Earlier this year we heard that climate change may be creating more turbulent flights as weather patterns shift. We may be seeing the results of that shift already.
Flight crew members and passengers on board a Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to London saw only clear, blue skies when suddenly the plane plunged 65 feet, causing cups of coffee to splatter on the roof and leaving a chaotic mess of food, pillows, cutlery and more in the aisle.
Passenger Alan Cross told the Mirror the turbulence felt “like being in an elevator with a cut cable or free-falling from some amusement park ride,” and another passenger told the news outlet everything that was not tied down – including people – hit the ceiling.
According to many reports, the plane was shook up by clean-air turbulence, a phenomenon caused when bodies of air moving at widely different speeds meet. Scientists have warned global warming could cause passengers to face more turbulent times ahead. Earlier this year in a report published by The Guardian, scientists projected that the frequency of turbulence on flights between Europe and North America will double by 2050 and increase intensity by 10-40 percent.
In the case of the Singapore Airlines flight, 11 passengers and one crew member suffered minor injuries. To prevent further injuries, staff placed blankets over the shattered glass and general mess in the aisles until it was completely cleaned up. Although incidents like this seem extraordinary, they do occur with some regularities, so always remember to keep your seatbelts fastened – even if the light is off.
I’ve been traveling vicariously this week through my aunt who is temporarily based in Singapore and exploring Sri Lanka right now. The south Asian country has been on my wish list for years, ever since I learned the capital from playing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” and imagined it was a place where my bartender might be an international jewel thief with an eye patch. On the less sinister side, part of Sri Lanka’s appeal is gorgeous beaches and interesting temples. Today’s Photo of the Day has both, spying a Buddhist temple on an island off the beach. It looks like a peaceful and inspiring place to pray, hopefully they aren’t harboring any jewel thieves.
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AKA: Vesakha, Vesak, Wesak, Visak, Vixakha and many more derivatives.
When? The second Sunday in May OR the day of the full moon in May OR the Sunday nearest to the day of the full moon in May OR the eighth day of the fourth lunar month OR if you’ve decided all that calendric work is too much hassle, like the Japanese, April 8.
Reason for celebration, then? The birth of the Buddha, of course. Though for many, the Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment are lumped together in one big holiday. So …
Who died? The Buddha.
Origins: Some 2,500 years ago, Queen Mahamaya of the Shakya Kingdom in modern-day Nepal gave birth in a grove of blossoming trees. As the blossoms fell around mother and child, they were cleansed by two streams of water from the sky. Then the baby stood up and walked seven steps, pointed up with one hand and down with the other – not unlike a Disco Fever John Travolta – and declared that he alone was “the World-Honored One.”
The rest is Buddhist history. The toddler, named Siddhartha Gautama, grew up to become the Buddha and the founder of one of the world’s major religions. He attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in what is now Bodhgaya, India. Later, after amassing many followers, he died, either of food poisoning or mesenteric infarction, depending who you ask, and reached Parinirvana, the final deathless state of Buddhism.
How is it celebrated now? Bathing little statues of the baby Buddha with tea or water, hanging lanterns, extended temple services.
Other ways to celebrate: Freeing caged birds, parades with dancers and illuminated lantern floats, temple offerings.
Concurrent festivals: The Flower Festival in Japan, the Bun Festival in Hong Kong.
Associated food: In many places, varieties of porridge, which commemorate the dish that Buddha received that ended his asceticism phase.
Associated commercialism: Certain companies like McDonald’s will even offer solely vegetarian options on Buddha’s birthday to stick with the spirit of the festival. Precious little, in fact. Though sales of lotus lanterns and baby Buddha statues rocket during this time, the celebrations are remarkably uncommercial.
Associated confusion: There is no reliable record for when the Buddha was actually born, thus the wide range of celebratory dates. This in no way puts a damper on festivities, but does result in a bit of awkwardness when there are two full moons in May, which happens regularly enough. Most recently it occurred in 2007, and Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia decided to celebrate during the first full moon of the month, while Singapore and Thailand celebrated at the end of May.
Best place to enjoy the festivities: Seoul really takes it up a notch, planning a week of events and celebrations in the lead-up. It kicks off with the Lotus Lantern Festival the weekend prior to Buddha’s birthday, when tens of thousands of Korean Buddhists parade through Seoul’s main roads under colorful lanterns, bringing the city to a standstill. The municipal government really pulls out all the stops, offering music, dance and theater performances in public places that are jammed with revelers. Take a look at the celebrations in Seoul and elsewhere around the world in this gallery:
Contrary to popular belief, Singapore offers more than just skyscrapers and street food. In the last few years, the Asian city-state has transformed itself into a premiere destination for adventure and nature lovers. Singapore doesn’t just have gardens; it is a city within a garden. Plus, its tropical climate makes it the perfect place to indulge in outdoor pursuits year round.
What does this mean for adventure travelers? The unique opportunity to indulge in world-class adventures from the comfort of one of the world’s most well ordered cities. Care to go under the sea? Reef diving is available just 30 minutes off the coast. Looking to be airborne? Try zip-lining on Sentosa Island.
For Singaporeans, active pursuits aren’t just a luxury; …
Passengers on the scrappy airline startup Virgin America were introduced to a new benefit last week: an expanded partnership with Singapore Airlines. Now, in addition to the assorted codeshare agreements currently in place, fliers on each airline can accrue miles from the partner carrier. So the 2000 Elevate points earned on Virgin America from Chicago to Los Angeles can now turn into 11,000 miles earned from Chicago to Los Angeles to Singapore. Conversely, passengers in Singapore’s KrisFlyer program can also earn miles on Virgin America’s domestic routes.
Shared mileage accrual also means that passengers in each frequent flier program will be able to redeem miles on partner carriers, so all of those domestic trips on Virgin America can now translate to international trips on Singapore.
Virgin America’s partnership with Singapore is a great step towards bringing in business from partner carriers, and one wonders whether this is the first step towards working larger networks. One of the biggest detractors to flying on the carrier has always been the lack of mileage partners in the United States, and if the airline were part of the Star, Oneworld or even Skyteam network, a huge market of business travelers would shift their business over. Since Singapore is part of the Star Alliance network, it may be a natural next step for Virgin America to partner with United Airlines, the biggest domestic Star carrier.
Were that the case, however, it might make sense for all of the Virgin carriers (i.e., Virgin Atlantic, V Australia, etc.) to join a global network, and since Virgin Atlantic just partnered up with Delta Air Lines (Skyteam), it seems that the brands are in conflict. Perhaps the cost of joining an alliance is just too high.