It's always a sheer delight to fly over Central London while making the final approach to London Heathrow Airport...best view in town...takes about 5 minutes to land from this point...but takes 2 HOURS to get back home to Dulwich.
One of the advantages of flying out of Heathrow (especially if you are departing out of the easterly runways') is that you get treated to some marvelous views of the capital (weather and visibility prevailing!). Though it must be said that with a take-off speed of around 250 knots/287mph (and increasing!), and an increasing altitude, it doesn't offer hope that the views will last for long- especially as it takes only around 6 minutes to get from Heathrow to the other side of London! The views never fail to captivate (camera ready at hand, I even managed to get a photo of my home as we flew over it for a final goodbye!)
I decided to take a photo of the customs security point at Heathrow Airport for a report, and immediately I was told to delete the photo by the custom officers (they watched me delete the photos on the spot, and I had to show them that I have actually deleted the photos). I have had the same experience at other airports. Now, without being stereo-typically negative, in my experience normally you are likely to get that response in a country such as Russia or somewhere in the Middle East...but thanks to some idiots on 9/11/2001 you are likely to get that response at every airport in the world (irrespective of what color or race you are- seriously). Why is it that the places that sell the most cameras than any other - airports - don't let you take pictures? I mean ...you can't take a photo of the Security and Immigration Officers working. Why? It's not as if the area is out of bounds of the public...
(note: showing a Journalist pass sometimes makes them more angry)
A two mile long road will just take you upto two miles...but two miles of runway will take you ANYWHERE!
The sight of a Egyptair Boeing 777-300ER landing at Heathrow's Runway 27R caught my eye as I made my way in order to catch my flight. Despite the serious civil unrest and chaos that the country is going through, the airline is still flying normal schedules without any issues. Egypt's sea resorts, especially Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, are popular holiday destinations for many Europeans (July and August are the hottest months of the year at Sharm el-Sheikh, and become a beehive for avid scuba divers). The pristine waters of the Red Sea (it's actually turquoise), the year around sunshine, the great Egyptian hospitality and the delicious food all are key reasons why so many Europeans escape their boring and dull lands in search of sun, sea, and sand.
The land of the people who were one of the first major civilizations to codify design elements in art and architecture is going through a tough time at the moment. While there may be enhanced security in places such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada (where I guess most of the passengers in the plane above would have come from), the country is going through a phase of continued unrest and the evolving political situation.
In Cairo on the 14th of August Egyptian security forces ended sit-in protests at Nahda Square close to Cairo University in Giza and at Rabaa Al-Adaweya mosque in Nasr City. This resulted in at least 500 deaths. Violent clashes also occurred near Mostafa Mahmoud Square in Mohandiseen, Cairo. It’s very likely that there will be further protests in Cairo- and let's hope that
Great family run English pub and restaurant located close to the Northern Perimeter Road at Heathrow (just off Bath Road, and behind High Street Harlington). Perfect for pre take-off (or post-landing) English food - the Pheasant never fails to please.
'Fresh beer battered cod served with homemade chips and salad'- REAL English food never tasted so good. Wash it down with a pint of Windsor & Eton Conqueror Black IPA (or just water if you are flying!)
I grew up in the days before London City Airport (LCY) was built. The airport is a Short Take-Off and Landing facility (STOL) located in the east of the city (next to Woolwich, and the Docklands). Back then, in the early 1980s, the site where the current runway is situated was nothing but a long stretch of concrete which was occasionally used as a docking port by container ships (hence the name Docklands).
The airport is surrounded by the water-filled Royal Albert and King George V docks to the north and south respectively. Due to the airport's proximity to Central London, and the surrounding residential areas, it has stringent rules imposed to limit the noise impact from aircraft operations. This, together with the physical dimensions of the 1,508 m (4,948 ft) runway and the steep glideslope (it's at 5.5 degrees as opposed to the stranded 3 degrees approach angle at most airports including Heathrow), limits the aircraft types that can use London City Airport.
The size and layout of the airport and overall complexity caused by the lack of taxiways mean that the airport gets VERY busy during peak hours. It poses a challenge for the air traffic controllers because there is only one runway in use with a limited taxiway. Operations are restricted to 06:30 to 22:30 Monday to Friday, 06:30 to 13:00 on Saturdays and 12:30 to 22:30 on Sundays. These restrictions are related to noise.
