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Sabai Sabai. Jets Worldwide [SQ, UA, NH, LH C]

Sabai Sabai. Jets Worldwide [SQ, UA, NH, LH C]

Old Sep 9, 14, 2:30 am
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Sabai Sabai. Jets Worldwide [SQ, UA, NH, LH C]

Sabai Sabai. Jets Worldwide


Embarking on a 3 1/2-week journey around-the-world in a westward direction with stops in San Antonio, Texas (visiting my host family from back in 2001), Tokyo, Bohol and Hong Kong. First leg: Baden - Geneva Airport by train.



The SWISS Business Lounge at Geneva Airport: Nicely decorated, small, but good quality selection of food and drinks, overall a rather plesant place to kill some time before your flight.







LX 1338 Geneva - Moscow Domodedovo











I love eating on airplanes. The Swiss-British writer and philosopher Alain de Botton puts it best in his book "A week at the airport - A Heathrow Diary": "Naturally airline food is dismal when we compare it to what we'd get on the ground but this is to miss the point. The thrill of airline food lies in the interaction between the meal and the odd place in which one is eating it. Food that, if eaten in a kitchen, would have been banal or offensive, acquires a new taste in the presence of the clouds. With the in-flight tray, we make ourselves at home in an unhomely place: we appropriate the extraterrestrial skyscape with the help of a chilled bread roll and a plastic tray of potato salad."


Turning final for Moscow's Domodedovo Airport at 3 a.m. after 3 hours in the air.



SQ 62 Moscow Domodedovo - Houston

Finally time to board again after seven hours of sleeping in the lounge. What fool flies to Texas via Geneva and Moscow? I know, I know, a crazy routing, but I have all the time in the world right now, love transiting in different airports and like this I got to fly on Singapore Airlines in Business Class again, which is simply the best there is. As the world passes by below, you get pampered by graceful flight attendants and eat amazingly close to restaurant quality food while you never have to get up from your seat/bed. What's not to love?










Powering out of DME's runway 14R on a beautiful summer morning.











4 courses, 4 countries: Satay with spicy peanut butter sauce over Russia.







Marinated prawn with olive oil, smoked ham, tomato and mozzarella over Finland.



Seared tounredos of beef with thyme jus, roasted pumpkin mash and seared asparagus somewhere over Sweden.



Moving over to chocolate ice cream with fruit coulis over Norway.



Leaving the old continent over Norway heading for Greenland.







Passing eastern Greenland with its huge glaciers about 5 1/2 hours into the flight.







Meltwater lakes on the Greenland ice sheet. Their number is apparently increasing year by year.



Calling it a day for a few hours after leaving Greenland behind us.







Reaching Texas after a 3 1/2-hour train ride from Baden to Geneva Airport, 2 hours in the lounge there, a 3-hour flight from Geneva to Moscow, at least 7 hours in the lounge at DME and 11 hours on the plane from Moscow to Houston. After all this, I still had to go through immigration - the most tedious part of the whole trip - check-in again for my flight to San Antonio, wait another 2 hours, fly for 40 mintues and then I was finally at my first destination. Great fun!


Suburban sprawl on final to Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. So that's what the American Dream looks like?

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San Antonio is the oldest city in Texas. The Spanish came here in the 1690s. Mission San Josť pictured above was established in 1720.















Microbreweries such as Bluestar in downtown San Antonio are a thing all across America according to a recent article in The Economist. I guess people got tired of Anheuser-Bush Inbev's "Corporate America", same old same old Budweiser lager beer.






Bluestar doubles as a restaurant/bar. Their fried mushrooms are great.















Chester's. Considered the second best burger in town.







Buc-ee's Gas Station on Interstate 35 in New Braunfels TX must be the biggest gas station in the world. It features 120 fuel pumps and 31 cash registers! There is another row of pumps just to the right of the one pictured. TIT (This is Texas).


Downtown San Antonio.















Sunday morning sailing on the man-made Canyon Lake, a reservoir on the Guadelupe River in the Texas Hill Country.















