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Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history included)

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PaulST

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Hi all, this is my second trip report so feel free to ask questions and give suggestions.
Myself and a few other family members spent 3 weeks back in June/July travelling around Israel with a brief excursion into Jordan to see Petra and Wadi Rum.
As I have a preference for Qantas and my father was keen to fly with El Al, we came to a compromise and flew the following:
SYD-BKK (QF23) -> BKK-TLV (LY082)
TLV-HKG (LY075) -> HKG-SYD QF128)

I've got a few photos and videos which I'll add to this thread over the next hour or so (I'm only allowed to add one video per post).

Overall it was an amazing and interesting trip and I'm more than happy to answer questions from others interesting in making a similar trip.

We left Sydney at around 10am on QF26 A330-300 with a mostly uneventful flight. Oddly we started by boarding a bus and boarding the aircraft Jetstar-Avalon style...


Here's a video of the take-off:

[video=youtube;P2Ixd_NyuC4]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2Ixd_NyuC4[/video]

Interestingly, just above Indonesia we came across another 747 flying next to us (albeit slightly faster).
 

PaulST

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

The typical Qantas service was good, with reasonable Y food and decent entertainment.
The landing in Bangkok was mostly smooth although a brief wind gust almost evacuated my bowels (1:54 on the video below) shortly before we landed.
[video=youtube;-EDGD1pkkwA]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EDGD1pkkwA[/video]

We went into Bangkok for a few hours (we had a 6hr layover) and then returned to a mostly empty airport. We sat around for a while watching El Al’s security detail check the departure gate and then eventually boarded the 747-400 (LY082) which would take us to Tel Aviv. The aircraft itself was quite old and the the service, food and entertainment was lacking. Interestingly, El Al aren’t allowed to fly over most Arab countries so we take quite an indirect route up the Red Sea. Here’s a photo of the flight route we took (and the return flight to HGK).


We were met with a beautiful sunrise over the Red Sea:


...and here's a view of the 747-400 after disembarking at Tel Aviv.
 
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PaulST

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

30 mins out from landing we were told that there was an issue with one of the tyres so we’d be met by the fire brigade on landing. Here’s a video of the landing including the emergency services who met us.
[video=youtube;6IxYqYWq19w]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IxYqYWq19w[/video]

After landing we went up to Haifa where we stayed in a flat organized through AirBnB. From here we visited Caesarea, Haifa's famous Bahai Gardens, Acre/Acco and Rosh Hanikra.

Caesarea: this city was built by King Herrod back around 0AD (~2000 years ago) and some of it was still in decent condition. There's also an amazing aqueduct here which is roughly 2000 years old yet still standing in OK condition.


Then off to the amazing city of Acco/Acre. This was a major base during the Crusades and this is as south as Napoleon got in his attempt to take over the area. That impressive wall continues around the whole city.


Then off to see the beautiful Bahai gardens:


Then we went off to a small town just north of the Lake Galilee. Here we visited Tiberias as well as swam in the lake and drove around the Golan Heights.

Here's Lake Galilee from the Golan Heights side:


Here's an amazing view from a 'tell' looking down on a ~2000 year old Roman street. It was in the old city of Beit She-an which was the HQ of Egypts eastern Kingdom around 5000 years ago and a major city around 2000 years ago.


Sadly, everywhere you go you're reminded about the regional instability. There's military equipment everywhere and we saw a few rockets coming over from Gaza (all 3 we saw were knocked out by the Iron Dome). At night, while we were in Jerusalem, we could hear the explosions from Gaza. It's very sad as it's a beautiful place.



We stayed here for 5 days, then headed down to Masada and the Dead Sea where we went swimming. For those unfamiliar with the Dead Sea, google it. It's so salty that you don't sink. It's a weird feeling and a great demonstration of what you've forgotten from high school chemistry.

Then we went down to Eilat where we went over the border into Jordan to visit Petra and Wadi Rum.
Here's the Monastery which I believe was featured in Transformers and an Indiana Jones film. You don't realize how big it is until you zoom in at the people standing right in front of it. Amazing for a ~2000 old building.


And Wadi Rum:


Then we ended out trip with 7 days in Jerusalem, which ironically translates as "the city of peace".
Here's the Western Wall with the Dome of the Rock behind it.


And a view of Jerusalem's old city (eastern wall) from the mount of olives.
 
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PaulST

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

And after 3 weeks of amazing experiences, we head home in an El Al 777-200 via Hong Kong. We left at night so the video of the takeoff was quite poor although the landing in Hong Kong was quite an experience. There was a typhoon approximately 100kms away and it could be felt when we landed. It would have been the roughest landing I've ever felt.

[video=youtube;xTg6YpyZOm0]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTg6YpyZOm0[/video]

The trip was amazing but there was a slightly elevated level of anxiety during the trip so it was nice to spot a little piece of home at Hong Kong Airport.
QF128 A380-800


and while this wasn't our aircraft, it was the first 747-8 I've seen. It's such a better looking plane than the A380. :)


We went into Hong Kong for a few hours before returning to the airport. We left HGK at night so I didn't film the take-off. The flight itself was fairly rough as was the landing in Sydney. The service, food and IE was as good as you expect with QF.

And home... :)


As I said above, I'm happy to answer any questions or post more pics if requested.
 