You may think that living in a quiet London suburb 15 miles away from the airport, such as Dulwich, would not be an issue when it comes to noise. Well, it does pose a problem, especially when LCY is using runway 09 (due to the Easterly winds, which account for around 40% of the year...around 90% of which falls in the summer months)...then it causes problems because landing aircraft come in LOUDLY over South-East London before turning around over Central London to land at runway 09. From my experience I find the main noise issue is with the older aircraft (BAe 146, and the Fokker 50) whose engines make that screeching noise as they speed in over SE London at a speed of around 200 knots at 2,800 feet.
When the airport originally opened, the airport's officials promised the London community that noise would be kept at a minimum because they would have aircraft operating with 'quieter' engines. While that may have been the case with the likes of the BAe 146 and the Fokker 50 back in the 1980s...it is no longer the fact because these aircraft are far more nosier than the modern jetliners of today's era (Airbus A318, and some of the private jets that fly into London City Airport are quiet).
However, for the moment, residents in South-East London can only hope that runway 09 is not used as much (I am sure the same problem occurs for residents of Barking and Dagenham when runway 27 is used for around 60% of the year). It's not that bad on the whole because the noise activity only happens during peak hours...but imagine having a BBQ in the garden and a jet screams past overhead every 5 minutes or so!
Since it's introduction 6 years ago, the Airbus A380-800 has become a regular visitor to Heathrow, with Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, and Singapore Airlines all flying this beast into London. Soon British Airways will start flying the A380 from LHR.
She's not as beautiful as the Boeing 747, however two things do stick out about the A380....she is remarkably quiet, and her enormous size (wingspan and length of fuselage both just under 80 meters)...which means that while you may be having a chat with your friend in a cafe, she will surprise you while gilding past quietly in the background..it's gets me every-time...almost as if a huge whale is in the sky...
Wanna know what's she's like inside? Here, read THIS, and if you ARE flying First Class on her, then try the showers (can't beat a shower in the sky..)
Seen here, Dwayne Malone of Emirates takes her out of Heathrow...back to Dubai.
The crowded skies over London are some of the busiest in the world. With low level traffic from the five London airports', helicopters (police, ambulance, and others), private aircraft, AND the HUNDREDS of aircraft crossing our airspace everyday, it is no surprise that on a lovely summer's day the beautiful art created naturally by the aircraft contrails is enough to make the most prolific of artists jealous.
Below is a photo of a Delta Airlines Airbus A330 passing at 38,000 feet over London on it's way to Paris. How do I know this in detail? I saw it on Flightradar24.com!
The veteran Australian author and broadcaster, Clive James described the Boeing 747 as being (I quote): 'Like a winged supertanker full of odoriferous amethystine ordure', and 'a colossal machine'. His words echoed in my mind as I came face-to-face with this beauty on a hot summer's day at Heathrow International Airport.
Aviation is bringing along many gems in the sky, especially with the Boeing 787 'Dreamliner', the Airbus A380-800, and the Airbus A350-900XWB; but nothing will ever beat the imposing beauty of the original 'Queen of the Skies', the Boeing 747 (AKA, the REAL Jumbo Jet).
British Airways get their first Airbus A380-800- that's SIX years after Singapore Airlines became the first carrier to fly this SuperJumbo (inaugural flight was on the 25th of October 2007- and 9 airlines already operate this aircraft)....and so you wonder why the UK media reacts as if they've never seen this plane before....(the same thing will happen when/IF Virgin Atlantic Airways get their first A380 aircraft- Virgin was one of the first carriers to order the A380, and was originally due to take the model in 2006; but that's been pushed back to 2018).
There are seven daily non-stop flights to Hong Kong from London (with Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, and Cathay Pacific). The London to Hong Kong route (and vice-versa) is a highly lucrative one because it connects these two world financial centres, and the demand is high with all flights almost always fully booked. With each airline carrier in direct competition, it is no wonder that the products are all very tempting to try. For this flight, I decided to check out the relatively brand new First Class cabin of British Airways. There are fourteen private suites located in the nose cone of the Boeing 747-400 aircraft, each with a 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) bed, a 15-inch (38 cm) wide entertainment screen, and in-seat power.
British Airways operate the Boeing 747-400 aircraft on this route, and in November 2013 the airline will start using the brand new Airbus A380-800 for the Hong Kong route. While these photos just offer a glimpse of the new First Class cabin, please take a look at my flight experience from SEAT 1A on British Airways Boeing 747-400 here.
When passengers arrive or depart from London's two major international airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, they will notice that the aircraft models that are displayed as welcoming adverts are in fact not representative of any of the British airlines.
