Nov 172014

Up nice and early once again, for what was becoming the all-too-familiar routine of flying to Suva in order to catch the flight to Funafuti. No drama with the taxi, and left my bags in the room at the Sheraton since it was just going to be a day trip.

Got to Nadi, and chatted with the counter agent. Yes, he had my reservation, and yes, I was on the 8:45 flight to Funafuti. However, he was “unable” to see what time they had scheduled the second return flight for, so I had no idea how many hours I’d get to spend in Tuvalu. Anyways, I’d come all this distance, I was going to get there!

Fiji Airways Flight 7
Nadi, Fiji (NAN) to Suva, Fiji (SUV)
Depart 7:30, Arrive 8:00, Flight Time 30 minutes
Aerospatiale ATR 42-500, Registration DQ-PSB Manufactured 1997, Seat 6F


Another packed flight to Suva, but right on time, and actually arrived a few minutes before schedule. No checked bags, so went straight out into arrivals and found the Air Fiji check-in desk to check in for the continuation to Funafuti.

Well…that’s funny…why is there nobody at the check in counter 45 minutes before the flight?

After a few minutes, an agent came out, and said…”oh, didn’t anybody call you? The flight has been delayed until 4pm today.” Um no, wait, surely there must be a misunderstanding. I’m on the first flight this morning, and I’ll be taking the later flight back. “Oh there is only one flight today. They combined both flights onto a bigger ATR-72 and it will be going at 4pm this afternoon.”


After all the times I called, all the assurances I’d received, nobody bothered to contact me and tell me the plans had changed. On top of assurances there would be two flights, on top of things seeming fine at check-in in Nadi, they had made this decision the night before. So many opportunities to let me know. But no, they had to fly me back to Suva first, and then tell me. Amazing. Well, it looked like I would have a 60 minute turnaround in Funafuti anyways, and the airport is so small that there was a good chance I could get my passport stamp, leave the airport for 15 minutes and see a bit of the town, then turn right around.

The other good news, is the ATR-72 would then come back and do the last Suva-Nadi flight late at night, so I could even get back to Nadi around midnight. Ugh. I guess it’s worth it.

Well, while you wait eight hours for your flight, may we provide you the Suva Special Delayed Passenger meal of chocolate cake and Diet Coke?


After an hour of sitting and eating cake, decided to head up to the counter. With an 8 hour delay I figured they might spring for a hotel or something for me to rest at for a few hours. Got to the counter, where a group of Chinese tourists were entertaining themselves by stepping on the scale and seeing who weight more than their baggage. They were hugely entertained by this for some reason.


Got to the counter to ask about a hotel. “Oh, there is some more news. The ATR pilots will not be rested enough, so will not be flying back to Nadi tonight. But don’t worry, whenever you land we will arrange a shared bus back to Nadi.” Um, what time are we expected back in Suva? “Around 11pm, maybe 11:30.” Isn’t it three hours back to Nadi? “Maybe 10 minutes less at that hour. So you’re telling me I get to wait here another 7 hours, you won’t pay for a hotel, then I get to fly to Tuvalu for a 15 minute stop, come back here, take the bus, and if I’m lucky I’ll be in bed by 3:30am when I just got up at 5am.

As I looked down to ponder my fate, the biggest cockroach I’ve ever seen scurried by. I’d place it at around 4.5-5 cm in length. It summed up my feelings towards Fiji Airways perfectly at this point:


Needless to say, I cut my losses. The Fiji-Tuvalu ticket alone was nearly $1000 (there are no through fares available) and it just felt like a waste. Purchased in advance it’s about $650, and who knows if I start planning another attempt a year out maybe I can even get it with miles.

I decided to say to hell with it, and head back to Nadi after being promised despite two Nadi-Suva roundtrips I would get a full refund.


