Travel News: Hong Kong Bullet Train Signals High-Speed Integration With China 

Hong Kong Bullet Train Signals High-Speed Integration With China 
Travelwirenews reports The rail link provides direct access to China’s massive 25,000 km national high-speed rail network. Hong Kong’s controversial bullet train got off to a smooth start on Sunday, as hundreds of passengers whistled north across the border at speeds of up to 200 kph, deepening integration of the former British colony with mainland China. While the $11 billion rail project has raised fears for some over Beijing’s encroachment on the Chinese-ruled city’s cherished freedoms, passengers at the sleek harbor front station were full of praise for a service that reaches mainland China in less than 20 minutes. Mainland Chinese immigration officers are stationed in one part of the modernist station that is subject to Chinese law, an unprecedented move that some critics say further erodes the city’s autonomy. The project is part of a broader effort by Beijing to fuse the city into a vast hinterland of the Pearl River Delta including nine Chinese cities dubbed the Greater Bay Area. Beijing wants the Greater Bay Area, home to some 68 million people with a combined GDP of $1.5 trillion, to foster economic integration and better meld people, goods and sectors across the region. Critics say the railway is a symbol of continuing Chinese assimilation of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with guarantees of widespread autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent legal system. Opponents warn giving away control of land in the heart of Hong Kong is a dangerous precedent as Beijing seeks to tighten its grip on the city following mass pro-democracy protests in 2014 and the emergence of an independence movement. There are also questions over how Hong Kong citizens will be required to behave in the zones subject to Chinese law, whether they will be punished for using Facebook and Twitter, banned on the mainland, or targeted for wearing clothing with political slogans. A government information leaflet says the public will still have access to the same content on their phones in the mainland parts of the station, but warns that “passengers’ general conduct” will be subject to mainland law in those spaces. There are concerns too over the sharing of personal information with Chinese authorities, including via a mainland-based wi-fi provider that will operate in the parts of the station under Chinese jurisdiction.
 
