Mainlander Finishing School

A friend once told me that “if you wish China was more like Japan, you’d really like Taiwan.” I won’t attempt to touch on the myriad of problems with that statement, but I think I know now a bit of what he meant. Our first stop on this little two week family trip is in the capital city of Taipei. Something a little different for this jaunt is that we’re traveling with our 5-year-old niece and her parents, who are all visiting these places for the first time. To that end, Taiwan has been very visitor-friendly. As Americans, we didn’t have to be concerned with any visas. The capital city is clean, with great public transit, and no internet firewall shenanigans. I certainly don’t appreciate all the cultural and political differences between Taiwan and (People’s Republic of) China, but I do understand that they both try to hold the claim to being the “real” China. That’s nothing I can comment on meaningfully. However, if I had to throw in for one side, for purely selfish reasons, I am finding Taiwan to be a vastly more polite and civilized place to visit. As far as comparisons to Japan, I know there is a history of intermingling going back to colonial times, and you can see the influence in the present day as well. There is a lot of culinary and cultural overlap insofar as I can appreciate as a foreigner. Continue reading Mainlander Finishing School

Sabbath Ghost Town in Tonga

Our last island stop for this trip is a visit to the main island of Tongatapu in Tonga. While a Sunday on this island is certainly a surreal and interesting experience, it is also, by most holiday metrics, a wasted day. No normal restaurants, no shopping, no transport, no tours. Nothing. Thankfully, we had a couple other days in Tonga. Additionally, the weather was kind of lousy on Sunday, so it made for a decent rest day. Continue reading Sabbath Ghost Town in Tonga

Interlopers on Robinson Crusoe Island

Our flight from Vanuatu brought us into Fiji in the early evening and we opted to overnight at a fairly modest airport resort before transiting to our private island resort the next morning. We stayed overnight at the “TokaToka”, which seemed to evoke like a low-priced Disney Polynesian Resort. The place is literally across the street from the airport. Thankfully we were just passing through.

The next day, we caught a domestic flight in a small double-engine prop plane with another couple headed to the Royal Davui Resort, where we were staying for several nights. As we approached the outpost landing strip, we ran into some lousy weather, with driving rain and low visibility. Our pilot had a student with him and we had to loop back twice and increase our altitude after they misjudged our initial approach. Without being a pilot, the upper lip sweat on both of them told us all we needed to know about the situation Continue reading Interlopers on Robinson Crusoe Island

Tiptoeing On The Edge of Restricted Airspace

Prior to some island-hopping in the South Pacific, we had a couple days transiting through Sydney and Brisbane. Our original plan was to connect through Brisbane and spend a couple nights in The Solomon Islands. Unfortunately, weather delays in Brisbane had us overnight there and rearrange the next leg of the trip. If you’re planning a trip to any of the island nations in this region, you’ve got to be flexible. Many of the flights here are only scheduled once or twice a week, so if any number of factors throw that off, your plans can get pretty screwed up. For us, we had to miss our Solomon Islands stop. In exchange, we got an unplanned day in Brisbane and an extra day in Vanuatu, so not a big deal so far. Continue reading Tiptoeing On The Edge of Restricted Airspace

The Hottest Collectible Balls of Early 2017

Ok look… better late than never on this post. We’re about to start on a new trip, so, you know, now is the time to finish posting from the last one. Seriously though, I’ve said it before, and it’s still true: Every time we visit Japan we end up staying in smaller and smaller areas to visit. I mean, this time we had a reservation to go inside the Imperial Palace grounds and we didn’t even remember until the flight home. That’s the spell that Tokyo casts over us. Let me summarize our week in Tokyo: Ramen, Sushi, Curry, Arcade games, Shopping. There, done. Continue reading The Hottest Collectible Balls of Early 2017

Off The Grid In The Borneo Rainforest

Our main goal with a visit to the island of Borneo was to visit the country of Brunei, checking off a more remote country in the area. Many visitors to the island will spend some time in Malaysia as well, but we focused our limited time with just Brunei. Coming in from the air, my first glances suggested a lot of money: golf courses, new construction homes and condos with pools and nice cars. Once on the ground, the main striking thing was how quiet the place seems. Continue reading Off The Grid In The Borneo Rainforest

Singapore, As Advertised

Getting to Singapore is a bit of a marathon…. Thirty hours transit, including a 7-hour flight AFTER the trans-Pacific flight to Tokyo. All of this had us pretty wiped out when we finally got there. Like many of the flight itineraries originating from the US, our flight had us touching down just after midnight. At that time, public transit is closed and the shops and stalls in the airport are a ghost town. Anticipating this, we had an overnight stay booked at the Crowne Plaza on the airport grounds. It was nice to just pass out directly and reset for the next day without being bothered by further land transit logistics. That morning was like waking from a coma, and we were both reasonably ready to head out for a full day around town. Continue reading Singapore, As Advertised

Here, There, and (hopefully) Back