After the, um, surprising experience at Halong Bay, I spent a quiet day in Hanoi partly at a spa and then at the sports bar in the Hilton before catching a taxi to the airport and checking in for my red-eye flight to Tokyo. I was going to be catching a First Class flight on American Airlines from Tokyo-Dallas, and Japan Airlines had an overnight flight (albeit in Business Class, poor me) that would get me there in time to see Tokyo for a bit before flying home. The only downside is that I landed in Tokyo very early in the morning after flying all night. True to form, I wasn’t incredibly well-rested and didn’t have much of a plan for how to get where I wanted to go.
Well, like I mentioned in the video (what do you think of the video by the way? I know the production value is crap, working on it), After a couple of days in Hanoi I made my way to Halong Bay. Halong Bay is simply one of the most incredible places on earth. It features over 2000 limestone karsts that dot the entire bay. There’s obviously a big tourism draw to it, but even more incredible is the life it supports. There are fishing villages and towns that exist entirely on the water, to the degree that some say people are born, raised, and die in the villages without ever touching solid land! I read that on the internet so it has to be true.
I arrived late at night to Hanoi aboard a Dragonair A330. It was a short flight, and like I mentioned in my last post I was so exhausted that I fell asleep when I first sat in my seat and had to be lightly shaken awake by the flight attendant after we had landed. I had pre-arranged a taxi and I strongly recommend this, as the touts are out especially late at night and, as a caucasian, I kind of stood out. I used Hilton points to book a stay at…you guessed it…the Hanoi Hilton. No, not that one. They incredibly have a Hilton hotel in Hanoi, but they call it the Hilton Hanoi Opera to get away from the mental image of staying in a POW camp on your stay. The room was spacious and large, and I immediately resumed my slumber, ready for the next day.
Hong Kong is an energetic melting pot of the western world and the Far East. There’s no city quite like it. I don’t think it’d be out of bounds to call it a gateway to modern Asia in fact. A British colony until 1999, it is now considered a Special Autonomous Region of China, who allow the Hong Kong government a bit of freedom in handling their own affairs. Hong Kong consists of a few different parts: Lantau, Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, and the New Territories. Lantau is and island to the west and contains, among other things, Hong Kong International Airport, Disneyland, and the Tian Tan Buddha (also called the Big Buddha). From the airport, you can either take taxis out to the myriad destinations on Lantau or hop on public transit to the rest of Hong Kong.
Back in 2012 I decided to get into the points and miles game. I had many e-mentors in my journey, among them Gary Leff, Ben, and Chris Guillebeau (I talk more about my travel inspiration in this post). I had taken a few small trips here and there, and, through manufactured spending and credit card bonuses, built up a nice little amount of American AAdvantage miles. I decided I wanted to use them for a special trip: my first time to Asia.