Travel Diary: My first up-close look at the Sydney Harbour/ Circular Quay (a cruise rocked up too)

I wish the UK had this much sunshine. A blue sky and warm sun beaming down makes everything look better. Saying that, I doubt this view could look bad whatever the weather.


It is such an impressive bridge, this photo really doesn’t do it justice compared to being on the Quay and gazing out at the ocean. Just right of this image is the Opera House, another stunning building.

And just as I wonder how this view could get any better, a cruise docks. For the passengers, I doubt they will see many ports more stunning than this one. The ship gives the harbour a further burst of life, new passengers stepping foot on Australia for the first time and passers by get some great photo opportunities.

This one, the Golden Princess.


A cruise is definitely on my bucket list. Is it on yours?

The Sydney Harbour Bridge climb is not, as magnificent as I’m sure it is. I’m getting sweaty palms just watching them, height just aren’t my thing. If you have done it and maybe blogged about it, I’ll happily look at the images!

Travel Diary: After 39 hours travel (and about 5 hours sleep), I made it!

A commuter looks over the platform onto Sydney Harbour/ Circular Quay.

This is my first glimpse of Sydney. Finally seeing the bridge in person took my breath away. It’s always been a sight I have wanted to see, I guess it felt like seeing my hero in person for the first time at a gig.

This is the most tiring trip I have ever had. 39 hours from London to Sydney, not including the train journey to London the previous night or the commute from Sydney airport. I’m not mad about the never ending journey, I would much rather be worn down by an adventure than a job I don’t want to be in or a commute I didn’t want to take. Like working out, some pain is a good thing. It can leave you feeling great about yourself and that progress is being made.

I’m confident that this is that very feeling.

Travel Diary: I’m so pleased I did the Free Singapore Tour at night!

This could also be named Changi Airport part two as it was arranged within the airport, where this fantastic tour starts and ends.

What an awesome experience!


Requirements you need to meet to be eligible for this tour? A layover of six hours or more in Changi Airport. Also, flight times that work with the six set tour times daily. Passport, boarding card, stamp of approval to leave the airport. The staff were lovely as is Singapore. Just don’t mess with drugs or the government will kill you. Literally.

I was waiting in the terminal, right next to the tour stand as instructed to, along with a lovely family of four. I made sure I was there early, I have had this planned for a while and this layover was too long to not do the tour. Despite being a very fun airport, 17 hours is just too long. A little insight to my experience in the airport can be seen here in my most recent post.

The tour lady called us over and we started to make our way. We boarded the Sky Train to Terminal 2, the meeting place for the start of the tour and the rest of the group. There were many more people waiting in this terminal, what seemed like a very small tour group turned into a bus load. Probably 20 or so, some heading to Europe, some Australia.

The Tour Guide that walked us there stayed within the airport, the one rounding up the troops in T3 took over. He was from Singapore, no surprise there. A very bubbly character and proud to be Singaporean. He also had a great urge to shout ‘ole ole ole’ every now and then, which caught on and spread throughout the bus on route.

This is a bit of a rushed tour, at least ours was as we left a little late waiting for someone. I don’t know what happened but we probably waited an extra 15 minutes at the airport exit before boarding the tour bus. With people waiting for seperate flights at seperate times, time is valuable and we were often shown where the taxis were whilst in Singapore if we were to be one minute late for the bus. I liked that though, it made the trip flow smoothly and it was for our own benefit. Who wants to be late for their own flight?!

We made two stops. First, Supergree Grove at Gardens by the Bay. More info on this area can be read here.


Supergree Grove has 12 of the 18 super trees in Gardens by the Bay. A 128 meter long Skyway connects two of these Supertrees. They all come alive at night with lights and sounds, the reason I was pleased to have changed my tour time from 6pm to 7.30pm.


Our second and final stop was Marina Bay Sands. Travelling up the motorway to this place was pretty cool, the skyscrapers emerged in the distance, the Singapore Flyer looked impressive all lit up (I had no idea it was bigger than the London Eye, 30m in fact) and the Formula One racing track for the Singapore Grand Prix carved it’s way through the city centre. Then, we arrive at our stop, crossing a bridge to get fantastic views of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the city skyline.


Both of these stops allowed roughly 15-20 minutes to walk around, take some pictures and soak up the atmosphere. It isn’t too long, however it was long enough to get a taste of this great city and get a fresh stamp in my passport. Would I come back? Possibly. If I have another long layover in Singapore, this tour has given me a great taste of what to expect and I would probably put more effort into going out myself and travelling independently.

