Job Posting: Sunset Magazine

Posted by Chika On 12:46 PM 0 comments
Senior Editor - Travel (menlo park)


Reply to:
Date: 2005-11-18, 5:06PM PST


• Collaborate with senior editorial staff to establish and shape Sunset’s travel coverage
• Generate story ideas that provide readers with fresh and useful articles, select ideas for further development, and plan schedule for future publication
• Conduct story meetings with writer, designer and photo editor so as to achieve consensus on story approach
• Work with art director on story layouts and packaging
• Review and edit manuscripts, analyzing articles for thoroughness, creativity, accuracy, organization and consistency with the magazine's existing style
• Supervise travel department, including other editors and writers
• Manage freelance assignment process: contracts, budgeting and review of invoices
• Foster and maintain Western travel industry contacts to keep abreast of developments in the field


• Magazine journalism background, including travel editing and production
• Proficiency working with writers and editors to develop and shape new story ideas
• Experience working with photo editors and designers on visual appeal of story packaging
• Excellent interpersonal skills, ability to facilitate productive story meetings and arbitrate differences in story approach
• Effective management experience: ability to provide vision to team, supervise staff and manage editorial projects
• Professional presence required to represent the Company at industry and media events
• Some travel required

E-mail resume and cover letter to: or FAX: 650-324-5727

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Travel Quiz

Posted by Chika On 12:53 PM 0 comments

Places I've Been

This very fun travel quiz was mentioned last week by Jen Leo over at her Written Road Blog and I've been meaning to forward the link ever since. Go to the How Well Traveled Are You? website and click the boxes of all the places you have visited, so long as it wasn't just a touchdown while enroute to a further destination.

My travel profile is no surprise. I've lived most of my life in the western parts of the U.S. and did the standard three-month student graduation trip around Europe. No big deal. Then I spent the next few decades exploring Asia while working my way into the so-called occupation of travel writer. Here's my travel profile:

Travel Profile for Carl Parkes:

You Are Extremely Well Traveled in Asia (92%)
You Are Extremely Well Traveled in the Western United States (84%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in Western Europe (71%)
You Are Well Traveled in Scandinavia (60%)
You Are Well Traveled in Southern Europe (53%)
You Are Well Traveled in the Midwestern United States (50%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in the Southern United States (31%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Canada (20%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Latin America (20%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Australia (13%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in the United Kingdom (13%)
You Are Untraveled in Africa (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Eastern Europe (0%)
You Are Untraveled in New Zealand (0%)
You Are Untraveled in the Middle East (0%)
You Are Untraveled in the Northeastern United States (0%)

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A Travel Writer on Travel Writing

Posted by Chika On 9:57 AM 0 comments


The places your RSS reader will take you. This morning I was going through my RSS feeds at Bloglines and stumbled across a few decent travel sites, including the travel writers website shown below. The author has apparently written several guidebooks to Alaska and the Inside Passage, and picked up a Lowell Thomas and other awards which indicate he actually knows how the write. Plenty of wit, sarcasms, and snarky comments.

Among the various pieces on his website is a short story, previously published, about his experiences as a travel writer -- all the good, bad and ugly about the profession. Well worth a read but do keep a cautionary eye on some of his opinions.

What we think of as a guidebook first appeared when a woman named Marianna Starke published a new edition of her Letters from Italy. She had been writing versions of the book since 1800, but the early editions weren't much more than long letters home.

In the 1820s, John Murray, head of one of London's biggest publishers, talked Starke into making some changes. The new edition of her book was called Travels on the Continent: Written for the Use and Particular Information of Travelers. Instead of just describing her trip, now she wrote a book with all the practicalities: restaurants, hotels, routes between towns. Starke even rated every painting in every major art gallery, giving them one to four exclamation points, just to save you time when you copied her trip. The book was the equivalent of those TV shows that explain how magicians pull off their tricks.

In other words, Marianna Starke made the mental leap from descriptive -- this is what's here -- to proscriptive: go here and do this.. In the process, she took travel out of the hands of the Grand Tourist, that velvet-clad fop, and put it into the hands of the masses.

