Friday, 30 November 2007

Bargaining Beijing

This is my second time in Beijing. Last time was on vacation, in 2005. Both times winter. Beijing's winter is very dry and windy. It's also known for its sand and dust in the air. I nearly caught a cold but remedied with some sleep and taking cod liver oil and vitamin C supplements religiously.

It was a very easy flight and the crew fantastic. Despite our fatique we put down our baggages and headed out immediately. The taxi driver was a good chat we talked about the country and its people, its immigrants, even learned how China's capital punishments were carried out! It seems everywhere I go people regard Singapore as a beautiful city. When passengers ask where I'm from they say "Aahhh... Singapore! Beautiful and clean!". Thank you, thank you. Glad you like it. I like it, too.

We went to Wang Fu Jing for a walk and had numerous kinds of snacks along the food street. My favourite was the meat ball soup and sour noodles. Advertisements and mascots of the 2008 Olympics are everywhere.

Next day while some went for their great walk on the Great Wall we went to Silk Market to test our bargaining skills. Good if you speak Mandarin you can avoid having the shop people shouting broken English at you. I bought a dress meant for export for Forever 21 at 120 yuan, two tops (140 yuan) and a bag (100 yuan). I guess I'm not that great a haggler. Stuff there are mostly fakes so it's a hunt to avoid tacky items. Some China-made shoes like metallic flats and colourful wedges are cute but didn't get the chance to try them on. Maybe next time. In fact, it'll be next month!

I spent all my allowance on DVDs later. I am pleased with my purchase of Grey's Anatomy box set Seasons 1-3 (for personal collection). Also Ugly Betty box set, and Hairspray the musical. Can't wait to watch them all.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

I Have Been Reserved

The month-long duty reserve is coming to an end. Not the most exciting month, there has been long waiting and too many tiring turnaround flights. Good for those who likes waiting around and don't care much about where they're going.

But the month has given me and some friends here in Dubai lots of time to be absolute sloths. We drank, ate, slouch - repeatedly - in front of my TV. We had a good time doing a re-run of Sex And The City Seasons 1-6. Oh man! Oh, men. I never got to finish SATC and I must say I really like the final season!

After a few weeks like these, in between surprise trips - Hyderabad, London, Riyahd, Beijing - I finally got my roster for December. More Beijings and a Perth. Plus I'm on leave until the 14th. Not too bad.

One more reserve duty and I'll be on my way home.

I miss Saffi!

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Prelude to the Russian Winter

It was a call at 0645hr in Dubai that got me out of bed (hey this sounds like my last posting). 5 hours later I am in Moscow on the 7th November, Day of Accord and Conciliation, a national holiday in Russia. It was -7 degrees celsius and bits of snow were on the ground. I understood why the passengers were asking for drinks. With such need to keep warm who can blame them for alcohol binging.

The quiet bus ride to the hotel took over 2 hours and half the crew were sleeping. I actually enjoyed the ride with my travel-companion-iPod Shuffle. We met at the lobby 30 minutes after we arrived at the hotel and went out for some tasty comfort food at McDonald's just outside. A bunch of us never been to Moscow was determined to visit the Red Square, at least. Also I hear it's beautiful at night.

We took the metro and along the way stopped to take photos - the Moscow Metro stations are a tourist attraction with elaborate paintings and achitecture, even the trains were adorned with antique warm lights. When we arrived at the Red Square it was freezing and I had no sense of my fingers or toes but it was definitely worth the while. It was a breath-taking, surreal experience like everything around you popped up from a picture book. The Saint Basil Cathedral at the end of the square (we entered via the Ressurection Gate in the North) standing right in front of me!

There's no English or other languages there, no translation of signages, road names, billboards, etc. The result is a true authentic culture and I appreciate that. For some nostalgic reasons I begin to recall classical music thinking that musical notes must be the common language of the world.

I wrote this in the bus, now only 40 minutes into the drive to Domodedovo Airport. I am inspired and I remember what motivated me into this job for otherwise I may never have travelled to witness the sights of the world.

It's not even winter yet but to re-visit Moscow then I know it will be teeth-clenching, limbs-numbing and very painful... but it will be lovely to see Red Square all covered in snow. I will try and get into the cathedrals, the GUM, the Lenin's tomb and the museum.

Oh did I mention Russian girls are real hotties? Maybe that explains the infamous hooker population. Something went very wrong with its male counterparts though.

Go to my Picassa album to see the pictures.

Friday, 9 November 2007

The Red in Cairo

First flight in my reserve month I got pulled out to, Cairo. "Oh no", I thought to myself... the Crew Scheduling guy who woke me up sounded suspiciously cheerful, and rumours of this being one of the horrendous flights didn't exactly make everything ideal.

Oh well, as with many experiences there are individual opinions. I didn't think it was bad at all - one or two rude passengers as usual, but as long as the team work together, people using their common sense and always wearing a smile, it can conquer the curse.

From the window of my fuselage door I took in the magnificent view of sand dunes and the Red Sea. 5 minutes of this bird's eye view could justify getting out of bed for a Cairo flight.

Time Off in Dubai

When Mattar folks have days off together we try to do something. We cook, watch DVD, go out shopping or, as on the 3rd this month, we rented a car.

This is the second time we have a Daihatsu Syrion and this time it's pink. We drove to showrooms so we can ogle at new cars we're planning to get. We went Spring Bamboo for our favourite Chinese dishes, did grocery shopping and went to IKEA the next day. Coming back from IKEA was a tiny Syrion packed with 4 adults, 2 huge plants and many paper bags of household stuff. It must be quite a bushy sight.

Like Holiday Makers We Are

I thank the crew who agreed to take 3 of my flights giving me another flight back home on the 25th October. Between stopovers in Singapore, this trip also entails a 5-day Brisbane with an Auckland turn.

It was a very good trip - nice passengers, good food, most of all great crew. It is not everyday we get a whole bunch together for dinner and drinks even the pilots came along. I guess it's a really good mix of people, all very cheerful and helpful throughout the 6 sectors. I made some friends and met more Singaporean crew who gave this trip some warm fuzzy feel of home-away-from-home. We played games, sang carols and learn French lyrics onboard.

I have to acknowledge the hotel's F&B in Brisbane for serving up really fab food. The seafood+wine buffet was d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. also the in-room dining was great. All these with 50% dscount entitlement!

Coming back to the second layover in Singapore we kinda had a mini Halloween celebration in the galley. We're just suckers for cheap fun!

Photos are here.