Friday, November 28, 2014

Passing Through Japan

It's been a wild ride for the past 36 hours or so, but I'm finally sitting here comfortably in my Tokyo hotel room.  My second room actually, because I got a new room this morning.  I just got back from "breakfast" at my hotel and decided I owed everybody a quick blog post before I venture out.

My plane left O'Hare yesterday at 12:15 PM nonstop for Tokyo.  To my dismay, the Bears game came on just minutes before we started boarding the plane.  Now that I have checked the final score, it looks like I didn't miss much.  I was lucky enough to get an aisle seat on one of those 2-seat columns, which would make it real easy to get up and walk around when I wanted to.  On a 13 hour flight, it is not recommended to just sit there the entire time.  You legs and rear end start to get pretty sore after awhile.

Somehow (again) fate would have me sitting next to another young male, approximately my age, who was a complete expert in the country I was destined to visit.  For those of you who are new to this blog, last time I sat next to "Mike" on my flight to Tokyo, and he knew everything about Japan.  He provided me with tons of tips & advice, and got me really amped to visit Japan.  This time I sat next to Mario.  He is a young German ex-pat living in Ohio...he works for a large German company as a mechanical engineer in quality control.  When he said he was heading to Bangkok I could hardly believe it.  But then when he said he had been there, and I quote, "so many times I lost count" I knew I hit the lottery once again. 

We talked for quite a bit on this flight...we talked about work, Germany, traveling, and most of all - Thailand.  He provided me with so much advice for my trip it would be difficult to summarize.  Mario is embarking on a 5-week vacation which will start in Bangkok, and then bring him to Singapore, Malaysia, Bali, and then back to Thailand.  He will be meeting a group of friends during this trip, and traveling solo for a good portion of it.  Most of his friends were people he met while traveling.  Unfortunately we won't be in Thailand at the same time, but I got his contact info and will be sure to email him if I am looking for more advice.  

I'm staying at the Hotel Rainbow in Tokyo right now, and honestly this hotel is kind of a dump.  They put me in a smoking room last night (which smelled awful) because the nonsmoking rooms were sold out.  This will happen to you 90% of the time when you check into your Japanese hotel.  For an extra $40 I upgraded my room to a massive suite today because it was the only non-smoking room available.  They served breakfast this was seriously just toast with orange juice and coffee...ugh.  At least now I have a pretty nice view and a big room that doesn't smell.  

Ok folks, well I am outta here.  I only get one day to explore so I gotta make the most of it.  More to come soon enough.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thailand Awaits

I'm excited to be back with a new travel blog.  It's been about a year and a half since my last trip overseas, and I'm eager to pick up where I left off.  To any followers of my previous blog, the format of this whole thing will sound very familiar:

1)  I'm gonna hang out with myself for a couple weeks and write about it. Sweet! Who wouldn't want to read about that?
2)  I'll be in Asia
3)  My trip will involve a lot of different stops.  I won't be in any one location for more than a few days.
4)  I'm taking nothing with me except a backpack with some clothes, my Chromebook and a couple of cameras.  And sunscreen, to shield my pale mid-western skin from the type of sun you get when only 15 degrees north of the equator.
5)  It may sound like I know what I'm doing, but rest assured, I'm usually in way over my head. The ending result is a long string of snap judgments that I couldn't have predicted.  Have you ever cooked dinner with a bunch of random stuff you had laying around your kitchen, and then ended up with an awesome meal?  You probably won't ever make that exact meal again, and you probably couldn't if you tried.

My itinerary is booked...I've officially mapped the route that I'm taking and reserved rooms at the places I'm sleeping.  Without further ado, here is what we're looking at:

November 27-30: Tokyo, Japan
My plane will depart on Thanksgiving day (also my 30th birthday) and fly me directly to Tokyo.  This is a logical stepping stone if you are making your way to Thailand.  Since I love Tokyo, I figured why not stay for a couple nights?  After I hop over the time zone barrier in the Pacific Ocean, I'm gonna lose an entire day on this flight.  

I'll be staying at the Hotel Rainbow, in the Ueno district.

November 30 - December 4: Bangkok, Thailand
Here comes the part that you'll all love: I will be flying...gulp...Malaysian Airlines to make my way from Tokyo to Bangkok, with a layover in Kuala Lumpur.  As long as I don't disappear in a dimensional vortex during this flight, I'll be staying in the Villa Phra Sumen for 4 nights.  This hotel is conveniently located in the historic downtown area near a lot of attractions.  It's also near Khao San Road, which is famous for being a "backpacker" haven.

December 4-6: Krabi, Thailand
After exploring Bangkok, I'm going to hop on a regional flight to Krabi, a beach town in the west coast of southern Thailand.  I'll be staying at the Pak-Up Hostel, which has scored rave reviews for being a fun place.  They also feature a couple different bars which make this hostel hot spot for late night fun.

December 6-10: Ko Phi Phi Islands
I will board a ferry boat from Krabi Town to Ko Phi Phi, which is a world-famous beautiful island chain.  If you've ever seen "The Beach," this is where they filmed it.  While here, I'll be taking a 3-day PADI SCUBA diving course to get certified for open water diving.  Let's hope I don't get eaten by a shark.  I'll be staying at Palmtree Resort.

December 10-13: Phuket
The last leg of this trip will involve taking another ferry boat from Ko Phi Phi to Phuket, which is a pretty well known tourist destination of Thailand.  Phuket is known for having beaches that stretch on for miles, and a lively nightlife scene.  The area was hit pretty hard by the 2004 tsunami, but it has been rebuilt since then and is looking great.  I'll be staying at the Forest Patong Hotel for three nights before finally embarking on a long journey back home.

If you enjoy following the blog, please don't hesitate to email me at while I am traveling.  It's nice to have people I can stay in touch with back home and it helps keep me grounded to reality.  More to come soon.