Real Texas BBQ in Luling: A place for meatlovers. No fancy plates, no silverware, just meat, but very tasty.



People from all over the place come for the ribs and the sausages. You go in and after a second you smell like BBQ for the rest of the day.







The history of Southern Texas projected onto the wall of the cathedrale in downtown San Antonio.



Mi Tierra Cafe & Bakery is a San Antonio landmark. Tasty Mexican food, year-round Christmas decoration, open 24/7 and always hopping.




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Westwards Ho! Leaving Texas again after only a week heading west to Tokyo via Houston.



UA 1487 San Antonio - Houston







George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.



"My" ex-Continental Boeing 777-200ER at the gate on the left there.



Thank you Lifemiles!



UA 7 Houston - Tokyo Narita

It all may look a bit drab, but these seats are actually very comfortable. United Airlines' hard product ist just fine, but the food is really lacking in quality and presentation. They just posted a record second-quarter 2014 profit of $919 Million! You'd think they could upgrade some of their inflight amenities. To be fair, the flight attendants on this particular flight were very friendly and doing a good job.












10,680 km and 13 hours to go.



The meat actually wasn't bad, but the rest was basically inedible.



Crossing Colorado.







Passing Vancouver. Now I understand why this city is widely seen as one of the most beautiful cities not just in North America, but worldwide.



I had specifically chosen a window seat on the right hoping we would be flying over the Canadian Rockies. To my delight my hope had not been in vain. Pictures can never do justice to the breathtaking scenery of the coast of British Columbia and the Rocky Mountains our route that day afforded. While I was glued to the window, all other passengers were sound asleep or preoccupied with their movie. A hundred years after man first took flight, flying has become so ordinary, most people choose not to raise their window shades even once an a 13-hour flight. A view that would have been just inconcievable for people of all centuries preceding the 20th century, today goes unnoticed by most. Going to the restroom I later found the relief captain sitting in the main cabin also glued to his window. I had a chat with him about our route and he told me how this part of the flight was always his favourite. Even after crossing the Pacific over a thousand times, he told me, he would still gaze at the snowcapped mountains stretching all the way to the horizon every time he would come through here.















8 hours or so later we touched down at Narita.



Some planespotting at Tokyo Narita before heading to the city. While watching planes in the West is a very male-dominated hobby, it seems to be pretty popular with women in Japan. I've even seen women running around with ATC scanners...






































NEX (Narita Express) looking very bullish.



The Narita Express is the best way to get from Narita Airport to the city. Narita is so far out of town, even the highspeed NEX takes over an hour. This train actually got cancelled later because of an accident somewhere on the route and I ended up taking the even faster, but more expensive Keisei Skyliner that covers the distance in only 50 minutes.


JR Yamanote Line bringing me to Akihabara, where I stayed at First Cabin Akihabara, a highly recommendable and even fancy capsule hotel.




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Taking a daytrip to Kamakura, an hour or so south of Tokyo, past Yokohama, a small, idyllic town on the Pacific Ocean renowned for its Buddhist and Shinto shrines. Some of those shrines date back 1,200 years. I like the "Pizza e Pasta" sign on the wall there.






What a relief from the heat to walk through a cool bamboo forest. It was unbearably hot and humid while I was there with temperatures well above 30 degrees celcius. I would definitely not recommend going to Japan for the first time in July/August with the exception of Okinawa and Hokkaido. It just gets just way too hot to spend all day outside exploring the country.


















Daibatsu

The Great Buddha statue of Kamakura dates back to the 13th century and is one of Japan's most famous icons.











It stands 13 meters tall and weighs over one hundred tonnes.

Last edited by FabiZRH; Sep 9, 14 at 11:17 am
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Old Sep 9, 14, 2:30 am
  #2  
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Killer Kites!



Has-edera Temple, Kamakura



















JR Yamanote Line any day of the week, at pretty much any time of the day.



The alleys around Omotesando.

