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Old March 26th, 2017, 06:24 AM   #1
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hkskyline's 2017 Flying & Plane Spotting Showcase

Hong Kong - Jakarta

My first trip in 2017 would be to Jakarta, a warm choice in the midst of their wet season. Cathay has 4 flights a day, 2 of which depart during inhospitable times. Fearing nasty traffic that this city is so famous for, the 4pm flight would be late in case I'm on the road for 3 hours into the city. Unfortunately, that means only the 9:20 am flight is left, and an early Sunday wake-up call.

There was a good variety of Cathay liveries on this sunny spotting morning, from the old one that is gradually going away to the specially-coloured jet and the A350.

Today, I would be riding the old livery 777 with a full Economy class. An insider had told me there was a possibility to upgrade, but Premium Economy didn't have window seats left this morning.

We departed on-time for the 4+ hour flight. I managed to stay awake to photograph the take-off, but by now, the skies have gotten grey.

That sad Orient Thai 747 remains trapped in Hong Kong for almost a year now.

I chose the Western breakfast, which was normal with the predictable egg, sausage, and beans. The yoghurt was really tasty.

Several hours into the flight, I eagerly awaited the Equatorial crossing. Outside, it was still cloudy but the ocean is just beneath us.

The cabin was fairly quiet and there wasn't much going on as we began our uneventful descent. There was a bit of light rain in the area and it was only just past lunch time thanks to an hour time difference in my favour.

As we broke through the clouds, a lush green landscape emerged then a busy harbour with plenty of ships.

Jakarta is a big city, but it is not a very dense city. There are many skyscrapers but they are quite scattered around and don't form a linear skyline like the clusters in Makati or KL.

The old terminal is nothing to write about. There was a long immigration line but it moved steadily and the wait wasn't too bad. Luggage took slightly longer to come out and the full cabin packed around the small collection area. Lucky my bag still had the priority tag from my prior Business Class flight.

My appetite returned after a rather care-free drive from the airport. The notorious traffic was on a break today, and the taxi arrived at my SCBD hotel within 40 minutes. First up is a late lunch of delicious satay and laksa!

Next stop - MONAS. Had the weather been better, I would have paid to go up for the view. As the rainy season persisted, I opted instead to browse around the food section of a flea market in the park.

20,000 rupiah is only about USD $1.50.

My 2 biggest concerns about Jakarta are traffic and terrorism. I can't stop terrorism but I can avoid traffic by taking the Transjarkata public transport system. The buses on this street run on their dedicated lanes. Stations show exactly where your next buses are and are shielded from the elements.

By late afternoon, I wanted to try my luck for the sunset. Today would not be my day I suppose.

Full flight report : http://www.globalphotos.org/hkg-cgk.htm
My Jakarta photo gallery : http://www.globalphotos.org/jakarta.htm

Watch this space for the return journey next!
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Old July 25th, 2017, 06:55 PM   #2
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Hong Kong - Dubai - Casablanca

It's a long way to Morocco from Hong Kong. Against the wind, start with an 8-hour flight to Dubai, then a short transit, followed by another 8-hour flight to Casablanca. The overnight departure on the A380 helped reduce the total travel time a bit, with a light meal first service as most people were ready to doze off. Compared to my last long-haul flights on Emirates to Russia a few years back (the NZ-Australia hop I did last year was short-haul), service seems to have gone downhill. Gone were eye-shades - those are for ultra-long hauls, and not tonight's red-eye. How much can you save from unloading a few eye-shades anyway?

I absolutely hate transiting in Dubai. Go downstairs, grab a train, and head back upstairs into the crowds. 2 hours isn't really enough to go from gate to gate.

We all know which airline dominates this airport.

There aren't enough seats in this terminal, but behind this gate and downstairs, there is a bigger holding pen, albeit you lose access to the shops and restaurants. Being stuck in that pen is a bit boring, so I waited a bit while "Final Call" kept going up here. The sign is actually a bit misleading.

The Casablanca route was upgraded to the A380 just very recently, which is quite a sight with 2 levels of boarding.

I settled into my window seat. The Economy cabin was, as expected, not full. The A380 has good legroom and a large TV screen.

The flight map and cameras were impressive. You get a choice of 3 cameras installed at various parts of the plane.

Emirates has placed quite an extensive array of IFE choices to keep passengers entertained on long flights.

I sat on the left side for my flight to St. Petersburg a few years back, capturing Burj Khalifa as we took off. This time, I got a right side seat to see Sharjah. The weather seemed quite decent for a few aerial shots this morning.

Breakfast is served! Counting the light snacks, I would be fed 4 times for my 2 flights into Casablanca. It is indeed a long journey. This sandwich tastes better than it looks actually.

Tired from the previous red-eye, I took a doze over Saudi Arabia and woke up as we entered Egypt.

I couldn't see Cairo, but the Mediterranean coast was easy to spot.

The mountains in the distance belong to Crete.

As I examined the flight map, I was quite happy the IFE included PIP so I won't miss my selected entertainment along the way.

I haven't gone crazy from the long journey yet. With 3 more hours to go, the extensive IFE and aerial views kept me fairly entertained. The time passed by magically. Soon, it was time for lunch.

