Flying into Dangerous Lukla Airport in Nepal

Lukla, airport, Nepal, dangerous, Himalayas, travel, flight, airplane, landing, takeoff, runway

I recall seeing a few years ago a TV show about the world’s ten most dangerous airports. Tegucigalpa, St. Maarten and a few others made the list.  And so did Lukla, Nepal.  Lukla is the typical starting point for anyone trekking along the route to Everest Base Camp, or to other points in the Himalayas. The alternative to the 35-min flight to Lukla (LUA) from Kathmandu is a long bus ride plus a few days of trekking to reach Lukla. I was not thrilled at the prospect but there really was no realistic choice.

Heading to Lukla

The Lukla airport was built by none other than Sir Edmund Hillary himself in 1965 to facilitate developing the trekking business the local population needed; it was just a dirt airstrip until just 1999.  Flights in and out of Lukla (a town of a few thousand inhabitants perched high at around 2,840m / 9,300 ft above sea level) mainly fly in the morning when the weather and visibility are what they need to be for a successful flight (read: does not crash).  Only planes that can handle short takeoff and landings can operate from Lukla as the runway is only 1,500 ft long.  Flights can easily be canceled for the day if the conditions are not right which could be more than one day in a row, leaving hundreds stranded in this small hamlet.  So beyond the flight involving a “dangerous” airport, one gets to worry about will the flight even go and what happens to the rest of the itinerary if the day is bust…  In any case, there are several airlines that run flights continuously in the morning to and from Lukla.  It is like a bus service of sorts with planes making quick turnarounds at either airport to take advantage of the right weather.

Lukla, Tara Air, boarding pass, Nepal, flight, airline, travel, Everest

Boarding pass to Lukla

The domestic terminal in Kathmandu is small and easy once you get past the chaos of getting to the airline counter and checking in.  After being dropped off, we walk along a covered walkway to a building in the back past a new building under construction.  The old building was old indeed but it was functional.  Once the flight is called (other Lukla flights were called too), we stepped out and there were 2-3 buses awaiting to take people to their planes.  It was a bit confusing and finally someone pointed us to our bus based on our boarding pass.

The plane sat maybe 20 people and we were not full.  I got a seat on the left so I would be facing north (towards the Himalayas).  Unfortunately, the windows were very dirty which assured that photos would not be National Geographic material (that is my excuse anyway…).  Gosh, if they’d let us, I would have gotten off the plane pre-takeoff and cleaned my window!

Himalayas, Nepal, window seat, airplane, flight, Tara Air, Lukla

The taller Himalayas via dirty window

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At times, the ground was not far below us…

Himalayas, Nepal, window seat, airplane, flight, Tara Air, Lukla

Small village – one can see the local stupa left of center

Before taking off, the flight attendant (yes, there is one) checked our seat belts were fastened and handed out hard candy (to choke on when the plane jumped?? no, thanks) and cotton balls for our ears.  That and getting us in and out of the plane was all she had time to really do on such a short flight.

Dangerous Airport?

The danger reputation stems from the fact that the runway starts at the edge of the mountain and runs uphill (a 12% grade) until either the plane has stopped and turned or, it has met the wall.

Lukla, airport, Nepal, dangerous, Himalayas, travel, flight, airplane, landing, takeoff, runway

The full runway (control tower on the right)

I have read and was told by a pilot that part of the issue with landing is that the uphill nature of the runway (the far end being higher than the end nearer to the pilot) can trick the eye giving a false sense to the pilot of the aircraft’s vertical position before landing, potentially leading to accidents.

Lukla, airport, accident, danger, Nepal, runway, flight

A plane meets the wall

On the reverse (the takeoff), either the plane catches air at the end of the runway or it drops when the runway runs out until it catches lift.

