Friday, July 31, 2009

-- Turnaround 'ing' --

Two days-off after my unexpected Singaporean experience on which I had a good time with friends doing the usual stuff in Doha ( you know, eating, shopping, sleeping ) and with some beautiful mild temperatures now between 35 degrees Celsius in the early morning and 48 degrees Celsius in the afternoon combined with the summer Middle East winds that carry a nice widespread dust above our beautiful cities and add more colour to the already 'green' landscape.

I was expecting to get out of Doha for a bit in order to refresh my sight a little so even though I only had turnarounds , I was with the spirits high specially after Rostering transformed what it was going to be 'shitty July' in something a little better.

So Athens here we go! it was still kind of funny to get ready for this flight as I've doing only layovers so I didn't have to pack my case with some spare clothes or my camera, just the little trolley bag and lots of energy as this turnaround takes four hours each way, plus one hour on Athens Airport.
Flight was really quiet, we took our little A320 over Saudi and Lebanon, nothing interesting to say I admit , passengers were mostly greeks traveling from some interesting place ( like Bali or Maldives) to their hometown. It was quite full yet really easygoing and the service was done easily.
As we were heading into Greece and minutes before landing you could see the beautiful Greek Islands landscape, watching in the broadcast map when were flying over nice places like Crete or Mikonos couldn't stop thinking on how nice it would have been down there with that blue ocean and those beautiful white houses and there I was, working on a bloody turnaround, so none of that for me ( at least for now ).
Landed into Athens with a beautiful weather that really got me even more dissapointed when we opened the door for the cleaners and we felt that pleasant summer afternoon breeze of the Mediterranean blowing inside.

Anyway, back to my reality: checks here , checks there and passengers boarding again.
There we were again, taking off with the Mediterranean Sea left behind and getting into the dusty Arabian night.
This flight was even more quiet as passengers were sleeping, we had a couple of honeymooners which catering provided with a 'wedding cake' and it was the highlight of the flight as when we gave them the cake , they wanted to take pictures with it and the crew.

Flight was easy indeed but extremely tiring and long , just got home crushed and slept until the next day at midday when I started my preparation for my second turnaround Cairo.

Yesterday was amazingly hot and widespread dust was incredibly heavy , so the weather was not helping with my mood. Got to the airport and there again, another turnaround.
Passengers boarded and most of them were already pissed ( don't ask me why , I don't know) and trying to fit their bags everywhere they could.
Ground Staff didn't help for this one as most of them were carrying amazingly big hand luggage which of course wouldn't fit, sometimes felt like I was on a tetris game trying to think logically which way to crush all the toys, duty free, souvenirs and bags they had, some of the passengers were even mad at me like I was the one who designed the planes , felt like saying "Mr. Airbus 320 designer gonna hear some heavy words from me when I meet them at Tolouse tomorrow, ok?"

After what I would call the heaviest boarding so far (I was sweating like hell when I finally got to fit all that luggage in the overhead bins) we departed in a heavy wind and dust storm.
I wish I could say that flight went well after that, passengers were really demanding and they were wanting to eat me alive when I said " Sorry Sir, I have no more lamb, would you like some chicken instead?" Why catering , Why????
Before landing into Cairo I could see a little of the Suez Channel and the egyptian desert but we landed at night , so not even a small sight of the pyramids.

One hour in Cairo for catering and cleaning and passengers boarding again, this time was a little better, a lot of them going to Doha ( first time I see that) and some connecting.
We had a nigerian football team on board, they were so funny and they were cool even though they finished our whole stock of sweets , beers and wanted to eat two meals on a three hour flight.

Never felt so happy to be back home , crew was really nice and we called ourselves ' suffering pals'.
Well, like they say ' not only of layovers the crew lives, sometimes we get the crap'.
Back online today and packing for Kathmandu again, I like that place and tomorrow I'm gonna explore more ( last time I was there, I was so tired that just went to a couple of places and slept).

