Archive for the ‘Enroute’ Category

Mountains and Sheds On The Cape

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Our small Citroen rental car’s window is filled with the distinct shape of Table Mountain as we motor along the impressive freeway toward Cape Town.  It looks like someone has sliced the peak off a huge mountain and forgotten to put it back.  An incredible sight despite having seen it in magazines and on TV.

A glance at our watches tells us that we have been traveling for over 20 hours since we left Hong Kong however we are wide awake with the thought of spending the next six days in Cape Town.  We have only just arrived on the Western Cape however the aerial views of the rugged mountains, extensive vineyards and the southern Atlantic ocean have piqued our desire to explore this beautiful region in detail.

Flat Top Welcome

Our short journey to Hout Bay, a small town south of the city, takes us past several shanty towns – millions of people call this part of South Africa home.  This is our first close up look at these communities and we are quite shocked at the number of flimsy shacks that have been erected here.  It becomes painfully obvious to us that despite the demise of apartheid the black majority in South Africa are still a long way from living the dreams held by Nelson Mandela and other staunch anti-apartheid activists.  That day will come.

We follow the instructions sent to us by the hosts of the B&B we will be staying at and before long we are driving through the forested winding road that links Hout Bay to Cape Town.  Huge houses surrounded by acres of land are visible behind tall fences.  Electrified wires are strung across the top of the fences and warning signs send a message to those who have nefarious intentions.  This beautiful suburban area is a stark contrast to the sprawling shanty town landscape on the outskirts of Cape Town city.

Our history lesson begins.

Our fellow avid traveller Jen Miller (Jen Reviews) has written some great articles on “100 Best Things To Do In South Africa”  Please check out Jen’s excellent articles for some great advice on when visiting South Africa.

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Good Morning Africa

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Mineral rich landscapes stretch to the distant horizon below the wing of our Boeing 777 aircraft as the crew command the plane to start its descent into Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo’s International airport.  The sun has not long started its daily trek across the skies of the vast continent – a signal to millions of Africans that another day has dawned.

On Descent

A morning sunbeam lights up the roof of a shanty town hut and grabs our attention.  As our eyes focus on the brightly lit structure we realise that it is just one of thousands.  Scan just left of the township and the contrast is significant – a modern suburb laid out in an orderly fashion with streetlights casting their glow over freshly paved roads and sidewalks.

The dichotomy of South Africa reaches us at 8000 feet – our journey has begun.

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On our way to Japan. Springs, sushi and my sweetheart. 8 days in Hokkaido.

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

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Borneo Bound

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
Our excited yet reluctant bodies rose at 0400 to ready ourselves for the 0545 pick up by one of the internal taxi vans in Discovery Bay. We had packed most of our things over the weekend so we only needed to shower and have a light breakfast – mainly to wake ourselves up at this unusual hour.
The Van arrived close to the time we had booked and the trip down to the plaza didn’t take too long at this hour of the morning. Fortunately the Uncle Russ coffee shop was open so I was able to get my first “brew” for the day. There is something about a fresh, hot coffee first thing in the morning – particularly when one is normally still in bed at the hour I was ordering this one.
The airport bus from Discovery Bay leaves every half hour and the trip down to Chep Lap Kok airport takes around 20 minutes. Despite today being a public holiday the bus was quite full and this meant a slower trip out of DB (Discovery Bay) because we needed to pick up at each internal stop.
We arrived at airport at 0630 and made our way to the Dragonair check-in area. The airport was very busy so we had to negotiate our way through the crowds before we arrived at the Dragonair counter.
Dragonair (Cathay’s sister airline) flies directly to Kota Kinabalu every day and our staff travel benefits allow us to fly business class with KA (the code for Dragonair). The KA check-in staff were very helpful and had us on our way to the gate in no time. The flight was “wide open” (plenty of seats) so getting a seat in business was not a problem.
There was no one to say goodbye to us at the airport so we made our way through screening and immigration and found some water and the nearest Travelex money exchange – it’s always handy to have a few ringgits in hand when arriving in Malaysia.
We passed some time by browsing the few shops that were open then made our way down to the departure gate area. The gate (524) was located in the “bowels” of the airport and this meant that the aircraft was parked on a stand (not at a gate). We followed the rest of the “sheep” onto the bus and crammed in like happy little sardines. The Princess enjoyed being down on the tarmac area and liked being able to look up at the variety of aircraft makes and models from below – always unique for passengers that are used to loading via a ramp.
The bus had quite bad brakes and despite the driver taking it nice a slowly the standing passengers became aquainted a few times when the brakes almost locked on and we all went “A over T” a couple of times.
When we arrived at the aircraft we met the crew -friends of mine that I had trained when I was a part of Dragonair. We took our seats in business and settled into “holiday” mode shortly thereafter. We departed on time from Hong Kong and before long we were “tucking in” to a sumptuous breakfast as we winged our way south toward Borneo.
Despite the trip being only 2.5 hours I managed to get a sleep in after breakfast – waking shortly before top of descent.