We can blame her for so very much

Thanks to Marianna Starke's guidebook, by 1839, Italy was ruined; the tourist trail was little more than a treadmill. In response, Murray published a new guide for those who wanted to "quit the more beaten paths . . . and explore the less known, but equally romantic regions."

And guess what happened there?

Now, skip forward a hundred and fifty years or so, and enter Lonely Planet, Moon, Fodor, Frommer, Rough Guides, Let's Go, and dozens of lesser lights. Same song, same verse, just add cheap airfare and a much larger, much more mobile population. Think a great leveling. Think lowest common denominator.

In Kathmandu, in the 1970s, everybody stayed on Freak Street, down in Durbar Square, where there was always a chance the Kumari Devi might lean out her window and look at you with a goddess' eyes. But it wasn't long before guides started to steer you clear of the place, so you wouldn't trip on the overlanders who had collapsed into hash-induced comas. By the 1980s, nobody went there anymore: the restaurants with the good chocolate cake were all up in Thamel. Toss in the pathetic demands of globalization, and now Thamel looks just like the Zona Rosa in Mexico City, which looks just like Banglamphu in Bangkok, which looks just like . . . .

Where you see the changes fastest are in the more remote areas, where travelers go looking for bragging rights. But you can already forget Luang Prabang, and donÂ’t even think about Siktrakh, where the Saha once herded reindeer and now herd tourists onto Lena River cruises, Arctic Circle to Lake Baikal. A trip here is just a chance to watch these spots in the boonies, suddenly sanctified with good mentions in a guide, turn into The Same Place. Internet cafes, bad Chinese food, kids wearing Nike logos.

It took twenty years for Starke's book to utterly change the traveler's experience of Italy. Now the same thing can happen in a blink

Guidebook writing pays a little less than cleaning grease out of the Fryalator at McDonald's. You have to speed up the process as best you can, however you can. Show me any guidebook, and I can show you where the writer cheated. Copied, skipped a town, researched by phone. I've seen pages from my books cut and pasted into others. It's standard operating procedure. The economics require cheating, in some form or another, and nobody gets out without a nagging fear they're guilty of crimes against St. Christopher.

So why do I do this to myself, year after year? Because it's how I get to do everything I've ever dreamed of. There are a very few guidebook publishers that don't allow writers to take freebies, but no publisher gives the writer the kind of budget needed to do everything, so if you don't get it free, you have to rely on second- or third-hand information. Another cheat. My own rule is, I'll take anything anybody offers me, but I never promise a good write up. I never promise a write up at all. I just go along and smile.

In November 2001, facing crashed sales, Lonely Planet tries giving half its staff six months off at 15% pay; time to go travel while the travel economy bounces back, but the idea fails. Six months later, they all get the axe. Just last year, publishers were pushing guides to Cambodia, Mongolia, Cuba. In the paranoid new world, suddenly writers are only sent to cover places you can go without having to pass through customs. It's as if the rest of the world has disappeared, like one of those old maps where you find the legend "here there be dragons." Guidebook sales drop 50% overall, but at least one publisher increases its press run of Disney World guides by the same margin.

We all know where you'll be next year.

We could sum up with meaningless numbers: there are X travel books published each year, creating a Y dollar market, moving Z people around. Or we could talk about the ever increasing specialization of the market: guides for everything from bird freaks to tree huggers to old people with no budget to hotels that cater to dogs. It's the guidebook dichotomy: the books only work because, really, everybody travels the same way. If they didn't, you'd never sell more than one copy. But everybody wants to think they do it differently, that their trip is special.

Or we could talk about change, and the effect of guidebooks on the ground. Between editions, I expect half the restaurants in any town to go out of business. Three-quarters of the lodgings will do the same. Probably two-thirds of trip operators will up and disappear. Some of that's my fault. I've had towns ask that I never come back, because they didn't like what I wrote. But there are also people out there who are friends for life because of business I steered their way.

Or we could talk about the world's mood swings. While nobody's traveling this year, how many hawkers are out of business? How many souvenir stands, restaurants? Should we just call it a matter of raised expectations and the betrayal of hope? Think of the locals in the New Hot Spot. Some guy sees the first trickle of travelers and uses it as a chance to build a guest house, a new restaurant. In come the masses, and the world is a very happy place, until the masses leave, looking for the next great thing, and the guest house suddenly has ten empty rooms that are making interesting habitats for spiders. There's no other way to put it: when the books steer you clear of a place that was once popular, they're ruining lives, just so you can have a better trip.