See ya!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

-- Singapore and Indonesian Hop Around --

My rostering surprise got me to beautiful Singapore which I was interested in visit sometime in my near future ( I was maybe gonna bid for it in like four months ) , so when they rang me pulling me out for that flight I got really happy.
Again the routine: took a shower, got dressed , packed my suitcase and took the bus.

What to expect on a Singapore flight? First of all it's always full , but since our flight continues to Jakarta, most of the passengers are indeed going to Indonesia rather than Singapore so most of them were Indonesian females currently working in the Gulf, specially in Saudi Arabia.
They all wear their typical dresses (covering their necks and hair) and they speak little or none english, still they are really nice, smiley and they are not messy.
It's funny how working for a big airline teaches you a lot about the world, so far I've noticed that filipinos migrated to countries like Qatar and UAE , while indonesians moved to countries like Saudi and Yemen.

Flight was really peaceful, taking pretty much eight hours. Most of the passengers were sleeping throughout the whole flight and services were easy to carry on ( if I take out some mild turbulence while flying over India now that it's monsoon season ).
Arrived into Singapore in the early afternoon and headed to the hotel which was in the City Centre, between the Financial Street and Orchard St. ( which is the Shopping Centres street ).

Singapore is a small island in the southern tip of the Malaysian/Thai peninsula, since it is located right above the Equator line , it's hot all the year round and also pretty humid and rainy which it made me feel like home since my hometown had the same weather.
The country is new yet really rich, so you can see their streets extremely neat and clean , all parks and gardens very well groomed and lots of big apartment and business buildings spreaded around the whole island.
Since I was on Stand By before taking this flight, somehow I was feeling really tired , so decided to just go for a walk to the nearest mall where I had lunch with some other crew and then headed back to the hotel to rest by the swimming pool until dusk.
A quick sandwich for dinner and then went to bed as I was feeling extremely tired, still had problems sleeping and woke up like four times along the night until I finally got some deep rest.

Next morning just slept until late morning , woke up, went to the crew lounge to get online and report myself to my beloved ones, chilled by the swimming pool and waited for the wake up call.
Again , time to prepare for a short but hectic flight to Jakarta.

Went to the beautiful Changi airport and again most of our passengers were heading to Indonesia so the flight was full. Departed around three o'clock in the afternoon and then we started to run because even though the flight lasts one hour and ten minutes we still have to do service which consists in meals with trays! so imagine serving 285 trays and collect them in something around thirty minutes, it's like shoving food down the passengers throat to complete the service before it gets too bumpy because of landing.

Still the flight was quiet and even got a nice compliment from a passenger that was moving to Indonesia, she said something like ' I've been watching you and you have a beautiful persona , and your smile is amazing' again , I just entirely blushed and gave a shy smile and a thanks.
(Have you noticed that I still can't get used to that kind of feedback? )

Landed into Jakarta with a beautiful tropical weather and even though the country is indeed poorer than its neighbour Singapore, their airport is amazing , the architecture is really typical with palm ceilings and bricks yet modern and comfortable. We just cleared customs and immigration for what I like to call as the 'shortest layover ever'.
Quickly headed to the hotel which is near the airport and had three hours of rest before going back to the airport and catch the plane back.
In order to tell my friends ' Yes, I have been in Jakarta' I took a quick ride to the neighbor locations and started to click pictures like never before. The hotel also was beautiful and it was screaming 'Indonesia' everywhere.

So as the night came , I went to the restaurant and had a full buffet dinner with everything included for seven US dolars...that's right , seven! ate so much seafood that I had to take an antiacid prior to departure , otherwise I'd get sick on the plane.
Had a quick nap in my room and watched two movies partially , the first one was 'P.S.I love You' which was filmed in Ireland , so it reminded me a lot about places I've been there...and also someone who watched that film with me...anyway...past chasing me away sometimes.
The second one was a comedy that I can't remember the name as I was watching it and got the wake up call, so I didn't actually finished it.

