I’m Out

Posted by Mark

plane-window

I’ll be traveling for the next two weeks so my posting schedule will be a bit messed up. As usual, you can follow me on instagram (@mark248am) or even snapchat (mark248am) if you’d like to see what I’m up to.


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Inside the New Kuwait Airways Planes and Airport Lounge

Posted by Mark


[YouTube]

Last month Kuwait Airways started receiving their first batch of leased planes and alongside these planes, Kuwait Airways have also gone ahead and given their premium class checking area a facelift as well as the Dasman Lounge.


[YouTube]

In the first video on top we get to the see the business class and economy class of the new planes as well as a tour of the new media system. In the second video we get taken on a tour of the new check in area followed by a tour of the lounge. Both the plane interiors and the lounge look outdated to me but I guess its better than what we had.

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OXadventure are Looking for Volunteers

Posted by Mark

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OXadventure is a local non-profit organization which was started by three young Kuwaitis who had a passion for travel, charity work and adventure. During their carefully planned trips, the OXadventure team completes charity and humanitarian work in the countries they travel to while safely exploring them on a budget. They get to see things the way the locals do as opposed to tourists. The trips have also developed into an accredited internship program in a couple of universities in Kuwait.

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OXadventure have a trip coming up in February and are looking for volunteers. They will be traveling to Nepal for a spiritual five-day yoga hike and refurbishing a school in rural Kathmandu. The trip is from February 19th to March 1st so if you’re interested in being part of this send an email to info@oxadventure.com or give them a call on ‪90998807‬.


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New Kuwait Airways Business and Economy Class Interiors

Posted by Mark

kuwaitairways-interior

Kuwait Airways have posted pictures of the interior of the new A320 plane they received last month. Kinda looks gloomy but that’s probably because the shots were taken at night and with a mobile phone. [Link]


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Qatar Airways Airbus A350 XWB

Posted by Mark

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I’m a big fan of Qatar Airways for long haul flights and have used them previously to fly to New York, Tokyo and most recently Cape Town. So last week when Qatar Airways invited me to fly out to Qatar to check out their new plane, I jumped at the opportunity. I had never visited Qatar before (other than during transit) so I was as excited to check out the country as I was their new plane. Plus, I had some friends who I hadn’t seen since university that lived there and really wanted to see them as well.

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I left Kuwait Tuesday night flying out first class but on one of their old planes which I’m not a fan of. I think they have six flights a day from Kuwait and I know at least one of those flights uses the much newer Boeing 787 Dreamliner which is a beautiful plane with a proper business class. As I mentioned in my previous post, the new Qatar airport is insane, probably one of the nicest airports I’ve been to and such a huge improvement over their older one. After landing and checking into the hotel I decided to head to Hakkasan for dinner at the beautiful St. Regis Hotel. Why don’t we have a hotel like that in Kuwait??? Anyway after somehow spending KD55 for an unimpressive dinner, I retreated back to my hotel for the night.

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Wednesday morning I woke up early along with at least a hundred media people from all around the world and via shuttle busses we were all taken to the old Qatar airport for a press conference. Qatar Airways was the first airline in the world to receive the new A350 XWB plane which is why they made such a big deal about it. This is supposedly the last completely new plane that will be released for at least the next 10 years and so all eyes are on it. The actual press conference was pretty boring until the Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker started a Q&A session. God damn he’s impressive, not only does he know his airline inside out but personality wise he’s such a direct and blunt person. He was really inspiring and I was just sitting there thinking how I really need to be doing so much more with my life. After the Q&A was over we were invited to check out the new plane which was parked outside on the tarmac.

