Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Travel Movies - Tokyo Bay

Odaiba, Tokyo Bay

Odaiba is an unusual place to visit in Tokyo. Located in Tokyo Bay itself on reclaimed land, Odaiba was touted once as the city of the future. This was until the Japanese economy burst its bubble in the mid 1980s and has never really recovered from that episode. Development in Odaiba had been sputtering all along until recently when it now boasts some pretty sophisticated and futuristic buildings.

I can think of only 2 reasons why anyone would visit Odaiba. First is the Rainbow Bridge, the new icon of Tokyo, and secondly, especially if you are a follower of J-dramas, the Fuji TV Center built by Tange Kenzo. A trip on the driverless train, the Yurikomome, makes the scenic view of Tokyo Bay along the way worth the while.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Baggage claims

I have been fortunate that in all my travels in the past, I have had only 2 major incidents with my luggage.

The 1st was when my bag was mis-directed and sent to Hawaii while I was coming back from LAX (Los Angeles) on United Airlines. From this incident and from the level of service provided by the airlines, I swore never again by UA!

The 2nd, and more heartbreaking, was a case of folly on my part. Returning from work in Tokyo, I was too lazy to lug my laptop along. In those days, a notebook weighed like it was made from bricks. And I stupidly thought that if I padded it enough and placed it in the middle amongst my clothes, it should be okay. My $2000 NEC never made it back home alive. sob sob.

These are the unglamorous side of flying. The lost luggage and the anxiety waiting at the belt must count amongst others, like tension at the custom check and immigration counters. Luckily I have not had any occasion to make claims against any airlines yet.

One of the great thing of the internet now is the speed at which grievances against bad service is quickly made known. Here is a incident which happened in the USA which sent United Airlines reeling.

Dave Carroll, a musician, was refused boarding unless he checked in his Taylor guitar. Something he had never done with other airlines as the guitar was his bread and butter. United told him simply he can't board if he won't check in the guitar. And guess what happened?
From his window seat, he actually witnessed the baggage handlers throwing his band's instruments on the tarmac, including his guitar!

He spent nearly a futile year trying to get the airline to compensate him for the damage. In exasperation, he decided to make a grievance video and post it on the internet. I must say it is one of the best complaint letters I have ever seen. Here it is from Youtube.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

If you can't beat them, befuddle them!

My son returned from his studies in England this week.
Having to carry all his books and research papers back, his baggage was severely overweight. The limit from BA was 20 kg but his bag was at least 30. He was prepared to pay excess at Heathrow.

At the check-in at Terminal 5, the counter lady had such a strong British accent that he really had difficulty hearing what she was saying. He knew that she was saying the bags were overweight, just that her pronunciations were almost unintelligible.
So he decided to play along by speaking Chinese,

"excuse??" "wat??" "don understand" and even "li kong si mi?" were the only 'english' phrases he used.

And guess what, he didn't have to pay excess and got checked through to his Qantas A380 flight without a hitch!.

Well, at least I know his overseas education is starting to pay off.