Took the bus back to the airport and headed back to Singapore with again a fully booked flight and a 30-minutes delay as it started to rain heavily while we were on stand, so it was pretty hectic. Reached Changi Airport sometime around one o'clock in the early morning and straight to the hotel for some well deserved rest.
Well deserved rest knowing that the new rosters were out? No way! Inmediatly went to the crew lounge and logged in to see what Mr. Jepessen Rosters prepared for me in August:

- My month starts with a short but nice layover in Kathmandu again, this time I will follow the advises of a nepalese crew and I'm heading to the mountains.
-Then got an Abu Dhabi night stop , which is a good oportunity to see if there's something really valuable in their Duty Free facilities.
-My resquested exotic destination Ho Chi Minh City ( Vietnam ) is next , and they gave me the long layover, so the Mekong river will be waiting for me to take a tour.
-Ho Chi Minh is surrounded by double sectors since the day before I have to play meal basketball with my passengers to Kuwait and Abu Dhabi and the day after I will play with my passengers going to Bahrain and...Abu Dhabi!.
-After those flights I've got some office duties in Doha which will take me something like a whole week and then I've got a long Athens turnaround.
-My roster gets good as they gave me Paris as my first A340-600 operating flight, followed by a beautiful and long Rome layover which I requested for.
-Got lots of days-off after the European cliche week, so I might ask to fly on those days or I might travel around here, maybe Dubai? or Cairo?
-Then a quick turnaround to Beirut and ending the month with Ho Chi Minh again , which I will try to swap for some other thing.

As I was happy with my roster, went to bed and woke up around ten in the morning for some Singaporean sightseeing, had to go by myself as my dear crew wanted to sleep.
Walked for around twenty minutes and got to Clarke Quay where you can find pretty much everything to eat and it's a gathering point for foreigners and singaporeans.
Took the quick boat ride to look around and had some quick snaps of the Financial Centre, the bridges and the Singapore Lion, which is the symbol of the country.
There were some malaysians girls on the boat , so they made me favor of taking the ' I was here' pictures.

Back to the hotel with some steamy 34 degrees Celsius, went to the pool and slept on the futon while listening music and trying to get some colour in my skin ( I couldn't but it doesnt matter).
Day got pretty lazy from that point, then went to bed and had more sleep, woke up and ate something , then to the crew lounge to check my beloved e-mails and then back to bed.
Wake up call!!! Time to prepare for the flight back home which again was full, mostly indonesian women.
Flight was really easy going as again most passengers were sleeping and I had some nice 'crew gossip' with the crew. Also got mid galley, so I had things to do in my spare time in order to pass the hours, my crew were also very nice and I had a lot of fun throughout the flight.

Still having a lot of rest before the flight , got into Doha extremely tired so I just slept the whole morning ( or tried to , as they were demolishing a building right next to mine and the noise was too loud, making me feel miserable sometimes as I really wanted to sleep but I just couldn't).

Now two beautiful days-off prior to my turnaround week : Athens and Cairo.
See ya!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

-- Week Update and the Love Story back again --

Needed some rest after that long Osaka flight, and the three days-off in a row that followed it were perfect to put the body on the right time zone again and to eat a little healthier. Also to see my friends as they were starting to say that I had no social life since the airline kept me flying non-stop last month ( again can't complaint: nice layovers and good money ).
So in the past three days-off I really enjoyed my time , as most of my friends were also resting in Doha , so I had plenty of activities to fill that time like lunches, eating at the souq, buying some groceries and organizing my bedroom. Also went to the pool and had a little 'diving incident' when I tried to dive into it and I didn`t notice that the swimming pool was very shallow, hitting my nose with the bottom of the pool and getting a little scratch in my forehead and nose. It didn't hurt, it was just incredibly shameful!

Then came the Airport Stand By, the first one since I'm a cabin crew: Whoever who came up with that, was a really unhappy rostering department staff member as all you have to do is shave, get dressed and go to the airport with nothing to do but waiting someone's sickness so they can bump you into a flight.
For me it was good, somehow all staff in QR was healthy that day and there were not any interesting flights to operate, then I just went home and prepared for the next three days of Stand By, this time at home.