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The A350 XWB is the successor to the A330 and the A340 (you’ve most likely flown on them before), it’s also Airbuses answer to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. XWB stands for extra wide body and allows the airline to fit an extra seat in economy creating a 3-3-3 seating formation. Most of the new features of the plane are under the hood but the ones we will notice the most are the larger windows and the quieter engines. The plane is also supposed to be very comfortable for long trips due to a number of other features like low cabin pressure, pure air inflight and precision air management. The first thing I wanted to do once I got onto the plane though was to check out the economy seats. I mostly fly economy so I really wanted to get a feel for it on this plane. The economy seats on the Qatar Airways A350 are pretty comfortable, the leg room fantastic (I’m 6’1) and the media system super responsive and a considerable upgrade over the system I recently used on the Dreamliner which was already great. Once done with Economy I walked into the business class cabin which was very familiar since I had just flown business from Cape Town to Doha on the Dreamliner. The A350 business class cabin looked practically the same since the seats are provided to Qatar Airways by a third party and they use the same ones on their different planes. But, because the A350 has an extra wide body, the seat manufacturer is able to make the seats slightly wider. One thing I loved is the window shades in business class although like on the Dreamliner they don’t completely block the sunlight which can be irritating if you’re trying to reduce glare on your laptop screen or just want complete darkness.


[YouTube]

After checking out the plane I decided to head out and explore Doha and meet up with my friends. I ended up going to Katara Village and The Pearl both beautiful places. I also ended up having dinner at Opal by Gordon Ramsay which I also thought was unimpressive (they couldn’t even cook the burger right and the bun was crumbling like it was 2 days old). Generally I thought some parts of Doha looked like a mini Dubai like their downtown area and parts of their coastal roads but the other parts of Doha looked like Farwaniya. You have this huge contrast between the different parts of the city and it just makes things confusing since I kept flip flopping between liking and not liking Doha. They don’t even have highways so every trip no matter how short it was would take 30 minutes. On the plus side they have Uber which I used throughout my whole stay.

It was a pretty cool and quick trip. They’re going to be receiving new A350s every month and hopefully I’ll get to fly on one soon. For now though their first route is from Doha to Frankfurt and that’s not a route I’ll be taking anytime in the near future. Kuwait Airways recently announced that they’ve ordered 25 of these new planes as well but it’s probably going to be awhile before they start receiving them. Anyway if you want to find out more about the plane check out this [Link]


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Uber coming to Kuwait?

Posted by Mark

uber

Earlier tonight while in Doha I took an Uber cab and as I usually do I opened up a conversation with the driver. I love Uber so I’m always being nosy and asking the drivers questions about the service like how much interest Uber takes, how many hours they work and other Uber driver related questions.

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Anyway we were talking about Uber in different countries in the region and he asked me about Uber in Kuwait and I told him we didn’t have it yet. He found that odd and asked me if I was sure. After convincing him that I was he told me two months back he picked up a women who told him she worked for Uber in Kuwait. I thought that was interesting. It would make sense if they did come to Kuwait since they’re already in Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Riyad, Manama and Beirut. Even though I have a car there are occasions where I’ve needed a cab and I just hated the fact that I need to negotiate with the drivers for a price because they didn’t want to turn their meters on.


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Doha Airport Business Class Immigration Counters

Posted by Mark

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I was invited to Doha by Qatar Airways to check out their new Airbus A350 XWB plane which they’re going to be revealing to the press tomorrow (or technically today since it’s 1AM now). It’s my second time experiencing their new airport but the first time I actually leave it to enter the country.

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I love their new airport but their First and Business Class immigration area has to be the most impressive aspect. It’s basically a lounge with immigration counters at the far end, I was completely shocked when I saw it. I mean their regular immigration area is one of the nicest I’ve seen but this is just insane.


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New Kuwait Airways A320 has arrived

Posted by Mark

a320

Over the weekend Kuwait Airways received their first new leased A320 plane. It’s their first new plane in 16 years and although no official photos of the interior have been released they should look similar to the renderings pictured below. This is the first plane of twelve that Kuwait Airways leased which has arrived.


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Cape Town – World’s best kept secret

Posted by Mark

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I’m at the Cape Town airport right now waiting for my flight back to Kuwait and I figured this would be the best time to write about one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.

