Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Park Hyatt Tokyo Review and Tourist Views on Tokyo

As part of my new ‘travel without doing any actual research’ initiative, I’ve been basing my plans on tourist cards, with good success, and movies, with limited success.  I decided to base my trip to Tokyo on Lost In Translation, it’s a good movie (on Netflix) and a much better depiction of modern Tokyo than Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo or MacArthur.  I had done a little research in 2011 when I booked a $700 round trip on United.  The earthquake struck the morning I was scheduled to depart, so my plans were put on hold while my Yen appreciated. 
Room With A View, Room 4303
Many scenes in Lost In Translation are set at the Park Hyatt Tokyo so, with some help from my dad’s Hyatt points, I booked a room.  This turned out to be an excellent idea.  The Park Hyatt is one of the best hotels, if not the best, I’ve ever visited.  The rooms are large (huge by Japanese standards) and the service is impeccable.  There is standard twice daily housekeeping and they even fill up the ice bucket (with Scotch bar quality ice cubes too).  The staff was very courteous and the facilities top notch.  I asked for a room with a view facing the city and got a room on the 43rd floor so I could do my Lost In Translation picture.
Park Hyatt Tokyo Two Queen Bed Room
Park Hyatt Tokyo Bathroom Tub
My Toilet's Control Panel
Tokyo is like New York, just without a grid system.  It’s big, expensive, most people don’t speak English well, and disgustingly hot in the summer.  It has a great skyline, a few parks and temples, and the gardens at the Imperial Palace.   The gardens are my favorite place in Tokyo.  They are large, immaculately maintained, and free.  They are beautiful and relaxing.  I just sat on a bench for 20 minutes at one point and just watched the world go by.  I loved it.
Tsukiji Fish Market - Long Lines and High Prices
Imperial Palace Gardens Tokyo
Imperial Palace Gardens and Tokyo Skyline
Tokyo Skyline
It's best not to play 'guess what sound this made?' or 'what sea creature was this?' while eating in Japan.  I was a little adventurous on my flight to Tokyo and enjoyed the eel and other odd things served.  Once on the ground, I was much less daring.  I went to McDonald’s twice.  I did try some street food and it was good and looked like chicken.  I also went to the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.  I had one of my top three burgers (and by far most expensive) ever.  I got there before the band started and enjoyed the sun set.  
New York Bar Cheese Burger  ~$60
New York Bar - Park Hyatt Tokyo
Mega McMuffin - It's Amazing
I'm Not Sure What It Is, But It's Only Y500
I really liked the new buildings and unique modern architecture of Tokyo, so enjoy a few more pictures.
Park Hyatt Tokyo - Floors 39 to 52
Sun Rise in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fun Travel Brochures

I enjoy receiving mail, even what most people would consider junk mail, so this post might not be for everyone.  My favorite types of mail get me day dreaming about something, and nothing does it better than a travel brochure.  Here are some links to sign up for some great brochures: 
So Many Destinations, So Little Time
Yes, some of those tour companies are ridiculously expensive.  The point of reading their brochures is to inspire and create new ideas, not to plunk down $10K on a week long trip.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Clear Airport Security Line Promotion Sale Code

CLEAR is running a promotion for a 6 month membership for $29.  CLEAR is the airport security lane fast lane pass that works at DEN, SFO, DFW, and MCO.  I like it because I can count on it taking less than 2 minutes for the ID check.  DEN's TSA is especially bad, taking anywhere from 2 minutes to 20 minutes to check IDs and you can never plan on when the short times are, so I would have to show up expecting the full 20 minutes if I didn't use CLEAR.  The TSA experience is still slow, but this removes one touch point and 20 minutes of variability. 
CLEAR Promotion Details

Thursday, November 8, 2012

United Airlines First Class Meal Reviews - Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

I've been doing some flying and have been enjoying the finest food (and a gross Continental cheese burger) United Airlines has to offer domestic first class passengers.  Here are some reviews of United's food service.  Meals are served on flights 700 to 2,299 miles long (approximately 2 – 5 hours).  On shorter flights, flight attendants just pass around the snack basket with chips and Clif bars.

Egg McMuffin, fruit, and some yogurt on a 737 ride to Houston.  The Egg McMuffin creation is really good. A warm cinnamon bun or croissant follows after everyone is served.  The cinnamon bun is great, but really sticky, so keep a napkin handy.
United Airlines First Class Breakfast 737
Shrimp salad and soup!  Both rock.  This is United's most consistent meal and a favorite.  It is very flavorful and filling.  The soup option was a great seafood with spice creation.  I could have that soup every flight and not tire of it.  The cookie was oatmeal raisin, too healthy to be fun.
United Airlines Shrimp Salad Lunch First Class A320
The cream of mushroom soup doesn't look appealing, but it tastes great.  United's soup guy is on a roll. The warm wrap was a good south-west chicken thing, filling and comforting item.  United's warm meal options can be hit or miss. I also got a chocolate chip cookie, fun and yum.
United Airlines Dinner Chicken Wrap Meal & Soup

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

United Mileage Plus Merchandise Awards

There's no such thing as a bad award.  Well, as long as you are receiving more value from your miles than you expected.  Since the value of a mile different for each person (here’s my perspective on the value of a frequent flyer mile), there’s no global minimum value of a redemption for it to be good or bad.  Miles are like money and people won’t spend either on what they view as a bad value.  Some bloggers are adamant that merchandise awards are bad value and should be avoided.  They are less valuable than award flights in most cases, but that shouldn’t be taken as being a bad value. 
United Merchandise Awards Mailed Catalog
A colleague spent 50,000 United miles on a $400 watch and was pleased with the value he got from his miles.  Yes, he could have used 50,000 miles for two award tickets, each worth more than $400, but he would never buy just two tickets because he heads a family of 6 in Salt Lake.  Since his oldest kid is 6, he needs to fly direct to keep his sanity, so he flies Delta.  A nice watch sounded like a much better idea than a connection in Denver.  In absolute terms, not the best value, but in his mind it was an outstanding deal.

Update: United ran a sale on a Tumi carry on bag and I bought one.  I'm delighted with the bag and the value I received from my miles.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

United / Continental Airlines Cheese Burger Meal

When United merged with Continental, they got the 787 Dreamliner in 2012.  They also got the Continental cheese burger as a first class meal.  It's gross.  So gross that I couldn't eat it.  It's made of that lousy grade of ground beef that looks grey and tastes like something other than beef.  I had this on a flight from Chicago to Denver and it was the only option.  At least the mystery wraps are edible.  What I would have given for a shrimp salad though, those are always good.  I hope United does a menu upgrade soon and removes this awful option.  
United Airlines Cheese Burger First Class Meal

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Birthday Blog

Frequent Flyer Guy is 1 year old.  I've enjoyed writing the blog and I hope you enjoy reading it.  I can't wait to find what adventures next year holds.  Happy travels!
My Favorite Picture from the Past Year