After two weeks and just under 22,000 miles of travel around the world, I’m finally getting acclimated to the real world after arriving back in Washington from Tokyo last week.
I’d initially planned to publish trip reports as I went on this trip, but after a pretty intense first few days of Oktoberfest in Munich, that whole idea went out the window. On this trip, I used my time in airports and on flights to relax and sleep instead of writing. As a result, my trip reports will be published, post by post in the coming weeks. I’ve got all sorts of goodies in this set, in addition to my flights in United, THAI, Air China and ANA First Class, including:
- Le Meridien, Munich
- Park Hyatt Shanghai
- Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui
- Grand Hyatt Shanghai
- Hyatt Regency Tokyo
- Sights of Munich and Oktoberfest
- A Day in Bangkok
- THAI Royal First Class Lounge and Spa, BKK
- Sights of Shanghai
- Air China Forbidden First Class Lounge, PVG
- Sights of Hong Kong
- A Nights in Tokyo
I’ve already published my initial thoughts on the first class flights on this trip, but full-fledged reviews are coming. To see those initial thoughts, see here:
- United Global First Class (ORD-MUC)
- THAI Royal First Class (MUC-BKK)
- Air China Forbidden Pavilion First Class (PVG-NRT)
- ANA First Class (NRT-IAD)
For now, I’ll share six observations from my trip:
1. After five years, I’ve finally realized that weekends at Oktoberfest are just too crowded
This year, we attended Oktoberfest on the closing weekend. Though the closing Sunday remains my favorite day at the Wiesn, the Friday and Saturday prior to closing are simply too crowded. Gaining entrance to a good tent means absurd lines at 8-9am and chaos trying to find a table. We eventually worked things out on Friday for our whole group, but it was quite the feat.
On Saturday, we skipped Oktoberfest during the day, and instead went to a FC Bayern Munich match. We then tried to get into a tent Saturday night.
For the first time in five years, we gave up and ended up leaving the Oktoberfest that evening.
In the future, I will make it a point to attend during the week, since the crowds are much more manageable. Don’t get me wrong — it’s still crowded, but I think it would overall be much more enjoyable during the week.
2. When flying into Shanghai-Pudong (PVG), the Maglev is probably the best way to get to downtown
Don’t fall for the Shanghai “Airport Representatives” — they’re there to rip you off. Believe me.
After a redeye flight from Bangkok, we were in a bit of a daze, and mistakenly let them arrange a taxi for us to the Park Hyatt, and wow, we got ripped off… over 500RMB later, we were at the hotel. Do NOT pay more than 160-200RMB for a cab from PVG to downtown Pudong!
We returned to the airport via cab for about 150RMB, but it took well over an hour due to traffic.
On our second brief stay in Shanghai, we simply took the Maglev from the airport to town for the extremely reasonable 40RMB per person, each way. Reaching speeds between 300 and 430 km/h, the Maglev is a true high-speed train and is a pretty awesome way to get into Shanghai from the airport.
In seven minutes, you arrive at the Longyang Road station on the Line 2 of the Shanghai Metro. For Pudong Hotels, it is just a short, 5 stops on the metro (for 4RMB).
Total time and cost from airport to hotel?
35 minutes and 44RMB per person.
3. The Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui may just offer the BEST hotel amenity EVER!
Though this was not my favorite hotel ever, it certainly redeemed itself with probably the most useful hotel amenity / perk that I’ve ever received.
Rooms at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong come with a personal smart phone called the “Handy”, which features:
- Unlimited calls and texts to the USA
- Unlimited 3G mobile internet access
- Unlimited use of a 3G mobile WiFi hotspot for up to five devices at a time
- Discount and ticket offers
- Hong Kong city guide
The availability of this smart phone means the need for a cellular data package or SIM card is not needed at all! We used the “Handy” phone as a WiFi hotspot whenever we left the hotel, and maintained perfect WiFi connections for the three of us at all times!
To me, this is probably the most useful hotel amenity I’ve ever received. I really can’t think of a better one. In my opinion, this is a great idea for any US-based hotel in a country outside of the USA.
4. Long layovers don’t have to be spent in the Airport!
In order to maximize the sightseeing on this trip, we planned long layover in:
- Bangkok (12 hours)
- Shanghai (19 hours)
- Tokyo (22 hours)
Admittedly, I’d been to each of these cities before (we did Shanghai earlier in the trip before the shorter layover), so I knew how we could maximize our time in each place.
Though it has a spectacular First Class Lounge, Bangkok is definitely a place you can explore if you have a day to kill. There are several in-transit tours available in Bangkok if you Google them, but we just decided to hire a cab for five-six hours and have him drive us to some sights around Bangkok. Just find a driver who speaks decent English, and anticipate a ton of traffic.
During our six hours driving throughout Bangkok, we spent time at Wat Ratcha Natdaram Worawihan, Wat Pho, and we had a Thai dinner at a fantastic restaurant. We’d wanted to checkout the night market, but we ended up being stuck in the gridlock of Bangkok traffic instead, so we returned to the airport for some quality time in the THAI Royal First Class Lounge before our flight to Shanghai.
On our second go-round in Shanghai, we kind of knew what we were doing since we’d spend a few days there the previous week. We had a room at the Grand Hyatt Shanghai, since we were familiar with the area, as it was next door to the Park Hyatt. We knew the area of town we wanted to explore, so we headed right to the Yuyuan Garden area and had dinner at the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, which was delicious. At that point, we were exhausted and headed back to the Grand Hyatt for some sleep.
Finally, there was Tokyo…
5. I really need to spend a full week in Tokyo, as it’s just an amazing city
For starters, 22 hours is not enough time in Tokyo. Not even close.
On my last round-the-world journey, I spent several days in Tokyo, so I knew the lay of the land. I wanted to use that familiarity to show my buddy a good time while we were there. As such, I stayed in Shinjuku since it is easily accessible via the Narita Express train, and since I knew the area.
During our short stay in Tokyo, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency, Tokyo, located in Shinjuku. We explored Harajuku and Shinjuku, including a sushi dinner at Sushi Zanmai in Shinjuku. We then explored the streets of Shinjuku at night including the Robot Restaurant, a trip to a sport pub for the Japan v Brazil soccer match, and a night out at the bars of Golden Gai.
All in all, we maximized our layover, but we just saw a minute part of Tokyo. I’ve really enjoyed the city from the few times I’ve been there, and would love to spend some more time there in the future.
6. Europe AND Asia on ONE trip is TOO much
I know… I’m a sucker for absurd looking itineraries, any they’re fun — no doubt.
However, they’re exhausting.
Completely exhausting…. even when flying in First Class.
By the time we hit Hong Kong on this trip, we were absolutely beat. We really had to struggle in order to make it the last few days. It was just too much travel to too many places with too little time.
In the future, I’ll focus my long trips like this on only ONE region. So in the future, it’ll be Europe OR Asia — not Europe AND Asia.
Of course, my feelings on this are subject to change (depending on mistake fares and crazy mileage redemptions!)
Again, I’ll be making several more posts about this trip, including detailed accounts of things to do in Munich, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.