One Night In Bangkok…or Dubai…or Santiago…or…

31 03 2009



I once spent 26 hours in Santiago, Chile. It’s not that I didn’t want to spend longer or that I was deported for being drunk, simply that I had the opportunity for a free stopover. Okay, so it wasn’t quite free as I had to book a hotel and then discovered the Pisco Sour (the national cocktail), but still, it’s not every day I find myself in the Chilean capital! And in fact, in addition to the free stopover I also got an extra hour free because the clocks happened to turn back that very day!


After collecting my bags, I arrived at my hotel late one Saturday night. At check-in I booked a 4-hour city tour for the following morning, had a quick bite and my first Pisco Sour and enjoyed a good sleep. I had the tour, had a Pisco Sour or two with lunch, explored some more on my own, had an early dinner – avec Pisco Sour – and then headed to the airport for another Pisco Sour and my onward flight home. Curiously enough, my memory of the flight is a bit fuzzy, but I do remember that May 16th is Chile’s Pisco National Day.


I always keep my eyes open for free or cheap stopovers when travelling. I’m not saying that I’d fly Air Dodgy just to have a bargain stopover in Ouagadougou, but if it’s more or less on my route and I get the chance to see somewhere I’ve never seen before – and may never see again – then I’ll jump at the chance. And the more exotic, the better!


There are many excellent airlines that offer service via exotic cities and some of the best are based in the Middle East. One of these is Etihad Airways of the United Arab Emirates who fly to Asia and Australia via Abu Dhabi and Dubai. While you could just head straight for your final destination, why take the chance that you’ll miss out on your very own Pisco Sour?


In recent years, the UAE has become one of the ‘in’ places for celebrities, the rich and anyone simply seeking endless warm sunshine with a difference. Although hugely popular in Europe, it hasn’t really caught on yet in North America – which gives it a certain cache and the opportunity to casually boast to friends about the great weekend you spent there!


Some people head to Dubai and never venture away from the beaches and shopping, but there’s a great deal more to offer including markets and museums. For the more adventurous, there are desert safaris which head inland to a luxury camp for dinner and entertainment, or possibly for an overnight stay. And of course there’s the opulent Burj Al Arab hotel which is so luxurious that they charge admission to non-guests just to take a look around!


Pre-arranging a stopover package that includes airport transfers, accommodation and perhaps a tour are usually considerably less expensive than if bought separately. Although Dubai is a great destination in its own right, it’s even better when you get it for next to nothing as a bonus on your next trip! And if you don’t have time to enjoy a few days, you can simply connect through the UAE and use your two-hour stop to impress friends at Christmas with a cornucopia of exotic gifts like dates, hand-woven rugs and sheesha pipes!



Post by:  Simon Vaughan

Photo by: Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing








Lessons Learned the Hard Way – No. 45

30 06 2008


Never get dressed in the dark


I do not consider myself to be a dandy or a slave to fashion, but I do generally take an interest in my appearance and at the very least like things to match. This is particularly true when flying. My practicality prevents me from completely sacrificing comfort for sartorial elegance, but I do believe it is important to look respectable especially when presenting oneself to immigration authorities.


During a series of flights to Malaysia that had me flying via New York and Dubai in one very long day, I had taken great care in selecting my wardrobe. I wanted apparel that would not only be comfortable for my 28 hours of non-stop travelling, but would also provide me with some degree of presentability for my examination by various security and immigration officials enroute.


Very early that morning, I got dressed, tip-toed out of my home and headed off on the journey that would entail two taxis, four airports, one train, four countries and countless time zones before I’d arrive at my next bed. I checked in at the airport, cleared security and boarded my first flight. Shortly after take-off I kicked-off my shoes to enhance comfort. I bent down to tuck them safely under the seat in front of me and recoiled in abject horror.


My socks didn’t match. One was blue and the other black. I was to travel some 10,606 miles with odd socks. I was mortified. Everyone in the aircraft was staring at my fashion faux pas. The flight attendants were muttering behind cupped hands. Other passengers were moving away from me. Would the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia even allow such a visual disgrace to set foot in their countries?  


Upon arrival at my hotel at the end of my odyssey, I discovered that my unspeakable blunder was actually twice as bad as I had at first imagined, for, in my luggage, I found a second identical pair!


Post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008