We flew high above Malta and I scrambled to get a few decent shots of the islands. The A380's curvature makes taking photos quite difficult, but at least the windows were clean.

After Malta, it didn't take long before we reached the African coast again. Welcome to Tunisia. Due to its perceived insecurity from past incidents, tours to this country have dropped to rock bottom prices.

As we crossed into Algeria, I kept a lookout for Algiers, which should be as sunny as pretty much all the areas we passed through so far.

Good morning, Algiers!

The muddy Sebkha d'Oran is near the Algerian border with Morocco.

Tired from all the photo-taking, I went for a bathroom break and scanned around the cabin.

I like the wood panels and automatic water dispenser.

Emirates' IFE is definitely an industry winner. With so many destinations, they have stocked up quite a diverse selection of programming to keep these long flights bearable. I typically don't scan these entertainment guides but this time, it was worth a look at the diversity.

You can bring 1000 cigarettes into Guinea duty-free. Compare that to the 19 you can bring into Hong Kong - less than 1 pack.

A few months earlier, I redeemed my orphaned Skywards miles for a duty-free item. Their catalogue is quite extensive.

The headsets have improved and look a bit like noise-canceling.

By now, we are over Morocco and arrival is in sight!!!

By now, after so many hours in the air, I have lost track of time. It is the next morning, but still several hours behind as we flew west, chasing the sun.

While the Sahara stretches into the country, Morocco actually looked fairly lush and green from the air.

Our gigantic plane landed safely on a sunny day. The cockpit crew announced we were going to be towed to the parking spot and told everyone to stay seated even when the plane stops. Apparently, we are too large to have a gate so the final journey into the terminal would be by bus.

So how long does it take to empty an A380 onto buses? Surprisingly, it didn't take too long, but it was quite annoying to be held up like this after such a long journey. While we trickled downstairs, the Qatar flight arrived and snuggled into their gate quite quickly.

More photos on my website : http://www.globalphotos.org/ek-cmn.htm
Hong Kong Photo Gallery - Click Here for the Hong Kong Galleries

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Old December 20th, 2017, 10:04 PM   #3
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Hong Kong - Wuyishan

Wuyishan was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999 for both its subtropical forest and cultural heritage. Once in a more remote part of Fujian province, it is now easily accessible thanks to a high-speed rail connection. However, the 7 hour ride from Shenzhen was not appetizing, so I chose to fly instead.

Xiamen Airlines operates a twice weekly service between Wuyishan and Hong Kong. The 1.5 hour flight makes visiting much easier and this ease of access is the selling point for packaged tours.

The airline only operates a small number of check-in counters. Our group snaked out from there and slowly made our way towards being processed. No biggie. The tour agencies always ask the clients to arrive at the airport way too early.

Entry into the secured area has also changed. There are now separate lines for Hong Kongers and foreigners although staff did not enforce this at all today.

Air-side, spotting was quite decent with a good variety of birds.

The gate display signs are also changing with vertical screens instead of the horizontal ones. The nearer gates have been refurbished and these new features are slowly making their way down the terminal.

My flight would depart from the north concourse - the 5xx gates. Buses from the main terminal depart from under the departures level. I have complained of these for many years with long waits, packed buses, and an uncomfortable stop-and-go ride across the busy tarmac. Luckily, the airport authorities finally got their sense back and will build a bridge soon.

The concourse is full of narrowbodies but the windows are not always accessible to departing passengers. As I tried to do some spotting, I noticed my inbound Xiamen Airlines flight arriving on-time.

It is a cozy concourse with not so many gates and less crowds. There were plenty of empty seats at neighbouring gates for me to relax and watch the beautiful sunset.

Flight attendants greeted us in their smart new bright blue uniforms which looked like Korean Air. The cabin was clean and the seats were surprisingly spacious. I guess I have endured too many cramped flights on Hong Kong Express and have forgotten what a real seat is like. The flight was not full with the front rows being fairly empty. Unfortunately my window seat ended up being in a row with no window, much to my annoyance as I had asked for a window seat at check-in.

We departed on-time for the short 1.5 hour flight to Wuyishan. The flight map played on the overhead TV screens.

For such a short flight, a hot meal was served, which was quite decent. You won't get that on Cathay Pacific's Taipei and Manila routes, which are of similar length. Staff served with a smile and so far, I was quite impressed at the offering for such a short flight.

Meanwhile, I turned my eyes to the duty free catalogue, which also had an allowance chart in the end to give the customer good advice on how much to splurge.

MF also flies larger planes although not on its Hong Kong routes. They are a Deamliner operator.

We landed slightly behind schedule in the evening. The airport's international section was quiet and immigration was speedy. With only 1 luggage belt in the arrivals area, it didn't take long for me to retrieve my bag and head out to the tour bus. I like these smaller airports - everything is speedy and more efficient.

What a surprise! Xiamen Airlines offers a great hard and soft product and the airport-to-airport experience was quite good, especially since Wuyishan is not a large airport and has little traffic.

More photos : http://www.globalphotos.org/mf8008.htm
Hong Kong Photo Gallery - Click Here for the Hong Kong Galleries

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