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See what I mean about “up or drop” (Source: www.theaustralian.com)

Truthfully, and maybe naively, neither landing nor takeoff worried me. What worried me was the turbulence that can be encountered on the way to and from Lukla.  Not helping with things was the name of our airline:  Tara Air.  I was happy until someone pronounced it “terror” air which sent images flying all across my brain of a small plane jumping around due to high winds – a terror inducing ride ahead?  Tara Air, Lukla, Kathmandu, Nepal, flight, airline, airport, Himalayas, trekking

Upon boarding, I looked into the seat pocket in front of me and found the air sickness bag which left no doubt as to what its purpose was…Tara Air, Lukla, Nepal, air sickness bag, vomit bag

The flight into Lukla had gone very smoothly – no turbulence at all!  And then we started circling.  I was thinking to myself:  “so close and now we start circling” – was it weather-related, I wondered?  The delay turned out to not be about fog or weather issues and we experienced no turbulence. Lukla airport only has four parking spots for the planes so we had to wait for a plane to take off to get a spot.  The flight back from Lukla was also completely smooth giving me a 2-for-2 no-turbulence flights.

Back to landing in Lukla:  it was pretty darn cool as the small plane’s cockpit was open to us so we could see the runway ahead as we landed – or the mountains we were flying into before that!

Lukla, airport, flight, Nepal, cockpit, cockpit view, Himalayas, airplane

The view out of the cockpit

Leaving Lukla, the plane actually took off the ground before the runway ended so no drop was experienced, maybe to the chagrin of those in the plane who love roller-coasters – but not me!  Here is a video of my own takeoff – notice when we leave the runway before it ends (it is a noisy video so make sure you are not at max volume!).

In the end, as you may surmise, this was a far better choice than the bus and the walk :)  And now I can say I “survived” one of the world’s “most dangerous” airports!

ilivetotravel, Raul Pino, flying, window seat, travel, Lukla, Nepal, Tara Air

Happy flyer

Landing in San Juan, Puerto Rico – A Great View!

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

I moved to the Isla del Encanto, Puerto Rico, when I was two years old and lived there until I finished high school.  During my many trips back to the island, I have always enjoyed the landing as I get a great view no matter on which side of the airplane I sit on (though the ocean side is more colorful as you can see!).  I thought it may be cool to share the view from my window seat as the plan crosses over land near Cataño, just west of Old San Juan.  Enjoy the pictures of this, one of the prettiest landings ever!

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Approaching Cataño (Old San Juan on the background)

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Flying over Cataño, heading to the San Juan Bay (top right)

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Flyover near the Bacardi Distillery, getting a lil closer to the San Juan Bay! Isla de Cabras towards the top left.

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Looking down on El Morro and its beautiful grounds, where I used to fly a kite as a kid!

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Old San Juan, on the left, with the Isla Grande airport to the right (built by the U.S. Navy prior to WW II)

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The port of San Juan and the Puerto Rican Capitol almost on the center

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The old and charming neighborhood of Miaramar in the front, with the Condado hotels on the background

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Crossing from Miramar on the left to Santurce

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, Condado, Miramar, Santurce, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Condado hotels in the background and my school by the blue little spot in the middle!

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Moving from Santurce on the left to Barrio Obrero on the right

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Final final approach, parallel to the Baldorioty de Castro highway

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Cemetery

Puerto Rico, airplane, window seat, Isla Verde, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Laguna San José and some of the awesome Isla Verde high rises by the beach

Puerto Rico, airplane, Isla Verde, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The cemetery where my grandparents and great grandmother are buried…

Puerto Rico, airplane, Isla Verde, window seat, San Juan, landing, ocean, blue sea ,El Morro, Old San Juan, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

And the final photo with the entrance of the airport and Isla Verde high rises and hotels in the background

Images from Marrakesh, Morocco – Or Why I Would Return

doorway, Arabic, Moorish, design, architecture, architectural detail, design element, Morocco, Marrakesh

On my recent trip to Morocco, I spent two overnights in Marrakesh on either end of my visit to the country.  It certainly was not the right amount of time to spend there, especially given that I loved its architecture and would have enjoyed seeing more of it.  However, it was a good amount of time to sample the city.  So, I thought I’d share some of the images that stuck with me so you can get a sense for the town.  Of course, I witnessed beautiful sunsets in Marrakesh but I will share those separately from these!

