Ethiopia Pt III: ET 626 ADD-BKK-SIN

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The ride home

Lucy Guest House provided us with a free ride to the airport but they could only drop us at the carpark instead of right at the terminal.

There was a security check at the entrance.

Pre-check in security

We joined the queue at the economy check-in for all Ethiopian flights.

Economy check-in

You will indeed love Africa

787 model – too bad we weren’t able to fly in that

There wasn’t much at the sterile area after immigration; there were a few lounges which neither of us qualify to visit and some duty shops with less than inspiring products.

ADD air-side

One of the duty-free shops

The other one

Lounge chairs

Proceed to gate

When we got to Gate 4 (a bus gate), the passenger profile didn’t seem to fit a flight which was heading to Asia. We were surrounded by Europeans and we asked around if this was the flight to Singapore. Turned out that the gate was changed without notice and the flight was ET 724 to Vienna/Stockholm.

We ended up waiting for quite a bit more before boarding was called. The terminal had emptied out by then.

Zone 5 for us

Our plane

Flight: Ethiopian Airlines ET 626
Depart: Addis Ababa (ADD) – 12:40
Arrive: Bangkok (BKK) – 13:15
Duration: 8h35m
Distance: 4,204 miles (6,766 km)
Aircraft: Boeing B767-300ER
Registration: ET-AMF
Seat: 12L

I settled down at 12L, my coffin seat for the next 8 hours or so.

View from 12L

Crumpled safety instruction

Awful seat pitch

There was no personal TV and IFE was the pathetic screen in front.

Still on the ground

Departing ADD

The crew came around with the amenity kit which consisted of eye mask, socks and toothbrush and toothpaste. Better than what I had with Swiss (which was nothing).

Amenity kit

I pecked a bit on the supper whose main was chicken pasta.

Chicken pasta

No idea what they put inside but I was knocked out and didn’t wake up until around two hours out of Bangkok.

Some random movie

And then breakfast was served. Just a bun and a muffin.

Breakfast

Almost there

Where our rice came from

DMK in a distance

Our flying route

BKK

Until we meet again

More than half of the passengers got off at Bangkok and less than five joined us continuing to Singapore. Not surprising since so many carriers fly between SIN and BKK.

While on the ground, the cleaners came on the plane to do some simple cleaning and the food for the BKK-SIN (and quite possibly SIN-BKK as well) were loaded.

Resupply

Cargo

Patrick amused us with his resourcefulness with the eye mask.

Swing

Parachute

Surfboard

Did some spotting while waiting for the last leg of the journey.

Kenya’s Boeing 763

Thai’s A346 (since retired)

Jet B737

Flight: Ethiopian Airlines ET 626
Depart: Bangkok (BKK) – 14:25
Arrive: Singapore (SIN) – 18:15
Duration: 2h50m
Distance: 882 miles (1,419 km)
Aircraft: Boeing B767-300ER
Registration: ET-AMF
Seat: 12L

Took off

Ying and I moved to the bulkhead seats 11K and 11L after confirming that there weren’t any passengers. It was definitely more spacious.

Wear and tear

A hot meal was served on the short flight.

Fish or…

… chicken?

Since IFE was non-existent, I just stared out of the window for the remainder of the flight.

One of the Thai islands in the gulf

Anyone can identify this island

Barelang Bridge

Pulau Ubin

Five weeks since we last saw this

9 countries and 4 continents and one round around the world, we were back home.

Waiting for the bags

Ethiopia Pt II: Addis Ababa

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We had three days in Addis Ababa and we decided to take it easy on the sightseeing. On the first morning, the staff at our accommodation helped us call a taxi to Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum, the number 1 attraction in Addis Ababa.

Cab to Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum

Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum

Never ever again

Plaque outside

It was a solemn visit and out of respect, we didn’t take any photographs inside. There was no entrance fee but visitors were encouraged to give a donation to fund the museum. The museum reminded me of Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh and Liberation War Museum in Dhaka. It was quite sad to learn about the atrocities which took place not so long ago.

