NEW YORK NY | (400)
NEW YORK NY | (400)
ATLANTA GA | (400)
DALLAS/FORT WORTH TX | (400)
OKLAHOMA CITY | (400)
HOUSTON TX | (400)
LOS ANGELES CA | (400)
BOSTON MA | (400)
DENVER CO | (400)
MIAMI FL | (400)
SAN FRANCISCO CA | (400)
SEATTLE WA | (400)
NEWARK NJ | (400)
BALTIMORE MD | (400)
CHARLOTTE NC | (400)
DETROIT MI | (400)
FORT LAUDERDALE | (400)
LAS VEGAS NV | (400)
MINNEAPOLIS MN | (400)
ORLANDO FL | (400)
PHILADELPHIA PA | (400)
PHOENIX AZ | (400)
SALT LAKE CITY UT | (400)
SAN DIEGO CA | (400)
TAMPA FL | (400)
SAN JOSE | (400)
I’ve been a few places. I’m scheduled to go to a few more. But there are some places that I would love to explore a bit. There are even some places I’d love to explore a bit more. There have been times in the past when I’ve been somewhere and I’ve not allocated enough time there. Some places are a lot more enchanting than their pictures can convey. But, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about those places that I have seen in an image somewhere and it strikes me as a destination that is quite possibly too good to miss.
Here’s the list. I started it because I saw a picture of a place and I couldn’t really recognize where it was. It’s a reference for the future.
Milford Sound is, at least theoretically, New Zealand’s #1 attraction. It is located towards the southern end of the country’s south island. Getting there isn’t a problem. There are lots of ways to do it. Finding a place to stay isn’t really a big deal either. However, if you think you can just waltz into Queenstown, New Zealand, the jumping off point for Milford Sound, in the summer months and find a cheap place to stay then you don’t really understand how popular the tourist attraction really is. I’m here now and I haven’t seen anything but No Vacancy signs up at all the local accommodations that have signs out front telling the public whether they have vacancies or not. I would say that someone without a reservation who is looking for a place to sleep during the high season should expect to pay a significant sum of money for their accommodations.
But that’s not what this post is about. What I’m looking at in this post is what I would have to pay to get to Milford Sound from Queenstown on a one day trip. I’m going to compare that to what I paid to get there using a rental car. I paid significantly more than someone who was taking a bus trip but there was a reason. I’ll get to that soon. Most of the trips to Milford Sound are tour buses that take you from either Queenstown or Te Anua and put you on a boat where you spend somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 hours riding around the sound, looking at one of Mother Nature’s better creations. The bare minimum price for the ride is $45 AUD with either Orange or Jucy. Both those cruises are first-thing-in-the-morning cruises. Mid afternoon cruises can cost twice that due to simple supply and demand. The $45 AUD does not include any transportation. If you want to throw in a bus ride from Queenstown the price goes up to $125 for Orange and $115 for Jucy. The trip from Queenstown will take 4+ hours to get there and 4+ hours to get back.
I rented a car at the Queenstown airport when I went to Milford Sound.. The car cost me $123 AUD for a 3 day rental. I didn’t have to pay the $12 AUD to get from the airport to Queenstown and the $12 AUD to get back to the airport. that the vast majority of people pay when they ride the public bus to and from the airport. My cruise wound up costing me $22.50 AUD as I rented a car from Jucy and got a 50% discount. I didn’t have to stay in Queenstown. I stayed in Te Anau, a small town located half way between Queenstown and Milford Sound. That means that my trip to Milford Sound wasn’t a 4+ hour drive there and back. It was a 2+ hour drive each way. While I would have liked to have had someone else drive me there and back, I didn’t want to sit on a bus for almost 10 hours. Plus, I would have had the cost of buying a lunch somewhere and it’s muyunderstanding that those bus lunches don’t come cheap. I went to the store and just grabbed a couple of cheap snacks for my trip. This saved a few AUD for food. Another thing I could do with the car was to go out sightseeing. I did a lot of that. I could stop the car anywhere and get out and take some photos. I couldn’t do that on the bus. One thing I did have to do was to buy fuel and that was what really shot the price up. I spent a total of $xxx AUD on fuel. That was the major cost difference as far as the rental car versus bus trip was concerned.
Was I glad I got the rental car? Absolutely. It was great. I could go wherever I wanted and I put a bunch of miles on the car wandering around places I would have never been able to go without the car. Yes, it wound up costing me some extra money but I feel the cost was worth it. There’s not a lot of public transportation when you get into rural New Zealand. A car is important if you want or need flexibility. Plus, I got to experience what it was like to drive around New Zealand.