Ice Returns To The Northwest Passage
Anchorage Daily News reports ice returned to the Northwest Passage this summer, forcing cruise lines to change course. Some cruise ship passengers who paid tens of thousands of dollars to ply the fabled Northwest Passage this summer got stymied by an old foe: jumbled rafts of ice. Several companies turned back or rerouted Arctic sailings after the open-water conditions of the past several years gave way to relatively heavy ice. The famously impenetrable route recently opened by the warming waters of climate change attracted its first luxury cruise ship in 2016 when a thousand people aboard the Crystal Serenity steamed into Nome. Other, smaller cruise ships followed, a new industry connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by way of the Canadian Arctic. Nome welcomed the influx of well-heeled visitors eager to try dog sledding and gold panning, get a glimpse of the musk oxen that gravitate to town, or buy Alaska Native crafts. But this summer, the French cruise company Ponant turned around a ship coming west through the passage after the captain encountered “jumble ice” and didn’t feel it was safe to continue, according to Nome Mayor Richard Beneville. The company opted not to send a second scheduled ship from Greenland. Passengers who paid at least $31,000 each instead had to settle for an exploration of Baffin Island and other destinations in the eastern Canadian Arctic before returning to Greenland, according to a report in Travel Weekly. Norway-based Hurtigruten also altered a Northwest Passage cruise from Canada, diverting a Sept. 9 departure from Cambridge Bay to a new launch at Pond Inlet, about 650 miles to the east and the Silversea Cruises ship Silver Explorer skipped many calls on a July 25 departure from Nome after weather maps showed most of them iced in. An ice-free trend and several years of low ice attracted cruise companies to the Northwest Passage. But while bookings may start a few years in advance, ice forecasting remains a short-term science,at best. And so far there are no predictions yet for next year.
American Airlines Offers Meditation App ‘Calm’ To Stressed-Out Passengers
American Airlines will start offering Calm, a mindfulness and relaxation app, on all domestic and international flights starting Oct. 8. Calm created three exclusive sessions geared toward the specific stressors that can accompany air travel. Calm competitor Headspace started working with Virgin Atlantic in 2011 and now offers its in-flight mindfulness exercises on 11 eleven airlines, including United Airlines and Delta Air Lines. The world’s biggest airline will start showing nature videos and offering passengers access to material through the Calm meditation app aboard most flights starting Oct. 8 to help keep travelers relaxed, even as they jostle for overhead bin space and the arm rest. The airline will play nature videos during boarding and offer Calm’s guided meditations and other content on the plane’s seat back screens for passengers during flights. Travelers may also have free access to the material through their personal electronic devices. Calm is an app that includes guided meditations, bedtime stories, relaxing music as well as photos and sounds from nature. The Calm channel will include some of the features that come with its traditional app, including what it calls Sleep Stories, delivered in calm tones and accompanied by waterfall and other soothing sounds. Calm also created three exclusive audio sessions geared toward the specific stresses that often occur during air travel. One includes a breathing exercise. Another, called Relax and Release, encourages people to focus on the sensations in their hands or feet to distract them from their thoughts and relieve anxiety. Another exercise guides passengers through a meditation technique that focuses attention on relaxing specific parts of the body to help relieve stress and tension. American is Calm’s first airline partner. Its competitor, Headspace, started working with Virgin Atlantic in 2011 and now offers its in-flight mindfulness exercises on 11 airlines, including United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
Airlines Try To Whip Up Better Meals For Coach Fliers
Wall St. Journal reports Airlines are trying to persuade economy-class passengers that they can buy meals on the plane as good as they would find in a restaurant. American said Monday it is forming a partnership with Zoës Kitchen, a Mediterranean-inspired fast-casual dining chain, to offer a menu with choices including a pita-and-veggie meal with two types of hummus, a turkey “Gruben” sandwich, and waffles with hazelnut spread and fresh berries for breakfast. Onboard menus are changing as airlines try to keep up with improved dining options at many airport terminals, with more people gravitating to healthier fare. “The fast-food restaurants are going away and more of the healthier concepts are moving into airports,” said Russ Brown, director of in-flight dining and retail at American. “That’s what we’re competing against.” Serving fresh food at 35,000 feet is a logistical challenge. Meals have to be assembled before takeoff and remain tasty hours later. Caterers have to be coordinated around the country, and airlines try to avoid bringing too much food aboard to keep from adding weight and waste. Flavors are less intense at high altitudes. American hopes the popularity of Zoës, the chain has expanded from about 20 locations a decade ago to more than 260 restaurants in 20 states, can help persuade travelers that food is worth buying on the plane or even ordering in advance. The two companies spent more than a year testing recipes, finding the right Manchego cheeses, roasted tomatoes and basil pesto. Together, they whittled 40 possible options down to the five items American will start serving in December. Prices range from $8.79 for a breakfast sandwich to $10.99 each for the Gruben sandwich and a chicken wrap, both served with cookies.
Dramatic Airport Opens On Roof Of The World
CNN reports sometimes an airport is just a strip of asphalt on a flat bit of land outside of town. Other times, as with India’s new Pakyong Airport, it’s a breathtaking piece of engineering on the roof of the world. Set in the Himalayan mountains at a height of 4,593 feet, the facility serving a remote area of Sikkim state offers one of the most dramatic airport approaches on the planet. Its inauguration on Monday also marked a milestone for aviation and travel in India. “After the opening of the airport there are now 100 operational airports in India.” said Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, during a speech at Pakyong’s opening ceremony on Monday. “This airport was built at a cost of $68.7 million and showcases our engineers, workers and their potential, how the mountains were cleared, the ditch was filled, the heavy rains they dealt with. This is truly an amazing feat of engineering.” As part of that work, an 80.38 meter embankment was built to make space for the 1.7-kilometer-long and 30-meter-wide runway, which is enclosed by deep valleys. The airport’s 2,380-square-meter terminal can accommodate up to 100 passengers. But its real asset is the incredible Himalayan scenery, a widescreen landscape captured in a series of stunning images by Indian photographer Rajiv Srivastava, who runs the website Imazin India. Runway developer Punj Lloyd had to build an 80-meter-high reinforcement wall to accomodate the new airport.
Southwest Airlines Adds Free In-Flight Messaging 
USA Today reports Southwest Airlines is making it easier to stay connected with family and friends on the ground. The company is the latest airline to add free in-flight messaging. Until now, customers were charged $2 per flight since 2013. Passengers will now be able to use iMessage and WhatsApp as long as they have the Southwest Airlines app. At the moment, this feature is only available on select flights as it just started rolling out this month. To see if your flight offers free messaging, visit southwest.com.

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