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Thinking about it

I have done quite a bit of flying in recent years, including work in support of a number of National Science Foundation grants and so I've accumulated a respectable stash of frequent flyer miles on Delta. A couple of years ago while browsing on FlyerTalk I ran across the Sky Team Round The World Planner site.

I tried for about a year to link my planned travel to my grant work in nanotechnology education, thinking about visiting countries with nascent nanotech programs and talking about workforce development and curriculum, but it was an uphill battle - both from a logistical and from a political point of view. The NSF does not support efforts aimed at directly benefiting foreign entities unless there is a reciprocal benefit to US citizens; not unreasonable I suppose but it made it harder to figure out a way to establish lasting connections even if I were able to meet with the right people on a relatively tight schedule. So, I decided to just go as a vacation and if any scholarly opportunities came my way, I'd take advantage of them.

Delta charges 180,000 miles for economy and 280,000 for business/first. (Note - today I tried to find a link to these numbers on the Delta site and was unsuccessful. I called Delta and they said the program was still active. I also called the online help desk who confirmed that the relevant page was now blank - they had 'no idea' why this was the case.)

Yes, it takes a LOT of miles, but I had them and have always enjoyed travel, so, why not? Also, when you work it out it's a pretty good deal compared to international business class fares. Yes, I'm doing the Big Enchilada; RTW in Business/First!

Some of the ground rules are: You are allowed 1 year to use your ticket, you can stop in 6 places (I'm doing 7 by arranging my own travel between two destinations - your trip does not have to be continuous around the world but it does need to be all E to W or W to E; no backtracking. Changes are relatively inexpensive as well. Check the planner link above for more details. You have to call your airline and ask for the "SkyTeam Round the world desk" to actually execute any plan that you create using the world planner. They are specialists who know it will take at least a couple of hours to turn a plan into actual seats, and they are very good at what they do.

Posted by tdeits 19:05 Archived in USA Tagged rtw planning delta skyteam Comments (0)

Planning it - part 1


So, off I go - but where?

I have been fortunate in having traveled quite a bit in the past. England, Ireland, Germany, France, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Australia, Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand spring to mind. I decided on a mix of old and new. My son Robin and I traveled to Japan and had a great time about 6 years ago, so I'd like to explore Tokyo further. I only had one day in Seoul on a trip to visit biotech outfits in Daejeon, and I had a great time there. I loved the three older women sitting in a park who beckoned me over and gave me a nice dried whole fish to chew on while we sat there and smiled at each other, or the other lady who whipped a suitcase out of my hand as I was climbing out of the subway and deposited it for me at the top of the stairs - I now understand that this is a customary courtesy but I was a bit surprised at that particuar time.

So, I decided that Japan and Korea would be two destinations. Extra good news is that my Robin will be able to go with me to Japan - even better is that he is going to give a short talk to the robotics group at the University of Tokyo, one of the best robot spots in the world. Robin is a grad student at CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) at MIT working on the DARPA Robotics Challenge . I hope to be able to pet the robots while I tag along with him!

I really enjoyed Australia. Sydney is a great city. As a former Seattleite, another city I love, I have to say Sydney's weather tips the balance just a bit (sorry, cousin Ann! :) . I have also visited the Great Barrier Reef (Giant Clams Ruuuule!) for the best reefs I have ever seen, so this trip I decided on the West coast; wait, does that even make sense? Well, logic aside, that's the deal. I kind of wanted to go to Darwin for the truly out-of-the-way experience, but that's not a spot I could reach on this fare - next time.. so this time it's Perth.

Next, Thailand. I decided to visit SE Asia, which I have never done - thanks to a high lottery number. Fortunately, I have a friend there, Julie, who runs a Tai Chi studio in Chiang Mai, so I would have a touchstone locally. I will fly into Bangkok and then buy a local airfare to Chiang Mai (again, not accessible on my airlines). I considered taking the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai as it is reportedly an interesting trip and a chance to meet people, but apparently the line is in such terrible shape that there have been 10 derailments in the past year! (Thanks for the heads-up, Julie!)

Second half of the plan in the next installment!

Posted by tdeits 06:42 Comments (0)

Planning it part 2

After Thailand I decided to head to Istanbul; about as close to a Middle East destination as you can get without complications these days. Here, I planned an extra leg to get an additional city into the trip. The rules of the program permit only 6 stops along the way, but if you choose to find your own way from one stop to the next, reembarking there, that only counts as one stop. My plan was to visit Istanbul and then fly on a separate ticket to Paris; this way I get both cities and I can choose how to divide about 2 weeks between the two cities.

