Reporting live from NZ, OZ, HK!

Apr 21st, 2005, 04:48 PM
  #41  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 394


AA

What have you been up to then? Update us !! Any sizzling?

Hope you have a good trip to Hong Kong.
Tassietwister is offline  
Apr 21st, 2005, 05:20 PM
  #42  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 3,680
AA, it was 4.2kg of marijuana, not 4lb, more than twice that weight, in an unlocked boogie board bag. But I just imagine anyone silly enough to try to get that through Customs anywhere- it wasn't as if it was cunningly hidden in false bottom luggage or strapped to her body, as the heroin was with the Bali 9.
pat_woolford is offline  
Apr 21st, 2005, 11:28 PM
  #43  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,603
I won't try and convince anyone of Shapelle's innocence or otherwise but all I can say is to repeat what Pat says which is "dugh! that is neally 10 pounds in weight of hash - just stuck in the cover of a boogy board - you must have to be kidding me"
No one in their right mind would try and get that amount of stuff through any country in that fashion. There is far too large a "grey area" here, there has been far to many instances of theft from unlocked bags recently from airport baggage areas to suggest that once you have finished with your bag it is safe - no way. I feel for the family of this young lady I cannot imagine what hell she and her family must be going through. If the Indonesian Customs could show us the fingerprints, could prove that they were the first people after Shapelle to open that cover then I would feel differently. There are too many variables here and not enough answers, why don't they believe the statements of a Criminologist - arn't our experts good enough? Finally if the Bali Bombers can be judged by their own people then so should she. I hope that the family of this girl can hold together and come through this and if Shapelle is innocent I hope that she is found not guilty, writes a book, makes a film, becomes a multi-millionaire and enjoys the rest of her life. I cannot think of anything worse than being in the situation that she is in both for herself and her family. If there is any doubt at all she should not be found guilty.
lizF is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2005, 12:04 AM
  #44  
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Sorry, I meant kgs., not lbs.

I will report on Melbourne once I have some time in HK.

Nothing exciting, just a good time, good food, and watching a Hollywood production!

AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2005, 11:35 AM
  #45  
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Enough about drugs and smugglers, it's time to go back to the subject at hand.

Melbourne - I really gave up on sightseeing. I just got tired of doing the whole sightseeing thing - planning, looking at maps, talking to the hotel concierge or the local tourist info kiosk attendents, etc.etc.

I will come back to Australia in a very short time so I will have the time and fresh energy to do more sightseeing.

The decision has beeen made for me on the first evening in Melbourne. As I was sitting at the outdoor cafe, sipping a fabulous glass of local Chardonnay, watching the big Hollywood production in action, I decided that it's time to relax. Previously I had plans to rent a car next day and drive down to the coast. It didn't happen.

What I ended up doing for the next few days was just walking around the city, a beach day in St. Kilda, having some great lunches and dinners and just enjoying myself.

The city is totally different than Sydney. To me it seemed more of a "real" working city. Sydney had the feel of the "showcase" city. Neither is bad, but that's what it seemed like to me.

I did good with the hotel. Stayed at the Hilton on the Park. A little out of the way, but with the tram stop right in front of the door it was very easy to be in the CBD in a matter of few minutes. I did get upgraded to a huge 1 room corner suite with windows in 2 directions. The side of the building window had a great view of the Fitzroy Gardens just below and the CBD behind it. The front of the buiding windows were overlooking Yarra and Melbourne Parks and all the stadiums, Arenas located within these parks. I read some bad reports on this hotel, but outside some minor scratches on some of the furniture and the bathrooms being a little outdated, it was a very nice stay. Contrary to what I read, there were no stains on carpets, at least on the 14th floor and the lobby area. I also received a free continental breakfast at the lobby restaurant as part of the HHonors upgrade. No lounge access this time.

Watched the filming of the "Ghost writer" for couple of evenings on the banks of the Yarra river. Interesting yet it does get boring for the casual watcher as most of the time the crew spends setting up the shots instead of actually doing them and when the majority of the shots turn out to be just some cops running across the bridge, or getting out of their cars, or a helicopter passing by, well you get the idea. It still made for entertaining evening. Having a dinner at an outdoor cafe, conversing with the locals and sipping on some wonderful wine.

