Friday, May 11, 2012

Asian Tour Day 1: Jetstarred

SIN – HAN

Alarm was set to 6 am so that everyone have ample time to prepare for the morning flight. Took us awhile to fall asleep thanks to the excitement and stress. Yes stress as well, traveling is not all fun and no stress. So much expectation and uncertainty, so many things that could go wrong at the worst time. This is one of the time. Woke up by a phone call 5:30 in the morning, greeted with “Good morning, Mr Ow, I’m calling from Jetstar” and that’s when everything that could go wrong went wrong.

No it’s not a friendly wake up call to remind us about our early flight (that was my first impression before the lady on the other side continued speaking), “I’m sorry to inform you that your flight to Hanoi has been cancelled, and there is nothing we could do about it”. I couldn’t really recall much but the rest sounded somewhat like these : “You could either take our Sunday flight or forget about it, there is nothing we can actually do because we suck”. This is when we (the rest of us on the trip) decided to coin the term “Jetstarred”.

No explanation given, no remedial actions and the best they could do is to give us a full refund without further compensation. Tried calling their call centre again only to be directed to some mule working in the call centre in Philippines who knows nothing about the cancellation. Best part was when we asked to talk to someone who actually knows what’s happening, they gave us the same number that we dialed that eventually landed us in Philippines.

No wonder they need to do a weekly Jetstar offer to attract people to fly with them. This is definitely the last time I’ll fly with Jetstar. The whole idea of booking a budget flight is to save money, and they cancelled on us last minute and expect us to arrange our own flight? How the hell is that “budget”? Every Tom, Dick and Harry knows booking a last minute flight is going to cost a fortune.

Word of advice, if you do not want your holiday to be ruined, DO NOT FLY WITH JETSTAR or risk being JETSTARRED.

And worst of all, this is not the only time they cancelled on us, we booked the flight a couple of months ago, for the 10th May, but a week later they informed us that they could only fly on the 11th. At least that was reasonable, giving us enough time to decide. I should have detected something fishy was going to happen and asked for a full refund then, at least I could book another flight with other budget airlines to make sure the fare is actually budget.

The least they could actually do is to arrange with other airlines to get us seats but no they decided to do nothing. Luckily for us, there is still seats on Tiger Airways, and of course we have to pay more. If anyone from Jetstar is reading this, the fair compensation would be give us a full refund plus the fare that we actually had to pay to get to Hanoi.

Day 1 in Hanoi was still pleasant although we didn’t get to do much. Checked in to our hostel, had dinner, walked around the backpackers area and called it a day.

Not forgetting the favourite Hanoian ice cream parlour.

And also my first experience getting picked pocket. Not my belonging actually, and only a dummy purse in the bag that was lost fortunately. I saw it coming when the guy actually bumped into the bag but our Hanoian guide said there was nothing valuable in it. So be it. So beware of postcards/maps seller around the Hoa Kiem Lake, like all Vietnamese peddlers they can be very persistent and annoying from our first Vietnam trip a couple of years ago.

And remember DO NOT FLY WITH JETSTAR.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Been a very fun and meaningful year. I’m sure this one will be even more. Graduating this year, starting my first real job. Another new phase of my life is about to begin. But for now, I shall enjoy my final semester in university.

New Year Resolution: Go Diving, Go Travelling!

Now this epic road trip



is not as epic as this

Europe Trip Part 1 from Ethan Ow on Vimeo.



Can't believe it was almost a year ago when I left for UK.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

27th July 2011: City of Dreams

Dubai is a place where dreams come true. You want something that they don’t have (yet), they’ll make it happen. Everything(almost) in Dubai is artificial. They have the best of everything, the biggest, the tallest, the longest, the insert-whatever-here-est.

We always believed temperature dips in the desert. Wrong! When we landed, the pilot announced “Welcome to Dubai, the temperature outside is 37 degrees Celcius”.Immediately as we stepped out of the airport, the heat got to us.

Checked in to Emirates Concorde, our room is awesome. The first time we paid for our own 4-star hotel. It was a great steal from booking.com. It costs us like 40 euros per night. That’s like staying in a dorm in Munchen. Made good use of whatever time we have here to go around the city before the desert safari. If anyone is to do a stopover here, go for the desert safari. I promise it’s the best 30 euros (yes more expensive than our hotel) you’ll ever spend.

They picked us up at our hotel, brought us to a desert where it all began. First of, dune bashing – basically means driving recklessly around the desert. Up on insane angle and skid down from the top of the dune. It was like an hour and half of roller coaster ride. Stopped at the camp where we could do all sorts of stuff. From camel riding to sheesha and heena. We watched all sorts of dances, had a great Arabian food buffet and called it a day.

