Photo © Rod van Kruining
Photo © Mark A Harris
Photo © Tom Bukowski
Photo © Vala
Photo © Dejan Milinkovic
Photo © Tom Turner
Photo © Darcy Stevens
Photo © Tom Turner
I spend the last 6 weeks circling the globe,
visiting Thailand, Russia, Turkey,
Greece and finishing it all off in New York.
I flew on some exotic aircraft,
met lots of friendly people, met some beautiful
women and drank lots of booze in the process.
My itinerary was
SFO-NRT ¡KUnited Airlines 747-400
NRT-BKK ¡KUnited Airliners 747-400
BKK-SVO ¡KAeroflot IL-96-300
SVO-IST ¡KAeroflot TU-154
IST-ATH ¡KOlympic Airways ATR-72
ATH-JFK ¡KOlympic Airways A340-300
JFK-OAK ¡K JetBlue A320
I flew business class in the upper-deck of a United 747-400
(reg# N196UA) from San Francisco to Tokyo, Japan.
Service was excellent. I had a 6 hour layover at
Narita before catching my connecting flight to Bangkok,
Thailand. That flight was also business class on United
747-400 (re# N128UA).
After 16 hours of flying, we touched down in Bangkok
at midnight. When stepping off the plane, the heat
& humidity hit me as I walked down the
air-stairs and squeezed in to the shuttle bus that takes
us in to the terminal. Going through customs control
was very swift. I had no idea what I¡¦d be in for over
the next 2 weeks in Thailand.
I fell in love with Thailand!
The people are very nice and polite.
The women are beautiful, great personality,
the food is amazing, everything is cheap and it's
easy to get away from all the tourist.
Bangkok is a very wild city. Lots of really bizarre
stuff going on but overall, people really have a
healthy and friendly attitude.
I managed to make friends with native
Thais that really showed me a good time including
all the cheap eating spots and
Buddhist temples in Bangkok.
The massage parlors are world-class.
There were some real whacky things I saw in Bangkok.
You can tell by the pictures.
On several occasions, would see someone
riding there elephant through town.
The women of Thailand are exceptionally beautiful.
Here I met two really nice Thai ladies
that are in flight school. They could potentially
become future Thai Airways pilots. I of course stay
in contact with them because
I am ..uhh..an aspiring pilot.too.
Bangkok has a great public transit system as well.
I found the Bangkok river taxis to be a
very relaxing way to get from point
A to point B as well as get an un-obstructed
view of the Bangkok cityscape. Best of all, it's
cheaper than a car taxi or ¡¥Tuk-Tuk¡¦.
Bangkok subways can get very
crowded but they run very frequent,
never break down and make our
sophisticated systems in New York,
San Francisco and Portland, Or. look like a joke.
Yes I know ours are much older.
When I went to Bangkok,
I had intentions on going to the take the
elephant tours through the jungles of
Thailand as well as visit Cambodia,
Vietnam and Laos.
Well, the mosquitoes in Bangkok ate me alive!
So I know I would certainly have trouble in the
jungles and in those other countries where
Malaria is a problem nationwide. I didn't do
my homework nor get the proper shots &
meds prior to my trip so I stayed in Bangkok.
That of course was no problem at all either.
Out of 13 days, I never had a dull moment.
Damn I love Bangkok!
Enough about Bangkok, Thailand.
Next stop was Moscow, Russia.
I can write a book about my Aeroflot IL-96-300
flight from Bangkok to Moscow alone.
The 10 hour flight between Bangkok & Moscow
was the longest 10 hours I've ever experienced!
I don¡'t know where to begin.
Some here at Airliners.net already know that
I have fascination with Soviet jetliners as well
as all older Western aircraft types.
Well the IL-96 I flew on is less than 10 years old,
yet, the aircraft has old abandoned IL-86 interiors.
In terms of the service by Aeroflot flight attendants,
I've met friendly Hiway Patrol and Police officers that's
pulled me over for speeding.
The IL-96 BKK-SVO was an awful experience and the
worst flight I've ever had!
The IL-96 is a great plane but it's a shame that
Aeroflot put in abandoned bus seats in this new
aircraft. I've had better experiences on Greyhound.
Cubana's IL-62 interiors are much better.
If any of you want to fly on an IL-96, take Cubana
instead. They have two already.
Before I get to the in-flight entertainment¡,
let's talk about the takeoff roll.
I've seen videos here at Airliners.net of some of
the fuel saving techniques Aeroflot pilot's use.
The IL-96 is a modern aircraft, yet the pilot chose to use only
2/3rds power for takeoff and used every inch of the runway
before pulling the nose up at the very end.