St. Kilda - Melbourne suburb with a very nice beach area. It takes about 15 minutes by tram from CBD, so easy to get to.

Final report on the weather in NZ and OZ. Just brilliant. Outside of the 1.5 days of rain in NZ I had clear, sunny days with temps ranging from high 60's to high 70's through the entire 24 day stay.

I also did take the train back to Sydney on Thursday evening. It was an overnighter and for the price of a flight I got a hotel and transportation, all in one package. The sleeping compartments are all doubles, but I and the 4 or 5 other singles had the compartments to ourselves. They will pair up people of the same sex if needed. Passed out about an hour into our journey (~9pm) and woke up around 5am, an hour before arrival. A free continental breakfast was included with the sleeping car ticket. The bed was comfortable and came with sheets, duvet and pillows. Every 2 compartments shared the same bathroom /shower facilities and since my neighbor next door left the train sometime in the middle of the night, I had it all to myself in the morning.

Arrived in Sydney very early, took the local train to the Marriott and dropped of the stuff that I had with me in Melbourne. Did some more walking around the Rocks/Harbour area and finally hooked up with my new friend in Sydney for the rest of the afternoon. We had a very nice lunch, some more laughs, did some final shopping and then it was time to say goodbye to her as well as Australia. I still had about 4 hours before my flight to Hong Kong, but I was getting tired, hot and needed a good shower and some time to relax. Got to the airport just before 7pm and exactly at 7 I was able to check in for my Cathay Pacific flight. There was a very long queue for economy, a short one for business, but empty for first class check-in. Within 15 minutes I was all checked in, walked through emmigration and customs and sitting at the Qantas first class lounge. Checked my e-mail, had couple of drinks and finally got one of the shower rooms. Took a long, hot shower, changed into fresh clothes and maybe 30 minutes later the announcment was made to proceed to the gate.

The F cabin has 8 suites on this Airbus 330-300 and 6 were occupied. The flight and the crew were fabulous. Had a fantastic supper, finished it with an ice cream dessert, all that while watching a movie about Peter Sellers life. Interesting life to say the least. Changed into my pjs, the FA prepared the bed and took my breakfast order. Within minutes of slipping under the duvet on this fully flat seat I was out cold. Woke up around 4:00am, received my breakfast within minutes. Had wonderful, cooked to order eggs, toast, potato pancakes, yogurt, fruit plate, fabulous Chinese tea. After breakfast I freshned up a bit, changed into my street clothes and it was almost time to land. What a way to travel!

Landed in Hong Kong little early, around 5:00am, took care of all the formalities in less than 15 minutes and found out to my surprise that the airport trains don't start running till 6:30am. I didn't want to sit around a VERY quiet HKG so decided to splurge on a taxi. It was somewhat expensive (a little over $40US) to the Conrad Hotel on Hong Kong island. I walked in at around 6:00am and to my surprise they gave me a room on a very high floor with a harbour/Kowloon side view and a full access to the Executive Lounge. I love this place. It has become if not the one, the one of the very few favorite hotels. Every time I stay here they treat me like a king. It's not a cheap place to stay (the rates are in the $300 and above range per night) but what a fabulous facility. I used my AA points for this stay. For the equivalent of 3 domestic coach tickets on AA I have 4 free nights in this great hotel.

My best buddy arrived yesterday afternoon. We went out, but I guess the jetleg finally caught up to him, so we came back to the hotel. It's ~3:30am now. He's passed out in his room and I'm making this report. .

HK will be mostly about shopping, having some fun with my buddy and maybe a gambling excursion to Macau for a day. I will be here till Wednesday. If all the flights go as planned I should be walking into the house on Siesta Key on Thursday morning. It has been almost a month since I left the house. I think it's time.

See you all later!