My love story starts when yesterday, three hours before my Stand By I checked my roster and there were some changes made, rostering kindly had given me another Hyderabad turnaround on Thursday, so it was going to be Indian Turnarounds back to back. At that moment I just felt how my blood was boiling in dissapointment knowing that I oficially was going to have the worst roster ever. Still they didn't call me...maybe as I was still having Stand By last night they might change the roster again?

And so they did , at 21:15 received a call from them saying that I got pulled out of Stand By to operate Singapore and Jakarta ( five days in the roster ) meaning that they took away my two Hyderabads as well!

So as those old films when you see a person tearing up a daisy ( she loves me , she loves me not) , I went from ' I hate rostering' to ' I love rostering' in a couple of hours.
Right now I'm already in Singapore but I'm writing the details of the trip when I get back.

Friday, July 17, 2009

-- Feeling like a local --

I'm half-japanese, so this trip to Japan really opened my eyes and also completed another item of my 'must do before I die' list.
Somehow I had a really small idea of what Japan could be (specially because I used to love watching those japanese cartoons about football), but looking to it with my own eyes was different and just loved it.

At some points I felt identified with the culture, with the way of living, with the caring of every single small detail, with the food. Also remembered a lot of my grandparents and the way I used to feel when I was a child and used to go to their place whenever my parents were travelling.

The trip started with an ultra-long haul flight, interesting highlights about it is that even though the flight takes around ten hours, the passengers won't press the call bell, I know I used to complain about China flights when they are always pressing the call bell by accident , but this was too much. So we had pretty much a lot of hours without doing anything , just staring at each other faces and test our criativity to its maximum, trying to talk about pretty much every single aspect of our life.
As we landed into Osaka Kansai International Airport, I remembered the documentaries that I once watched about this particular airport and how it was built. Something I'm finding really interesting about this job is that I'm actually having the oportunity of being to places I used to see only on the TV when I was younger, which is cool!
The airport is on a single island, so we took a long bridge to go to Kansai area and of course, Osaka.

The hotel was located near the Trade Center, which was near the port as well but not that close of the city centre. The hotel had a shuttle though , so after an hour of rest in my hotel room , decided to hit the town to have a quick look at the city and to buy some groceries.
Osaka is really modern, is interesting how the city has been planned (or not) because you see apartment buildings mixed with business buildings in the same areas, so people dont have to travel too much to go to work. Also interesting how small every building is which made me think on how small the apartments must be as well.
I still can't solve the mistery about the garbage, since every street is absolutely clean but when I tried to find a trash bin , I walked for half and hour to actually find one.

So I arrived into Umeda Station and took a quick walk , it was already night time so I just took some quick pictures, bought some sushi , noodles and japanese candy and got back to the hotel.

Next morning woke up late and took the subway with some of the crew to the supermarket two stations away from the hotel and had a Japanese Groceries shopping spree as I bought a lot of things that you can only find in Japan, specially the candy there is really special and elaborated.
Also went to the 100 yen store to buy some supplies and those things you didn't know you needed until you see them in the shelf all tidy and smiling at your wallet.
I found it amazing how everything is so organized, even the way the cashier put the things you bought into the bag is prefectly neat.

Then it was time for the turnaround to Seoul , South Korea. So we departed at around 15:00 from the hotel and went straight to the airport.
Flight was very light load but it was extremely bumpy, we even had to stop service and secure ourselves in the nearest seat, as the turbulence was sometimes unexpected and strong.
Arriving into Seoul Incheon Airport (which is the best airport in the world according to Skytrax) we had some time to walk around and buy some things (only bought a souvenir so I could say I've been to Korea). Passengers then boarded again and we flew back to Osaka.

Since we arrived at midnight , I just went online for a bit and then slept in preparation for the next and last day in Japan.