We went in to a very gradual ascend.
I mean VERY GRADUAL ascend before going in to a
step ascend 2 minutes after takeoff.
Aeroflot flight attendants eat before they get up
and serve the passengers. Mind you, I don't have
a problem with this because I like to think of myself
as a Spartan traveler and some of this stuff just comes with the territory.
A fist-fight broke out between two drunk Russian guys
in the rear galley. The fight went on for about 5 minutes
before others tried to break it up. The flight attendants
were older women in there 50s and certainly could
not break up a fight of these men twice there size.
The only male flight attendant was having a
cigarette up in first class. Nevermind the fact that the
'no smoking' light stayed on throughout the flight,
yet half the passengers and some FAs smoke
in-flight. Eventually, things calmed down and our
dinner was served 3 hours in to the flight.
another drunk Russian guy was running around the plane
opening and slamming lavatory doors shouting out how
much he hates Asians and Africans coming to "his"
country. He was also shouting that Russia should only
be for Russians. This guy wasn't even a skinhead. He
looked like an ordinary family man.
What did the Aeroflot flight attendants do? They sat
him down in first class! I¡¦ve read that a lot of
younger and poorer Russians have latched on to
Adolph Hitler's warped ideology but I'd never imagined
that someone on and international Aeroflot flight would
express there warped views so freely.
This tells me that this ideology is shared by some
middle & upper class Russians as well.
A flight to Bangkok isn't cheap, especially with Rubles.
There were about 14 Chinese exchange
students as well as me and one other man from
South Africa being the only non-Russians/Slavics on this flight.
Towards the end of the flight, things started to
lighten up. Two drunk guys started standing on there
heads in the aisle and were competing to see who can
do it the longest.
By the way, there were NO BOOZ served on this flight!
a BYOB (bring your own bottle) flight! Yes they were
passing around many bottles of vodka they brought on
Victor (Tu204) was a really nice guy and showed me
around. We went to the bone yard across the road from
SVO and we drank vodka on the wing of an IL-86.
That was very cool!
(I'll add those photos later)
The man guarding the facility was an old-line Communist hardliner.
Being an American pinko-Commie sympathizer
that I am would not have been enough to get in.
So my friend suggested that I say I was from Angola or Cuba.
Well I look more Cuban than Angolan and I've been to Cuba so
I faked a Cuban accent to get in to the facility. Gosh I wish I had a video camera to tape that!
Damn, that was really cool to visit and that was awesome for my friend Victor to be able to arrange all of this.
I did see Red Square and St. Basils Cathedral.
The Mausoleum and Monino was closed that day.
One of the highlights of Moscow was seeing a beautiful
Zil sedan enroute to the Red
Square. The Zil was/is the Soviet Union's answer to my car
(1970s full-sized, body on frame luxury sedan).
The absence of center storage bins gave
this flight even more of a 'Circus tent' feel.
Me, Victor (Tu204), and his friend Bracksha
who is an engine mechanic for Aeroflot.
I owe a very special thanks to them and there families for opening there doors to me, showing me around and getting me drunk.
Even though I spend less than 48 hours in Moscow,
I had the unfortunate experience of seeing two low-class
Russians shout at me a give me the Heil Hitler salute
as me and Victor departed Moscow Metro enrout to his place.
The xenophobia in Russia is widespread and it's a
shame that this once great nation has adopted
an ideology which killed 26+ million of it's own citizens.
Red Square was beautiful as well as St. Basils's Cathedral
but the rest of Moscow reminded me of the south suburbs
of Chicago (Calumet City, Riverdell, Dalton)
which is not a good thing.
The flight from Moscow, Russia to Istanbul,
Turkey on Aeroflot TU-154 was great.
I was amazed with it's performance!
It got off the ground in no time.
The passengers (mostly Turkish and Russian mobsters)
were much better behaved
than the idiots on the long-haul IL-96 flight.
The TU-154 was quieter than expected.
I was pleasantly surprised with Turkey.
The funny thing was after checking in with the
Turkish customs agent, he stamped my passport
and sold me my visa, he jumps from behind the
glass window and asked me;
"What is your stage name? Aren't you that singer, Usher¨?
Come on now!
I look way better than Usher so I took that as an insult!
However, this wasn't the first time on my trip that people
thought that I was an R&B singer.
Several women in Thailand thought I was an R&B singer,
but I let them live out there fantasy while
I was in there presence.
Twice, women asked me to sing for them.
Istanbul was nice, historical and clean but after
getting a taste of heaven (Thailand),
I didn't want to stay as long as I had planned.
OK, do any of you old-timers remember
Airliners.net user, 'RealHigh'?
