Author Topic: Around the world  (Read 27654 times)

Offline moish

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #40 on: April 18, 2010, 07:16:09 PM »
working on it

Offline ChaimB

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #41 on: April 18, 2010, 08:40:08 PM »
working on it

 Well hopefully it will done by Succos as Im thinking of heading over to China after Succos, just too hot for my liking during the summer time

Offline eliteflyer

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #42 on: April 25, 2010, 12:25:53 AM »
Would love to hear about your experiences!

Offline moish

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Preparation & Day 1
« Reply #43 on: May 30, 2010, 12:50:04 PM »
Note: This is going to be very looooong, as I donít know how to summarize too well. Let's get started.

Originally I had planned on making this trip in the summer, as I usually do, but after reading posts by the likes of momo and others, and remembering watching the news in our hotel last summer in Madrid of the torrential rains going on in Asia, I decided to turn the trip into a stopover on the way home for Pesach. So around 2 months before the start I worked on getting the flights and b"h was able to get almost everything I wanted in business class with being a little flexible even though I needed to buy 3 seats as my baby was turning 2 towards the end of the trip. I split the record into three because with some of the flights, I originally needed to do a "voluntary downgrade" as we were only able to get 2 biz seats (I would subsequently call AA about twice a week until it opened up). The final itinerary was TEL-AMM-DEL with Royal Jordanian. At this point, I purchased a separate ticket for DEL-AGR-DEL with Kingfisher. DEL-HKG-PVG with Cathay and Dragonair. At this point I chose to do my open jaw, and purchased by myself PVG-XIY-PEK as Oneworld doesnít have flights to Xi'an. PEK-NRT-HNL with JAL. HNL-LAX-YYZ-LGA with AA, and finally JFK-MAD-TLV with Iberia. All this cost 150,000 AA miles pp + around $225 in taxes.

Pre Trip Prep
Visa
I first went to the Chinese embassy in Tel Aviv and while there, I met a guy who works for an agency that for a small fee, would pick up the passports when ready, and deliver it back to Jerusalem. It took around 3 days and was quite smooth. In hindsight I should have done the India one first as itís a big headache with them and we almost didnít get the visa in time. Firstly, you can't go to the embassy, as they outsource. The cheapest place I found was "Shaal" on King George. (I think that all the travel agencies go through them, so on top of paying their fee, you're also paying a fee to the travel agent). Secondly, since I have an American passport, the visa must be issued from the USA. So I think they mail them my info etc, suffice it to say it takes a while. On top of that, they're completely nuts, and after about 3 days, shaal tells me that the embassy rejected my application, since they didnít believe that I was going for tourism as I was only spending 2 days there. I had to write a letter explaining I was not trying to find work rather it was a stopover on my flight to China, and included my itinerary as proof. I finally received my passport back one day before I needed to travel.

Medical
We went to the travel clinic in the Lishkat Habriut on Yaffo  about 5 weeks before travel with our immunization records and took all shots to get up to date including a polio booster (who knew?). As far as malaria, we were prescribed Malarone and since our baby was too young to take it, we were advised to just keep her covered since the amount of time in India was only 36 hours. (btw malarone is not covered with meuchedet, and cost 250 NIS each for amount of pills for the trip). Not taking any risks, I bought military grade mosquito cream for her that needed to be reapplied every 8 hours starting with the flight to India, as sometimes the same plane arrived from there, with mosquitoes on board. http://www.amazon.com/3M-SRL-12-Ultrathon-Insect-Repellent/dp/B001UTKTCO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1275235716&sr=8-3 I also sprayed up all her clothing with a special clothing spray thatís supposed to kill any mosquito on contact. http://www.amazon.com/SAWYER%C2%AE-PREMIUM-CLOTHING-REPELLENT-Trigger/dp/B001ANQVYU/ref=pd_sim_k_1

Food
I made a chesbon how many lunch and suppers we would need keeping in mind the nights it would be possible to eat in a restaurant, and brought La Briute meals (imo the spaghetti and meatballs is the best), meal mart meals, frozen schnitzel (good cold) frozen cold cuts, wraps, mayo packets, tuna fish cans, salmon cans, dried fruit, cereal, tons of "shugi" breakfast bars, instant oatmeal, an immersion heater, chips, pretzels etc. As this was our first trip with our baby not nursing, we brought enough shelf milk to last us our trip keeping in mind 3 bottles a day. We ended up schlepping 4 suitcases. Yeah it's crazy but what could you do? Besides, we were planning on buying tons of souvenirs for ourselves and family.

