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Archive for September, 2010

Testing the new Bangkok Airport train link Sep 30

photo%201[1]I have stopped by Bangkok many times over the last few years (you can check out this trip report) and we have normally used taxi to get to and from town. A taxi from Bangkok airport Suvarnabhumi to town (e.g. Sukhumvit road) does not cost that much – maybe like 400 Baht with the toll stations on the express road into the city. This is still only like 13 US Dollars so the transportation has been quite affordable if you compare it with other big cities around the world. But with skytrain, subway and a new airport added to Bangkok, I guess it was only natural to also add a airport train. On the last trips we have seen the train track (looking a lot like the skytrain I guess) reaching further and further out towards the airport and on the last trips the train has been in a test mode. But when we got to Bangkok in the end of September 2010 the airport train was finally open and it was time to test it out.

photo%202[1]After immigration and customs we followed the train signs to get to the lower levels and there we found a new connection to the train station itself. There are two options that you can take: the express train into town or a local train stopping on each of the stations. The express train leaves the airport every 30 minutes if I’m not mistaken but we went for the local train that cost us 15 Baht…only 50 US Cents in other words! The station at the airport is all new and shiny but it did not seem like everything was working yet (e.g. the entrance gates). photo%203[1]After taking the escalator down, we had to wait a few minutes for the train. The train itself looks like the regular skytrain (BTS) with air-con and with hard, plastic seating. The train ride was comfortable and there was only about 5 stops until we reached Makkasan after about 20 minutes. And I guess this is where the problem started! The Makkasan station seems to be a copy of the airport (at least seen inside) but only in a smaller version. When we got out it was pretty empty and naked as it was just opened and I don’t even think the escalators were working (or were there escalators at all?) – this is a bit of a let down when you are carrying a huge, 20 kg Samsonite suitcase.

photo%204[1]When we got out of the station there were taxi available but we decided to be environmental friendly and go for the subway (MRT) instead as the information said that Makkasan was connected to the Phetchaburi MRT station. We followed the temporary signs into the darkness, humidity and heat of the Bangkok night but soon there were no more signs and a lady that saw the confusion in out eyes, pointed us in the right direction. If you have been to Bangkok you know that the city is not really made for walking with roads, pavements that are high above the street…we even had to cross a railroad track to get to the MRT station. I think the walk took 5-10 minutes but with a big suitcase and in the heat it was not really a great way to meet Bangkok. photo%205[1]When we got into the MRT station we faced another “problem”: the security staff. They have started a some sort of security control when entering the MRT stations but it seems more of a superficial check than anything else. But still…the security guard insisted that we had to open the suitcase so that he could take a milli-second look in there.  The MRT fare was only 15 Baht as we only had one stop to Sukhumvit station (at Asok) to get to our hotel. To top it of we had to carry the suitcase over Sukhumvit road and I arrived soaking wet from the exercise of carrying the suitcase up and down stairs. To be fair, I think work is underway to connect the Makkasan station with the Phetchaburi MRT station. You are also supposed to connect to the BTS (skytrain) by taking the train to the end station Phaya Thai station.

Conclusion: This only cost us 30 Baht per person (1 USD) so if you are on a budget and live near a station (and remember to put on you workout clothes) this is a great alternative. If you carry a big suitcase it might be a better idea to take the train to Makkasan and take a taxi from there but be aware that the Bangkok traffic can be pretty bad and you might get stuck for some time. If you just want to sit back and relax, take a taxi straight from the airport to your hotel. Just make sure that the driver uses the meters and get him to take the express road. Also is is useful to have 45+25 Baht available for the toll stations Smile

Great tours of Paris – and they are even for free! Sep 15

We were in Paris for just a long weekend recently and as we have seen the usual attractions on previous trips, we decided to go for a walk. We came across the Discover Walks homepage and decided to try it out. We came a few minutes late to the meeting point at Notre Dame and we thought we missed it – but after a couple of minutes we saw the pink vest indicating the guide. We started out with the guide Raphael but was soon also joined by Bertrand – two guides in a group of only 5 people – what luxury :-)  We went for the relative new 4 pm walk and I guess most people are not aware of this as the group was so small. But the tour lasted for a couple of hours and it was great doing a tour with a couple of local boys and we got to hear about Cyrano de Bergerac, about the Sorbonne university, about small book shops and jazz clubs and we could talk to the boys on where to eat and drink in Paris and much more of course. But best of all was of course getting guiding from local people who has a real passion for their own city. Thanks guys for the great tour – I’ll try out one of the other tours when I return to Paris :-) Check out their homepage http://www.discoverwalks.com/ for more information.