Fiji Airways Flight 10
Suva, Fiji (SUV) to Nadi, Fiji (NAN)
Depart 10:50, Arrive 11:20, Flight Time 30 minutes
Aerospatiale ATR 42-500, Registration DQ-PSB Manufactured 1997, Seat 11F

I paged through the Fiji Airways magazine. The President of Fiji Link had a very nice article about how their new ATR would improve things including reliability. PSYCH! JUST KIDDING. Shaenaz will be getting a letter from me, telling me her staff are crazy friendly and do their best to help despite being given nothing to work with. They also need a huge course in communication. Maybe I’ll offer some consulting services in exchange for a trip to Tuvalu…


Back to Nadi, where I went straight to the Fiji Airways ticketing office, and after about 30 minutes they had processed a full refund. Of course, there’s no sign of it on my credit card yet, but I have a refund number and a promise. I mean, Fiji Airways always keeps its promises so I have absolutely no doubt things will be just peachy…

Decided to cab it straight from the airport to Denarau Port, and grab lunch. At least I had a relaxing afternoon, and weather was great:



Lunch was followed up by pool time, and another gorgeous Fiji sunset. One note to anyone booking SPG stays in Fiji: the views of sunset from the Westin are meh, but the Sheraton’s pool area has amazing sunsets:


Another unexpected bonus was another dinner in Fiji. The incredibly friendly waitress at Chime Bar at the Sheraton shared with me a great Fijian restaurant at the Port, so I headed to Nandina Fijian to give it a try for dinner. How can a restaurant with a drink called the “Baby Maker’ be bad? It’s almost as promising as the “Naughty and Pregnant” I had in St Kitts this summer.


Starter of Kokoda, a kind of FIjian ceviche of raw fish in coconut broth. It was absolutely amazing:


Since I’ve bored everyone with a thousand sunsets, here’s a moonrise during dinner:


Main course of octopus in a coconut curry broth. Absolutely amazing, with huge amounts of octopus:


Trio of deserts, bananas in fijian rum, a chocolate cake, and vanilla ice cream. How could you go wrong!


Up early the next morning to catch the flight to Vanuatu. Wait, Vanuatu? Why am I going to Vanuatu? I’ve already been there…I’m supposed to be going to the Solomon Islands.

Stay tuned for Chapter Three in the continuing saga of AIR MESS aka AIR MAYBE aka Air Pacific aka Air Pathetic aka Fiji Airways!

Walking to the check-out area, one last Fiji beach shot. The beach chapel at the Sheraton:


Off to Nadi Airport!

Nov 152014

In order to boost my stay count with Starwood, I used my iPhone to book the two unexpected nights in Fiji one at the Westin and the second back at the Sheraton again. The properties are right next door to each other, so figured I would compare them. Caught a taxi to the Westin, where the bellman was nice enough to drive me over to the Sheraton to retrieve my bag of scuba gear I’d left there, and then checked in.

They were rather reluctant to upgrade, and offered an ocean-view or such standard room at first…but only with two double beds. I pushed a little harder, and the agent agreed to go consult her manager. I reminded her it was just one night, and I was staying to compare them to the Sheraton. I thought maybe a bit of friendly competition might help. Well..ended up with a “one time only” upgrade to a royal suite, which I guess isn’t usually available in the standard upgrade pool. Took the buggy to the room with my bags, and the buggy driver mentioned to me that both John Travolta and Mel Gibson had stayed in. SCORE!

Living area:



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Nov 142014

A few weeks ago when I booked this ticket, there were two flights from Nadi to Suva that would connect to the Funafuti flight. One left at 6:30 and the other left at 7:30. The 7:30 gave only about one hour to connect in Suva, and not knowing how big that airport was I wasn’t willing to risk it. Remember, I’d heard Fiji Airways was a nightmare, so I figured sacrificing an hour of sleep to the travel Gods in order to ensure my flight was drama free was a small price to pay.

The night before, when I was on the Bula Bus headed to dinner, my phone rang. “Unknown Caller” was calling me, so I sent it to voicemail. Whee, $3 down the drain. I checked the message shortly after, and guess who? Fiji Airways. Seems my flight had been retimed from 7:30 to 7:00. Um, my flight leaves at 6:30? WTF. I opted to get to the airport at 5:30 in time for the 6:30 just in case.

