Please keep your seats upright and shades up
"Please keep your seats upright and shades up!"

Unless you are a stowaway in plane cargo, this is a broadcast which we never fail to hear during air flights. Be it in the beginning or towards the end of the flight, these mood spoilers always seem to be announced just when we are getting comfortable for a long flight, or happily in dreamland. Even so, most often than not, majority of the passengers would just grudgingly bring up their seats and check the shades are up, without second thoughts.

Maybe we have become used to such announcements, maybe we have become resigned to our fates and treat these minor annoyances as part of the flight experience. That said, have you ever stopped and wondered, are the crew members really out to annoy us?

An interesting read from Yahoo! news goes on to explain the rationale for keeping seats upright. The gist being that emergency situations usually happen at the start or towards the end of flights. Hence, keeping seats upright will help to reduce traffic block and speed up evacuation during emergencies. There would also be less potential injuries to contend with during a rough take off or landing, for both the sitting passenger and the passenger behind.


What about the shades?

As described in an Independent article, the simple explanation is to keep the internal and external situations visible to the crew, passengers and any rescue parties. It also helps the crew to assess which exit is the best during emergency evacuations. Since crew members only have 90 seconds to finish evacuation, you definitely would not want to mess up for the crew as a passenger.

However, it can get difficult for the crew if there are uncooperative passengers. Indeed, stories abound of unruly passengers that not only do not follow crew instructions but verbally abuse or even assault crew members. So much so that there is a term for such behavior, "Air Rage" which is reportedly on the rise. Interestingly, a study on air rage showed that incidents are four times more likely to occur if the plane has premium seating than just a single economy class.

Other common frustrations for cabin crew include being ignored when asking passengers not to go to the washroom during take off, landing or when the plane is experience turbulence; not to open overhead compartment before the plane has fully stopped. Ensuring passenger safety is part of their job, even though it is not uncommon to at least see some passengers that require repeated reminders from the crew before they will stop whatever they ared doing.

Now that it is obvious the cabin staff are just doing their job, next time when we are on board a plane, let's show our appreciation and help make their work easier by following their instructions.



The Missus had wanted to look at the iconic animals of Australia: Kangaroos and Koala Bears. You would have thought it should be easy to find in Australia, but as fate would have it, we did not get the opportunity at all. 

But first, let's talk about getting to Perth Zoo, which is the straightforward part.



The easiest way would be to get to Elizabeth Quay Bus Station. You may hear other references to it as Esplanade Busport, its old name before it was renamed in Jan 2016. 


Since this is a busport, lots of buses in Perth starts or ends at this station, so you should have no problems getting here. Once you alight from any bus, find your way upstairs and you should find yourself somewhere similar to the photo below.


Esplanade Busport interior 1
Elizabeth Quay Bus Station (Perth Esplanade Busport) Interior (Photo from Wikipedia)

It's not a big place, you should easily locate the information counter.


Esplanade Busport info centre
Elizabeth Quay Bus Station (Perth Esplanade Busport) Information Counter (Photo from Wikipedia)

I will discuss in another thread about the Perth transport system, but meanwhile stop by at the colourful timetable booths and grab a copy of Bus Timetable 12 for Bus Routes 30 and 31, which goes to Perth Zoo. 


Bus Timetable 12 for Route 30 and 31 to Perth Zoo
Bus Timetable 12 for Route 30 and 31 to Perth Zoo


You may want to grab other timetables for other places of interests you have planned for. If you have any queries, you can also ask the friendly staff at the information counter.

Pro Tip: Grab a copy of the "Tickets and Fare Guide" from the information counter as well. Other than bus fares, it also contains a Transperth Zone Map which will help you to estimate your bus fares.


Once you are done with the timetable booths, it's time to head down to Platform E3. The waiting area for Bus 30 and 31 is the same, so just hop on the first bus that comes along. 

The trip is a quick 5min and will be a 2 Section fare. You will stop directly outside Perth Zoo (Stop 11847). The return bus station is just on the opposite side (Stop 11865).


Perth Zoo entrance
Perth Zoo Entrance (Photo from Wikipedia)

Adult tickets are $29, Children (4-15 yrs) are $14, under 4 yrs is free. There is also a Family price of $75.20 for 2 adults with 2 children. You can find other ticket types from this link, but they may not be applicable to foreigners.


Perth Zoo Ticket and events list
Perth Zoo Ticket and events list

Pro Tip: You have to pay for the printed map if you get it over the counter. Do yourself a favor, download and print from the zoo website before hand. Alternatively, there is a big map display just few steps into the zoo, snap one with your camera.


