Monday, 26 January 2009

Airplanes Annoyances

I was having a think about my top 5 airline annoyances. These are the things that really grate on my nerves when it comes to air travel.

Trolley in the aisle

Airplanes were clearly not designed for trolleys. The aisles are narrow enough as it is without someone having the bright idea of getting a trolley to plug the gap. Everyone has been in the position where the drinks trolley has just passed your seat and the loo is inconveniently positioned at the other end of the plane to you. You then have the moral dilemma of asking the stewardesses to pull the trolley out of the aisle and irritate the remaining passengers or taking one for the team and waiting 15 minutes for the blockage to clear. Which person are you?

The domino effect

Ever been on a plane journey where as soon as the seat belt light goes off the chair in front of you falls right back into your face? I have. The problem is that it creates a dominos effect of seats all down the plane to compensate. One after one the seats falls back until you get to the back row where the poor blighter has to suffer on an 11 hour journey from the UK to Japan without being able to recline their seat more than two inches. I have been this guy too. Serves me right for checking in late.

Shoulder snoozers

Dribble on the shoulder is pretty grim but even more so when it is from the fat guy sitting next to you. You can sit there for hours conscious that the guy may lean on you as he teases you with his sleepy head bob motion. Why do attractive ladies never fall asleep on your shoulder? The world is just never that kind.

TVs in the aisle

I think this rant may be outdated now on many long haul flights but still exists in strength on budget and short flights. If you have a window seat under on a row with a TV your are officially in the worst position to view the onboard “entertainment”. You have to peer over the seat in front to try and get a glimpse of the 15 inch monitor that is behind the air stewardesses’ head. Things we do you a bit of TV.

Kids and the loo

The toilet really does create the most tension on flights. If there is a child in the window seat you know from the word go you will be having to stand up one hundred times for the kid to empty his or hers bladder. Its like go before you left!! Making sure you are the person asking others to let you out for the loo. That way you never get disturbed and this is the key to a good flight.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Is The Grand Canyon Really That “Grand”?

Well yes and no. To say the Grand Canyon is large is and understatement but the name does imply, and many people believe, it is the largest. At the maximum depth the Grand Canyon measures in at 1800m (6000ft) and 440km long, but the Colca and Cotahuasi Canyons in Peru are almost twice the depth at around 3000m (11,800ft). So why is the Grand Canyon generally regarded as the biggest?

I guess it depends how you measure the size of a canyon. You could go by depth but does that really describe the entire size of the Canyon? Some may say width or length but I think the fairest way is to measure the volume but this is generally not the metric used as it would be nearly impossible to measure accurately. Interestingly, some of the largest (by that I mean deepest) canyons can actually be found in the Himalayas but because of their extreme locations and lack of visitors, they are generally not recognized for their size and are disregarded.

After some research these are some of the “biggest” canyons in the world by depth.

1) The Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon (Tibet, China) 5382m (17657 ft), 496.3km long. The undisputed largest canyon in the world.

2) Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal,

3) Polung Tsangpo Canyon in Tibet,

4) Cotahuasi Canyon

It seems as though because the Grand Canyon gets so much publicity and is accessible to people, it is generally accepted as the largest. When I visited the Grand Canyon I was blown away by the vast size of it but I do think other canyons do get overlooked. I for one would like to visit some of the canyons in Peru so leave a comment if you have visited either the Colca or Cotahuasi canyons please.


Sunday, 11 January 2009

How Slow Is Air Travel? London To Paris Time Trial

For those of you who do not know I embarked upon a round the world trip in the latter end of 2007 and took 7 international and 13 internal flights. When you visit that many airports in a relatively short period of time you begin to realise how much time is actually wasted queuing in airports and passing through check points.

For international flights you are always advised to arrive at the airport 2 hours before take off and you need to allow enough time to get to the airport which in my experience is always on the outskirts of the city and can take ages without a Metro system. Once at the terminal, you need to queue to check in, queue to go through security, queue at the gate, queue on the runway and that is if there are no delays and is just for the outbound leg. There is still baggage collection, customs and security when you land! So this started me thinking. “I wonder if I could drive from my home in London to a hotel in Paris quicker than a plane doing the exact same route.” I did some research on the internet into distances and times and used my own experience of travelling to Paris.

