Quick Layover Trip Into Shanghai

I wanted to maximize the award ticket and we had never been to Shanghai before so when I saw the routing come up on United’s award booking tool, I grabbed it.  After researching online, I decided the best thing to do was take the Maglev into town, get a connecting train to the Bund, take a walk along the Bund and then go back to the airport in time for the onward flight to Auckland.

It’s easy to find the Maglev train as Shanghai Airport is well signed.  Our flight arrived around 5:30am so we had to wait for the ticket counter to open and then catch the first train into town.

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The first few trains only get up to 300km/h, a snails pace for this train!


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When you reach the final station – Long Yang Road Station, you have to change to the metro to get to the Bund.


Not nearly as comfortable as the Maglev!


We got out at East Nanjing Road and started walking towards the Bund.  It was drizzling so I knew this did not bode well!

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Some of the shops were very interesting though not open yet.

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We finally reached the Bund and just randomly chose to turn left and start walking.

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We didn’t get far before the heavens opened up and we grabbed a few pics, then took refuge inside Starbucks where we had breakfast.

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We waited and waited for the rain to let up but it never did.


We had to find something else to do so we inched along the building the Starbucks was in and found this bizarre tunnel attraction.  At least we would stay dry and experience something different!

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It really was bizarre!  Like tripping without drugs!  The ride didn’t last long so we still had to find something else to do.


We didn’t want to spend more money on overpriced tourist attractions and the rain was finally letting up so we wandered around this area of Shanghai while trying to find a metro station.

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We got lost and couldn’t find anyone who spoke English to tell us where the metro was but did find this cool peace dove topiary thing!

We eventually ran into a tour group and the guide pointed us to the metro.  We went back to Longyang Road to get the Maglev back to the airport.

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This time the train got up to the max speed of 430 km/h (267 mph) which was pretty cool!

IMG_2118 IMG_2119 IMG_2120Before we knew it, we were back at the airport.  Since we still had one more Lounge Club pass to use, we hung out at the lounge for awhile.

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Short Bangkok Layover Pictorial – Dusit Area & Khao San Road

As described here, these are the photos from our short Bangkok layover between a flight from ADD-BKK on ET and BKK-BNE on TG.

Bangkok traffic enroute to Dusit and some temples.

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Dusit Zoo – don’t come here for the caged animals, come here for the beautiful grounds that attract wild birds!

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I want these for my backyard!

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Waiting outside for a tuktuk, we finally sighted a flock of Red-breasted Parakeets!

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It was mostly nostalgia for my younger backpacker days that made me want to spend the evening here.  It’s gotten out of control – seriously, KFC & Maccas?

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I just had to buy a couple bags, they had birds on them!

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We had to get a massage after all that walking!

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They STILL sell fake IDs!  I can remember getting a fake press pass here in the mid 90’s that got me into Afghanistan as a journalist!

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Tailor shops are everywhere but this one specializing in wedding gowns was pretty cool!


Birding On A Bangkok Layover – Short & Long Options

If you are collecting Star Alliance miles with United or someone else, odds are that you will find yourself flying Thai Airways quite a bit.  I’ve transited Bangkok between Australia and Asia, Africa, Europe and the USA on sometimes very complicated routings.  Depending on time of day and connections, you can often add a layover in Bangkok to your trip.  Since there are so many blogs specializing in Thailand, I am only going to discuss birding options here.

Remember, a layover is less than 24 hours.  If you plan well, you can slot one into an existing itinerary such as this one to Africa or this one to South-east Asia and take advantage of United’s generous routing rules.  If you go over 24 hours, it is then a stop-over and will count as the one stop-over you get on a RT ticket.


This excursion is best done early in the morning or late afternoon and you need at least 6 hours layover.  Take the airport train to the last station – Phaya Thai, then get a tuktuk or taxi to the Dusit Zoo.  Yes, I know the birds and animals are in cages there but you want to focus on the wild birds in the lush, tropical grounds.  I was targeting Red-breasted Parakeets which flock in the area.  I will do a pictorial on a separate post but here’s a sample.  I saw several flyover parakeets while we were walking around the park but the best sighting was a huge flock that flew right over our heads unexpectedly (before I could focus the camera) as we waited on the street outside for a passing tuktuk.

IMG_7354When you are ready to leave, the famous backpacker haunt – Khao San Road is about 15 minutes by tuktuk so we grabbed a quick snack, had a massage and got a tuktuk back to Phaya Thai station so we could make our flight at 23:59 to BNE.