TLV-AMM on RJ
We arrived in TLV with plenty of time to spare, and we needed it. There apparently was some sort of problem with our tickets that RJ didnít have access to them to check us in and we basically spent over an hour with AA and the RJ manager before everything worked out. We ran through the airport and were the last to board. If anyone ever takes an RJ flight out of TLV I highly recommend arriving early as I've heard that I'm not the only one that had such a problem. For a while we thought there was no way we were going to make the flight. Anyways the plane was comfortable with a nice biz class. I donít remember who was with us, but I do remember that it wasnít your typical Arabs, and it was a pleasant flight. It was very quick as from wheels up to wheels down was 20 minutes total. (I timed it with a stopwatch)

Upon arrival in Amman we went straight to the biz lounge, and when showing our tickets to get in I jokingly asked if I was allowed in since I was scheduled to fly coach on the next leg. The Arab guy told me to give him my boarding pass and he would try to put me in biz so I could travel with my family. I didnít think anything would come of it, as the person in TLV told us the biz section was completely full for the AMM-DEL leg and even tried convincing us to check in some of our hand luggage. But lo and behold, around 20 minutes later, he came over to me and handed me a biz class ticket! I tried to tip him but he refused to accept anything. The lounge was actually very nice, very new and modern, with drinks, food, a children's room, a pool table etc.

AMM-DEL on RJ
The biz class on this flight was also nice and clean with wide leather seats. There were two Israelis in front of us, and most everyone else were Indian "bochurim" and 1 or 2 Arabs. The bochurim were schmoozing very loud and were quite rowdy, so we didnít really get to sleep on this overnight flight. It was pretty cool to see the flight map showing us going over Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thank G-d we didnít have to make an emergency landing. Another interesting thing is they show you on the screen where the plane is relative to Mecca. Maybe El Al could start showing mizrach. (Now I remind myself that the hotels in Egypt also have a sticker pointing to Mecca) Upon deplaning, I saw who was sitting in coach and boy am I glad they upgraded me! (not from a danger point of view, rather dirty)

« Last Edit: May 30, 2010, 01:18:23 PM by moish »

Offline SuperFlyer

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #44 on: May 30, 2010, 02:52:34 PM »
Very interesting, I also like your preps. Sounds like first class, except as a military grade by the marines. ;-)
Boy you must have been going insane waiting for your visa.

Offline moish

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #45 on: May 30, 2010, 03:11:46 PM »
tell me about it

