Monday, April 30, 2012

Johannesburg - Frankfurt

This is a continuation of our Munich & South Africa trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here. 

We arrived at the Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport 2 hours before departure. We looked for the premier check in lane and noticed there was quite a line already. And the line was not moving! We were probably the 5th person in line, and we basically stood in the same spot for 30 minutes, and the check in line was getting longer and longer behind us. Some people started getting antsy but the staff was not helpful at all. I looked over at the Economy check in line, and that was even more outrageous. I overheard that the system was down so they were not able to check in any passengers for a while.

We saw some IT people walking over to the counters and had everyone reboot their system. Finally after around 40-50 minutes waiting the line started moving again! The person at the check in counter was not apologetic at all and didn't even acknowledge that we had waited for a long time. Oh well... The security line was also really, really long. There wasn't a separate security line for premium class passengers. We originally thought we would have time to go to the lounge, but apparently not. Dan was really hungry so we grabbed a quick sandwich after security and then boarding our plane.

The seats/cabins looked very similar to our Munich-Johannesburg leg. The configuration was 2-2-2. I still can't get over the fact that we got 3 windows to ourselves and how much legroom there was.

The stewardess came around to offer orange juice/champagne. Dan & I started a routine where I get the orange juice and he would get the champagne.  And then I would pour a little bit of his champagne into my juice to make a mimosa. :)

Our stewardess was very friendly. She addressed us by our last name which was a nice touch. I heard her address the people seating behind us also by name, so she must have really made an effort to memorize passengers' names.  The menu was then distributed. Interesting to note that there were a couple menu items by Reuben, who is a famous South African chef. We didn't get to try his restaurant in Cape Town and Franschhoek, but heard great things about them.

The one thing that they always did in business class was place a white table cloth before every meal, to make it a bit more "formal". And of course, all the glassware and plates were real (not plastic disposables). They started serving appetizers with drink orders. I of course got the grapetiser, which was my last for the trip. :(

I ordered the pickled kingklip (fish), and Dan ordered the vegetable soup. When he asked the stewardess what kind of soup it was, she said it's a mushroom soup, which is my most favorite kind of soup! So I ended up eating most of Dan's mushroom soup, and I gave him my pickled kingklip. :)

The mushroom soup was of course, creamy and delicious. I finished the whole bowl. :)

I got the steamed line fish, and Dan got Reuben's Lamb dish.

For dessert, I got the lemon spicy pineapple mousse. I was a bit afraid by the "spicy" description for this dessert dish, but I barely tasted any spice. It was actually pretty good and refreshing--very light and not overly sweet. Dan got the black forest cake.

After dinner, pralines were distributed, and they were quite good. We ate them after we woke up in the morning after our nap. :)

We put our seat into bed mode, put the mattress pad and blanket, and off we went. It's such a luxury to be able to have that much space on a long haul flight!

We got around 6-7 hours of sleep, watched some movies, and then had breakfast. We first got yogurt with muesli/cereal. After that we got a choice of hot or cold breakfast. Dan got the cold selection (fruit) and I got the hot breakfast.

The egg was wrapped in a phyllo dough which was interesting.


Overall service on this flight was MUCH better than our flight from Munich to Johannesburg. The flat beds on South African Airways were just amazing and continued to amaze us. We liked South African Airways and would fly them again, hopefully in the same class. :)

Next Post: Frankfurt - San Francisco

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Exploring Johannesburg

This is a continuation of our Munich & South Africa trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here.

A lot of people recommend skipping Johannesburg altogether, that there's really not much to see and that the city was unsafe. We went back and forth whether to spend time here or not and finally decided to spend a one night layover here which would give us enough time to do an afternoon sightseeing trip.

We booked a half day tour with Alan Bilbrough from African Journey based on a recommendation on Trip Advisor. We were picked up around noon from our hotel in a clean Toyota Corolla stocked with bottled water. Alan was born and raised in South Africa. He mentioned that Johannesburg was one big metropolitan city not near any body of water, and the real reason why Johannesburg became such a big city was because of gold. 

He drove us through several parts of town with the main destination being Soweto (South Western Township) - the biggest township in South Africa. He explained that the current city center for Johannesburg had moved to Sandton city, and now the original city center was somewhat abandoned. We went through several areas that looked pretty rough and then drove past the city center. The city center did look quite a bit rundown, and we only drove passed it.

We were then off to Soweto. This particular township was a bit different from other townships that we had seen when driving passed through Cape Town. It was actually not as run down and most of the houses were actually made of bricks. Here are some pictures of Soweto:

Alan explained that most of the houses used to be government housing during the apartheid era and owned by government, and after apartheid the government gave ownership to the people living in the houses.

We stopped by Wandie's Place for lunch. Apparently this place is the place to go while in Soweto. We saw pictures of Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, and other celebrities posted on the wall.

Pictures of famous people, business card, and random notes on the wall.

It wasn't too busy when we came and we were seated immediately. The food was buffet style. There were rice, beans, mashed potatoes, green beans, greens, curries, meat stews, etc.

The food was actually pretty good and it was the closest to "African" food that we had during our trip. It reminded us somewhat of Indian food. Food was actually really good we both had a second serving.

