Flying

Temples, Tigers and Waterfalls

Day 2 in Chiang Mai turned out to be super awesome. I headed for breakfast around the corner from my hostel with no plan in mind. I ended up running into a girl named Regina from Holland I’d met the night before, and after breakfast we set off to visit some temples around the city.
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After checking out a couple of temples, we decided we both wanted to get out of the city and head up the mountain see the jungle, temple and waterfall. We ended up hiding a taxi for the afternoon to drive us around.

It’s so cheap to hire someone to drive you anywhere you need go, and then they will wait for you so you don’t have to worry about how to get back. It’s absolutely fantastic!

The ride up the mountain took about 45 minutes and was a twisting, bumpy adventure that was a lot of fun. I didn’t even think about the fact we had no seatbelts and the back door is open so you could fall out!

First stop was a viewing are that allows you to see the entire city of Chiang Mai. It was much larger then I expected, and there was a lot of smog which is sad.

Next up was Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which is famous for it’s giant staircase. We opted to take the little tram up the hill, and walk down after we were finished. The view from the top of the mountain was breathtaking, and the grounds covered with lush vegetation. Although I later discovered that a lot of the orchids and other flowers were fake!
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Next up was a quick stop at a waterfall on the way down the hill, just at the entrance to Do I Suthep National Park.
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Such a tranquil place, in the middle of the jungle. Exactly what I wanted to see.

Afterwards we headed back to town and grabbed a bite to eat. I had a chicken and rice dish, along with iced tea. I sure love my iced tea!
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We decided we wanted to get massages, so Regina got a full body while I got a foot massage. That’s two foot massages and one full body so far….gotta take advantage! After that we just chilled out with some other people from the hostel, then headed out for some food on the streets. We almost ended up going out to the bar, but most of us were almost falling asleep at this point we went to bed. Smart decision!
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Saturday was my last day in Chiang Mai and I left it up to chance what I would do. I’ve learned keeping an open schedule Jere always works out for the best. I woke up and waited for Ed, Dallas, Stef and Josh to get ready. They were planning to head to Tiger Temple but I didn’t have a scooter to get there, and didn’t want to get one yet. I also wasn’t sure if I had to me as my flight was at 5:35pm. Well, they suggested I hire a taxi to take me there while they followed on their scooters, and I could just head the airport from there. Excellent plan, so I did.
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I grabbed my stuff and we took the 35 minutes drive out there. Once we arrived, bought our tickets see a big tiger and wandered around a bit.
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I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea, but it looked like the tigers are taken care of really well so I convinced myself it’s OK. I’m glad I did it, because getting up close to these majestic cats was so awesome!
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We got tons of photos and video, then decided we should stop at the waterfalls nearby. Hey, more waterfalls? Why not!

These were much more impressive than the other ones, with a huge train heading up the hill and about 10 different interconnected waterfalls. We hiked to the top (which almost killed me!) then worked our way back down.
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Not going to lie, in the back of my mind I was afraid of seeing a snake. Luckily we only saw a few small spiders, then a giant venomous looking one above us on the trail. It was pretty cool!
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Hard to see, but the spider is on this picture.

After trekking back down, I said my goodbyes to the group and hopped in the taxi to the airport. Such cool people, had an amazing time and I hope to cross paths with them again.
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After being dropped off at the airport, I checked my bag (they made me!) and grabbed some food. I flew Air Asia to Krabi and arrived at about 7:30pm. Met a couple beside me from Greece and Croatia who were also heading in my direction to Ao Nang so we split a cab. Arrived at Slumber Party Hostel, but didn’t realise their were two. I was at the wrong one, however one of the guys who works there gave me a motorcycle ride to the proper one about a 10 minute drive down the road. Checked in then headed right into a beer pong tournament. Once again met a huge group of amazing people!
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We ventured out to some local bars and I went to bed at some ungodly hour. Really enjoyed the night and can’t wait to do it again!

Tokyo to Bangkok

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Spent my last day wandering around at the Tokyo Skytree, the world’s second tallest tower after the Burj Khalifa. After spending a couple hours there people watching and browsing the shops, I grabbed my stuff and headed to the airport. I just wanted to chill there before my flight.

The flight was on ANA, an Asian airline that is know for amazing service. I must say I was happy from the moment I sat down because I managed to get a bulkhead seat with no one beside me!
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Along with that, they started the flight off with a hot towel service, followed by drinks and a snack. Alcohol included for free too. I had some white wine along with their signature drink called Aromatic Kabosu. It’s a fresh my squeezed fruit juice that I’ve never tasted before.
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That’s a nice touch! Good luck getting that in Economy class in North America.