Or we could talk about the job. At most, there are a couple dozen guidebook writers who have lasted as long as I have. And here's the plain, simple truth: my first book sucked. To anyone who used it, I'm sorry. Guidebooks writing is a very difficult job to do well. The learning curve is hopelessly steep, and not many make it. Odds are, the book you buy, the book you're basing your entire trip on, was written by somebody who was writing a guide for the very first time, and who didn't have a bloody clue what he was doing. The other, more frightening possibility, is that the book was written by a committee, so you got a whole group of people who didn't know how to research, how to compare, what they were looking at, didn't know the place well enough to know what was important and what was trivial, and so your book isnÂ’t much more than an e-ticket ride to hell.

So should you take a book at all, make that leap of faith into the hands of someone you'll never meet, trust them with your vacation? Of course you should. How else are you going to find the amulet market in Thailand, the footprints of Adam in Sri Lanka, a lock of Muhammad's hair in Pakistan? How else are you going to know where to be when?

We all want the planet neatly condensed between covers, and when they are done well, the guidebook truly is the magic key, offering some hope of order in the face of the unknown, a snapshot of the world at a particular moment in time.

I first traveled to Nepal in 1986 with a guidebook under 150 pages long, including trekking routes. The newest edition of the same book is 432 pages, and you have to buy a different book if you're going into the mountains. The country didn't get any bigger, it just got better at selling itself. Each one of those new pages represents some local's hopes, dreams, life. And each page sends someone else casting for what's in the margin, getting ready to move the whole show to yet another place.

The beaten track gets wider and wider, as we move a little further into the world each year, travelers holding their guidebooks out like flashlights.

Just remember to look up from time to time. Because the world holds an ever-expanding list of possibilities. Okay, so this year nobody is renewing their passports. In the long run, the world keeps spinning around, and sooner or later, it will shake us all loose again

Route of Seeing Link

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Zagat Airline Reviews

Posted by Chika On 5:18 PM 0 comments

Pan Am Direct Non-Stop Flights RTW

I would imagine that almost everybody has read a Zagat restaurant guide at some point, and perhaps even contributed to the next edition. Zagat and his wife came up with a winning formula for guidebook writing over a decade ago: solicit reviews from average citizens and publish them without pay. Voila. No pesky contracts, no royalties, no need to even keep their email address in your book. Just gather in the profits and enjoy your newfound prestige and fattened bank account. More power to them.

But did you know that the Zagat juggernaut is expanding into new terrorities, including their recent foray into the controversial subject of rating international airlines? I sure didn't, but now I see their business model expanding almost infinitely into every survey and poll ever taken at Conde Nast Traveler. You don't need to be a genius to recognize that the kindly Zagats of New York City are going to move aggressively into territories never minded by the likes of Conde Nast.

Best part of the Zagat airline survey book are the quotes from readers:

"The uncomfortable served the inedible by the indifferent."

"If they could sell space in the overheads, travelers would be stacked up like cold cuts."

"Need air marshals to protect passengers from crew."

"Cabin staff treats you like a stranger crashing a dinner party – only they don't serve food."

"Only an hour behind schedule and didn't crash – lived up to my expectations."

"If you're a transplanted NYer nostalgic for abuse, this is your airline."

"'I'm sorry, sir, but we've discontinued legroom.'"

"Once stuck I was, back of the plane
No pleasure I could at all feign
The tiny cramped seat, delays, mystery meat
And no upgrade made experience a pain."

"Best of the big full-service carriers, or in other words, the cream of the cr*p."

"Now I know what the cows felt like on the Chisholm Trail."

"Like Con Air – they'd even handcuff you if they could."

"Seats like bad lawn chairs."

"'Shut up, we get you there' could be their slogan."

"Seats should recline only so much – could have performed dental work on the person in front of me."

"Fares set by someone with a dartboard."

"Economy class is like the Bataan Death March with carry-on luggage."

