A Correction Last post, I mentioned that I would be using British Airways Avios points to get to Philadelphia to begin my trip. In looking over my notes, I got confused with a more recent trip I took to Costa Rica (for which I used Avios). I updated the other post, but wanted to clarify that I ended up taking a US Airways flight to Philadelphia (since it was so cheap, $69 one-way). The correction is actually a nice segue into the subject of this post: how did I get to China? Writing about it is going to make me pretty bitter, honestly. Why? When I took the trip, I had the coveted Executive Platinum status with American Airlines, entitling me to all sorts of entitlements with which I had a tremendously entitled sense of entitledment…you get the idea. Life is good flying as an Executive Platinum. March 1 was a tough day for me this year. Not for any actual reason, but March 1 is The Great Status Reset Day. Logging into my American Airlines account was far less cool on March 1. Flying isn’t quite as fun as a Gold, but it’s ok. I have plans and designs for earning back my EXP status as quickly as possible, for reasons I detailed in this post. I’ll detail my strategy once this report is done. To China…I mean Philly Anyways, I made my way to DFW Airport to catch my US Airways flight. American and US Airways have had… read more
Ah, ChinCOUGH COUGH WHEEZE COUGH…sorry, the air quality. Anyways, China. Founded in 1986 by three brothers, the country has exploded in size dramatically, so much so that actually I’ll bet none of you are reading this because I just claimed China was founded in 1986, which is ridiculous. Ok, China. One of the oldest countries in the world, with an exciting and palpable history spanning thousands of years. Everything about China has a hyperbolic quality to it: the MOST POPULOUS COUNTRY in the world, the FASTEST GROWING ECONOMY in the world, the AIR QUACOUGH COUGH WHEEZE COUGH…sorry, air quality again. It’s hard to wrap your head around a country of 1.6 billion people. Their “small university towns” will have millions of people and millions of college students. They’re modernizing at the fastest pace in known history, and, to put a real interesting number out there, it’s estimated there are more people in China that speak English than there are in the USA. At times the USA and China share an uneasy friendship, but China’s doors are relatively open for American tourists and there are plenty of sites to see in an incredibly “foreign” land.
Recommended listening for this post: I’m Not Alright, by Shinedown (for everyone who tells me I’m nuts for taking weekend trips to Europe) Lufthansa currently has quite a few variants of First Class seating, “hard product” is the term. Earlier this year I flew their oldest product (it closely resembles Rimowa luggage) on an A330. It was a perfectly good experience, but it didn’t really have that punch/pizzazz/whatever that makes for really good blog posts. I had to do better, I told myself.
So hopefully everyone’s finally figured out the irony of the title of this trip report, in that I didn’t really ever make an effort to see or do anything particularly Middle Earth-ish on this trip. Next time, I guess. But anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed everything thus far. This part has been a joy to write, because everything was simply fantastic. Thanks for your patience and your wonderful comments. The Plan As a quick review (explained more thoroughly in the preview for this trip report), I built this trip around First Class availability on the Qantas A380 for the long-haul between Sydney and Los Angeles. The cost was 72,500 AAdvantage miles and a relatively small amount of fees (American doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on Qantas flights). In order to maximize the value of the ticket, I booked my return flight starting in Christchurch with a one-night layover in Sydney, followed by the long flight back to the City of Angels, then onward back to Dallas for a whopping 3 days rest until I left again for a work trip. Getting out of Christchurch I had a restless night of sleep after being followed and passed slowly by the same SUV full of guys yelling at me while walking down a mostly unlit street in a so-so area of Christchurch. I’m a big and relatively strong guy, and it takes a lot to make me feel threatened, but this was full-on fight/flight feelings. I always joke about my two-step process for… read more
Milford Sound was wonderful. I wanted to stay there, and briefly thought about applying for a job with Real Journeys. Alas, I could not, I had clients waiting for me upon my return. Leaving Queenstown after Aggie Football I awoke with a start at 4:30 the following morning (and by “start” I mean “loud alarm”). I wasn’t concerned with jetlag or the long drive ahead of me that morning, my focus was half a planet away in College Station, Texas. The Fightin’ Texas Aggies were taking on the Rice Owls in American College Football, and they needed my support. Thanks to a good friend, also named Andy, I was able to watch the game via his BelkinTV app. I watched the sun rise over the top of my iPad as the Aggies deftly handled the Owls. I knew I needed to leave by 9, so the Aggies had a schedule to keep. They did. The victory was ours just before 9am. I quickly packed my things, grabbed a shower, and hit the road for my final journey in New Zealand: driving to Christchurch. As expected, the views were scenic, if not a little foggy at first, which made me feel like I was in a horror movie. The fog eventually lifted, which was nice as it meant I could see farther than a kilogram or so ahead. The drive was mostly uneventful. I enjoyed mostly empty roads that were quite desolate at points. I had heard the drive had a… read more