Got to check-in, and my flight, flight 3 was nowhere to be found on the departure monitors. However, flight 7, the 7:30 departure was there, but with a time of 7:00. Yes, turns out they’d canceled one of the flights and consolidated everyone onto one plane halfway in between times. Ok, that’s not major drama. They only could check me in to Suva, but assured me the airport was small and I would have plenty of time to check in for my flight to Funafuti. Ok, fair enough.

Fiji Airways Flight 7
Nadi, Fiji (NAN) to Suva, Fiji (SUV)
Depart 7:00, Arrive 7:30, Flight Time 30 minutes
Aerospatiale ATR 42-500, Registration DQ-PSB Manufactured 1997, Seat 12A

We boarded via a walk to the plane (finally) at 7:15, and ended up taking off at 7:30 for an 8:00 arrival. Flight time was a grand total of 22 minutes in the air, but due to clouds there was nothing to see. A small moist towel and bottle of water was passed out to each passenger on the completely full flight, and newspapers were offered as well. Rather impressive for just 22 minutes!

Waited about 10 minutes for my bag to come onto the baggage belt, but managed to check in by 8:05 for my 8:45 flight. Except it was no longer an 8:45 flight…it was now “expected” to leave at 10:30. Uh, ok. It would be the same plane that just brought us from Nadi, but it had to do another trip back to Nadi first. Bags were tagged, and despite the small delays, the bags were at least, um, “having fun.” (Yes, bad joke, deal with it!)


With over two hours to kill now, and having not had breakfast, I went to the one cafe in the check-in area to get something to eat. It was rather tasty, and a grand total of about $4, most of which was the Diet Coke.


About 9:45 they called everyone over the intercom, and told us to proceed through immigration and security. Shortly after that, we saw the plan arrive outside at about 10:00 and looked like we might actually get out of there by 10:30 or so. As a side note, I also purchased a couple bottles of wine in Duty Free, figuring there wouldn’t be too much to do during the evenings in Tuvalu, so wine and movies on the iPad would be a good way to pass some time. Make note of this detail, it will come back…

10:30 came, 10:30 went. The plane was still sitting there, as were we. At 11, an agent came over the intercom. There was a “technical situation” with the plane, and they hoped to depart now at approximately 12. Hmm…ok.  Around 11:45, we saw the crew get off the plane, get their bags, head towards the waiting area…see the angry mob, and then head another direction. At this point, I’d started chatting to an Australian couple who live in Tuvalu. We all agreed that the departure of the crew was likely not a good sign. They said there are three flights a week, or 12-13 a month, and maybe 1-2 times a month there’s serious drama with this flight. Ugh, ok.

Shortly after noon, the Fiji Airways agent walked into the departures lounge and announced she was sorry for the delay. They will be providing drinks and snacks shortly. One rather surley Australian guy demanded beer. She said she’d see what she could do. About 10 minutes later, she came back. “Your snacks, including your beer sir, will be here shortly. But unfortunately, once they arrive, you will need to go back through immigration. The flight is being canceled.” Uhhh, WHAT.

She “wasn’t sure” when we would be able to go to Tuvalu, as the next flight was in two days and it was completely sold out. Um, ok. But don’t worry she said, they will add a second flight. Maybe even tomorrow, but certainly in two days. No clue what time, but after you go through immigration and security they will take you to a hotel for the next couple of days. Several of the Tuvaluans on the flight actually cheered. I guess two days in Fiji with your hotel and meals paid was an unexpected bonus for them. (Later, the agent told me this is due to the fact the flight often cancels, and when it does the local working girls find out about it and do a brisk business proving “entertainment” at the hotel.)

We were informed that due to our duty free (remember those two bottles of wine?) being “illegal” customs would hold onto it until we left in a couple of days. I figured I’d never see it again – we didn’t get a receipt. I figured there would be a giant customs party that night. Checked my wine, back through immigration to have my departure stamp canceled, and to the check-in counter to see about getting that flight back to Nadi.

Rather than spend two nights in the No-Tell Motel, where you can check out any time you like (but you can never leave) I asked them to send me back to Nadi and I’d take care of my own accommodations. They resisted. I convinced them that me taking up an empty seat would cost Fiji Airways less than two nights hotel plus meals. They finally agreed. They promised they would e-mail or call me with the new flight time. I wrote down my e-mail and phone number.

