Travel with a Round The World trip

In New Zealand, we’re far away from everywhere. With our strong desire to visit the world, we’re always drawn towards travelling. And one of the most common travel destinations is Europe, like London. With London being on the other side of the world, all flights there from New Zealand are round the world flights. Yet, few people book Round The World flights (note the capitalisation). So what’s the difference?

A Round The World flight (known as RTW) is many flights on one ticket that travel around the world from one point. A return flight from Auckland to London will need to stop somewhere for refuelling. This could be somewhere close like Singapore. Somewhere interesting like Tokyo. Somewhere far like Dubai. These transfers are often only a couple of hours, which is enough to leave the plane.

Getting value through transfers with round the world travel

One popular trick when booking tickets is to extend transfers. A transfer is a stop between two destinations. Transfers can last at most 24 hours before becoming stopovers. The big difference is that transfers are free while stopovers have a small charge. They might not even be available on saver or sale fares. By extending a transfer up to 24 hours, you get a little holiday in a place. With enough time to leave the airport, visit the city, book a hotel, and enjoy a place. In places like Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul, these are all enjoyable cities that you can taste in a 24 hour period.

So a return flight from Auckland to London needs to make four flights. Auckland to Singapore (for example), Singapore to London, and two again coming back. But you don’t have to return the same way you went. You could return from London to Vancouver, then Vancouver to Auckland. You’re visiting three destinations now, Singapore, London, and Vancouver.

So if you’re visiting many destinations, why not choose them, and choose to spend some time there? That’s the essence of a RTW flight. By booking many flights into one ticket, you travel in one direction east or west. You then travel back from where you departed.

Vancouver – Day 55 Round The World

Vancouver AquariumAll good things must come to an end, and this post is the final in our Two Minute Travel Round The World updates. And we’ll end up with a whole day spent in Vancouver at the Aquarium and Christmas Markets.

We’re a day behind here, we called up our respective parents in New Zealand and wished them a Merry Christmas. We stayed in bed until about 11 am, which was a treat when you’ve been getting up at 6 or 7 am for the past eight weeks. Sometimes it feels like wasted time when you’re sitting around in a different city and you only have a day there. But it was amazing to have a McGriddle overlooking the Vancouver waterfront.

We then walked along the waterfront to Stanley Park. This is where the Vancouver Aquarium is. Like all aquariums, it is full to the brim with jellyfish.

Vancouver highlights

Vancouver was one of my highlights going around the world, and not just because the hotel we stayed in was the nicest one of the whole trip. But it really was, I totally recommend the Pan Pacific Vancouver. We had booked it using our Airpoints, which was a great way of spending them.

We didn’t see too much grim stuff, which was a bit of a change from Los Angeles. I’m not suggesting that there’s not unsafe things in Vancouver – while there we did see a pretty dodgy guy walking around with a hammer looking for change inside parking machines. But we also saw that same guy eating an ice cream five minutes later, so we didn’t feel so bad.

Would I move to Vancouver? I can certainly see the physical attraction with the place. These beautiful scenic vistas of the waterfront, with seaplanes landing in the harbour, overlooking the mountains. I can understand why everyone is buying a house in Vancouver, and why no one can afford to live there anymore.

My first holiday in Sydney and I can see the appeal

For some reason or another I had the 6am flight to Sydney booked. On the plus side you get a whole free day in Sydney. On the down side, you’re up at 4 am.

After arriving in Sydney, I spend a bit of time mucking around with the SIM card on my phone. These days who needs Lonely Planet guides and maps and stuff like that, it’s all done on the phone, but you will need data. You can get an Amaysim sim card at the airport for $2 AUD. Grab yourself a $20 AUD top up, then jump on the free airport WiFi to set up your account. Since I’m only here for a few days, I went with a Pay-as-you-go plan, with 1 GB of data for $10 AUD.