For those of you too young to remember,
she was a SFO member and friend of mine
that was a Belly-Dancer.
Me and a lady friend of her's became
good friends but both of us lost contact
with her after she moved to Belgium. Anyhow,
me and her friend
(I won't divulge her name at this site)
throughout the years.
Well this friend of ours visa expired and she
had to move back to Turkey (her homeland).
We stayed in contact over the years.
After spending a few days with her and her
fQ#king mother, f$%king friends, f*4king co-workers,
f!^king family and repeatedly hearing the "M" word (marriage) for 5 days, it was time to get the hell out !
I ended up spending more time in Greece than planned.
So the book is closed on that chapter of my life.
Tbar220 and others, please, no more emails
asking about RealHigh!
Let me tell you all, the Athens airport is AWESOME!!!!!!
I arrived at 12:30 AM midnight and what do I hear
being played over the PA system?
'Theme from Superfly' by Curtis Mayfield!
It's as if Greece knew I was coming!
One thing I liked about the airport in Athens
is the high concentration of backpackers
(although I am not one) and just cool folks
that bring there sleeping bags, inflatable
mattresses and in some cases, hammocks
to the airport. I must say, Athens has some
of the coolest music I've ever heard at an airport terminal.
Hell, Athens even has a cool Herpa Wings retailer in which
I bought a Silk Way IL-76 1:500 scale model plane.
What I have gathered from other tourist is that
Greece is the most affordable European Union
nation to visit.
Being a Chicagoland native, it was mandatory
that I try the original pita gyro sandwich and compare.
Well, I must say that Athens has the best pita gyros in world!
I know of a place in which I could get
TWO pita gyro sandwiches and 1 liter of Mythos beer
for only 4 Euros.
In the United States, that would be $18 (24 Euros).
After touring Athens and Corinth,
it was time to visit the islands of Greece.
Great beaches, beautiful women and almost as cheap as Thailand!
I visited Ios, Paros and Mykonos. Sad thing was that no one
in Corinth knew of any sort of Corinthian leather
that was sold exclusivly in Chrysler luxury vehicles from
1974-1995. As a former Chrysler Lebaron convertible owner, I was
(dripping with sarcasm).
I didn't let this discovery ruin my trip.
Considering it was mid-June, Ios was still cheap and vacant.
I felt as if I had the entire island to my self.
I was told it was the party island but parties wasn't what
I was looking for. I found a room for only 9 Euros a night
and it was just a block from beautiful white sand beaches
and turquoise blue/green tropical water.
Mykonos was not my speed. Two cute girls
I met on the ferry (from LAX) talked me in to visiting
the island for the day.
Well there were no ruins, the scenery was just
average and it was over-priced. It was just a place
for rich gay guys to hook up.
Well I am not rich, nor gay so it's not my kind of island.
Now lets talk about the spectacular Olympic Airways A340-300!
OK, some members here think I am a nut because
I LOVE this aircraft/livery combo.
Keep in mind, my praise for this airline has nothing to
do with my bias based on appearance.
The flight and the service are top-notch. It's
mind-boggling to hear that this airline is struggling.
These are the best coach seats I've ever flown on.
Olympic coach rivals United business. The seats are
very comfortable, has adjustable head rest, foot rest
and everyone has there own PTV. The food was great,
and they served two rounds of meals. The first round
was lamb gyros with olives and potatoes, the second
was salmon with rice. They had a good selection of
Greek wines and I had about 9 rounds on this 10 hour
flight. Olympic also uses real silver wear.
The all female flight attendant crew was very
Professional and beautiful.
I didn't want this plane to land. This was the
shortest 10 hour flight I've ever flown on.
The plane I flew on was 'Olympia' (SX-DFA) which was
one of the first photos I viewed at Airliners.net when
I discovered the site back in April 2000. This exact
plane has been listed in my favorites in my profile
every since A.net added this feature.
My stay in New York was great as well.
I stayed at two different places. My friend's
place in the Flatbush section of the borough of
New York and found a very affordable place
in the Village called the St. Marks hotel.
That place is ideal for the traveler on the budget.
My return flight to San Francisco was supposed
to be on United but I ended up get a
companion pass on JetBlue from JFK to Oakland,
California. I am not a huge fan of David Needleman
but he has a great airline with a fantastic F/A staff
and pilots. Ground crew? Well I'll take the 5th,.
If I had the chance, I'd do it all over again!
I owe a special thanks to (Victor) Tu204 for
being my tour guide/bodyguard as well as Bracksha
& family for letting me pass out at there pad.
Also, Alex (An-225) for making it all happen!