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A Christmas Bargain to Oman on Emirates and Swiss

A Christmas Bargain to Oman on Emirates and Swiss

Old May 9, 20, 12:46 am
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A Christmas Bargain to Oman on Emirates and Swiss

Peak seasons such as Christmas, Easter, and Chinese New Year are a head-ache. Despite a trade war and ongoing pro-democracy protests, Hong Kongers' desire to travel remains strong. As usual, the typical regional destinations become super expensive and not worth the big premium.

So I was very surprised when my persistent internet scan found a super cheap deal to Dubai on Emirates 2 weeks before Christmas. Emirates flies 3x a day to Dubai, which includes multiple A380 flights. Perhaps they had a lot of seats to fill, so they need to discount heavily? At HKD $2950, it was cheaper than going to Japan, even though the flight time is more than double.

However, I've extensively covered Dubai before, so I set my eyes on another exotic destination within close range, Oman. The search engine also came up with an interesting option for Dubai - Muscat, Swiss. Not sure why this routing came up, I searched the airport and airline websites and noticed this interesting 5th freedom that I had never thought of before. The other alternatives, Emirates, Oman Air, or a low-cost carrier were all more expensive. With late evening departures for both the outbound and inbound as well as free checked luggage, the HKD $1400 ticket was a bargain and fitted right into my driving itinerary.

Emirates has started to toggle with additional revenue-earning methods. For such a deeply-discounted Economy fare, seat selection was not included and had to be additionally charged. So I had to patiently wait for OLCI to open to select a good seat on the A380. The whole seat map was full by then and I was pre-allocated an aisle seat.

EK 383 Hong Kong - Dubai





The long route west through Dubai gets quite painful and takes almost the same time as getting to Australia from HK. However, the flight deck announced a surprisingly short 8.5 hour air-time tonight against the headwind.



Here in a full cattle class, you will see a major difference between Emirates' flight attendants and the Asian carriers. They don't come around to do a safety check before take-off, and didn't do the same for landing as well. Many didn't speak English as a first language.

Shortly after take-off, dinner was served. While the metal cutlery was still provided, their catering has seen cutbacks in recent years. Nevertheless, there is also a second smaller meal to look forward to before landing.



Luckily, the flight was fairly smooth all the way to Dubai, even over India where it is typically a bit more bumpy.

One thing that remained excellent and consistent was the entertainment system, which still offered an extensive selection of content. They were working hard to promote Expo 2020 in Dubai as well. To celebrate the festive season, they even had a Christmas entertainment page on their ICE.









As we descended into Dubai, helpful information came on the monitor, including the arrival gate, and theoretically the baggage belt as well. After landing, there was even a feedback screen.







I've always had a bad impression of Dubai's airport. Tonight, things didn't improve remarkably. Shy of midnight local time, it was already sleeping hour in Hong Kong time, and the walk to immigration took forever. The arrivals walkways were elevated and gave a good view of the departures area and duty-free shops though.





Next part : Free 2 nights' hotel thanks to Emirates.

More on my website : https://www.globalphotos.org/fly-oman1.htm
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Old May 10, 20, 3:59 pm
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Looking forward to the two free nights courtesy of Emirates. A promo like Qatar has (although the rates are heavily discounted)? Last time I checked I needed a transit visa (for a fee) and pay for my hotel, albeit at a cheaper rate but still more expensive than what Qatar is offering.
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Old May 12, 20, 11:55 am
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Originally Posted by roadwarrier View Post
Looking forward to the two free nights courtesy of Emirates. A promo like Qatar has (although the rates are heavily discounted)? Last time I checked I needed a transit visa (for a fee) and pay for my hotel, albeit at a cheaper rate but still more expensive than what Qatar is offering.
After booking my cheap Emirates flight through the travel agency, I received a message the next morning informing me I got 2 nights' free accommodation in Dubai at a seemingly upper 3/lower 4-star hotel and Christmas Day was not subject to black-out (although New Year's Eve is). This would be perfect as I would arrive Dubai late on Christmas Eve and fly out to Oman late on Christmas Day, so the 2 nights were just right.

The agent took care of the paperwork and I ended up getting a confirmation a few days later for the Premier Inn Al Jaddaf, which is located in a construction zone part of town that isn't really near any attractions. However, for a free stay, it was sufficient thanks to the airport shuttle and a metro station nearby. They even offer a shuttle to Dubai Mall in the morning as well.











The hotel was perfectly fine - clean and functional. It looked relatively new and interestingly, wasn't alone. There was a Hilton Garden Inn next door.

I had almost a full day exploring Dubai Mall. I have been here before but not so much exploring the shops but to photograph the Burj.







The really sweet date would go well with a bitter Arabic coffee.



This Turkish dessert store had a hefty price tag. But I really miss Turkish Delight so it was worth a small splurge.