"Like being shipped via UPS to your destination."

"Take it out back and shoot it."

"I'll start with the good: Web site easy to navigate. That's the end of the good."

"What's next, no seats? – wait, better not give them any ideas!"

"Nothing left to vote on – no food, no snacks, no pillows, no movies, no audio, no nothing."

"Gives whole new meaning to the word 'Airbus.'"

"What next, $3 to use the air vents?"

"Don't go unless you have a chiropractor and psychotherapist traveling with you."

"Challenging log-in, difficult ticketing, rude gate agents, wretched food and contortionist seating – what's not to like?"

"Feels like an airline going under – oh wait, they are."

"Next step is passengers dressing as flight attendants and serving drinks to save yet more money."

"Ground service and ticket agents explain what happened to the KGB staff when the Soviet Union collapsed."

"They treat lab rats better than they do passengers on this airline."

"Would rather take a donkey."

"Lost my luggage so often I keep a standard complaint letter on my PC."

"This is why the pope kisses the ground every time he deplanes."

"'Brown or gray?' could be the choice for dinner."

"Customer care rivals Sweeney Todd's."

"Could use economy as torture to get prisoners to talk."

"Only things older than the planes are the flight attendants – and the meals."

"'Good service' translates to 'we won't bother you if you don't bother us.'"

"Coach class is like the 7 th circle of hell."

"If you like bad food flung by crones, fly this airline."

Mobissimo Travel Link

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New Guinea News

Posted by Chika On 5:46 PM 0 comments

Room Service Waiter in Port Moresby

Your arrival at the Port Moresby Airport in Papua New Guinea is guaranteed to scare the hell out of you. Guaranteed. The airport terminal is a ramshackle hut packed with filthy people reaching out to you and absolutely no organization. PNG gets less than 5000 tourists annually, so nobody knows what to do with the white people.

Are they good to eat?

A decrepit taxi outside the terminal will shuttle you into town and drop you at the finest hotel in the country, a deterioraing, darkened shell more reminiscent of Somalia than anything else.

Where are those Blackhawks when you really need them?

You pass burning fields, large gangs of raskals hanging around the streets, which are largely abandoned in the late afternoon.

A city destroyed.

The hotel lobby has few lights and smells like a collapsed casualty of some long-running war. Your bellman isn't wearing shoes. You must stay here three weeks.

Welcome to New Guinea.

There is a new player on the PNG international flight market and about time I have to say. Air Niugini has had their monopoly for far too long and are keeping the prices extremely high.

The new mob is Airlines PNG. A second level domestic carrier in PNG that are now offering flights from Port Moresby to Cairns starting at the end of this week. It looks at this stage like they are starting small with the idea (my speculation) to build it up into something bigger.

The good news is for all the budget conscious travellers - and who isn't - is that their fares will be K299 (approx Au$125) one way for an inflexible ticket and K459 (approx Au$190) for a flexible fare. The bad news, and as is usually hidden in the small print, is that the taxes will be K359.

They are also, if you are quick off the mark, offering a one off K99 deal for this Friday, one way from POM to CNS and the return on Monday for the same price. Unfortunately the taxes still stick at same rate (if anyone really knows what these taxes cover let me know).

The plane they are going to use is a simple DASH-8, a small twin prop thing which I have flown in once before (Port Moresby to Popondetta for the Kokoda Track), but still it is better than nothing. And they are not that uncomfortable either.

Hopefully I see this leading onto bigger and better things, and more competition in the international market. I think PNG laws state that only a PNG airline can fly internationally, hence why we have only had Air Niugini and their inflated ticket prices.

Papua New Guinea Life Link

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Drowning NOT Waving

Always some great fun at the website of Robert Pelton Young, which he cheerfully calls Come Back Alive.

I first met Robert at the Book Expo in Los Angeles many years ago while I was promoting the first edition of my Southeast Asia Handbook for Moon Publications. Robert had purchased venerable yet deathbed ridden Fielding's guides and was cranking out new editions and updates at a furious pace.

I picked up a copy of Robert's guide to Borneo, sensibly called Fielding Borneo with a pub date of 1995. Fielding guides later folded, but Bob went on to interviews in Iraq and hooking up with kids in Marin for adventures in Panama and beyond.

