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Old 12-06-2002, 01:54 AM   #1
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Austin to Tokyo for a month

It's nearly 2:00a, I haven't packed, I can't sleep, and the cab will be here in five hours to take me to the airport. At least I'll be able to sleep on the plane.
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Old 12-06-2002, 10:25 AM   #2
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For a month?? Wow. You're a luck bastard :P
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Old 12-08-2002, 12:11 AM   #3
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Whew. There's nothing quite like 21 hours or transit to really fill your brain with haze and fog.

Paradox and I hit the road from our respective apartments at 7a on Friday morning in a shared Roy's Taxicab ride to AUS. It's always a bit of a shock to me how much longer it takes to get to the airport when you drive normal-person, non-dbaker speeds. In my head the airport is just a bit over 15 minutes away in normal traffic which is how I plan my departure times but in a cab it takes just past a half hour. Even so, our first segment wasn't until 9a so we had plenty of time.

We checked in, missing the ability to use the eservice machines due to our international destination, and paradox grabbed a bit of breakfast. Then we slacked a bit online from the p-club while we waited for boarding. I'd been EUAd but we weren't able to get Paradox a companion upgrade for the IAH segment. Still -- the 30 minute flight is hardly consequential and his brief time spent in steerage was easy to cope with. It was our next flight where this would have mattered. I nodded off shortly after takeoff and only awoke when the wheels touched ground at IAH. I'm so thankful I'm able to sleep on planes.

With just an hour of time and having to make the long, long walk to D12 at the very end of the international terminal we didn't even bother with the Houston p-club and instead just headed straight to our gate. A brief walk through the book shop was all we needed to pad the walk enough for us to arrive exactly as they began boarding. We sauntered up to the BusinessFirst line and were quickly making ourselves at home in 1A and 1B of the Continental 777-200 (NYC 2000 special paint job!). Over the next 14 hours we would become very familiar with these seats.

This was my first experience with the new continental businessfirst seats and let me tell you -- they're great. They can extend out to be completely flat (although not completely horizontal - it's a 10% grade or so it seems) and you can lie comfortably on your side or stomach for sleep. I found the hooded shades to be less useful than I would have expected, though. I also wished that it was possible to adjust the seatback angle while the seat was in "recline" mode. For some reason this was not possible. Naturally I just had to call dbaker from the airphone as we passed over him (or as near as we came to LA...) to gloat that I'd gotten to try the new seats before he did.

Paradox and I linked our laptops together with a crossover cable in the hopes of playing some Diablo2 during the flight, but sadly he'd patched his laptop to a newer version than my copy of Diablo and we were unable to actually link the two copies of the game together. We ended up mostly just watching Band of Brothers on DVD, although I played a lot of CivIII later on in the flight while Paradox slept.

The first 13 and a half hours of the flight passed quickly. We ate well, drank a lot of wine and asahi, and mostly just enjoyed the accomodations. The last 30 minutes however found us both really, really ready to be at our hotel.

We deplaned and had to ride a little shuttle to the main end of NRT. We waited about 10 minutes for a 2 minute train ride covering a distance we could have walked in 4 minutes. I really don't get it. The line at passport control was so large that we got herded around a bit to a secondary processing center. I'd say all told it took about 70 minutes to deplane, go through passport control, get our baggage, and pass through customs.

This was my second time through NRT so I was able to quickly navigate us to the shuttlebus counters waaaay down to the left and we b ought tickets for the 16:10 bus ride to T.C.A.T. The ride to Tokyo proper took about 90 minutes, longer than the 60 minutes I was expecting -- mostly due to the rain and friday evening traffic. Our hotel is conveniently across the street from the Tokyo City Air Terminal so after a short walk we were checked in and in our rooms.

We relaxed for an hour or so, got online and caught up on IRC, email, and ITYT. Grabbed a light dinner in the skybar atop the hotel and then off to sleep.

Sunday I awoke early, at 4:30a, to a call from an Austin friend asking if I wanted to meet up for dinner somewhere. Having my normal cellphone number reach me here in tokyo is a blessing and a curse. Having gone to sleep the night before at 9:30 I was up for the day at this point and slacked on IRC and played a bit more CivIII while I waited for Paradox to wake up.