The dinner was next and there was a choice of a traditional Japanese meal or more traditional western meal. Of course I chose the Japanese meal, which consisted of a fish and rice dish, noodles, miso soup, green tea and a dessert pie type thing. I also had beer and wine, because why not. It was a 7 hour flight!
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I watched started watching some random Japanese game show, followed by anime and music videos.
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Those weren’t keeping my attention so I put on “The Beach” on my iPad starring Leonardo DiCaprio, not the best idea because it starts out all fun and yay Thailand, then gets a bit crazy! Still a good movie and got me ever more excited to get to the beaches. I also watched “What If” and fell asleep during it, I think it was a mix of my exhaustion and the couple of drinks I had.

Once landing in Bangkok, I navigated through the massive airport to get through customs, then grabbed a shuttle to my hostel called Nest Boutique resort. I forgot I had booked a private room, so that was nice. I got myself organised and passed out.
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Today was my first full day on Thailand, so stay tuned for my first experiences in Bangkok!

Last Day at Tokyo Disney Resort

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Winter Shiny Tea...tastes like cider.

Today was the last day at Tokyo Disney Resort before I see the rest of Tokyo for the next couple of days. It’s been an eventful day and I started late. I managed to sleep until 6am today! That’s 7 full hours of sleep.
First thing this morning I grabbed some food on the street outside my hostel and wandered around a bit before I headed to Disney.

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Once I arrived at Disney I realized I have not seen a seen a single Cast Member that doesn’t have a smile on their face. Seriously, it’s like they are super happy people all the time…or robots. It is Japan, so it’s quite possible. Disney Parks in the United States are renowned for their level of guest service, but here it’s distinctively better in every way.

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Also, people here bring the craziest things with them, like full on luggage and giant bags with mini stuffed toys all over them. The most common thing I see are the refillable popcorn buckets that have straps so people carry them like purses. Everywhere. It’s nuts! They sure do love their popcorn. Another thing…Duffy, Duffy, Duffy. They love him so much. So, so much. Yet another thing that hasn’t really translated to the U.S. parks.

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Today’s goal was to get two very important photos: Oswald and Mickey. Oswald is only available to meet here at Disney Sea and Disney California Adventure. I strategically went over to his line while everyone else was distracted by the Colorful Holiday Greeting (yes it’s called that, ha ha) on the harbour. I only waited about 30 mins in line to get a pic with him. Next up was Mickey, over in Lost River Delta. A quick Electrical Trolley and walk through Port Discovery got me there.

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One of the coolest rides ever!

For the past 2 days I’ve been hesitant to wait in line for an hour, but I happened to get there at the right time at Disney Sea and only waited about half an hour. How could I visit Tokyo Disney without getting a pic of the boss? The whole character experience here is also interesting, as they have a dedicated photo person and cast member for each group. I’m also glad they had random characters around the park as that’s how I got pictures with Dale, Goofy and another character I can’t place from Robin Hood I think.

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Line up for Mickey!

After another tour around the park, I headed to Tokyo Disneyland to catch the Jungle Cruise, however it was totally mental, like the extended queue was longer than the normal one and was full. Needless to say I skipped it and wandered around until the Electrical Parade of Dreams and fireworks. The parade was almost a mix of Spectromagic and the Main Street Electrical Parade and was super long.

Finally ended the day with fireworks, then sprinted to to train to get home. Off to explore the real Tokyo now!

I’ve arrived in Japan!

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Thirteen and a half hours later and I’ve arrived in Tokyo, Japan. The flight was pretty uneventful, however I must say I love the 747. So much more opportunity to move around the cabin and not be too cramped in my seat.

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The onboard entertainment is pretty sweet…you connect to their WiFi using your own device and choose from a bunch of movies and TV shows that are on demand for free. It even pauses when they make announcements….pretty high tech. I tend to get movie ADD on planes so I watched: Friends, part of a documentary on Hawaii, part of Frozen, part of Forrest Gump, Delivery Man, Austin & Ally, A Christmas Carol, plus read magazines and books.

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It’s also nice that they provide lunch, a mid flight snack and then breakfast. It’s rare that you get anything on flights these days, but I guess as you’re trapped on the plane for almost 14 hours they have to feed you! The nice Japanese lady beside me didn’t want some of her food and offered it to me, so of course I took advantage. Right before the mid flight snack I was ravenous, and scarfed everything down pretty quick.