In three days, I was headed to Vanuatu so going to Tuvalu in 2 days and coming back in 4 wouldn’t be an option. I told her if they did end up operating two flights that Thursday, and they were reasonably spaced out, I would go to Tuvalu for 4 or 5 hours, have lunch, then come right back. She thought this was crazy, but certainly doable. At least I got my bag back. I modified the bag tag accordingly:


A few minutes later, I got a message from Fiji Airways:


I was provided with a food voucher for the airport snack shop while I waited for my flight back to Nadi. Best thing about Fiji Airways, when they cancel your flight you get cake. Chocolate cake. Delicious chocolate cake!


Back through security, and time to board my flight back to Nadi:


Load was light, maybe 15 total passengers for this mid-afternoon flight.

Fiji Airways Flight 12
Suva, Fiji (SUV) to Nadi, Fiji (NAN)
Depart 14:00, Arrive 14:30, Flight Time 30 minutes
Aerospatiale ATR 42-600, Registration DQ-FJY Manufactured 1997, Seat 12A

Wow things were looking up, a brand new plane which had only been delivered to Fiji Airways just a month prior. Quick 24 minute flight, same water/towel/newspaper service as the way over to Suva, and we were back in Nadi. Bags showed up in just a couple minutes, and I decided to head to the Fiji Airways reservations office to make sure they understand my plans. Yes yes, they did. The agent in Nadi even called Suva, they promised to get in touch with me with the new details. Key words:

“Just show up at 6:30 on Thursday, come to Suva, and we will take care of you. You will get to spend a few hours in Tuvalu. We will make sure it happens.”

Famous last words.

Nov 132014

Mary’s driver drove me back to the airport after breakfast, again at no charge. Considering the drive was nearly an hour each way, and the room was only like $85, Mary’s is a fantastic value as a place to stay! I decided to leave for the airport three hours before the flight, based on the idea that the airport was tiny, however, Fiji Airways had a reputation. People had warned me before the trip that “the plane go when the plane go” or sometimes not at all. With only two flights a week to Kiribati, I wanted to make sure I was at the front of the queue in case anything went wrong.

Queue? Yes, this is the bustling Tarawa International Airport check-in desk:


See the large coolers? Almost every one of my fellow passengers had at least one, some of them four or five. I asked a local, and she said they were all filled with fresh fish that people were bringing to Fiji either to sell or to give to family and friends. I wonder what the overweight baggage fees on that are…

The novel aspect of check-in was…the computers were down. So they had absolutely no way to verify who was on the flight. If you didn’t have something proving you were on that day’s flight, you weren’t going. Now, this was problematic, because there was absolutely no data roaming in Kiribati. My phone wouldn’t work, so I had to pray I could do something that would appease them. Lesson learnt: carry hard copies. Fortunately, the one thing I had printed out was the details on TripIt of my flights. It had a date, flight number, and eticket number, so that was good enough for them. For all they knew I could have canceled it, but I guess it was good enough…considering this flight goes for minimum of $600 one-way, they were really taking some chances!

Waiting for the plane to arrive. Hopefully.


There were some cute signs/cards in the departures area made by local schoolchildren for World Teacher’s Day. Is it teacher’s or teachers? On another note, why were these posted in the airport? Mysteries that may never be solved….



Fortunately, the plane not only showed up, but showed up on time!


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Nov 122014

My driver from Mary’s Motel showed up, and the car had ice cold air conditioning, which was nice giving the blazing mid-day sun in Kiribati. There is basically one road on Tarawa Atoll, and it runs the length of the atoll.  It’s dozens of miles long, but the Atoll is maybe 500 meters wide at its widest point:


Kiribati is also, according to some sources I read online before the trip, the least visited country in the world. I wasn’t expecting anything to see/do, more just to walk around and take in how life goes on here.

