If you’ve been following along, you know that Greg, Stephen, and I are all on different continents at this point and adventuring our ways around. It’s interesting writing these summaries because I’m honestly not even sure what day number we’re on at this point: as I type this, it’s Saturday afternoon where I am. I think that means it’s Saturday morning where you are. What day is it where Greg is? And Stephen? I’m lost. Here’s what I know about the last 24hrs:
Greg ended up in Africa
After taking a plane to West Virginia and back and then a Megabus to New York on Day 1, Greg flew to Madrid, Spain. He couch surfed (both literally and figuratively) in Madrid. But then he continued on to a very large continent with a Star Alliance presence when he flew to Dakar, Senegal. He also couch surfed there and it looks like he ate something better than what I just had at the Priority Pass lounge from which I write this summary.
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Enjoying Senegalese Fish and Rice (Thiéboudienne?) with my CouchSurfing host and friends. Yum!
Greg then found some time for sightseeing in Dakar, which is going to make me go back and Google more about these sights since I knew less about Dakar than I do about astrophysics.
As I write this now, I think he is airborne — likely taking the first of his two excursionist perk flights thanks to everything he learned previously. From a Facebook story he posted, it looks like he’s on Ethiopian Airlines, which means his next destination…..could be like, anywhere in Africa. Since it’s an excursionist perk, it has to be central and South Africa. I actually just came up with a monster idea as I typed this of what I think he could possibly be doing. Where do you think he’s headed next?
Is Stephen planning a diamond heist?
It looks like Stephen mastered Madrid, walking ten miles and exploring the city on his long layover, taking some magnificent photos of this beautiful city.
His next stop is Belgium, but he left a cryptic clue as to his true destination (it isn’t Brussels).
Here’s the full hint for those without Facebook:
Stephen is taking a bus north
To a town that sounds like it’s loud
He’s seen sculptures like these before
And hopes these too will leave him wowed
I was going to tell you that I think he’s in the province of Antwerp and the only thing I know about Antwerp is that it’s where they steal the diamonds in almost every heist movie I’ve ever seen. However, I searched GoFundMe for a bail money fund for Stephen and came up empty. After a bit more sluething, I think he’s likely to avoid prison. He’s not out of the woods yet, and I don’t think he will be until the end of the day today at least. Keep your eye on Instagram / Facebook / Twitter for updates, as I imagine the pictures will be worth a few thousand words.
I spent last night at the morgue.
Kidding, of course. I was in Tokyo and spent the night at a capsule hotel at Narita airport called Nine Hours Narita. I’ve described it like this: imagine laying in a plastic bathtub. Picture a nice memory foam pad under you and a soft duvet cover over that. Now take away the memory foam and cover yourself with the duvet and you have my night.
In all seriousness, it wasn’t much less comfortable than most Japanese beds on which I’ve slept — I love Japan, but find the beds hard for my liking at most hotels there. I actually really enjoyed the capsule hotel experience. It was something I’ve always wanted to try but I knew it would never fly on a family trip; I’m pretty sure my wife is excited that I’ve gotten that out of my system. What I found fascinating about it was the sense of isolation within a crowd. When you check in, they let you know that once you enter the locker room, there is no loud talking or cell phone use. Since everyone is there alone, nobody talks. The place was fairly busy, but yet it felt like a sanctuary of sorts. Everything was very clean and people were as respectful as you’d imagine Japan to be, so there was almost no noise in the sleeping area — which is good, because you were moving around on plastic bathtubs without much noise insulation.
One problem: it was hot. And I felt like this had to be a fire hazard in my plastic coffin.
Overall, it was a night of sleep that I desperately needed — by the time I laid down, I was deliriously tired from my night of little sleep in Honolulu (which had followed a night of not-much-sleep in DC before the start of the challenge).
But before I went to bed, I did venture out to explore. Naritasan Park is just one train stop plus about a 15-minute walk away from the airport. It’s a beautiful, tranquil park with a massive temple. In fact, it’s like a temple complex consisting of many buildings and many of them are gorgeous. I honestly left feeling amazed that it isn’t included in Tokyo must-do lists. The complex seemed so big in fact that when it started getting dark and I tried to find my way out, I began to wonder if the temples had me surrounded for good. Eventually, Google maps got me out — but had the sun not set, I would have gladly explored longer. I was there for a couple of hours and probably could have done with a couple more. Here are some pics.
