The year of the Dreamliner

As Kenya Airways’ boeing 787 Dreamliners take to the skies, we celebrate the superior flying experience – and the destinations you can visit

HR-Sky-Bar_3_resizeFlying should be enjoyable: quick, safe, reliable and comfortable. Getting all four of those factors right, though, hasn’t always been straightforward – but the arrival of Kenya Airways’ new Dreamliners promises to make longhaul flights a true pleasure.

By the time you read this, six Boeing 787-8s will be slipping through the skies from Nairobi to Paris, Dubai, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Delhi and Guangzhou, with three more taking off during 2015. Incorporating advanced technology and composite materials, Dreamliners are lighter, quieter and faster than older planes, allowing longer non-stop flights and reducing fuel consumption by 20%. So they’re greener and more economical. But what do they mean for you, the passenger?

First, you’ll be a world more comfortable. With increased cabin pressure and advanced air filtration systems, you’ll feel less thirsty; when seats recline, the bottoms go forward rather than backs sliding backward – no more jamming your knees. Luggage compartments are bigger, windows are larger and cabins feel more spacious.

“Our first ever 787 Dreamliner opens not only a new chapter for our airline but also for Kenya,” declared Dr Titus Naikuni, Kenya Airways’ outgoing CEO, “providing passengers with revolutionary comfort while continuing to contribute towards the sustainable development of Africa.”

To celebrate the Dreamliner era, msafiri has been running a series of ‘Dream Destinations’ articles (read them online at In this issue we provide a guide to the top experiences in each 787 destination.

Trading is in the DNA of Guangzhou (long known in the west as Canton), and this glittering city on the Pearl River is driven by commerce as much today as it was hundreds of years ago when it first became southern China’s most important port. And then there’s the food: birthplace of Cantonese cuisine, Guangzhou is still the best place to try yum cha (dim sum) and a host of other delectables – try vegetables steamed or stir-fried with oyster sauce, fried rice, seafood and clear broths.

A boom in art and design has seen a proliferation of intriguing galleries and shops. There are temples and gardens, ancient mausoleums and ancestral halls – history is not forgotten here but incorporated into the modern Chinese dream. But the spirit of Guangzhou flows along the Pearl River, and a walk or boat cruise along the artery is the best way of reading the heartbeat of the city.

Hong Kong
With sky-scraping high-rises dominating both the island of Hong Kong and its mainland counterpart Kowloon, it can be hard to imagine this as it was just two centuries ago: a Chinese trading post with junks and European ships bobbing at anchor. But among the offices and apartments, glitzy shops and fabulous dim-sum restaurants lurk reminders of the past: shrines and temples dedicated to the goddess Tin Hau, tiny stalls hawking noodles and dumplings, and small villages retaining a whiff of centuries gone.

From its gleaming futuristic skyline to its rolling, red sand dunes and bustling souks, Dubai is a stunning city. The city’s impressive skyline includes the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Whether it is shopping, dining out or going out, this high-rise emirate has plenty more to take your breath away.

Few cities are as complex and compelling as Jozi, a place that’s witnessed the best and worst of times – and is now in the process of reinventing itself once more. Transformed from farming backwater to bustling boomtown in the late 19th century thanks to the 1886 gold strike, the city centre reveals a legacy of wealth and conflict, with art deco and colonial-era buildings, absorbing art galleries and museums and sites of key moments in South Africa’s emergence from apartheid.

Southwest of the centre, Soweto, is arguably the continent’s most renowned and notorious township, a destination in which to discover the roots of national heroes Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

Hop on a river ferry on the Chao Phraya and chug past golden-roofed palaces and wats (temples) and you’ll instantly understand the appeal of this steamy, hectic, addictive city. Bangkok distills the essence of Thailand into a kaleidoscopic package that baffles the senses: the tongue-tingling cuisine, the spirituality, the elaborately decorated architecture, the cut and thrust of business. Head to the Golden Palace and adjacent Wat Phra Kaew (home of the famed ‘Emerald Buddha’) for maximum bling, then relax with a massage at Wat Pho, the city’s oldest and largest temple. Learn about artistic traditions at the National Museum, shop till your wallet’s empty at a street market or glitzy mall, and eat and drink till the night’s over in the countless restaurants and bars.

You probably think you know Paris: home of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, of the Mona Lisa and countless other masterworks, of fine food and wine and romance. True, that’s all here. But the French capital has a dozen other faces that reward exploration on foot. By all means gaze at the peerless art of the Louvre, but also admire the marvels of the Musée d’Orsay, considerably less crowded, or any one of the innumerable smaller galleries and museums. Meet the gargoyles on the roof of Notre Dame, but also seek out the nearby Conciergerie and wander the avenues of the many serene cemeteries populated by famous writers and artists. Indulge in fine dining at Michelin-starred restaurants, but also find secret eateries in the backstreets of the Marais, Montmartre and the Left Bank.

India’s capital tells a tale of two cities – Old and New. Together they create a melange of colour, calm and chaos that’s unrivalled worldwide. Old Delhi, dominated by the mighty Red Fort and the soaring minarets of the Jami Masjid (Friday Mosque), is a warren of bustling alleys and the entrancing bazaars of Chandni Chowk. New Delhi, the neatly planned capital designed by Edward Lutyens, is a complete contrast, its broad boulevards linking government buildings and monuments with Old Delhi via the radial hub of Connaught Place. Scattered among the twin cities are relics of ancient glories – must-sees include the ornately carved column at the Qutb Minar and the peaceful locations of Humayun’s Tomb and Lodi Garden.