We grabbed breakfast at the hotel at 7:30a (nothing like jetlag to make you an instant morning person) and then hopped on the subway to Mitsukoshi department store to do some shopping. Hint to those unfamiliar with Tokyo -- don't do gift shopping at the fanciest store in the most expensive district of one of the most expensive cities on the planet.

We tried to find a place to eat there in Ginza but most places were closed on Sunday so we accepted defeat (and listened to our feet) and stopped walking around. We just grabbed lunch at the hotel.

Now I'm back in the room (the nuggetcam is up!) typing in my trip report. Tomorrow we start work! As always pics are online, too.
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Old 12-16-2002, 09:49 AM   #4
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Since Daniel has already done an excellent job of describing our Sunday trip to Hiroshima, this entry will likely be rather short. His trip report is full of nuance and detail and I really don’t know that there’s much I can add.
I did find it rather humorous that Daniel seemed incapable of saying the word “train” and instead spend the entire afternoon discussing when our “flight” was supposed to leave each time the subject of our return to Tokyo came up in conversation. Although a few times he caught himself, most of the time I think he was unaware of his mistake. It was funny.
I quite enjoyed the experience of seeing a bit more “real” Japan and being exposed to areas outside of the relatively cosmopolitan Tokyo financial districts where work keeps us during the week. It was very fun being treated as an obvious novelty by the people in Hiroshima who clearly do not see many westerners at all – smiles and accommodating attitudes all around was the order of the day.
I do not regret at all the trip, despite the long hours and high cost of the train ride. Our organic and random approach to discovering our way around Hiroshima proved to be the best possible approach and afforded us contact to many areas of the city, and Japan in general, that I do not believe are common for visiting tourists. I’m envious of Daniel’s opportunity to similarly visit other cities nearby Tokyo over the next week while I am at work.
The fact that we were willing to take a train literally across the country for a day trip is puzzling among my NTT colleagues. They are unaccustomed to the inhuman tolerance and nonsensical love for travel that we here on ITYT take completely for granted. Daniel made the analogy of perhaps how we would feel if someone came to visit us in Austin for a few weeks and flew to Atlanta and back for lunch one day, although both of us agree that there is probably not a perfect analogy to be found in the United States given American perspectives towards distance and what constitutes “far”.
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Old 12-29-2002, 07:25 PM   #5
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Home again, safe and sound. The return trip was about as uneventful as one could hope for.

I awoke around 8:00a JST on Friday morning (5:00p Thursday CDT) and packed up my bags. Three weeks of hotel room living had left my stuff spread thin, far, and wide in the spacious hotel room so collecting all my belongings and double-checking for missed articles was time-consuming. I managed to get everything crammed into my two suitcases and headed to the 16th floor at the Royal Park for checkout. Paradox met me shortly after I had paid for the rooms and we arranged to have our luggage held downstairs at the concierge station while we spent the morning at the client site.

We spent the morning with the client wrapping up the final details for the trip and making sure all our work was finished before we headed back to the States. Leaving was bittersweet and I'm already looking forward to my next visit in Tokyo. We took a short lunch and broke loose from the client at around 1:30p JST (10:30p CDT).

We collected our bags and walked across the street to T.C.A.T. to start our journey home. We grabbed the 2:10p bus to NRT and I dozed for most of the hour-long ride north to the airport. Once we arrived at NRT, check in was smooth and painless. The CO Economy check-in lines were long and full (no upgrade for us this time, 27-Dec is an award blackout date), but an observant and helpful CO uniformed agent spotted my elite priority handling luggage tags and invited us over to an empty first class check in desk after confirming my elite status. Yay for Continental!

With over two hours to kill before our 17:40 flight and no lounge access (my P-Club membership can get me into the JAL lounge, but not with a guest) we spent our time absorbing the last fragments of Japan we could by watching people and drinking green tea near the terminal shuttle station. Boarding time approached so we headed to our gate and boarded the Boeing 777-200 in short order, heading to (in my opinion) the finest coach seats on the plane -- 17J and 17L. I snagged my preferred window seat (less disruptions than on the aisle if sleep is desired). Thankfully we had no middle-seat companion despite the fullness of the flight, which added greatly to our comfort and privacy for the 13 hour flight.