So now that I’m back on the grid, the next step is to do a bit of travel. I purchased a My Multi pass which was $44 AUD plus another $20 AUD so I could use it from the airport. It’s a bit of cash, but all your trains, buses, and trams are free. Each of those can cost $3-4 AUD a ride. As long as you’re doing more than 10 trips in a week then you’re coming out on top. I must have done about 10 myself in the first day.

So my first stop was Central station. I wanted to ditch the backpack for the day before heading to the hostel. I headed to the luggage storage facilities, where for $10 AUD they’ll look after your bag for 8 hours. Now that I was sans-bag, the world was my oyster.

Throwback Thursday – The shopping mecca of Ginza, plus a bit of Shinjuku

Yesterday was the day we decided to head to Ginza. We caught the Asakusa Subway to the Higashi-Ginza stop. After popping out, we then walked in the exact opposite direction to where we wanted to go. An easy mistake, though pretty common for me and Kathryn. After stopping by a 7-11 to gain our bearings, we then walked back the opposite way and stopped by a Starbucks. Turns out Kathryn was sick of the Cafe Lattes from Cafe Doutor ( ドトールコーヒー ). She wanted something resembling back home. Ingredients here in Japan always taste a little different – butter is sweeter which is weird. Things that should be savoury taste sweet, and vice versa. Milk tastes like UHT treated milk, rather than plain milk we get back home. Either way, 500 yen later, Kathryn was drinking her grande-latte.

Right next to Starbucks was Matsuya. This was a massive women’s shopping mall (again). Think Farmers, but like 100 times the size, and you’d have the picture. The basement floor is where food is, and there is so much food around, all flavours that you could ever imagine. We swung by the gift food store, to see six apples for sale for $75. These apples are gift apples, and you give them to someone as a token of appreciation. Think of these as the finest apples that money could buy. They were perfect and round and blemish free. The grapes, the pears, even the wrapped melon were all exactly the same, with prices on the high side of $50. It doesn’t matter how nice Pak’n’Save would present their produce in New Zealand. People would not be buying Apples for $50.

The top floor of Matsuya is where the bargains of the department store world are. We only saw baby and children’s clothing, but at cheap prices (1000 yen, compared to say 10,000 yen). This explains why there were swarms of people on this floor like ants. There were also gift boxes here that you could give as gifts to people as well. Little boxes containing six cans of beer, or juice, or oil were all selling, for around $50 plus. Having said that, that must be small change compared to what some of the jackets were selling for. A Burberry shiny puffer jacket was selling for about 80,000 yen, or about $1200. I mean I like shiny puffer jackets as much as the next guy, but not that much.

After exiting Matsuya, we were on the main street of Ginza. This was the high market fashion experience of the world. Think Newmarket but 100 times more impressive. Fancy brand name stores like Cartier and Jimmy Choo were everywhere. The whole place had a feel of opulence. All the well dressed people were around us. Clothes costing thousands of dollars. Kathryn and I are wearing jandals. A word of advice from Kathryn – don’t wear jandals pretty much to Japan. It seems to be a little frowned upon. Not like people will say anything, you’ll get crazy stares.

We headed into Mishimoto Pearls. We were out of our league here, shorts and jandals never beats thousands of dollar pearls. It was awkward for everyone that we were in that store. We left. We felt good, and the store people felt good.

We saw the Apple store. It was full of Apple gear, and for that hip extra, actually had white people serving us. I didn’t want to buy an iPod or iPhone, the prices aren’t that cheap.

Food review: Korean Smoky Bacon Chips

In a new segment, I will be reviewing Asian foods that are for sale in New Zealand. First up: Smoky Bacon Chips.

Smoky Bacon Chips have that meaty smell as soon as you open the pack. I coughed as the savoury flavour went into my lungs. It’s not a powerful smell, nor is it an overbearing meat smell. I am certain it is not the smell of bacon, but it is the smell of meat none the less.