We were quite lost, not knowing where to go. Ended up walking around a bit around Meskel Square before a getting a cab to TO.MO.CA.

Meskel Square – one of the transportation hubs in Addis Ababa

Map of African flags at Meskel Square

Ying swore that TO.MO.CA. had the best coffee.

Tomoca

Bustling

Ethiopia coffee map

Latte

After her coffee, we decided to go to the next cafe but somehow we didn’t manage to locate it despite asking directions from the locals.

Passed by a local market while finding the next place

Then the rain came and we decided to abandon our mission. We ended up in Edna Cafe where we had some simple food.

Random cafe

More coffee for Ying

Sandwich

The rain had subsided by the time we were done with the meal and we managed to find a van which brought us back as a taxi. Taxis are surprising expensive for a developing country; a short 5km ride could be around 100-150 ETB (5 to 7 USD). It prompted us to try out public transport the following day.

We were dropped off at Yod Abyssinia which was walking distance from our accommodation.

Yod Abyssinia

There was a travel agency on-site and we enquired about hiring a guide and car for the day. Couldn’t recall the exact amount but it was more than we would like to pay.

Fly Ethiopian to Singapore – that was what we would be doing. Too bad the flight was canceled.

Since almost every travel literature on Addis Ababa recommended a visit to Yod Abyssinia, Ying and I dropped by for dinner later in the evening. We reached there fairly early and soon the place started to fill up.

Musicians getting ready

The drinks were served pretty fast; I got a beer while Ying decided to try the honey wine.

Castel beer

Honey wine – so sweet that it attracted bees

The server came around with water so we could wash our hands

Injera – traditional Ethiopian food – we ordered chicken stew to go with it.

Injera was an acquired taste. Neither of us had a lot of them.

Close-up

Some fish and rice – in case injera didn’t agree with us

Most tourists like us didn’t come for the food alone; there were also traditional Ethiopian song and dance performances.

Ying thought the dances were quite provocative

Got the waiter to take our photo while waiting for the bill

Ying couldn’t finish her honey wine and we would give it to the Americans at the next table.

The meal cost wasn’t cheap at over 500 ETB but I guess it was more for the experience.

The next morning, after yet another good breakfast, we headed for the National Museum.

We managed to figure out the minibuses which were the mainstay of the city’s public transport. The shared minibus to Arat Kilo, where the museum is, was only 4 ETB.

Achievement unlocked – Addis Ababa’s minibuses!

Entrance

Main building

Inside of the building

Its most famous exhibit is “Lucy“, the 3.2 million year-old bone fossils of humans’ ancestors.

Lucy welcomes you home

Lucy – amazing that it is 3.2 million years old

There were also many artefacts from a nearer period; although they are also several thousand years old.

Photogenic local boy who approached us and said hi

Level 2 had the art pieces.

Last Supper

Multi-ethnic Ethiopia

Depicting royal procession

I had no idea what this was

Royal mosaic

Red terror

Famine

Bonfire

Shoeshine boy

The farmer

There was also a section on traditional culture.

No offence but rather uninspiring in my opinion

Hmmmm

On our way out, we were approached by a boy who was selling chewing gums. We were charmed by his good English and he pointed out the car owned by the former emperor. We ended buying some gum from him.

The Holy Trinity Cathedral was down the road from the museum but it was closed when we attempted to visit.

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Sneaky photo of the government building

Arat Kilo roundabout

Lunch was on our agenda and we somehow managed to figure out the correct minibus in the direction of Antica, a well-known Italian restaurant in Addis Ababa.

Italian lunch

And then Ying decided to have another TO.MO.CA.coffee and I caught up with the news there.

What else but the World Cup

Passed by Starbucks clone on our way back to hotel

While making our way back, we coincidentally ran into the ET crew from the LFW-ADD flight who gave us a ride to the nearby Edna Mall. He insisted on giving some chewing gum, knowing that we couldn’t be getting any back in Singapore.