I booked my flight to Cape Town on impulse and not by doing a lot of research. I was at the Foo Fighters website checking out their tshirts when I decided to check and see where they were touring. I noticed they were going to be in Cape Town in December so I figured why not go watch them there. I booked the concert tickets and then messaged my friend in Cape Town telling her I would be visiting. I then booked my airline ticket and that was pretty much it. Around two weeks before leaving to Cape Town I started doing some research trying to see what else there is to do there. First thing popped up was the Sonar electronic music festival, it was taking place on the last two days I would be in Cape Town so I purchased tickets to that as well. I then kept researching and came up with a pretty long list of things I wanted to do in Cape Town and that included:

Bungee Jumping
Paragliding
Hang Gliding
Skydiving
Surfing
Kite Surfing
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Wine Tasting

Once I got to Cape Town I started planning my schedule.

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Where I stayed
Because December is peak season in Cape Town and I was booking everything last minute I couldn’t find a good hotel to stay in so I ended up staying in a beautiful bed and breakfast called Radium Hall. The website and photos really don’t do it any justice and 6 nights stay cost me just KD160. Insanely great value and I’m so glad I ended up staying there instead of a hotel. The view from the balcony wow… I loved coming back home just for the view.

How I got around
While in Cape Town I was using the Uber cab service the whole time and I found it incredibly cheap and practical. 80% of my trips were costing me on average KD1 and my most expensive trips were to the airport and those cost me KD4. All the cab drivers were super friendly and they even have Uber Chopper in Cape Town where you can order a chopper and an Uber black car picks you up and takes you to a helicopter which will then give you a tour of Cape Town.

What I did
So I had a pretty long list of things to do but I decided to prioritize and ended up doing the following:

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Foo Fighters
The first day I got there I did the Foo Fighters concert. It was being held in the Cape Town Stadium and I arrived five hours early hoping to be first in line only to find a fairly large queue already waiting. I still managed to end up center stage though and forth row standing which is super close. It was a great show and three hours long, they played all their greatest hits since back in 1995. I loved it.

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Skydiving
I’ve been wanting to skydive for such a long time and even though I could have done it in Dubai I really wasn’t interested in jumping over a dessert/city. I wanted to jump out of a plane over a beautiful landscape and I’m glad I ended up doing it in Cape Town. I did the jump with Skydive Cape Town, it cost around KD80 including pick up and drop off. We were three jumpers at the same time (tandem of course) and we squeezed into the back of a super tiny plane that looked like it was 50 years old. Super freaky but that was part of the experience. It took us around 20 minutes to get to the right jumping height and then one by one we jumped out of the plane. I wasn’t the slightest bit scared I was just really curious to see how I would react when we first jumped out and my reaction turned out to be just pure excitement. They recorded a video of the jump and basically for the first 30 seconds while we were free falling all you could hear me scream was “fuuuuccccck yesssss!!”. I loved it. The company I jumped with seemed a bit old fashioned though when it came to documenting the jump. They took photos and videos from a camera that my skydive instructor wore on his wrist while in Dubai for example, based on the photos I’ve seen, they actually have another jumper jump with you to take photos of you. Also they gave me the video on DVD.. in DVD format so even though they shot the video with a GoPro in HD, the video I got was low res. Plus who still has a DVD player?

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Bungee Jumping
The second activity I did was bungee jumping. This turned out to be a complicated activity to perform just because of the planning it involved. The highest bungee jumping bridge in the world is at Bloukrans Bridge which is a whopping 8 hours drive from Cape Town. I was planning of renting a car and driving there but then I found a quicker way to get there. I ended up flying out from Cape Town to an area called George and then renting a car from the airport and driving around two and a half hours to Nature’s Valley which is just 10 minutes away from the Bloukrans Bridge. I booked a room at the Tranquility Lodge for the night and they helped me book my bungee jump for the same day.

This whole two day trip was a beautiful experience. First of all the jump was insane. Like the skydive I wasn’t scared at all before the jump, in fact I was pretty numb. I had a bunch of things on my mind and so was too preoccupied to be scared. I was actually worried I might get scared while standing at the edge but even that didn’t bother me. But, as soon as I jumped the first second or two I was fine but because the jump is soo high (216 meters) it just felt like I wouldn’t stop and I was thinking what the fuck when will the bungee cord snap back up. It was exhilarating. The company running the bungee jumping was also extremely extremely professional. I mean every step of the way from booking till the end they were very organized. They also took some great photos and shot an amazing video of the jump which I later purchased from them on a memory card. Definitely worth the experience and the jump cost just KD20 (not including around KD60 for the flight, KD30 for the car rental and KD15 for the room).