Airport

The airport in Marrakesh has a good number of international flights.  It must be very new and it is very modern indeed.  I loved getting off the plane after an overnight flight from the U.S. to Amsterdam and a 3-hour layover before heading to Marrakesh.

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The airport terminal as I deplane

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The departures area on the day I left Marrakesh – pleasing to the eye.

Our riad

A typical place to stay while visiting Morocco is the “riad.”  A riad is a home with a small inner courtyard or garden that offers quite a few benefits for its residents such as privacy and an outdoor space with little to no direct sunlight which helps deal with the high heat of this type of locations.  Riads remind me of the centuries-old houses in places like Old San Juan, which also had inner courtyards.

Marrakesh, Morocco, riad, hotel, courtyard, photo, travel, Olympus

View down towards the ground level at Mon Riad

Well, riads nowawadays offer a great design for small places of lodging and so it was with the one where we stayed in Marrakesh:  Mon Riad.

Marrakesh, Morocco, riad, hotel, courtyard, photo, travel, Olympus

Mon Riad

With a small courtyard with a small pool in which one could dip one’s feet, it certainly was a nice place to get to after a long trans-Atlantic trip!  I immediately dropped my bags, started meeting my future fellow trekkers (more on my trek along the Camino de Santiago soon!), enjoy a welcoming cup of hot tea (yes, that is actually the best thing in hot weather!), and taking my shoes off so I could refresh my tired legs in the small pool!  The staff and accommodations (great A/C in the rooms!) were phenomenal.

Marrakesh, Morocco, riad, hotel, courtyard, photo, travel

My welcome hot tea – nice touch!

I enjoyed the rooftop terrace where we had dinner one night and where I got to watch some very nice sunsets and sunrise!

Marrakesh, Morocco, Mon Riad, view, medina

View from Mon Riad’s terrace

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Perfectly set up for dinner up in the Mon Riad’s rooftop terrace!

Marrakesh, Morocco, Mon Riad, alley, medina

The alley where Mon Riad is located – quiet and clean!

Red everywhere

Most structures in central Marrakesh are red or pinkish-red.  The same red is visible in the pottery typical of the area.  It is a neat color especially in contrast to the beautiful blue skies, the sparse but present green of the palm trees, and the color of the desert that kisses the city.

Marrakesh, Morocco, medina, photo, travel, Olympus

Driving in towards the medina from the airport

Marrakesh, Morocco, minaret, Koutoubia mosque, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Minaret of the Koutoubia mosque

Marrakesh, Morocco, Palace Gate, medina, architecture, travel, photo, Bab Agnaou, Olympus

Right before entering the medina, we passed this beautiful gate: the Palace Gate (or Bab Agnaou).

Marrakesh, Morocco, medina, photo, travel, Olympus, red walls

Going around the medina, looking for the entrance!

Marrakesh, Morocco, medina, photo, travel, Olympus, red walls

The outer walls of Marrakesh’s medina.  Red on the walls, red on the stop sign, and red on the curb!

Marrakesh, clay pot, pottery, handicrafts, souvenir, market, Morocco, Olympus, travel

Presumably the same clay that is used for walls is used for these clay pots – more red!

Decorations and architectural details

The best images I take away from Marrakesh (sunsets aside) are these.  I have always found Arabic architecture (if that is the right term) beautiful since the first time I saw Moorish Spain’s legacy to the current architecture of places like Granada and Cordoba.  In Marrakesh, everywhere I turned there was an interesting architectural or decorative element.

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Though worn by time and feet, this tilework is still beautiful.