He lives in a world of trouble.

My kinda guy.

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Airplane House Overview

Airplane House Side View

Airplane House Meditation Cone

A lady in Ventura County, near Los Angeles, intends to construct her new home from one of those abandoned airplanes that lay in suspended animation out in the Mojave Desert. I congratulate the ingenuity of her architect, who studied her passions and came up with this highly original idea.

If it doesn't work out, she could always move elsewhere and turn this museum house into yet another quirky California tourist attraction and collect $20 a pop per visit, or several hundred bucks to overnight. Wouldn't you pay this to experience something this outlandish?

God bless California.

West Coast Woman To Build Crash Pad Out of an Old 747
November 5, 2005

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. -- Francie Rehwald wanted her mountainside house to be environmentally friendly and to be "feminine," to have curves. "I'm a gal," says the 60-year-old retiree.

Her architect had an idea: Buy a junked 747 and cut it apart. Turn the wings into a roof, the nose into a meditation temple. Use the remaining scrap to build six more buildings, including a barn for rare animals. He made a sketch.

"When I showed it to her in the office, she just started screaming," recalls the architect, David Hertz of Santa Monica. Ms. Rehwald, whose passions include yoga, organic gardening, meditation, folk art and the Cuban cocktails called mojitos, loved the adventurousness of the design, the feminine shapes and especially the environmental aspect.

"It's 100% post-consumer waste," she says. "Isn't that the coolest?"

A meditation chamber will be one of the buildings assembled from an old jet.

Unusual homes are nothing new along the coast of Southern California, long a magnet for eccentrics and free spirits. The "cyclotron house" in Malibu is shaped like an atom smasher. The "eyeball house" in Woodland Hills is a wooden silo with four giant glass eyes affixed to it. The "Chemosphere" looks like a flying saucer perched on a toothpick at the edge of a cliff in the Hollywood Hills.

Ms. Rehwald, whose family founded the first Mercedes-Benz dealership in southern California, is intent on adding to the genre. She has reserved a junked jet to purchase, charmed local planning officials and spent $200,000 on consultants.

"I am as much a part of this world as a bird, the frog in the creek," says Ms. Rehwald, who used to work at the family dealership, of her environmental motives. She wears a white sailor's hat perched atop her tossled blond hair, and her gold and silver bracelets jangle as she speaks. "This is my antidote to the malling of America."

Mr. Hertz has designed homes for such boldface Hollywood names as Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld fame. He says his aeronautical inspiration struck after a long flight from Los Angeles to Scotland. The 747, he says, "though designed in the 1960s, is still an absolutely beautiful contemporary object. It was derived from pure function."

Mr. Hertz isn't the first architect to find inspiration in aeronautics, and people have turned grounded airplanes -- small ones at least -- into makeshift homes before. But Mr. Hertz may well be the first to propose building a high-end home with pieces of a 747.

First, Mr. Hertz had to find a plane. New 747s start at more than $200 million. He called Mark Thompson of Aviation Warehouse, who runs an airplane junkyard in the California desert that resembles the futuristic wasteland of "Mad Max." Mr. Thompson told him that $70,000 to $100,000 would buy Ms. Rehwald a decommissioned Boeing 747-200 that still carries the faded logo of defunct Tower Air. Half the value was in the ailerons, the moveable parts of the wing. Mr. Hertz figured he could use them to control the awning on the patio by Ms. Rehwald's swimming pool.

Mr. Thompson met with county engineering officials to persuade them that the jet parts could withstand the strong winds that sometimes buffet Ms. Rehwald's property. "It's difficult to get a city engineer who is used to working with 2-by-4s and plaster to realize that an airplane that flies 500 miles per hour can stand up to 40-mph winds."

The salvaged wings and tail flaps of a Boeing 747 will serve as the roof for this multilevel country home in California, as seen in an architect's renderings from the front (above) and the side.

Nancy Francis, supervisor of the residential permits section at the Ventura County Planning Division, says she's excited such an unusual dwelling is going up in her jurisdiction. "Everyone in the department wants to go on the site visit when it's done," she says.