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Random moment: One of the flight attendants looked just like Bradley Cooper. Seriously they could be brothers. I kept doing double take a because the resemblance was spot on:

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Let’s talk about the sleep situation….slept a bit. I popped a sleeping pill right after lunch and waited for it to work it’s magic. No luck…I think I slept for about an hour and a half in and out. So I took another one. I was wide awake for the middle of the flight then about 4 hours before we landed I passed out for a couple of hours. Total sleep time: about 4 hours or so. I’ve set all my clocks to Tokyo time and am just going to stay awake until a normal time tonight and then be set!

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Managed to navigate the two different train lines from the airport to the hostel. Wandered through the shops of Asakusa on my way. Can’t wait to take it all on once I’ve had a good sleep! Hopefully I can adjust easily to local time because tomorrow I head to Tokyo Disney Sea! I have been waiting to visit this theme park from the moment it was announced. Iany other Disney park on earth. They also have their very own version of The Magic Kingdom, which I will also be visiting. If you think I’m crazy for traveling to the other side of the world to visit a theme park, you don’t know me very well. However I will be taking in a couple of days of non theme park tourism, so I can see the real Tokyo and the awesomeness of Japan! Now off to grab a bite to eat, drink some sake and get a good nights sleep!

YYZ to ORD

Customs… check. Security…check. So here I am in the waiting area with nothing but excitement building. I have a quick 1 hour connection in Chicago then it’s straight on to Tokyo on a 13.5 hour flight in Economy. I’ve got a sleeping pill and window seat with my name on it so hopefully I can hop off the plane and start exploring. The morning was pretty uneventful, save for this man working the security line.

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As we’re all waiting in line to get through security he was singing Christmas carols along with songs about making sure your liquids are under 3 oz and putting away your passport. This is the type of person who makes the airport bearable and is very rare. Thank you joyful airport signing man for being awesome!

Making the most of Long Flights (aka how to stay sane in Economy Class)

How to Fly

Being cramped in Economy can be a nightmare for any normal sized person, let alone if you are tall or have a few extra pounds, however Economy class is the reality for most people these days. Flying is not cheap, and Economy Class is really the only way for people to get from Point A to Point B without breaking the bank. With all the cutbacks in service from airlines and overselling of seats, you need to go in with a strategy to make the best of the situation. With that said,  I proudly present my fool-proof tips to stay sane and make the most of soaring through the sky in a tiny, overcrowded plane:

Seat selection

Westjet Seat Map

First off, I don’t pay to pick my seat in advance. It’s just another crazy fee to rip customers off. Instead, I check in immediately at the 24 hour mark to select my seat for free. First I look for empty rows, however don’t expect to sit alone as most flights are overbooked. I don’t tend to drink a lot of anything before or during a flight, so I opt for a window seat. This allows me to lean on the window to sleep and not be bothered when others need to get up. I also attempt to get an Exit Row if possible (still free on Air Canada and Westjet as of this posting) or close to the front of the plane so I can get off earlier. The benefit of Exit Row is you can board first, sit down and chill out for the next half hour while people are still boarding. Worst case scenario, just make sure you’re not stuck in the middle seat! A great resource to find out all the details of the plan you’re flying on is Seat Guru.

Carry on only

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Never check your bag. Ever! Not only will this save you from paying baggage fees, you won’t have to wait at the luggage carousel. You may call me crazy, but I have been on many trips with my carry on sized roller and backpack (aka personal item) and never felt like I was missing anything. It’s not that difficult to downsize, do you really need 5 pairs of shoes? People always over-pack, so just streamline what you really need before packing. The only downside is if you want to bring back any liquids (aka booze), you will have to check your bag. I easily forfeit this perk to get in and out of the airport in a breeze with all my bags in hand.

Entertain yourself

iPad

Fill up your iPad or other device with movies, TV shows, magazines and books. Never expect the airline to entertain you. For example, the new Westjet planes don’t have seat-back televisions, so unless you have your own device or rent one from them, you are out of luck. You can also bring books or magazines, but they take up valuable space so I recommend going digital.

Ear buds vs. Earphones

Earbuds Vs. Earphones

Always use ear buds for a couple of reasons: Earbuds take up less space and can be worn during takeoff and landing. You’re looking at almost an extra hour of movie & TV watching, versus if you have headphones they make you take them off during these periods.

Talk to your neighbour

Airline Seatmate

Depending on the situation of course, I’ve had many great conversations with strangers on flights. It’s always interesting to meet new people and hear their stories. This can make the flight fly past super quickly, and as a bonus makes it less awkward if you need to keep getting up for the bathroom or to walk around.

These are a few of the tips I practice every time I fly. Let me know what yours are by leaving a comment!