Marrakesh, Morocco, design, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Great patterns

doorway, Arabic, Moorish, design, architecture, architectural detail, design element, Morocco, Marrakesh

Incredible detail above a doorway – exquisite

mosaic, engraved doors, Arab design, Marrakesh, medina, Morocco, Olympus, photo, travel

Entrance to a building in the medina. Great mosaic and metal work

As I said earlier, I wish I had had more time to explore this exotic town but hope these images begin to convey the beauty to be found in the town.

Photo of the Week: Viewing Venice from my Window Seat

Venice, Venezia, Italy, Italia, landing, airport, travel, photo

Venice, Italy is such a unique place.  It is almost out of Disney’s mind.  But it is not.  It is truly unique and a sight worth seeing once in your life.  I have been fortunate not only to have seen it, but to have been there twice.  It can be a maddening place with the crowd of peers (read:  fellow visitors) but it is also a great place to get lost to get far away from the tourists.

In my second visit there, I actually flew from the U.S. direct to Venice.  And that gave me this incredible bird’s eye view of my destination from my window seat.  Forget jet lag, this sight can restore anyone’s energy!Venice, Venezia, Italy, Italia, landing, airport, travel, photo

Photo of the Week – A Storm over Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC, Potomac River, Reagan airport, National airport, storm, rain, weather, photo, grey

No, I am not referring to the government shutdown or any of the infinite number of incidences of stupidity that emanate from the politicians who make a career in DC at our expense and to our detriment (soap BOX!!!)…  This is a literal storm caught from my hotel in Arlington, Virginia looking towards Reagan-National airport and the Potomac River right behind it.  If it were not raining, you would see in the distance the silhouettes of the famous buildings around The Mall.  But that is not to be in this moment.

I love the clear outline of the core of the storm as it seems to hang over the Potomac.  Quite a sight!

Washington, DC, Potomac River, Reagan airport, National airport, storm, rain, weather, photo, grey

Boarding Pass Stories: No Such Thing as a Free First Class

boarding pass, sao paulo, buenoso aires, travel, miami, airport, United Airline, mishap, first class

A funny thing happened on the way to Buenos Aires (BB.AA.) once…  I was going for a short work week down in BB.AA..  At the time, my hometown airline, Delta, did not fly there so I had to connect in Miami to a United Airlines flight.  The company was flying me on business class which was awesome for such a long flight.

boarding pass, sao paulo, buenoso aires, travel, miami, airport, United Airline, mishap, first class

I get to MIA and I find out I have been bumped off the flight.  Me, someone who paid full fare for business class, gets bumped.  Typical.  Turns out, United had canceled the flight from the night before so the people from that flight were being placed on my flight bumping people off.  In the chaos that is the Miami airport and with a bunch of Latin folks upset, it was hard to sort through this mess United had created.

Well, United’s great idea was to place me in a flight to Sao Paulo and then on another flight to BB.AA. from there.  Since I had to get to BB.AA. the next day, I took the offer.  And what sealed the deal was when they told me they would make it up to me by putting me on first class.  Yes, this was back in the day when there was still a real international first class.  And let me tell you – it was SWEEEEETTTTTTTTTTTTTT!   The flight attendants were all over the service, constantly refilling champagne glasses, and taking care of every detail of the meal and the comfort of the passengers.

