Monday, 31 October 2011

Starway Hotel - Pudong Airport - SHANGHAI, CHINA (2011)

I visited the Starway Hotel recently on my holiday to China.  Quite frankly, I didn't expect a royal welcoming or a luxurious stay due to its price, but I must say that this hotel exceeded my expectations.  My flight from Hong Kong to Shanghai was delayed for just over an hour, so this affected the availability of taxis and caused me to check-in at somewhere close to the hour of 4am.  Initially, I chose this hotel as it looked relatively close to Pudong (Shanghai) airport, but its not the first time I've learnt a lesson from relying too much on Google Maps.  

Nonetheless, it was still relatively close to the airport compared to the other hotels which were located near the the city (quite a distance away).  My taxi hit 130-140km/h on some very slippery and winding freeways so I was quite glad to finally arrive and settle into my room.  As I checked in, I didn't know what to do.  It was a bit awkward but in the end I let of a little cough which quickly woke up the attendant.  This I realised was quite common in China - that hotel staff and even security guards are all fast asleep.  I don't blame them!  It's 4 am, and you're bound to drift off sooner or later.

Having no mandarin, we somehow both understood my room requests and instructions (higher level, non-smoking etc...).  This lady was very friendly as was another lady that helped me check out from this hotel to Shanghai city.  At no point was I nervous about travelling around China as what I found was that If you're patient, kind and willing to gesture then you can get around the world quite well!  Never stress, remain chilled and it will all work out!

Here are some photos from my stay:

I had two beds to myself!  I need to state it here and now that the mattress was one of the most uncomfortable I have ever slept on...  Solution?  I found three spare pillows which I placed on top and formed my new mattress.  You need to be creative :)

Something quite common in China I noticed was the idea of see-through or near see-through dividers between bedroom and bathroom

Bathroom facilities - was impressed with the cleanliness


My view

Visited: October 2011

Cleanliness - 9
Service - 4
Breakfast - 3.5
Location (accessibility) - 4
Location (ambiance) - 3.5
Amenities - 6
Technology - TV, Internet connectivity, radios - 7.5
Overall Impression - 6.5

How likely I will be revisiting: - Maybe

In a sentence:  A humble hotel that was clean, affordable and even offered breakfast. Enough for an overnight stay.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Macau International Fireworks Contest

Last month, Macau held an International Fireworks Contest.

South Korea
United Kingdom

The fireworks displays I experienced:


I had the opportunity to experience four displays, over two consecutive weekends.  Here are some photos to share the some of the fun I had.  The contests featured some unique fireworks I hadn't seen before, some formed shapes which were very 'cool' but much too difficult to capture as they didn't last very long.  When photographing fireworks  your exposure needs to last for several seconds so a short burst of shapes can't always be captured quickly.

Furthermore, there were many vantage points to view the display from.  I chose to see most of them from a distance, which gave a nice overall view with the Macau Tower alongside the display.  For the last display of the contest, I joined friends just by the Macau Tower and that is when I could truly appreciate the loud blasts and energetic atmosphere.

Overall impression:  I don't know if I could regard these fireworks as some of the best I've seen, but some of them were unique and nice to see for the first time.  A great weekend getaway, I highly recommend Macau to anyone who has not been as yet.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Biting the BULLET

I guess I could call it an early birthday present...

Train carrier: CRH
Travel duration: approximately 3.5 hours
Food and Beverages: 4/10
Staff friendliness:  9/10
Top speed on our journey:  308km/h 
Overall Travel experience: 9.6/10

For those who haven't read my previous post, it would be beneficial to explain that I have spent the past week and a half in mainland China.  It was break at Hong Kong University - known here as 'reading week' - so all students had the 'option' to either stay back and study or travel.  And you wonder why they'd even bother calling it a reading week...

So, instead of writing my travels in a sequential manner, I have decided to keep my posts spontaneous and out-of-order, to make your life as a reader much more difficult (and enjoyable I hope).

Thankfully, by not booking my return tickets back to Hong Kong, I was able to travel more flexibly.  Initially I only planned to spend a few days in Shanghai and return.  I almost bought the return ticket back - but luckily I decided against it.  In the end, I decided to prolong the trip because - let's face it - how often do you get an opportunity to visit the Great Wall of China?  Beijing was planned for our last leg of the journey, and with such a fantastic group of friends to travel with - how could I even contemplate returning earlier?