Offline moish

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Day 2 India
« Reply #46 on: May 30, 2010, 05:41:44 PM »
Arriving in Delhi, you can change money before customs. It's important to get small denominations as you need small bills for tipping (worse comes to worse you can buy a can of soda). Right after customs there's a small booth to buy a sim card. You need to have a copy of your visa and passport, plus a passport picture to get one.
There are 3 ways to get to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located. The first way is by train, but the fast one leaves early in the morning and I wasnít sure we would be able to make it. Theoretically, you can take that early morning train and take it back to Delhi in the evening. The second way is to take a taxi for the 4 hour journey. I didnít want to do that either as the driving is kind of crazy in India. So I opted for the third option, namely flying Kingfisher Airlines. The time of the flight isnít so great as it leaves around noon but we still decided to fly. The flight leaves from the domestic terminal which is quite far from the intl, but they now have a free shuttle at the airport. Kingfisher imo is far ahead any other airline when it comes to service. From the moment the shuttle arrived at the terminal, there were Kingfisher workers waiting with carts to bring your luggage in, and upon arrival they also wait with you at the carousel and take your luggage to the taxi. even though I was only flying coach. The recommended tip is around 20 rupees (43 cents) but I decided to be generous and tip 100 ($2.15). The security is very strong over there and everybody gets a pat down. There's a separate line for woman where they go into a booth with curtains. After security since we had a few hours to burn before our flight, I paid $20 for each of us to go to the lounge for some r&r. The flight itself wasnít so great as they use a prop which is pretty noisy during the whole flight. (As the plane was taxiing to the runway, all the workers stood in a line and waved us goodbye, old fashioned charm)
The hotel that I was staying at in Agra provides free transportation from the airport, and I emailed them in advance that I had a lot of luggage and they sent 2 Land Cruisers to pick us up. The drive to the hotel is about 30 minutes through the chaos that is India. There are cows in the street, and men urinating on the side of the road is commonplace. Everyone is honking the whole time (think NYC x 100) and there are no traffic rules. Most of the traffic lights arenít working, and nobody obeys the ones that are. (As our guide told us, the lights that are working is just a waste of electricity). That's until we got to the hotel which is an oasis in midst of the craziness. About the hotel. My only one true splurge on this trip was our hotel in Agra. Starwood has a pretty good hotel over there and for pretty cheap using cash + points, but I decided to book the Oberoi Amarvillas hotel, which is considered one of the 10 nicest hotels in the world. Every room has an amazing view of the Taj Mahal. I booked it with my Amex plat card using the fine hotels and resorts program. I booked a regular room without a balcony, even though it cost a little more than booking the same room on a different site, but the perks are that you get upgraded upon availability, late check out and breakfast and dinner (which we unfortunately could not partake). I emailed the manager a day before requesting a suite, and I ended up getting a beautiful suite with bedroom and living room, with a porch overlooking the hotel grounds and the Taj Mahal. I didnít touch my luggage the whole time as the Kingfisher guys loaded up the car and I didnít see it again until it was in my room. It's indeed a beautiful hotel with gold leaf trimmings, amazing service and close proximity to the Taj, but if I would do it again, I would stay at the SPG property as I don't think the high price is justified.
We made up beforehand with a tour guide to meet us and the hotel and we went to see a snake charmer do his thing for us with a king cobra which was pretty cool. Afterwards we went to Itimad-ub-Daulah's Tomb aka the "baby Taj" for a "forshpice", which is basically a much smaller version of the Taj Mahal and some say was the inspiration. After that we went to the Mehtab Bagh gardens which is across the river from the Taj facing the back where we relaxed and watched the sun set over the Taj, illuminating it with different shades of red and orange which was beautiful. Back in the hotel we made the hotel bring us some extra plug in mosquito repellants just to be on the safe side (plus I brought some from Israel, so basically every outlet had one). Be aware that the tap water in India could cause you some stomach problems so it's recommended to brush your teeth with bottled water, keep your mouth closed while taking a shower and not using ice cubes (although our hotel filtered it).
« Last Edit: May 30, 2010, 05:47:57 PM by moish »

Offline moish

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #47 on: May 30, 2010, 05:49:42 PM »
i understand that my style of writing is not conducive to easy reading. being that its very time consuming to remember everything and write it, im hesitant to continue unless i hear ppl are interested

Offline SuperFlyer

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #48 on: May 30, 2010, 06:04:25 PM »
I know its hard to write, that's why I'm halfway my train report, as I was patted on the back, but my swiss report I stopped, as I don't see interest.

I like the authenticity of your story, and feel right in it. In fact I need to waive those mosquitoes away a/r.

Offline crownsbroyal

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #49 on: June 01, 2010, 11:34:23 AM »
I'm liking it. please continue, so far its great!!! 

Offline SuperFlyer

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #50 on: June 01, 2010, 11:37:46 AM »
I know its hard to write, that's why I'm halfway my train report, as I was patted on the back, but my swiss report I stopped, as I don't see interest.

I like the authenticity of your story, and feel right in it. In fact I need to waive those mosquitoes away a/r.

I complimented on it without knowing that you posted pics. Looking via the BB, I didn't see any.

Offline damaxer91

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #51 on: June 01, 2010, 01:18:51 PM »
Keep going! I love it!

Offline Dan

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #52 on: June 01, 2010, 08:55:43 PM »
Amazing report moish-keep it coming!
And kudos for being brave enough to fly RJ!

I also think the La Briute Spaghetti and Meatballs is the best, but the cheese ravioli isn't bad, especially with the help of some parmesan cheese and maybe some jarred tomato sauce.
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline aussiebochur

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #53 on: June 02, 2010, 02:05:32 AM »
Keep those reports coming!

Offline Yordai Dooma

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #54 on: June 02, 2010, 03:54:01 PM »
Keep em coming. I gotta try something like this!

Offline Yellow

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #55 on: June 02, 2010, 05:28:08 PM »
this report is awesome!

