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First Day In Beijing

Hey Honey:

I can’t believe it had been a week already since I landed again in Beijing. Time sure flies, especially when it been so busy everyday.

The flight on Air China was rather uncomfortable. I had the window seat but there is nothing to see out the window. The entire flight is in darkness! The flight left Vancouver on schedule at 3:00 AM and arrived a little earlier than 5:45 AM in Beijing. Hehehe … sound like a 3 hour flight huh?

That flight was 11 hours long. I did not sleep much because the seat were so uncomfortable. The entertainment system was so archaic that I don’t even want to watch any movies at all. When you come over to visit me, remember NOT to fly Air China!

The food was just so-so. You get a choice of either Chinese or western. I went with Chinese. Quite edible but I did not even finish half of it. Anyway, it was just too much food for a 11 hour flight.

The Beijing Capital International Airport was rather quiet when I landed. Which was a good thing because I was kind of worried because I had so much luggage and had to jostle with the people who don’t respect lines. Good thing there was NO lines at all.

When you get to Beijing, here is what you do. Follow everyone to the immigration counter and line up behind the line that says “Foreigners”. The immigration officers here are much friendlier, so no worries there. They don’t talk much, nor did they ask me any questions. You then get on a train which brings you to another terminal where you pick up your luggage (if you have any checked in). And then you go out to through the green lane of customs. Easy. I will wait for you outside the customs.

This is the service apartment I am staying for the next few months. You will … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Wow, No One Guessed Correctly

Oh wow.

No one had guess correctly my final destination. I thought it would have been easy but then maybe there were a red herring that threw people off.

The red herring I am talking about is the Hong Kong International Airport. Above is the view from the plane of the new airport in HK. It would have been more exciting flying in and out of the old Kai Tak airport. I remember being able to peer into people’s apartment in the city from the plane and thinking if the plane I was in will be the first to crash into the middle of the city.

Choi. Touch wood – touch wood.

Anyway, the stop over in HK was unfortunate. That’s the … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Landed After a 13 Hour Flight

Hehehe … knew you guys will try to guess where I was going to. Very interesting guesses!

The 13 hour flight was not too bad. I was so dead tired, I slept pretty much all the way there. Love the flight. Cathay Pacific (along with Singapore Airlines) is one of the best airlines according to my books.

I like their new entertainment system where they have 100 movies on demand. I managed to watch The King’s Speech, a show I missed when it was showing in the theatres. Then I watched 10 minutes of three other movies … fell asleep after just 10 minutes. In a way it is good I could sleep and so time passes faster.

The flight landed at just after 6:30 AM in the morning. Can you guess where this airport is? Tall mountains in the background with super tall apartment buildings too.

Well …  More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Space Food of Space Shuttle Atlantis

This post is written upon free samples from beefjerky.com. Beefjerky.com sent us 2 packets of jerky to try. We are not paid for this post.

Last week, on November 16th, NASA launched it’s latest Space Shuttle mission.

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Image Credit: wikipedia.org

That mission, code named STS-129 is to send spare equipments to the International Space Station to prolong the operations of the 11-year old space research facility. STS-129 is the first of five missions needed to complete its objectives.

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A few weeks ago, a food manufacturer wrote to us asking if we would like samples of one of the food that had been selected for this NASA mission. What do you think?? I know this will be interesting reading to our readers … so we said, bring them on.

Three days before Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a package landed in the chowtimes Operations Center in Richmond. That is Richmond, BC … not Richmond, VA.

Have you ever tried Space Food before? I bet you have. Tangs comes to mind for one. Do they still make it these days? Anyway, we did not get Tangs. What we had was … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Emirates Airbus A380

Here is something about travel and a little about food too. I received this series of pictures from the folks at work of the new Airbus A380 of the Emirates. I think you will enjoy marveling at these pictures as much as I did.

Working in the airline industry we are very well aware of the buzz caused by the Airbus A380 when it was first delivered to Singapore Airlines. With the Airbus A380, the Emirates has taken air travel to new heights.

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The Airbus A380 is the worlds largest passenger airliner in the world. Each plan can carry a minimum of 500 passengers. It can even squeeze in over 800 passengers if configured to be all economy class.

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The plane is not only wide body but it is also fully double decker. So, not many airports are configured to handle the passenger load that big. For instance, the Airbus A380 require a airport gate with at least three aerobridges to make sure they can move that many passengers without excessive lines.

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I get to travel business class on mission if I need to work directly with the airline. I still remember the awesome flight on Singapore Airlines’ Raffles Class which I blogged about here.

