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Planning in progress - any comments?

Old Apr 13th, 2010, 11:42 AM
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Planning in progress - any comments?

I finally have enough AA FF miles for a good OneWorld business class award, so I'm finally planning to go back to Asia! Can't believe it's been five whole years.

Plan A was mostly the 'stans, India and Sri Lanka, but itineraries for the 'stans work better in the spring and it put me in Japan in February. After I decided I was procrastinating because I didn't really want to do the 'stans on this trip, I moved on to Plan B. I think I've avoided bad weather, except I'll be too early for much of Europe, and holidays, except that I'll arrive in Bangkok in search of a visa for Myanmar the week of Chinese New Year. (Where is the best place in SEA - either quiet or a really great festival - to spend CNY?)

Assuming I can get the biz class award seats (I haven't called AA yet), this is the current plan:

Sep 15 2010 - fly RDU to Vancouver (via Dallas)

Sep 19 2010 - fly Vancouver to Tokyo (arr. Sep 21)

Oct 10 2010 - fly Tokyo to Seoul

Oct 21 2010 - fly Seoul to Taipei

Nov 01 2010 - fly Taipei to Hong Kong (day trip to Macau)

Nov 06 2010 - fly HK to Kathmandu

Nov 21 2010 - overland to India at Sunauli

Jan 09 2011 - fly Chennai to Colombo (this flight isn't in the award) (there are Intrepid and Imaginative Traveler tours starting Jan 9th in case I decide I need a tour for SL)

Jan 28 2011 - Fly Colombo to Bangkok (Myanmar, Thai island, Penang, Laos?)

Feb 28 2011 - Fly Bangkok to Paris (via Helsinki) (Portugal, Nice, London?)

Mar 21 2011 - Fly Paris to RDU (via JFK)

So any comments? I still have a lot of work to do on the details, especially for India, where I'll be heading for areas I didn't get to last time. Once the award is set I can change dates but not places.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Apr 13th, 2010, 12:07 PM
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I'm so jealous of how far (and for how long) Thursday's child gets to go. I just found a day of the week calculator to see what day of the week I was born. It figures--Saturday's child works hard for his living...

Sounds like a wonderful trip! Someday...
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 12:24 PM
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What a wonderful trip!
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 12:34 PM
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Condolences, Marija - I got lucky with the birth day! But I did work hard for quite a while - I just decided to retire "early" so I could travel before I got too decrepit. And there won't be any Oberoi or Peninsula stays on this trip, believe me!
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 12:45 PM
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Thursday child has far to go......
What a lovely itinerary. What are you planning in Japan? You will be in Seoul one month before us, are you blogging,lol

Aloha!
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 01:23 PM
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WOW!!!!
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 01:39 PM
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Please post a blog or a live trip report on Fodor's so that we can live vicariously with you and look forward to having the time to travel like that.
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 02:18 PM
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fantastic....but where will you do laundry?
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 02:31 PM
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Can I go too?
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 02:44 PM
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indianapearl - maybe you could come and carry my netbook so I can blog?

Craig I will try to blog and post, but if I don't take my netbook (and I don't really want the extra weight), that will depend on access to internet cafes. The blog will be at mytimetotravel.wordpress.com

Bob Laundry? Where I always do, in the bathroom sink... (this is supposed to be a budget trip!)

HT - sorry to miss you, a Seoul GTG would have been fun. I'm still working on the details of the Japan itinerary (along with everywhere else!) but I know I want a night in Hakone, several days in Kyoto, Nara, Koya-san, some time on Kyushu, Hiroshima, and perhaps the area around Takayama. What else shouldn't I miss? (I'm into architecture, food, scenery, religion, "culture", a little hiking...)

eks - where are you now???
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 03:18 PM
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My only comment was to see if you need anyone to follow you around and carry your bags for you -- or if you had a bag big enough for me to tuck in and come along too! Sounds A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!

Too young for me to retire yet -- guess I'll have to live vicariously through your trip report.
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 07:27 PM
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For getting from Taiwan to Hong Kong, you might look into flying from Taipei to Macau first. This should be cheaper than flying into Hong Kong. You can then see Macau for a day and perhaps a night, and ferry to Hong Kong later. There are several flights a day from Taipei, some on somewhat questionable airlines (in terms of financial situation, not safety) but at least one on Eva Air, which is a “real” airline.

It is probably possible to get to Katmandu from Macau more cheaply than from Hong Kong by going via Bangkok or something, not sure if the price is worth the traveling to Macau, but you might look into it. Air Asia goes from Macau to Bangkok.

In terms of places to spend Lunar New Year, if you have not seen celebrations you might want to. Places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan would be good choices for seeing fireworks, food and flower markets, and trying the special holiday foods on offer. New Years fireworks in Hong Kong harbour are hard to beat, IMO, although Singapore does some nice ones. Shop and restaurant closures are not major in these places other than the first day of the holiday (remote areas of Taiwan might be an exception to this). Vietnam for Tet would be very interesting as well, you may run into more closures there than in Hong Kong or Singapore, and of course Vietnam really deserves a good chunk of time and does not appear to be on your itin. Bangkok’s Chinatown might not be a bad place to be either, although things will be closed on the first day of the holiday most likely. Of course there is the whole PRC to consider, that will require a visa and you may have more closure of shops and restaurants. (Lots of the PRC will of course be very cold in Feb.) And you can have some real travel issues, esp on trains. Use air when possible, and try not to be traveling the day before the first day of the holiday.

