Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

SFO vs. LAX

I am in the midst of planning for my usual summer holiday, and this year the destination is the isle of Japan. My friends and I are targeting the third week of July for this trip, and the obvious first order of business is to secure our flights. So on to Google Flights I went and executed a search for nonstop flights from San Francisco to Tokyo.

Sadly, the results were shockingly expensive.

For sure it was never going to be cheap flying to the other side of the planet, but nearly $1,800 for a roundtrip fare in economy is incredibly high – I can fly to Singapore for not much more. That fare is simply too rich for our group, especially considering Tokyo’s cost of living is world-famous for not being cheap in the slightest. We can’t blow a massive part of our budget on airfare alone.

An alternative plan, then: we dared to look at one-stop flights. As a general rule I’m wholly against routes with layovers, principally because it’s an enormous waste of time to be hanging out for hours at a transfer airport waiting for the connecting flight. Vacation time from work is already precious as is (thanks, America), so if I can pay a bit more to save time, I almost always do.

Unless of course the nonstop flight is untenably expensive. For the trip to Japan we found a one-stop flight for significantly less at $1,200 that involved a layover in Incheon, which honestly for me isn’t the worst thing in the world. I still hold fond memories the South Korea trip two years ago, so the opportunity to spend a bit time in that country again draws no protest from me.

My friends and I were all set on that itinerary, except I remembered that we are heading for Los Angeles only two days before the departure date, so what if we flew out of LAX instead? Once again to Google Flights I went, and to my utter surprise and indignity (at SFO), a direct flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo is even cheaper than our one-stop flight out of San Francisco.

What the heck!?

I understand there’s a larger Japanese population down south, but Japan is a popular travel destination for persons of all ethnic backgrounds, so I’m really quite miffed at why a direct flight out of San Francisco is some $600 dearer. In a childish protest sort of way, that’s not fair!

It’s an easy choice then for us to fly out of LAX. We’re still very ahead of the SFO-HND route in cost after accounting for the additional rental car down to Los Angeles and the flight back to San Francisco on the return. More importantly, we get a nonstop route over the Pacific, which is just the ultimate.

I can and will go back to South Korea at another date.  

Rolling clouds over San Francisco.

Priorities change

In a few weeks’ time I will be once again traveling back home to Hong Kong, performing the annual pilgrimage to visit family on my dad’s side. These past few years I’ve been on quite the travel binge, and the trip back home at the end of December crossing over into January marks the culmination and the beginning of a year’s worth of journeys. I’ve said to my friends that my favorite spot in San Francisco is the airport’s international terminal, where anticipation and excitement for the trips ahead is at its most palpable.

I have to say the feeling is surprisingly different this year. No question I am happy to spend time with family, especially those whom I only see once a year, but the run up to this year’s return home has a slight bit of dread to it. I found out the reason why when I started doing my usual preparation of buying necessary supplies and moving money to travel accounts: this trip to Hong Kong will cost money.

What a stupid thing to say; traveling inherently costs money, doesn’t it? Why am I loathing to spend when this trip has been booked since January (got to lock down those cheap airfare prices). Just the past few years alone I’ve spent easily into the five figures on travel, so what’s the problem now?

Right, I’m saving up for a 911.

As they say, priorities change. Since 2014 I’ve been on a bent to maximize travel opportunities, so most of my discretionary income was allocated towards that. Partly why I switched from a Subaru WRX STI to a Mazda MX-5 in 2015 was because the latter was cheaper to run and maintain, therefore more money towards trips. Now, the situation has reversed: austerity measures were put on traveling (I haven’t taken one single trip this year), and the growing cash reserves is earmarked towards cars.

The Hong Kong trip this year is going set me back a bit on those cash reserves, which I think is why I’ve been ambivalent about it rather than pure delight of years past. I’ve had a good run in seeing the world these past couple of years, but it’s time to switch primary focus back to another love of mine: cars. For sure I still love traveling, and there’s still many places I haven’t been (not one foot in European soil yet); surely I’ll get back on that train in a few years’ time.

For now, it’s 911 or bust.

The best colors for an instrument dial: black face, white letters, red needle.

The best colors for an instrument dial: black face, white letters, red needle.

It'll rain in Taipei

Next week is Thanksgiving, and by the virtue working in higher education I am able to take the entire week off. I'll be off to Taipei, Taiwan for some much needed vacation time in my beloved Asia. The Google Travel app sent me a notification today alerting me to the weather conditions, and it is forecasted for rain the whole time. My travel good-luck charm appears to have finally deserted me. 

I thought November in Taiwan would be chill and sunny. I guess not. 

Amor fati, as stoics say. 

While I'm not thrilled for the rain, at least it isn't monsoon season (that's during the summer), so it'll just be periodic bursts throughout the day - entirely survivable, just have to purchase an umbrella upon touching down. Rain will force us indoors most of the time, which is just as well because for me the biggest reason to travel to Taipei is the fabulous food so we'll be doing lots of that. Instead of drinking plain water I plan to replace it completely with bubble tea. Even the most hole-in-the-wall tea spot in Taipei is on par with the best we can get in the States. 

Better bring the North Face jacket, though. Shoutout to whoever invented Gore-Tex.

These past years I've been listening to kpop almost exclusively, but in order to get in the mood for the Taiwan trip, I've momentarily dusted off the Chinese music playlists and got immediately taken back to the early 2000's. That's the magic of music: it can transport you back to any time period and let you relive the moments. In my case, that would be my late teenage years of much angst and lazy days. 

Hearing Chinese songs again made me realize I probably should brush up on my seldom-used mandarin. I would not be surprised if my first words towards a person at Taoyuan International Airport is in Korean.  

Excited.