Arriving In KK

Brian, the captain of the A321, made a smooth approach and landing into Kota Kinabalu and taxied the short distance to the modern terminal. Unfortunately there was a mix up with our parking position so we ended up waiting for close to 15 minutes while the ground staff arranged a new gate for us. The delay allowed us to finish reading some interesting articles in the Dragonair magazine – always a reason for these sorts of things. Besides, it allowed us to slip into “malay” time!
Customs clearance and baggage delivery was quite efficient and we exited into the arrival area and were greeted by the driver we had arranged for the trip to the Sutera Harbour Resort.
Sutera Harbour is located close to the airport and the city so it took less than 10 minutes to get to the hotel.
Check in was very efficient however we didn’t realise that we were staying at the VIP section of the Magellan Resort complex so it meant a short walk around to the reception area for the Magellan Club.
The first room we were checked into was not suitable because the blinds did not close properly but it wasn’t a problem getting the room changed. The second room, over looking the pool complex, was perfect in every sense and we settled in quickly.
The Princess had a short sleep in the huge King size bed while I unpacked and prepared for an afternoon by the pool. When The Princess woke up she donned her bikini, lathered herself in sunblock and found her book.
Despite our best efforts to find a poolside lounge chair we discovered that they were all taken so we made the most of some shade under a group of palm trees. We spent the afernoon around the pool – reading, relaxing, swimming and talking to some of the staff and other guests. A perfect start to the 6 day break in Borneo.
We had a late lunch by the pool then headed back to the room for an LLD (little lie down) before freshening up for happy hour. When we checked in we were told that the Magellan Club was inclusive of free happy hour drinks and delightful plates of local food – a nice touch indeed.
We took up residence outside on the balcony of the club and watched the beautiful sunset and the changing colours of the sky – perfect. We enjoyed a couple of glasses of white wine and spent time talking with Colin (one of the staff) – a lovely man that shared his knowledge of the local area and some of the sights that we might like to see.

Sundowners With A Sun Down

The only downside to sitting outside were the Mozzies – they were ferocious and The Princess was obviously a tasty meal for them because they devoured her. Her legs ended up looking like a war zone after the first night of sitting outside. Mental note – use the insect spray we carted all the way from Hong Kong!
After happy hour and our long chat with Colin we took a walk around the Magellan resort area before stopping off at the lobby lounge for an iced tea. The evening’s entertainment (a trio of local performers) provided some wonderful background music as we lay on the day bed together and settled into Malay time. The ambience was superb. What a wonderful way of finishing off the day.
Both of us were quite tired after our 0400 start this morning so we returned to the room, readied for bed then sank into the luxurious King size bed. It was an unusually early night for us (2200) however we felt as though we had been on holidays for about a week.
If this is what the first day of our holidays is like we are going to have an awesome break in Borneo!

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Leaving On A Jet Plane

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Kelsterbach, Frankfurt Airport, Hong Kong

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Today marks the end of our 2011 holiday to Europe.  6 countries, several thousand kilometers of road travel, trains, boats, planes, a lot of wining and dining and thousands of photographs and hours of video  What a wonderful trip!

We both enjoyed a very comfortable sleep last night at the Mercure and we woke refreshed after our long day of driving yesterday.  It was a stunning morning in Frankfurt – sunny with clear, crisp air.

We enjoyed our final European breakfast – the remainder of the food we bought yesterday in Baden-Baden before finalising our packing then we headed down to the lobby and checked out.

The shuttle bus for the airport left at 10.35am and we had a short walk to the shuttle bus stop so we made our way down the short road with a luggage trolley – a little strange but it worked out.

The shuttle bus arrived on time and the friendly staff helped us to load the rather full (and heavy) suitcases into the luggage area before we boarded the bus.  The short trip across to the airport took around 10 minutes.

We arrived at Terminal 1 with plenty of time to spare (around 3 hours before the flight departed) so we found the Starbucks outlet and sat down to our second Starbucks experience for the trip.

Cathay Pacific’s check in counters and departure area are located in Terminal 2 and this meant a lengthy walk to the Sky Line (small unmanned train) station then a 5 minute ride to Terminal 2.  We were happy to walk some more (given the food we had eaten on the trip) and enjoyed negotiating some of the foot traffic and “learning” more about Frankfurt airport.

We found our way to the Cathay check-in desk and we were served by one of the lovely Frankfurt staff.  The loads back to Hong Kong were looking rather full for business class so we were issued a couple of economy tickets to get us on our way through customs.  However, we both enjoyed two very comfortable business class seats back to Hong Kong because when we arrived at the gate Iris, the duty supervisor, had two business class tickets waiting for us.  Excellent service from the Frankfurt staff!

