Beijing Pollution – Yet Again a Key Topic

It feels like I just finished writing about this a few minutes ago and here it is – yet another posting on the impact of pollution in Beijing.  This time it is on a very public event – the Beijing marathon.  The article and photos from International Business Times (link here) certainly provides a grim view of the event…

 Beijing Pollution   Yet Again a Key Topic

Hm… Would you like to be a runner in the group above???

For those of you who are driven by facts, here is the table updated on a regular basis by the US Embassy in Beijing and this link will get you the latest measurements summarized by the Embassy: Beijing Air Quality Guide

Here of course is the link to my previous posting on the subject – just last week…


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Beijing Pollution – Center Stage Again

I like traveling in China – it is a vast country with a long history, interesting places to see and learn about.  There are certainly also tons of places to see for their natural beauty.  Having said that – you need to be aware of some not-so-pleasant aspects of traveling and/or living in China – the pollution problem of Beijing.

I have posted on that topic a number of times – here are some previous postings, but the topic keeps coming up as the situation does not appear to improve.  In a recent article the situation is highlighted again

Days of heavy smog shrouding swathes of northern China pushed pollution to more than 20 times safe levels on Friday, despite government promises to tackle environmental blight.

Visibility dropped dramatically as measures of small pollutant particles known as PM2.5, which can embed themselves deep in the lungs, reached more than 500 micrograms per cubic metre in parts of Hebei, a province bordering Beijing.

The World Health Organization’s guideline for maximum healthy exposure is 25.

In the capital, buildings were obscured by a thick haze, with PM2.5 levels in the city staying above 300 micrograms per cubic metre since Wednesday afternoon and authorities issuing an “orange” alert.

“It’s very worrying, the main worry is my health,” said a 28-year-old marketing worker surnamed Hu, carrying an anti-smog mask decorated with a pink pig’s nose as she walked in central Beijing. (from a Guardian article)

I think this problem will continue until Beijing enforces strict rules on burning coal, reduces the heavy use of two cycle motorcycles — yes, those smog spewing little machines that are used across the city – and encourages the use of bicycles…YES! bicycles – I lived in Beijing in 1987-1988 and bicycles were everywhere — now cars have taken their place…

To give you an idea that this smog problem is not a new one – you can see some photos I had taken back in 2006 (and I am sure I can find more from 2004, and 2005….and 2001) that show the haze in the city – and those two photos are from different place – one of the 3rd loop road, and a second from Houhai (park area)

BeijingSmog 150x150 Beijing Pollution   Center Stage Again

View from 3rd loop road in Chaoyang district

HouHai BeijingAug2006 150x150 Beijing Pollution   Center Stage Again

Beijing Houhai Park

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Seat Pitch – Useful information on Seating across Major US Airlines

Have you wondered what is going on with space in economy class on various US airlines…?  I bet all of you have been thinking – it feels that each flight you take the space between your knees and the seat in front of you is shrinking… I know, I feel that way… Well you are not imagining things.  The reality is that over the last few years, the major airlines in the US have been re-configuring planes and seating in an effort to improve the efficiency of each plane.  After all – with increasing fuel costs and big competition for each passenger, the airline’s ability to both fill seats and increase capacity per plane, is the way to drive profitability.

Turns out in some cases we the passengers are more than willing to use the tighter configured planes if they give us low cost plane travel….

So do you have a choice in the matter?  Turns out recently a quick study has been done comparing the seat pitch for the major US based airlines.  Here is the summary view (courtesy of Conde’Nast Traveller)

541b305d17e4b1f634ef1127 CNT legroom infographic 01 Seat Pitch   Useful information on Seating across Major US Airlines

So – per this anaysis you really can decide which airline can give you the most comfortable journey for the flight you need to take.

If you are looking to compare global airlines, you can look at this site – I am not sure of the quality of the data, but it looks pretty comprehensive…

In parallel you can look at for specific seats and flights and decide what to purchase for your upcoming flight.

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Beautiful Venice!

This summer, my daughter and I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Venice, Italy for the first time.  I don’t know how Venice is the rest of the year, but in early June, it is magical.  The temperature was in the mid to high 70′s, and it was sunny every day, with sudden, brief downpours in the late afternoon.  Being relatively early in the season, there weren’t an overwhelming number of visitors and the only place that really felt overcrowded was the Piazza San Marco–home of the most-visited of Venice’s attractions.  Check out some pictures:

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Airport Parking Challenges

Airport parking is usually not a hot topic of discussions on travel sites.  I take plenty of day or short trips within the US and as a result actually consider airport parking rather important.  I like to park within walking distance of the terminals and usually can do that as I take the early flights (read 6:00 am flights) which means the lots have not been filled up yet.