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Dear SAS–some feedback after my trip to Paris Sep 14

Fly_2I had a lovely weekend in Paris but I do have some feedback that I would like to send to Scandinavian Airlines of course. It started at Stavanger airport (SVG) – as years has gone by there are not really any check in counters anymore. You check in yourself on a machine, get your luggage tag and go to baggage drop. I’m not sure I understand the point of checking in online the day before when you still have to go through the machines. But the machines work great and I have never really had any problems with them. The problem this morning was the baggage drop of as there was only one woman behind the counter. I do have a SAS Eurobonus Gold card but I was not sure that entitles me to go in the business line at SVG – I have tried it before and I have been told to get in the regular line as the business line was only for international flights and for Lufthansa. So after 20 minutes it was finally my turn to hand in my luggage and it was just in time as the plane was boarding so I had no time to buy something to drink and eat. But I do want to compliment SAS for their service on morning flights as you do get a small breakfast and a cup of coffee. The flight from Oslo to Paris was pretty uneventful and we landed on CDG on terminal 1.

Fly_9Going back home again we tried out the SAS lounge at CDG and it is a pretty sad looking lounge but better than hanging around at the gate of course. It was great to see that there was a fast track for us to get through the very long line at security – compliments to SAS for this as well. When we came to OSL we had to take out the luggage, go through customs and check it in again. We headed to the drop of point and the line was extremely long this Sunday afternoon. Luckily we could take advantage of the Gold card once again as there was a Eurobonus Gold counter and we dropped of the suitcases without waiting. But then we had to get into the security line that was equally long – why is that when there is a fast track option also at OSL? But according to the signs the fast track at OSL is only for international passengers – why? But after 10-15 minutes in line we got through security control and it was back to SVG. So all in all not a bad trip as there were some very positive things and some negative things. SAS should really get more staff in the mornings as I have experienced waiting a number of times when dropping of luggage was Stavanger airport.

Want to work for Finnair for a couple of months? Sep 13

finnairThis is from the article Quality Hunters on the Finnair homepage: "Ever dreamed of getting paid to explore the world? Finnair, one of the world’s longest continuously operating airlines, offers you the adventure of a lifetime. We are on a global search for four Quality Hunters; intrepid, outspoken and discerning individuals whose task is to travel to Finnair’s destinations in Europe, Asia and the US for a period of two months in search of quality experiences." You can find the article and the application form on http://rethinkquality.finnair.com/quality-hunters/ – but be fast. The application period ends on September 26th.

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World’s most stunning structures Sep 10

News.com.au brings a story about the most stunning structures in the world. You can check out the photos in this article. I have been lucky enough to visit places like the Great wall of China (see the China trip report), Machu Picchu (see the Peru trip report), Angkor Wat (see the Siem Reap trip report), the Eiffel tower (see the Paris trip report), the Chrysler building (see the NYC trip report) but I still have structures like the pyramides and Taj Mahal to look forward to :-)

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Boeing’s first 747-8 Intercontinental takes shape Sep 09

If you have been to a larger airport around the world it is very likely that you have seen a Boeing 747 or taken a flight with the plane. This iconic plane came into service already in 1969 (before I was born!!) and has gone through developments ever since and it was THE plane until Airbus A380 came into service. And in these days they (Boeing) are putting together the first 747-8 Intercontinental. The saying goes “Never change a winning team” and I guess that goes for the 747 or the jumbojet as it is also called. The new 747 will have the traditional look but it will be a bit longer, it will take a few more passengers, it will be more fuel efficient (mandatory buzz words these days), the windows will be larger, the lighting inside will be better (in line with the 787 version I guess), it will be quieter etc. Here is an article from Boeing with a video of the building of the plane. Coming to an airport near you in the future :-)

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Lufthansa A380 is coming to town Sep 08

The Airbus A380 is not that uncommon anymore as a few airlines have now got it in service. But it seems like there is still quite an attraction connected to this giant plane and there is still interest for the plane in Norway (well, at least amongst the plane-geeks ;-) and in the press. Anyway, Lufthansa has announced that their Airbus A380 is coming on a visit to Norway (Oslo) on September 15th at 5 PM. I’m not sure that average Joe will be able to get a glimpse inside but at least you can see it land :-) I had the pleasure of flying Emirates A380 last year and this year and here is a summary of the trip last year. This year I used it when flying from Dubai to Sydney so I got to spend many, many hours on the plane. But I wouldn’t mind trying out the Lufthansa A380 to see how that compares ;-)

Going to Paris again Sep 07

I’m fortunate enough to be heading of to Paris again soon. I have been there a few times before and it was actually one of my first destination for a long weekend city trip in Europe back in 1994. I was totally blown away by the big city, the beautiful bridges across the Seine, the beautiful architecture, the museums etc. After that I  have been there on longer stays and it has been great to have time to just walk around and enjoy the sights, sounds and smell. The last time I went there was back in 2006 and you can check out the Paris trip report here. This time I’m even doing a food course – it is a cooking for friends course so I guess I have to find some “victims” when I get back home to rehearse a bit :-) If you haven’t been to Paris it is really a place worth visiting in my opinion.

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