And then it was time to go home. A Los Angeles departure via the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, a seemingly endless long flight aboard the comfortable Airbus of Emirates, an overnight stay in the hotel at Dubai International Airport, another long flight down to Cape Town, and being welcomed home by Chantelle and the girls.
Honestly, I have no idea why I put off sorting through and posting all the content from my USA work trip for over two years now, but I think that I was simply overwhelmed by just how much content I had managed to generate over the course of ten short days. This was after all a work trip, but somehow ended up being the most fantastic tourist adventure as well (which I can only thank my two US colleagues Johann and Carl ever so much for).
Anaheim, Disneyland, NACUFS ’16, Angel Stadium, The Queen Mary, Venice Beach, Disney California Adventure Park, San Diego, Sabre Springs, La Jolla, The Torrey Pines Gliderport, Del Mar, Cabrillo National Monument, USS Midway, Embarcadero, Shogun Kobe, Old Town Trolley Tours, Old Town San Diego, Hotel Del Coronado, Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo – I mean, what more could one ask for?
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All in all USA #2016 was an absolute personal delight, and I hope that maybe some of all this personal record keeping might just be a spark of travel inspiration for you in the future. Happy travels.
As per usual when you fly with Emirates, the trip gets split into two segments, the first being the 9 hour long flight from Cape Town to their massive home base hub at Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.
Apart from the length of the flight, the first leg went well for me. Loads of in-flight entertainment to pick and choose from on Emirates’ ICE system, food as always was decent enough, and thanks to my strategy of picking aisle seats in order to give me the most leg space with my still not 100% leg, I sat pretty comfortably for the most part.
Happily, I wasn’t completely out of my element once in Dubai International Airport, having learnt a lesson or two from the last time that Ryan and I had found ourselves there.
For starters, I didn’t get lost and successfully navigated my way around the massive complex (Ryan would be amazed), secondly, I didn’t have anything in my luggage that would set off flags during the security check (again, Ryan would be amazed), and most important of all, I was in my designated boarding area with plenty of time to spare!
Of course though, the real test of the journey was now here. That 16 hour long flight from Dubai to Los Angeles.
Yes, the Airbus A380-800 is certainly a comfortable plane to be flying in, but 16 hours? Now there’s a long time to be stuck in a confined space! (Incidentally, this route is currently the longest distance commercial A380 route in operation).
Nevertheless, similar to the first leg, this second half of the trip went pretty smoothly for me as well, and as an added bonus, the fact that we flew over the North Pole region to get there was a pretty cool thing too!
Touchdown. I was in the United States of America.
Naturally, it didn’t take long for the first Stars and Stripes flag to make its appearance, and a relatively quick and painless trip through security and customs had me collecting my bag and stepping out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX and into Los Angeles.
Well not really, no.
My SuperShuttle bus arrived right outside the terminal, meaning that I didn’t technically step out into Los Angeles. Still, I got to see the dreary grey concrete that makes up most of Los Angeles from the shuttle’s front seat (I lucked out in getting that), so that counts, right?
(Hint, Los Angeles is not particularly pretty. Large swathes of it is in essence a slab of concrete, which you’ll see as you head out down the highways.)
Nevertheless, I was in full on tourist mode, my mouth wide open as I took in all the sights of the area as our bus whizzed on down towards Anaheim, the real destination for the actual business part of my being here in the first place.
Eventually we turned into South Manchester Avenue in Anaheim (early evening if I remember correctly) where I hopped out the bus, thanked the driver for his wealth of local information, and headed into the Holiday Inn Anaheim Resort Area , my home base for this first leg of my trip.
(In case you are wondering about the unwieldy name, it’s because we’re in Anaheim which houses both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. In other words, prime hotel estate, and thus multiple Holiday Inn establishments in the area!)
Greeted by a entrance wall decked out in original Disney artwork, I checked in, unpacked my bag, took a quick peek around the hotel and its amenities (nice pool, small gym, cool adjacent sports bar/restaurant called Burger Theory) and then hit the road, eager to properly stretch my legs and take in some American sights before the darkness descended!
So I took a leisurely stroll down Katella Avenue, one of the main roads leading up to Disneyland and also the Anaheim Convention Centre (where the expo was to be held), enjoying the beautifully maintained sidewalks and taking in all the interesting… Americanisms around me.
I turned around at the giant Moreton Bay Fig outside the convention centre, and because at this stage I was still walking around blindly (i.e. I hadn’t yet checked out any maps), headed straight back down the same way that I had come.
For some reason I decided that my first meal in America should be a fast food item, and as things turned out (i.e the restaurant was slap bang at the end of my route), this then would be a burrito from Del Taco – for which I was mercilessly teased for the rest of the trip by Johann and Carl.