Big Map Perth Zoo
Big Map display board near ticket counter in Perth Zoo

You will also get a copy of the timings for guided walks and feeding presentations when you purchase your tickets. You can also find the latest list online here. The earliest one starts at 10am, the last one is about 3pm. So try to be there earlier, especially if you are bringing kids along.

To be frank, Perth Zoo is not big, there's not a lot variety of animals. You can expect to finish touring within half a day unless you intend to stay until 3pm for the last presentation. So you will still have time to plan for some other places to visit. I recommend combining it with an afternoon's visit to Kings Park since it is near Elizabeth Quay Bus Station and on the way back.

So back to my earlier rant on Kangaroos and Koala Bears. Busselton and Dunsborough did not offer us any places to see these animals. The first place we could find them was Albany Wildlife in Discovery Bay, which was disappointing and a story for another day. Undeterred, we decided to try our luck at Perth Zoo. Only to find out that the Koala Bears habitat was under construction and the Koalas were relocated elsewhere and not for visiting... zzZZZzz..

So moral of the story? If you intend to visit the zoo, do a check (via a call maybe?) if any of the animals are not open to public.





You have been dreaming of this trip since last year. Your meticulously planned itinerary is choked full of sights to see, things to do. All that's left is to go on the trip. Nothing else could wrong...

...Right?

Murphy's Law Top Things to Prepare Before Trip
Yep...

So says Murphy's Law, and we should respect his wise words. You never know when life might hit you with the unexpected. So it pays to be a little more prepared so that you can tilt the odds in your favour.


Pack The Luggage


Pack Bag Top Things to Prepare Before Trip
Honey, where are the travel documents?

Packing the bag doesn't sound exciting, does it?

But nothing ruins a trip more than when you discover something left behind and the panic arguments starts.

For the lazy travellers, try to start packing preparations at least a week ahead. Bring out your luggage bag and put it in an accessible corner. Whenever you think of something important for the trip, put the item in the luggage first. That way, you will not need to keep reminding yourself or keep a mental list of items, which tends to be the easiest way to forget things.

Bring That Medkit


Bring Medkit Top Things to Prepare Before Trip
Doctor, can I have some painkillers?

Falling sick overseas is quite common. Being in a new environment, the weather, the food, the flight, all these may cause you to feel under the weather. Even some minor cold or discomfort may affect the rest of the trip. But having access to medication in a foreign country may not be easy. Even if you can find a local pharmacy, the medication may not be something which you are used to back home. 

Whether you are contemplating to spare some space for your glory purchases, or just prefer to travel light, it is still advisable to pack some common medicine for minor discomfort like painkillers, flu, motion sickness. The last thing you would want is to let a headache ruin a perfect trip. 

Which brings us to the next point...

Group The Items


Group Items Top Things to Prepare Before Trip
Hmm.. now where did I keep those blue pills?

Ever tried searching for something but could not find it, only for it to pop up somewhere else later? You are not alone.

Similar item types should be grouped and put together so that you can always return to the same location. So for example, medication can be put in a small bag or container, while another bag can be for electronics related items like mobile phone chargers, travel adaptors, camera equipment.

Keeping these small items in their own bag also ensures that you will not forget to pack them on the last night of hotel stay.


Have Multiple Copies


Multiple Copies Top Things to Prepare Before Trip
...and lastly, for precaution, I have filmed our documents on tape...

Think of this scenario: After getting off the plane at your destination, you confidently pulled out your mobile phone. You had done your homework beforehand and know the airport has free Wifi services, so you did not bother to print out your hotel booking for address location. After walking around to find a spot with stronger signal, you finally connect to "Free Airport Wifi". A page greets you, asking for your mobile number to send a 4 digit password via SMS. You try entering various combinations of your country code + mobile number. But the system keeps giving you "Invalid mobile number" message. With a sinking feeling, you finally realised it can only send SMS to local numbers. 

Whether you like your documents in hard or soft copy, at least prepare another copy in the other medium. Having different copies means you are in better control when you could not access one.

In similar vein, take a photo of your identification documents like passport and driver license so that you can still proof your identity even if you accidentally lose them during the trip.

Bring Writing Materials


Writing Materials Top Things to Prepare Before Trip
I couldn't find pen and paper, so I brought grandma's writing materials

Have you asked for a pen and paper during a trip before? Sounds common enough? Since it's so common, why not bring a pen and some pieces of paper to jot down information.