This is the transportation breakdown for local transportation in the cities I visited. Some cities had no cost because they were small and I didn’t require local transportation. Often, I tried to get day passes when I though they were worth it and they were available. Other times I just paid by the ride. Continue reading
Today I leave for Asia. Luckily, I happened to have done things right for the departure of this trip. I booked a flight from OKC to LAX for 6:00 PM. That’s actually an excellent time to leave for an 11:00 PM departure from the Los Angeles LAX airport. I was able to get through security quickly with my new TSA Pre number. I arrived into LAX in 4 hours and 20 minutes after the plane left the Jetway and that included a one hour delay on the tarmac as weather conditions in Los Angeles were bad. I had built enough time into the layover at LAX that the one hour delay didn’t cause me any problems and I still had a couple of hours to wander around the Los Angeles airport. I had forgotten just how big the Tom Bradley Terminal is.
The flight was relatively smooth. The only problem was that the 13 hours of sitting in an airplane seat wasn’t kind to my buttocks. I vowed spend an extra $3,000 USD to fly First Class the next time I flew that far, a vow I know that I’ll never keep. However, thanks to the fact that I cycle a lot the damage wasn’t too bad. I got off the flight, got some money and bought a card for the local bus/train/ferry system. The bus/train ride into the Auckland Central Business District (CBD) set me back about $4.70 USD and took me about an hour. Along the way I got to see some of Auckland. At the downtown transportation center I got off the bus and walked to the hostel. By the time I arrived I regretted not having done a little training for the trip by walking with a loaded rucksack prior to actually taking the trip. Once at the hostel I got a bed in a dorm which set me back about $21 a night for two nights. I occupied one bed in a six-bed room with a bath down the hall. Not luxurious, but the room was very clean and there was a security locker with an electric outlet in it for charging my electronics overnight. That’s a nice touch that I haven’t often found in hostel dorms.
I left the hostel and went exploring. I caught the bus to the transportation center in Auckland which is in the heart of the Central Business District. Auckland seems to have a nice public transportation system. By the time I would leave Auckland I would found that I became attached to their system. It helped me to travel around town nicely and at a very reasonable cost. The trip from the hostel the heart of Auckland had only cost me $0.35 USD. I decided I was going to be taking the bus a lot more in Auckland and walking a lot less. I could see a mi-afternoon nap or two in my future. While I prefer not to take taxis because of the potential cost differentiation between taxis and public buses, I’ll be the first to tell you that taxis will almost always be more convenient than buses when getting around a large city. I’ll also tell you that learning a bus system in a city can be something of a huge pain and it’s almost always a bit challenging at the very least. Bus systems can easily take a week of trials and errors for me to become acclimated to them and I am often out of a city in less time than 7 days if the city isn’t a major tourist destination. The only salvation I can see for riding buses hours and hours in the wrong direction is that I get to see a lot of a city. If that view of the city ever becomes a little “rougher” than I might want, I simply get off of the bus, walk across the street and find a bus top where I can board the same bus number going back to where I came.
My first stop in the tourist areas of Auckland was the Sky Tower, an observation and telecommunications tower which rises to a height of almost 1,100 feet making it, supposedly, the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere. I wanted to see it because statements like that impress me. I’m into statements like “tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere” and other superlatives. While I consider worshiping at the alter of superlatives a character flaw, I, like most people, seem to get hung-up in it. The Sky Tower is also a part of the SkyCity complex which houses a casino, hotel and events center in downtown Auckland and I have another character flaw of enjoying a cruise through a casino. There is something that’s sadly exciting about it. The big thrill of the Sky Tower isn’t the proximity to the casino, it’s the SkyWalk and the SkyJump. To get the full impact of the experiences you might want to start with the videos. If you want to know whether I even considered either of the extreme sensual stimulations the answer would be a resounding “No!” I didn’t part with the $20 USD it costs to go to the observation deck. While I would have liked to have gone up there, it just wasn’t worth $20 to me. Another option, which was my first preference, was to have lunch in New Zealand’s only elevated revolving restaurant that is located even higher up the tower than the observation deck. The restaurant, however, has a $21 USD minimum purchase for lunch and a $28 USD minimum purchase for dinner. I think I would have done lunch there if I hadn’t been in more than my share of observation towers over the last few years and I had been in a more significant tourist location than Auckland. The potentials for the SkyWalk and the SkyJump did cause me to spend some time watching the video. Do I think I could ever be persuaded to do either of them? For the right amount of money, sure.
