#RTW2017: As Of Now

View From Delta Airplane Landing in Seattle, Mt Rainier in Background
Chuck Sat, 2017-01-14 00:59

If recent blogging behavior is any indication, you'll get infrequent and irregular communications from us as we work our way around the globe in 2017. Our “Round The World 2017” trip is, in fact, already underway: I pen this on my iPhone sitting by the pool of our highrise AirBnB place in Manila, the Philippines. Lest you think we live a glamorous life of jet setting leisure, it is somewhat humid here. And there is nobody around to bring us drinks. See what sacrifices we make for your travel blog reading enjoyment?

We set out just over a week ago. As Weather Channel people issued dire warnings of winter storm Lucifer (or whatever) descending on the Southeastern US, we hopped a flight to Seattle just in the nick of time to avoid getting a dreadful chill. After an unexpectedly extended layover in Seattle thanks to a Delta maintenance issue, we took off for our first stop, Honolulu, arriving nearly three hours late at midnight.

First takeaway of #RTW2017: don't take longer than four hour flights on anything less than a wide body jet. Delta’s 757’s were cramped and seemingly devoid of oxygen. At least their maintenance folks managed to fix the auxiliary antigravity unit that was malfunctioning and got us to Hawaii without crashing into the ocean. There's something to be said for not crashing into the ocean, as in, “I like not crashing into the ocean”.

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Top: Waikiki beach. Bottom: Hula dancers.

 

We spent the ensuing four days at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani across the street from Waikiki. I should point out that, up to this point, we hadn't actually spent any money. We redeemed Delta SkyMiles to get that far, and we used Chase rewards to pay for our room at the Sheraton. Once checked in, though, Sheraton did a fine job of prying dollars out of our clutches. To be fair, we were making a catch-up-on-timezones stop in one of the most expensive spots on the planet, so I shouldn't complain. And the Sheraton did have a fine $5 beer happy hour every afternoon.

We've been to Hawaii before, so the to-see list was short. We spent Saturday on the beach, had Sunday breakfast at Duke’s (a Jimmy Buffett reference for you Parrotheads out there), and generally just hung out around Waikiki. We did make it to the Iolani Palace, the last royal residence of the Hawaiian monarchy and an eye-opening view into how Hawaii became a state. I won't belabor the requisite history of 19th century American colonialism, but I'll encourage you to read for yourself the story of Hawaii becoming a state and you'll appreciate why the US government finally issued an apology to the Hawaiian people in 1993.

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Top: thrones of the Hawaiin monarchy. Bottom: Full moon over Waikiki

 

Come Wednesday it was time to continue west. At 9:15 we boarded a Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo. It was aboard a glorious 767 that had no problems with its auxiliary antigravity thing and was joyously and wonderfully full of abundant air and ample personal space. Not to mention ridiculously polite Japanese flight attendants whose only goal in life seemed to be our travel enjoyment. I would gladly fly continually on a Japan Airlines 767 flight for the rest of my life. But I won't eat that funny-looking green mushy stuff anymore, I'll just stick with the sweet and sour chicken.

First new experience among what we expect to be many more this trip: crossing the international date line. We left Honolulu at 9:15am on Wednesday, enjoyed eight hours of blissful Japanese service, changed time zones 6 times, and landed in Tokyo at 1:00 in the afternoon...on Thursday. It's a bit odd to change days without the sun ever setting, but new days have to start somewhere and once long ago, someone (I suspect they were British) decided it should happen somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Japan.

More poetically, I like to say that we disappeared into the west and reappeared in the east.

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We've heard that Japan is wonderful, and we do plan to go one day, but this time was just a stopover. Our four and a half hour layover passed more quickly than a thirty minute layover in Washington Dulles would feel, and as the sun set on the land of the rising sun, we were off on another Japan Airlines 767 laden with space, atmosphere, and Japanese stewardesses to Manila.

Second takeaway of #RTW2017: Japan Airlines is awesome.

Third takeaway of #RTW2017: the movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was great. Much better than “The Secret Life of Pets” or any of the other thirteen in-flight movies I had seen at this point.

Why Manila, you might ask? And while the traveler’s romantic answer might be, “because it's there,” there are interesting sites there on our to-see list. We’ll report more fully on those sites once we've actually seen more than the airport and our building’s pool, but the main reason we are here is that I have people I've been working with the past couple of years that I would like to meet in person.

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Night view from our highrise AirBnB in Manila

 

That just about gets us caught up, but we have firmed up plans on into March. From Manila we will island-hop, spending 10 days on the Philippine island of Palawan. We've heard there are beaches and sun and sand and a splendid underwater river there, so that's why we're going. Then we will return to Manila for a final couple of days before our next stop…

Singapore. Our plan for this melting pot Asian city is to see the Marina Bay Sand Skypark with its iconic rooftop garden deck the size of a city park in the sky, wander the Flower Dome and Gardens by the bay with a grove of artificial "Supertrees", and eat scrumptious Chinese food all while refraining to appear as though we are spitting on the sidewalk in any form or fashion. Then it's on to…

Bali. For more sun, sand, Indonesian food, and abundant inspiration for Broadway musicals. Then we fly to…

Hong Kong. We're using all of our available Hotels.com rewards nights to be able to afford five nights in a 4-star hotel in this quite expensive city. We will enjoy the cuisine, seek out the statue of favorite son Bruce Lee, and relish the views from our hotel’s roof deck before getting more adventurous in…

Chiang Mai, Thailand. There are two prime reasons to go to this ancient city in the north of Thailand: the ancient city itself and the nearby elephant reserves. Acting on a tip from someone we met in Hawaii, we have already booked our elephant reserve visit and expect to have a singular life experience during our day with the pachyderms.

From Chiang Mai our trip is still tentative, but you can bet on a few days in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital. You might also see us report in from another island destination in Thailand, perhaps even a swing-through of Vietnam, and very likely a few days in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur where we will probably hop a flight to London. Why fly from Kuala Lumpur? Honestly it's because there are great Tuesday fares, but for the utmost in travel geekery we'll be able to fly the widest of wide body jets, an A380. Aboard this full length double-decker, we expect a plethora of air, leg room, impeccable Malaysian service, and time to watch six in-flight movies.

Ah, that puts us in England in April, where we have people to visit and cathedrals to see before we island-hop (of a different sort) to Iceland and wrap up our circumnavigation of the globe by going on to Toronto and then home to Atlanta.

There's something oddly comforting in knowing that there will then be no Earthly longitude we have not traversed.

That's the plan, anyway. Let's see how it all turns out.