Next stop was a stop down the metro line to Business Bay, where I read about an interesting place for lunch amidst the office towers.



















My Dubai gallery : https://www.globalphotos.org/dubai.htm
Next Part : Off to Oman!
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Old May 14, 20, 3:41 pm
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I remember picking up some sweets at the mall in exchange for a lot of money
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Old May 19, 20, 5:22 am
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Nice review, thank you for sharing
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Old May 19, 20, 11:29 am
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I would love to know how many of those office buildings actually have people working in them doing productive activity.
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Old May 19, 20, 2:09 pm
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Originally Posted by BahrainLad View Post
I would love to know how many of those office buildings actually have people working in them doing productive activity.
14% office vacancy rate

https://www.thenational.ae/business/...-2020-1.972557
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Old May 20, 20, 5:05 am
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Originally Posted by BahrainLad View Post
I would love to know how many of those office buildings actually have people working in them doing productive activity.
VERY few
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Old May 20, 20, 6:40 am
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LX 242 Dubai - Muscat

Terminal 1's check-in counters are clustered together and the place seemed busy. My row included other airlines such as Air Canada and Oman Air, and with Swiss using only 2 counters, passengers were processed slowly.

My turn also took quite a bit of time, as I was asked about my visa, which was already made online, and whether I lived in Dubai. She then asked for my return ticket information out of Dubai, which she remarked on the reservation. Luckily, there weren't many passengers waiting, although it is best to leave ample time for check-in just in case.





There was also a line at immigration although that one progressed bit by bit and didn't take too long for my turn. The agent, however, struggled to process me and eventually pointed me to the office out back without telling me why. The agent there was able to process my passport properly, which I then went back to the smart gate staff to see if I could be waved through. I was then sent to the manual counter and through. A lot of walking, again ...

After immigration and security, all passengers need to take the train to the departure gates. The automated trains looked new and took a long time to get to the gate building.



Here, there were the standard food and shopping options, but what caught my attention was the excess baggage disposal bins at my gate. Perhaps low-cost airlines also use Terminal 1?









The inbound Swiss flight had arrived and was sitting at the gate by the time I got there. The turnaround was short at only 40 minutes, and I was curious how they could achieve this on the schedule.





There wasn't much of a crowd waiting to board as well. I was hoping it would be an empty flight, which would explain why they were selling this sector for cheap.



Upon boarding, I realized why. All passengers continuing to Muscat were kept on the plane, and the seats were not cleaned up for the newly-joining passengers at Dubai. So the turn-around could be short and sweet. There were many passengers continuing on to Muscat so it was still quite full when the doors closed. My seat still had garbage left over from the previous passenger from Zurich in the seat pocket. With a flight time of under an hour, it wasn't the end of the world, although a dirty seat wasn't the impression I expected from Swiss.







We took off towards the east. Although the weather was good, the plane bounced around for a bit and we seemed to have made a quick ascent. The crew came by with snacks and beverage service but made an announcement they couldn't finish it as we soon started descending. Great that I was upfront as the biscuits were quite good. Another announcement came after that the descent would be even shorter and we went straight in from the west.











I had applied for a e-visa online before departure, although you can only get it within a month of your arrival. After paying with my credit card, the confirmation came the next day and the whole process was fairly seamless. All I needed to do was to print the visa out for my flight.



Muscat's airport looked quite new and was well lit-up in colours when we pulled in. The corridors looked very nice and there didn't seem to be other flights arriving at the same time. There was a modest line at immigration although it moved quite slowly. One by one, we had our picture taken then stamped in. The immigration agent kept the e-visa print-out.







Once land-side, there were a number of things I needed to do to kick-start my Oman adventure. First stop was the Omantel counter to get a data SIM, then I unsuccessfully tried to get cash out as none of the ATMs here were on the Plus network. Finally, I found my rental car company, one of several international chains with a presence here. They didn't have a car for my reservation though, so I had to scramble to find another company to help. Luckily, there were a number of other companies in the arrivals hall. Many visitors to this country drive and not rely on public transport after all.

Swiss is a solid choice for an interesting 5th freedom between the UAE and Oman. You get free checked bag allowance, a drink, a bag of biscuits, and a comfortable seat with IFE for less than a low-cost airline. While my seat was not the cleanest, I would rather landing in Muscat a bit earlier than to wait much longer for the plane to be thoroughly cleaned.

More photos on my website : https://www.globalphotos.org/fly-oman1.htm
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Old Jun 16, 20, 1:56 am
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Oman is a vast country although the typical tourist itinerary for a week encompasses a small circular route in the north and eastern part of the country. Wheels are essential here as public transport is very limited. The entire car rental process was fairly seamless as international rental agencies are plenty at the brand new international airport in Muscat. Roads are generally traffic-free, well-paved, well-lit, albeit laden with speeding cameras. Gas prices are rock-bottom and there are plenty of places to fill-up en route.

