Ethiopia Pt I: HARAR at Lucy Guest House

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Lucy Guest House Entrance

Pick-up was provided free of charge by Lucy Guest House. As I had some credit with Airbnb, I decided to book a two-night stay with them and we paid 53 SGD per night.

There was no one there to meet us when we exited in the ADD’s arrivals area. Feeling lost, we decided to approach a girl at the kiosk for help. She was kind enough to call our guesthouse and it turned out that they were only allowed to wait for us at the carpark.

The guest house was only five minutes’ drive away from the airport and we were there in no time. Although we had booked the room Harar, we were given Lalibela.

The room was large and we had plenty of space to spread our stuff.

Lalibela

Wardrobe and TV

While we had a TV, we couldn’t change the channels. It was hooked up to the cable TV in the reception area and we had to watch whatever the staff was watching. I wasn’t impressed.

The bathroom wasn’t designed cleverly. There was no shower curtain and the entire place would get wet after shower.

Toilet

There were also issues with the water heater and I believed that it caused the electricity to trip several times. I learned that it would be wise not to let the water run for too long.

Shower

Breakfasts were included in the rate and it was quite nice.

Breakfast – Omelette, toast, jam and smoothies

Breakfast view

The staff were all very friendly and obliging and they even allowed us to use their kitchen to cook dinner. We had no issue asking them to get taxis for us and when we ran out of Birrs, we exchanged another 50 USD with them.

Reception

As our flight back to SIN departed in the evening, we decided to pay for an additional day of use. It was a good decision as we could rest and shower after a day out. The staff were accommodating and allowed us to pay with the combination of our remaining Ethiopian Birrs and US dollars.

Location-wise it was really near to the airport and we could walk to Yod Abyssinia. The neighbourhood seemed to be quite safe as well.

To be honest, the stay wasn’t perfect. I felt that there was some misrepresentation with regards to the availability of cable TV. Didn’t feel that the accommodation was value for money but I guessed that we might have to adjust our expectation here.

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.

Pre-Trip Pt IV: Planning – Visas

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Visa Requirements for Singaporean Citizens – Source: kwloo

Holding a Singaporean passport certainly has its advantages; we enjoy visa-free access to many countries around the world. Below is the list of countries that we will be visiting and their visa requirements.

Visa requirements

We are very lucky because Brazil introduced visa-free access to Singaporeans only in January this year. Hence we save $30 and a trip down to Brazilian embassy.

Here’s the lowdown on the countries that we need visas for:-

United States
United States

Singaporeans are eligible for to visit United States under the Visa Waiver Program and one need to apply for authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Our authorization is immediately given after the online payment of USD 14.

Bolivia
Bolivia

Singaporeans could get a visa-on-arrival at a Bolivian port-of-entry for USD 55. We got ours when we entered Bolivia at Kasani.

Ethiopia
Ethiopia

Ethiopia is the only country that we need to get the visa from Singapore. From the website of Ethiopian Embassy in Beijing, we got the e-mail address of the consul in Singapore. I e-mailed the consul and she replied with the following instructions:-

Dear Sir/Madam:

Thank you for your enquiry on Ethiopia Visa.

We are pleased to enclose the following for your necessary action/information:

1. *Visa Application Form*

2. Notes on Visa Application

3. Health Requirements for Ethiopia

*Signature on completed Visa Form has to be the same as that on the passport.

Please submit one duly completed Visa Application Form together with the following between 9:00 – 11:00 am
(Mon-Fri):

1. Passport;

2. One passport photograph;

Please paste passport photo on top right corner of the completed Visa Form

3. Visa Fees payable in cash in Singapore Dollars (Urgent fees applicable);

4. Letter from applicant’s company (for Business Visa application);

5. Return Air-Ticket/Itinerary.

NOTE:

For ‘URGENT VISA’ application, please call me @ Tel. [phone no. deleted] well in advance to check if our Hon. Consul-General is in town/available to issue the visa on the day of your application at our Consulate Office.

For Singapore PRs & Employment Pass/Work Permit holders – please bring along your ID Card/papers for verification purpose.

Visa Validity:

Validity of visa commences from the date of issue of visa, normally for a period of 3 months.

Regards

HOH (Ms)

Consulate General of The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Singapore

The location of the consulate is at 23 Chin Bee Avenue. It is served by Bus 79 from either Boon Lay MRT station or Jurong East MRT station. There are also free parking spaces located within the compound.

Amoy Canning @ 23 Chin Bee Avenue

As soon as I entered the office, the receptionist asked if I was applying for visa. I replied yes and she asked me to sit down before calling someone to attend to me.

Waiting for the Consul

An elderly lady came out shortly after and looked at my application forms. She confirmed with me the type of visa that we needed (tourist, single entry) and asked me to fill up the blanks that we had missed out. She told me that the yellow fever certificates are not required for the application; they are only required by Singapore’s immigration (or other countries’) when we return from Ethiopia.

Then she issued the receipt after receiving the payment (SGD 60 per person) and informed me that I could collect our passports in three working days later. In all, the whole process took less than 20 minutes.

Three working days later, I went down to collect our passports at the appointed time of between 10 and 11am.

Ethiopian visa

Mission accomplished!