A winding one-lane road leads to the sunny hillside in the Santa Monica Mountains where Ms. Rehwald intends to create her architectural oddity. The 55-acre plot with views of the Pacific, now covered in aloe, agave cactus and white oleander flowers, is one hour north of L.A. It once housed dozens of buildings erected by Hollywood designer Tony Duquette, who built with found objects and industrial garbage such as old tires and radiators. A fire in 1993 destroyed most of his strange handiwork. Ms. Rehwald bought the land last year.

Mr. Hertz and his assistants have been spending time in the desert with the derelict jet, measuring it with long pieces of string and contemplating its shapes. Eventually, he and Mr. Thompson will cut it into pieces and truck it to a valley near his client's property. He figures it will take a helicopter 10 hours -- at $8,000 an hour -- to ferry the metal chunks up the hillside.

There he intends to assemble a compound of buildings connected by narrow dirt paths. The jet's wings will rest on thick concrete walls, forming the roof of a multilevel main house. The nose will point to the sky, becoming a meditation chamber, with the cockpit window a skylight. The first-class cabin will be an art studio. The signature bulge on the top of the 747 will become a loft. A barn will house rare domestic animals such as the poitou donkey. A yoga studio, guest house and caretaker's cottage will round out the compound.

"We are trying to use every piece of this aircraft, much like an Indian would use a buffalo," says Mr. Hertz.

He says the eight buildings will be scattered across the terraced hillside as if it were a "crash site." As it happens, the site lies under a jet flight path into Los Angeles International Airport. That concerns the Federal Aviation Administration, which has asked Mr. Hertz to paint special numbers on the wing pieces to alert pilots that Ms. Rehwald's retreat is not a crashed jumbo jet.

In deference to neighbors such as Dick Clark and the former spouses of Bob Dylan and Olivia Newton-John, the structures will keep a low profile, blending into the land, says Mr. Hertz. He intends to "bioblast" the metal with walnut shells to remove the Tower Air paint and dull the sheen.

Ms. Rehwald says she has given Mr. Hertz a $1.5 million budget. She promptly adds: "I'll be real fortunate if it's less than $2 million."

He has already spent money on an archeologist to look for Chumash Indian artifacts and a biologist to tell her how best to manage the coyotes, mountain lions and rattlesnakes that traverse her land. She hopes to start construction within nine months, and to move in by 2007. Until then, when Ms. Rehwald visits the site, she stays in a Winnebago trailer borrowed from a friend.

The Wall Street Journal Link

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Boeing 777 Sets New World Record

Posted by Chika On 1:48 PM 0 comments
My first long airplane ride dates from 1959 when my family took an Air Force cargo junker from Travis A.F.B. to Yokota, Japan, with stops in Honolulu and Wake Island. The propeller plane shaked the entire 36 hours and nobody enjoyed the steel seats bolted to the steel floor, but that was Air Force transport in the day.

I also didn't appreciate the fact that candy bars cost 10 cents on Wake Island, and only five cents back home.

Boeing has just set another record for the longest continual, direct, non-stop commercial flight in the world with their 777 blazing across the skies from Hong Kong to London. Longer flights with additional fuel tanks bolted are anticipated.

But will they pass out valiums to the passengers?

Boeing plane takes off on 23-hour nonstop flight
By Dominic Gates
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
Nov 9, 2005

Aiming for a new distance record for a commercial jet, Capt. Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann took off in a twin-engine Boeing 777-200LR from Hong Kong this morning on a nonstop flight to London — the long way around. The eastbound, 23-hour flight across the Pacific, the continental United States and the Atlantic will cover at least 12,500 nautical miles.

The airplane was slated to carry about 35 passengers and crew, including Boeing executives, journalists, pilots from Pakistan International Airlines and Singapore Airlines, and representatives from the General Electric division that makes the engines. Three other senior Boeing test pilots — Frank Santoni, John Cashman and Randy Austin — will also take turns at the controls.

The airplane is a standard version of the new ultra-long-range jet, which will enter service with Pakistan International early next year. Boeing also offers the airplane with auxiliary fuel tanks that would expand its range even further, though no airlines have yet ordered the model with extra tanks.

