Saturday, September 10, 2016

BIRD WATCHING AT HOME

Growing up in the interior of Borneo, I used to spent a lot of time in the wild. I enjoyed trapping  birds and keeping them as pets. Retired now and living in the urban city of Kota Kinabalu, I have been able to enjoy bird watching in my garden. I discovered some of the amazing birds visiting our backyard.
Plenty of green and trees.
 
A male Orange-bellied flower-pecker.
The female.
A Sunbird eyeing the Japanese roses.
Then .. sucking the nectar.
A small flock of "Burung Pipit" or house sparrows looking for food in the garden turf. These are the very common birds found in Sabah.
A pair of "Peaceful Doves". They usually come for feeding in the morning and in later afternoon.
 
A spotted dove
The green pigeons on the branches of the Bayan tree behind my house.
It's breeding season - caught them mating on camera!
    A "bulbul" was looking for fruits on the Bayan tree.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

EMPTY SEATS ON MALAYSIA AIRLINES

During boarding MH122 from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney in June this year, I was quite surprised that there were not many passengers during boarding. There were less than 50 passengers in the economy class cabin.
   The empty seats.

We have been flying Malaysia Airlines to Australia at least once or twice a year for the past 16 years. It's the first time I saw so many empty seats. Perhaps, there was something wrong with their sales and marketing strategies. This could be the reason that Malaysia Airlines had cut the number of their Australia weekly flights from 73 to 43 by terminating their Brisbane flights and reducing frequencies from Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide since last year. 

The new CEO of the airlines has vowed to introducing improved services for passengers both in flight and on the ground. However, I did not see any change - as usual, the queue for "drop bag" at KLIA was so long that it took us about 40 minutes just to drop our 2 pieces of baggage.   On board, I also did not see any improvement in their inflight services especially their inflight meals. Despite a very empty flight. Welcome drink like water or juice was only served 45 minutes after the seat belt sign was off.    
Packages of salted peanuts were passed around just before the welcome drink.  
The same old inflight meals - a main course of "rice with sweet and sour fish", cut fruits, a cake, a "cold" croissant and jam.

For this seven and a half hours flight, they maintained the twice meal services which they have been doing for years. It seemed that they had no new ideas in providing passengers with the better in flight services and meals.    
 2 hours before landing, coffee or tea was served with a packed sandwich.

There was nothing outstanding on this flight. Luckily, the inflight movies were reasonable. Malaysia Airlines should make changes to make passengers happy by changing their inflight services and quality of meals. They should work on a better serving schedule, say, at least 3 times with drinks and meals. Perhaps, ice cream before landing?

Malaysia Airlines used to be one of the top airlines in the world in term of services and food. Now it is not even listed. Here are the top 10 international airlines for food and services:

1. Singapore Airlines
2. Emirates
3. Etihad Airways
4. Qatar Airways
5. Cathay Pacific
6. Turkish Airlines
7. All Nippon Airways
8. Japan Airlines
9. Virgin Atlantic Airways
10. Thai Airways International
 


Saturday, August 20, 2016

DRIVING HOLIDAY FROM SYDNEY TO BRISBANE VIA THE COASTAL ROUTE

Hiring a car from Apex Car Rentals near Sydney airport, we took a side trip holiday to Brisbane. The  1.8L automatic Hyundai Elantra was rented for the return trip. We started off from Sydney Airport after lunch.
  The .8L automatic Hyundai Elantra.
The Sydney city traffic was terrible. We only managed to get on the M1 (Pacific Motorway) after going through an hour and half in heavy traffic. 
It's a leisure drive once on the motorway, 
We put up a night at Port Macquarie motel. Port Macquarie is a beautiful coastal town north of Sydney. We did not go around the area as we check-in the motel after dark and we left early the next morning.  

It was a pleasant drive all the way from Port Macquarie to Brisbane except we were forced to slowdown in many parts of the highway due to upgrading road work. I was told that the Pacific Highway would be eventually upgraded into a four lanes highway.
   
 
 
 
Brisbane city in sight after about 6 hours + drive passing through Kempsey, Nambucca Head, Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Ballina and Golf coast area.
 
 
Just in time for a Thai dinner at Nundah

We put up with our daughter in Nundah for almost a week before returning to Sydney on the same coastal route back to Sydney.
 
On the way, we made a brief visit to Byron Bay.
 KFC lunch at Park Beach Plaza in Coffs Harbour.
 
We put up a night at Karuah, a small coastal town, 250 kms from Sydney, an ideal place for recreational activities such as swimming, fishing and boating. 
 We selected this Motor Inn through websites.
Our room was well-furnished with 2 queen beds plus all the amenities, like complementary coffee/tea, Wi-fi, extra pillows, towers, shower facilities and etc, etc.  I like this motel as it was in a quiet location and the perfect place to take a break from driving.  
 