Kyoto was calling, was going to meet my cousins there so a crew member wanted to go with me and we hit Umeda Station early in the morning and practically ran around everywhere until we found the train to Kyoto , luckily it was the Express train , so we got there quite fast.
The city is beautiful , it doesn't really have tall skyscrapers, is really quiet and traditional. You can see tourist everywhere as you arrive into the Train station, some of them leaving , some arriving. We had to wait a little for my cousins since they were arriving on the train from Nagoya.

After we met, we bought an 'All Day Bus Pass' and hit the bus. First stop was Ginkakuji Temple or Silver Temple. It lays in a hill and the all scenery was really lovely. The well groomed gardens with 'bonsai' trees everywhere, the sand layout perfectly designed, the temple and houses in that simple and clean Japanese style, the place just inspired peace.
But no time for peace , as we only had some hours in Kyoto , so after some pictures we took the bus again to the Golden Temple.

Even though I 'm really good with maps, this time I messed up. We were taking the right bus line but the other way around , so I noticed we were coming back to the same place halfway down the road , so we lost a precious half an hour in going back and forward again.
Anyway we got to Kinkakuji Temple or Golden Temple and it was amazing. Again remembered when I saw that in a catalog and said ' I want to go there someday' and there I was.
The place is really nice , it was built in the 1200's as an Emperor's country house and the walls were wrapped in gold , so the place shines with the sun and the reflex in the lake that surrounds it is just amazing.

After wandering around the gardens, fountains and souvenir shops, we took the bus again and headed to the Station as it was about to rain and also we had no more time to spend there because we had to catch the train back and get some rest before our flight back to Doha.
At the Station there was an underground floor where there were plenty of stores and restaurants so we had a nice Japanese lunch with tempura, lamen and green tea. It was the perfect ending for a beautiful day.

Time to say good-bye and take the Shinkansen train back to Osaka. Of course as being an ultra-fast train , we got there really fast , took the shuttle to the hotel and had some rest.
Then again: Wake-up call , shave, dress, get the baggage ready (specially trying to fit five kg. of japanese candy in there) and time to hit the airport.

Flight was full but again was incredibly peaceful , the service was fast and even the used trays were not messy , so clearance was easier as well. Again time to use creativity and talk about every topic (even the spicy ones) for many hours until finally landed into Doha in the early morning.

Now I've got three days and a half off before having four days stand-by in a row , I hope they pull me out for some nice layover as my roster gets really shitty afterwards.

Friday, July 10, 2009

-- The Vienna Week --

My swapping experiment was about to begin, so after a mind-confusing double sector I was feeling ready for 'The Vienna Week' ahead.
I was wanting to go to Vienna a long time ago, specially because it's known as one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe but so far I wouldn't have bid for it before because I wanted to see different places, so this swapping really exceeded my expectations as I got two chances to go there.

So I'm sharing my two Vienna's with you:

On the first Vienna the flight was really nice , we had this Indonesian group that was going to participate in a singing competition in Austria and the flight was not that full. Everything went great, my passengers were really happy and again got compliments from some of them and another 'cabin crew famous moment' as the girls from the group asked to take pictures with me before landing , so there again you can imagine my deep red blushed face trying to smile in front of ten cameras.
Landing was a little hard as it was really windy in Vienna, their airport is small but pleasant and there's no traffic jams whatsoever.
We headed to the hotel which was in the Centre, with a nice park in front. All the architecture in Vienna is really classic and victorian style , there are some modern buildings but not as many as other big european cities. They have a lot of trolley lines and lots of museums!.

After a short nap, me and other three crew including the purser decided to take a walk and explore the city as it was our first time there.
Started by taking the subway and going to this place named Schonbrunn which was recommended by one of the crew's flatmate. The place didn't dissapoint us as it was this huge Imperial Palace with many well-groomed gardens around, in the backyard there was a laberint, the Imperial Zoo and a hill with the Gloriet on top which of course I wanted to go and see the wonderful view of the whole City Centre.

Going down the hill back to take the subway and we hopped off in the Museum Quarter which as the name says , is a block with four big museums on it ( I'm not a really big fan of museums , so I just took the pictures from the outside). Then as we didn't have anything to eat until then we stopped in this stand and had three typical Austrian dishes: Schnitzel, Currywurst and Apfelstrudel.

