Archive for the ‘Destinations’ Category

An unexpected Chat with the Immigrations Officer

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

After having landed save and sound at Boston Logan Airport the usual hassle started with immigration.

Wondering what questions I’ll be asked this time I approached the counter. The immigration officer made a friendly first impression. As always the first question was “what’s the purpose of your stay?” After explaining my plans he just replied “so, the usual tourist stuff”. I agreed and thought it’s done. But that was wrong.

Still having my four fingers of the right hand on the reader (do they check your heart rate?) he wanted to know what I did when I was in Chicago last year. Again, I replied and he seemed happy. “Done”, I thought again.

Wrong again! He now wanted to see evidence that I’ll be flying back as well as a hotel booking. “I have it on my mobile only. Am I allowed to switch it on?” “No, you must have a print out with you. It part of the ESTA!”

Thinking that no one prints out documents anymore I told him that I wasn’t aware of that. After few more times telling me that it is my obligation he finally let me pass.

Welcome to the USA. Land of the free.

Timezone hopping

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Australia is a big country and it has therefore several time zones. Travelling the country also means adjusting the watch from time to time and get used to a new time zone.

My travels started in Sydney on the east coast. As this was my first stop in Australia I had to adjust my body to a difference of 10 hours to central European time. Done so I already had to get on a plane again and fly up north-west to Darwin. Usually, this would only be half an hour in time difference. But as the Northern Territories aren’t using daylight savings time, time difference is 1.5 hours. Lucky me, I had no problems to get used to the new time.

After spending two weeks in the N.T. I continued my trip even more to the west to Perth in Western Australia. And surprise, Perth is in different time zone again – another 1.5 hours ‘closer’ to home.

I will continue my trip by flying over to the east to Brisbane in Queensland on Sunday. “East coast, that’s plus three hours”, you might think now. But guess what, you’re wrong. It’s only a time difference of two hours. How come? Well, it’s very simple: Queensland is not using D.S.T. but New South Wales (the state Sydney is in) does.

As I’m flying back to Sydney four days later, I will again have to adjust my watch by one hour. This will be the last time zone change for a few weeks but it is not yet the end as I’ve planned to drive from Melbourne to Adelaide in January. While Victoria is within the same time zone like New South Wales, South Australia is in a time zone together with Darwin. Different then N.T. South Australia is using D.S.T. what reduces the time difference to only half an hour.

Before heading back to Switzerland, I will again be in Sydney. Just a small adjustment compared with the 10 hours that will be waiting for me when getting back home.

40 days to go

Friday, October 12th, 2012

It’s been three years since I’ve started this blog. The intention was to let my friends back home know how everything’s going on my round the world trip. Even after my round the world trip I kept posting from my trips all over the world. Now, after quite some time without any post (but also with close to no holidays) the blog is coming to live again. I’ll be having an 11-weeks break which I’ll be spending in Australia. This adventure is about to start in 40 days. Destinations are set, route is planned, details are open. Australia So, what’s the route? As always I’ll be flying from Zurich via Singapore to Sydney where I’ll be staying at Ivo’s and Monica’s place for the first weekend. I’ll then be doing a 10-days tour from Darwin to Alice Springs before heading even more west to Perth. After discovering Perth and the area south of it I’ll be returning to Sydney around Christmas. Time to go further south again – Melbourne is it. Via Great Ocean Road I’ll be traveling to Adelaide where a tour to Kangaroo Island is on my list (among heaps of other things). For the final bit of my holidays I’ll be in Sydney again.

Mission «Halloween» accomplished

Monday, October 31st, 2011

When I announced that I’m going to be in Toronto on the last weekend of October there was an immediate feedback that we have to go to a Halloween party.

I came up with the question: How does Halloween work? I got the answer that everyone is wearing a costume and is heading to a party. Alex quickly came up with suggestions for our costumes and she also told me that she’s going to take care of my costume.

It was decided that the theme would be Alice in Wonderland – being Alex dressed like Alice, Laura going as the Queen of Hearts and myself as the Mad Hatter.

A few weeks later, the big day was there. I would be going to my first Halloween party. I got order to be in the ladies’ room at 7 to put on the missing parts of the costume plus make-up and then start drinking.

Shortly after 7 I was in the room and a first costume check was successful. So, Laura could put on my make-up. Some minutes later she had finished and I could put on the wig again. This was also the moment to open a bottle of rum.