Extra tip: Pack your writing materials with your travel documents and itineraries in a small file or bag that you bring around with you. You may be surprised at just how often these things are required together when the situation arises.

Spare Portable Battery


Portable Battery Top Things to Prepare Before Trip
This should be enough for our electronics... Now to make it portable...

These days, mobile phones are becoming the gadget for communications, entertainment and photography. Some even use it as a GPS navigation tool. With so many uses, it's no wonder portable batteries were invented to keep our devices running.

Have a spare portable battery charger and  you will never miss out a photo opportunity.

Bring Foldable Bags


Foldable Bags Top Things to Prepare Before Trip
"These ladies handbags are foldable so that you can bring more home"

Be it souvenirs or local food produce, more often than not, you end the trip with more things than you started. During the packing, you discover the main luggage bag that you brought is not enough to hold everything now. You start regretting not having brought along a second bag.

Why not bring an extra foldable bag? Such bags do not take a lot of space, and helps ladies to increase your carrying capacity for last minute purchases.

Extra tip: Pack your clothes into the foldable bags as carry-on baggage, and you will have more space in your check in baggage for your fragile purchases.   

Translate Those Names


Translate Names Top Things to Prepare Before Trip
Can you help to translate this?

Excited about going to an exotic place? Don't let language be a barrier. Finding someone who speaks your language may not be easy. Avoid playing charades overseas, write down the names of those places you intend to visit on a piece of paper, find their native equivalent names. Or bring along a guide book for the lazy.


Hangzhou 杭州 is a beautiful city and frequently depicted in many enchanting Chinese stories, home to many famous poets. Its most famous icon, West Lake 西湖 and its surroundings, are home to many places of historical significance. It is also home to Alibaba 阿里巴巴, the Chinese e-commerce giant.

Hangzhou's only airport is Xiaoshan International Airport 萧山机场 which serves both domestic and international travellers. It is not a big airport and both terminals are just side by side.

To reach the city, you can go by taxi or airport bus. It is a small airport so you cannot miss the long queue of taxis outside the arrival hall. Taxis rides are metered so you do not need to entertain any touts or haggling. This would be a good option if you are travelling in a big group or have a lot of luggage.



The alternative would be the airport bus. The ticket counter is at Level 1 of Domestic Airport, which is to the right and just next to the International Airport. Once you are at the Arrival Hall of the International Airport, you can either continue walking out of the airport and take a right, or take the lift up to the Departure Hall at Level 2. From there,  walk across the connecting hallway to Domestic Airport. Once there, take the lift down to Level 1. The ticket counter is a little further up. You can't miss the big display boards like below.


Xiaoshan Airport Shuttle Bus Ticket Counter

If you do not know your bearings in Hangzhou yet, the more central stop would be Wulin Square (武林门). All ticket prices are RMB 20. From Wulin Square, you can hop on to a cab to your next location.

Once you have your ticket, exit the airport and turn right to see this scene.

Boarding is at the signboard which displays "Dest:Wulin Square".


Waiting spot for airport shuttle bus
Outside Xiaoshan Airport


You just need to give your ticket to the ticketing lady who is easily recognized in red. She will tear off and return you a slip like below. Pass your big luggage to the guy at the storage compartment before you board the bus.


Airport shuttle bus - ticket

It's free seating so just pick your most comfy seat, sit back and relax for 50mins or so to Hangzhou city. The ticketing lady will also start selling hotel rooms and tour packages, if you have not made any plans. However, there are a few boutique hotel chains near Wulin Square where you can usually just walk in and get a cheap room for the night.

The drop off point will be near "Hang Zhou Xiaoshan International Airport Ticketing Office", 杭州萧山国际机场售票处, where you can get ticket for the return trip to Xiaoshan Airport. 

Bonus tip: This is also the place where you can get tickets to Shanghai Pudong Airport, 上海浦东机场, details below.





Once you spot this big red banner, the ticketing office is just two stores away.


Red banner - Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport Ticketing Office


You should see one or more airport buses parked along side the road. Just get on the first bus after you purchased the ticket. Buses leave every half hour. Ticket price is RMB 20.


Xiaoshan Airport shuttle bus parked along Wulin Square
Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport shuttle bus
Close up of shuttle bus
Ticketing counter for bus to Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport

For the folks going towards Shanghai Pudong Airport, you can get the tickets next door where you will see this sign board below which indicates shuttle bus departure and arrival timings. Left is from Hangzhou to Pudong Airport. Right is vice versa.