Time to walk through the former Royal Palace which now lodges the National Library and the beautiful garden full of young people having picnics or just playing football or throwing frisbees.
Final stop was Rathaus where we bumped into a Typical Food Fair where we had just a little taste of Austrian beer and then walked our way back to the hotel through interesting landmarks such as Ballhausplatz and Michaeleplatz.
Also on our way back we bought some souvenirs from Vienna. Thought it was very funny and interesting how the city's identity is related to classical music and famous composers such as Mozart as most of the souvenirs had something about him. Funny also some souvenirs saying things like ' No Kangaroos in Austria'...maybe some people still confuses their country with Australia?

Back to the hotel and went to bed really early as I was practically sleeping on my keyboard.
Wake up call in the morning and back in the plane for the return sector which was really low profile: light load and passengers sleeping.
Arrived into Doha and went straight to my apartment to try to get some rest because twelve hours later I was gonna be ready for another flight to...Vienna?

Woke up early, shaved, got dressed and ready for another Austrian adventure, this time the flight was fully loaded and the passengers really made me work as some of them were incredibly demanding, the good part is that I didn't feel like we flew for six hours, everything happened so fast.
Arrived to the hotel and went online for a bit laying down in my bed because my back was just killing me.
It was really freaking me out the fact that we were having such a beautiful and sunny day in Vienna and I was just inside my hotel room doing nothing so I decided to take a walk on my own.
There's something I really like about walk around on my own and it is the fact that I can do everything on my very own rythm, walk a lot , take pictures, read my map properly and just notice on the details. The bad part is that there is no one to talk to or comment somethings and of course, no one to take the 'I have been here pictures'.

Went to the Belvedere Gardens, then walked to the City Centre where I took a lot of pictures of the Museums Quarter, Maria Anthonien Platz and then headed to the Stephansdom which is kind of an icon of Vienna, then had another Currywurst and an Apfelstrudel.
Tired, decided to get some rest which was interrupted two hours later by my incredible hunger, so I had to go out again and look for something to eat ( and also some souvenir chocolates), luckily for me there was a Mc Donalds around.

Back to the hotel, ate everything and slept really heavy waking up just this morning for the 'wake up call' and the flight back to Doha.
Again a really low profile flight, even though it was full but most of my passengers were sleeping so it was really relaxed after we did all our onboard service.

It's good to get home knowing that I have two well deserved days-off, gonna try to make the best of it before going to my ancestor's land for the first time!

Monday, July 6, 2009

-- Welcome to Bahrain! or was it Doha? or was it Dubai? --

After two days-off in a row, I was feeling recharged and ready for another week of continuous flying, specially because I knew that I wouldn't have to go to Japan twice in one week so the month was going to be somehow lighter.

As a part of the 'Vienna Deal' also had to get one thing that we call 'double sector', let me tell you how this works with a story:

Mr. A got to the airport and boarded the aircraft for a short flight to Bahrain. "Extremely short" he said, as the flight took only 25 minutes between take off and passengers disembark , the service was extremely fast as he was practically playing basketball with the little meals and the passengers traytables. Time to go back to Doha again playing basketball.
Arriving into Doha with some mild and pleasant forty-one degrees Celsius , Mr. A had to change of aircrafts and realized that had to take off again to Dubai.
Time for another basketball match with a full flight...some heavy turbulence before landing and "Welcome to Dubai" , passengers out and in again...take off again! last basketball match, this times the passengers were winning as Mr. A was just too tired but still smiling!

Landing into Doha again...or was it Dubai? or was it Bahrain? Oh no , this time was finally home.

Just know that I got home so hungry ( as I refuse to eat the plane food ) and extremely tired.
The good thing is that a crew from my flight wanted to do some interesting 'flight swapping' so my roster might get more interesting, will keep you updated.

As for me, tomorrow begins my 'Vienna Week', twice back to back.

