The good, the bad and the bizarre in the world of travel
American Airlines’ new livery on their flagship Boeing 777s. What do you think? | Image courtesy of American Airlines
A NATION AFLOAT
Bangladesh — poor, low-lying and frequently flooded — is not on many people’s travel wish list. And maybe that’s our loss.
Because if we went, we’d see people using their own ingenuity to deal with the floodwaters threatening to gradually drown nearly 20 percent of their country…permanently.
In Bangladesh, climate change is not a theory. Melting Himalayan glaciers combine with annual monsoon rains and cyclones (what we call hurricanes) to inundate a country built on marshy delta. But the Bangladeshi people are finding ingenious ways to cope.
When major floods hit, the kids don’t go to school. It comes to them, on hand-built wooden boats — about the size of the vaporetti water buses that you’ll on the Grand Canal in Venice. Floating schools, floating health clinics, even floating libraries. There also are waterborne shelters for families displaced by floods.
But as you’ll see on the Fast Co.Design site, they’re going beyond adapting boats. They’re actually creating floating solar-powered farms producing vegetables, ducks and fish.
I would love to see all this in action. The Bangladeshis just might be more adapted to living with floodwaters than any other people on Earth.
On the other hand, that old “the monsoon ate my homework” excuse just won’t fly anymore. Sorry, kids.
BOEING’S BAD DAYS
To say it’s been a rough week for Boeing and its new 787 Dreamliner is an understatement.
By now, you know the story. A series of problems with the new jet, especially problems related to its Japanese-made lithium-ion batteries, led one airline after another to ground their 787s for safety inspections until the inevitable finally happened.
Not only have Dreamliners been grounded worldwide, but Boeing has halted deliveries of new ones until the problems can be tracked down and fixed.
Lots of writers, including IBIT, have pointed out that all new airplanes go through a certain amount of technical hiccups when they first come on-line. But when you’ve got batteries that leak enough corrosive fluid to burn holes through the floor and start taking out avionics, that’s no minor glitch.
Can/will the Dreamliner’s problems be fixed? Yes, and for the simple reason that London’s The Guardian newspaper points out: They have to be.
Both Boeing and the world’s airlines are all-in on this airplane. A Dreamliner demise would hit them like a financial tsunami.
All, perhaps, except Boeing’s European nemesis, Airbus, which has a rival to the Dreamliner, the A350 XWB, months away from its first flight.
IBIT will be introducing you to the A350 XWB in the coming days.
Meanwhile, should we be concerned that the same Japanese firm that makes the Dreamliner batteries also provides lithium-ion batteries aboard the International Space Station?
OLD SHIPS, NEW ROLES
The crew at CNN Travel have come across a pair of venerable vessels destined for new duties in travel. One invokes a famous legacy and a tragic past. The other, you just won’t believe.
The first involves the Queen Elizabeth 2 of Britain’s Cunard line. Known simply as “the QE2,” she spent some 40 years as an ocean liner in the grand Cunard style, making the trans-Atlantic crossing between Southampton, England and New York City.
In 2008, she was sold to an investment firm in Dubai and has been floating in limbo ever since. The word now is that she’s to be set up somewhere in Asia as a floating luxury hotel, like the old Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.
The exact destination hasn’t been disclosed, but the betting so far is on Hong Kong. That would be supremely ironic, because that’s where the QE2′s predecessor met her end.
When Cunard retired the original Queen Elizabeth in 1969 after 30 years of service, she was brought to Hong Kong to be turned into a floating university. Cool idea, right? But while being converted, she caught fire under suspicious circumstances and had to be scrapped.
If indeed QE2 is bound for Hong Kong, let’s hope she meets with better luck.
Meanwhile, China already has a floating hotel in Tianjin. But they aren’t using an old ocean liner or retired cruise ship.
No, their floating hotel is the Kiev, a retired Soviet aircraft carrier from the equally defunct Soviet Navy. She’s now known as the Binhai Aircraft Hotel, which her owners describe as “high-end.”