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First Cabin Haneda

I decided to spend my second and last night in Tokyo at Haneda airport, so there would be no hassle getting to the airport during the morning rushhour. This was my "First Class" capsule/room at Terminal 2. 4800 Yen a night. Very clean shared showers and facilities. A good way to save some money for a short night before a flight.




Of course I had to go up to the Observation Deck for some more plane action before calling it a day.



























Many restaurants in Japan make you order outside at the machine, which then sends the order to the staff and only afterwards you sit down. Strange world.



The Japanese curry was very tasty though.

__



The new Tokyo Haneda International Terminal that opened in 2010 is a true gem. I would rate it as one of the most beautiful terminals in the world. I've even seen it featured in design books. Airy, well-thought-out, easy to use, very Japanese.






The landside shopping street.



NH 855 Tokyo Haneda - Jakarta

So the third part of my world tour begins. My next destination was actually Bohol in the Philippines, but I booked a flight via Jakarta, overshooting the Philippines by 3 hours, just to finally get to fly on a Boeing 787 "Dreamliner". Again, I know, a bit crazy, but I'm a plane fanatic. I love trips like that.




ALL THE NEWS WITHOUT FEAR OF FAVOR.



















Lining up on Haneda's 3,000m long runway 16R and off we go.



























ANA is an airline I rate very highly. On this regional flight to Jakarta, unfortunately, the food was not to my taste. Western style meal, but tuned to Japanese tastes, did not work for me.







Overflying Borneo's Kalimantan region which is part of Indonesia.







Short final at Jakarta exactly 7 hours after departing Tokyo.



Philippine Airlines with one of their very new Sharklet equipped Airbus A321s in the end brought me to Manila.



Welcome to the Philippines. Upon arrival at a very wet Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport they made us wait at a remote stand for over an hour before letting us deboard. Manila airport is probably the worst airport I've come across together with Mexico City.


PR 2773 Manila - Tagbilaran

One more flight to go to Tagbilaran on Bohol, a tropical paradise in the Visayas. The Visayas are a group of islands in the Sulu Sea. They are one of three principal geographical regions of the Philippines along with Luzon, where the capital Manila is located, and Mindanao.












Deboarding at Tagbilaran. All the rain in Manila had me fearing another trip to the Philippines would be ruined by the bad weather as it happened to me on Boracay in 2007. Over Cebu we left the clouds behind us, though, and Bohol greeted me with sunny skies. Not one raindrop fell during the whole time I stayed there. August is supposed to be the rainy season in the Philippines. Lucky me!

__



Alona Beach

Here we go. The beach in front of the hotel where I stayed on Panglao, the small island at the southern tip of Bohol, where most hotels are and where all the tourists stay. The two islands are connected by bridges.








Lovely murals in Tagbilaran.











Basketball is played all over the country. It was introduced by the Americans, who colonized the Philippines from 1898 to 1946. Basketball isn't the only thing the Americans brought to the Philippines: Many Filipinos, especially the young, speak English very well, making travel in the country very easy.






Public Transportation in the Philippines. They are called Jeepneys. Originally they were made from U.S. military jeeps left over from World War II.







































































Bohol is famous for this little creature called Tarsier, a primate about the size of a human fist. Tarsiers are found across the southern Philippines - on the islands of Bohol, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao - as well as on Borneo, Sulawesi and Sumatra.










Tarsiers have the largest eye-to-body size ratio of all mammals. These huge eyes provice this nocturnal animal with excellent night vision. Their eyes are fixed in its skull. They cannot turn in their sockets. Instead, they can turn their heads 180 degrees.


















The mand-made mahagony forest of Bilar.



















Bohol is best explored by motorbike. Stop whenever and wherever, take in the smells and the magnificent tropical scenery, pure joy! Plus there isn't a lot of traffic and the roads are just fine.







My first look at the world famous Chocolate Hills of Bohol.















Chocolate Hills, Carmen



In many ways the Philippines are unfortunately still very third world: People for example burn their trash in the backyard. I definitely don't love the smell of plastic in the evening.



The Chocolate Hills are covered in green grass that turns brown during the dry season, hence the name.








