Sunday, October 29, 2017

2017 Time Change

Time change was this morning so those of us observing Central European Time (CST) got an extra hour of sleep.

I still don't understand why the USA and Europe don't set all of our clocks back at the same time but the USA doesn't fall back for another week.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Oneworld Alliance

There are three major airline alliances that allow members to earn frequent flier status and perks when flying with other airlines in their respective group.  Since Atlanta is home to Delta I was always a SkyTeam member.  Since living in Europe I've earned Miles & More points with the Star Alliance.  But my favourite is Oneworld.

Oneworld is the third-largest alliance and is made up of American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines and SriLankan Airlines plus 30 affiliated airlines.

Air Berlin was a member until they filed for bankruptcy and will cease operations this month.  It's a pity because they were really good.  Plus whenever I flew with them from Vienna my Oneworld status always qualified me for the priority lane at security.

I wish Aer Lingus would join.  Since 2015 they have been owned by International Airlines Group (IAG) which also owns British Airways and Iberia but it doesn't look like Aer Lingus will join anytime soon.

British Airways is my preferred airline even after May's IT crash.  Every time I fly on one of the Oneworld airlines I get BA Executive Club points.

BA's Bronze, Silver, and Gold status levels equate to the Oneworld Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald premium status levels.  So when you have priority status with one airline it carries over to the other airlines as well.

SkyTeam is the is the second-largest airline alliance and it includes Czech Airlines.  Anytime I fly with one of the Skyteam members I get points on Delta.

Star Alliance is the largest of the three groups.

I earn Miles & More points any time I fly with one of the 28 airline members.

Update:  As of 5 December 2018, Fiji Airways has become the first Oneworld Connect partner.  Hmmm...I've never been to Fiji before.

Update:  As of 1 April 2021, Alaska Airlines has joined Oneworld.  Alaska serves +120 destinations across the USA, Mexico, Canada, and Costa Rica.  Its hubs are Anchorage, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Portland.
Alaska Airlines Route Map

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

China & South Korea Trip Summary

What a great trip!  It started off with an overnight in Helsinki before meeting up at the airport for our flight to China.  For the past few years, Finnair has positioned itself as the gateway between Europe and Asia.  The flight to Beijing was only 7,5 hours.  It was almost too short because by the time I fell asleep it wasn't too long before we landed.  Not a complaint mind you, just an observation.

Plus, I really enjoy flying on Finnair.  Their planes are built for tall Scandinavians so even the economy seats are comfortable.  Plus they are apart of the Oneworld alliance so I get British Airways points.

For an American citizen a Chinese tourist visa is $140.  But if you are flying to/from another country then you can stay in Beijing for up to 72 hours visa-free.  Beijing is huge!

My favourite parts were visiting Tiananmen Square and finally getting to the Great Wall of China.  We probably shouldn't have gone on National Day which made it super crowded but live and learn.  Another day or two in Beijing would have been perfect.

Then it was on to South Korea.  Our 3 AM flight on Korean Airlines to Busan took under 2,5 hours.

I didn't really know what to expect of Busan but it was well worth a visit.  There was plenty to see and very easy to get around.  Highly recommended.

Then it was on to Jeju Island which is pretty much the Korean honeymoon destination.  Jeju City was fine but the best part was the black pig bbq.

Then it was on to Seoul.  I kind of thought that I would like Seoul.  No, I loved it!!

I thought NYC was an around-the-clock city but really it's Seoul.  There is always something going on.  For example, the shopping malls open at 9 or 10 AM but they don't close until 4 AM!  It's not like the stores are just open but they are open and packed.

The DMZ tour was definitely worth it but I'm still disappointed that we weren't able to visit Panmunjom due to the current tensions between North Korea and the USA.  We saw the rhetoric on the morning news everyday but that was it.  We never felt any tension the entire time we were in Korea.

One thing that stood out was that in every subway station there are gas masks at the ready in case tensions break out.  

The food was a definite highlight of the trip.  I'm already missing my daily dose of kimchi.

I was glad that I took the time to learn a little Korean.  While you can certainly get by without knowing any Korean most people really appreciated the fact that I was able to say a few words.