The Emirates is a whole new thing altogether. Too bad I am managing only internal projects these days or else I would want to volunteer to work with the Emirates!

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The Emirates even has a shower spa! Can you beat that? That would come in handy for a 12 hour flight from Toronto to Dubai for sure.

BTW, you know how much First Class from Toronto to Dubai and return costs? It is sixteen thousand dollars … $16,000 Canadian. Come to think of it, it is not too expensive considering the same 1st class flight on Air Canada is already $13,000.

Alright, I’ll let you enjoy these pictures. The food images are at the end of this post … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Seville: From Barcelona via Girona on Ryanair

I am picking up from where I left off on our vacation in Spain this summer. This is a continuation from our first stop in Barcelona (link to to the entire series here).

After spending six days in Barcelona, I was flip-flopping about where to head to next. On one hand I think Suanne would love London but I also wanted to go to Morocco. Alternatively, we could go to Seville with the primary objective of dining at the alternative El Bulli.

So I went and try to book a flight to London. But it was so expensive when I booked it just 2 days before. The cheapest was something €300 per person return. So it immediately kiboshed the idea.

As for Morocco, the flights were cheaper. So we asked the people at our hotel and they advised that we should not travel especially when we are not with a group. We did not want to follow a tour group because we don’t like being brought to shops and stuff. Our guide book also said pretty much the same thing — third world country and needing to be careful about being fleeced, etc. Moreover, Suanne is not too keen for that kind of adventure.

So our decision was hinged on getting a table at the El Bulli Hotel in Seville. After three days, we got a confirmed table for a Friday evening. That clinched it. Seville it is.

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It was really last minute. We decided to fly from Barcelona to Seville instead of taking the train. So we booked a flight on Ryanair, a no-frills budget carrier at €85 per person. It was not a very good idea!

Firstly, Ryanair flies out of the Girona-Costa Brava Airport which is a good 90km outside of Barcelona. It did not occur to us to check before we booked the flight. Good thing that there is a regularly scheduled bus from Barcelona city center to the airport. The one hour bus ride costs €12 per person.

The airport was like a market! There was thousands of people. The check in process is really confusing that caused to line up twice — once to check in and another time to pay for the extra luggage we had (€20). Budget airlines are not really cheap if you are not careful of the extras that could add up.

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We were so afraid of missing the flight because the line was moving so slowly. We managed to get it all done with 30 minutes to spare. So we decided to grab something quick to eat since it will be quite late by the time we get to the hotel and settle down.

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The above is €14. If you do the conversion, it is $22 Canadian. On hindsight, we should have bought something before we left for the airport.

This is a series of complains. Sorry for being negative here but the flight was really bad. Here goes … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Spain: Flying from Seattle to Barcelona

It was Sleepless in Seattle … we hardly slept the night before.  It was partly because the bed at the cheap $49.99 hotel room we stayed in was as hard as a rock and partly because we were excited.  It was more like due to 90% excitement and 10% bed issue.  Yeah, yeah … it felt like it is our first visit to Disneyland when we were kids!

The flight from Seattle to Barcelona was at 8AM.  We took the motel’s complementary shuttle to the Airport shortly after 5AM.  We wanted to get to the gate with plenty of time to spare because being standby passengers, I was afraid we get processed in the lowest priority. The shuttle to the airport was not really complementary because we tipped the driver $2.  He was a nice guy and helped us with the bags and all.

We went through the normal staff check in.  They issued us the boarding pass with no seat assignments.  We had to go thru security and all that to get to the gate … and then endure the agonizing wait until the last moment before they issue us the real boarding pass with seat numbers.  If the flight is full, well … we go out and wait for the next flight … the NEXT DAY!  So we were quite anxious up to the point when they issued us the passes.

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Seattle’s airport is beautiful.  I did not recall seeing it this way the last time we travelled via SEA.  They have floor to ceiling glass wall looking out to the tarmac at the eating tables area.

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After clearing security, we had one hour.  So we went to get some breakfast.  Really, we were not in the mood to eat.

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The Verona Scramble sounded good and ordered that.  It came in a box and looked really unappetizing.

I saw them making it.  The scrambled “eggs” were already all mixed and beaten up in a pail.  They just scoop the mix and make it on the griddle.  That is American efficiency for ya!

It costs $6.55 USD and came with a slice of bread on the side.   There are potato wedges and “scramble eggs” with green onions, tomatoes and sausages.  Not too good.

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Suanne got her breakfast from Starbucks.  The  Cafe Mocha was USD $3.70

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The Chocolate Chip Scone were USD $1.35.  It was really dry.