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As it is just too far to drive back from Carmen to Panglao on a motorbike at night (about 2 hours), I stayed at a bed and breakfast. This one and the next two photos of the Chocolate Hills were taken at sunrise the next morning.







The official count stands at 1,268 Chocolate Hills.

__

Last edited by FabiZRH; Sep 9, 14 at 11:19 am
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Old Sep 9, 14, 2:31 am
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The Boholanos are very friendly. They are predominantly Catholic due to the Spanish colonization of the Philippines that began with the arrival of Magellan in 1521. This fellow was very eager to talk to me and hear about my heritage. He muttered the word "Switzerland" over and over again and he also wanted to know if I had come to Bohol by plane. He seemed to be fascinated by the fact that I had come by plane. He must have not talked to many foreigners in his life before. Most tourists don't stop along the road as they are whisked from one tourist hotspot to the other in cooled minibuses.






Being part of the Empire of Spain for more than 300 years, the culture of the Boholanos has clearly been influenced by Spain and Mexico. Many traditional dances, music, dishes and other aspects of the culture have considerable Hispanic influence. Much to the confusion of the Chinese, who were already in the Philippines, when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, the Spanish, searching for China, came to the Philippines not from the west, but from the east, from Mexico, sailing all across the Pacific Ocean. All of this and much more is very well recounted in the highly recommendable book titled "1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created" by Charles C. Mann.










Not too shabby right?




















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Leaving for Oslob on the island of Cebu in the early morning. Oslob is 2 1/2 hours away from Panglao by boat, and it is there where you can swim with whale sharks or Butanding as the locals call them.







On the right you see the southern tip of the island of Cebu, where Oslob is located, and behind it lies the island of Negros with its very active volcanoes.



Arriving at Oslob with the excitement rising.



After paying the 1000 peso entry fee, a short orientation about the dos and don'ts and the mandatory washing off of the suncream, you jump into the water with your snorkel, look around, and there it is right next to you, a huge whale shark, the biggest fish on the planet. What a sight, what a rush! Whale sharks are filter feeders. They mainly feed on plancton. Here you can see how they suck in the water to feed.














You swim away from the small boats and you are surrounded by whale sharks. As I was swimming, all of a sudden there was a huge whale shark passing below me from behind. With the mask it seemed even closer than it was and I felt like I was going to touch it. What a moment. I will never forget it!






This one was the biggest one we encountered by far. I don't know how long and how heavy it was, but it truly was humongous. The largest confirmed indiviual according to Wikipedia had a length of 12.65m (41.50ft) and a weight of more than 21.5 metric tons!






















Compare the size of the whale shark to the paddle and the foot!



Awesome experience, even though I know a lot of people are saying attracting the whale sharks with food disrupts their migratory patterns and leads to unnatural behavior. I guess it's a selfish way to see these giants of the sea, but maybe it can help raise awareness about marine diversity.






Passing Balicasag Island on the way back to Panglao.











Only after swimming with them I noticed the Butanding on the beautifully designed backside of the 100 Philippine peso bill.

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PR 2774 Tagbilaran - Manila

Boarding my flight back up to Manila after an awesome stay on Bohol. What an island!








Next stop Hong Kong.







Finally something to eat. I had spent my last Pesos on the terminal fee that they make you pay upon departing Manila. Terminal 2 at MNL is one of the worst I've seen. It's a big terminal, but they only built one single toilet and there are no ATMs at all. Without money and a flight delayed by 5 hours, I was starving by the time I got on the flight.


Hong Kong

The last stop before heading home. It was super steamy and rainy during my short stay there. In fact it was so hot and humid that I hardly moved around the city at all. It is in Hong Kong, where in 1995, when I was 11 years old, two years before the city went back to China after belonging to the British for a hundred years, I first put a foot on Asian soil. I have been fascinated by East Asia, a region I have by now visited over 20 times, ever since.




































"One country, two systems", but for how much longer?











And then it was time to head to the airport for my flight home to Switzerland. Of course I went super early to visit the great Skydeck at HKG to catch some planes coming in before my flight.