Offline Charles The Govenor

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #56 on: June 03, 2010, 04:40:19 AM »
Great report,please continue.
star alliance

Offline moish

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Day 3 India
« Reply #57 on: June 06, 2010, 06:06:40 PM »
Day 3
The absolute best time to visit the Taj itself is right when it opens at around 6:30 AM, since there are not that many people (The big influx starts around 9 am when the fast train from Delhi arrives). We did that, even though by doing so we missed the sunrise view from our hotel, but it wasnít a big deal since we saw the sunset the night before. My hotel was very close and it was only a 2 minute golf cart away. I'm not going to start going into the history of the Taj or the fact that it took 20,000 people 18 years to build it, but I will say that it is the most beautiful building you'll ever see in your life. When you get inside the grounds there are tons of photographers vying for your business, and our guide recommended one. It was like my wedding pictures all over again with all the different poses. The total damage was 1000 INR for about 11 pics. I think it's worth it, because he has the guts to move everyone out of the shot which I otherwise would not have done with my western politeness and all (we also convinced him to give us the negatives). Included in the admission price is shoe covers since you're not allowed to walk in with shoes but they donít want to inconvenience the tourists so it's no longer necessary to remove your shoes. Inside the tomb you should put a tiny flashlight gently up against the orange cornelian, aka "fire stone" in the inlaid flowers and they light up like something on fire, sparking brilliantly in the darkness. This practice is illegal, and they now screen for flashlights by security. However the guards sneak them in and you can bribe them to borrow it. I let my guide do all the bribing. After the Taj we went back to the hotel for breakfast and packed our stuff. The next stop was a shop in which the descendents of the workers of the Taj are still working the trade of inlay work passed down from generation to generation to buy a souvenir. The plan was to spend a short amount of time there and then visit the Agra Fort, but by the time we decided on what we wanted, and haggling over price it was too late to visit the Fort which was a shame. BTW, the price for the guide in Agra for the 24 hours was roughly $40

AGR-DEL on Kingfisher
We were met in Delhi by our pre arranged tour company and headed down to Old Delhi to view the market as well as the sights. However along the way, my baby was jumping around the van and ended up throwing up all over herself and my wife. I instructed the driver to take us to the closest western hotel which was the Intercontinental where they completely gouged us for a room for 3 hours to shower, wash the clothes and change. After we finished at the hotel, our guide decided it was too risky to continue on to Old Delhi since the traffic is very unpredictable and didnít want to risk missing our flight. He instead took us around to shops which were a complete rip-off, and checked out the Qutb Minar complex which is basically the largest freestanding minaret completed in the 1200's and a bunch of Hindu avoda zarah. All in all, a waste of a day in Delhi.
Driving to the airport I witnessed for the first time somebody completely prostrated on the sidewalk. When we passed by, I saw that he was prostrating himself in front of a full fledged idol. Never thought I would see that in the 21st century. We arrived at the airport a full 4 hours before our flight and went straight to the lounge, which for some stupid reason is located before security. Obviously with free internet and drinks, eating dinner and taking a nap, we awoke with very little time to our flight. Security was a mess and the conveyor belt moves slower than molasses, as the person watching the screen is a member of the Indian army and couldnít care less if we made our flight. Frantically we contacted Cathay Pacific to hold the flight because if we would miss it we would have to spend shabbos in Delhi. Cathay was very kind and held the flight for us at least 20 minutes.
In conclusion, India was a very interesting place to visit. Itís a complete culture shock where it's normal for men to urinate on the side of the road and children to defecate in middle of the street. It's interesting to see all the different religions coexisting (Hindu, Muslim and Sikh). A land of contradictions, where on the one hand a Hindu, who believes in over a billion gods, considers cows and monkeys sacred, and believes all superstitions, coming to terms with life in the 21st century. As our guide in Agra told us, he's half Hindu, half atheist. Where a dirty, ugly city (Agra), has one of the nicest hotels in the world, and the nicest piece of architecture ever conceived by man. On the one hand seeing what seems to be a third world country while knowing that they are a nuclear superpower. (and tech support for Dell) It definitely plays with your mind and I was only there for 36 hours! Would I visit again? Absolutely!

DEL-HKG on Cathay Pacific
By far, it was the nicest business class of our trip. Fully lay flat beds in a herringbone pattern for full privacy. Also, amazing flight attendants. At one point during the night my baby started screaming for no reason, and a whole team of stewardesses were trying to help, offering juice, toys, games and stickers. The Hermolis food was quite delicious too!

« Last Edit: June 06, 2010, 06:31:05 PM by moish »

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #58 on: June 06, 2010, 06:10:14 PM »
very nice !!!!

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Re: Around the world
« Reply #59 on: June 06, 2010, 06:14:48 PM »
besides for the nice buildings, some parts remind me of meah sheorim...