Ticketing counter for bus to Shanghai Pudong Airport




Whether it is for Google Map for driving, or sharing your selfies to Facebook and Instagram, there's always a good reason to need internet access when traveling in Australia. 

If you do not want the hassle of hunting for free wifi, why not buy a prepaid card for on the go data access?

Not all prepaid mobile plains are created equally. This goes the same for Australia's prepaid plans. The three main telecom companies in Australia (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) each have their own different strengths and weaknesses.

Since I am on the topic of mobile data, my focus below will be on prepaid plans with better data offerings.


best-mobile-plan-australia
I was so busy trying to share my trip experience online that I couldn't focus on the trip...

Pro Tip: If you are arriving at Perth International Airport T1, the first thing to note is that you will be greeted by Optus and Vodafone shops once you exit Arrival Hall (Ground floor). Telstra does not have its own shop, but take the elevator up to Departure Hall (Level 1) and Newslink sells Telstra sims.


Telstra
The current cheapest data plan is the $30 recharge for Freedom Plus, with 1.3GB data, unlimited calls to other Telstra numbers, $250 call credit for all other calls, $30 recharge credit.

With each recharge, the data and call credit are good to use for 28 days and expires thereafter. You can rollover unused data and/or call credit with your next recharge.

Local and International calls both incur a flat connection fee of 39cents. Calls are charged by per minute block.

Some examples of call rates: local Australia calls (89cents), US (99cents), China/Hong Kong/Malaysia/Singapore ($1.29), United Kingdom/Canada ($2.49)

Except for free calls to other Telstra numbers, you can see the call charges are quite hefty. Also it does seems like the recharge credit cannot be used to buy their data top up packs. Meaning you have to recharge again when your data is used up, or purchase the top up packs separately.

The strength of Telstra though comes in the coverage, especially in less urban areas. This would be good if you are driving out of the major cities and using Google Maps for locating directions or GPS navigation.

Refer to the below links for more info on the Freedom Plus plan and international call rates
https://www.telstra.com.au/mobile-phones/prepaid-mobiles/offers-and-rates
http://www.telstra.com.au/mobile-phones/prepaid-mobiles/offers-and-rates/freedom/international-rates/index.htm


Optus
The current main prepaid offerings are monthly vs daily. 

The cheapest Monthly Plus plan is $30 recharge for 1.5GB data, unlimited calls to Australian mobiles and landlines. You also get $5 Extra Credit for international calls, roaming and premium services. Unused data expires after 30 days, but can be rolled over by recharging, up to a max of 10GB. 

Pro Tip: Optus is having an online promotion for extra 1.5GB data. You must purchase the "$30 Prepaid SIM Pack" online, activate the Monthly Plus plan before 30 Sep 2015, and do a $30 recharge before 15 Nov 2015.

The Daily Plus plan is a $2 per day plan, minimum recharge of $10. It offers 500MB data per day, and "auto bump" of 524MB for another $2 if you used up the first 500MB. It similarly offers unlimited calls to Australian mobiles and landlines. Day ends at 11.59pm. Each recharge goes into your MyCredit balance which will be used to deduct the daily $2 fee

For both monthly and daily plans, there are no connection fees for both local and international calls. Calls are charged by per minute block.

Some examples of call rates: US/Canada/Malaysia (4cents), China/Hong Kong (3cents), Singapore (2cents), United Kingdom (10cents) .

You can see that Optus has very competitive prepaid offering (free local calls, low international calls, no connection fees). The Monthly Plus plan may be more useful for local Australians or fellow travelers staying long. The Daily Plus plan is actually more useful for short trips to Australia and definitely Optus target for travelers, as can be seen by the big advertisement outside the Optus shop in Perth Airport.

My own experience using the Optus Daily Plus plan is that the 500MB data should be sufficient for your surfing and GPS needs. In fact, my partner shared the data over phone tethering and I have never seen the usage exceed more than 300MB. The downside for Optus is the spotty coverage outside of cities. The coverage along the road from Perth to Busselton is still ok, but once you are on the road from Bunbury to Albany and Albany to Perth, there are long stretches of no signal until you reach the next small city (Wadpole/Denmark etc..). That just means you cannot search for locations using Google Map in your phone, but otherwise GPS should still function. Fortunately the road connecting the small cities towards Southern part of Western Australia is pretty much just one straight road. So you should do fine. If not, you can refer to my article on how to take the long haul buses.