Live the Dream
Sip in art nouveau style, Paris
If there’s one spot that perfectly encapsulates the elegance of Paris’ Belle Époque heyday, it’s Le Train Bleu. Incredibly, this palatial bar-restaurant was opened in 1901 as the railway buffet of the Gare de Lyon station – and its decor is an almost overwhelming confection of lavishly painted walls depicting key destinations. The menu is not for the faint of pocket, but even if you can only squeeze in for a cocktail, it’s heavenly.

Drink in the views from on high, Bangkok
A recent trend has seen countless rooftop bars open in the Thai capital, but towering over them all is Sky Bar on the 63rd floor of Lebua Hotel. Affording panoramic vistas from 250 metres up, it’s a breathless spot for a sundowner. Stick around till after dark to experience the changing hues of the bar and the exotic creations of mixologist Ron Ramirez.

Savour the Symphony of Lights in Hong Kong
Hong Kong isn’t short on memorable food – but it’s not just the cuisine that’s outstanding at Hutong (though it is mind-blowingly good). The evocative decor echoes the alleys of old Beijing, and the windows facing harbourside give a jaw-dropping view of the dazzling nightly Symphony of Lights spectacular, with lasers and searchlights painting the harbour all colours of the rainbow. Time your meal for 8pm to enjoy the show.  |

Delve into Dube township, Johannesburg
South Africa’s cuisine combines a surprising mix of influences – including local staples such as mealie pap (maize meal porridge), spicy stews and dumplings; woers (sausages), bobotie (curried mince pie) and other meat dishes introduced by the old Dutch settlers; and spicy curry dishes brought by Indian workers. For a memorable culinary experience head to a township eatery – Wandie’s Place in Soweto is a longstanding favourite.  |

Relax in a uniquely African oasis, Nairobi
The charmingly rustic style of Kenya’s finest safari camps is given a distinctive twist in the treehouses of Ngong House, a boutique hotel in the peaceful western suburb of Karen that’s unlike anything else in the capital. Six stilted cottages overlooking the Ngong Hills have been designed to evoke a luxury wildlife lodge, with baths shaped like dugout canoes and vintage artefacts and furniture adding to the timeless appeal. |

Hone your nocturnal bartering skills, Hong Kong
At times Hong Kong can seem like one huge shopping centre: the dizzying array of stores, markets, malls and stalls can be overwhelming. But for pure browsing and bargaining ecstasy, dive into Temple Street Night Market in Yau Ma Tei after about 7pm, when dozens of stalls set up, selling knick-knacks, clothes, watches, food (you name it). You’ll also find fortune tellers and opera singers. |

Adorn yourself with gold, Dubai
You are unlikely to have ever seen so much gleaming gold as in Dubai’s historic Gold Souk. Wonderfully restored with a traditional Arabic façade, columns and an arching wooden roof, it is located besides the picturesque Dubai Creek and here you can buy jewellery in both Arabic and western styles. Prices are very competitive and on sale is gold of the 24, 22 and 18-carat varieties. If nothing appeals, craftspeople can create a piece to your design. |

Be blinded by bling at Versailles, Paris
Possibly the world’s most ostentatious ego trip is the colossal Château de Versailles, opulent palace of the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV. Built in the mid-17th century, the halls and chambers were decorated in blindingly lavish style with gold leaf, frescoes, elaborate carvings and mouldings. The gardens are just as over-the-top, with classically styled fountains, geometrically designed flowerbeds and even a 1.6km-long canal. |

Revolve above the Pearl River, Guangzhou
The Canton Tower – the world’s tallest when first built – soars 600m above the city, its twisting lattice wonderfully organic. There are various viewpoints, but the most intriguing option is to take a leisurely circuit at 455m in one of the 16 capsules of the Bubble Tram, reputedly the world’s highest horizontal ferris wheel. |

Follow in the footsteps of Madiba, Johannesburg
Deepen your understanding of Mandela by tracing a trail between key sites in Jo’burg. Stops include Mandela House, his long-time Soweto home; the Apartheid Museum, which provides insights into that era; and Chancellor House – where Mandela and Oliver Tambo operated their law firm in the 1950s – whose windows display fascinating exhibits. | |

Absorb world-class performances, Guangzhou
Zaha Hadid’s audacious design for Guangzhou Opera House is among the most groundbreaking works of modern architecture, creating a pair of granite-and-glass ‘boulders’ resting on the bank of the Pearl River. The programme matches the venue, featuring the finest performers from classical opera as well as experimental music and theatre. |

Soothe away stress with traditional massage, Bangkok
Bangkok’s largest, oldest wat (temple) houses the biggest reclining Buddha – but Wat Pho is arguably best known as a place to learn or receive traditional Thai massage. Learn the key techniques or pick up a massage from one of the expert practitioners on site.  |

Go wild in the city, Nairobi
Just a few kilometres from the city centre, Nairobi National Park is thronged with game that you can spot on a comfortable driving safari. Watch for lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, ostrich and endangered black rhino.  |

Take your breath away, Dubai
Take the travelator at 10 metres per second to the top of the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa (Khalifa Tower). With 160 floors, this lofty spire is a staggering 828 metres high. The outdoor observatory ‘At the top’ guarantees an eye-popping aerial panorama of the city.

In numbers: the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
• 60m wingspan
• 227,930kg maximum take-off weight
• 126,903L fuel capacity
• 0.85 typical cruising speed at 35,000ft, in Mach
• 14,500km range
• 57M length
• 64,000lb thrust per engine at sea level