The label says chips, but not potato, they are wheat. Small uniform chips about an inch or so long and curled. They have banded colouring made out to look like bacon meat and bacon rind.

Unlike New Zealand flavoured chips, the taste of these is not overpowering. The flavour is quite restrained.

Smoky Bacon Chips aren’t offensive, and I could get acquainted with them. I give these are 7 out of 10, higher than five for not being bad, lower than 10 for not standing out.

Ocean Park, the original Hong Kong theme park

I visited Ocean Park, the original Hong Kong theme park. This was on the recommendation of my Hong Kong colleagues who recommended that I don’t visit Hong Kong Disneyland because it’s small. They’re right though, the one in Shanghai is four times bigger. Though I’m not sure why a bigger Disneyland is better, just means more people, and further to walk.

Before going in I saw a 7-11 selling boxes of water for $9 HKD. I thought, maybe, maybe not, I was so excited, I couldn’t wait, so I just went in. Turns out, buy the water before entering, or else pay three times the price in the park.

But anyways, for $488 HKD or $88NZD-ish, you too could be there. The bottom park of the park consists of the aquarium, old Hong Kong, and all the boring exhibits. I mean let’s be real, those places only exist to soak up time. All the fun rides were up the top.

Ocean Park is split into two areas, the bottom area, and a top area. The bottom area is like Kelly Tarltons. The top area is like Rainbow’s End. They’re separated by a very big hill that has a gondola ride between the two. I waited in a long snaking line for the gondola. This was at 10.15am, the park had only opened 15 minutes earlier. When I arrived at the line it was a 30 minute wait. About 20 minutes later, it was a 45 minute wait. I can’t imagine what it would be like when the park was full.

While in line I did a little vlogging. This caused great amusement for the kids in front of me who were trying to subtly take a picture of me using their iPhone. I saw, and pulled the obvious peace sign pose. We all had a laugh. They were tall asians. I thought they were from Hong Kong. Since I was in the same gondola as them, we got to talking, and turns out they were from the Philippines and loved vlogging. I didn’t realise that the Philippines had tall people! I’m just saying, I’m 5 ft 4, and I tower over my mum.

Anyways, it was a nice open gondola ride, with open windows, which made it nice to smell the ocean, and feel the breeze. And I didn’t lose my camera out the window which was good. Since it’s not my camera. Thanks Kelvin for lending me your camera 😉

The top part had a few rides, including the boring ones for little kids, and the hardcore ones for people who like to be held by their shoulders and swung upside down three times. Rather than the inverted superman-style rollercoaster, I went for the water-based rides. First, there was a rapids style ride that promised you will get wet, and you may get soaked. I was like whatever, I’m not paying $8NZD for a raincoat. I got soaked. But it was cheating, they have little pipes of water squirting at you! The rapids didn’t soak me, all the water pipes did! Thankfully, I was wearing all my gym gear, short shorts, and jandals, so they all dried immediately.

All those rides take photos of you looking weird, and sell them for $20 NZD. I normally buy one, really as a reminder of being overseas, not as a reminder of me being on a wonky rapid ride. I also did a log plume ride which was pretty similar, pretty fun. I did a few tower rides, and then it was time for lunch.

Food prices in these parks are eye watering. Oh, want a Turkey drumstick? That’s $12. Or a six inch sub? $12. $12 seemed to be the default food charge for anything. Ice cream? $8. Soft drink? $6.

Thankfully, there was a McDonald’s in the park selling more normally priced food. They sell spicy wings here called McWings, four for $4.50 NZD, which I think was pretty reasonable. After a good meal, I realised I’d reached my maximum enjoyment from the themepark. It was 2pm, I’d be there four hours. That’s enough, I needed to escape. Turns out they’re so fancy, they’ve got a train going back down the hill, so you don’t have to wait for the gondola. You fancy Ocean Park.

That was it, I escaped back to the MTR station. Do I recommend it, yes. 8 out of 10, minus one for the food prices, so 7 out of 10. Well done.