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The rest of the day I ended up spending it on the Nature’s Valley beach. I didn’t even know my lodge was located next to the beach but I heard a sound of a waterfall behind a large green bushy area so I went to explore and ended up finding myself on a large fairly secluded beach with waves splashing constantly. It was beautiful and that alone would have been worth the trip.

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Surfing
Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to surf, probably because all the cool people used to be surfers on tv shows and I just wanted to be cool like them as a kid growing up. Cape Town is a surf town so it wasn’t very difficult finding a surfing school. I ended up booking a private session with one of the best and most expensive surfing schools in Cape Town called Stoked School of Surf. The private two hour lesson cost me around KD40 which isn’t really expensive just expensive compared to other options available.

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This experience turned out to be wayyyyy more fun than I ever imagined. Not only that but by half way through my lesson I was already standing on the board and surfing to the beach. The whole team behind Stoked were very professional and they had two dedicated photographers covering the private and group lessons, one guy in the water with a GoPro while the other on the shore with a DSLR.


[YouTube]

Sonar Cape Town
I was pretty surprised to find out the Sonar music festival was coming to Cape Town. Even though the event was being held over two days I ended up just buying a ticket for the second day since there were two musicians I REALLY wanted to see, Jon Hopkins and Ten Walls. Both turned out to be the last acts of the night so I kept popping in and out of the festival all day long until I was back there at 1AM to watch Jon Hopkins and then Ten Walls at 3AM.

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I have mixed feelings about Sonar, Cape Town definitely isn’t a partying city in the same way Barcelona is where I was back in May for the Sonar festival there. When I first popped in at 4PM there were literally like 5-10 people there only watching one of the performances (pic above). It looked like a really bad high school prom. Then later on during the day it started getting more packed but for example when Jon Hopkins was going to come on I don’t think anybody knew who he was except me, a friend and another couple who were there standing in front of the stage with us waiting for Jon to come on. Turns out the other couple were from the same town at Jon hence why they knew who he was. Both Jon Hopkins and Ten Wall were ridiculous and I’m so glad I watched them live.

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Why Cape Town is amazing

Cape Town is a bit like Lebanon, LA and Miami all combined into one. I travel a lot and I’ve been to a lot of great cities but Cape Town is the first one I actually want to move to. I feel there are a ton of business opportunities here and I really really can’t describe how beautiful the city is. I loved the fact that if you want to go camping in the middle of nowhere or go to a beautiful private secluded beach, you can and they’re just 30 minutes drive away. The beaches! I went beach hopping one day and every beach we ended up at was nicer than the beach before it. The sand is snow white and the water a clean and sparkling blue. You have the huge table mountain right behind you as well so it’s such a pretty sight wherever you go. And the food… I literally just had sea food while I was here and everywhere I ate was just delicious. My favorite places were probably Beluga, Haiku and Willoughby & Co. I didn’t drink any wine while I was here but I didn’t have to since Cape Town beer is some of the best I’ve ever had as well. I was introduced to Castle Lite by the owner of the bed and breakfast I was staying in on the very first day I arrived and I was constantly drinking that for the rest of the trip. Oh and for those of you who don’t think Cape Town is safe, I found it as safe as New York. I was out past midnight in some dodgy neighborhoods without feat but I was also “mugging ready” meaning like in New York or any other city for that matter which I travel to, I always am prepared in case I get mugged. I always have a backup credit card and debit card in my hotel and I make sure I don’t wear my expensive watches or carry expensive electronics other than my phone.

I’m on the plane now about to take off so have to quickly end this post. In conclusion, Cape Town is a must visit city and it’s easy to get to, just one stop away with Qatar Airways or Emirates. Cape Town is where I am going to retire in.


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Off to Cape Town

Posted by Mark

capetown

I’m at the airport now on my way to Cape Town for a week long vacation. I will be posting while there but very lightly since I will be at the beach most of the day. Sorry not sorry.


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