I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the Auckland CBD trying to get my bearings and seeing how difficult it was to find some of the landmarks and attractions I had on my list. This was also my first real effort to use my new phone and the maps.me software to help me find my way around the city. The maps.me software allowed me to use the built-in GPS on my phone to be able to pinpoint my location on a very detailed map without having to be connected to Wi-Fi. I could actually watch my position on the moving map which would help me to find some of the attractions I wanted to see and to find them with relative ease. I had practice with it at home but I knew that my familiarity with my location in Oklahoma City meant that I wasn’t learning how to use the software as well as I would have liked. Trying out the new moving map technology without the aid of an Internet connection was my goal. I wanted to learn how to use the technology really well so that I could find tourist attractions with relative ease.
It’s the day before I leave for my 85 day trip through Asia. I’m a little nervous right before I leave. It’s the knowledge that I’ve probably forgotten something. And, I probably will. But, I also know that I’m well-prepared. I’ve done this before. Several times. I’ve got some experience, but going on vacation outside of the United States for 85 days at one time is something very few people ever get to do and to have done it a half-a-dozen times puts me in a position that even fewer people ever get to be in. I know the trials and tribulations of long-term travel. It can be daunting when I’m trying to do the whole thing at a minimum of cost. Whenever you cut travel costs you tend to give p a certain level of comfort. I’m not looking to be a homeless street person. That’s a level of comfort, or more aptly, discomfort, that I just will not accept. I am, however, very fortunate that my desire for luxury is minimal. Luxury was just something I never aspired to. I’m not really worried about my comfort level. I have this silly mantra about suffering for my art that I never seem to be able to put behind me. The only reason that I get nervous about a trip of this length is that I just know that there are a lot of potential trials awaiting me on the Tourist Trail.
But, I’ll be ready.
The first thing that I did this morning was to verify my departure time for tomorrow. Luckily, the weather is good. Winter weather can cause problems for airplanes. I fly from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles LAX airport late tomorrow afternoon. I leave LAX for Auckland New Zealand late tomorrow night and arrive some 13 hours later. Interestingly, I leave the U.S. on the 6th of February and arrive in Auckland on the 8th of February even though I’m only in the air for a little over 13 hours. Time zones make life interesting. I also called American Airlines to ask if I could check-in online and get a digital boarding pass. I found that I could. It will be the first time I use an electronic boarding pass with this airline if I choose to do so.
My next step was to put the Amazon Kindle reader on my new laptop. [more]
There were 1,467 items eligible for Kindle Unlimited when I did a search for them under the topic of New Zealand. If you want to know how I did this, simply go to Amazon and do a search for New Zealand in the Kindle Store. Once there, check the box for Kindle Unlimited. If you travel, you might be amazed how much “free” stuff you can get for some locations in the Amazon store.
It’s the last real day that I have to pack. My goal is to be totally packed and ready to go before the sun rises on the day I leave on the trip. That day is tomorrow.
I had a good-bye dinner with one of my daughters.
I’m currently doing planning for an 85 day trio to Asia. Along the way I’ll be visiting more than a few countries. While I’m there I plan on doing a little writing and a little posting to my blog. This means that I’m going to be needing to use a computer quite a bit and that implies that my computer, as well as my smartphone and lots of other gadgets, are going to need a charge. That means I’ll need to connect to the local power grid. That can be a problem as there are about 15 different types of electrical outlets in use in the world today and, sooner or later, I may find one that I do not have an adapter for. I know this because it’s happened before.
The problems caused by not being able to charge my electrical devices can be avoided by a little forethought. The first thing you have to think about is where you are going and what type of outlet will you find there. For a list of countries and the specific type of electrical plug that is needed in that country you might start here. This will get you started and, in many instances it will get you where you need to be. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a few adapters. They weigh very little, typically an ounce or less per adapter, so the weight is not a big problem. What can be a problem is that you can never be absolutely certain about the adapter type in use in certain parts of a country if the plug guide lists more than one type of outlet in a given location. At that point I suggest you get on the Internet or go to TripAdvisor and simply search for the term “electrical outlet” along with the name of the country. Usually, you won’t have any trouble finding out which type of outlet is actually in use in the majority of the country if there is more than one in use. I can also tell you that you will be able to find adapters for sale in virtually any country on Earth, it’s just that it may take you several hours of looking before you find one. Also, sometimes the location where you will be parking your head at night may have one available for you to borrow, or, if you’re staying at a place where a lot of your fellow countrymen are staying, you may be able to share or borrow one for a while. I carry an electrical extension cord with me that has multiple outlets on it so that I can share an outlet if I need to on an occasion. I even take it with me to my local public library when I’m going to be plugged into their system for longer periods of time.