I did make a rookie mistake. Do yourself a favor and make sure there is a memory card in your camera before you leave your computer bag back at the capsule hotel. I missed out on some great DSLR shots thanks to that mistake. Also: make sure your GoPro is charged. Bummer x 2.
I then decided it was time to eat, and I’m on a budget, so….
Kidding. Come on now — have a little faith. I mean, if they took a Priority Pass card….
As I returned to the train station to head back to the airport for the night, I pulled up Google to look at restaurants around me. I generally won’t eat at something with less than 4 stars on Google unless it’s just a time / budget situation. In this case, I felt confident I should be able to find something on-budget with decent reviews.
Ramen Bayashi seemed to fit the bill: greater than 4 stars on Google and the first review or two I read indicated that prices were decent and the ramen was quite good. On my way to the restaurant, I passed one little joint after another full of Japenese men in suits at individual place settings and nearly stopped off to try one for the adventure of it. At some point, I pulled up Google and saw poor reviews for the one at which I was standing, so I resolved to continue on to Ramen Bayakshi. However, when I got to the ramen shop, I stopped in my tracks: as I looked through the window, I saw that nearly everyone inside was a westerner. That immediately turned me off. I didn’t want to be surrounded by little local restaurants only to dine in the one tourist trap. I stood outside Googling around to see what else there was. Unfortunately, at that point, my mind was sold on ramen. I hadn’t slept much and was getting tired and sore from ~5 miles of walking (I know Stephen Pepper is giving me no sympathy there). I eventually gave in and figured that I could at least report about it to save you the mistake of going there.
It turns out the place is a hangout for airline crews (I’d have known that if I’d read farther in the Google reviews). It’s such an airline crew hangout that there are airplanes hanging from the ceiling and decorating shelves all round, many autographed by crewmembers, and airline stickers adorn all the walls. There was a crew at the next table over — from the conversation, it sounded like one was a pilot and the others were flight attendants (they spoke American English). At the table to my right were two younger women speaking German, but I got the sense that they were likely also flight attendants. If you’re an aviation person, you might find this place interesting for the ability to meet folks in the business.
The good news is that the ramen was very good. It wasn’t amazing, but I’d give the spicy pork ramen a solid “very good”. I didn’t walk away disappointed and the meal cost me about $9.25.
Afterwards it was back to my pod for a restful night’s sleep before heading to the airport Saturday morning to catch a flight to Bangkok, Thailand. There I would hit my first major snafu of the trip — but more on that in the next update.
Met Nick this morning in Nelson NZ. He popped in to our Cycle Hire Company at the Airport (Nelson Cycle Hire) and hired a Bike off us to travel out to a seaside resort called Mapua. He was keen to try some of our local Craft Beers and I tried to give him some good advice on that. Understand hes heading out this evening, best of luck Nick
Awesome post! I went to Naritasan park and Raman Bayashi (wearing the shirt from the place right now) a few months ago on my layover at Narita. I took the free walking tour with a guide just for myself. Great place!
Nick, will you all be sharing at some point how many points and what airline you took to get to Narita like you did for your trip to Hawaii? I’ve been wanting to take my family on a trip to and I think I finally saved enough points but don’t want to burn them all on a single trip. Thanks and man you guys going to need a week of work to rest up when the challenge is over. Like I mentioned in another post besides the total number of miles you guys should keep track of your weight and I think it would be interesting who wins and the amount of weight that person lost. I think that would help in determining g how extreme the winner took to win this challenge, how much they sacrificed, etc. good luck
Nick answered the similar question from Bob above in this post.
“Yeah, we’ll obviously post full details of everything we booked at the end. But to give you the brief answer, I used Virgin Atlantic to book HNL-NRT on Delta. Then it’s a separate cash ticket from Tokyo to Bangkok to….somewhere else where I haven’t yet gotten :-).”
About the weight, Stephen once mentioned he has a 45 miles biking itinerary, so I think he will burn the most calories. Besides, he just walked 10 miles in Madrid.
Glad you boys are enjoying. Getting out of your women’s way so they can get a few things done at home without you around to mess things.