However I have come often enough at the airport in the afternoon to find signs "Lot Full" preventing us from even getting to the parking area…

In multiple of those occasions I have parked in other parking areas only to find out as I drive by the closed off ones or walk through them on the way to the terminal, plenty of open spaces.   Which made me think — how does the airport parking management knows that a lot is full ?  Obviously they do not!  As a result they get unhappy customers and in some cases lose revenue as the potential customers go in search of a spot at another location…

Just 3 days ago I had the same happen again – I pulled into the Austin airport around 3:30pm only to find both parking garage and 'close-in' parking areas closed off with signs as being full….

So I parked in the long term parking and started walking to the terminal — on my way I walked through part of the 'close in' parking area — and only on 2 rows counted 7!!! I kid you not 7 empty parking spots.  Took photos of two of them — see below

austin airport parking1 300x225 Airport Parking Challenges   austin airport parking2 150x150 Airport Parking Challenges

I wonder – why Austin Airport cannot track the number of cars going in vs the number of cars going out of a given parking zone?  After all they do have cameras, the parking tickets are different for the different zones….and all in all, there should be a way to have a very clear view of what is the capacity and availability of the lot…

If someone from the airport management is reading — please try to fix that.  Customers will like it…!

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More from India — The Taj Mahal in Photos

TheTajMahal May2014 300x96 More from India    The Taj Mahal in Photos


GuesthouseAtTajMahal 300x108 More from India    The Taj Mahal in Photos


And now a higher resolution library with photos you can use:



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Travel to India

Here is a set of photos from my recent trip to India….

More to follow over the weekend when I have time to write.   So for now I will leverage the old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words…" almost…

Here we go:  first photo — guess where 

IMG 1302 300x160 Travel to India yes, you guessed it — Heathrow, UK…….Then the next one..

IMG 1308 300x210 Travel to India Yes, this is the route map…

BangalorePalace img1 300x120 Travel to India  Guess what place?

IMG 1458 2 300x107 Travel to India and this?

Answers coming in my upcoming postings

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China – Travel in Time – Shanghai in the 1980s

Another morning view – this time from Huahai Lu in Shanghai…. Do you remember this?

Koljo China 33 1024x725 China   Travel in Time   Shanghai in the 1980s

Were you in Shanghai in 1989?  If yes, then you would remember the groups of old ladies practicing Tai Chi Quan on the sidewalks…It was pretty interesting to watch…

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China – Travel in Time

OldChina 1 1024x653 China   Travel in TimeEarly Morning at a Train Station in Central China — North East of Shanghai — and Yes, the year is 1989….and Yes, you see a steam locomotive….

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Hotel Safe – Comments on an Article On-line

I came across an article from an otherwise good travel blog "Perrin Post" which highlighted some things about the hotel room safes that I believe are both clearly stated by most hotels and should be known to us travelers.

Just how safe is a hotel safe? That’s the question on my mind after inadvertently leaving my travel jewelry case (fashion jewelry—not fine jewelry) behind in the in-room safe of room 215 at the Crowne Plaza in Hollywood, Florida, a couple of weeks ago. I was in a rush to pack up and check out of the hotel, and I simply forgot to retrieve my stuff from the safe. The next morning, when I realized my mistake and phoned the hotel to see what they could do, I was told that another guest was now inhabiting room 215 and that the hotel could not send an employee to access the safe until after the guest had checked out. I was assured that, once the guest left, the hotel would open the safe and see if my jewelry was still in it.

Interestingly, I was never asked for the four-digit passcode that I had programmed into the safe.

A couple of hours later I heard from the hotel again: They had opened the safe (no passcode necessary) and found the jewelry there, and they would ship it to me. A couple of days later I received a FedEx package with everything in it and intact. The FedEx bill? $116. I’m not complaining—I was thrilled to have my belongings back—but I did learn three lessons from this episode

(from Perrin Post blog)

The three lessons the article highlights are the things that made me write here 

  • Remind yourself to check the safe before you check-out —- Of course!!! The same applies for making sure you did not leave items on the bed side table or on the hotel room office table or bathroom counter….or phone charger plugged into a hotel electrical outlet in the room…!  I have done all of the above and never forgotten stuff in the safe — so that tells you…!
  • The second claim is that you need to realize that the safe is not really that safe — again, another truism! Of course it is not!  Every safe is possible to break into…And in some hotels, management even posts a sign near the safe to clarify that to you – i.e. the safe is not a perfect deterent…However, the safe is still better than leaving things out in the open
  • The advice to carry a combination lock to store items under lock in our suitcase is also not perfect — that lock even invites attention and guess what if someone wanted to get into your suitcase — they can!

The more secure way to handle your valuable items is to ask the hotel for a safekeeping with them…..And the second option (the one I like) is not to travel with your most precious posetions.  Enjoy the travel – and do not cause yourself stress by thinking about how to protect your valuables. 

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