A free ride

He wanted to treat us to movies which we weren’t too keen. However we entertained ourselves by observing the Ethiopian middle-class kids and families at the arcade/amusement park before calling it a day later in the afternoon.

Our final day in Addis Ababa was a relaxing one. We slept in and ventured out only at lunch time. Attempted to visit Medhane Alem Cathedral but it was close for unknown reason.

We wounded up at Edna Mall again and decided that a movie was a great idea to while our time away. Blended was entertaining enough. Found it quite interesting to be watching a movie about Africa in Africa (albeit South Africa).

With more than enough birrs for the evening, we decided to have our dinner at La Mandoline, one of the top rated restaurant in Addis Ababa. Spent quite some time locating the place on foot but we were still to early for dinner.

La Mandoline

We ordered some dessert and drinks before the restaurant was open for dinner.

Had dessert before main course

Coffee

Obviously we were the first to be seated and the place started to fill out soon. The service was pretty good with the French owner making sure that nothing went wrong at the front of house. He also called us a cab at the end of our dinner, making sure

Starter

Chicken

The nice meal ended up our short time in Ethiopia. It wasn’t the easiest of place to travel around but the people were generally nice and helpful. With that said, we don’t see ourselves returning anytime in the near future.

Brazil Pt XIII: ET 507: GRU-LFW-ADD

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We found the check-in counters for Ethiopian and discovered that a long queue had already formed. We would spend more than almost 40 minutes in it.

Long queue to check-in

Flags of the countries participating in World Cup

All you need is Ecuador

With so much time waiting in the queue, I checked out the other co-passengers in the queue. It seemed that people of African descent made up around a third to half of the people on the flights and there were plenty of Asians and Caucasians around. Africa does have the potential to be hub for travel between South America and Asia.

Where we belonged

Sorry for the blur pic – security on Segway

There were several entrepreneurial Brazilian girls who went around the long queue to sell World Cup-themed keychains and surprisingly quite a few tourists bought from them.

Pretty brisk sales

The check-in agent clearly had a tough day but he still tried his best to do his job. He seemed surprised that we would spend a few days in Addis Ababa before continuing our journey back to Singapore.

After going through the immigration, we still had some time before boarding and headed to Proair Sala VIP lounge, a Priority Pass lounge.

Proair VIP Lounge

The staff wasn’t really happy when she made a mistake by charging both entries to Ying’s card but she remedied it on the spot. The WiFi was also broken during our time of visit.

Limited food on offer

We were famished since we only had some light snacks at GIG and both of us were glad that we had some free food before the flight.

Our dinner

Sitting area

Coffee machine – out of order

Surprised to find Sunday Times half the world away

We left the lounge half an hour before departure time.

Departures from GRU

Boarding pass

I was little sad that the scheduled 788 flight was replaced by a 772. It was probably due to the higher demand during the World Cup season.

ET-ANN bringing us to ADD

The boarding took really long due to the extra security. Before we could board the plane, we were made to line up in a single file and leave our bags on the floor. Then the security guys would bring a dog to sniff through our belongings before giving us the all-clear to board. We overheard a passenger of African background remarked to the Brazilian couple in front him about how rude the security guys were and the Brazilians agreed with him.

Flight: Ethiopian ET 507
Depart: São Paulo–Guarulhos (GRU) – 00:05
Arrive: Lome (LFW) – 10:50
Duration: 7h20m
Distance: 3,818 miles (6,145 km)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200LR
Registration: ET-ANN (The Blue Nile)
Seat: 14A

View from 14A

Welcome screen

Seat control

In-flight magazine and safety information card

Goodbye South America

Message from CEO

ET route map

What’s on

There was a full meal served after taking off and we chose chicken with rice.

Full meal

Both Ying and I were amazed with the rudeness of the crew. No one smiled and when Ying informed the crew about her choice of drinks, she was met with a pair of rolling eyes and a firm ‘no’. Apparently the SOP was to serve the food first before taking drink orders. We were terrified of the crew and didn’t dare to make any request the entire flight.