On the 30th of March 2007, a scale model of Concorde which had the pride of place at Heathrow Airport's entrance for 16 years was sadly removed, and replaced in 2008 with an Emirates Airlines A380 aircraft model. British Airways had decided not to renew the £1.5m annual rent to advertise on the roundabout at the gateway to the London airport. Instead, Emirates Airlines, the major carrier of the United Arab Emirates, poached the prime spot with a six-year deal to advertise on the site.
Meanwhile at Gatwick Airport, Turkish Airlines have partnered with Eye and Gatwick Airport to suspend a scale model aeroplane inside the airport terminal. The Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, situated in Gatwick’s North Terminal check-in measures 6.1m in length with a wingspan of 5.1m. The 124kg structure created by Leading Models will be suspended from the check-in ceiling until August 2013.
Back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s the airport billboards at British Airports were thronged with national pride such as BOAC, British Caledonian (remember them?!), British Midland, Virgin and so on. With the change of the times, it's the Middle Eastern and Asian carriers who seem to have the money (China Southern Airlines have huge billboards outside Terminal 4 at Heathrow). So the question is if there any chance that we may ever see British carriers advertising their airlines at British airports?
Opened to the public on the 1st of February 2013, and designed by the architect Renzo Piano, the 'Shard' is officially Europe Union’s tallest building standing at 1,016 ft (309.6 meters). The Shard contains premium office space, a hotel (The Shangri-La London at the Shard will open in 2013), luxury residences, retail space, restaurants, and a five-storey public viewing gallery. The public viewing gallery is located between the 68th and 72nd floors, with its highest section at a height of 245 metres (804 ft). The Shard's observation floors, unlike most other high rise global landmarks, does not have a fancy restaurant, or a cafe. The cost of entrance to the Shard viewing gallery is £24.95 per head. Now, while this may sound expensive just to go to the top of a building and see the city, in fact the price is competitive (and somewhat acceptable) when compared to other similar global landmarks.
To put things into prospective the entrance fee for the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is set at 100 AED (about £20) if you book in advance, and 400 AED (around £70!) if you pay at the door on the day. Well, OK, that’s the tallest building in the world I hear you say, and we are only talking about the tallest building in the EU (not even in Europe….that title goes to the Mercury City Tower in Moscow). Nevertheless, as with any new establishment, the price is going to be a bit high in the beginning so that the holding company can try to break-even, and eventually in time we hope that the entrance fee would go down (it’s been proven with the CN Tower, Petronas Towers (Malaysia) and many others). Thankfully the views are, as one would expect, priceless.
Captain. Syed Bin Abdul Aziz A Rahman (former of Malaysia Airlines) brings this beauty back from Abu Dhabi on a fine crisp winter's day at Heathrow. Etihad Airways operates three daily flights between Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow.
The trip to London was so short and snappy that it almost felt like a dream. Thankfully on the day of the flight from Heathrow we were gifted with a clear blue sky, and slight easterly winds, which allowed an excellent opportunity to take beautiful photos of London and beyond as the plane took off from runway 09R (heading towards Clacton-on-Sea, and then onwards towards Germany). I flew with Qatar Airways, so both the first flight (LHR-DOH, QR008), and the second flight (DOH-PVG, QR888) provided great opportunities to take some superb photos of the skyline of not just London but also Doha, Northern Thailand, Guiyang, Wuhan, Wuxi, Kunshan, and Suzhou (my home!!). And not to mention the magical sunrise that we were treated to somewhere over the Pakistan/India border.
I landed in London on the 23rd of January (a week after my birthday!). Last year I managed to fly back to London from China on four occasions, though I could easily have stayed in China to do more travelling. This time I was planning to stay back in Suzhou for the Chinese New Year festivities, however at the last minute I decided to go to London for personal reasons (via 1 night in Shanghai, and then 4 days in Beijing).
It's great to be back though! It actually made up for the time I missed being with my parents during Christmas and the New Year festivities last year. The great thing about working in China is that you get to enjoy national holidays (and annual leave) while the rest of the world is working. It’s a lovely feeling because it’s not so busy in the UK. as it would be during the festive season like Christmas or the New Year.
It’s also nice landing into Heathrow Airport, especially if you have westerly winds because then you get to fly right over Central London. The views are just magical as the majority of London’s famous landmarks were visible. As the photos below illustrate, I also got beautiful glimpses of some cities from the sky (Doha, Kuwait as examples shown).
It was also nice to be invited by the team at Resonance FM 104.4 on the 31st of January to give a talk about China Culture and how my books are assisting expats in adjusting to life in China. The presenter was the evergreen veteran Journalist Rakesh K. Mathur who managed to present the programme despite being heavily jet-lagged and also suffering from a cold. Click HERE to listen to the recording. They also played music by Sayaka, a Japanese jazz musician and pieces from the modern and traditional Chinese opera.