My first venture outside Muscat is Nizwa, a historic town of over 110,000 people that was the capital in the 6th and 7th centuries. This oasis with a mountain background is prosperous and a must-stop on the typical road trip itinerary.

Tourists flock to the souq on Friday mornings to see the animal market in action. Goat and cattle are exchanged here by auction, while neighbouring modern buildings offer all sorts of different wares and delicious souvenirs.





Dates are plentiful in this country, and there are many kinds. Even my hotel had offered them as a snack to go along with a strong local coffee. The two must be enjoyed together.



The fancier packages that even supermarkets sell include additional ingredients to the date, such as a pistachio or other nuts.



Halwa is Oman's dessert, and plenty of shops offer a taste test of this very sweet dish. The saffron one was especially unique, and the merchants are very friendly to give you an explanation and not a bitry of their products. It doesn't need to be refridgerated, making transport fairly easy even on long-haul flights.











A short drive away to the north, Falaj Daris Park is a good picnic and swimming spot to observe these groundwater channels that are used for irrigation.







Nizwa is a good base to explore the region's attractions. A short drive out of town, Bahla was Oman's capital for almost 500 years, so it is no surprise its fort was impressive. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the fort was restored recently and you are free to roam the many buildings and rooms leading from random staircases and passages.

















More photos on my website : https://www.globalphotos.org/oman.htm
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Old Jul 30, 20, 7:31 am
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After a few days in Nizwa, I budgeted a full day to drive east all the way to Sur. The 300km drive have a few worthwhile stops along the way. First stop is Ibra, about 1.5 hours into the drive. Ibra is part of the old trade route between the interior and Sur, and was once famous for its horses. Stop at the crumbling old quarter of Al Qanaatir just south of the town. The once grand buildings here reflected the wealth from both agriculture as well as trade with Zanzibar.













































More photos on my website : https://www.globalphotos.org/oman-ibra.htm
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Old Oct 23, 20, 12:44 am
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After some historic architecture, the next stop is nature-related. If you have a few more days to spare, book a night in the desert between Ibra and the wadi. I was short on time and having been to the Sahara in Morocco and Egypt as well, I decided to continue past straight to Wadi Bani Khalid.

Wadi Bani Khalid is quite a detour from the main Highway 23 to Sur. With construction in the area, the turn-off onto the side road is a bit elusive.





You will drive up the Eastern Hajar Mountains and a town emerges on the other side.













Despite the arid surroundings, there is plenty of water to form pools for swimming. Head beyond the town and the road will descend to cross the river (there is no bridge). After a couple of kilometres more, and you will see a stream of cars parked on both sides. The entrance is at the end of the paved road.









You will see a lot of tourists wandering about here. A paved path leads deeper into the valley. As this is not a long drive from Sur and relatively accessible, the water pools can get crowded on holidays.



























Of course, there were jumpers from the heights. The water looked a bit murky to swim in but it was nice enough to enjoy it from the shores already.

More on my website : https://www.globalphotos.org/oman-khalid.htm
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Last edited by hkskyline; Oct 23, 20 at 10:21 am
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Old Oct 23, 20, 4:35 am
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Thanks for the report, hkskyline. As much as I've never been a fan of Dubai, I must admit that my one and only visit to Oman didn't do the country justice and I should come back. The airport looks like a nice improvement over the old one!

I've only flown on Swiss on short-haul and, for an airline with such sleek interiors on the narrowbodies and a lovely airport in Zurich, the longhaul fleet looks a bit 'meh' in Economy. Brown seats? I though they'd gone out of fashion together with the Mercedes 190, mullets and Inspector Derrick!
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Old Oct 27, 20, 8:07 am
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Originally Posted by 13901 View Post
Thanks for the report, hkskyline. As much as I've never been a fan of Dubai, I must admit that my one and only visit to Oman didn't do the country justice and I should come back. The airport looks like a nice improvement over the old one!

I've only flown on Swiss on short-haul and, for an airline with such sleek interiors on the narrowbodies and a lovely airport in Zurich, the longhaul fleet looks a bit 'meh' in Economy. Brown seats? I though they'd gone out of fashion together with the Mercedes 190, mullets and Inspector Derrick!
If you hate Dubai, then I think you'll love Oman, an entirely opposite world. It seems the Omanis are determined to keep their country that way, and the super friendly locals enhanced the whole experience.

Any good impression on Swiss' interior was dashed by the lacking of cleaning during the short break in Dubai. Granted, it's only a 40 minute hop to Muscat, but I wasn't too happy to see trash from the previously long-haul leg still in the seat pocket in front of me.
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