All said and done, the swap was not a bad thing!  Of course, once I landed in BB.AA., since that flight did not originate in the U.S., the cabin was sprayed/fumigated right after we landed as was the custom in those days – and I am allergic to those sprays so I ended up two days in bed in BB.AA. missing my important first day of meetings at work.  There is no such thing as a free first class…

Boarding Pass Stories: Dar es Salaam

Boarding pass, Emirates Airlines, Dubai, Dar es Salaam

This installment of the Boarding Pass Stories goes to Dar es Salaam – via London and Dubai! Boarding pass, Dar es Salaam, Emirates, airline, travel, flight, Dubai

The destination, the when(s), and the reason(s)

While working for an international non-profit, I traveled to visit field projects and to do an internal audit.  It was a toss-up between Bangladesh and Tanzania and the latter was just a bit more interesting to me so that’s the one I went for.  The trip was in 2007 and to get the cheapest price possible, I did a 2-stop itinerary via London and Dubai. I could have done a one-hop via Amsterdam or London but I was being thrifty with our limited funds. A 6-hour layover in London and a 9-hour one in Dubai were enough the wear me down. But it was neat to fly Emirates Airlines and to see the incredible Dubai airport (Atlanta to London was on my local airline, Delta).

The airline

Emirates was phenomenal. Though I flew coach, I felt I was being treated like a business class customer. The plane was the first I had ever flown with nose and underbelly cameras. I loved the camera viewing especially at takeoff and landing.

What fascinated me about this experience

Well, it was my first trip south of Egypt in the African continent so that, by itself, was fascinating.  Dar was interesting.  A mainly expat district helps expats stay as if in their country.  But I greatly enjoyed my time at work, where I got to collaborate and eat lunch with Tanzanians who worked for the same organization.  Their friendliness and soft-spokenness warmed me up immediately to them and, to them, I say asante sana!

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa, travel

Driving along a main road in Dar es Salaam

A Traveler’s Tale: Leaving Home Not as Easy

I have traveled lots for business and pleasure over the last two decades.  At times, I traveled every single week for 4-5 day weeks on and off some of those years.  One time, I did that for 3 years straight!  Yes, it was crazy but I was young, ready to see the world, meet people, and get good work opportunities as a consultant in a large firm.

Mercifully, that has changed in the later years.  I have gone years without the weekly travel but occasional trips.  Now I am doing 3-4 day per week travel every other week.  Really easy.  I get to be home a lot and get to be in a city I really enjoy (Washington, D.C.) and that is much easier to get to than the 26 round trips I did in 2010 to go to Chile for work…

Last night before we had left the ground for my 8:30 PM flight to Reagan National, I sat in my first class seat (complimentary upgrade!! thanks, Delta!) looking outside as the plane began to pull away from the gate.  We were on the first gate in the middle of the T Concourse of Hartsfield airport so there was no gate next to us on my side of the plane, just empty space.  The lights were on around the tarmac; those yellow-like floodlights that are almost mood-altering.

The plane pulled back but stopped for a few short minutes.  And though an occasional luggage cart or ground crew member passed by, the place felt empty – an unfamiliar thing for me in this, one of the world’s largest and busiest airports.  Even the luggage cart or the ground crew member looked lonely.

As I looked out the window with the inside lights turned off as is customary for takeoff, I was disconnected from the passengers on the plane, like in my own private world.  And then I felt melancholy.  I felt I was alone looking at the world outside the window and that world looked calm.  Looked like everyone had gone home.  And here I was leaving home…  I wished I hadn’t been…  Those darn mood-altering floodlights…

Photos of the Week – Action in Munich’s Airport

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In my recent trip from Rome to Dubrovnik, I had to connect through the excellent Munich airport.  I had chosen a 3+ hr layover so I wouldn’t be worried about a tight connection.  It was the right airport choice for a 3 hr layover!

Munich, as other airports in Europe, has a lot more going on than the average U.S. airport.  Munich is one of the airports in Europe with the best setup for connecting through it.  They say you can easily make very short connections.  Though coming from Italy and going to Croatia, I had to go through immigration which had a line so I am not sure I would risk a 45 min. connection!

Soon after arriving I spotted a massage place offering from manicures to full-body massages.  I decided I would take a back and neck massage for 30 mins to help me relax from an early start to my day (woke up around 530 AM!) and also since I was still sick with a cold.  I figured anything that helped my body was a good thing – and it was.