I should have put these photos up while I was in the UK but unfortunately, due to a short and hectic schedule I did not have enough time to update my weblog while I was in London. But nevertheless, here is a show of some of the beautiful weather that I happened to enjoy on my short trip. Rather unusual for London to experience such glorious sunshine in the first week of October. In fact the unseasonably warm weather brought in the hottest October for over a century to the U.K. Just four weeks before the clocks go back for winter, Britain was in the middle of an Indian summer like no other with sizzling temperatures soaring all over the southern region. It was nice to be a tourist in your own city for once and also to go to Hyde Park.
I recall my younger years in the 1980s when it used to start getting miserably cold during late September in London. This kind of weather would have been unheard of during this time of the year. I would not be surprised to see this kind of weather in the future. Here are the shots of London:
2002年我的第一次旅行向中国….并且如此开始的旅途 (My first trip to CHINA in 2002- including Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Shanghai)
On the afternoon of Friday the 23rd of February 2002 (it was also my sisters birthday), I left Loughborough for Heathrow giving myself of what I thought would be ample time, in the hope that I would be able to join my parents and sister for a short dinner at the airport terminal before leaving on the 13 hour evening flight with British Airways to Hong Kong. It just so happened that I arrived late (as always I do for my flights!), had no time to think about any long good-byes let alone a dinner; and ended up running for the departure gate (as always). Its a bad habit of mine, running at airports to catch my flight at the last minute, irrespective if I am on a business or pleasure trip...however, remarkably I have never missed a flight (YET).
Perhaps the greatest trip of my life so far because I had done so much preparation to understand the culture, the language (although I could not even say "Hello" in Chinese) and the food...but I am not exaggerating. In actual fact the whole week seemed like a long dream because everything happened so quickly. I completed my final exam in the morning in the (annoyingly) wet and windy Loughborough; and 24 hours later I was on a night cruise on the Pearl River in the middle of Guangzhou, and it was like, I have to make the most of this trip because I am only here for seven days. When you are so far away for such a short time, not knowing if you will ever go back to the place again in the future, then there should be a second wasted. So effectively everyday seemed like a great dream because I saw so many things in such a small amount of time. It was amazing.
First impressions of China?
China is a very beautiful country, one which has so much to offer but does not normally get the chance to show off its true inner self to the outside world- what do I mean by this? Well, there are those who question if it is still a friend or foe, there are also lots of biased points against (and some, of course, for) China’s policies. Media can be a wrong source for digesting a destination’s good and bad points because not all media is full of positive points. For example, the coverage of the Beijing Olympics (as an example), I believe was not covered in a well balanced way. I use factual data to take wherever I go (like for example from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Website). Of course, one does not expect a simple and smooth approach to life from a country which is still considered by some hard-line economists as a sleeping dragon that is too ambitious...the obvious answer to this statement would be that even Rome was not built in one day.
It goes without saying that the cultural differences do not hit you when you land in Hong Kong (as most of its’ colonial British feel is somewhat fading away at a slow pace- for many it’s still a home away from home). There used to be a saying among the English, “If you cannot make it in London, then go to Hong Kong”, however, even though Hong Kong has a “International” feel to it, that statement would no longer stand as the former colony is now, of course, part of China. Nevertheless, the real culture shock would hit anyone once they cross the border into the mainland. Shenzhen is the city that borders Hong Kong and at that time had only 2 border crossing, one at Huanggang and the other at LoWu.
From Hong Kong, once I crossed the border I took the Guang-Shen train straight to the capital of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou. If I just say that “China is amazing and full of so many surprises that one cannot just sum up the whole picture in one go”, that would be a common statement these days because so many people have experienced the country, but then in 2002, for me, those were the first words that came out of my mouth. China has of course a lot of similarities with its neighbours (namely Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, India etc), and like any Asian country which is moving from the developing stage into a newly industrialised stage, it has the good points, the bad points and the unmentionable ones- and that’s not too difficult to observe.
A short ride on one of the many local buses will open your eyes immediately; you may be travelling in a very affluent area at one point, and then suddenly you may come across a highly deprived neighbourhood. An extreme example as it may seem, but just imagine you are driving through the suburbs of a busy western city like London one minute and then suddenly you are travelling through the shanty towns of, say an economically deprived rural village, and a minute later you are suddenly back into the affluent area (vice-versa). There may be many places in the world where such contrasts exist, but to see it in the flash and blood is a unique experience. Watching something on the television or reading about it on the internet is not quite the same as experiencing it in real life.