One bottle of Bacardi OakHeart later, we got a cab to a venue called «This is London». Inside the club nearly all guests were wearing a costume. For the next hours we would be drinking and dancing.

Around 2 we got back to the hotel, I got remove my make-up. My first Halloween party had found its end. Mission «Halloween» accomplished.

P.S.: I had a lot of fun but still I think we should not try to have Halloween parties in Switzerland. It’s not tradition in our country.

There’s a problem with engine #3

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

The day started like all my travel days start: I took a train to the airport, checked in my luggage and went to my gate.

After I successfully passed all the security checks, I was making my way to seat 36G. I installed myself and thought we would take off soon. But reality was different.

It all started with the captain’s announcement that we had to wait for three more passengers. After a few more minutes the missing passengers were aboard and we could finally make our way to the runway. There, we had to wait a bit for our slot for take-off.  Then the pilot gave power to the engines. At the speed of 69 km/h, the air plane slowed down suddenly. Everyone was looking around. What happened? Why didn’t we take off? Then the captain announced: «There’s a problem with engine #3. We have to let it check by a technician.» My first reaction was: «Damn, this will take its time.»

So, the air plane rolled back to a ‘parking position’ near the gates. Some minutes later, it started to turn counter clockwise. The question now was: Do we go back to the gates to get off the plane or is the engine okay and we can take off?

After a short time I was sure we would be able to fly. Again the captain made an announcement: «We will be taking off in a few minutes.» Once again we were on the way to our waiting position but no «crew, two minutes to take-off»-announcement. What is going on? Do we again have a problem with the engine? Then I could hear the cracking sound of a microphone. The next message from the cockpit: «We have to cool down our breaks because they got to hot.»

After 10 more Minutes we turned on our runway. Our plane took on speed and took off the ground. Finally, we were up in the air with one hour delay.

11 hours later we landed safely in San Francisco without any further surprise.

Thank you, Iceland!

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

You want to know why I say thank you to Iceland? Then you have to continue reading.

It all started some weeks ago when  I decided to go to Hamburg for some days. As I don’t like long journeys in coaches and trains, I decided to go by plane.

A few days before my take-off the Icelander decide to activate one of there volcanoes – Grímsvötn. It seems they didn’t learn from last year when they grounded whole Europe with Eyjafjallajökull. And many people also remember when the grounded their banks not so long time ago…

But back to my intention going to Hamburg. On Tuesday night everyone expected Hamburg Airport to be closed on Wednesday – the day of my flight – and they were right. First flight to Hamburg in the early morning was cancelled. So, I decided to activate my emergency program: I bought some train tickets. Remembering last year when it took some days until the airports were open again, I  did buy a return ticket. Shortly after I had to catch my train and after eight hours I finally arrived in Hamburg (notably at more or less the same time as when taking the airplane at 8.25 pm). But what’s worse than travelling eight hours in a train? Getting the information that your flight wasn’t cancelled and you could have gone on the plane you’d booked…

So, really thank you Iceland for sending ashes every year to Europe. It makes travelling a lot more adventurous.

A real adventure is about to begin…

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

I’m currently sitting at Sydney Domestic Airport and as I have some time left until boarding starts, I’m updating my blog.

It all started on Monday at Zurich Airport where I boarded my A380-flight to Singapore. Many of you might have heard about the problems with Rolls Royce engines but honestly: it’s worth taking the close-to-zero risk. This airplane is just an amazing construction. It’s silent like a train even when taking off.

After arriving in Singapore I had to hurry because boarding of my Sydney flight was said to have started some minutes before my arrival. At the gate I had first to leave behind my Absolut Vodka (why the hell isn’t it allowed to bring alcohol with you when being on transit?) and then to wait as boarding started a lot later then originally announced.

21 hours (that’s a new record) after take-off I said Hello to Ivo who was picking me up at the airport (he generously offered me a bed for a night).

And now, the real adventure starts. As you might have heard parts of Queensland (especially Rockhampton) are flooded and yesterday the Brisbane area was hit by a Tsunami.

According to the itinerary we were suposed to have a homestay at Rockhampton which might quite possibly not take place. As it’s really hard to find out how the situation really is in the other places I decided not to have a closer look at the itinerary until I know what Contiki plans to do with us. But I’m sure Contiki will handle the situation!

On Communists’ soil

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

With the arrival in Ho Chi Minh City I put my feet on the soil of a communist country for the first time (when excluding Hong Kong and Macao which are part of special zones).