And in this CNN Travel slideshow, she certainly looks the part.
No gym. No swimming pool. But does boast three presidential suites among her 148 rooms, and is probably the only upscale hotel in the world with gun turrets, missile launchers and a flight deck big enough to launch and land jump jets.
The Chinese have another Kiev-class carrier in Shenzen. They turned that one into a theme park.
RANT: AFRICA’S SELF-INFLICTED TRAVEL WOUNDS
I have a friend whom we’ll call Lisa, an American expat living in a West African country. She was looking forward to attending a major social media event next month in nearby Nigeria. But Lisa won’t be there.
Why? Because the country in which she now resides won’t give her visa to travel directly to Nigeria and back. the immigration office insists that she first fly all the way to the United States, obtain a visa there, and then come all the way back.
This is but one example of the inexplicable bureaucracy that has hamstrung regional African travel since the end of colonial days, and it’s not reserved for expats. Africans trying to travel within the Mother Continent have had to deal with nonsense like this — and worse than this — for decades.
It’s a simple equation, really. The harder and more expensive you make it for travelers to visit your country, the more likely they are to go elsewhere — and take their money with them. That’s what makes the United Nations’ recent warning on immigration rules so timely.
You’ll see that in the AFRICA section below.
Africa is poised to explode as an international travel destination, with billions of needed dollars pouring into national economies up and down the continent. But it won’t happen until its governments stop shooting themselves in the foot.
And now, here’s The Digest:
from the from the Washington Post
Why you shouldn’t fly within a month after having surgery. Two words: blood clots.
from NBC News
American Airlines is changing its look (see above). What do you think of this new livery?
A rare bit of good news from your friends at the TSA: Those overly revealing full-body scanners installed a few years ago at US airports are going bye-bye.
Budget Travel via Yahoo
Top ten budget travel destinations for 2013.
from the Washington Post
The must-have items for your travel health kit.
from the New York Times
Amtrak adding awards incentives for frequent riders of their best trains. (The kid in the pic could’ve been me on my first cross-country train trip.)
from Cruise Critic
How to pick the right cruise ship for your at-sea vacation.
The violence in Mali has placed the historic treasures of Timbuktu under threat.
from the Zimbabwe Independent via allAfrica.com
The UN’s global tourism body has a blunt message for Zimbabwe (and by extension, the rest of Africa): Ease up on your visa restrictions or lose out on tourism.
from the Tanzania Daily News via allAfrica.com
How the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer are putting American eyes on Tanzania, and boosting that country’s tourism in the process.
from This Day (Nigeria) via allAfrica.com
A feature film meant to raise the international profile of Nigeria’s prolific film is also raising awareness of one of its biggest tourist attractions — Cross River state.
from Associated Press via Yahoo
In South Africa, veterinarians are joining the struggle to save endangered animals from the poaching epidemic.
from the New York Times
If all you know of Medellin, Colombia is the memory of the late and largely unlamented Pablo Escobar, then you really don’t know Medellin. And it might be worth your while to get acquainted.
Costa Rica. It’s not just for backpackers anymore. Livin’ large in the rainforest. SLIDESHOW
from CNN Travel
Officially, Beijing smog is not the worst in the world. But your eyes, throat and lungs all may have a very different opinion. Is a major world capital and travel destination on the verge of becoming unlivable? SLIDESHOW
A local’s guide to Singapore. The operative word is “change.”
from BBC Travel
Meetups at the movies in Paris. Want some popcorn to go with that wine?
from The Guardian (London UK)
You can travel from London to Paris by air, by train, by barge and even bus. Now, if you’re up for a few days of challenging, lovely riding, you can do it by bike.
from the New York Times
Reykjavik. Capital of Iceland. Hard to spell, hard to pronounce. But easy to love during its spectacular winters.
from The Guardian (London UK)
Hiking the Scottish Highlands. Cycling in Malta. Healthy vacations don’t have to be about suffering for the sake of exercise.