One thing you might want to think about is timing a visit to be in Singapore or possibly Malaysia to see the Thaipusam celebrations. This is a Hindu holiday but is largely only celebrated now in Singapore and some sates in Malaysia, primarily at the Batu Caves outside KL. Devotees walk on hot coals, and wear huge headdresses which they attach to themselves by piercing their skin and tongues. It’s quite something go behold (esp in Singapore, where the guy walking by you in a trance is more than likely in his working life an accountant for Citibank…) It is generally celebrated toward the end of Jan or early Feb (depends on the moon phase) and has not yet been set for 2011. By if it roughly coincides with Lunar New Year, it might be interesting to be in Singapore where you could see both.

For quiet places with little or no celebrations, IMO you want to avoid beach areas in Thailand during the Lunar New Year as prices are high and hotels are booked as expats from SE Asia tend to hit the beaches for the holidays. You might run into that in resort areas like Chiang Mai as well. Bali is very popular at that time too. Beaches or inland rice terrace areas like Banaue in the Philippines are less popular, and in very good weather and might be a good choice. Someplace like Java (other than perhaps the Jogya area) or Sumatra which are not as touristed, might be a good choice. Do watch the weather issues in places, as you can have very heavy rainfall in areas like the east coast of Malaysia and Borneo in February.

The first day of the New Year is a Thursday in 2011. That means most people will be travelling on Wednesday, Feb 2, and lots of offices/businesses will close half-day on that day as well. (It's like the day before Thanksgiving times a zillion, esp in the PRC.) That is the day to avoid travelling in or to the PRC, and actually you probably want to avoid air travel generally in SE Asia on that day, only because prices will be higher and airports more crowded as locals are going home and expats are going on holiday. February 3 may be a good day to travel, at least by air, as most locals will already want to be home that day before.

If you are in Bangkok, it is unlikely, but of course possible, that Thursday and Friday are holidays in Bangkok or Myanmar, and the Myanmar embassy may be closed, so check the embassy website to make sure. That would be the case for sure in for the embassy in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam and the PRC.
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Old Apr 14th, 2010, 01:13 AM
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Did you ever think of Nth. Korea? I have chapter and verse on that.

KTM to India - via Pokhara, Tasnen, Lumbini to Sunauli is a pleasant drive - if you must. What's reason for that land crossing?
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Old Apr 14th, 2010, 03:01 AM
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Thursday: I am home and dreaming about a return to Asia!
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Old Apr 14th, 2010, 03:05 AM
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Hello Thursday.
I'm now in HK, just back from Macau. Will be back in TX next week and can maybe answer any questions you might have on Japan...
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Old Apr 14th, 2010, 03:09 AM
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Have you thought about flying from Kyushu to Seoul in order to avoid backtracking? You could get a JR Pass and travel by train down Japan...
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Old Apr 14th, 2010, 05:30 AM
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Cicerone - thanks so much for the detailed reply! It was your posts on Hong Kong that convinced me to go back, and I'm following the current thread on hotels with interest.

All my flights through to Kathmandu will be on the OneWorld award, and I can't fly into Macau on that, nor I can I have an open segment (I only get one, and that's Nepal to Sri Lanka). I'm looking at the Dragonair flight from HK to Kathmandu.

I appreciate the info on New Year. It sounds like I should consider revisiting either Singapore or KL for that if it coincides with Thaipusam, and then go north to Penang, which I haven't seen. It would be great if I could go into Myanmar from there, but I hear that the border is closed in that direction, and possibly the other as well. But then there's your warning about rainfall. The Philippines is the one country in SEA I haven't visited, maybe I should consider it.

I had trouble with Myanmar embassy in Bangkok closing last time - one day was for the King's birthday, I forget what the other one was, but it was only open for three days instead of five and was packed.
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Old Apr 14th, 2010, 05:46 AM
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chickenlittle - I'm a packing light true believer, so if you weigh less than my netbook....

dogster - yes, I did think about N. Korea (I'm on the Koryo tours email list), but I'd have to start from Beijing, and that doesn't fit this trip so well, plus I didn't want to mess with a Chinese visa just to get to N. Korea.

Yes, I know I could fly from Kathmandu to Delhi, but I'd have to back track to get there, as I was thinking Kat - Bandipur - Pokara - Lumbini (maybe Chitwan, more likely not - will look into Tansen). My original thought was to head east and cross at Mahendranagar, as I'm headed to the Shimla area, but I'd rather spend time on Indian trains than Nepalese buses. Remember, despite all the flights on this trip, I'm an over-lander at heart.

gertie - an advance welcome home - looking forward to hearing more about your trip. Same problem with flying out of Kyushu as with Cicerone's Macau suggestion - only one open leg on my award flights.

eks - welcome home! But I did I miss the trip report???

Thanks for the interest - keep the suggestions coming!
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Old Apr 14th, 2010, 10:32 AM
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Well, I just spent an hour on the phone with American. I now have a routing on hold until Monday!!!

Some good news, some bad. There was biz seat availability on the Vancouver-Tokyo flight, which I was worried about, but I'm going to have to route through JFK instead of DFW, which puts me into Vancouver at 1:30 in the morning and ups my mileage to where I have fly back to Boston and buy a ticket on to RDU.

I couldn't get availability on the Colombo-BKK flight anywhere close to my dates, so I'll have to fly into Singapore. Now I have to decide whether to fly on to BKK or take a flight back to Europe out of Singapore.

Plus, I ALSO couldn't get availability (even booking this far out) for BKK-CDG for a week either way, so I'll be flying into London instead - I was trying to avoid the higher taxes out of the UK. Speaking of taxes... I don't have the total for that yet.

But definite progress - and an hour is a lot better than the last time I booked one of these. I'm excited!
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Old Apr 14th, 2010, 10:40 AM
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You could be even more efficient and modify your itinerary to include the Boston GTG...
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