The Brazilian guy in front got it worse; his special meal wasn’t loaded and after looking through the manifest, the crew sternly told him to remember to order it next time. To the passenger’s credit, he just shrugged and went back to sleep.

It would be a looooong flight

I fall asleep after the meal and woke up when there was daylight outside.

Daylight

I couldn’t tell where I was because the flight data was unavailable.

Flight data unavailable

Breakfast was served while the IFE was being fixed. The crew’s attitude didn’t improve at all.

The scary crew serving our aisle

Breakfast – potato, mushroom and tomatoes

We are back in GRU?! Shucks

Not exactly. We were flying along the coast of Africa.

Africa

Ethiopian Eats for our time in Addis Ababa

Some West African coastal city

Low clouds

Forest

Lome seemed dusty from the sky.

Abandoned planes?

Hangars

An Ethiopian Cargo 737

Left to decay

Making sure that the plane was properly parked

Terminal

New terminal a few hundred meters away

Stairs

Bus for passengers

Only passengers whose boarding passes indicated Lome as their destination could disembark and there were quite a few of them. It wasn’t surprising as LFW is the hub of ASKY, a Ethiopian Airlines’ subsidiary. I believed that quite a number of them would be connecting to other destinations in West Africa.

Passengers finally disembarking

A guy who was supposed to travel to Addis Ababa decided that he wanted to get off at Lome and caused some commotion. Took quite a while to placate him and he was eventually allowed to go after making some payment. It was all very strange.

ASKY’s 734 – all of its aircraft are leased from ET

Passengers joining us from Lome to Addis Ababa

Another ASKY’s plane

Another inconsiderate passenger

A positive aspect of this layover was that the set of crew from hell were replaced by a much more pleasant set. Another long flight with them would be quite unbearable.

Flight: Ethiopian ET 507
Depart: Lome (LFW) – 12:00
Arrive: Lome (LFW) – 20:35
Duration: 5h35m
Distance: 2,581 miles (4,154 km)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200LR
Registration: ET-ANN (The Blue Nile)
Seat: 14A

Got a few shots of Lome during the ascent.

Lome

Lome beach

Port

The new set of crew came along with some snacks.

Airplane-themed snakcs

Cool

The 5.5 hour flight time allowed me to finish two movies and I watched Out of Inferno and Kai Po Che. Quite interesting to watch Mandarin and Hindi movies on an African airline.

Out of Inferno

Kai Po Che

Dinner was served pretty early and I chose to have fish.

Dinner – Fish I think

While waiting for the washroom after the meal, I noticed that some young Brazilian boys were chatting up a very friendly crew. The boys were heading to Sweden for a football tournament and it seemed that Ethiopian was the cheapest option. The difference between the first set and the second set of crew was really heaven and hell.

Almost there

Ying and I decided to visit the washroom before landing and we struck up a conversation with a friendly male crew. He told us that he had flown to Singapore once and was really impressed with the city. He was very happy to find out that we would be spending some time in Addis Ababa and gave us some useful tips for the city.

We got a remote gate and had to disembark through stairs. After around 14 hours on the plane, we were glad to be on ground again. We were also excited to be in Africa for the first time.

~14 hours after leaving Brazil

The bus brought us to the terminal and we had to make a long walk to the immigration. Midway through, we were asked to show our boarding pass to the security personnels.

There was a long queue at the immigration as there were quite a few flights arriving at around the same time. I spotted some really exotic passports (Niger, Mauritania and Sudan etc) while in the queue. While it took some time for me to get stamped in, interestingly the immigration official didn’t ask for my yellow fever certificate.

Waiting for our bags

Sao Paulo is probably the least exotic destination

While Ying waited at for the bags, I went to the moneychangers to get some Ethiopian Birrs (ETB). 100 USD got us 1955 ETB and we would change another 50 USD later on during the stay.

When passing through the customs, a security person was there to make sure that our bags’ tags matched the receipts. It would take almost an hour after landing before we got out of the airport.