To clarify my trip, the sectors were planned like this:


To get this post moving, I'll summarise my return journey from Beijing.  A few nights before the rough departure date we had in mind, my friend and I decided to return by plane to Hong Kong rather than by the 30 hour train ride.  What worked out a better deal was to travel by the Bullet train from Beijing to Nanjing and then take a plane from Nanjing to Shenzhen.  As well as arriving home earlier, I wanted to explore Nanjing and Shenzhen airports (just because I enjoy doing so).

The above photos:  The amazing Nanjing South Train Terminal - much nicer and more modern than any Australian or American airport!

The night before our departure, we were assured that there would be plenty of tickets for the bullet train the next morning - providing we arrived early - so we didn't have to venture out into the dark to buy them so late. And in makes sense - not everyone travels on the bullet train so why worry?  Most people would take the local slower trains.  The next morning, we soon found out just how much the citizens love travelling by bullet when - to our dismay - EVERY single standard ticket was sold out.  The next day there were hundreds of tickets - just our luck that everyone chose to travel on this day.  The only tickets that remained were:  'Class:  Unknown'.  Strange way of labelling a class, but to show you what they looked like, here are some images.

Well...  It was comfortable and the journey went much too quick!

When my friend and I entered the train, we were greeted by the train attendants (both ladies) who were very well dressed and mannered.  They initially took us into the 'Business Class' cabin which looked quite impressive also.  However, their expression and respect leaped another mile into the air when they realised we were in first class.  Moreover, we were in the two best seats on the train - just behind the captain of the train.

 Reclining - it still extended further, just didn't get a photo...

A desk that folded out of no-where

For the brief look I got, the cabin looked very modern and spacious.  Didn't surprise me...  I did try to get a photo of the cabin but I was not allowed to in the end.  Perhaps their technology is too precious to share with others?

2 problems for photography:  1) Too hazy 2) Too fast

Considering how much this ticket cost, it was surprising that only the blow snacks and Pepsi were served.  If they were to provide a warm meal, I'm sure many more travellers would see the incentive to upgrade to first class.

Finally! Now the second-last leg begins...

Would I recommend this trip or a first class ticket to anyone?  Most certainly!  It felt like the trip went too quickly.  However, if you want a quick journey you may as well take a plane direct from Beijing to Hong Kong and it will cost you around the same price.  I had no choice...  But am I complaining?  

It's the experience more than anything...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Flight Review - MU2887 (Nanjing-Shenzhen)

Aircraft carrier: CHINA EASTERN
Aircraft type: Airbus 321
Flight Duration: 2 hours
Overall flight rating:  7.5/10
Inflight food rating:  7/10
Staff friendliness:  8/10

The flight from Nanjing to Shenzhen started on the shaky side from around take-off.  The view was extremely hazy so it was not ideal for photos.  Walking onto the plane, I was extremely pleased to see the flight attendants greet us with big smiles.  A cheerful attitude always makes you more confident when travelling on an aircraft.  The seats were comfortable and allowed for plenty of legroom.  The colour of the seats (a deep blue) was also refreshing.  In one of the photographs below, you might notice what seems to be a pilot in the distance.  In actual fact, it was the flight attendant.  This is China Eastern's standard uniform.  I do have to say - I would prefer to see them in something different - it's more appropriate to distinguish the flight attendants with the pilots.

For me, this trip was both a first time on an Airbus 321 and on China Eastern.  As usual, AIRBUS never fails to satisfy and China Eastern seemed a very comfortable airline to travel with.

The one thing that did worry me was that being transported by bus across the tarmac leaves too much of a 'budget' feel.  I don't think this is doing much good for their reputation.  I personally love the experience and I know many others out there do but corporate passengers may prefer the expected aerobridge.  

Another positive was that the departures and arrivals were timed to-the-minute.  There is no messing around and passengers are moved efficiently.

The three photos above:  Nanjing airport - a very 'green' theme...

The Airbus A321 that I flew on

Business class seats - decent for a domestic flight

Economy seating

On-board complimentary snack - sweet bread and refills (orange juice, soft drink, tea)

Cloud formations over China

Making use of almost every inch of advertising space

A nice line-up of Shenzhen Air fleet

Quite a nice looking airport design!

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