is closed you just want to relax and think in your own language for a while. You switch the television on and... there are only local language stations... or CNN. Ahh, CNN. So little news in so much time should be their motto. And every few minutes the same old advertisements spruiking commentators rather than the news itself. If CNN is the world from an American perspective then it is a very ignorant view they have. Without having visited the US, I cannot say. Silence would be another option, but you feel a need for some background noise, if only to give an illusion of privacy from other guests and your partner's visit to the bathroom. What is nice is to snuggle up in the hotel bed in the evening and watch

Inflight entertainment

I'm pretty excited about the new Qantas inflight entertainment systems that they will be installing on the Airbus A380 aircraft. On board internet access (I'll have to try posting to this blog!), USB sockets, better games and 500 cd's of music (hopefully some will be soundtracks) amongst the features. The one I'm most looking forward to is the pilot's eye camera view. My favourite form of inflight entertainment is simply looking out the window, staring at the dry floodplains of desert Australia, the busy nights of Asian cities, the canals of Amsterdam. I also keep an eye out for high clouds and other possible sources of turbulence. While I stare I'm either listening to the plane's audio or my own source of music. If there is something displayed on my screen it is generally the moving map, so I know where I am and how much longer until we escape the turbulence once and for all (i.e. landing). Sometimes looking out the window isn't an option. It might

Japan, Sydney

I felt very Japanese at the end of last week. On Thursday I dined at Japanese restaurants for both lunch and dinner, then a couple of Japanese ladies sat opposite us in the train on the East Hills line, a rare sight. Friday morning saw us preparing for our trip with a visit to the Japanese consulate for B's visa and to the JNTO tourism office in Australia Square. While waiting at Wynyard station we overhead a Japanese guys talking loudly on his mobile phone. The JNTO is a very useful source of information on cultural interests, self-guided walks, accommodation, maps and tours. The office was highlighting beautiful Kanazawa, which we visited last year. I highly recommend Kanazawa during the cherry blossom season and, evening if it is cold and wet, a nighttime walk through the Kenroku-en gardens is not to be missed.

A quick trip to Canberra and back

I've flown on so many planes this year, 11 so far with at least two more to go. They have ranged in size from the little Embraer ERJ-145 from Chengdu to Yichang to the big 747-400 between Tokyo to Hong Kong. Yesterday I added my first my first turboprop flight for the year to that list. I had a meeting in Canberra and, not being a driver, had little choice but to fly down from Sydney. Yes, it's not environmentally friendly and if there was a fast European or Japanese style train between the two cities I would much rather have taken it. But there isn't, so I bought my tickets on the company credit card and set my alarm for a little earlier than normal. The flight down was on a Boeing 737-400 that was starting to look a little tired. A couple of the overhead screens didn't work. It felt a bit like the Chinese domestic flights. Unlike in China the crew actually enforced the safety regulations, ordering a couple of passengers to switch off and properly stow their laptops a

The train to the airport

Trying to cram that last item into the luggage, write that last email to your colleagues of instructions for doing your job while you are away, waiting for the last song to download on to your MP3 player, soaking up every last minute of the city you are in. It's stressful stuff leaving your home, hotel or office to catch that flight. If you will be traveling to the airport by taxi or car you are probably worried about when your ride will arrive to pick you up or that you will be stuck in the traffic and miss your flight. That's the nice thing about trains. The follow a schedule and for the most part they stick to it. You know when you will be departing and when you will arrive. The time in between can be spent relaxing, recovering from the last minute panic. Probably my favourite train to the airport is the Narita Express (N'EX). We invariably arrive on the platform at Shinjuku Station straining and perspiring from the overloaded bags of goodies that is the consequence of

The next trip - Jetstar to Osaka

In May I succumbed to the Jetstar "Fly a friend for $3 Third Birthday Sale" and purchased cheap tickets for B and I to Osaka, flying out on our anniversary. Unfortunately, her company wouldn't let her take leave over that period, so I took advantage of another sale to rebook for September. Although I didn't realise it at the time the holiday falls on "APEC Week" when the APEC summit is held in Sydney and we have a day off on the Friday. Less of my precious leave used up is a good thing! Not certain what it will be like arriving back on the Sunday with the extra security. Perhaps some good views of the dignitaries' aircraft? We are only spending five nights in Japan on this trip, constrained both by our leave and by the availability of the sale fares. This will be our fifth trip to Japan, but there is still so much to see. Unfortunately, the trip dates are close to those of our first trip to Japan, which suffered due to the sticky weather. No cherry blo

Welcome to the journey

So I'm a travel addict. What gives it away? Is it the fact that the computer I'm writing this on is Japanese or that model trains from that same country run around my desk. Perhaps it's the diecast airliners on the shelf above. The black and white poster of the bridges of Paris on the wall, the guidebook to China, the Notre Dame gargoyle, the miniature koi-no-bori. But you can't see any of that, can you? This blog is where I can record and share my experiences and my dreams of travel within Australia and overseas. I've recorded many of my previous trips online - see the box to the right - and I often go back and reread those accounts, losing myself again in my travel addiction. Welcome to my journey!