Good Night!
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 25th, 2005, 12:39 AM
  #46  
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,885
Just a short report:

Did most of my pre-planned shopping. It's going to be rough with US customs, but hopefully I will be allowed to walk through this time.

Some electronics, some very nice fake purses and a watch for the girl watching my house and my little critters. Books, art, a new suitcase (will leave the old one in the hotel), and I'm picking up a suit and few shirts tomorrow as well as my Movado which is getting some overhaul work done on it by an official factory rep for about 1/2 the price that it would cost me in US.

My friend and I are having a good time. It's amazing how some people are just able to stay friends regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of how long they don't see each other. We are right back to our old "bad" boys fun. Nothing serious, just plain, stupid fun. We invited couple of sales ladies from Marks & Spencers located at the Pacific Place Mall, just a short elevator ride from our rooms, for an evening out and to our surprise they accepted. I was ready for some home cooking, so I made the executive decision to go to Ruth Chris Steakhouse, located right across the street from the Conrad Hotel. Very nice but expensive. I was surprised to find out that American beef is still banned here, due to the mad cow dicease and RC is serving Australian beef at the moment. It had different taste, but it was very nice. The four of us ended up at the lounge bar of the hotel after. We had few drinks, laughs and the girls had to leave as they need to look very proper and happy in the morning. We made plans to meet up tomorrow night and do something similar.

I think the 2 of us will just get drunk and stupid tonight as I'm done with shopping/vacationing and he just wants to have a good time during this very short vacation for him.

Tomorrow we plan on taking the ferry to Macau and finish of our vacations with a bang. Maybe I will hit the jackpot at one of the casinos and recover some or most of the money that I spend during this month.

Probably not..... but at this point, what's another couple of hundreds???

Weather report - well, the weather gods did not follow me to HK. No rain and it is warm and sticky, but in the last 3 days I saw the sun for about 2 hours total, if that. The sky is covered with low clouds. Can't complain but wish we had some more sun. It helps with outdoor pictures.

That's about it for now.

One final report coming once I get home.

Have a wonderful week!

Bye!


AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 25th, 2005, 01:28 PM
  #47  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 394

Great you are having fun, back to reality soon so make the most of it.

Ah to be young and have silly fun again. Try to now and then but find myself nodding off. Not that I am old or anything !!

Have a good trip home.

Tassietwister is offline  
Apr 29th, 2005, 01:57 AM
  #48  
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Posts: 12,885
I walked through my front door yesterday around 10am.

Final thoughts on Hong Kong - We did take the fast ferry to Macau. I did not win the BIG one .

The Portugese influence is still very much visible. At this moment the casinos are NOT for the casual gambler. The few we visited are small and cater to mostly Asian gamblers with many "unknown" to this author, games. You will run across the occasional poker/blackjack table and few slots, but the action tables were covered 3-4-5 deep with Asian tourists gambling heavy on games I have not seen before.

That's about to change. The Las Vegas heavies are moving in. Wynn, Venetian and few others are building what looked like, very beautiful and HUGE hotels/casinos. An entire waterfront promenade is being build with many different themes. From what we saw there will be a Chinese theme(obviously), a volcano/South Pacific theme with a HUGE fake volcano in the center, an Italian seaside village, etc. All these new properties/themes will start to opertate in 2006/2007. The predictions are that Macau will be bigger than Vegas by 2010.

At the moment it's the little Avenidas and old churches with the Portugese architecure influences that make the place special.

We came back to Hong Kong in the late afternoon. Did my final shopping pickups, relaxed, refreshed and met with the same ladies from the other night. Had a wonderful time. Dinner, few drinks, little dancing and it was time to say goodbye.

Another very succesful, fun, entertaining stay in Hong Kong. The weather did not improve. As a matter of fact on the morning of my departure day, it was drizzling. Checked out of the fabulous Conrad Hotel at noon, said goodbye to my friend (he wanted to stay an extra day to do some MAJOR shopping for his live in girlfriend as well as get his custom made suits). Took a taxi to the Hong Kong Airport train station. GThe train takes about 1/2 hour, but it's a delight. It's roomy, very comfy with luggage attendants at both ends to help you load/unload your gift heavy luggage .