Following that, and now eager to sample a selection of commercial beers and snacks in the comfort of my room before turning in for the night, I then hopped into this dodgy little Chinese-run shop (called Satellite Market), which ended up being a place that I would visit more than once whenever my snack supply started running low!
And of course, as expected following that 5 km walkabout after all those hours upon hours of travelling… I slept like a log. #USA2016
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(This is where the hotel is in case you’re interested)
Related Link: Holiday Inn Anaheim Resort Area
So as I outlined before, last year Ryan and I embarked on a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, he an already quite seasoned international traveller and me heading overseas for the very first time in my entire life. (In other words, together he, Terrance and Yuko pretty much made all the arrangements, while I stared like a lost little puppy in the background).
Anyway, the 30th of September finally arrived, and Ryan and I met each other at Cape Town International, eager for our adventure to begin – even if the first leg was to be an agonizingly long 9hr 45min flight from Cape Town to Dubai aboard an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER.
First mistake though. Security immediately relieved me of my shampoo because the bottle was too big. Rookie error on my part for sure. That said, surprisingly, my small set of screwdrivers passed the screening with no mention at all!
Anyway, amazingly, I managed my first ever overseas flight reasonably well, ingesting movie after movie, enjoying the surprisingly good airline food, sleeping, and playing the odd two player game over the in-flight entertainment system against Ryan.
(Ryan however didn’t have quite as good a flight as me – but he blames part of that for the fact that I took rather more of his personal space than what a thin person normlly would!)
Dubai’s International Airport was my first real taste of the size of what a real international juggernaut airport is like, and needless to say there was quite a lot for me to take in – not that I had all that long to do this mind you – first time around, we only had about an hour to kill before the next 9hr 35min flight kicked off!
(Oh, and in case you were wondering, there was no way in hell my little set of screwdrivers were getting through the screening this time around though – all Ryan could do was literally face palm in disbelief at this horribly incompetent flier that his brother was turning out to be!)
The second leg of our journey was much the same for me as the first, long, boring but not particularly uncomfortable and I was more than entertained from start to finish. Ryan however again suffered a bit, but to be fair, I hadn’t shrunk after a mere 10 hours or so, meaning that I was still stealing a fair chunk of his allotted personal space!
(Seriously, he must have hated me for the segments where we were forced to fly or sit next to one another – which in hindsight I think was pretty much all of the time!)
Eventually we were given the signal that we were approaching Japan’s Tokyo Narita International Airport, and after filling in the necessary declaration forms, we sat back, enjoyed a smooth landing, and then more or less breezed through customs – before at long last finally being reunited with an excited Mr. Brown himself!
Surprisingly, we were still relatively fresh after our long flights, and with Terrance leading the way (his reasonably decent Japanese proving invaluable to us now), we made a few stops around the massive airport complex in order to collect the few pre-booked odds and ends (like our mobile data sim and portable modem), before being shuttled around by bus and then on board a fancy looking train – possibly the KEISEI Electric Railway’s Skyliner, but I can’t really remember because a) it was dark, b) it had been a long flight, and c) it was a YEAR ago – heading out of Tokyo and into Yokohama where we were going to be based for the first leg of our three part trip.
(Of course, this late in the evening already it was dark, and thus not much to see, but already just the sheer scale of Tokyo and its surrounds compared to our own minuscule Cape Town kept me absolutely captivated from start to finish of our train ride!)
In Yokohama at last, Terrance treated us to a short taxi ride to the Super Hotel Yokohama, which proved to be our first real taste of how the whole politeness thing of Japan works. The taxi experience itself was pretty cool – doors open automatically, we are not permitted to stow our own luggage as this is considered rude, and everything is precise, cordial and proper – i.e. about as completely opposite of minibus taxi experience as what you can get.
Locating the Super Hotel Yokohama proved to be relatively easy – checking in slightly less so. However, Terrance persevered, and together with our e-mail printouts and one or two phone calls for a language assist, he gained us access to our rooms for the night – our very first taste of just how cramped living space in Japan really is!
(Ryan and I shared this room. I’m pretty much standing by the door for this shot – on my right is the door to the bathroom… capsule.
Yes, the toilet is very cool and very electronic – but it is very small and in the end, my big bottom’s personal nemesis for pretty much the entirety of our Japanese adventure!)
Amazingly, after all our travelling and despite the lateness of the night, Ryan and I were so pumped that we immediately wanted to head out for a stroll in the middle of the night – something unthinkably dangerous to do in South Africa mind you – a request which Terrance was most happy to accede to.
After all, this was his wonderland to show off – and thus, our trip to Japan had finally officially begun! :)
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(P.S. I slept like a log that evening once we had eventually got to bed – after spending who knows how long trundling along the city streets and taking in all the late night sights!)