Then there are also the minor but important downsides from living in the world’s fastest growing economy: China is also a VERY noisy country, especially in the big cities (Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai), for example it is considered normal to use the drill or do heavy construction at 2am in the morning or even all night! If you are in London and you have noisy neighbours, I bet nothing is more annoying than having a drill go off almost all night long.
China is also the world's largest consumer of alcohol so it is no surprise that if your neighbours (irrespective if it is a hotel or home) are heavy drinkers, then they will sure keep you awake all night with loud shouting and arguing over Mah-jong or any card games which they be playing. It may be quite and then suddenly you hear a loud “Arrrgggg” (of course, indicating that someone has won the Mah-Jong equivalent of the national lottery!).
China is also the worlds largest market for tobacco, therefore it is no surprise that you will be exposed to smoke everywhere because people smoke in Internet cafes, restaurants, cafes, buses...and if you don't smoke (like myself) then you are going to find it just that little bit challenging!
If you are in the workplace (corporate culture defines a very different meaning in China as compared to say a more "International" environment such as London, Hong Kong), then you will be exposed to things such as the "normality" of answering you mobile phone in the middle of a corporate meeting/presentation and even a formal Interview!
What about the culture, the people and those Famous Chinese Restaurants?
While it is quite difficult for a lone western tourist to get around and speak English with the locals, the people are very friendly and assisting. Over in the border in Hong Kong it is more of a relaxed approach towards foreigners because of the reason that Hong Kong is multicultural (and maybe because there are too many people), however that is not the case in the mainland. You do get a lot of respect and VIP treatment as a foreigner in China.
To some extent it's an advantage to be a foreigner in the mainland because you get treated in a much better way. I mean as an example I remember popping into a local sweet shop (nothing more different then a newsagent in the UK), and as soon as they saw me entering the shop, they were so eager (not pushy or anything) to lend a hand or get me to buy anything. Now I can imagine that kind of hospitality would seldom be seen towards a tourist in the UK- of course there are good places and bad places everywhere. That’s just one simple example, and also another one is that people are most willing to learn English.
The Chinese food you get in your local takeaways’ in the UK is nothing compared to what you get over there in China, of course that’s the same with all other foreign foods I hear you say, but the experience is totally different. You simply have to taste it to believe it. The most wonderful thing about seafood in Chinese restaurants is that it’s FRESH and you can choose what to eat straight from the fish tanks!
Food, especially when it comes to eating out at Dinner time, is a very important part of the Chinese lifestyle- and even more "fashionable" in Guangzhou because of the variety of seafood available here.
Restaurants in general within the UK are nothing compared to what you will see in Guangzhou or for that matter the whole of China, it brings out a whole new meaning to eating out. The competition can be so fierce in some cases that some of the best seafood restaurants in Guangzhou are similar in size to four story buildings, which usually tend to have their own Karaoke Bars (a must to try even if you do not speak the language and a popular pastime of the locals).
Chinese tea...and did I hear someone say night zoo?
One of the highlights of my trip was going to see a zoo at night (yes.. a night zoo). A unique experience which is seldom seen in the west..with all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures. Not only a zoo but mix that with a night circus, a laser disco show, and a whole load of water acrobats show which consisted of the Chinese water sports Olympic team...so it was more like a huge funfair but at nighttime..quite impressive actually. Sounds too good to believe.
Moving on from night zoos...lets talk about something which is a bit more of a common thing in China...Tea! Apart from India and Sri Lanka, China is the world largest exporter of the stuff...and its pretty much quite hard to avoid...leaving China without trying at least 4 or 5 different types of tea would be a comparable to leaving Scotland without trying whiskey. If its your first time drinking Chinese tea, you would be immensely surprised to know that it has no taste just sweet smell, nevertheless after a week of trying the stuff- day in day out, it felt soo good that I got put off drinking English tea altogether!
This one week’s trip was my first trip to China and just about when I thought that maybe this would be also my last time to go there, I was fortunate enough to have been offered a contract position as a Graduate Sales Engineer with Philips Semiconductors in Shenzhen, China. This was indeed an exciting opportunity, so much for my fate that I have been in China ever since and never looked back.
Early afternoon arrival into Heathrow offers a lovely view of the city in glorious sunshine. All the landmarks in the Square Mile (right), Tower Bridge, and London Bridge (left) are visible. It took around 4 minutes to land at Heathrow's Runway 27L from this point, and it took about 2 hours to get back to home in South London!
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