23 February 2007

US travel - the best places for value vacations for 2007

Hotwire Travel Value Index: Best Places for Value Vacations for 2007.

Atlanta, Georgia tops the list. It's an OK place; I don't find their top three bargain bullets of "things to do" particularly appealing, but whatever. My personal recommendation from the top ten list is Washington, DC. The Smithsonian museums are fantastic, the National Zoo is also great, and it's very easy to get around to all the sites in Washington, DC without having to drive a car.

I've been to seven of the top ten cities, but it's been a while since I've been to any of them...

20 February 2007

how *not* to travel by air...

From News24:

Why plane stowaways die
The body of a young South African plane stowaway has been returned home from Los Angeles.

Stowaways on boats or trucks often die from lack of oxygen or from dehydration. Those on planes have a far quicker exit. Few people know how inhospitable conditions can be 10 000 metres up in the air.

Why do almost none of these plane stowaways survive?
  • The hiding place is unsafe. Most stowaways hide in the wheel wells of aeroplanes. This is the area near to the wing recess where the landing gear retracts. Most wheel wells have enough space for a small adult to crawl into and hide. Access is gained when the plane is stationary. A stowaway would climb the landing gear into the area where the wheel retracts. Once the plane takes off a stowaway is protected by metal coverings that close over the wheel well opening. But if the landing gear does not retract properly the pilot will keep trying until it does. This could lead to the stowaway being crushed.

  • Wheel wells are not pressurised. As the plane ascends, there is a corresponding drop in atmospheric pressure. Because the wheel wells are not pressurised (as the inside of the plane is), there is a lack of oxygen. Decompression sickness occurs when pressure surrounding the body is reduced. Nitrogen gas bubbles form in the bloodstream and tissue fluids. This causes pain in muscles and joints and can damage tissue, nerves and organs. Divers who surface too quickly also suffer from decompression sickness.

  • No air and no heat. A stowaway faces two life-threatening conditions: hypoxia and hypothermia. Hypoxia occurs because of a lack of oxygen. Hypothermia occurs when there is a drop in the core body temperature to below 32 degrees Celsius. The body is unable to perform normal functions. This results in unconsciousness and if the temperature remains freezing, death will follow. At such high altitudes it is extremely cold - colder than most people will ever experience - and the temperature could fall to minus 45 degrees Celsius. It is more or less impossible to survive this kind of cold without adequate gear.

  • Fall to pieces. A stowaway can plunge to death when the landing gear is lowered. Landing gear is lowered well before landing – sometimes a few hundred metres - and if there is nothing to hold on to, preventing a fall would be difficult. It is thought that many stowaways on planes are never discovered, because they fall out before planes land. Lack of oxygen also causes blackouts, rendering stowaways unconscious and unable to do anything for themselves.

(Leandra Engelbrecht, Health24, February 2007)
Sources: Wikipedia.org, Flightsafety.org

18 February 2007

tourist in my own town - the Madiba: Man of Destiny exhibit

boyfriend of feitpingvin and I went to see Peter Magubane's "Madiba: Man of Destiny" photo exhibit at the International Cultural Center and Museum here in Oslo. It is about the life of Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid from the end of the 1950s to Mandela's release to now - the new South Africa.

Magubane captured many disturbing episodes during the apartheid regime, including Mandela's arrest, student demonstrations, various massacres, and the resulting funerals. His photographs have been show in, among others, Life magazine, The New York Times, National Geographic and Time magazine. For his efforts, Magubane has been jailed and tortured, and even banned from taking any photographs at all. It's a good thing he never let anything stop him...

I think some of my favorite photos were ones where white people were also included. It's very obvious that the blacks were opposed to the evils of the apartheid regime. It's easy to forget how many white South Africans were also involved in the struggle. I'm not sure what my absolute favorite photo was though. I think I'll have to go back and have a look again. The exhibit was free after all ;-)

There are lots of good museums in Oslo. Several of them have free admission. We really need to get our act together and visit them more often...

11 February 2007

the new seven wonders...

Yes! You can vote for the new seven wonders of the world. The results will be announced the 7th of July, 2007. 07-07-07. Get it? ;-)

09 February 2007

dragon temporarily slayed - idiots ruining things for everyone

I was saddened to read that a bunch of asshats vandalized Gaudi's famous dragon that does nothing but mind its own business at the entrance of Parc Güell in Barcelona, Spain...

What kind of losers would do something like this? *sigh*

By the way, don't let this stop you from going to Parc Güell. It is one of the nicest places I have ever visited in my life. Even if you're not into Gaudi or architecture, the park itself is beautiful, and it's a good place to relax, people-watch, and maybe even catch a concert like my friends and I did when we were there in 2003...

Here's my photo of the famous dragon:

06 February 2007

the more-than-mile high club

sex in space tourism?

child-free travel

Recently in Aftenposten's consumer section for travfel, there have been articles about how some charter tour companies are setting up various forms of child-free travel.

In the first article, one company is setting up a special class on their plane to Thailand - the customer pays extra for it, and children between the ages of 0 and 12 are not allowed to travel in this class.

The second article is about a hotel that another tour company uses; this hotel has a minimum age limit of 18 years but if you shell out a ton of money, you can bring your children.

And, of course, there have been complaints about this. I really don't understand why. There are plenty of things out there for families with children that are not suitable for people without children. Why are they so upset that options are also being made for the child-free, a growing (and relatively wealthy) demographic group? Is it because of that? Are they jealous of the lifestyle that the once had but can never have again?

From some of the reader comments, it also seems like some individuals are taking child-free travel arrangements personally. A critique of their parenting skills... or should I say lack of? It's no wonder people don't want to sit next to kids on planes when the kid screams the whole flight and kicks the back of your seat and the parents don't do a damn thing about it. And before you get your knickers in a knot, I'm not talking about babies who cry during take-off and landing. Especially considering most shut up and go to sleep in between...

Oh, and I can't even imagine why any responsible parent would take their children to an adults-only hotel where the guests want to do, well, adult things...

01 February 2007

Table Mountain muggers spark vigilante fears

I can see how vigilantism would be tempting. The fact that there is a risk of it shows that the police aren't doing their job properly.

You will also see a quote in the article: 'Take off all your jewellery when you're on the mountain'. OK, fine. We all know that muggers like shiny jewelry. (As opposed to the 35 Rand (because I was too lazy to bargain down) necklace I was wearing while I was up there.) But general advice you read "everywhere" includes "not flashing your fancy camera" or something along those lines... um, duh? The reason a lot of us go up there in the first place is... *drumroll*... TO TAKE PICTURES!


From IOL.co.za:
Vigilantes will not be tolerated on Table Mountain.

That was the word from Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) manager Brett Myrdal, following offers to TMNP from people wanting to take the law into their own hands by mounting armed patrols to "deal" with robbers responsible for a spate of muggings in the park in recent months.

The current hotspot is around Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, adjacent to TMNP, and Skeleton Gorge, where more than 20 people have been robbed - mostly at knifepoint - in the past two months.

So far, no arrests have been made that have led to successful prosecutions.

Sources close to the investigation say that in response to the attacks, representatives of some hiking and climbing clubs on the Peninsula have threatened to arm themselves, group together and hunt down the gang believed to be responsible for the attacks.

Myrdal said: "We welcome public support of our efforts to put an end to crime in the park but we cannot, and will not, tolerate vigilante groups taking the law into their own hands.

What I would like to see happen is for some Krav Maga practitioner (or whatever other self defense/martial art) tourist kick the ass of some mugger, only for the mugger to stumble back and step on and get bitten by a poisonous snake. That would be so cool...