A coffee break at the restaurant in one "rest area" along the Motorway before arriving Sydney in the afternoon.

It was an enjoyable drive from Sydney to Brisbane and back covering almost 2,000 kms. This was my fifth experience driving through the route. I must comment that the 1.8L automatic Hyundai Elantra rented from Apex Car Rentals was a good reliable car and value for money. The rental cost was AUD51 per day  inclusive of Free mileage, full insurance cover with zero excess, roadside assistance and GPS navigation. I must also say "thank you" to my son for arranging the car rental. 




Tuesday, August 2, 2016

KIAMA BLOWHOLE EXPERIENCE IN NSW.

Kiama is a small coastal town 120 kilometres south of Sydney in the Illawarra, New South Wales. The major tourist attraction is the famous Blowhole which is the largest in the world! Under rough sea conditions, the blowhole can spray water up to 25 metres (82 ft) in the air.
 Driving towards the Wollongong direction.
 On Princes Highway to Kiama.
Taking a break at Southern Gateway Centre, Princes Highway, Bulli Tops.
 The Kiama Visitor Centre.
An ideal place to relax. 
 The Kiama light house.
 Close-up
Approaching the "Blowhole"
Water shooting out of the "Blowhole".
video
I was told that The best time to see the Blowhole at its best was when the sea was rough with high tide as it would be very active and spectacular. Nevertheless, we did have a good time visiting this wonderful site despite low tide and calm sea. 

To get there, It's about 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Sydney . There are also train services to Kiama and the journey will take about 2 hours and 30 minutes. It will be worthwhile to spend a night at this small town as recommended by the Kiama Visitor Centre.  



Saturday, July 9, 2016

QANTAS 747-400 VH-OJA "CITY OF CANBERRA"

Holidaying in Sydney,  we took a drive to Kiama, a small township 120 kilometres south of Sydney. As we were near Albion Park Rail, I was surprised to see the tail of a "big" Qantas aircraft at the small domestic airport. Curiosity drove us to visit the airport. We later learned that it was a B747-400 donated by Qantas to HARS Museum ( The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Inc).
 Tail of the Qantas aircraft was visible in the distance. 
 
According to the museum, this was the first B747-400 that Qantas took delivery on 11 August 1989. She was given the official registration of  "VH-OJA" and named "City of Canberra". On the 16 August, 1989, the aircraft created history by flying non-stop from London to Sydney choking a record time of 20 hours and 9 minutes covering the distance of 18,012 km. Currently she is still the record holder of the longest non-stop commercial flight from London to Sydney. In her 25 years in service, she flew 13,833 flights carrying almost 4.1 million passengers over a distance of 85 million kilometers. 

On reaching her "retirement age", Qantas had decided to preserve this iconic aircraft and donated her to HARS. With this historical aircraft, HARS could create a local tourism attraction as well as preserving her. After finalizing all the arrangement, this B747-400 then made one last 10 minutes flight in March 2015 from Sydney to her new home.    
A file picture from the museum showing the historic B747-400 making a precious touchdown on the1,819 meters long, 30 meters wide runway at Albion Park Rail on her final journey.
The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Inc (HARS) is a none profitable organisation formed in 1979 by a group of aviation enthusiasts interested in the preservation of the aviation history. The entrance fee for a guided tour is AUD20 per adult.
We were invited to board this B747-400 by the museum guide.
The Museum tour  guide was briefing the guests re history and cabin facilities of this aircraft. 
The economy class cabin.
Business class.
Our first class seats on upper deck!
The cockpit.
A photo to remember.

Later, we visited the two hangers where some of the most amazing historical aircrafts were. The guide was very keen to share his passion for all the historical flying machines.
I was impressed with the condition of this world famous "Connie" Lockheed Super Constellation, the airliner of the 1950's that conquered the world. 
 
 Boarding the fabulous aircraft of the 50s.
The well maintained cabin of the 50s. I was told that this aircraft was still serviceable. It was really amazing.

Other aircrafts in display were Neptune Bombers, the Black Cat Catalina, the flying troop carriers of World War 2, the C47 Dakota and many others as shown in the pictures below:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 There also have a good collection of aircraft engines.
This Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters from Vietnam war with an American jeep in the back ground..
An "evergreen" serviceable DC3.
 
  Cabin was still fitted with the original seats including all the window curtains.
I have many fond memories of the DC3(s) as I used to travel in them frequently in the 60s and 70s. 

If you are interested in the aviation history, this museum is definitely recommended. It is located at:
Corner Airport Road and Boomerang Road, Albion Park Rail. NSW 2527, Australia.