After the massage, I sat down for lunch at a place offering typical German fare.  I enjoyed wursts, sauerkraut, a pretzel with mustard, and, of course, a beer!  Mmm!

Num-num

Goodness…

Then, with still some time to kill, and with no real sense of purpose, I snapped a few odd shots with my mobile phone camera (which I admit is not the best).  But I sort of like the shots as they do give a sense of the airport movement or activity .  Looking at these, I wish I HAD taken them with the real camera!  I love the reflections on the shiny floor!

  

Guest Blogger: Travel Etiquette Faux-Pas that Make for a Bitchy Traveler

Ilivetotravel Note:  I saw this post on a friend’s Facebook page and thought it was a perfect reflection on what we, the very-frequent flyers, put up with in the less glamourous type of travel called “business travel”.  Enjoy and thanks to Ashley (@mybookfetish) for a great post!

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That’s me. I’m a bitchy traveler. I admit it. I’m bitchy because I’ve traveled enough over the years that I have learned what I call airport and airplane etiquette and it irks me when people who should know and practice it, don’t.

I’m not talking about the frazzled parents trying to get through security with children and all their paraphernalia. Although, I will offer a word of advice. If you have children, especially small ones, and can avoid it, don’t fly on Monday mornings or Thursday and Friday late afternoons/early evenings. Those flights are lots of single-minded business people, some of whom are really grumpy because the last place they want to be is on a plane. Again. If you can fly on a Tuesday at ten, you’ll find, I believe, a much friendlier group of travel companions.

I’m also not talking about people like my mother who fly maybe once every ten years. But I do coach her when she flies on what to do and what to avoid.

I’m really talking about people who should know better. Below, I present eight travel etiquette rules that have served me well over the last several years.

1. It’s not all about you. Or me. As much as I would like it to be, the airport and that plane are not all about me. Or you. We’re going to be cramped together for some portion of time and the least we can do is be polite and civil. We’re all hot/cold/tired/hungry/anxious to be at our destination.

2. Be kind to the people behind you in the security line. Don’t be like the fellow business traveler I was behind yesterday. The one who held up the conveyor belt of scanned carry on items so that he could reassemble his laptop bag and put back on his shoes and belt before removing a single item from the belt. He could have easily swooped up his belongings and moved to one of the empty benches to regroup. Instead, he let something like six bins and three people pile up behind him and try to maneuver their own gear out of the way.

3. If you approach gate agents, baggage claim workers, and ticket agents with a smile and good manners, you’re much more likely to get what you want if it is in their power to give it to you. Granted, that is not true of all these people. Some have had a really long day. Some just don’t care. But most I have encountered just want to serve their customers and make them happy. Much like we heard when we were children, “please” and “thank you” go a long way.

4.Remember, unless you’re the last to board the plane, someone is boarding behind you.  Don’t stand in the aisle and rustle through your luggage, causing a traffic jam in the aisle behind you. And while we’re on the subject of luggage… unless you’re so tall that you need copious amounts of the leg room under the seat in front of you, use that space for your smaller carry on item.  Especially  if you’re going to be digging into them in the flight, and especially if you have more than one carry on. Give that person who has to board late in the process a chance to store their bag, too. And note to the guy in 15E – you stow your bag under the seat in front of you, not under the seat you are occupying.

5. Don’t be an armrest hog. Yes, it’s more comfortable to have both of them. But make sure your seat mate can use one if needed. I have a tendency to be guilty of this one, which I hate. I make a conscientious effort to remind myself to share. And 15 E? I’m talking to you, again.

6. Stand up and recline carefully. If you absolutely must grab onto the seat in front of you to hoist yourself to your feet for any reason, please, please be aware that the person in said seat can feel you do this. It’s annoying. Also, be careful that you don’t pull the hair of the person in the seat. Please. If you must recline (and who doesn’t like to, at least a little?) please do it carefully. There’s no need to slam back at full force. In fact, do you really need to recline the whole way? Really? Because it can seriously encroach on the comfort of the person behind you, setting off a chain reaction of fully reclined seats where no one is really comfortable. I’m all for reclining a bit, but do it slowly. You don’t know what the person behind you has on their tray table.