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We got on the plane without a problem.  The flight to Barcelona took a total of 13 hours in all with a 1.5 hour stopover in Philadelphia.

US Airways has one of the worst record for flight delays and to no surprise to us, our flight was delayed.   More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Flying United Airlines from Vancouver to Altanta (via Chicago)

Here I go again. The bad news is I am embarking on a new Travel series. The good news is this will be the last travel series for this year.

A couple of months ago, I was requested to attend a 2 hour meeting. For just a 2 hour meeting, I assumed that this will be done through voice or video conferencing. But to my surprise, I was requested I attend the meeting in person. Oh well, I am OK if the boss deems it important that I spend two days traveling just for a 2 hour meeting.

I put in my travel request to Atlanta and was routed through Chicago. Seeing I had never been to the third largest city in the US before, I made a quick change of itinerary to include a few days stop in Chicago.

So … this is the series on my trip to Atlanta (again) and the Windy City, Chicago.

As usual, the flight to Atlanta means a very early start. I normally opt for the first flight of the day which is about 6AM. I like early morning flight because by the time I land in Atlanta, it will just be 5PM’ish and that leaves me a lot of time to settle down and prep for the next day.

This time, I flew with United Airlines. I vividly remember flying United Airlines the only one time before. You see, a few days before I started work in my company, I had a phone call asking me not to report to work in the Vancouver office but instead get in the flight to Atlanta on the first day of work. It was one of the most stressful thing I had ever been put into … I was supposed to meet my project team in Atlanta. I hardly know the company, the processes, the people, the products, the airline industry … zilch. And they expect me to say something smart to the team?!?!?

Bad thing about United Airlines … the legroom is non-existent. Some of you know I am not a tall guy and my knees are touching the back of the front seat (OK, OK, I am short but I have you know that many great people are not tall … like Napolean and Hitler for instance). To think that someone of an average height finding this a squeeze too.

It is impossible to use the notebook to do work and type on the seats. So, I ended up flipping the notebook screen all the way up and do reading instead … and watching a movie which I brought along.

Good thing about United Airlines … they provide free headsets. Some other airlines charges $5 for the crummy plasticky ones which you end up throwing away after the flight. These are free and so I cannot complain.

My trusted travel companion is the noise-canceling headset I bring it along in all my travels. I simply love this. The noise-canceling feature while not the best does its job in drowning out the engine roar. I am not sure how this works but it works.

I like also the fact that it is very comfortable and fits my head well. Moreover, it folds neatly into a lump and comes with a felt pouch. If you travel a lot, you should get one of these things.

Cookies are free but I got the United Airlines Snack box. They have a variety of to choose from, four I think. I opted for the one called the SmartPack. The last time I travelled United I had the MiniMeal which I blogged about here .. almost three years ago.

I must declare that United Airlines Snack Boxes are simply the best I had ever had. It is laden with goodies packing in the box you will never believe. And all this for only $5.

The cover of the box doubles up as a receipt … a simple and neat idea. This helps me claim travel expenses easier … having paper receipts attracts no question from accounting.

For drinks I had … what else … Bloody Mary Mix. I simply love this drink on my flight. The beauty with United Airlines is that they drop a couple of wedges of lemon into it too. What a nice touch. Other than the size of the seat, I like United Airlines.

I took an awfully long time to finish off the snack box as I documented every item in the box. There were about seven different items in the box alone. I used to be self-conscious taking pictures of the food but not anymore. Some people might think I am a country bumpkin taking the first flight in his life but … he he he … I don’t care! Generally, people do not care what I do and pretend not to notice.

I had a 1 hour stop in Chicago. I could see the Chicago downtown very clearly from the plane. The Sears Tower and the Hancock Tower was clearly imposing with its black exterior and sheer height. In just a couple of days, I will be heading that way.

The leg from Chicago to Atlanta was shorter and they only serve snacks for flights lesser than three hours. I had coffee and it was pretty good.

Ginger Ale is another of my favourite inflight drink. I love the refreshing smooth color of the Ginger Ale … certainly looks more refreshing than Coke.

I landed at the Atlanta airport at about five in the evening. This is just in time for me to get to the hotel and have a nice dinner somewhere nearby (the hotel is 30-40 minutes from the airport). I had been in the airport many times and I know this airport as well as I know YVR! Ask me about any food outlet here, I could probably tell you which terminal it is on … almost.

OK, this post is too long. So, if you want to see what is in the SmartPack snack box from United Airlines, click on “read more” below.

More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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