Initial Thoughts of my Round the World Thanksgiving trip

A couple of weeks ago I got back from a Round the World Thanksgiving trip with my wife and mother in law. This was something of a bucket list trip for her and us. I’ll put together a full trip report in the coming weeks, but I thought I would share some of my initial thoughts of the whole trip. I will make it a point to focus on the destinations more than the flights.

Tokyo, Japan

My wife and I had been to Tokyo twice before. This visit didn’t disappoint. Broadly, we really enjoyed our time in Japan. The people and infrastructure (read: Subway) are great, and the Grand Hyatt Tokyo once again exceeded expectations. The highlight of this stop was our first visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market.

RTW Nov 2014 154

Tsukiji Fish Market

Beijing, China

It’s been a couple of weeks since we left China, but I still feel very strongly. There is not a place lower on my list to return to. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Beijing which had its ups and downs. We saw the Great Wall, which was a bucket list item, as well as Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. For me, the people are usually the best part of traveling, not the case here. There were some that stood out, like Mike our tour guide to the Great Wall, or Vincy at the Grand Hyatt Lounge, but from most I didn’t get the warm fuzzies. The air quality wasn’t very good either, but, I think you pretty much expect that one.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

Mainz, Germany

Ever since I saw a post that Wandering Aramean did last year on the Christmas Markets, they have been on my list. I fought tooth and nail with United over the course of a week (here are some valuable lessons I learned from it) to allow us to stop for a night in Germany. Having the chance to visit Mainz, and stroll through the Christmas Market, was the highlight of the trip for me.

Christmas Markets

Christmas Markets

The flights

Up until recently, I’ve been more focused on the flights, the aircraft, the hard and soft products, than on the destination. This trip was different. I had the opportunity to fly two flights in First Class (ANA and Lufthansa United) and three flights in Business (JAL, Swiss (2)), and I was more impressed with the business class flights than the first class flights. I felt the JAL Business flight was nearly on par with ANA Square Class (nearly because they had less to work with on the hard product). I had the best steak I’ve had in the air on Swiss, and well, then there was United–need I say more?

The flight that was not to be.

The flight that was not to be.


Overall, the trip was good, but we did run into potholes along the way. I’ll get into more detail in the particular posts. I’d be a fool not to be thankful for the opportunity to have made the trip. Especially important for my wife and I, was being able to share with her mother, the way we travel, and to help her visit China. It was something that she had been wanting to do for many years, and I’m sure she’ll be talking about it for ages. As far as my wife and I – we were very happy to return to Tokyo, happy to see the Great Wall and Tienanmen Square —although happier to leave China—and appreciated the overall time spent with family. The whole point of miles, as cliche as it sounds, is to open the door to opportunities—brass rings if you will—that you couldn’t otherwise make happen. This trip did that.

6 thoughts on “Initial Thoughts of my Round the World Thanksgiving trip

  1. Beijing is just a mega, over populated city. There are other smaller towns in china are much better.

    You can’t say you have been to Tokyo until you have has riceballs for breakfast, beef bowl/Raman for lunch and conveyor belt sushi for dinner.

    • @Ted – I’m sure you’re completely right about Beijing. We enjoyed Shanghai more. I’m sure we’ll venture to smaller towns in China in the future.
      re: Tokyo – I totally wanted to find conveyor belt sushi (or at least conveyor belt non-seafood sushi) but we didn’t have the time this trip. Last time we were there we were all about the tempura. I’d love any suggestions you have, we’re hoping to get back there in the next 6-12 months.

  2. Seriously, Beijing is the worst. So few people have proper manners that the ones who do really stand out. Did you go to Mutianyu or Badaling for the Great Wall? Or is that a spoiler, lol

    • Agree on Beijing. So, as sad as it is to say, I’m not 100% sure. I believe we went to Juyongguan. We wanted to Mutianyu but our guide cautioned us that it was a bit of a hike to get to the wall from where we could park, and with my mother in law with us, we wanted to make sure she had the chance to really experience the great wall (and climb some of it). Needless to say, I’d really recommend visiting the section we visited. More to come!

  3. To go only to Beijing, and then write off the immense country of China as being polluted and populated by rude people is something I would never expect from any travel writer.

    People in many large cities are rude and unhelpful–Paris jumps to mind–but that doesn’t mean the country itself doesn’t deserve a second, third or tenth look.

    My thoughts on China are colored by the two years my son and DIL spent there, in a small city near Chun Quiang, in the Peace Corps. They have lovely memories of their host family, who shared their home for two months as they were learning enough of the complex language and culture to work independently. The students they taught at the small university adored them both, and my DIL got numerous birthday greetings from them last month, 6 months after they left.

    If you go back to China, let Beijing be merely a transfer point between flights, and get to know some of the people outside the overcrowded, under resourced, capital.

    • @MickiSue – I sincerely appreciate your comment. In my defense, I have been to Shanghai (and Hong Kong and Macau but I don’t think they really count as “China”). I will write more about the experience in a separate post, but, there were a few things that played into it.

      That said, I have many friends who have truly enjoyed China, even a couple that have lived there. I think the opportunity that your son and daughter in law had is amazing – and definitely think immersion would change most anyone’s opinion on a country.

      Believe me, if/when I return to China, I will spend as little time in Beijing as possible.

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