Friday, July 3, 2009

-- Near the top of the World in Nepal --

So nice to finally be home after nine days flying with only one day-off in between , so my body was screaming for some rest wrapped in my own sheets and enclosed in my room even when here in Doha we are reaching temperatures around 50 degrees Celsius everyday.

My Nepal experience started with myself feeling really exhausted, I had just arrived the previous morning from a long Beijing-Doha flight so I had no enough rest to compensate. But there I was in my uniform boarding passengers again. Flight was full again ,mostly nepalese people going back home after working really hard for two or more years in the Gulf and also european passengers connecting from all over Europe for some backpacking experiences ( brought back some memories from earlier this year when I went carrying one of those huge backpacks going for a walk through the Andes on the Inca Trail in Peru ).

Flight was nice if I take out the phrase ' I want to sleep so bad' wandering around my mind every five seconds but as we were getting closer to Kathmandu everything started to improve.
First of all a view of the beautiful roof of the world: The Mount Everest made his appearance showing why it is the highest mountain in the world, it's just amazingly big!
Landed around some scattered rains and it was incredible hot in Kathmandu.
After you leave the airport you face the reality of the nepalese population: lot of poverty around, children asking for money , open sewages, garbage everywhere but still people are always welcoming and smiling.

Got to the hotel and had a huge ( really huge) brunch with everything I had the right to eat, even those things that we don't even know what they are but still will eat because it is free.
Followed by some sleeping time as I just couldn't even stand straight of exhaustation , so I slept for a long hour and then woke up for some sightseeing.

Hired a taxi for four hours (costing just 20 US dollars) and just wandered around the city.
Went to what I think it was the Main Square, called Durbar Square. The place is messy but really interesting. You can see how people in Nepal are really in touch with their culture and beliefs, everything in the Square has a meaning and a reason to be built , starting with the images of their Gods like Vishnu and Sheeva which are praised every minute by the locals.

The Royal Palace is amazing and it has a unique architecture. Every door frame has very elaborated and fine details explaining a history or an image perfectly carved in hard wood.
After exploring a little with a 'friend for hire' ( actually it was a tour guide who kindly offered himself for a really cheap price to show me around ), went for some souvenir shopping to Thamel Market , where you can also find everything about hiking and climbing and then to the Monkey Temple which has beautiful golden details and, as the name says, monkeys everywhere!
It lays on the top of a mountains so from there you can see the whole Kathmandu Valley and some of the Himalayas way in the back.

Time for resting , so went back to the hotel, slept for another three hours, woke up feeling all jet-lagged and went for a nice Indian Style dinner at the hotel's restaurant with another crew.

Flight back was really nice, got a compliment form from one of my passengers and something that made my day: two pretty russian passengers were chit-chatting and pointing at me when I was doing my meal service , until I got there and asked: ' What happened?' and one of them said in a shy way: ' We think you are a really handsome man'...never felt so blushed in my life!

Anyway, finally got home again and when I went to check my mail , saw a lovely swapping form from one japanese cabin crew who kindly offered to swap one of my Osaka-Seul journeys for two Vienna layovers...guess who is also going to Vienna next week!

Now gonna enjoy my days-off! See ya!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

-- Going Chinese Vers. 2.0 --

After my trip to Switzerland I had a short day-off with my friends,who by the way are starting to fly this week, and the next morning I had my 'first' turnaround to Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
First time I went to Saudi it was on my 'observation' flight and it was at night , so this time it was better and with a really light load so everything went just fine and the crew was really fun. I got home by midday feeling like new and ready for my Beijing flight at night.

Slept the whole afternoon ,ate properly and got set for my second China flight in one month. Night came and went to the airport. The purser was gonna be the same as my Dammam morning turnaround which was very nice because she was really funny and lovely.