Borobudur makes me nervous. For a lot of reasons, even though Wikitravel says “Yogyakarta is a bustling town of some half a million people and the most popular tourist destination on Java, largely thanks to its proximity to the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. The town is a hub of art and education, offers some good shopping and has a wide range of tourist facilities.” I think that the best time to see the attraction is at dawn, but it takes an hour to get there from Yogyakarta. I also want to see Prambanan. There’s a reason I’m allocating almost 5 full days to the area. I also remember the last time that I planned to see it. A serious volcano eruption thwarted my plans by spewing enough ash into the atmosphere that planes couldn’t land. The most active volcano in Indonesia, Mount Merapi, is located less than 20 miles from Borobudur.
Note: Currently 100,000 IDR = 7.46882USD.
When making calls ask about transfers from/to airport. Call Government Tourist Information Centre (website) +62 274 566000 – near train station. Call Ostic House (website) +62 274 378930 (has airport transfer for $7.50). Call Venezia Garden (website) +62 274 373821. Call Sea Sea Hostel (website) +62 821-3832-0181. Rating: 9.7/52 – NOT very near the train station. Price: $7.25 for 10 bed w/breakfast, wi-fi, tea, coffee, laundry, bicycle rental, security lockers. Call Laura’s Backpacker (website) +62 812-2525-6319. Rating: 9.0/357 – very near the train station. Price: $6.95 for 4 bed w/breakfast, wi-fi, tea, coffee, laundry, bicycle rental. Each bed has its own power plug, reading lamp and curtains. We have motorbikes to rent. We can help you to book tours as well!
Airfare is only an issue when I travel to places that are inaccessible by land or when I don’t want to struggle with ground transportation. Right now I’m working in getting to the “countries” of Sulawesi, Moluka and Papua (Irian Jaya). They are all on islands. That makes airfare very important. If I’m going to get somewhere I can take one of several methods – fly, ride or drive. Islands mean an airplane or a boat.
My best options for getting into those countries is to arrive by air in Makassar, Ambon and Sorong which are three cities in Sulawesi, Moluka and Papua (Irian Jaya), respectively. The reason why I picked those three cities is that I can get relatively inexpensive airfare into and out of those cities. The key word here being relatively. However, it’s a struggle figuring out how to get there. You see, I’ve got four flights I need to take to arrive where I want to go. I’m going to start in Bali and I want to wind up in Yogyakarta. I need to book airfare from Bali, the location I’ve picked to be in during the first week of March, to Makassar, Ambon and Sorong, the three stops on my way to Yogyakarta. I have no trouble finding the flights I want to Makassar and Ambon, but I’m having trouble finding the right flight to Sorong which is where I plan to fly out of to get to Yogyakarta, my next next place of interest. I have five cities to visit and I’ll need four flights to do it. It seems I can book those four flights a total of a six different ways if I always start in Bali and always wind up in Yogyakarta. The issue is to figure how to minimize the time sitting in airports and to minimize the overall cost of the four flights.I have no intention of actually spending any time in Makassar, Ambon or Sorong. It’s not that they’re thoroughly uninteresting cities, it’s just that there’s nothing there I need or want to see. But I do want to go there. I need a stamp in my passport or the photo in front of the airport to be able to add these locations to my list of “countries” visited. Call it superficial or an exercise in travel logistics.
Whatever it is, I wound up spending hours to make it happen in a manner that makes me feel good about my travel skills. The four flights wound up costing me a total of about $300. I will leave Bali at 5:30 in the evening and arrive in Yogyakarta at 6:10 in the evening of the next day. I will have landed in three different time zones. I will fly a total of 2,776 miles. I’ll spend about 14 hours in airport lounges and getting through check-in and boarding the planes. But, overall, I was really pleased with the routing and the cost. I accomplished my goals and I think I learned a little bit more about flying around Asia. It took a lot longer to accomplish the task than I thought it would but I considered the rewards for the time I spent to be significant. Now, if only the weather cooperates…