Every three years of late I've accomplished a solo trip to exotic places. In 2016 I saw South Korea. In 2013 I journeyed to Japan. In 2010 it was New Zealand. So I decided to go somewhere in 2019 (or January 2020 close as it turned out.) But where?
Virginia has a sister in Auckland and I've been to New Zealand twice already, but had
been planning to go in 2012 taking in a solar eclipse visible in Cairns in Australia.
That got derailed by troubles at work where we all had effectively to reapply for our
jobs as part of a downsizing initiative. Another motivation for going to New Zealand
was to go to see Weta Workshop,
cinema at its best is magic to me and I wish I could have worked in film making!
Where to break the long haul to New Zealand though? Having passed 60 I now longer have
the stamina to be travelling for 36 hours without a rest as I have done. I wanted
to go back to Tokyo if only to finally see the Nihon Ki-in
(Go is another of my major interests). I did try to visit the Nihon Ki-in when I was
in Tokyo before but couldn't find my way there from
Worries about navigating in strange places was one reason I got an iPhone so
I could use Google Maps.
It would be possible for me to book flights and hotels all myself but going
through a travel agent gives me a comfort factor, that less is likely to go wrong.
I needed a travel agent who would do customised itineraries and contacted
Audley Travel. I had come across them when googling
for previous trips, and also I knew someone at work used them. I was impressed
by them, a professional outfit. As a customer you get a personalised website, and
also a downloadable app for your trip. They warned me about the need to get
a NZeTa when New Zealand introduced them.
My initial stupid idea (the distances are too far) of driving round a loop in the
North Island of New Zealand from Auckland to Wellington and back was exploded.
But I didn't make the best use of Audley Travel.
At the time I contacted Audley Travel I hadn't firmed up on where I wanted to
go, particularly in Tokyo. A travel agent can only give each customer a certain
amount of attention, and the clock starts ticking as soon as you contact them.
I was cherry picking where I wanted to go (by surfing sites like
Atlas Obscura) rather than relying on a
planned package. I hadn't tried when I suggested places I wanted to see
put them into Google Maps to see how far apart
they were - for this reason I was going to see Sanrio Puroland until
that got fortuitously cancelled.
I do enjoy the planning of my trips, the research behind places to see, perhaps as
much as the trips themselves! For planning read re-planning as I kept shifting
the itinerary around for Tokyo - the Nihon Ki-in I was going to visit on
Thursday but the Wednesday was better which meant having to rebook
going to see teamLab Borderless and paying twice. I like booking early but perhaps I shouldn't.
I limited the itinerary in places arguing
I needed more rest time - by chance I discovered that the tea house in
Hamarikyu Gardens would be
closed in January. I spent quite a bit of thought trying to arrange timings to
see the Giant Ghibli Clock in action. It was only when I was printing out documents that
I discovered the travel insurance I had didn't cover Japan and Singapore!
This trip I relied on using credit cards as much as taking foreign currency with me.
That worked pretty well.
My banks claimed I didn't need to tell them I was travelling. And that proved to be