Thank you again to Changi Airport and Singapoge Airlines for a unique tour and experience.

Travel Diary: Changi airport, the best for long layovers!

After a long 14 hour journey from London to Singapore, I had an even longer 17 hours in Changi airport. If there was ever an airport that I would want to be stuck in for so long, I can safely say it is this one.


It is very green, that’s what I noticed straight away after entering the terminal. There are plants everywhere! It felt relaxed and that is the vibe I got walking through the airport. Everything was chilled.


I did not realise how quickly my 17 hours would fly by though. I spent the first thirty minutes in the Cactus Garden with a couple of beers, sitting under a fan chatting to the bartender after having a stroll around the differing species of cacti on display.


This of course, made me pretty peckish. I will warn you now, this specific post isn’t for foodies. I grabbed quick bites when I could, on this occasion a chicken and cheese croissant’which from Burger King. Never had one before, and it got me through.

The Sky Train is very convenient, a fast and very frequent way to travel between terminals. The outside of the airport seems to be as pretty as it is inside!


I headed back to my terminal and to the Free Singapore Tours stand.

This, my friends, is the daddy of all layover actives.


That, or being made to ride a bike to charge your phone. That is up there too!


But back to the tour. The queue when I got there was probably ten people long but it didn’t take too long to get seen to. I told the lady at the stand that I was given a spot on the 6pm tour after emailing Singapore Airlines before flying, although the 7.30pm show sounded much more appealing due to the light shows displayed after sunset. I was worried about getting back after the 2.5 hour show and to my next flight, boarding at 11.45pm, taking into account the security checks leaving and entering the airport and the possible traffic issues.


After speaking to the lovely lady it was clear that 7.30pm wouldn’t be an issue for getting back to my flight, and that it was easy for me to change times. That I did.

By this time it was midday. I spent some of the next hour strolling through the airport and taking in the nature.


It was then that a couple of yawns hit me, and that I realised that I probably only had an hour tops of sleep on the flight. If I was to fully appreciate the Singapore Tour, I needed to find a spot and get my head down. I set my alarm for 5pm, enough time to get a decent few hours and make it to the tour before it got too busy.

What a glorious sleep I had.

So, this 17 hour layover wasn’t a bad one. In fact it was a great one. By the time the tour started it was 7.30pm, by the time I was back I had enough time to grab another bite to eat and leisurely walk to my departure gate. Some airports would have been pure hell for a long wait for my next flight, this turned out to be amazing with some lifetime memories along the way.

That memory was the Singapore Tour, my next post. I’ll see you then!

Travel Diary: My first A380/Singapore Airlines experience

I’m ‘that guy’ that mentally applauds when landing after a long haul flight. I always get a little anxious before any flight, as safe as I know it is. Come on now. We’ve just spent 14 hours flying at 550mph with -45c temperatures just inches away from my face the whole time, 38,000 ft above the ground and I am meant to just get off it like it was a bus journey?

You could literally place 30+ Eiffel Towers beneath us, throw a few Empire State Buildings above them and still clear it. The weird thing is I tremble more at the top of the Empire State Building. All because these flying machines have proven to be incredibly consistent.


When I first booked a window seat I thought I had struck lucky. It wasn’t until I sat down that I realised why, the huuuge wings obscured almost all of the view. It wasn’t too big of a deal, the cabins are large and with the A380 the window seat is roughly a foot away from the actual window anyway. Notice the flex in the wing on the ground compared to in flight.


This isn’t great if you like to rest your head on the inner wall to sleep, however there are benefits. With Singapore Airlines you get a great amount of space in economy (they are great for leg room and seat widths but I haven’t looked at a comparison chart). I was sat next to the largest guy I saw step onto the plane- no exaggeration- and we hardly brushed against each other! What I thought would affect my experience really didn’t, and I have been much more cramped short haul with people of a medium build.

The entertainment was great too. There were hundreds of movies, TV shows and music, I guess as expected from long haul. I don’t travel this far too often, so I have limited experience to compare. It was a great selection though and more than enough to remain occupied.

Of course I watched Baywatch.

 

Food was tasty. The menu provided was a lot more stylish and well presented than my previous flights, in fact I cannot recall seeing a menu like this before in economy class. Here are a couple of tasters of what to expect between London and Singapore.