I will start with driving. The metrics have been calculated assuming the car is travelling at 110 kph roughly 70 mph (UK speed limit). I have factored in some traffic but I would be leaving after rush hour so would expect no hold ups, and also check in times at the channel tunnel.

By Car

London to Dover: 102km = 1 hour 12
Channel tunnel: 1 hour
Calais to Paris centre: 293km = 2 hours 49

Total: 5 hr 01

For flying I have assumed the car is parked at Gatwick and not in an out of area long term car park, and the transfer from the airport in Paris is by Metro.

By Air

Home to Gatwick airport: 60km = 1 hour
Airport time (UK) = 2 hours
Flight time = 1 hour
Airport Time = 1 hour
Transfer Time = 30 minutes

Total: 5 hr 30

As I suspected flying London to Paris is only 1 hour in the air but is also 5 hours of waiting around and transfers to and from the airport. This is an exceptional circumstance because there are not many other countries I would even consider driving to, but the main point of the article was to highlight the amount of time spent messing around at airports especially now security is much tighter. Flying is clearly the quickest and only option for long haul flights but I would like to see airport time significantly reduced for intercontinental flights and domestic. I can only dream.


Monday, 5 January 2009

Bargain US Bus Journeys

In 2007 the last leg of my round the world trip was from Boston to New York City. I was looking around for a cheap bus service between the two cities and stumbled upon the Fung Wah Bus Company. For a budget traveller it was top notch as the three and a half hour bus journey only cost $15! To put this into perspective, the cab fare from the hostel in Boston to the bus terminal was the same price.

I travelled at about 11am and the bus was completely full but I guess this all adds to the atmosphere right? Despite the cheap price, you may have to put up with mediocre on board entertainment which for us happened to be a low budget martial arts movie, so I just put on the iPod and closed my eyes (what a party animal). However, after a little research on the web, I found that my Boston to New York price could be beaten by the Lucky Star bus company. They could offer the same journey for as little as $1 if you were prepared to travel at 6am, or competitive prices at other times of the day.

It does seem that these Chinatown buses from Boston do offer very good rates travel and beat the Greyhound services hand down. It is always wise to shop around online for alternative bus companies to the Greyhound as you may be surprised by what you find. There are other cheap services operating down the East Coast to Washington, Philadelphia and Georgia to name a few so always consider these before you pick the tempting yet pricier option of a budget airline. For a comprehensive list of alternative bus services at competitive prices so be sure to take a look here.

If anyone else has bagged a transport bargain on their travels please leave a comment so we can all ‘tap that resource’.

Labels: , ,

Friday, 2 January 2009

Which Country Is First To See In New Years?

It is always fun watching the TV to see different countries across the globe welcome in the New Year. Generally only the larger cities get a mention such as Auckland, Sydney, Tokyo, Athens, London, New York and LA but I wanted to know who celebrates the New Year before everyone else.

I did some research online and my findings were that Kiritimati (or the Christmas Islands to you or me) is generally considered the first place in the world to see the dawn of the New Year. It appears that with GMT daylight savings adjustments, the Christmas Islands can be as much as UTC/GMT +14 hours. Someone please correct me if I am wrong about this as it is a tricky subject. For example, it seems Australia has vertical and horizontal time zones which only exist in the summer, and other countries such as India and Nepal are UTC/GMT +5:30 and UTC/GMT +5:45 respectively, which do not conform to the standard integral numbers.

Following the New Years theme, it seemed appropriate to research the last country to welcome the New Year too. It seems Samoa takes this title as they are UTC/GMT -11 hours. Interestingly, as Samoa and the Christmas Islands have a 26 hour difference, the 2nd of January has arrived in the Christmas Islands before New Years day has in Samoa! There are two land masses in a separate UTC/GMT -12 hour zone, but as they are uninhabited there is nobody to see in the New Year after the Samoans. I would like to go and live on these land masses and rule my own time zone. Anyone is welcome to join me.

More interesting time zone facts
New Years celebrations around the world