Beijing flights are ALWAYS full, not even a single seat available and I think there was some overbooking going around there as many passengers were having troubles boarding.
As a consequence, the plane departed a little delayed and even though I tried to do my homework properly (eating , sleeping well) I just felt like the flight took forever. My passengers were not really demanding but still felt really tired.
Time for landing facing strong turbulence , so my recently fed passengers started to throw up everywhere. So the plane was kind of messy after disembark. Lots of flights were delayed so we met with Singapore Airlines and Emirates crew on the Customs and Immigration points.

Slept all the way from the airport to the hotel and we got on our rooms again. I just love the hotel in Beijing , every little detail has been well thought and the rooms are amazing.
No time for sleeping, twenty minutes later went downstairs to meet some crew at the lobby as we were going to the Silk Market.
Silk Market = Fake Market? You can find everything there! and most of the products are fake but with a really good quality, some of them you can't even say are fake without looking really into details.
Anyway I didn't buy anything, just went there for the experience as you see customers from all over the world bargaining and saleswoman pulling them by the arms shouting really loud prices and phrases like : " Hey beautiful lady ,come here" , " I've seen you here before" in a strong chinese accent.

Got really tired , so had a light dinner and went to the hotel to get some proper sleep for the next day which was gonna be really demanding.
Next morning woke up early and one crew from South Africa joined me for some chinese sightseeing.

Went to the Forbidden City first, again my first word is "amazing".
The place is incredible , it was built in the 15th century as a private city for the Emperors of China, it was the place where they used to deal with pretty much every business or matter of the Empire and also served as houses for their concubines and wives.
Took like three hours to explore everything. Amazing palaces, amazing gardens and squares where every single detail in the architeture has been carefully thought and preserved so that's definitely a 'must see' in China as you can really feel the scent of a culture through those buildings.
"Pop-star Moments" along the way as we would take our pictures and then the locals would want to take a picture with us (with their cameras) and thank very emotionally ( hugging and shaking hands ).
After exploring the Forbidden City , our eyes got caught on a hill with a temple on top and we decided to head there as we thought the view from there should be interesting and so we did. The place was the Jinsheng Park which lays opposite of Forbidden City's back entrance and has a beautiful Budda Temple on his highest point which also offers a great view of Beijing's City Centre and Financial Street.

Time for some chinese experiences as we decided to take the Subway to get to the Olympic Village. Been in lots of subway networks already and must say that this one really got me impressed because everything was so tidy , organized and modern even when handling with millions of passengers everyday.

The Olympic Village is amazing, the architecture is out of the basic pattern so sometimes you feel like you're looking at a mock-up or a toy when you look at the beautiful 'Bird's nest' stadium and of course the Water Cube.
As a former swimmer , my biggest interest in this place was to go inside the Cube and so I did. The walls look like they were made of plastic bubbles ( like the ones that come with electronic appliances and we love to burst) and the swimming pool is amazing. Some minutes of silence as I felt speechless and got some goosebumps in that place...and to think that a year ago some of my biggest idols and some friends were there sharing that exact same spot making history...

Falling down to earth again and with a hot sunny day in Beijing , decided to go back to the hotel ( again by subway), have some quick lunch and sleep for the overnight long flight back home.
Sleep? really? I tried everything, even went to the spa in the hotel , swam some laps at the pool , went to the ofuro and nothing, still like an owl in the middle of the night.
Night came along and after wake up call and pick up , I was at the airport again clearing customs and immigration for what I thought it was gonna be a long night...and so it was!

Estimated time of flying: 9 hours...almost felt like killing myself when we were told that on the briefing, and some turbulence along the way too, how nice!.
This flight's passengers were really nice, lots of them could speak basic english so it was easier to deal with them. The main problem was that I was really feeling tired as I've been flying straight for eight days ( with only one day-off) and I am still not used to it.
Three cups of coffee and two croissants later, we were landing in hot dusty Doha and for the first time felt like the Pope trying to kiss the floor after arrival. I was just so tired!

So that was it , must say that Beijing is a beautiful place, specially because it combines ancient cultures and buildings with very modern and cosmopolitan facilities, people are friendly and it's so cheap!
Next flight: Tonight to Kathmandu, Nepal...and then finally two well deserved days-off!