We boarded around 1.30pm and settled into our seats for the 10 hour 30 minute trip back to Hong Kong.  The flight departed on time and it wasn’t long before we were enjoying an excellent lunch, some Australian red wine and a couple of great movies.

The very smooth trip back to Hong Kong allowed us both to get some sleep on the lie flat beds – about 4 hours for me and around 2 hours for The Princess.

The Boeing 747 touched down in Hong Kong a little ahead of schedule (around 6.30am) and we parked at a “inner gate” at the Hong Kong terminal.  The short walk and efficient customs process meant we were at the baggage carousel before the bags arrived from the plane.

After recovering our baggage we proceeded to the Starbucks outlet in the arrival hall and had an early morning (very early for our European body clocks) “brew” before making our way to the Discovery Bay bus stop.

Walking out of the air conditioned airport and into the Hong Kong summer humidity got our attention and it wasn’t long before we were both sweating and feeling rather warm.

We arrived home around 8.00am and after turning the air conditioning on and cooling the apartment we climbed into bed and slept for around 4 hours – a nice way to ease back into Hong Kong’s heat!

Now it is time for blog updates, uploading of photos and videos and preparation for our next trip!!  Keep tuned for the updates to the European adventure in the coming weeks and standby for the African adventure in September!

Ciao, Gut Morgen, Gut Nacht and Arrivederci!!

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All The ‘O’s – Cernobbio, Tremezzo, Bellagio – O My!

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Touring The Lakeside

Cernobbio

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

We rose to the sound of the nearby chapel’s bell this morning – a beautiful way to be woken from our rather deep slumber. The bed is one of those designs that you sink into and as it envelopes you, you sink into an instant deep sleep.

Opening the shutters and revealing the morning light doing it’s best to illuminate beautiful Lake Como was a sight we won’t forget in a hurry. Truly breathtaking.

European Time

We are now sitting downstairs in the lobby restaurant enjoying a sumptuous breakfast and planning a day of touring the lakeside and the mountains surrounding it.

We left Cernobbio around 0900 and headed north along the road that boarders the western shore of the lake.

Every turn in the road revealed another stunning view of the lake and the quaint villages that hug onto the side of the mountains. Impossible building challenges seem to have been overcome in this place. Ancient churches and townships have been built on outcrops of rock that appear impossible to get to. The roads either pass through the mountains and bypass historical villages or they traverse the ridges on a series of bridges and bypasses.

We stopped off in a little village called Brienno and photographed a beautiful church before driving onto Argegno where we enjoyed a morning espresso, tea and a jam filled croissant at Cafe Colombo. The flaky croissant filled with jam was delightful.

From Argegno we continued our drive north but it wasn’t long before we were stopping again to take more photos. Every corner is a postcard in waiting.

Stunning villa after stunning villa line road and waterfront – opulence at its finest.

Boating In Style

We stopped in the village of Tremezzo for lunch. We settled on a roadside restaurant called Helvetia and we were not disappointed. The service was excellent and the food and wine equally impressive. We shared a delightful walnut bruschetta and a fresh tuna salad. We chose to wash it down with some local white wine and both agreed that we will be searching out Italian whites when we return to Hong Kong!

The car ferry to Bellagio was a short drive from Tremezzo and we arrived just in time to take the 3.15 ferry across the lake.

The short trip across the deep water of Lake Como gave us an opportunity to see the mountains and villages from water level – a great way to view the spectacular scenery.

On arrival in Bellagio we found a place to park and returned to pavement in search of some more sights.

Bellagio is a beautiful village however we both found it to be a little too tourist focused for our liking. The back streets (away from the crowds) were more appealing than the main area and we enjoyed walking the cobble stoned streets and soaking up the quieter side of town.

We left Bellagio around 4.45 and planned to stop somewhere on the drive back toward Como. However, the weather had other ideas and the rain started to fall quite heavily soon after we left Bellagio.

The seemingly one lane roads, the impatient drivers and the rain made for an interesting trip back along the mountain side. I was glad that I had taken out full insurance! I am not sure how I got away without hitting another car or the side walls at times. Very sporting.

With the inclement weather insisting on remaining with us for the afternoon, we decided to head back to the hotel and have a quiet early evening sitting in the lobby. Indeed, right now we are enjoying a real Italian coffee and the delightfully peaceful setting that is Hotel Miralago.

We had a very relaxing pre bed night cap down in the lobby and met a great couple from Calgary – can’t get enough of these Canadians!

We decided not to have dinner tonight as we are rather full from the delights of the day. Need to pace ourselves or we will return to Hong Kong looking like a couple of Sumo wrestlers.

Time for an early night after our day of travels. The chapel bells have just sounded 10 pm – a sign that our work for today is complete.

Good night from Cernobbio, Italy.

Ciao.

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