The vastness of the desert was really astonishing. Not like I meant Dubai wasn’t, it is in fact quite similar to Singapore. Sky scrappers, developed lands, good metros and air conditioned everywhere. Dubai was awesome, but the desert was of a different scale. Watching the sunset, looking into infinity and beyond. It was one hell of a day.

 

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

26th July 2011: Goodbye Europe

Writing this onboard of Emirates EK098. Although with all these travelling, this is my first time flying on a full carrier. It’s been budget flight since as long as I can remember. 4 more hours to go but I’m going to enjoy every bit of it.

The feeling is just weird. Part of me doesn’t want to leave but I kinda miss home after all. I’m kinda tired of waking up in a different city (although there is still 1 more to go). I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of not knowing, somewhere new, somewhere I don’t know how things work, I still do but now I miss the familiarity, the norm, the predictability.

For 6 months I’ve been to more countries that my fingers could count, more cities than I’ve ever been to for the last 20 years, couchsurfed, skydived, skied,  celebrated my birthday holiest place on earth (weird choice I know),  brought a car key half way around the world,  learnt to say “hello”, “good bye” and “thank you” of different languages, seen some of the world’s greatest monument.

Like what Black Eyed Peas sang, “I had the time of my life, and I never felt this way before”.

Monday, July 25, 2011

25th July 2011: Happy Birthday to me

Every year, I’ll celebrate my birthday in a different country. That’s a promise to myself. This year, Citta Del Vaticano. I know, weirdest choice, but it’s the only day I could visit the holy land. It’s closed on Sunday and when I reached on Saturday, it was late. Tomorrow I’m flying to Dubai so today it is.

We took a paid tour for the Vatican Museum, very impressive work of in the Sistine Chapel and great collection in the museum. I guess this could make up for the Louvre which we didn’t get to visit.

The size of St Peter was overwhelming. If the Pope ever decide to make the Statue of Liberty his own collection, no problem, he could fit it right underneath the dome, with room to spare. That’s how massive it is. Walking in felt otherwise though. It was carefully designed and executed to make everything to look much smaller than they really is. Now that's really impressive.

Best gift, a coin of Vatican City. I’m carrying the Pope’s face around. If you didn’t already know, all EU countries mint their own coins, thus one face always carry the countries’ identity. I’ve been collecting them since Belgium because Vincent told me about it when I was there visiting him in February. It was really hard to collect them especially when some countries only circulate that many. According to Wikipedia, most of the Vatican’s coin was swooped by collectors before they were even in circulation. Lucky me, while I was grabbing gelato from the Pope’s favourite shop, I’ve got it from the change. Probably the Pope was there awhile ago, otherwise I don’t think anyone will ever spend the Vatican coins.

Thank you Suk Yee for preparing me such a touching gift. Thank you for all those who contributed. The video was really touching, made me miss home a little.

Last but not least thank you for all the well wishes on Facebook. Although I’m not really into wishing people on Facebook because I doubt its sincerity, but it’s still heart warming to hear a simple “Happy Birthday” from someone I’ve not seen/heard for years or even friends we’ve met and only met once.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

24th July 2011: Glory of Roma

Gladiators battling each other, crowds cheering of what used to be slaves, prisoners of wars. That’s the Roman’s past time. And on some other day, we have people marching to St Paul’s Basilica through Via de Corso. Here lived great civilization, each greater than the previous. Though eventually swallowed by corruption, lands taken by barbarian, Roma still remain as one of the best cities today.

Too bad there isn’t any Sandeman’s tour in all of Italy. Reading it from Wiki is so much less fun than walking around and have someone telling it to you.

And Italian knows how to make great coffee. I’ve always been a coffee person and now that I’m so hooked to Italian coffee, I’ve gotten myself a coffee press from Bialetti. I know this is the second one, first one a french coffee press from Bodum.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

23rd July 2011: Eternal City

Roma is city where ancient monument stands. Ancient engineering that withstand even the force of time. Although some of it were destroyed but it’s mostly done by human or mother nature itself.

Pantheon stood for thousand over years, built to worship every single god and today still in use as a functional church. That’s how amazing it is. In piazzale stands architecture from different era, where people actually do still live and work. Was Roma really so great that even time gave the city a timeout, maybe the next time I’m going back to Roma, even the buried city will be open to tourists.

It’s a whole day of ancient ruins tomorrow. And I’m liking the camp very much. Although it’s a bit far from the city centre, the Plus Camping has so far provided me with very good cheap accommodation all around Italy. First night over here in Plus Camping Roma. Huge party going on over at the club, I guess we’re too old for all this. The club is filled with teenagers with Contiki and Topdeck, all dressed to impress.

Last stop in Europe. I’ve seen a lot, learnt a lot but it still feels like yesterday. And yes there is still so much more to see.

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