Refer to the below links for the two Plus plans and international call rates
http://www.optus.com.au/shop/mobile/Pre-Paid/plans
http://smb.optus.com.au/opfiles/Shop/All/cis/Cis%20Documents/1400882_CIS_My_Prepaid_Daily_Plus.pdf
http://smb.optus.com.au/opfiles/Shop/All/cis/Cis%20Documents/1400883_CIS_My_Prepaid_Monthly_Plus_0715.PDF
http://www.optus.com.au/shop/mobile/prepaid/international-call-rates?SID=con:premob:2ndNav:premob:redesign:Prepaid:international


Vodafone
Pro Tip: Vodafone is currently having an online promotion for $50 Prepaid Combo Starter pack at half price $25. with 4GB data, unlimited calls to Australia numbers, unlimited international calls to 10 countries, and 90mins for international calls to other selected countries, $50 Combo credit. Offer valid till 13 Oct 2015.

http://www.vodafone.com.au/personal/prepaid/deal

The cheapest regular data plan is the $30 Combo starter pack with 1.5GB, unlimited calls to Australia numbers, $30 Combo credit.

Data and Combo credit are valid for 28 days before expiry, no rollover feature.

International calls incur a connection fee of 40cents, charged by per minute block.

Some example call rates: US/United Kingdom/China/Hong Kong/Malaysia/Singapore  ($2), Canada ($1)

Refer to the below links for more info on the Combo starter pack and international call rates
http://www.vodafone.com.au/personal/prepaid/prepaid-options/state/starter-pack/prepaid-combo/multi-fit
http://vodafone.intelliresponse.com/index.jsp?requestType=NormalRequest&source=100&id=2087&question=Prepaid+International+Call+Rates




Here's a quick post on the terminal locations of Transwa and South West Coach Lines in Australia.

Both bus companies have their terminal locations in their websites. Quick links:
South West Coach Lines
http://www.southwestcoachlines.com.au/express/stoplocations/

Transwa
https://www.transwa.wa.gov.au/Travelling-with-Transwa/Destinations

However, not all things are created equal.


In my experience, South West Coach Lines has a more tourist friendly website as terminal locations are marked in Google Maps.

For Transwa, only the major terminals have map locations. Smaller cities have more vague descriptions, e.g. a street name. This means that out of town folks like us will find it tough to know exactly where to wait for the bus.

The rest of this article is to share the locations and some tips that I have experienced with fellow readers.

Perth Airport Terminal
South West Coach Lines (T3/T4) - It is in the bus lane, or the second lane from the airport entrance. Wait for the bus around this location.


Perth Airport Terminal Stop for Airport Transfer and South West Coach Lines

Pro Tip: Purchasing your ticket from T3/T4 Domestic Terminal rather than T1 International Airport will save you a few bucks. This is even though the bus would go from T3/T4 to T1, before going towards Perth. You can take the free Airport Terminal transfer which is in the same area where you get on the South West Coach Lines buses.

The bus should look like below. If you are taking the bus to Busselton, the ticket is misleading and may seem like you need to get off at Burnbury to change to a different bus number. But in fact, the same bus will continue from Burnbury to Busselton, hence you do not need to get off.


South West Coach Lines


Bunbury
South West Coach Lines - The stop is outside South West Coach Lines Burnbury branch office. As mentioned earlier, if you are continuing your ride further down south, you do not need to get off the bus




Transwa - This one is challenging to locate if you have not been there before. The Transwa Bunbury Terminal is near the railway station but is not marked in Google Maps. You will see the Orange Transwa Sign if you switch to street view in the map below. 

If you are going back to Perth, you do not need to get off. If you are going towards eastern direction like Wadpole, Denmark, Albany, you will have to get off here. 





Busselton
South West Coach Lines - The stop is just outside Albert Square, opposite South West Coach Lines Busselton branch office.




Transwa - Another confusing one. Transwa website will only tell you it is at Peel Terrace. Some online websites may point you to the small sheltered bus stop that is outside the Busselton Senior Citizen's Centre. Actually I found the bus waiting a little further up inside the open area at 36 Peel Terrace.




The bus looks like this:


Transwa



Albany
Transwa - This is straightforward since the Transwa terminal is beside Albany Visitor Centre. The bus turns in to the carpark and stops outside the visitor centre.





Perth
Transwa - Stops at the Transwa terminal in East Perth





Hope the above information are useful for your planning!