You know you have been married to the same person too long when she encourages you to take solo trips more often.
You should do this more. This is how most of the world travels.
I did the Narita layover program, free with a guide. Went to the Naritasan temple and park, several other sights along the walk to the park, and ate at that same ramen place. I asked the guide to get ramen for lunch and he chose that exact restaurant. I was quite happy and would do it again. Good post. Keep them coming!
Go Nick. Will there be a post on how and what miles you used for HNL-NRT (I assume BKK)?
Yeah, we’ll obviously post full details of everything we booked at the end. But to give you the brief answer, I used Virgin Atlantic to book HNL-NRT on Delta. Then it’s a separate cash ticket from Tokyo to Bangkok to….somewhere else where I haven’t yet gotten :-).
Nick’s major Bangkok snafu? Not realizing there are two airports? No exit flight yet booked from Thailand, no hotel booking or not sufficient cash on your person to satisfy immigration? Told immigration you were “blogging your trip” i.e. working without a work visa?
Short version of the story: I was not allowed to enter Thailand because I bought an Air Asia ticket with a final destination elsewhere. I may or may not get the longer story posted today, but that’s the short of it. Stuck at the airport for 9+ hours.
“I bought an Air Asia ticket with a final destination elsewhere.” Sounds like you got an overzealous immigration officer – I was not aware that was grounds for detaining you. Nonetheless, many Westerners are of the opinion they are not wanted anymore in Thailand. There are several reasons, many westerners abusing the immigration system by living or working in Thailand on tourist visas, less dependence on Western tourist dollars, xenophobia, the govt tiring of hypocritical western governments lecturing them on civil rights etc.
No, it had nothing to do with that — Air Asia also told me I wasn’t allowed to enter because of my ticket conditions, which appears to be correct. It didn’t seem like any sort of singling out — entering on my ticket type is just apparently not allowed — and that’s not something I ever would have known.
That’s Nutthing every single trip I do they TAKE EVERY THING APART . I’m on some list like poor people don’t travel . I was on a Cayman to MDW flt.on SW they called my name to check my luggage out of 200 . I THREW the suitcase on the counter and told them keep it . I got Global entry to stop that but it didn’t .My last trip TLV not one country messed with me .
Would appreciate more info when you have the chance. Not sure why US citizen was denied entry to Thailand based on continuing travel destination
At least there are pretty good PP options at BKK. I find Oman lounge the best, has showers at least. Not how I would like to spend 9 hours in Bangkok though. Actually, I would never like to spend only 9 hours in Bangkok. Full disclosure: In Bangkok now for the last 2 weeks. Welcome to Thailand, hope you enjoyed your stay!
Also, surprised you were denied entry. I enter all the time on a one way AA award flight with no return ticket yet.
The short version of the story is that Air Asia’s tickets are cheap in this case in part because Thailand isn’t getting their cut.
On a full-service carrier you would of course be allowed to enter. Air Asia doesn’t do layovers on most tickets — most tickets are strict Point A to Point B. In the past, to have bought a ticket from A to C, you’d have had to pay separately and buy a ticket from A to B and go through immigration and get your bags and then come back to check in for a separate reservation from B to C. Until Air Asia started offering their “Fly-Thru” service, you simply couldn’t buy A to C, which would obviously make your trip more expensive (imagine if you had to buy two separate tickets on a New York to Munich to Rome ticket or something like that — it’d be more expensive).
This layover deal is consider a special thing for Air Asia – like they are selling it as “hey, you don’t have to go through immigration and collect your bags and check in again — you can ‘Fly-Thru’!”. That’s a plus if you previously had to buy separate tickets. One of the conditions of doing that it seems is that they are not allowed to have such thru-passengers leave the airport (presumably because Thailand is not getting their taxes from such passengers). As the airport they use in Bangkok (DMK) is basically all low-cost-carriers, I’d guess that all immigration officers there know to find out what kind of ticket you’re on as this is obviously whatever deal Air Asia has worked out with the government.
The alternative in hindsight would have been a much more expensive ticket with a full-service carrier. Obviously had I known I couldn’t leave the airport, I’d have planned differently — so I’ll get the above written up in a post with a bit more detail once I reach my final destination.