I managed to build a 23 hour layover between Chiang Mai and Koh Samui on our most recent trip and we planned a quickie visit to Khao Yai National Park.  At first I was thinking we should use the public minibuses to Pak Chong, then a taxi to the hotel – the Balios Resort (formerly the Juldis Khao Yai) which is located near the park and where most of the big birding tour operators stay with their groups.  After the successful self-drive birding adventure to Doi Inthanon and Mae Ping, I worked up my confidence to drive from BKK to Khao Yai and booked a Hertz car.

The line was longer than I expected so it took awhile to get our car and get out of the airport.  The traffic was intimidating but luckily I managed to get on the right motorway heading north but it was very slow-going until we reached the outskirts.  It was around 9pm before we reached the hotel and we were exhausted.  The restaurant was closed so we cleaned out the mini-bar and the biscuits we had in the car.

The next morning, I was eager to find Red-breasted Parakeets and any other birds so we were up at the crack of dawn walking around the grounds.  It didn’t take long to hear the parakeets but they led us on a merry chase forcing us to leave the hotel, scurry down the road and find them in a nearby vacant lot on the other side of the Palio Shopping Centre.  This time we got better sightings and better photos than the Dusit one!  We couldn’t linger a long time as we needed to drive back to BKK so we never got to enter the park proper – so there’s a good reason to come back!

Here’s a teaser, full pictorial coming!

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How We Killed 8 Hours In Beijing

Here we go, another whirlwind layover, this time in Beijing.  We were enroute to Johannesburg from Brisbane and I maximized the routing so we could get a peek at Taipei and Beijing.

We had to pass a temperature test before they let us in due to ebola, but other than that our 72 hour transit visa (only used for 8 hours) went smoothly once we reached the front of the line.

If our layover had been during the day, we would have grabbed a taxi to the Great Wall but since we arrived at dusk, I decided the best options was a quick look at Tienanmen Square.  This was easily accomplished using the air train and local subway.  Details of public transport are on the airport’s website.

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The long lines at PEK left us with no time to check carry on backpacks so we took them with us.  It was dark by the time we got there so it was all lit up. IMG_2541 IMG_2544 IMG_2545 IMG_2546 IMG_2548


We didn’t stay long, I was worried about possible delays getting back through security so we headed back after a quick walk around.  Lines were indeed long so it was good we weren’t late.IMG_2550 IMG_2551 IMG_2552

Back at the airport, we wandered around the shops.  We stopped in at the lounge for drinks but I knew from our previous visit in Sept that the wifi was painfully slow and they don’t warn you about flights being called so we went to the gate shortly afterward.  Not the most exciting layover we ever had but at least we were exhausted enough to sleep well on the South African flight to JNB!IMG_2554 IMG_2557


Taipei Layover & Airport Lounge

Getting creative with the routing enroute to your final destination gives a chance for a quick look at a city that you otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to.  We had 7 hours in Taipei to see some of the highlights.  I wanted to allow a generous buffer to get back in time for the onward flight to Beijing.  By the time we left the lounge with our backpacks, we basically had 4 hours to go downtown and back.  I decided the best option was the Evergreen bus and that we would have to just see as much as possible through the window as we wouldn’t have time to get out and actually visit anything.  Still it was better than nothing!


The friendly tourist information folks directed us to where the buses were.


We had to buy one-way tickets for the outbound journey and were charged upon return for the return trip since we never left the bus.  It was a comfortable ride with nice large windows.IMG_2513 IMG_2511

We got a peek at Taipei 101 and other interesting buildings.  It was pretty cool to watch people going about their normal early morning business.IMG_2487 IMG_2489 IMG_2490 IMG_2491 IMG_2492 IMG_2493 IMG_2494 IMG_2495 IMG_2496 IMG_2497 IMG_2498 IMG_2499

Right after I snapped this pic of the monk, we were treated to some major drama!  All of a sudden, a young man ran out in front of the bus, then a policeman followed on foot all at high speed!  We watched the youth cross the street and disappear on the other side.  The policeman stopped a random passer-by on a motorcycle, hopped on back behind the driver and take off in pursuit of the suspect.  It all happened so fast it was over before it even occurred to me to try to take a photo.  Probably better that I didn’t as I wouldn’t  have wanted to be involved in a court case just as our African adventure was starting.IMG_2500

The bus continued through downtown Taipei and we saw more interesting buildings and temples.IMG_2501 IMG_2502

I was relieved to see we made good time and that we were in no danger of missing our flight.IMG_2504 IMG_2506 IMG_2509 IMG_2510 IMG_2512

More curiosities back at the airport.IMG_2515

Interesting shops at the airport.IMG_2516


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Our onward flight was on China Airlines and we were invited to the China Airlines lounge, once again a cross-alliance partnership.  So we got to experience two lounges at TPE.


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