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PaulST

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

I found a photo of yours truly floating on the Dead Sea. An amazing experience.
(I tried to add it to the above post but it wouldn't let me edit it.)
 

drron

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Thanks.I might be wrong but probably the first TR visiting Israel.The photos there look amazing.
 

PaulST

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Such a fascinating place, even for people who aren't particularly religious. And because all of the ruins are easily accessed, you can genuinely walk all over the ruins and really think back to what it would have been like to trundle along the same stones >2000 years ago. In Australia, you'd be kept many meters away from any ruin, which no doubt maintains the ruins, but it's just not the same.
Such a pity, though, that there's so much conflict there now.
 

docjames

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Nice TR and photos, thanks for sharing with us.
 
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juddles

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Paul, loved the photos. Thank you so much for the effort :)
 

sergeyvzn

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Paul, I'm just wondering how you crossed back from Jordan into Israel, which crossing did you go to? I understand there are three (one in the north near the lake, one in the middle of the country and it's nearest to Jerusalem and one that you have mentioned, near Eilat) but the information from wikipedia on the middle crossing was it was really hard to use as you are not allowed to use any private vehicles all the way through to Jerusalem (or vv). Where there any issues when crossing the border?
 

PaulST

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Hi Sergeyvzn,
We crossed at the Wadi Araba crossing in Eilat/Aquaba. We had no problem getting back into Israel as we were a part of the tour group. We had no troubles although another member of the group (an Iranian-American) was quizzed in great detail when he tried to enter Jordan. He returned to Israel on a different day so I'm not sure how we went upon returning.
Most rental companies don't allowed you to drive in the West Bank with the exception of the N2 which is the main road running down the west coast of the Dead Sea so that's probably what you're thinking of. I imagine you can do whatever you want in a private car, but your insurance company may not cover you in the West Bank.

 
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zig

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Lovely photographs Paul, thanks for posting.:)
 

jetlagger

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Thanks for sharing!
Wonderful photos..
I can reflect of my positive experiences in Israel in my younger days working on a Kibbutz close to Haifa & spent many of occasions jumping off the walled city in Acre to the sea to cool off in the midst of summer & buying large quantities of alcohol in the arab quarters to fulfil our desires.
Enjoying your TR.. :D
 

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Great TR, which I've only just caught up with. Thanks!

The closest I've come to Israel was a few metres, during a trip to Jordan, visiting the Jesus' baptism site on the River Jordan. There's a viewing platform/bathing facility on the current River Jordan, which is just a few metres wide, and a similar viewing platform/bathing facility on the Israeli side :) . We just looked at each other, with armed guards keeping an eye on everybody ...
 

Major

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

An interesting TR. Loved the photos...thanks for sharing
 

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Great report, photos really make the difference.
Cheers
Matt
 

smit0847

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Interested to hear more about El Al. I see their 747 at BKK every single time I pass through there. I don't think I've ever heard a positive comment about it (even from Jews).
 

boomy

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Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history inc...

El Al aren’t allowed to fly over most Arab countries so we take quite an indirect route up the Red Sea. Here’s a photo of the flight route we took (and the return flight to HGK).
Excellent TR PaulST!
I remember flying LY BKK-TLV once and a year later RJ BKK-AMM-TLV. Both flights departed BKK around midnight (RJ was delayed a bit) and both landed in TLV almost at the same time.
 

boomy

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Interested to hear more about El Al. I see their 747 at BKK every single time I pass through there. I don't think I've ever heard a positive comment about it (even from Jews).
I flew LY a few times, mostly long haul flights to/from Asia and have mixed feelings about them.
I wouldn't recommend flying them in Y, there is a lack of legroom space between the seats and it can get very uncomfortable on long flights. The food and service in Y wasn't the best but still better then other small airlines like RJ for example.
The J cabin is good but only if you are lucky to get one of their refurbished planes which fly mostly to JFK/HKG. The old J is shocking, Sloppy beds and IPads as IFE! The food is OK, wines are Chilean crap and service is mostly worse then other small airlines.
Note that most FAs who work for LY are in their 20s and do it as part time job after army and before or during uni.
I only flew LY F once (gate upgrade from J) to HKG and it was in one of their old style F with two rows of 2-2-2 seating. Excellent menu by one of Israel leading chefs who uses a lot of local ingredients, good service as expected in F, turndown service and fully flat bed. Can't be compared to most F products out there, it's more similar to QF J in the A380 with slightly better food and service. Almost forgot, the PJs are very good quality (I was lucky to get two of them).
One thing I really like about LY is their generous upgrade policy to their Matmid FF program members. Similar to some of the American airlines, they tend to oversell in Y and do not leave empty seats in premium cabins.
 

PaulST

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Re: Visit to the Middle East (emergency landing, wars and fascinating history include

Interested to hear more about El Al. I see their 747 at BKK every single time I pass through there. I don't think I've ever heard a positive comment about it (even from Jews).
Really, the only positive thing I'd say was that I got more QFF points from them than from my actual QF flights.
The planes (both the 744 and 772) were old and not particularly clean. I had to ask for everything and they didn't even have eye covers (so they say) on the return flight (which was a night flight), the food was crap and the IFE wasn't anything to write home about either. One of the FAs smiled, the rest didn't...
 
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