Free luggage carts at both ends as well. Within minutes of arrival at HKG I checked in at the Cathay Pacific's first class individual podiums with a luggage valet. No belts here. 2 TA's are working with you as your luggage "disappears" behind you. A very unique experience.

After going through the passport control it was time for the most fabulous airport lounges in the world. I had about 3 hours at the airport, and at the end I was sorry I did not arrive here earlier that day. Both, the Wing and the Pier first class lounges are a destination themselves. Oh, the good life!!!

The flight was also a total excercise in a hedonistic lifestyle. Unfortunately we had some strong tailwind, so the flight from HKG-LAX ONLY took a little over 11 hours. I felt cheated as the "official" flying time was suppose to be around 13 hours. I guess "You can't always have what you want"

Immigraton, customs were a breeze this time. I walked over to terminal 4 from TBIT, checked in for my AA red-eye to MIA with connection to TPA the following morning. Waited out the long afternoon at the Flagship Lounge in terminal 4. Very nice and probably the best first class lounge that AA has at the moment, but after the CX lounges in HKG, not very impressive. Still, it is nice to have access to these places. I had some finger food, free drinks, a very nice and long hot shower, changed into fresh clothes, hung out for little longer and finally it was time for the flight to my home state. My free upgrade cleared as I was sitting in my coach seat. Another passenger came with a BP for the same seat. I had to find my BP and after the FA called the GA desk, I was moved to first class. The upgrade from MIA to TPA cleared couple of days before. Again, after experiencing CX in F, the domestic AA F is not all that impressive, still better than coach.

I will post one more time with my final thoughts about the places and people of the countries I visted.

It was a fabulous trip, but it's also good to be home!
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
May 8th, 2005, 04:03 AM
  #49  
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I had some time to reflect on my trip and I have to admit this was the BEST vacation I ever took. It was a combination of many things. The scenery, the people, the food, the wines, the people, the people, the people.

New Zealand is just an amazing place. Great scenery, although it is replicated in other parts of the world, the size of the islands make it more special just because everything is so close. From one extreme to the other within hours. What makes it an amazing place are it's people. I'm jealous. They seemed to have accomplished the impossible. They combined a very modern, comfortable, western style living with a laid back, relaxed attitude. They seem to know how to enjoy life to the fullest and are very succesful at doing it.

Loved the country, loved the friendly inhabitants. I will be back for more. I think I did get a good view of what it's all about but I still need to visit parts of it.

Australia - This time I only had time to scratch the surface. I always wanted to visit Sydney and that's where most of my 10 days were spent. Melbourne became a relaxation stop. I enjoyed both cities. Again, the people make it that much more special. Sydney is almost like a showcase city. VERY BEAUTIFUL. It reminded me of my favorite city in a world, Chicago. Very modern, new, striking architecture, some interesting young history. Very vibrant, Very ALIVE and buzzing. Melbourne was more of a real working city, yet I still found some special spots, beautiful views and again, the most amazing people.

Will be back, but next time it will be more about the Outback, the Reef and the west coast. I saw some incredible pictures of national parks on the west coast that make me want to pack right now.

My little joke around here is that I think Australia should become the 51st state. I felt the same energy from the folks there that I still feel around our beautiful country. They wotk hard, play even harder, they cherish their opportunities. Very similar to us.

Hong Kong - always my favorite stop. I love the city but would not want to live there. The best way I could describe it - controlled chaos. The great shopping opportunities seem to be disappearing but still a shopping mecca. Food - you just can't go wrong. And for cheap entertainment get a liitle outside table, order a drink or some food, kick back and watch! It's almost magical to see the millions on the street managing to work with each other without any major rage incidents. There are some beautiful, quiet places available outside the city center, but I don't go to HK to sit on a beach. I actually enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city. It's one of a kind. HK will always be included in any trips to the Asian region.

I'm still working on the pictures. I was really busy since my return but maybe next week I will get a day off.

That's it!
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