I've never spent time in Paris and it strikes me that visiting in early December should be an extremely nice and quiet time to see what needs to be seen. There is a new Frank Gehry designed museum in Paris that is said to be quite amazing, so I'm looking forward to that in particular (yeah, yeah, the Mona Lisa will get a look too....). I have a French friend, Evelyne, who has given me detailed instructions that, should I fulfill them all, would take me a month if I ran the whole time... just kidding. Thanks, Evelyne!

More nevers. I have never visited South America so one more southward swing is called for. I decided on Santiago Chile. I have always been interested in Chile, in part because as a native Californian, I have always heard how similar Chile and Californian are in climate and geography. Of course, Chile has the edge in really tall pointy mountains and really dry deserts (sorry, Death Valley, you are positively damp compared to the Atacama). I hope to get out to the coast somehow; Michigan has it's charms, but coasts on freshwater lakes, no matter how huge, just don't smell right. It will be summer again in Chile so back to warmth after about 2 weeks in winter.

Of course, inevitably it's back to winter again and home after a week in Chile. Two months on the road! Winter/Summer/Winter/Summer/Winter! Nature, culture, urbanity, vistas! Food!! Many many many pictures! Pressure to do blog posts!!!!! - nah, sorry folks, fun takes priority. I have promised myself I won't obsess over the blog - if friends want to see more they can invite me to dinner when I get home and ply me with beer and I might reveal additional travel adventures.

With plan in hand I went to the Sky Team RTW planner and roughed out the trip, then called the Sky Team RTW desk. They were most patient and accommodating and although they couldn't get me to Darwin (or to Sri Lanka, another place that intrigues me - if Arthur C Clarke says it is paradise, I reckon it would be worth a look; maybe next time) we did the deed and booked the ticket.

One kind of cool thing is that I will be flying business class on 7 or 8 airlines, mostly long haul, so it will be great fun to rate them along the way. I did some looking around and found that the contents of the amenity bags (bags with toiletries etc. given for the flight- eat your heart out coach passengers!) are a subgenre of collectables (here's a link to a collection of retro amenity kits. Of course, food and wine will get my critical attention as I lounge luxuriously in the front of the plane. (Am I laying this on a bit thick? Hey- you'd do the same; admit it!

Posted by tdeits 06:43 Comments (1)

Changing plans

Well, I kind of got concerned about my itinerary when I read a story recently about a Fox reporter who found himself on the TSA watch list for, apparently, flying into Istanbul on an open-jaw ticket (which I planned to do) - story here http://nws.mx/1vAYMNg . Evidently individuals interested in traveling to Syria to engage in conflict frequently fly into Turkey on one-way tickets and then travel overland, which may explain the event. Unfortunately you can't just call up the TSA and ask them "Hi, how can I avoid getting on the watch list?" - that would probably get you on it automatically :) ! So I changed my ticket to Athens instead of Istanbul. Certainly not a problem as I have never been to that wonderful historic city either but kind of a shame; a sad sign of the times in some ways.

Posted by tdeits 13:44 Comments (0)

On to Japan! - arrival

I'm in Japan, it's 5 AM and I'm wide awake. Staying at the Hilton in Narita tonight and planning to meet up with Robin and Michele in the morning. The flight was fine - had a nap and watched Godzilla (naturally!). Took a few photos of Business class on Delta. Here's a typical seat (on a 777). Nice seats with a million controls, including back massage mmmmm.... massage!


Fall colors were just about at their peak in Michigan when I left - one of the best displays in years probably because of the series of light frosts and very little wind. Anyway, here's a picture from the plane as we were climbing out of Detroit.

Here are some pictures of our main meal - shrimp cocktail and drinkies to start.

followed by corn chowder and apple salad

Then scallops in prosciutto

And a dessert cart

We had a snack later (I slept through it) and breakfast before arrival but I'm not going to go all instagrammy over food!

Arrived around 7 pm local time and wandered over to the hotel for the night. The only picture I have taken of Japan so far is this one -

I have always found UAC's interesting since I did a couple of rubbings of them in England back in the'60's. They are frequently ignored but often carefully crafted beyond the utilitarian minimum. By the way, UAC is my neologism for the iron things that cover holes in the street - Utility Access Cover; obviously calling them 'manhole' is inappropriate and the world hasn't yet decided on a more appropriate term. 'Personhole?' I don't think so!

Posted by tdeits 13:44 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo food on board delta Comments (0)

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