My hotel was in Bairiki which is the country’s administrative centre, and you can see it’s a bit of a drive from the airport. It took almost an hour, and during the drive I got a lot of insight into the country from my driver. One cool fact is that the road is under construction (it was badly potholed, etc) and that should significantly improve travel options on the atoll. Was also cool to see several large signs from my employer as one of the key financiers of the new road. Hopefully it helps things!

At Mary’s, I played the usual (by now) South Pacific game of musical rooms until I found one that had reasonably functional air conditioning. Finally settled on this room:



Pretty swanky, no? 😉 It was clean, cool, and reasonably comfortable, and came with a few bonus creepy crawlies here and there, and a few lizards that I occasionally saw crawling on the walls. The towel origami made up for it though:


View from the room into the parking lot:


The “beach” just outside the motel:


Here you can see the one road, and just how narrow the atoll is in many places:


Nicer beach on the other side:


The hotel driver offered to take me on a bit of a drive down around the Atoll, and we drove around for about 90 minutes before heading back. Unfortunately my phone was dead at this point, so didn’t manage to get any pictures. It was interesting to see how even in the most populous part of Kiribati life was still so rural and quiet. Many of the locals had pigs tied up in their yard, and the pigs were eating/drinking out of what appeared to be old coconut shells. There just wasn’t much going on, but that appears to be the pace of life in Kiribati.

After resting, I decided to go for a bit of a walk. I walked about an hour down the atoll towards the airport just seeing sites until I got way too hot. The “aministrative centre” of the entire country. Not a very busy place:


Air Kiribati advertisement. They’re currently out of business (I believe) and most of these routes are now being operated by Fiji Airways (God help them – oops – foreshadowing) or Our Airline aka Nauru Airlines:


Sunset just outside Mary’s. Love the vivid orange and red colours:

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Nov 102014

Hotel van, once again with the side door completely open (I found out the night before this was for “air conditioning reasons” and not because it was actually broken) dropped me at the airport, and there was nobody in sight. I prayed the flight was still operating. Got to the check-in counter, and there was nobody in site. This wasn’t a good sign:


No need to worry, however, the flight was on-time, and was en route from Brisbane already. I was, however, the first person to check in 90 minutes before the flight time. The agent confirmed that only six passengers were getting on in Nauru. Um, how is this profitable?

After getting my boarding pass and checking my bags (exit row again, score!) it was upstairs to immigration. Note how dead the airport looks:


Got to immigration, and there was only one small problem, as you can see in this picture:


That’s right, the immigration person hadn’t showed up to work yet! Less than 90 minutes before flight time. Security was there, but they wouldn’t; let me through until I cleared immigration. They suggested I have a seat at the immigration officer’s desk while I wait. Hahah!

Immigration showed up about 1:15 before the flight, and clearing immigration and security took all of about two minutes. Then, it was to the incredibly crowded holding room:


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Nov 092014

After clearing immigration I went outside and looked for hotel transport, which was nowhere to be found. I’d emailed them my flight details and they said the hotel transport would be there, but 30 minutes later nothing…and most people from the flight were gone by this point. After 45 minutes, I gave up. There were no taxis at all (supposedly Nauru has a taxi or two in the country, but nobody seemed to know how/where to locate them) so I started asking baggage handlers/etc around the airport if there was a way to call the hotel. One of the flight attendants from my flight had her cell phone, and rang the hotel. They said they’d send their van shortly.

The van arrived around 15 minutes later, about an hour after we landed, and soon we were off to the Menen hotel. It was an old minivan, and the side door of the van didn’t close. Oh life in the tropics!

Got to the hotel, and they seemed completely uninterested in checking me in. The guy at reception was busy watching the small tv in the lobby with his friends, and clearly the Chicago Bulls took priority over helping me. Finally checked in, got my key, and up to my room…where the AC barely worked. As anyone who knows me knows, aircon is a requirement, so I went down to the front desk to check into getting another room. “No” was the simple answer. No you don’t have any other rooms, no you refuse to give me one, or no you can’t be bothered to look?