What a phenomenal time we had and neither of us were ready to leave but it was time to get back to work.  It only there was unlimited holiday time because we could have spent another couple of weeks in Seoul. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, 서울, is the capital of South Korea.  Officially it is the Seoul Special Metropolitan City and home to over 10 million people.

The Seoul metro area has 25,6 million people.  About twice the entire Czech population lives just in Seoul!  It's the largest city on the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul sits on the Han River and was founded over 2,000 years ago in 18 BC.  The city eventually became the capital during the Joseon Dynasty in 1897.  When Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910 the city was renamed Gyeongseong until following the city's liberation at the end of WWII.

Seoul was destroyed after the Korean War.  Efforts were put in to building a modern city and today Seoul is home to around 20% of the population.

The Seoul Olympic Stadium opened in 1984.  It was the main stadium used for the 1986 Asian Games and the '88 Olympics.

Sangam Stadium is the Seoul World Cup Stadium and opened in 2001.  The stadium was designed to resemble a traditional Korean kite.  It is the second largest stadium in Korea after the Olympic Stadium but it is the largest football-only stadium in Asia.

Seoul Olympic Park is the city's largest park and it too was built for the '88 Olympics.  It was interesting to see flags flying for countries which participated in the '88 games but no longer exist like Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union.  The World Peace Gate celebrates the spirit of the Olympic Games and under the gate is an eternal flame.

The old city hall building was built in 1925.  In 2008 it became the Seoul Metropolitan Library when the new city hall building was built behind it.

Myeongdong Cathedral, officially the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, was completed in 1898.  It is the largest Catholic church in the country.

Lotte World is the world's largest indoor amusement park.

Lotte World Tower opened in April 2017. At 554,4 metres (1,819 feet) it is the 5th tallest building in the world.  There are great views of the city on the 117th and 118th floors.

DDP is the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and it is located in the fashion district.  It opened in 2014.

The Dongdaemun Gate, officially the Heunginjimun Gate, was built in 1396, remodelled in 1453 and rebuilt in 1869.

The Namdaemun Gate, officially the Sungnyemun Gate, is the largest of the eight stone castle gates in the city.  It was first built in 1398 and rebuilt in 1447.  The gate was destroyed in a fire in 2008 and was reopened in 2013.  The gate is listed as Korea's National Treasure #1.

Namdaemun Market is open 24-hours and it is the oldest and largest traditional market in the city.  It dates back to 1414.

Mt. Namsan is 262 metres (860 feet) tall and is home to Namsan Park which has nice views of the city.  On top is the N Seoul Tower.  It was built in 1971 as the country's first general radio wave tower.  It is 236 metres (774 feet) tall.

The National Theatre of Korea was the first nationally managed theatre in Asia.  It opened in 1950 and hosts the National Drama Company, the National Dance Company, the National Orchestra Company, and the National Youth Theatre.

The Blue House is the executive office and the official residence of the South Korean president.

The 12.23 Fountain honours Admiral Yi Sunshin and the 23 battles he fought using 12 warships.

The Sejong Centre for the Performing Arts opened in 1978.  It is the largest arts and cultural complex in Seoul and is home to the biggest pipe organ in Asia.

King Sejong was the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty who reigned from 1418 to 1450 and the man who created the Korean alphabet.

There are 115 museums in Seoul.  The National Hangeul Museum opened in 2014.  The museum is dedicated to Korean orthography and takes up four floors.

The National Museum of Korean Contemporary History opened in 2012.  There are four permanent exhibition halls, plus a children's museum covering the 19th century to the present.

Seoul's Gangnam District is the third largest and fourth most populated.  This is the posh part of town and is considered the Beverly Hills of Korea.

The War Memorial of Korea was opened in 1994.  The museum used to be the South Korean Infantry Headquarters and has over 10,000 items on display.

Gyeongbokgug Palace was built in 1395.  It is the largest of the city's five grand palaces and was the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty.  People wearing traditional Korean costumes get free entry to the palace but the kicker is that the rental fee is more expensive than the entry ticket.

However, there were still lots of people in national dress and many kids wanted to take photos with us and try to speak English. I felt like a K-pop star with groupies.

There is so much to see and do here that in a few days we were only able to scratch the surface.  I can't wait to come back.