After lunch, we drove passed Mandela's old house that has now turned into a museum. We only saw it from the outside and didn't go in.

Our next stop was the Hector Pieterson museum. It was a very thought provoking visit. The museum provided some insight about what happened during the apartheid era and the Soweto uprising. You can read more about Hector Pieterson here on Wikipedia.

Our last stop was a township called Motsoaledi which is what we imagined when thinking of townships. There was a site guide that took us around--a local who lived in the township. Alan explained to us that the locals were the ones who came up with the idea of the tour as a way to make some money, and for most tourists, this part of the tour was usually the highlight.

We only had 10 minutes since we had to go back to the airport to catch our flight, so we did our tour rather quickly. We made a visit to the daycare center and saw some kids.

The kids appeared very excited to see us and were very friendly.

We got a brief tour of the classroom from the teacher. She said they take donations since they pretty much were self running.

After our trip, we were taken to some makeshift souvenir stands in the dirt parking lot and felt somewhat pushed to buy something -- so we ended up buying one. Hopefully the money got put to good use. :)


We highly recommend our tour guide, Alan, who was so friendly and informative. If you do have a free time during your layover, it would not be a bad idea to do a tour of Johannesburg and Soweto. However, I don't think you need to make a special stop in Johannesburg if visiting South Africa. Though we didn't go to some of the "nicer" areas of town such as Sandton or Rosebank, so we can't speak to those.

Next Post: Johannesburg - Frankfurt

Friday, April 27, 2012

City Lodge OR Tambo Airport Hotel

This is a continuation of our Munich & South Africa trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here.

The hotel was actually built on top of the airport's parking garage. We were assigned a room on the 11th floor, which was actually on "ground" floor - which was the level that we came in after taking the elevator. I booked the room from bid2stay which is an online bidding tool for booking City Lodge hotels in South Africa. They have specials for certain days, and if you book around 1-2 months before your travel date, they have some pretty good deals. I originally booked online via the regular website for a rate of R1200 and I was able to book via bid2stay for R660, almost half price!

We went straight to our room. The size was a bit small but it was adequate for one night. Almost everything looked pretty new. This hotel was built for the 2010 World Cup, and everything was still in pretty good condition. 

The bedroom opened up to the bathroom area, which could also be separated by releasing the blind. It actually did make the room feel a little bigger when open.

There was an elevated shower as well as a bath tub.

The rate that we booked actually didn't include breakfast. So the next morning for breakfast, we walked back to the airport to grab a quick snack before we started our tour of Johannesburg. 

Hotel breakfast area

While we waited for our tour guide to pick us up, we walked around the hotel to check out the facilities. There's a nice swimming pool area which was pretty empty.

There's also a gym which was also empty. :)


We think this hotel was decent for the price and was definitely very convenient if you have a 1 night layover in Johannesburg. The convenience of not having to take taxi and just walk straight to the hotel from the airport terminal was nice. If you have more than 2 nights in Johannesburg I would recommend staying somewhere else such as Sandton or Rosebank area. Another hotel option that was also connected to the airport is the Intercontinental, which looked really nice but also carries a hefty price tag. :)

Next Post: Exploring Johannesburg

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cape Town - Johannesburg

This is a continuation of our Munich & South Africa trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here.

The lounge at Cape Town airport was located on the 4th floor, after security check. The lounge looked newer compared to the one in Johannesburg. We presented our boarding passes and then found ourselves a seat.

We liked how the lounge opened up to the airport. It made the room very bright and airy, and we could also do some people watching. Complimentary wifi was given for 3 hours.

The food selection was similar to the Johannesburg airport lounge, very limited: pre-packed sandwiches, cheese, crackers, veggies, muffins. There's also a coffee machine that could make various coffee and hot chocolate.

There was a shower area which looked newer and nicer too. It would be nice after a long flight.

Around 1 hour before our flight, the announcement came that boarding started for our flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg, so we headed to the gate.

After having a mediocre experience on the SAA domestic flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth, we thought that we would have a similar type of aircraft and a similar mediocre seat. We were pleasantly surprised when we found out that they had the bigger seats, although slightly older. We were originally seated next to each other, but Dan got reassigned to another seat because there was something wrong with his original seat.

The seat was very similar to our long haul flight from Munich to Johannesburg. The seats did look a bit worn, but the space and extra legroom was excellent.

There was also full dinner service which was a choice of chicken or lamb curry. It was actually pretty good and we were quite hungry since we hadn't had dinner, so it probably tasted better than it actually was. :) Service on this flight was excellent. Unlike our previous flights with SAA, our flight attendant was actually male, and he was very courteous and appeared to enjoy his job.

My drink of choice, grapetiser
Chicken curry

The flight was quite short so I didn't take a nap. Plus, I think my seat was somewhat broken and it wouldn't lay flat, so I just watched some shows. When we arrived our luggage was one of the first ones on the carousel, so we were on our way out very quickly. Since I knew we would be arriving late, I preferred to stay at an airport hotel. The nice thing about this hotel was that it was directly connected to the airport. We didn't even have to walk out of the airport at all, we followed the signs and took the elevator directly to the hotel.

Next Post: City Lodge OR Tambo Airport Hotel