My meal was some lovely beef in a thyme and garlic sauce, followed by a rather tasty chicken sandwich to see me through to a breakfast of poached eggs in hollandaise sauce with chicken sausage and potatoes. A few Tiger beers to wash it down, I don’t turn down free beer given the opportunity!


Refreshment wise, the toilets were filled with dental kits and combs, and hot towels provided at the beginning and end of the flight. The cabin crew were very cheery and happy to help with very quick response times.


The in flight map is always something I refer too, I’m fascinated when flying over nations that are so different to my own…


I won’t rate this airline as I have not travelled long haul enough to compare. It is safe to say they lived up to the great reputation they have and I am pleased to have travelled on the A380. Do it if you get the opportunity, and with Singapore Airlines!

Travel Diary: So long America, it was fun :(

I wanted to find an image that represents the USA in differing ways for this post, I decided on this picture taken in Austin, TX.

The famous yellow taxi. Glass highrises dwarfing the one storey eateries lining the grid traffic systems. Right lane driving. These all stand out to me as a British traveller.

My home city of Durham bans building over two storeys high in some areas to prevent obscuring any views of the cathedral, or so I was taught on a geography trip back in school. Grid systems would be ideal, sadly this is impossible when our city was built when horses were the main mode of transport. It was also important to build in an area that was difficult to conquer, common throughout Europe. It is a city that has always taken my breath away, not just because of the views but the effort needed to walk up to the market place. You can see why the centre is pedestrianised, and how this spot was perfect for the building of a castle and cathedral.

Credit: Van Rhijn Aerial Photography

But this post is about the New World. Today, I received notification that my US visa expired. It isn’t something that I have looked to renew as I have spent the years since 2010 in Malaysia, Brazil and short breaks in Europe. A lot happens in this space of time. I lost my father and uncle in recent years which of course took the wind out of my sails. I had no ambition to travel at all but thanks to great friends and amazing family, I got back on my feet. I would love to have went back the States and it feels weird that I haven’t, I made great friends and still keep in touch.

Sometimes we don’t get upset that something is over until it is over. I haven’t thought much about the visa still being valid but now I see it isn’t, I slumped a bit. If anything it is a reminder that I need to visit this great nation once again, one so vast that one image alone cannot portray the United States of America accurately. I miss the food, the friendly people, the numbered streets and alphabetised avenues and people thinking I’m Irish or Australian.

My visa expiring has inspired me to visit again one day!

Travel Diary: Spain: 4 days to go

Today, it is all about the Euro. Many of you liked yesterdays post so I thought it would make sense to let you all in on my next few days worth of plans (or lack of), before boarding that plane to the Mediterranean.

For the record I am not taking much money to Spain. Roughly…hold up, where is the Euro symbol on my keyboard?!

*does a quick Google*

*Alt+E doesn’t work, grabs iPhone*

Roughly €500. €400 of that will be on a Travel Card, the rest you can see in cash. Now, back to the laptop.

I will probably take the least amount of money out of my friends, I don’t feel I will need as much money this time around. It is only for a week and it won’t be involving many costly activities or travel outside of the resort. I will buy cheap food, drink and the occasional taxi to and from popular districts. I also need to save £3000 for Australian customs later in the year, I have been warned that not having this amount in my bank account is enough for them to turn me away, and I don’t want to travel for 35 hours to be turned away.

It seems this isn’t often checked but that is not a risk I want to take. Sometimes in life risks are the best things we ever do, other times they are just plain silly and if anything, hinder any opportunities awaiting us. Can you imagine the awkwardness of a 35 hour flight back? I hate being rejected from a bar for being too drunk let alone an entire country.

rejected

I have found Travel Cards to be very useful. Mine is operated by MasterCard and therefore can be used anywhere (in certain countries only) for up to three years. Any bars, restaurants, ATM’s. I was warned there would be a (grabs iPhone) €2 charge at ATM’s but with no charge for using the card directly anywhere this won’t be a problem. I would much prefer to lose a card and be able to cancel it instantly than lose a whole wad of notes with colours almost as bright as the sun. The kind of notes Hubble would be able to detect on the surface of Mars… whilst it was observing Jupiter.

Are you one to take plenty of money on a trip, or does it depend on where you are heading? I have never been one to take extortionate amounts, then again any long term travel I have done was paid for by working out there, thankfully I was paid by my current job half way through my months travel in Brazil last year. It has been a long time since I went on the typical week or two week holiday, in fact it is the first ‘lads’ holiday I have taken in my life, tradition for males in their 20’s.

27 isn’t too late, right?