Like other countries earlier, Vietnam has to open itself to attract foreign companies and tourists which both are very important to bring ‘hard money’ in to the country. Ironically, this is the US-Dollar, the currency of the country which was fighting over years against Vietnamese people.

Beside tourism, there is an other very important source of capital: the rice. It is produced mainly in the area of the Mekong delta.

Despite the fact that some internet pages like facebook are blocked, I do not have the feeling to be in a communist country. Streets are illumimated by the ads mounted on the walls of the buildings and all the well-known western brands are omnipresent. There are even KFCs.

This shows to me that it’s not possible to live communism without adding some bits of capitalism.

Bangkok: Some first thoughts

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

At 5.30 a.m. local time I arrived at Bangkok Airport. As the check-in at the hotel wasn’t possible earlier than 2 p.m., I went for a first tour in the city.

Soon, I realised that Bangkok is different from what I’ve seen so far in Asia, better said: it’s more Asian than HK and SG which both had been under British government for quiet some time.

When walking through the streets, you always have the smell of fresh food being prepared and you feel the dust of a building being restored or built from the scratch. One of this construction sites might have been the cause for a big shock: When I wanted to cross a street, there was a loud bang and I could feel the air pressure. Honestly, my first thoughts were: that was a bomb blown up.

An eye-catcher are the bar codes added to a lot of advertisements.  It seems the use of new media is far more progressed than in Europe. Companies are seeking for the interaction with its (future) customers. TV screens are as well present everywhere advertising for products.

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Is South Africa ready for World Cup 2010?

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

This is one of the questions I ask myself quite often. And my answer is: it’s still a long way to go!

I came to this conclusion when having a look at the following points:

  • Stadiums: I’ve so far seen five stadiums and all have one thing in common: construction companies are still working. But let’s have a closer look…
    • Soccer-City-Stadium: this stadium has been renovated completely. It’s the stadium that has most work left to be done. Streets around it are still being built and most of the stairways do not yet exist. The stadium itself is ready.
    • Ellis-Park-Stadium: the stadium is ready. Some minor work is still ongoing.
    • Loftus-Versfeld-Stadium: it’s the same like for Ellis-Park-Stadium.
    • Green-Point-Stadium: around the stadium work is still going on
    • Nelson-Mandela-Bay-Stadium: Although they are already playing a football match in the stadium next weekend, the area around the stadium needs a lot of work.
  • Transportation:
    • Public Transport: New bus stops have been erected in Johannesburg. Several hundreds of buses have been bought (although they still look very old…). But I doubt that they will be enough to transport 94.000 people to Soccer-City-Stadium or 70.000 to Ellis-Park-Stadium.
      The Loftus-Versfeld-Stadium already has a railway station. So, I guess that it is capable to transport the spectators to the stadium and back.
      Cape Town: Green Point bus terminal is there but not yet in use. On the nearby Main Road buses are circulating but they will not be able to transport all fans.
      Port Elizabeth: Um, is there anything near the stadium? I only saw the stadium from one side, so I cannot tell if there is anything like a bus stop.
    • Streets: The highways around Johannesburg and Tshwane are still being upgraded. I don’t think that work will be finished by June. The existing highways have not the best standard. Especially when it’s dark and raining, it’s nearly impossible to see the road marking. Holes in the streets don’t make driving easier. Very positive is the fact that there are road signs for the hotels on the highway as well as in the city.
      The streets in Cape Town are much better than in the Jo’burg area. Driving comes close to what I am used from Europe.
      Port Elizabeth’s streets are something in between Jo’burg and Cape Town. Sometimes they are really good, sometimes they are crap.
  • Safety: If you ask white people everything is extremely bad, if you ask black people it’s not too bad except from some areas. My personal feeling is that you really have to know where you can go and where not. Tourist areas are quite safe, in all other areas you have to be really careful. Even in the city centre of Tshwane I didn’t feel very comfortable. But if you follow some rules, you will be fine.
    In Cape Town, the general impression is that it is safer than in Jo’burg or Tshwane. But still you have to be careful.
    Port Elizabeth: Well done! Place the stadium into a warehouse district where you cannot feel safe at all. I didn’t feel comfortable at all when getting to the stadium (and I was in the car!).  Port Elizabeth CBD is said to be quite dangerous (good chance of  a robbery…).

On my trip, I will be in two more host cities (Cape Town, Port Elizabeth). What will the situation there be like?

Post updated with impressions from Cape Town.

Post updated with impressions from Port Elizabeth.