Paradox and I spent the first four hours of the flight or so with our own baby lan party. We hooked up ethernet between our two laptops, jacked in to the EmPower ports, and played Diablo II pretty much non-stop. It was great fun and we attracted all the right sorts of attention from the flight attendents and other pax. It was a great way to kill time. Finally after many hours of gameplay my brain was fried and we moved to a more passive activity. We watched more Band of Brothers until we both dozed off.

I didn't sleep much though, well under an hour, and was back up and playing Civilization III before too long. I finished off the rest of the flight with the game and was still feeling fairly energetic (but a bit grumpy) when we touched down in EWR.

This was my first time arriving back in the country through Newark, and I was interested to see how the airport handled the process. I assumed that since Continental pretty much owns the entire C3 terminal that the process would be fairly linear and painless and it sure turned out to be exactly that. Thankfully there were no nearby arriving flights so the only line at passport control was our flight. We were through in less than 10 minutes. We collected our bags, passed through customs, re-checked, and then cleared the security checkpoint in under 30 minutes. It was a breeze.

Finally back in Continental-land I was able to bring a guest into the lounge, so we secured comfy chairs in the new C3 terminal P-Club. Once inside, the desk staff were able to get both of us upgraded from our bulkhead coach seats into first class on the last segment of our trip. We were very appreciative! I have no clue why I didn't get EUA'd, although perhaps it's because I was already checked in for the flight when both the 1a and the 3-hour window scripts launched. The only frustration at the P-Club was that they seem to have broken the ability of the lounge-area phones from being able to place direct local calls. Every attempt to connect to earthlink just got me an "all circuits are busy" recording. Worked fine from the work desk area, though, although disappearing off into the work center area was anti-social enough that I didn't spend too long online at all before returning to Paradox out in the commons area. I hope this was just a mistake and not an intentional policy designed to discourage laptop use in the commons area of the lounge -- it was really very inconvenient.

We spent a foggy-headed and bleary-eyed hour and a half in the P-club waiting for our AUS flight.

At last we headed off to our last flight and boarded, thankful for our 2A/2B prime seats. I was sound asleep before takeoff and didn't wake until after the meal service was concluded. Unable to sleep again during the second half of the flight, I mostly just drained my laptop batteries and listened to music. The iTunes graphical widgets were exactly the sort of mindless distraction I needed to avoid getting restless. At 10:21p we touched down in AUS and we were finally "home". This is just 10 minutes shy of exactly 24 hours since we left the client site. I love Fridays as much as the next guy, but I hope I don't have too many more 40 hour long Fridays in my life.

All in all the trip was great and the return segments passed as quickly as one could hope with only minimal difficulties.
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Old 12-30-2002, 12:29 AM   #6
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How come you didnt go BusinessFirst on the return?
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Old 12-30-2002, 08:37 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I
(no upgrade for us this time, 27-Dec is an award blackout date)
I spent miles on our K fares to upgrade us to BusinessFirst on the outbound segment. No such opportunity on the return.
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Old 01-01-2003, 09:20 AM   #8
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Did you actually try and get into the Sakura business class lounge? Or were you just following the rules that say that no guests are allowed?

The club is pretty nice, although I tried to use the combination of my BF boarding pass, presidents club card, and amex platinum card to get into the Sakura First lounge to no avail.
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Old 01-01-2003, 09:40 AM   #9
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Neither the first or business class lounges were available to us. It was a third lounge which the P-Club card can get you into which we tried, but no combination of card waving or sweet-talking convinced them to bend the rules.
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Old 01-02-2003, 09:17 AM   #10
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Oh, I almost forgot to mention...

On the way back, Continental had the "nice" chopsticks and not the lame ones with the overly-large paper sleeve like we saw on the way over.
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Old 01-02-2003, 09:21 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nugget
Oh, I almost forgot to mention...

On the way back, Continental had the "nice" chopsticks and not the lame ones with the overly-large paper sleeve like we saw on the way over.
Perhaps related to your choice to fly NRT-EWR rather than NRT-IAH on your return?

On my return in BF on CO6 NRT-IAH, we had the lame paper sleeve ones just like on the outbound.
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