Australian carrier Qantas is considering a version with six extra tanks that could fly a regular service nonstop between London and Sydney.

For now, Airbus can still boast of flying the longest nonstop regular commercial air service. Singapore Airlines operates the four-engine A340-500 daily between Singapore and New York, an 18-hour flight covering 9,000 nautical miles. But the airline is also weighing an order for the Boeing jet.

Seattle Times Link

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Tokyo on $2 Per Day

Posted by Chika On 1:33 PM 0 comments

Geisha with Cell

This stuff happens sometimes even with the big boys of travel bookings such as Expedia or Travelocity, or major airlines such as United or Icelandic, which last year offered round-trip tickets to Iceland for just $39. Mistakes. Some tired programmer or data underling late at night just puts the wrong prices on the website.

A goose egg often honored by major websites, even though everybody recognizes that it was just an honest mistake. Still, it's great fun and the publicity is probably worth honoring some of these outrageous deals.

Recently, Expedia screwed up on their hotel listings in Japan and offered rooms in first-class Hiltons for just a few bucks. They intend to honor all reservations made for the month of November, but the guy who reserved a room for an entire year is just out of luck.

The story is then followed by a snippet about an ingenious way to save money on accommodations in China including Shanghai: spend the night on a cot in a bathhouse with plenty of available extras. That actually sounds excellent to me.

Asia for $10 a night (and less)
USA Today
Hotel Hotsheet
Megg Schulte
Nov 9, 2005

Sleeping on the super-cheap just became a wacky reality. From China's bathhouse hotels that offer the barest definition of sleeping accommodations to a snafu on Expedia for hotels in Japan, this week is all about scoring a deal in Asia.

If you had excellent timing last weekend, you might be one of the incredibly lucky folks who booked rooms at the Hilton Osaka and Hilton Tokyo hotels. A number of readers wrote to say they were alerted to a mistake on Expedia that allowed rooms to be booked at those two properties for between $2 and $4 a night.

Charles Bu, a math professor at Wellesley College in Mass., scored a week in Osaka in April and two weeks in an executive floor king room in August at the bargain rate of $3.55 a night, plus tax. Including free breakfast and Internet access, his one-week stay tops out at $33.52. I just tried to book this same room, same days, and the total? About $2,443.00, Bu notes the trouble seems to be Expedia's currency conversion rate, and it doesn't take a mathematician to see they definitely had a problem.'s message boards are filled with reader postings on the "sale." One man even claims to have booked rooms for an entire year at the Hilton Tokyo; now he's trying to find a job to go along with his new "home."

Alas, when things sound too good to be true, they often are. We asked Expedia whether they would honor these reservations. According to spokesman David Dennis:

"A pricing error occurred on Friday night, and rooms at two Hilton International hotels in Japan were advertised at the wrong price due to an isolated processing incident. As soon as the error, which was obvious to consumers, was noticed, it was immediately rectified.

"Expedia and Hilton stand behind consumers. And to resolve this episode in a fair and equitable way, the following solution has been reached:

"If a booking was made for the month of November, Hilton will honor the reservation at the quoted price. But if a booking was made for December or beyond, it will be cancelled – unless it is part of a package, which will honor."

Now it's your turn: Do you think Expedia and Hilton are acting in 'a fair and equitable way' by honoring part of the bookings made? Or do you think all bookings should be honored? I'd like to hear your thoughts, so e-mail me at and I'll post a follow up in next week's column.

Sleep on a chair, save a bundle

The Japanese capsule hotels have been around a while now, but now we have Chinese bathhouses getting into the lodging business. For about $10 a night, you get a hot shower, a recliner to sleep in, breakfast and a massage, The Wall Street Journal (free story) reports. One female marketing executive, after balking at the super-high hotel prices in Shanghai, chose the recliner route on a recent trip. "It gets noisy, but it is still a bargain," she said.

Once the bastion of business men in need of a soak, bathhouses are morphing into cheap accommodations, with some even offering entertainment options (think arcades Â… this is a family publication) and even swimming pools.

I'm not sure how this would go over in the U.S. where personal space is almost a requirement, but I bet there could be a market for it in NYC, where hotel rates are once again astronomical.

USA Today Link

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