I was persistent, and eventually he sighed and gave me the key to another room. The AC in this room worked rather a bit better, and it looked like it would work for the night. View from the room:


Spartan, but functional room:


Ocean view from just outside the hotel:


I had considered walking around the island since it was approximately a 20 km walk around the entire country, but it was hot. Really hot. It was almost nearly 4pm by this point so it would be dark way before I’d get around the island. Remember what I said about taxis? Uninterested front desk guy was pretty sure I couldn’t find a taxi to hire for a couple hours to drive me around the island. I kept pressing him. Surely something was possible. I came all this way to see Nauru, and it would be a real shame not to be able to see anything. Finally, he told me “the hotel driver will take you in the van. You can work out details with him.” I decided not to ask, and soon we were off.

Driving out of the hotel on the one road around the island:


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Nov 062014

This flight was early. Way too early. Combine that with the fact I’d heard Nauru Airlines wasn’t overly reliable and I wanted to get there early, and it was the recipe for a very tired morning. When I got to the check-in desk nearly three hours before the 7am flight (yes, 4am…just imagine when I had to get up) there was already a line of about 20 people waiting to check-in. Oh, and about 100 bags. I’m not exaggerating…it looked like they were trying to ship the entire contents of a WalMart with them back to Nauru. One guy even had 14 27 inch televisions on two different luggage carts waiting to check-in.

Fortunately, many of them were “a group” and offered to let me check-in in front of them. Well that’s thoughtful. The lovely agent? Well she was a little confused. “Wait, you’re going to Nauru…as a tourist? Is that right? Tourist? Just to holiday? Right?” Apparently, this is not a normal thing. She was very lovely though, and even reserved the exit row aisle for me when I asked. Given the rather healthy appetites of many of my fellow passengers, I figured the extra room in the exit row would come in very handy.

Through security, where horror of horrors, the coffeeshop didn’t open until 5:30. There was also a Virgin flight to Auckland about to board, and the natives were getting very restless at this hour without proper caffeine. Eventually it did open, I got caffeine, and all was right with the world.

Wandered down to the gate, where our 737-300 was waiting for us:


About two months ago, Our Airline rebranded themselves back to Nauru Airlines. Several years ago they had gone bankrupt and had their one 737 impounded and seized in Australia, forcing them to change their name from Air Nauru to Our Airline when they opened back up for business. Now, they were going back to Nauru Airlines. Confused yet? Yeah, that’s just how Nauru works apparently.

Nauru Airlines aka Our Airline Flight 2
Brisbane, Australia (BNS) to Honiara, Solomon Islands (HIR)
Depart 7:00, Arrive 11:00, Flight Time 3:00
Boeing 737-300, Registration VH-PNI, Manufactured 1997, Seat 11D

Flight was about 2/3 full today, but I had the entire exit row of six seats to myself. Score! “Today’s flight time to Honiara will be three hours. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.” Honiara, WHAT? This was supposed to be a direct flight to Nauru. Uh, ok, got it. After about 30 minutes, the crew came by with breakfast, and I asked if we were really going to Honiara, and if so why. Yes, apparently we are, just “for a technical stop.” Uhhh, ok.

Breakfast was decent, considering it was economy and all:


On approach to Honiara:


Ah, so 2/3 of the seats were taken, but the last 6 rows were “empty” because they were filled with peoples’ bags! Including many of the aforementioned televisions, all strapped in. Apparently this is a common occurrence on Nauru Airlines, as they had it down to a science:


We stopped in Honiara for about 50 minutes to take on fuel, which I eventually learned from the crew was because we had so much cargo today and were extra heavy, so couldn’t make it all the way otherwise, lol. This despite 1/3 of the seats being empty. It was pouring rain in Honiara, and I felt quite bad for the fueling guys who were having to load up the plane. Soon, we were taking off again for the continuation of our flight to Nauru.