7. Be nice to the flight crew. Like the gate agents, a “please” and “thank you” can go a long way with the flight crew. So can giving them the magazine(s) you finished on the flight. Back and forth on planes all day, they must get a little bored. Unless they were on that Jet Blue flight the other day.

8. Good manners apply to deplaning, as well. We all want off the plane. Don’t be an ass while disembarking. It’s that simple.

I’m sure there are tons of etiquette tips I’m forgetting here, so please feel free to add your own, or share your own rude traveler story in the comments.

=== About Our Guest Blogger:  Ashley ===

The Bitchy Traveler is better known as The Book Fetish, a voracious reader and book blogger. When she’s not masquerading as a software implementation manager, she occasionally blogs about something other than what she’s reading.  You can learn more at http://thebookfetishblog.com/, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thebookfetishblog, or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/mybookfetish

Dar es Salaam

Protea Oyster Bay hotel in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Arriving in Dar es Salaam

Before I could get out of the airport in Dar, I had to, of course, clear the typical points of immigration, baggage claim, and customs.  I had pre-obtained my visa so, at least, I saved the messy line to get the visa at arrivals (where it was also very hot!).  The desk sat in the baggage claim area which was chaotic and very hot as well.  So, once I had my bag, I was ready to go.

A driver was ready waiting to take me to my hotel so that part was smooth.  The airport was on the small side but the arrivals area was in the shade and convenient to parking.

Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

As we drove into the city from the airport, the areas we drove through looked industrial.  Eventually, we passed some residential areas that looked poor but didn’t seem to be shantytowns.

My Lodging

My hotel was outside of the city center.  There did not seem to be much around it except a church.  It seemed rather puzzling.  The hotel grounds were surrounded by a high wall and had a gate and guardhouse at the entrance.  It was kind of like a Residence Inn (it was part of the South African Protea chain).

Protea Oyster Bay hotel in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Protea Oyster Bay hotel in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

As I learned later, the hotel which was near Oyster Bay, was at the edge of a neighborhood of large houses where ex-pats and government officials live but, again, there was no commercial establishment in the vicinity.  I also eventually learned we were not far from the new U.S Embassy built after the former embassy was destroyed by terrorist bombs in the 1990s (as was the Nairobi one).  This embassy was of significant size and very well secured.  A little further from the Embassy lay a restaurant and shopping area clearly targeted at ex-pats and people of money.  It was no different in a way to places we see in the U.S. and that surprised me.

The best though was a local shopping strip between my hotel and the embassy which, though probably also geared to ex-pats, also seemed to have a local bent.  There was a great little bakery, a supermarket, and a homestyle eatery that was actually pretty good (though on my first visit there I was a little hesitant…).

I did eat my breakfasts and many dinners in the hotel’s restaurant.  The food was very good.  But the same playlist kept playing over and over with maybe 5-7 songs in it…

Returning to Dar from Zanzibar yields a mild scare…

My funnest experience was the day I arrived by ferry from Zanzibar and I accidentally skipped the path to customs (it’s all the same country but they make you go through customs on the way back from Zanzibar) and I missed my driver picking me up…  I waited for like 45 mins as it was getting dark and the crowd from the ferry left.  I was left alone with some local young guys and a taxi or two.  I didn’t have enough currency for a taxi ride to my hotel but I figured the hotel would have to help me out on the fare… when all of a sudden, my driver comes out from the customs area!  He had been waiting for me down there and had been calling folks from the local office to figure out what had happened to me.  A little bit of a moment for all of us (especially when the taxi driver I was about to use wanted one of his “friends” to ride with us – which I refused to very forcefully).

