faster than a speeding tuk tuk

sook jai

Couples traveling together to Thailand this month can speed their way through the traffic at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport faster than you can say, “no tuk tuk, no massage.” Register at one of the “Amazing Thailand, Amazing Romance” counters – located on both the East and West concourses – by providing some basic information and receive a heart-shaped sticker and a key chain with the Thailand tourism mascot, Sook Jai, which entitles couples to use the “premium lane” for a fast track through the notoriously congested immigration process. Befitting a country known for its embrace of a third gender, the program applies to same-sex couples, too. I think I feel an emoticon coming on.

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a royal send-off

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Just when you think there’s nothing left to do, no corner left unexplored, Incheon Airport travels back in time as the Korean Royal Family of the Josean Dynasty make a ceremonial procession through the terminal. Dressed in colorful traditional costumes, an enfilade of noblemen and women (staff from the Cultural Heritage Foundation actually) re-enact a scene from a bygone era: the daily walk of the Royal Family. It turns out that transit travelers spend an average of 5.2 hours at Incheon waiting for connecting flights and the procession is part of a push to make the gateway more than just an airport but also a destination representing Korean society. A Cultureport, if you will, which also includes a Traditional Craft Gallery, the Korea Culture Museum, and the Korean Traditional Cultural Experience Centre, all within the terminal confines. Delirious after five hours of shopping and walking and eating and staring at the departures board it made for one of the more intriguing distractions I’ve ever witnessed in an airport and a fun photo-op, too – not to mention a very royal send-off.

the royal procession

the royal guard

a royal nobleman and woman

me and the royal guard

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killing time at incheon

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With six hours to kill in Seoul’s Incheon Airport – before connecting in Beijing and only then on to home – what’s a weary traveler to do except take random photos of unsuspecting travelers and chance objects? After all, I’ve just slept through an overnight flight from Phuket with miles and miles to go before I sleep again.

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next stop: cambodia

tom yum crisps

But first, snacks. Tom Yum crisp: an addictive, crunchy mix of dried shrimp, lemongrass, squid and cashews – and surely the oddest airport breakfast I’ve ever eaten. Good as it is, I’ve a sneaking suspicion I’ll be tasting it again at 35,000 feet.

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irish coffee (non-blarney edition)

According to sources, the first Irish coffee was invented and named by Joe Sheridan, head chef at the restaurant and coffee shop in the Foynes terminal building. (A precursor to Shannon Airport, Foynes was the last port of call for seaplanes on the eastern shore of the Atlantic. During Word War II it would become one of the biggest civilian airports in Europe) The coffee was conceived after a group of American passengers disembarked from a Pan Am flying boat one miserable winter evening in the 1940s. Sheridan added whiskey to the coffee to warm them. After the passengers asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, Sheridan told them it was Irish coffee and the name stuck. In 1951, Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, tasted what had by then become the traditional airport welcome drink and was smitten. Returning home he told his friend Jack Koeppler, owner of the Buena Vista Café and the two set about trying to recreate the drink. Stymied by the Irish flair for floating the cream on top, the duo went so far as to seek help from the city’s then mayor, George Christopher, who also happened to own a dairy. He suggested that cream aged for at least 48 hours would be more apt to float, and so it did. In later years, after the Buena Vista had served, by its count, more than 30 million of the drinks, Delaplane and the owners claimed to grow tired of the drink. (And who can blame them, the currency had been cheapened: bastardized versions of a drink that were less hot toddy and more like hot candy had popped up everywhere.) A snark after my own heart commented that the problem with Irish coffee is that it ruins three good drinks – coffee, cream, and whiskey – but you’d never surmise that from the crowds that still take the Hyde Street cable car to Maritime Park in search of the original elixir. In fact, if you’ve never tasted a proper Irish coffee, you have no idea what you are missing – two go down nicely on an afternoon, while three guarantee a lovely start to the evening. Here’s how it’s done: Fill a glass goblet with hot water, then empty. Pour in hot coffee until about three-quarters full.  Drop in two sugar cubes. Stir. Add a full jigger of whiskey and top with a collar of lightly whipped cream. Do not stir. Drink piping hot in two or three sips. Okay, four at most.

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vip arrival

One of the many benefits of staying with The Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong is their VIP meet and greet service. After a sixteen hour flight from Newark it was a pleasant surprise to be met at the plane by this lovely lady who whisked me through immigration to baggage claim and into a taxi to the hotel. I barely had time to register my disorientation. Welcome to Hong Kong!

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cocktails in the cock pit

Thanks to website Jaunted for today’s post, which – despite some truly rotten grammar – is far too fun to not lift verbatim: Five Airport-area Bars Made From Actual Airplanes! “Spending your free time hanging out on an airplane before hopping on an airplane to actually go somewhere isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Five airports around the world are betting otherwise, however, as they’ve actually taken airplanes—ones which can no longer buzz up into the air—and installed them as bars, all in the name of getting you buzzed instead.” Read the full story HERE.

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i spy ifly

iFly is a neat new online travel magazine from Dutch airline KLM.  What sets it apart from its dowdy paper cousin, the in-flight, is more than just a half-finished Sudoku. Namely it’s an almost Ipadian reliance on words and images cleverly integrated with video. The opening spread features German photographers Censi Goepel and Jens Warnecke, who work in situations where most refuse to go because they are either too cold, too dark, or too rainy. During a long Norwegian winter in a VW bus the duo tried to capture a flame with an extremely long shutter time. It became the basis for a career revolving around images with amazing light effects, a handful of which are featured here. There’s also a video profile of Berlin’s quirky Propeller Island City Lodge, a hotel and art installation rolled into one. A 360-degree interactive tour of a single square in Florence merges cleverly with a jaunt across Scotland by car – coupled with a chance to win your own Scottish adventure. And if you’ve ever been curious about the evanescent magic of traveling through the universe, there’s an inquisitive interview with Dutch Astronaut Andre Kuipers, too. Naturally there’s also the requisite arrivals and departures information for the airline; however, if you’ve never flown through Amsterdam Schiphol this section might actually make for the most interesting reading of all: check in for your flight on KLM’s mobile app then speed through customs to a picnic in the sun, replete with butterflies, in the new grass-filled Airport Park. If culture is how you’d rather while away your layover there’s a Library with books in 29 languages and a collection of Old Master paintings awaiting discerning eyes at the Rijksmuseum Schiphol. Leave it to the ever-practical Dutch to turn one of the most stressful aspects of modern life into one of the most relaxing – not to mention re-imagining how we read and think about it, too.

 

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