Nauru Airlines aka Our Airline Flight 2
Honiara, Solomon Islands (HIR) to Nauru Island, Nauru (INU)
Depart 11:55, Arrive 14:55, Flight Time 2:00
Boeing 737-300, Registration VH-PNI, Manufactured 1997, Seat 11D

A “snack” was offered on this segment, and it really was a snack. Well, “Le Snak” to be precise, lol. Apparently America doesn’t have a monopoly on processed cheese spread:



Another shot of my, “fellow passengers” taking up the last six rows:


Just about an hour late due to the fuel stop, and soon we were landing on Nauru where it was bright and sunny out. Taxiing to the terminal:


Disembarking for the walk to the terminal:


Waiting for immigration, a local mural. Note the Our Airline plane in the pic:


Immigration was one officer at a desk for the entire plane:


I’d been told there was a $100 visa on arrival for tourists, confirmed by Nauru Airlines when I booked. However, the immigration officer was very helpful, and said since I was there less than 48 hours she would consider it a transit, so there would be no visa fee! Score…always happy to save some money! Shortly I was reunited with my bags, and was off to see Nauru!

Nov 062014

I’d intentionally booked a midday flight so I could sleep in a bit, so made my way to the airport nice and leisurely. There were some incredibly classy tourists sharing the airport bus with me today:


Check-in…well it was fun! From what I could tell there were absolutely no Qantas agents working behind counters in Melbourne, they had the whole process entirely automated. Checked in at the kiosk which I was used to, but then the kiosk also spit out my bagtags…which it then gave me instructions how to put them on my own bags. Whee, my chance to play airline employee! Then, it was off to the scales in front of the baggage belt, where you scanned your boarding pass, weighed your bags one at a time, and threw them on the belt. In fairness, there were quite a few Qantas employees hovering around being very helpful if you couldn’t figure it out, but I was mainly puzzled just because I’d never seen the whole process so automated!

Next stop, Qantas lounge, for a proper breakfast since all I’d had earlier was coffee. First mission: try the automatic pancake machine! Not bad, not bad at all!


Still a little bit hungry I decided to try the sandwich press too, taking some extra ham and cheese from the buffet to make a nice gooey sandwich. Yum! I wish US airlines could take a page from this playbook…but then again classy US passengers would probably bring doggy bags and treat it as the typical “get my money’s worth” opportunity. THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!


Boarding right on time, and a completely full flight up to Brisbane today.

Qantas flight 616
Melbourne, Australia (MEL) to Brisbane, Australia (BNE)
Depart 12:05, Arrive 13:15, Flight Time 2:10
Boeing 737-800, Registration VH-VYD, Manufactured 2005, Seat 3C

There was a choice of some sort of salad, or a tuna melt. Yes, seriously, a tuna melt on a plane. I had to have it just for the novelty. It was actually pretty good. The tomatoes were marinated in balsamic before grilling and were actually super tasty.


Landed in Brisbane a few minutes ahead of schedule, and took the airport train downtown to the central station. Few block walk to my hotel, the Four Points. Upgraded (I guess you can call it that, they did) to a top floor room with a nice view of the city. One of the more modern Four Points I’ve ever stayed in, and almost felt more like an Aloft. I was in a rush, because I wanted to get to the Lone Tree Koala Sanctuary before it closed at 5pm.

Only option to save time was to take a taxi out there, which was $50. Ouch.

Cool lizard greeting me at the entrance:


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Nov 052014

It was getting pretty late by the time I got to the Sheraton, but check-in was quick. I got a small studio suite as an upgrade, and the staff at the front desk was extremely genuine and welcoming. The room was also very nice, and overall for a Sheraton I was extremely impressed.

It was after 9pm at this point, but I wasn’t quite ready for bed, so I asked the concierge if he could recommend somewhere good and local to get a glass or two of wine and some tapas. He was very passionate about his job, and said there was a great little wine bar and bottle shop just down the street called the Melbourne City Wine Shop. It was excellent, and I had a couple of very good glasses of wine and a small cheese plate and called it a night.

After a good solid sleep got up and went wandering for a coffee. I’d been warned that it was sacrilegious to drinks Starbucks in Melbourne since it had so many delicious local coffeeshops, so I picked the first one that looked good and gave it a good. The coffee exchange was delicious, and I got a fantastic cup of Seven Seeds filter coffee and had “The Hipster” for breakfast. I’ll admit I ordered it for the name, but when I saw it had haloumi cheese too I was sold.


After breakfast I headed out for a good long walk to see the city centre. First stop was Federation Square:



Flinders Street Station:


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