Monday, July 2, 2012

Join us for a very special Sri Lanka trip soon

Good morning finally from Manila, after over 24 hours of travel that began after lunch in Prague, in the Czech Republic, and ended just after midnight the following day in Manila, with stopovers in Istanbul and Hong Kong in between.

I've had about three hours of sleep -- yes, jet lag, because where I just came from, I was always still up and awake at this time, even if it's something like 5 AM in Manila -- and when I just woke up now, I couldn't remember where I was today. Which hotel, which city, or even which country. All I knew was that the sheets were pretty nice.

Fortunately, I quickly remembered I was actually at home for once. I even remembered my important appointment with the Ambassador of Sri Lanka first thing this morning -- that's in a few hours -- and the fact that I'm attending the party of US Ambassador Harry Thomas for the US Independence Day tonight.


It wasn't a very painful flight experience, although it was a long one. Door-to-door was something like 24 hours, or just a little under. In fact, on the Istanbul-Hong Kong leg, which is 10 hours, I got some of the best sleep I've had in weeks. Just after we took off from Istanbul airport, I pushed the "flat bed" button on my seat, took out the duvet and slept for eight hours straight. That never ever happens anywhere -- not even in Manila.

But last night, up in the air, it was eight hours of continuous sleep so I missed the multi-course dinner and all that I'd ordered from the chef in a proper chef's uniform onboard Turkish Airlines. He hadn't had the heart to wake me up -- and fortunately so.

And when I finally woke up, it was 90 minutes to Hong Kong and just enough time to have a bit of breakfast before landing. So I can't complain. The Hong Kong-Istanbul route of Turkish Airlines, which then connects to almost every moderate-sized city in Europe every morning from Istanbul, is just about the most painless way I know to get to Europe from Asia. And I've tried lots of different airlines.


Of course, the airline of choice is quite a personal thing for frequent fliers as it's almost like choosing a travel companion. You need to get along or you're going to be unhappily stuck together for hours -- and what's important to people is all different.

The seat space and the very flat beds are very important to me, as is the entertainment system in case I can't sleep. I don't care about the food or the alcohol as much because I'll eat anything decent by default and I don't drink wine unless the person I'm traveling with is doing so as well, or unless I'm in a very relaxed mode.

The only time I drink lots of alcohol, by the way, is on First Class on JAL to New York from Narita and back. This doesn't happen too often by the way, as business class is pretty okay with me; but when I do take this route, I make sure to drink their Salon champagne because Salon is pretty rare to get. Once the singer Fergie was my seatmate to Tokyo from New York in First Class, and she slept the whole way and didn't eat a thing.


Back to THY. I do like the fact that Turkish Airlines flies at midnight either way to or from Europe, and I can fall asleep just after takeoff, and wake up just in time for breakfast. Until I found this route with a really flat bed, my biggest problem going to Europe was always what to do with myself on the airplane for such a long time -- especially when airlines cut out the Internet access on business class.

But with this Hong Kong-Istanbul-Europe route and a very flat bed all the way, I find getting halfway across the world is pretty much a breeze. I like this route so much, in fact, that I actually suggested taking it to Jo'burg when a friend and I go in November.

He immediately messaged back, the shock flying across the BBM lines: "You must be kidding. That's a major detour." So anyway, with this much opposition to transiting via Istanbul to Jo'burg, it looks like we're taking one of the Asian carriers with a more direct access.


When I landed in Hong Kong earlier, I was basically the first one out of the plane. Immediately, I took out my Mac and accessed my emails as soon as I got out of the gate. Of course. It was a Monday afternoon in Asia and I'd been out of touch with the world for 10 hours.

After traveling this much, too, I pretty much know which airports have free WiFi until the lounges, where WiFi is free and much more stable, and how to access them. Free WiFi is better than nothing, however unstable.


When my friends, who were just behind me by a few minutes coming out of the airplane, came out of the tube, I had already answered an email or two.

Then, as we walked to our transit area, I got a trolley and placed my bags on top, and placed my Mac on top of my bags. So as we were walking and trying to get our bearings on which terminal or transit desk to go to next, I was still surfing, answering emails, doing Facebook and Twitter practically the whole length of Hong Kong airport.