American is the new kid on the block: Since Junce 2014 they are connecting Dallas TX nonstop with Hong Kong.



















Last shot before the storm that had been brewing over the island of Lantau for hours really hit.



Check-in for my Lufthansa flight to Zurich via Frankfurt. Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok is probably my favourite airport in the world overall. Design, ease of use, and connectivity are all top-notch.



Business Class passengers on Lufthansa are invited to use United's Club Lounge. In America United Club lounges are pretty mediocre, here in Hong Kong I just loved the food buffet and the shower after a long day was great too.



Make your own Tacos, yeah!



LH 797 Hong Kong - Frankfurt

I was excited again like a littel boy to get onboard our aircraft standing at the gate tonight: The new "Queen of the Skies", the awesome Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.




It features Lufthansa's new Business Class that finally introduced lie-flat seats to an airline that markets itself as premium. The new seat has been getting a lot of negative comments, but I really liked it. It looks stylish, is comfortable enough even for a long 12-hour flight such as this one and lets you look out of the windows withouth having to do gymnastics. Negative aspects are the disappointing screen resolution and I can see how it could be an issue that your feet get pretty close to your seat mate's. I was in luck again as there was nobody next to me, so that wasn't an issue on my flight.














Some words on Lufthansa's service: First I was surprised to learn that they don't hand out amenity kits (not a biggie I know) and later I was very disappointed by the quality of food they offered and how it was presented. SWISS and Austrian Airlines, both part of the Lufthansa Group, are renowned for high-quality inflight food, but Lufthansa itself seems to be slipping. There is even a Swarovski ad on the tray. Geez! Overall it was still an enjoyable flight, but most credit goes to the Boeing 747-8I.






















Going into Frankfurt Airport at 6 a.m. a few minutes behind shedule. A Lufthansa Regional Embraer brought me back home to rainy Switzerland bringing to an end 3 1/2 exciting weeks on the road. Thanks for reading.


Gear used:

Canon 5dmkII + 16-35mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/4 L IS
Sony RX 100 III
Panasonic DMC-TS5
HTC One Mini


FabiZRH

Last edited by FabiZRH; Sep 9, 14 at 3:14 pm
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Old Sep 9, 14, 4:13 am
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Amazing TR as always, FabiZRH. And it all started with a Halbtax train ticket from Baden....
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Old Sep 9, 14, 9:21 am
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Wow. Amazing report as always Fabi. You mean to say, you didn't go to Guam
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Old Sep 9, 14, 2:14 pm
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Stunning pictures! Just wonderful!
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Old Sep 9, 14, 2:19 pm
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Those whale shark pictures are just incredible!
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Old Sep 9, 14, 2:24 pm
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Look like you had a great time, a most enjoyable read. Thank You for posting
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Old Sep 9, 14, 3:00 pm
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Originally Posted by FabiZRH View Post
What fool flies to Texas via Geneva and Moscow?
Did it the other way round last year... then it also works to fly to ZRH not only to GVA...
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Old Sep 9, 14, 3:15 pm
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Awesome photos! I am a little confused though...you had a bp to GUM. Did you not take that flight?
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Old Sep 9, 14, 4:19 pm
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I think Kamakura was my favorite part of my trip to Tokyo. I am contemplating visiting again when I go back in the spring.

There are not kits in LH J? That's odd. I am flying FRA-LAX before Christmas but I'll be coming off SA JNB-FRA J so I'll make sure to keep that one so I can brush my teeth and what not on the LH flight.
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Old Sep 9, 14, 11:25 pm
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Great report, learned something new, chocolate mountains... very cool, thanks for the info and pics, awesome!
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Old Sep 10, 14, 6:48 am
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Amazing photos thank you.

It's truly amazing to see the volume of water the whale shark is gulping down. Wow!
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Old Sep 10, 14, 10:56 am
  #14  
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Your photos are wonderful, just wonderful! Thank you for sharing ^
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Old Sep 10, 14, 2:21 pm
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Your pictures are amazing. Thank you for sharing
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