Driving around Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Anyone have any other insights for tourists or others who may be moving there?  What are some recommendations on places to live, dine, etc.?

On the Way to Tanzania, via Dubai

My first international travel with the non-profit organization I work for was Tanzania.  Originally intended as a one week review of operational controls, a second week was added to the trip to get me exposure to the field work we do in the developing world.  I jumped at the opportunity to see firsthand what my new organization did and looked forward to my first opportunity to see sub-Saharan Africa.

Again, getting there is half the fun

Being mindful of cost, I found what was an incredibly cheap fare from Atlanta to Dar es Salaam for less than $1500.  I did have to connect in Gatwick (connection hell, second perhaps to CDG) and then in Dubai.  Connecting in Gatwick became more hell than I expected when I was informed I could only continue with one carry-on after standing in a security line for connections that would make a tortoise race look speedy.  I had with me my laptop bag and a small backpack with camera and personal items.  Shocked at this absurd rule from a major international gateway (which I have proactively sought avoiding ever since and recommend likewise), I had to reconfigure things such that I could send via checked luggage my now fairly empty laptop bag.  Surely, as a passenger I could be notified of these sclerotic rules AHEAD of getting to the annoying airport?

In London I switched to Emirates Airlines and things picked up quickly.  What a fantastic airline.  Though traveling coach/tourist class, you are treated as if you had paid business class.  Some frills (like footrests) but, more than anything, it was the flight attendants’ attitude towards their customers.  I think U.S. based airlines have forgotten who it is they are seeking to serve.  You don’t have to spend money, just please treat me nice and pretend you are happy I am there.

The special surprise for me on this Dubai-bound flight (besides the footrest) were the cameras in the underbelly and nose of the aircraft.  You could watch from your seat monitor as you flew over things or the space straight ahead!   A little freaky at first, it quickly became fascinating.  Tops was watching the approach and landing in Dubai from the camera feeds.

Laying it over in Dubai

In Dubai, I had a very long 9 hrs. layover.  I had tried to book a room in the hotel in the secured zone of the airport but it had been full weeks in advance and I didn’t feel like leaving the airport.  Through research, I did find out that for like $12, you could take a shower in the gym facilities at the airport.  These shower facilities were very nice and spacious (you got a private room) and that shower was heavenly.  It helped me re-charge a little bit but 9 hrs. was too much time.  Since I was traveling alone, it was hard for me to lower my guard enough to nap in any of the sitting areas or areas with the seats made for napping (nice airport!).  So I was extremely fatigued and lucky to not have fallen asleep unexpectedly and deeply before my flight to Dar!    I slept like a baby on the flight to Dar and I do not fall asleep easily on airplanes…

img_1478The Dubai airport is very glitzy in a commercial/Las Vegas-ish kind of way.  But it felt nice and clean.  It was interesting to see the flights to all these, to me, very exotic destinations that one rarely hears off in the U.S.:  Khartoum, D’jamena, Tehran, Riyadh, etc.  Very cool.  Then you see the passengers from all over the world who cross paths at the airport with different languages, clothing, and customs…  People ARE people.   Seeing people sleeping UNDER the seats in the hallways of the concourse sure made it feel like the Dubai airport was the air-equivalent of a train station of the world, if such a thing existed.

The Dubai airport is also known for its shopping arcade.  I did compare prices on some things and they did not seem really cheaper than back home (for example, electronics).  That may have changed since I went a couple of years ago but it is best to do research before heading there to make sure you know if you are getting a deal…  It may be that the real deals are in things like jewelry but that was not an area I researched nor was looking to shop in.  Does anyone have any insights into what are the best deals to be had in that airport?  Any other suggestions for things to do in that airport or the ease of getting in and out of the airport for a hotel stay in between flights?

In future entries, I will share more about Dar, Mwanza, the Serengeti, and Zanzibar.  Stay tuned!

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