A said to me: "You're the only person I know who does that."

I laughed and told him how people traveling with me in Kuala Lumpur recently had said exactly the same thing. But there had been no trolley then, so I'd been holding my Mac with one hand and looking at stuff while pulling my bag with the other.

A said: "They should design some kind of platform for a carry-on trolley bag like yours, so that you'll have a platform to place your Mac on while you walk."

I thought he was serious, and I actually thought it was a pretty good idea. I said: "Wow, that would really work."

That's when A laughed. He told me: "The problem is, no one else would buy this product except you."

I replied: "I'll happily buy three -- or even a dozen -- to help get production started along."


But, seriously, that's a Travelife for you. We're traveling so much that we'd better be working with every spare minute. My friends saw this for themselves. When it's time to enjoy, I'm completely focused on the moment. But once I get back to my hotel room or to an airport lounge, then out comes the Mac and my friends know that no one can talk to me for a while.

And, again, here's a real Travelife for you. So my trip to the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany wasn't even technically over earlier today, as I was still in the lounge at Hong Kong airport waiting for the connecting flight back to Manila; and already there were a dozen trips in the pipeline waiting for my decisions to be made.

I've decide to spend a few days of summer (European and Northeast Asian summer) exploring some ancient towns in Hokkaido, Japan, and then I'm going to spend a weekend in Tokyo after that to try out some of their Michelin-starred restaurants; and then I have a quick trip to Israel, and an adventure trek to to see Nemrut and Mount Ararat in Turkey in the months after that.

Spain is also waiting for a visit from my team. And then a few months down the road, I've got this trip to South Africa that looks really amazing. My friend and I have our wishlist for this trip and we're
slowly ticking off the boxes one by one.


And tomorrow -- or rather, later -- the very first meeting of the day is with the ambassador of Sri Lanka for the much-awaited Travelife Sri Lanka Trip of culture, luxury and shopping. No one knows Sri Lanka the way Travelife does, and our current June-July issue with a Sri Lanka special has provoked a frenzy among culture vultures and the been-there-done-that crowd to join Travelife on a very special tour of some of Sri Lanka's most amazing UNESCO World Heritage sites.


You must understand. We're real travelers who just happen to be doing a magazine with real stories, rather than publishers putting out another title or writers who thought it might be profitable to start a travel magazine. We'd still be traveling exactly this way whether we had a magazine or not.

This is the big difference between us and all the newbies starting up or the oldies re-inventing themselves. But unless they're really traveling rather than just chasing those free media tours and writing about them for a business, then they'll never be able to surpass Travelife Magazine at  #1.

Our heart and soul and my every waking moment is into Travelife -- not just my pocket book. I'd like to see any other travel magazine beat that.


And for Sri Lanka, we're planning an amazing trip for this, just like all Travelife trips. I've test-driven this trip myself several times by now, and we're staying in places that I would stay in myself on a private trip. And if you are at all interested, please call Meg at Travelife (Tel 8138400/ 8922620) to get on the waiting list as my In Box and Text Message Box are already full of inquiries from friends and acquaintances for this particular trip. I can tell you that we're going to have a long waiting list once final details are announced.

There are many tours to Sri Lanka, but there will only be one Travelife Sri Lanka trip for our readers and friends. It won't be cheap because cheap means three-star hotels and sub-standard food every night, but it will certainly the best value you'll get anywhere for the kind of tour we're offering.

We're not doing do this for money. Frankly, I'm doing this because I really like Sri Lanka and I really like the ambassador and his officials, and a couple of friends and acquaintance have been pushing me to organize one for the longest time now.

The Travelife trip will have not too hectic schedules, an adequate coverage of the best sights, nice hotels I'd stay in even on my own, and enough time for the all-important shopping which will be in Colombo. We're also trying to put in some very interesting experiences you'll never get elsewhere, via our Travelife contacts.

And as anyone who has been with me and Travelife on any of our tours or private trips can attest, no one indeed travels like Travelife. Or writes like us. And that's why we're #1.

Just another day in our never-ending Travelife.


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